Friday, November 29, 2013


Paul in his happy place.
Thanksgiving used to be my absolute favorite holiday. Not only did I get together with my family, whom I love, but it was one of those few days a year of unbridled consumption without shame. My sister and I would pop open the champagne at about 9am and bond over potatoes and bubbles. It is in this state that we have decimated a number of garbage disposals by putting down quantities of potato peelings without thought. But I digress...

When Paul & I chose vegan and became all too familiar with the horrors of animal agriculture, particularly the birds, that joy was diminished. It was replaced with a wonderful curiosity and eagerness to make vegan Thanksgiving sumptuous.

Michele's 1st vegan Thanksgiving & she didn't miss the Turkey!
I wish my family had more curiosity about spending a Turkey-less holiday with me, but as one family member said "_____ will not give up his bird." That is one special bird. Actually a V-Giving looks identical to what everyone is familiar with with the exception of the bird. 

Most of you know I'm not a hard sell when it comes to veganism or exposing animal agriculture, and I won't start now. However, I do like to provide links for those whose interest is piqued. Bird animal agriculture is horrifically cruel. 45 millions turkeys ended their short, miserable, dirty, lives for Thanksgiving 2013. Here is one link regarding this. To find out more about how amazing and loving turkeys really are, please visit my favorite group, Woodstock Animal Sanctuary's turkeys.  Did you know that turkeys love listening to music, especially classical music?

Our menu for this year was:
  • Sherry laced "crab" stuffed mushrooms
  • Cranberries & orange sauce
  • Garlic mashed potatoes with cashew creme
  • Whipped pecan candied sweet potatoes
  • Green beans with mushroom creme and crispy shallots
  • Stuffed Vegan Roast en croute 
  • Crispy Vegan Roast stuffed with apricots and sage.
  • Bread stuffing with vegan sausage.
  • Maple pecan pie
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Brownies
This is an auspicious occasion as this is the first time I'm sharing an original recipe (well, nothing is completely original, perhaps I should say it is an innovation on a standard). If you are still in redneck heaven with Campbell's cream of mushroom and French's fried onions, I get it. However, if you are yearning for this with an upscale twist, I'm pleased to oblige.
Green Bean Casserole w/ Mushroom Creme & fried Shallots
Green bean casserole

For the mushroom cashew cream:
1c organic whole raw cashews (do not use cashew pieces, they are too dry to make the cream)
1.5c vegetable broth
1T and 1t of arrowroot powder
8 oz. mushrooms sliced (I like to de-stem them prior to slicing)

For the green beans:
1 lb. green beans, cleaned and ends trimmed
1-2 cups shredded vegan Cheddar cheese (my fave is Daiya brand)
1T olive oil
Ground black pepper

For the fried shallots:
6 large double-shallots
High heat frying oil (organic canola, safflower or sunflower oil)
2 cups Flour for dredging

The night before:
Cover cashews with filtered water and let soak overnight, or at least 8 hours. If you have a high powered blender (Vitamix or Blendtec, you can reduce soaking time to 2-3 hours, however, longer is better).

The day of:
Add green beans to a pot of boiling water (salt the water if at altitude). Cook until bright green ( approx 5-7 minutes) and the transfer to a colander. Place ice cubes on top to stop cooking for about 5 minutes. Drain and place in casserole dish.

Meanwhile, drain the cashews and add them with broth and arrowroot powder to blender. Blend until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides, as needed.  If you have a high powered blender like a Vitamix or a Blendtec, this will take only a couple of minutes. Lower powered blenders could take up to 5 minutes. Scrape out with flexible spatula, and set aside.

Heat 1T olive oil in pan and cook mushrooms until soft, and most of the liquid from them has evaporated. Remove from heat and fold in cashew creme. Add ground black pepper. Taste for seasoning. Set aside.

