Sunday, May 28, 2006

Central Coast Writers' Conference - Registration Open

The web site for the Central Coast Writers' Conference XXII is now up and registration is open. This year's keynote speaker Earlene Fowler just hit the bestseller list with her 13 book The Saddlemaker's Wife -- her first mainstream novel. We have lots of great workshops and presenters -- authors, poets, agents, etc. covering all genres including fiction, nonfiction, children's literature, mystery -- you name it. We also have critique service and a first page writing competition, as well as a young writers' program for middle and high school age students.

The conference is Sept. 15 and 16, 2005. Check out the details at

More Vegan Family Favorites

I tried a few more recipes.

Granola - oats, pecans, coconut, sesame seeds, dried fruit, etc.

My experience: I followed the recipe exactly except used grapeseed oil instead of margarine. I also did not heat the oil and syrup first but just mixed everything together. It was quick and easy to make, tasted great and was not too sweet. Very good!

Winter Veggie Chowder - carrots, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, broth and soymilk.

My experience: This was great - even in the summer. My husband and kids really, really liked it.

Sweet Potato Curry: Sauted sweet potatoes with a coconut milk/peanut butter sauce.

My experience: Since I'm the only one in the family that likes curry, this what I did. I made a big stirfry of sweet potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, tofu, zucchini. I made the sauce as directed with the minimum amount of curry paste suggested (1 tsp.). The only alternation I made was to add a little soy sauce to the curry sauce. I took about a third of the stirfry and mixed with the sauce. The rest I tossed with soy sauce, rice vinegar and a splash of honey for the non-curry eaters. I served both versions with brown rice. Everybody was happy! The curry was great - the sauce is really, really tasty and the spice was just the perfect hotness for me. I had enough for several lunches afterward.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Vegan with a Vengeance

I was so excited to get this book after hearing about it for so long. I have read about halfway through and just love the author's style. I've marked a bunch of stuff to try but so far have just made these three recipes:

"Fronch" Toast - This is interesting - the batter is made with chickpea flour, cornstarch, soy creamer, and rice milk. Stale italian or french bread is suggested.

My experience: Looks amazingly like french toast - great texture and good taste. I used a baguette that I left out overnight for this recipe which was just the perfect amount of bread. I did not have the soy creamer or rice milk so I used all unsweetened soy milk for both of those. I added a little vanilla to give it flavor. I think next time (and I will definitely make this again - it's so easy! and good) - I would use regular (not unsweetened) soy or rice milk or even vanilla flavored. If I only have the unsweetened soy, I will add more vanilla and some sweetener to give it flavor. If you put maple syrup on your french toast - this will probably not bother you but we top our french toast with applesauce or often just straight butter so I would have liked it to have a little more flavor.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins - a basic vegan muffin recipe - ony 1/4 cup sugar which was refreshing as most cookbooks use too much sweetener for my taste.

My experience: Let me tell you what these poor muffins went through. First, I had decided to make the RFD Spelt Mac and Cheese the same night but I saw my jar of poppy seeds so I thought I'd try this muffin recipe too. My girls were excited to help make muffins and I also had the radio going as there was a segment on the local station I wanted to hear. Needless to say, I was a little distracted. I had it in my head that I would need to halve the recipe for the Cheese for the mac and cheese and somehow, I started halving the muffin recipe. Unfortunately, the only thing I halved was the flour. We made up the whole batch and had just finished pouring the batter into the greased muffin tins when it dawned on me why the batter was so watery. Not wanting to waste all that work and ingredients, I dumped the muffin batter back in the bowl. Now you may not have thought if it - but it is really hard to pour batter OUT of a muffin tin - the batter pours in all different directions. So about 3/4 of it made it back into my mixing bowl. As my daughters scooped the spilled batter into their mouths, I added the missing flour and oiled my mini-muffin tins and filled those. So after all that, can you believe the muffins were DELICIOUS! They were. Imagine how good they would taste if I made them right in the first place.

Pumpkin Muffins: Muffins made with pureed pumpkin, spices.

My experience: I had nonvegetarian friends over to dinner and made these muffins along with a bean/barley/vegetable soup. The muffins disappeared quickly - everybody liked them. I varied the recipe slightly - I reduced the sugar from 1 1/4 cups to 1/2 cup which was perfect to go along with soup. For more of a sweet, I think 3/4 cup sugar would be plenty. I also found the batter a little stiff and increased the soy milk from 1/2 cup to 2/3.

