“‘Meow’ means ‘woof’ in cat” — George Carlin


I think I finally know what it means to be a dog…I had the luxury of visiting my parents last week in my childhood home. Their home is perpetually the same — with one twist.

My parents have a very permanent visitor these days…a dog named Toby. Toby is my sister’s dog. She adopted Toby at an animal rescue center in San Francisco called Pets Unlimited. She wanted a companion, but not just any companion, a cuddlesome companion – lovable, snuggly and obedient in most every way. Toby qualified for the most part. My sister was able to satiate her need to take care of something, but she got a little more than she bargained for.

Much to my sister’s surprise, Toby became more than her pet. Toby became her possessive boy-dog (or what’s the opposite of “bitch”?? –>THAT’S what he became), laying claim to her body and apartment. He’d bark incessantly when left alone, and would bite ankles left and right if the ankles invaded the personal space of my sister. The quintessential guard dog — when he was first adopted, his propensity to tear off your head was enormous and instinctive. The muzzle was a regular accoutrement.  Quarantine of Toby was also common. His little carrying case/cage became the needed time-out headquarters. My sister was in the dog house. Even though my sister had a positive outlook, I wondered if she doubted her decision to rescue a dog.

Toby, one of the luckiest creatures in the world; His life started purposeless. It is believed that his previous owners were violent and abusive. He was found wandering the streets of suburbia in California, aimless, tattered and abandoned. Who could blame him for his misdirected anger? My sister, Lori, persevered.

With obscene pressure to be a good dog, my sister eroded the vicious side of Toby. Toby began to advance to “little king” status. After a while, he shed the Mr. Hyde side of himself.

Soon the “time-out carrier/crate” became a thing of the past. The barking subsided and Toby learned to be a “normal dog.” Lately, with my sister’s burgeoning career, she has been on the move, becoming a world traveler and successful business goddess. This has been a fine opportunity for following:

1.) a dog grandchild for my parents,

2.) a semi-permanent new fixture in my parent’s home

In addition to my sister’s efforts, my parents have had a huge impact on Toby’s mental health.  Being a retired couple, they are available to hang out with Toby all day, restoring Toby’s canine confidence. My mother, an amazing chef of everything healthy, has become Toby’s personal chef. Luxurious meals of oatmeal, peanut butter, cooked carrots, and sometimes bacon for breakfast — and DINNER, a variety of lean meats and soft vegetables:  sweet potatoes, chicken or turkey, brown rice, green beans, pinto beans are usual fare.

During our visitation, Toby and I got the royal treatment. All the good morsels, have contributed to Toby’s mellowness.  In spending time with my parents, I benefited from all the new interesting Toby-inspired, human meals my mother prepared. I did not eat the lean meat, of course, be’an Vegan and all…but,  I added a few extra things to the menu like vegan Bloody Marys and green salads. Toby passed on the Bloody Marys (recipe below).

Toby curled up next to me at night and I begrudgingly decided to share my bed with the pup…which wasn’t so bad. I just pretended he was one of my children, and

he pretended I was the girl who adopted him.

Fresh Tomato Mary (from Vegan Cooking for Carnivores by Roberto Martin)

3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, prepared horseradish

2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce (preferably Annie’s)

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 ounces cold water

4 ounces vodka

Crushed ice for serving

Place all the ingredients except for the ice into the jar of a blender and puree until perfectly smooth; no skins should be visible. Pour over a tall glass filled with crushed ice and enjoy!Image


Maybe they were just hungry…

Day 1:  I converted myself on April 3, 2012.  It was also a day my husband decided to have a work pal and his work pal’s 17 year-old daughter over for a get-together.  At 5pm, husband informed me that everyone would be over at 7pm.  I had made a vegan lasagna around 4pm (recipe to follow), and was very excited to eat it.  It was going to be my family’s vegan indoctrination.

I was a LITTLE worried about having our vegan party with non-family members.  There was an 85% chance the lasagna would suck. I had some Humboldt Fog Cheese .  It was worthy, but not on my vegan menu.   I was hopeful that my guests would be happy with a scrumptious, mold-ripened cheese.

When they arrived, we offered them drinks and asked if they were hungry for dinner.  Of course they were.  I apologized profusely about what I thought to be a sub-par choice for dinner guests – my lasagna.  Although, had I known how delectable it was going to be, I would have held the apologies.  Not a morsel was left.  Even my children devoured two servings.  It was a big hit, and the first proof that food did not have to be smothered in cheese to be sublime. 

I found this recipe in Chloe’s Kitchen, a cookbook by Chloe Coscarelli.  It’s titled Ooh-La-La lasagna.

If you don’t have time to make the marinara sauce, you can substitute a store bought brand.  (I like Middle Earth Organics, Organic Tomato & Basil Sauce, although, I’ve not tried it in this recipe).

Preheat the over to 375 degrees, and lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

1 pound of Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta Lasagna – Cook according to directions on package.  Allow noodles to cool.  Make sure they are drained of extra water, or lasagna will be runny.

4-8 leaves of  baby spinach

Homemade Marinara Sauce: prepare when noodles are cooking

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup finely chopped celery

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil, 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced,

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup soy, almond, or rice milk

1 tablespoon brown sugar or maple syrup

Sauce Preparation: 

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add carrots celery, and mushrooms and sauté until onions are soft and vegetables are lightly browned.  Add garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and let cook a few more minutes.  Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in nondairy milk and brown sugar, which will soften the acidity of the tomatoes.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

Sauce hint:

This is not in the original recipe, but if you have children or don’t like chunky mushrooms, you can throw the mushrooms in the food processor before adding to the sauté.  Your kids won’t even know they are there. The same goes for any vegetable.  The mushrooms give the sauce a meaty flavor/texture).

