Monthly Archives: February 2014

Southern-Style Vegan Banana Pudding

Vegan Southern-Style Banana Pudding
Vegan Southern-Style Banana Pudding

Generally speaking, I can’t say that I’ve ever been a huge fan of pudding. On the hierarchy of desserts, pudding generally falls far down the list, below cake, cookies, ice cream, and pie. Pudding is generally just sort of ok. Unless it’s bread pudding, which can be pretty fabulous, when done well. The other exception is Southern-style banana pudding.

I have very fond memories of eating banana pudding at diabetes summer camp. Back in those darker ages of diabetes management, before insulin to carb ratios allowed us to dose based on carbohydrate count, “sweets” were an infrequent treat, and most camp desserts consisted of fruit. Today, I appreciate fruit far more than I did as a kid. Summer fruits, those ripe, succulent berries and juicy stone fruits, are one of the things I love most about summer. I forever long for the unadulterated pleasure of biting into a perfectly ripened peach on a hot summer day. However, as a kid with type 1 diabetes, fruit could be disappointing, and in some circumstances, kind of felt like a punishment: “We’re going to eat cookies, but your pancreas sucks, so have an apple.” At diabetes camp, where the entire experience was to help us feel as normal as possible, banana pudding, with it’s gorgeous layers of fresh banana slices and vanilla wafers, represented normalcy.

As much I loved my diabetes camp banana pudding, I never made a sincere effort to replicate it at home. Until last night, the only pudding I had ever made was from a Jello instant boxed mix with cow’s milk, and that was an eternity ago, with decidedly meh results as I recall. I had certainly never attempted homemade pudding, so only had vague notions about the ingredients of traditional dairy-based pudding. As I contemplated making vegan pudding, I looked at dairy-based pudding recipes, and immediately discovered Paula Deen’s recipe. Eggs, milk and butter. Not surprising, and being relatively new to vegan cooking, it made me uncertain about creating a plant-based version.

I has happy to find quite a few vegan banana pudding recipes though. All used non-dairy milk, canned coconut milk, tofu, or some combination thereof. After studying how others have made it, I created the one below. Compared to Paula’s recipe, mine is presumably healthier. Unlike hers, mine is deliciously compassionate with lovely coconut undertones.

Vegan Southern-Style Banana Pudding Ingredients
Vegan Southern-Style Banana Pudding Ingredients

Southern-Style Banana Pudding

1 can coconut milk (full fat, not lite)
1 1/3 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 mashed banana (1/3-1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, sliced
1 box vegan vanilla wafers (I used Back to Nature)
1 can non-dairy whipped cream

1. Whisk coconut milk, non-dairy milk, sugar, and cornstarch in a heavy saucepan until combined.
2. On medium heat, continuously whisk until mixture starts to bubble and become noticeably thicker, about 10 minutes. Turn heat down to low, continue whisking, and cook an additional minute.
3. Remove from heat. Add mashed banana, and whisk to combine. Add vanilla, and whisk to combine.
4. Line glass bowl or comparable dish(es) with layers of sliced banana, vanilla wafers and pudding.
5. Chill for at least 2 hours.
6. Serve with non-dairy whipped cream.

* My glass serving bowl broke recently, and I haven’t replaced it, so I used four individual glass ramekins, and a glass loaf pan. Depending on the volume of servings from the loaf pan, this recipe makes 8-10 servings.
** Don’t leave exposed banana slices as a top layer. If you desire, add fresh banana slices to top, prior to serving.

Vegan Chicken Salad

Vegan Chicken Salad
Vegan Chicken Salad

This past week, I found a recipe for Lemon & Dill Vegan Chicken Salad on the blog, Meet the Shannons. I immediately bookmarked it with the intention of finally using the package of Beyond Meat I had stashed in the freezer last month. I tend to tinker with recipes, but I decided to make the recipe as instructed, and then if I wanted to make it again at another time, I could try doctoring it up in one way or another.

That plan quickly unraveled as I pulled out the ingredients, and got started. My compulsion to tinker with recipes seems to always get the best of me. Sometimes that works, sometimes not, but I’m very happy to report that it turned out wonderfully this time. I can’t comment on how it would be with Gardein, which is what the original called for, because I’ve yet to experiment with Gardein. Beyond Meat was perfect though, a very convincing chicken substitute that could easily win over any fan of chicken salad. The dressing is fabulous, so next time I think I’ll make extra to use on green salads or for a veggie dip. Seriously, if I had used a wider bowl to mix it instead of a glass measuring cup, I would have stuck my face in to lick up the extra.