Pumpkin Waffles - Spiced waffles made with pureed pumpkin.

My experience: Well - the waffles did not work out too well for me. The batter was fairly easy to whip up. I scooped it into my waffle maker and waited until it stopped steaming (almost 10 minutes) and then I couldn't get the waffle iron open. I pulled and tugged and tugged and tugged. I finally managed to wrench it apart and the waffle was mostly glued to the iron. I finally managed to scrape it out - actually only 1 half stuck - the other half was okay. But very thin and crisp. I tried one more - it took forever to cook and then again was stuck a bit and was thin and crispy. I cooked the rest as pancakes and those were yummy. If anyone has success with these as waffles - please give me your secret. In the meantime, we'll keep eating these as pancakes.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gardenburger and other companies switching to eggs from cage-free hens

Here's a press release I got from the Humane Society:


Erin Williams, HSUS, (301) 721-6446,

Gardenburger Takes Egg-Citing Steps

The Humane Society of the United States applauds
Gardenburger's new policy

WASHINGTON (May 17, 2006)-Gardenburger, the veggie burger pioneer responsible for helping change the way countless Americans eat, has taken another leadership role in the food industry by embracing a growing trend: the movement away from eggs laid by hens confined in battery cages. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced today that Utah-based Gardenburger has eliminated the use of eggs in all of its products, except for one privately-sourced veggie patty, whose eggs it is now purchasing from a cage-free, organic egg provider. The company produces a variety of meatless products, including burgers, cutlets, riblets, meatballs, chicken patties, sausages, and prepared wraps.

"As a leader in natural foods, Gardenburger is delighted to be a leader in the trend away from battery cage eggs ," stated Scott C. Wallace, president and CEO of Gardenburger. "Gardenburger is committed to respectful treatment of animals, and this move is a reflection of that concern."

"Gardenburger has already done much to reduce the suffering of farm animals in our country, and this latest move further demonstrates its commitment to animal welfare," commented Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "The HSUS encourages Gardenburger's competitors in the meatless foods market, such as Morningstar Farms, to do the same."

In the United States, approximately 95 percent of eggs sold come from hens confined in barren "battery cages," wire enclosures so small the birds can't nest, forage, perch, walk, or even spread their wings. The cages are stacked one on top of another inside huge warehouses on factory farms. Each bird is afforded less space than a single sheet of paper on which to live, leading to extremely high levels of stress and frustration.

Gardenburger joins a growing bandwagon of institutions and corporations distancing themselves from battery-cage egg production. Several grocery chains such as Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats Natural Marketplace, Jimbo's Naturally, and Earth Fare have eliminated their sales of battery-cage eggs. Trader Joe's converted all of its brand eggs to cage-free. Food service provider Bon Appétit is also phasing in cage-free eggs for all of its 400 cafés, including those serving corporate clients Yahoo!, Cisco Systems, Adidas, Best Buy, and Nordstrom. And AOL and Google have ended their use of eggs from caged hens in their employee dining facilities.

Nearly 90 schools have also enacted policies to eliminate or greatly decrease their use of eggs from caged hens, including Dartmouth College, University of New Hampshire, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tufts University, and Georgetown University.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization with 9.5 million members and constituents. The HSUS is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals, disaster preparedness and response, wildlife and habitat protection, animals in research, equine protection, and farm animal welfare. The HSUS protects all animals through education, investigation, litigation, legislation, advocacy and field work. The non-profit organization is based in Washington and has field representatives and offices across the country. On the web at


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

And back to Real Food Daily

This book is just so awesome!

I made the Quick Soba Noodle Surprise a few days ago - well not exactly by the book. I made the Gingered Tofu as directed except didn't have fresh ginger so used 1 teaspoon dried. That came out wonderful - even my daughter that doesn't like tofu loved it. I made the Peanut-Sesame Dressing but without the ginger, cilantro (didn't have any), and red pepper flakes (my kids won't eat spicy food). Instead of doing the raw shredded veggies though, I stir-fried asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and snap peas. THen tossed that all with linquine (didn't have soba noodles). So - okay - it's not too close to the original recipe but boy was it delicious. It was great hot for supper and cold for lunch the next day - my daughter even took it in her lunch box. The only thing I would do differently is use a little less rice vinegar in the dressing. I don't really like things very vinegary. I'd probably use 3 to 4 tablespoons rather than 1/3 cup. Also, I sprinkled a little Thai Chili Sauce over my noodles at the table - YUM!

