New England Mushroom Chowder

One of my favorite soups of all time has always been New England clam chowder, so much that I brought it for lunch in elementary school pretty much every day. From a can, no less, *cue barf noises* but it was cheap and we can’t forget the fact that I’m a product of the 90s where convenience was everything. However, my mom always made really good food, so for now I’m just going to blame canned clam chowder on the decade.

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For the “clams”

  • 1 large lion’s mane mushroom or 8 oz. container baby bellas, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter

For the soup

  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
  • 3 celery stalks, small dice
  • 2 C fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 medium russet potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 C vegan white wine
  • 4 C veggie broth
  • 1 16 oz can coconut cream (not milk!)
  • 1 C soy milk
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp kelp powder (optional)
  • 2 tbsp flour (all-purpose or GF)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat 2 tbsp vegan butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for four minutes or until all liquid has evaporated. Remove from pot and set aside.
  2. Heat remaining butter + olive oil over medium high heat in the same pot that you just removed the mushrooms from. Add onions, carrots and celery, sautéing for five minutes. Next add garlic and cook for another two minutes, stirring frequently to ensure it doesn’t burn…burnt garlic can easily ruin a great soup!
  3. Next, add the corn and potatoes and sprinkle with flour. Stir for two minutes to incorporate it with the butter, making a lazy person’s roux.
  4. Throw in the broth, bay leaves, thyme, celery seed and kelp powder. Stir it well, and allow it to simmer at medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  5. Stir in the mushrooms, discard the bay leaves, and incorporate both the soy milk and coconut cream. Allow the soup to heat up for 5 minutes, then serve. You can serve the soup unadulterated, or you can do like I did and serve it with croutons. Oyster crackers pair well, and contrary to the name, no oysters were harmed in the making of the crackers.

Why I’m Vegan

As a vegan, I of course get a lot of stupid questions on a near daily basis, but one I don’t mind is “Why are you vegan?”

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As a kid, it was my dream to become a veterinarian. When I look at all of my old drawings from my childhood, they’re all of animals. My old pit bull Buster was my best friend in the entire universe, and when he died it felt like I died too. So what? Almost everyone is an animal lover. However, it took twenty-five years for me to comprehend that I wasn’t truly an animal lover, because I was selective about who I loved, and I viewed some as a commodity, or simply a piece of meat.

At twenty-two, I became a vegetarian after being diagnosed with colitis, and morally I felt better about no longer consuming meat. I ate this way for three years and thought “How could people still eat meat?” because I was completely blind to the horrors of the egg and dairy industries, and later on became educated and wallowed in guilt because I thought I couldn’t give up cheese. Today I sit here and think “How could people still consume animal products?”

Farm animals are incredibly emotionally complex, sentient beings with an acute awareness of their surroundings and the ability to experience pain like you and I. They’re forced to live in filth and squalor until they’re herded to be slaughtered. The cognitive dissonance between cute videos of piglets and cows and the animal flesh on one’s plate is very real. Unfortunately the egg and dairy industry is just as violent, if not more than the meat industry resulting in a lifetime of torture ending in death.

There is no humane way to kill someone who does not want to die.

Understandably, many people avoid factory farming exposé videos because they’re really difficult to watch. But my philosophy, and I’m sure many others vegans would agree with me, is if you can’t face the reality of where your food comes from, how can you eat it? If you cry at the Sarah McLachlan commercials, how could you not spay and neuter your pets?

The turmoil between omnivores and vegans is pretty intense, but I believe that in any capacity, the best way to get someone to see things from your perspective is through education and empathy. In my opinion, calling people stupid or throwing fake blood on them or acting holier than thou is completely counterproductive to the vegan movement because it pushes others away. I’m vegan for the animals, not for my ego.

The Best Ever VeganEgg Breakfast Sandwich

In New York, the phrase “BECSPK” is of it’s own language. Standing for “bacon, egg, cheese, salt, pepper, ketchup”, it’s a classic New York breakfast that’s entirely unrivaled. Served on a kaiser roll, it sounds simple, and that’s because it is, but many out-of-state delis and diners have failed at recreating it. Being vegan doesn’t mean I can’t have any of the things I used to have, it just means I have to find a way to make it work. And while this isn’t a replica of the breakfast sandwich of my childhood, it still hits the breakfast sandwich spot.