Whether you make the original recipe, or try mine, I hope you enjoy it, and don’t waste a drop of that delicious dressing!

Vegan Chicken Salad Ingredients
Vegan Chicken Salad Ingredients

Vegan Chicken Salad

1 package Beyond Meat (I used the Lightly Seasoned variety), or other vegan chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 dashes liquid smoke
1/2 red onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 apple, diced
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoon sunflower seeds

Dressing
2/3 cup vegan mayonnaise (I used Earth Balance, but any brand should be fine)
Juice from 1 lemon
Zest from 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
3 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Chop vegan chicken (see photo below to see how coarsely I chopped it). Whisk olive oil and liquid smoke. Add chopped began chicken to to baking dish, stir in oil-liquid smoke mixture. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes. Chicken will be lightly browned when done. Set aside, and allow to cool.

Combine onion, celery, apple, dill, parsley, and sunflower seeds in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together vegan mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon pepper, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, celery seed, and black pepper until combined.

Combine cooled vegan chicken with onion-celery-apple mix. Pour dressing over salad, and stir to combine.

I ate a sandwich, before putting the leftovers away. The leftovers completely filled a quart-sized container. I’m guessing the recipe makes enough to 6-7 sandwiches.

Coarsely Chopped Vegan Chicken
Coarsely Chopped Vegan Chicken

No, I’m Not Allergic

Wholly Cow Restaurant by Flickr user, promoterest
Wholly Cow Restaurant by Flickr user, promoterest

Last fall, Husband and I were invited to a going away party at a restaurant for a good friend who was moving cross-country. A steak and seafood restaurant. Fuck. I went to the restaurant website to scope out the menu. Fuckity fuck.

At that time, it had only been about two months since I had taken an interest in veganism. I was eating at least two vegan meals a day, and some days I was eating all vegan. I had started this as an experiment to see how I felt physically and emotionally. I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed, like I was changing my life (in retrospect, it has changed my life, for the better), so I was taking it one meal at a time, monitoring how it affected me, and trying to gauge the effects of my efforts on my relationships, which was and is a concern. I was essentially trying a new philosophy and a new purpose, and when this invitation to a steak and seafood restaurant arrived, I recognized it as a challenge to integrate the old parts of my life with all that was new.

The menu wasn’t exactly bursting with vegan choices. I could get a side dish of pan roasted wild mushrooms paired with a side dish of wild mushroom spinach saute – maybe, if they weren’t sauteed with butter, which I doubted. That sounded very, um, mushroomy. Don’t get my wrong. I like mushrooms, but can’t say I was excited about eating them for dinner under those circumstances. As infrequently as we go out to dinner, I at least want to enjoy it when we go. The mixed greens with walnuts and balsamic, minus the blue cheese, seemed to be the only other viable option. Even if I were resigned to having a vegetarian meal, as opposed to a vegan meal, that only added the mashed potatoes with cheddar cheese or creamed spinach to my short list. Ugh.

99% of the time, I don’t feel that eating a vegan diet is limiting. Quite the opposite in fact. That 1% of the time, when I’m with a bunch of people who have choices they enjoy, and I’m faced with an edited salad that I don’t even want, has been difficult for me to navigate though. I’m in a better, more peaceful place with this scenario now, but five months ago, I felt lost.

If it had been almost any other occasion, I would have politely declined. I didn’t want to miss my friend’s send-off though. I knew that socializing as an aspiring vegan was going to present a whole new set of challenges. I have always been a famously unpicky eater. My great-grandmother used to brag that I would eat anything put in front of me. The only thing I won’t eat is olives. I’m not a fan of rye bread, and until relatively recently, I avoided avocados, but I’m eating those now with great enthusiasm. Off the top of my head, that’s the extent of my dislike list. Previously, I’d eat what was served, and be happy. As an aspiring vegan though, I’m in bizarre new territory.