Tonight I made the Baked Spelt Macaroni with Cashew Cheddar Cheese. It was really good - my husband did not know it was vegan until I told him. However, again I made a few variations. I made a half batch of Cashew Cheddar Cheese. I was supposed to use 1/2 cup of agar flakes or 1 ounce (for the 1/2 batch). Well, I had about only had 1/2 ounce or 1/4 cup flakes on hand and it's kind of expensive and I thought 1/2 cup was kind of a lot so I made it with just the 1/4 cup. Well, I could have used less. I think the higher amount is if you want a firm cheese like really cheddar cheese - not like a cheese sauce. Next time I would probably use just 3 tablespoons. Another thing is - the directions said to cover and simmer the soymilk/agar mixture over med-low heat. Well, every time I did that, it boiled over even at the very lowest heat (and believe me it was no fun scraping that off the stove after). I recommend not covering it. Also, after I mixed the noodles and cheese sauce together, I did not bake for 20 minutes as everything was already hot. I just topped with the bread crumb mixture (so yummy) and baked 10-15 mins. until browned. Oh - also, I used a full pound of penne noodles and there was plenty of sauce for that amount.

***Update on Mac and Cheese: It does NOT reheat well. I served leftovers for dinner the next day and nobody ate more than a few bites. If I make this again, I would just make a half batch - enough for one meal.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Vegan Family Favorites

I've gotten a few new vegan cookbooks lately so as I try the recipes, I thought I'd post comments about how well the recipe worked and how my family liked them, etc.

I'll start with Vegan Family Favorites by Erin Pavlina (editor of VegFamily Magazine at Most of the recipes in the book are very quick and easy -- great for busy families. Some use fake meat and dairy products which I'm not the biggest fan of - but there are plenty I am looking forward to making. So far, I've tried:

Portobello Mushroom Sandwich - Basically, you slice up portobellos, toss with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and bake. Spread toast with chopped spinach cream cheese (vegan) mixture and top with mushrooms. You can add other toppings like lettuce, cucumbers, etc.

My opinion: YUM! I actually didn't have any cream cheese so I just spread the toast with mayo, spinach leaves and cucumber slices. It was heavenly. I can't wait to have it again.

Red Lentil Soup - Simple soup of red lentils, carrots, greens and some spices.

My opinion: A huge hit with my kids. I've never cooked red lentils before (can you believe it!). They actually cook down to a puree like split peas and taste like them. It was so quick and easy to make, I know this will become a regular.

Carrot-Potato Pancakes - Similar to potato pancakes but with carrots -- and vegan of course.

My opinion: My family loved these. I served them with applesauce. They were a bit of work to make though. I doubled the recipe and frying them took a long time. You also need to start this early to soak the shredded potatoes (but what a great tip as it results in nice crispy pancakes.) I would definitely make this again but this is one of the few recipes in the book that is not a quickie.

Giant Old-fashioned Oatmeal Cookies - Just like grandma used to make, except with vegan substitutes for the butter and eggs.

My opinion: I made this recipe as directed except I cut the brown sugar down to 2/3 cup and the regular sugar to 1/2 cup. They were crispy but soft in the middle. Absolutely delicious. This is a good one to serve to non-vegans.

That's all I've tried so far, though I have many others I have marked to try. (I hear the Sweet Potato Curry is superb!) I'll post as I try other recipes.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mojo Mom

I LOVE this book: Mojo Mom by Amy Tiemann. I heard Amy speak in San Luis Obispo, CA last week and she was great - she really understands what it's like to be a mom (because of course she is one) but she has great ideas for getting your mojo back after kids.

I bought her book and literally could not put it down. Even before I finished, I started putting her suggestions into practice. And the small changes I've made have already made a difference. I am examining all the things I do and determining which activities are really necessary and bringing me (or my kids) enjoyment. Reading her book also helped me to realize why writing has become so important since having kids - because it is something I'm doing just for me and has nothing to do with being a wife or mother. And how important it is to have an identity other than mom - not that being a mom isn't a great or important thing but just that we are still our own person too.

I so recommend this book for all moms. It would make a great shower gift too. There are tons of books about taking care of your children, your body, etc. This one tells you how to nurture your spirit and gives practical ways that you can do it no matter what the age of your children are or what your situation is.

Oh - and it would be an excellent Mothers' Day gift!