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Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients:

For the tempeh

  • 1 four inch block tempeh
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (I used Whole Foods brand)
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds, finely crushed
  • Salt & pepper to taste

For the egg

  • 1/2 C ice cold water
  • 2 tbsp Follow Your Heart VeganEgg
  • 1 tsp olive oil or vegan butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste

For the sauce

  • 2 tbsp vegan mayo
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh dill

For the sandwich

  • 2 vegan English muffins (Thomas’ are not, Trader Joe’s are)
  • A handful of fresh spinach
  • 2 sliced onion rounds

PREPARATION

  1. Heat olive oil over medium high, and add all sausage ingredients. Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently as to not burn the Worcestershire. The sausage crumbles should begin to turn brown and slightly crispy.
  2. While the sausage is cooking, throw your English muffin in the toaster, slice your onion and make the sauce.
  3. Once finished with the sandwich prep, whisk together your VeganEgg mixture. Heat the olive oil or butter in a pan on medium high, the egg mixture should sizzle once it hits the pan. It cooks extremely fast, so if you don’t work quickly you’ll end up with an omelette (and that’s not really a bad thing either!). As soon as you pour the egg into the pan, begin scrambling with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, then season with salt and pepper.
  4. Once the egg is done, assemble the sandwich as follows: bottom bread, sauce, sausage, egg, onion, spinach, more sauce, top bun.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

And that’s that! If you make this or any other recipes featured here, use #killertofublog on social media!

Why Everyone Should Watch Earthlings

I’ll be frank, Earthlings is hands down the most disturbing documentary I have ever seen, and I have a feeling it’ll hold it’s rank forever. When I was newly vegan, I was all about vegan documentaries. Cowspiracy, What the Health, Food Inc., you name it, I’ve seen it. I had always heard about Earthlings, and how it’s a “must watch” for all vegetarians and prospective vegans, so in February of 2017, I decided to give it a try. How bad could it be? The answer: really, really bad.

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Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash

Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, it’s broken up into five chapters: pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research. After having watched the first chapter (about fifteen minutes) that closed with the image of a pit bull in a garbage disposal, I clung to my dog for dear life as hysterical as I’ve ever been and it subsequently took me an entire year to finish the remaining hour and twenty minutes, watching parts sporadically as I couldn’t handle the emotional and psychological pain. It’s the realist horror movie you could ever see (and is even categorized as such by IMDb).

Why would anyone want to torture themselves like that? As a vegan, I thought I already knew all there was to know. Meat is bad, milk is bad, eggs are bad, leather is bad. But what makes them bad? Bearing witness to it is a much more visceral experience than reading about it, and honestly I think the experience of watching Earthlings is what made me commit to veganism for life and become more of an animal activist than a passive individual. To read that leather cows have their tails broken and chili pepper paste rubbed in their eyes to keep them moving, or that monkeys have their necks broken when they’re used as car crash dummies, or that foxes have electric prods forced into their anuses is bad enough, but maybe not enough to stop one from buying leather or products tested on animals or fur coats. When you see it, you may think differently.

We live in a capitalistic society which means we’re so very far removed from the products that we consume that we forget what they started off as. Bread was once wheat, your jacket was once a cow and your breakfast was once a little pink piglet. The age-old question is “Would you kill it yourself?” and although people may say yes to be spiteful, the true answer, once one is standing face to face with a screaming, suffering animal, is no. So even if your answer is no, you can still see what it’s like second-hand.

People are afraid to give up the lifestyles they’ve been accustomed to, trust me, I know. I grew up as a (mostly) Italian-American in New York who regularly visited Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to have mile high prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches. Taking everything you’ve known to be a symbol of family and comfort and flipping your world upside down is terrifying. But nothing is more terrifying than being an animal tortured for the sake of human consumption and entertainment.

If you’d like, you can watch Earthlings for free here.

Shortbread Cookies with Edible Flowers

These crumbly, vegan shortbread cookies are not only a great way to showcase beautiful edible summer flowers, but they pair perfectly with a hot cup of tea or coffee, or your favorite dairy-free milk. They’re simple, quick and the star of the show at any midsummer get together.