I googled to learn how vegans navigate more challenging social contexts. “Call the restaurant in advance.” I called to ask if they could accommodate my dietary requests. “Hello. I don’t eat animal products. I’m coming for a group event. I’ve looked at your menu, and would like to know if you’ll be able to accommodate me.” The man seemed understanding, and said that I could request a simple pasta primavera dish. I felt relieved and satisfied that dinner would be fine.

The night of the event, we were seated, and the first thing I noticed was butter with the bread. I asked for olive oil instead. Ask and thou shall receive. I fancied it up with some black pepper, and Husband, who’s omnivorous, asked to share with me in lieu of using butter. So far so good. Eventually, the waiter came around to take our order, and I explained that I had called ahead, and was told I could order pasta primavera. I specifically told him I didn’t want cheese, butter, or other dairy; I wanted it prepared with olive oil. “Are you allergic?” I didn’t like that he was asking. I told him no dairy, and regardless of my motivation, they should accommodate me. Instead of directly responding to his question, I paused before reiterating that I didn’t want dairy used in the dish. He persisted though, and asked me again if I was allergic. Again, I restated that I wanted the dish prepared without dairy. He indicated that he got it, the awkward exchange ended, and he took Husband’s order.

Now, I can’t say for certain, but I think there might have been cheese in the pasta sauce. I was a little paranoid because of the exchange I had with the server when ordering, so I worried that not saying I was allergic affected how the dish was prepared. I expected a dish of pasta tossed with veggies sauteed in olive oil, or something comparable. I was served rigatoni in a thick tomato-based sauce with a few slices of summer squash, and I was convinced the tomato sauce had Parmesan in it. I wasn’t certain, but I didn’t ask either. I didn’t want to make a thing of it, and I didn’t want to disrupt the spirit of the party by having to confront the server.

My transitional mindset about my relationship with food and animals was already undermining my confidence going into the evening, so suspecting that I hadn’t been taken seriously when ordering my food, even after having done what I thought was the right thing to do – calling ahead, planning ahead – flattened my spirit and momentum in that moment. When it was time for cake, I had a slice. I knew better, but I felt angry and alone, and just said, fuck it. I know that was shitty. I’m not perfect.

As Husband and I were driving home, he asked how I liked my meal, and I shared that I thought the pasta had cheese in it. He’s very pragmatic, so he suggested that I tell people I’m allergic to dairy to ensure they prepare dishes to my liking. I see his point, and from a practical standpoint, agree that it would be efficient. This incident has been on my mind lately because I’ve been listening to the Our Hen House and Food for Thought podcasts about finding my voice, refining my language, expressing my truth, advocating my cause, raising awareness, and upholding my principles. If I were in the same situation tomorrow, how would I manage it?

I’m not confident that even if I stated my truth, requesting a plant-based dish because I do not want to consume animal flesh or secretions, that my dinner would have been made to order. I’m not sure that the outcome would have been any different. Why would anyone who works in a steak and seafood restaurant honor my wishes, or understand the ethics behind my request? I understand that the server felt obligated to clarify the allergy issue, likely following restaurant policy since allergies are serious business, but in the end, that seems irrelevant. It assumes that my request would have been more valid, and they would have made a greater effort to honor it if I were allergic. It suggests that ethical reasons shouldn’t be taken seriously. I wouldn’t feel any better getting a meal prepared to my specifications by obscuring the truth, as if my truth were invalid, than I felt by getting a possibly adulterated dish by evading his question. The truth is that I don’t want to consume something that is the direct result of suffering, and no, I’m not allergic.

Complicity

“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have a marginally unhealthy obsession with documentaries. My obsession goes back many years, but Netflix has completely enabled my addiction. More recently, camping out on the sofa to watch documentaries has become one of my favorite ways to avoid making progress on my doctoral work. Educational, thought-provoking procrastination at its best.

On the off chance that you don’t already know me, I’m trying to get my PhD in expressive therapies. It’s a low-residency program, which means I’ve had to travel to Boston from Philadelphia to be on campus for three weeks in the summer for three consecutive years. Those three weeks are spent in class and slogging through my research. I spend the other 49 weeks of the year working independently from home, relying heavily on the university website to access library resources, connect with professors and peers, and share papers and projects.