Garden Ricotta: Prepare while lasagna is cooking or while Marinara is simmering  

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion chopped,

3 cloves garlic,

1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained,

2 tablespoons lemon juice,

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt,

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper,

1 tablespoon white miso paste,

3 cups fresh basil

Garden Ricotta Preparation: 

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and sauté onions until soft.  Remove from heat.

In a food processor, combine onions, garlic, tofu, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and miso paste.  Pulse until mixture is almost smooth but still has some texture.  Add basil and pulse a few more times to incorporate the basil.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

Assemble Lasagna and bake:

Spread a thin layer of sauce on bottom of prepared pan.  Arrange 4 lasagna noodles across the pan.  Spread half of the Garden Ricotta over the noodles. Arrange four more noodles on top.  Spread another layer of sauce, the remaining Garden Ricotta, and 4 more noodles.  Top with remaining sauce.  You may have some noodles left over.

Arrange spinach leaves on top of lasagna in a decorative manner (one spinach leaf per square serving, two rows of 4)

Cover the baking pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until noodles are cooked and sauce is hot and bubbling.  Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

An afterthought:  If I have any left over Garden Ricotta, I boil some medium size pasta shells, and mix them with the cheese.  I top with any left over Marinara sauce add some if necessary.  Cover with tinfoil and refrigerate.  When ready to serve (the next day or whenever):  Place in oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes covered, and then uncover and cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Kids love this too!

Be’an Vegan

     I admit … I still have a lot to learn about being vegan, but I think my feet may be planted in the right direction.  I “went vegan” two weeks ago. No dairy (cheese or milk), eggs, chicken, fish, beef, pork, snake, rabbit etc. have entered my gullet.  Animals or animal products boycotted!  When I told my family I changed my diet, they all looked at me like I was a vampire who just decided to stop sucking blood.

—->”Why!?!” They all wanted to know. <—-

More than wanting to know “why,” they wanted to know how…

I am creating this blog to explain my process.  It is one of the most LOVING things I’ve ever done for myself, and in keeping this diary of my progress, I am hoping that others can benefit from my experience.

My decision has been right-on for two reasons.

1.)  Pure health – After eating a plant-based diet for two weeks, I feel like I did when I was 7 years old (I am almost 44 years old).  I have an exorbitant amount of energy.  My physicality is not stifled by pain.  I get hungry, but when I do, it is REAL hunger, not cravings.  I used to take Doxycycline for acne, Ambien for insomnia, and Advil on a regular basis for tingling, stabbing pain on the bottom of my feet.   I just threw all the medications away yesterday!  My body feels invincible.  Sleep comes very easily now, and my acne is no where to be seen.  Now for the good part:  I do not feel obsessed with my weight.  Something happened to my brain.  Instead of using my willpower to resist that Mocha Frappuccino or slice of cheesy pepperoni and sausage pizza, my brain actually ‘feels’ like bypassing the sugary, gluten-y, fatty choices.  Which means, I feel like bypassing the sugary, gluten-y, fatty choices.  And no, I don’t crave meat.  I do want cheese, but the good news:  There are some incredible vegan cheeses out there, and I will elaborate as I share recipes and tips.  My body is responding so well to this new wholesome eating, that pounds are dropping off slowly.  Simply by eating plant-based, I have been able to quell all my physical ailments and cravings.  PLUS, I eat as much as I want of the best kinds of foods.  This is the main reason I am such a enthusiast.

2.)  Respecting all Life – I love animals, and they share the planet with us. I am not going to say anymore about this now, but respecting life is a big reason why I have decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle. This connection is just happening now, after all those years of being an omnivore.  A late bloomer, no plant pun intended. 😦

Planning ahead is very important in order to ensure a healthy day.  If you truly want to see a change, a commitment is necessary.  You WILL feel unhealthy if your vegan diet primarily consists of processed vegan food and frozen vegan burgers.  Once you become familiar with all of your choices, it becomes easier.

Just because you decide to change your lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean your family is going to change with you.  If you are anything like me, there is a possibility you share meals with non-vegans (children, husband, wife).  That’s okay.  So do I.  Many of the dishes prepared will be palatable for everyone.  You may have to cook a hamburger or chicken every once in a while, but for the most part, everyone will enjoy vegan cooking.  I usually cook one vegan dish an evening.  Some vegan dishes are so complete from a nutritional and satiation standpoint, there is only one necessary.  I also cook chicken or beef (a sauté, oven-baked, or a bbq’d, marinated item) with a simple salad or vegetable, especially if I’m worried that the vegan dish will get the thumbs down.

Rule #1:  Get a crockpot! Many vegan dishes are delicious slow cooked.  Throwing everything in the pot at 9am will give you a delicious meal by 3pm.

Rule #2:  Don’t overwhelm yourself.  Buy the ingredients for one vegan dish, and try it.   There are so many recipes out there. I will start you off with some good ones.

Rule #3:  Find a grocery store that has a vegan section.  Always buy organic fruits and vegetables.

Rule #4:  Enjoy your food.  I mean really enjoy it.  If you don’t like something, don’t eat it.  There are so many options.

Rule #5:  Use Google.com to search for everything vegan – There are some informative websites out there, and I will leave you with one I love: www.theppk.com (Post Punk Kitchen)

Stay tuned:  more to come

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