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Prep time: 1 hr 20 min
Cook time: 10 min

Makes rougly 16 cookies depending on the size of your cutter

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • ¾ cold vegan butter or margarine, plus 2 tbsp
  • ½ C vegan sugar of your choice*
  • 2 C all purpose flour, plus more for dusting**
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp almond or vanilla extract (optional)

*Use any dry vegan sugar substitute – I do not recommend using agave or maple syrup because they are too wet and will alter the end result

**You can also use whole wheat, but I have not tried any gluten free flours…feel free to experiment!

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350º and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl cream together ¾ C butter, sugar, salt and extract until well combined.
  3. Gradually add flour until it is just combined, then use your hands to bring it all together. Do your best to form it into a ball, and although it’ll be crumbly, it will all come together later.
  4. Wrap tightly in two layers of plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour. If you refrigerate overnight, take your dough out and let it rest on the counter for 15-20 minutes to soften. Do not leave it out for longer than 20 minutes, or it will begin to fall apart.
  5. Once the dough is softened, use your hands to incorporate the additional 2 tbsp of cold butter. This will bind everything further to make it easier to roll out.
  6. Roll dough on a flour-dusted surface with a rolling pin, then use a 3 inch circular cookie cutter or the rim of a small glass to create your cookie shape. Be sure to flour the dough, the surface you’re using and the rolling pin throughout to prevent sticking. Repeat until all or most of the dough is used.
  7. Transfer your cookies to the baking sheet, and begin to tear petals or place small flowers onto the surface and lightly press down to stick them to the dough. Place your cookies in the refrigerator for an additional 20 minutes, or the freezer for 10.
  8. Remove your cookies from the refrigerator/freezer, place them in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the bottom edges become lightly browned.

And that’s that! If you make this or any other recipes featured here, use #killertofublog on social media!

Eggplant Parm

So my original intent with this recipe was to make eggplant rollatini, but it didn’t stay rolled so it magically became eggplant parm. Growing up, my family never breaded and fried eggplant rollatini, but roasted it with olive oil, salt and pepper instead so this is perfect for all my gluten free folks.

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Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS

For the eggplant

  • 2 medium to large eggplants
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
  • 1 C tomato sauce (homemade or otherwise)

For the ricotta

  • 1 package extra firm tofu, drained
  • 1/4 C nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried or fresh basil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 C sautéed spinach

 

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 375°, ignite grill on medium heat. If you do not have a grill/do not wish to use one, you may roast the eggplant instead, I just prefer grilling because it gives it a little more of a complex flavor and it’s faster. Line the grill or a grill pan with non-stick foil.
  2. Cut off both eggplant ends so you can stand it vertically. Begin by slicing 1/4 in pieces longways, the entire length of the eggplant and set aside in a large bowl or pan. Discard the ends that are primarily skin. If some of your eggplant slices are short, fear not! We will still use them later.
  3. Brush your eggplant with olive oil (I used an herb infused, but regular is fine) and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place them on the hot foil on the grill and close the top. Periodically check to be sure the thinner pieces are not burning. When they are soft and slightly charred, remove from heat.
  4. While you have your eggplant on the grill, start making your ricotta by combining all ingredients except the spinach into a food processor and begin blending, scraping off the sides occasionally (obviously turn the processor off, I’m not trying to have you sue me). Once blended, scoop into a bowl and mix with the sautéed spinach.
  5. Take a glass baking dish (I used an 11×7 and it fit perfectly) and put a 1/2 C layer of tomato sauce at the bottom.
  6. Lay an eggplant slice on a cutting board or countertop, scoop a few tbsp of the ricotta mixture onto it and lightly spread it. Don’t worry about being neat, it’ll partially unroll anyway. Place the eggplant slice snugly in the baking dish and repeat until all eggplant slices are used.*
  7. Once all of the eggplant is in the dish, lightly spread the remainder of the tomato sauce on top, and finish with grated mozzarella. My favorite brand for this is Miyoko’s Creamery which can be found in a number of stores, including Whole Foods.
  8. Bake for 20 mins on the center shelf. Once the timer is up, turn on the broiler and carefully watch for the top to begin to bubble and turn slightly golden brown.
  9. Serve hot on a layer of tomato sauce and garnish with chiffonaded basil and a sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese.

*When you come across the smaller pieces of eggplant or pieces that broke, simply overlap the ends and roll, it’s basically like making a longer piece and reduces waste. Why throw away a perfectly good piece of eggplant?

And that’s that! If you make this or any other recipes featured here, use #killertofublog on social media!