Last summer was my last summer residency, and I spent a lot of time holed up in my dorm room, researching and writing. The seclusion and absence of the usual distractions – laundry, dishes, yard work, dog, etc. – meant I could get a lot accomplished, but too many hours of reading and writing meant my fried brain needed a break. I opened Netflix to find a documentary, and after perusing my options, decided to watch Vegucated. Vegucated, in case you aren’t familiar with it, is a documentary about a vegan woman who turns to Craigslist to recruit three New Yorkers to try veganism for six weeks.

Over the last several years, I’ve seen a bunch of documentaries about the wretched American diet, many of which dedicated screen time to modern animal agriculture’s factory farming practices. So before seeing Vegucated, I knew what was happening to farm animals. I knew farm animals were kept in despicable conditions. I deliberately use the word, “kept.” I can’t even say “they lived in despicable conditions” because they aren’t living. Existing in a cage, having your reproductive capabilities commoditized, never being granted compassion, never experiencing the rightful joys of your existence, only knowing dark warehouses, abuse, pain, and cruelty is not living.

Vegucated (2010)
Vegucated (2010)

It’s with a heavy heart that I admit that despite this knowledge, I carried on. Business as usual was eating the occasional burger or pork sausage, pounds of chicken, tons of cheese, and dozens of eggs – scrambled, extra dry. I made a kickass chili with chorizo and steak. As I was trying to cut back on beef, pork and chicken, I was eating more yogurt, tuna salad, and egg salad. I was in conflict about it though. I frequently had the thought that I should eat something other than meat, but brushed the lingering doubts aside because changing meant acknowledging that what I had been doing my entire life was ethically wrong. How would I come to terms with that? Vegan author and host of one of my new favorite podcats, Vegetarian Food for Thought, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, describes the mental state before one awakes to the horror of their complicity, and decides to take action – I was asleep.

I had been making changes prior to the evening I watched Vegucated. With the exception of fish, I was intentionally eating less meat. For many years, I had been eating veggie burgers and dogs at home, but I had been making a point of ordering veggie burgers when we went out too. I had also experimented with soy-based ground “meat” when cooking at home. I insisted on buying Certified Humane cage-free eggs. Instead of cow’s milk, I had started buying almond milk. In retrospect, it doesn’t sound like much, but these were important first steps, changes that reflected my growing desire to know where my food came from, changes that were easy to make. These first steps gave me a glimpse of my capacity to change, and made me feel like my actions mattered. I was still eating regular yogurt, but pouring almond milk on my cereal meant I was doing less damage to dairy cows. I knew I could do more though. I just didn’t know what next step to take, or what it would mean to other areas of my life since food is an important aspect of family and friendships.

Sitting in the stark dorm room, temporarily away from my day-to-day omnivorous life, watching the vegan experiments unfold in the documentary, changed me. It became clear that taking the next step was less frightening than the prospect of remaining complicit. As I watched the documentary, I saw people I could relate to, people with meat stored in their freezers, and dairy and eggs in their refrigerators. I saw families and friends that had no intention of getting on board with eliminating meat, half-jokingly teasing or challenging the vegan experiment participants’ plant-based diets. I saw the self-doubt and conflicting emotions of trying to stick to a lifestyle that others belittled. I felt their sense of marginalization. I saw aspirations to do it perfectly, and recognition of the obstacles to achieving that. I saw how the emotions were overwhelming at times. I saw them approach veganism as a short-term endeavor, but as the six weeks dwindled down, I saw their hearts open to new possibilities. I saw them waking up.

I saw that I could overcome fear and doubt, and I could change. I saw that I could eliminate meat, and begin to eat more vegan meals. I saw that I could extend compassion and understanding. I saw that learning more about my food naturally led to more considerate, ethical decisions about what I would eat. I saw that I needed to finally wake up.

Tortilla Soup

I started with this recipe for Weeknight Tortilla Soup, found at Delicious Knowledge, but I made some adjustments. I added more veggies, which led to more broth, which led to more spices. The extra veggies mean more chopping, so it’s more involved. With more ingredients, more labor, and more time, it might be the weekend version of the weeknight soup that inspired me. Although, I just used tortilla chips instead of frying soft tortillas, as was done in the original, so that evens things out a little.

It ended being quite spicy, comparable to a medium-hot salsa, so you might prefer to cut back on the heat by scaling back the spices or eliminating a jalapeno, unless you really like spicy food. You can always spice it up if you decide it’s too mild. We really liked the result though. The avocado, cilantro and non-dairy sour cream nicely temper the heat.