Add the flour to a mixing bowl. Slice shallots, and while they are still moist, add them to the flour and stir to coat. Heat 1/2" of oil in fry pan. Shake of extra flour prior to frying. When oil is hot (test by adding a small piece of shallot, it should sizzle immediately), add shallots in batches. Fry in one side the turns I a slotted metal spatula to the other side. Drain on paper towels and add salt.

Frying Tip: If you need to add additional oil, do so in between batches and allow oil to get hot again. Adding shallots to oil that is not very hot will allow the food to soak up oil, rather than fry, resulting in soggy shallots.

Assembly: Pour mushroom creme mixture into casserole and fold in cheddar. Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes until warmed and cheese is melty/soft (vegan cheese sometimes take longer to melt than dairy cheese). Remove foil, add fried shallots to top, and bake an additional five minutes so shallots are crisper.
Serve hot.

Time Saving Tip: Everything can be made and assembled up to 2 days before, except for the fried shallots.

Next year, y'all are invited.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Love & Food

Yam & Green Chili Pirogi
Happiness is not the best muse for songwriting, but it is my muse for cooking. So after a 2 year hiatus, this blog will resume.

My cooking commitment this winter will be to two things: Bread and Cheese.

Cheese. Yes. Vegan cheese. Don't laugh or you won't get any. My first unsuspecting suspects will be at the annual vet clinic Holiday Party in 3 weeks. I have my supplies coming 2-day air from (you really must get an Amazon Prime account. Free 2nd day shipping and tons of movies to watch for free. It's the best deal in town).

My first attempts will be a Chevre, Brie, and a hard cheese - probably the Harvest Cheddar. I will document as I go along.

Chocolate cake w/mocha buttercream
High altitude baking does present a challenge, but as I've become more adept in the cake & pie department (still far from my goal), I think I'm ready to tackle yeasty things. My last attempt with Cinnamon Rolls, were a success, which was inspiring. The decadent looking cake on the right is a chocolate cake with mocha buttercream. I was also trying my hand at a little entry-level decorating. I'm glad I sing better than I decorate. Regardless of beauty, I took half to Sunday's Unity meeting and the other half to work at the clinic. Needless to say I'm glad I reserved a slice for Paul & I as it was demolished in no time flat.

One of the reasons I started this blog was I kept getting asked "What the hell do vegans eat, anyway?" and this is my loving response. Tomorrow you'll see that Thanksgiving can be decadent, overindulgent, and cruelty-free.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah to all!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thai Curry & Tendinitis

My mother left a message on my voicemail. She is (once again) insisting that any set list I put together include Me & Bobby McGee. I swear she'll have me singing that at her funeral. 

However, she is usually dead on with critiquing either my performance or my song choices. So in it goes.

I am icing my left arm as my intensive practice schedule is threatening me with a wicked case of tendinitis. I've been told that this is not abnormal and to basically suck it up (of course alternating with heat & ice).

Since it's been a while since I've performed, I think I'll need to find a random venue where I can get a feel of what's in store; maybe have some people over and give a small in-home concert. The new part of the equation is that I've never accompanied myself on guitar - even when I did so on the keyboards, I was never quite comfortable solo; I've always felt at home with a band. If my karma keeps going as well as it has, I'm sure musicians will be dropping into my life very soon.

I dropped off my Ovation at a luthier today. Good news - an inexpensive modification to the nut & saddle should enable me to get more time on her. She should be ready in the next day or two. Another serendipitous meeting.

Made some amazing Thai curry vegetables for dinner; trying to keep my food relatively simple, which works best for performing.

Yes, Virginia, there is life after love - hopefully there will be love after love, too~

Friday, June 24, 2011

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

I have to keep reminding myself that every day I begin all over again. Zen masters call this "beginners mind."

So after a self imposed retirement from music of 10 years (coincidentally, the length of my marriage), having sold all my keyboard and other various equipment prior to moving to New Mexico, I find myself with just a guitar and a longing to feed my soul again.

Officially, I've been playing guitar *seriously* for 3 months (again, coincidentally, the length of time I've been on my own again). I'm outside practicing and a neighbor comes by after hearing me practice (not a small feat in a rural area - you really have to go out of your way to "come by") and offers me a paying gig for an artist reception she's having at her gallery in September.

What do you think I said?

Then, a couple of days later, the musical director at the Unity service where I go asked If I'd like to fill in for her when she needs a Sunday off. I said - "Sure, when you think I'm ready." She said "You're ready".

So now I have even more reason to capitalize on my obsessive compulsive practice schedule -- so I don't embarrass myself too terribly within the next couple of months.

It really is like starting all over again. Although I've played countless gigs (primarily as a lead vocalist, and filling in with some keyboards), all over NYC for many years, I feel like a complete novice. New instrument, new material, and a major hit to my confidence (which used to be unshakable) due to the sad course of my relationship.

Needless to say, if I'm going to be standing in front of people again warbling, then I need to look my best. This has definitely influenced my cooking. Back to simple salads and staying off of sugar as best as I can (I did make some delicious strawberry/lime sorbet last night - it was so hot in the house and I really needed something cold).

So here come the salad days of summer...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Herb Garden: The Bitter and the Sweet

The patch of earth beside my front door has always been problematic. Last year I put in a yarrow and Russian sage plant, threw some new gravel over it and declared it a xeric zone. The patch knew I was faking it as much as I did. It was, at best, a temporary solution.

We were supposed to create the huge vegetable garden this summer, but going forward solo, that was out of the question. So back to this little patch. It seems one of my many lessons this year is having the ability to go forth and create, but in manageable quantities.

Gardening is a wonderful excuse for indulging in control. In the inhospitable environment of the high desert, it takes more than desire to grow. It is not "woman vs. nature" as much as "woman working with nature." You really can't get around it - try to bully this land and it will bite back. Hard.

So back to the patch.

As much as my ego was screaming brussels sprouts, broccoli and eggplant, my wiser self acknowledged that perhaps parsley, cilantro, chives, mint and lavender would be more appropriate for an herb garden. A modest, serene herb garden.

One thing about herbs is that they are not so picky about their soil. There's a lesson in there, somewhere. After some time raking out what gravel I could, a handful of soil amender and the patch has now become a garden.

This autumn, I'll relocate the yarrow and Russian sage.

As with all landscaping projects, I always feel an amazing sense of accomplishment, as well as peace and a touch of awe upon completing a phase. A new feeling: bittersweet. Even though I am feeling pretty wonderful, I did find a few tears to help water this new garden. It's times like these the reality that we are pack animals hits home; and that life is best when shared. So I'll share it here, instead.

My yarrow called out to me this morning:

..and of course, it's water colored rendered cousin:

Oh - almost forgot - the sweet: Lemon Coconut Bundt cake for the party

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bumblebees and Buttercream

Three years ago, I had a lovely vegetable garden. A horney toad, named "Bob" took up residence in my parsley. It seems that this summer a Bumblebee has something to teach me.

No sooner did the butterfly bush get comfy, my new friend showed up:

He's not shy and allows me to get really close. I'm so impressed with this photo, I've posted it on just about every online community I'm in, along with this photoshopped version which may have to be my next tattoo~:

Tomorrow is a going away party for a very special person who is leaving Taos. We have been asked to bring dessert. I think I'll have to do a vanilla cake with raspberry & chocolate vegan buttercream filling and icing. I wish I was as good with a pastry bag as I am with a camera, as I'd love to decorate it with bumblebees~

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Buddha and the Bumblebee

Actually, I don't believe there is a Sutta referencing this, but today, the moment of stillness which encapsulates the essence of the world manifested itself as this:

and looking up, I saw where all my yarn scraps had gone on to be transformed:

..and by slowing down and paying attention, my wish for a comfy spot to sit in this beauty was realized when I drove past the thrift store:

Major score~
and the transformation of desert into sanctuary continues:

...with much gratitude to my friend, Cate, who helped me slow down, and realize I don't have to cultivate my garden (or my life) all at once.