Tortilla Soup
Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 large onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
3 tomatillos, diced
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 15-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 28-oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
2 16-oz bags frozen corn
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups low sodium vegetable broth

Garnishes
Tortilla chips
Avocado, diced
Fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
Non-dairy sour cream (*see note)
Non-dairy cheese (Daiya pepperjack shreds are perfect for this recipe)

1. In large soup pot, on medium heat, saute onion, garlic, poblano, and jalapenos in oil until onion is translucent.
2. Add carrots, celery, tomatillos, bell peppers, and spices. Cook until vegetables soften, stirring occasionally.
3. Add canned tomatoes, corn, beans, and broth. Stir, bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Note: I’m a big fan of non-hydrogenated Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream. If it’s not indistinguishable from the dairy-based sour cream, it’s incredibly close. You can also make your own.

Sauteed vegetables before step 3
Sauteed vegetables before step 3
Simmering Soup
Simmering Soup

Beyond The Butter Compartment

Avocados

I think I was in high school when I first had guacamole. I only ate it because it was globbed onto a big platter of nachos.  I can’t say that I didn’t like it.  I also can’t say that I liked it. It was just there, so I ate it.  Over time, my avocado policy was to avoid it. When dining out, I’d request they hold the green mush. If I was a guest in someone’s home, I’d eat a little or pick around it.

Then I started my vegan journey.  When I started looking at vegan recipes, especially baking recipes, I found a lot of avocado. I think it’s reasonable to say that avocados are something of a go-to food in the world of vegan diets, presumably because they have a fleshy, hearty quality that lends itself to diets without animal meat.  Avocados are crazy healthy too.

So I decided that my aversion to avocados was something I had fabricated, possibly a result of those early run-ins with mediocre restaurant guacamole.  I made some veggie tacos a few months ago, and added some avocado chunks.  My suspicion that I had been mistaken about avocados was confirmed.  I still needed to warm up to the texture, but as a complement to spicy taco mixture, the avocado did the trick. Since the taco turning point, I have included sliced avocado in vegan grilled cheese sandwiches, and have continued to generously add it to tacos which I make relatively often.

Avocados are something of a loose metaphor for my journey towards veganism.  I didn’t think it was for me, but after some consideration, I decided to be brave and try it, and I found something wonderful. My preconceptions and prejudices had been misplaced.  I’m discovering that the seemingly weird and unappealing is actually fulfilling and enjoyable.

Glitter

I’m an artist and art therapist.  I love high quality paints, canvas, and expensive brushes as much as I love good old-fashioned kids’ art materials – colored tissue paper, pom-poms, Play-Doh, and glitter.  Glitter has always been synonymous with throw-caution-to-the-wind artsy-crafty fun and joy. If you’re going to get the glitter out, to some extent, you have to say, “Fuck it, I’m going to make a mess, and it’s going to be glorious.”

Glitter is the second half of my metaphor-rich blog name.  Within the context of what I imagine for this blog, it symbolizes art, but it also represents life. It’s messy, and the final product might not be what you envisioned. Even when you think you have it contained, it’s in your hair, between your toes, in the furniture, on the floor. But are you going to leave all that potential on the shelf? Are you really going to forsake sparkles and dancing light?

Avocados & Glitter

I’m not entirely sure what this blog is going to become.  I feel liberated to go more places than I could on my diabetes blog though.  The Butter Compartment has been good, and serves its purpose when I need to post about diabetes, but it’s become as confining as it sounds, and more and more, I’m compelled to explore topics that don’t seem to fit on my diabetes blog.

I conceived of Avocados & Glitter as a place to write about my new vegan journey. I anticipate sharing recipes, as well as the deeper philosophical questions, observations and revelations that have come to me since eliminating meat, and almost eliminating other animal products.  I also want to share my creative work and thoughts about creativity. It’s possible I’ll reflect on other issues that interest me – social justice, feminism, politics. I’ll probably post about my dog, vacations, and other mundane shit too.

So I have a lot of vague ideas, but for now, my intention is to see where this takes me. I hope I’m surprised by where I go, and if you can tolerate a bit of a mess, I hope you’ll be intrigued enough to come with me.

Avocados & Glitter
Avocados & Glitter