nutritional yeast

snowpocalypse / new england no-clams chowdah

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DSC_0015I’m a big fan of storms, especially ones involving blankets of snow and the necessity for roaring fires, daytime pajamas & copious amounts of tea. And thanks to the sensationalism of The Weather Channel, Americans like me can become easily convinced that this storm is going to be the most “crippling blizzard since 1978”. Because let’s be honest, once a storm has a name- and this one has two– it means we’re doomed for a snowpocalypse! I am however, still confused as to why this storm has two names, but I’ve already decided that blizzard Nemo is a lot freaking cooler sounding than blizzard Charlotte. I know at first you might think of that do-gooder fish looking for his dad, which is all good and fine, but what about Captain Nemo! The bad ass anti-hero scientist! That’s the kind of blizzard name that will inspire millions of Americans to go spend thousands of dollars on a generator.

But since I already have one, the only thing I need to do is wash my softest pair of yoga pants, buy lots of food, and make a creamy bowl of vegan clam chowdah! (Yes I have to say it like that. I can’t help myself). Don’t worry, there aren’t any fake clams going into this yummy soup; in fact, just thinking of them conjures flashbacks of my first (and only) time eating a fake soy shrimp. Translation: rubbery, dyed pink processed soy dumped into a bowl of broth and noodles that tasted like a fish made out of plastic. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of faux meats. However, if you’re making the transition to a plant based diet, and you’re craving a little familiarity, faux meats can be helpful in bridging the gap. Just keep your consumption to a minimum and remember that very processed soy products are usually GMO and contain soy protein isolate (a highly processed carcinogenic form of soy). In this recipe, I use king trumpet mushrooms, which have a nice chewy texture and even look a little bit like clams when chopped up. Sauteed with veggies and a generous dollop of cashew cream and you will become Bill Murray from What about Bob?. 

Vegan No Clams Chowdah!

1 T refined coconut oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 potato, peeled and diced

4 king trumpet mushrooms, chopped into small, clam-sized pieces

Splash of white wine, any variety is fine

Pinch of paprika

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp white truffle oil

2 1/2 cups stock ( I recommend Imagine Foods No-Chicken Stock)

2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours or overnight

3 T nutritional yeast (I buy it in bulk from Whole Foods and other natural foods stores)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tsp tamari or shoyu

Optional toppings:

1 crumbled nori sheet or a few shakes of Eden seaweed gomasio (this is great if you want a little taste of the sea without the sea creatures)

Dash of hot sauce (I tend to put hot sauce on everything!)

Funny Seasonal Ecard: Everyone's freaking out about the blizzard, and I'm like 'Hey, I made vegan no-clams chowdah!'

In a wide soup pot or dutch oven, heat coconut oil over medium heat and add onion. Saute until soft, then add potato, celery and chopped mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Deglaze with a splash of white wine, scraping up any bits of veggies that have become stuck to the bottom of the pan. Season with paprika, onion powder and truffle oil, then pour in stock and bring to a lively simmer. Allow to simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes, or until potato can be easily pierced with a knife. Meanwhile, rinse soaked cashews and pour into a high speed blender. Add 4 cups of fresh water and blend until smooth and creamy. Add cashew cream, nutritional yeast, tamari and lemon juice to the chowder. Simmer on low heat for another five minutes. Season with fresh black pepper and sea salt. To serve, ladle into soup bowls with a big hunk of whole wheat sourdough bread. Makes enough for 4-6 snuggling unicorns in pajamas, ready to embrace the snowy wonderland.

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why I’m vegan / cayenne-dusted cheesy kale chips

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“Why are you a vegan?”

I get this question a lot. It’s understandable because to most people being a vegan is like getting a sundae without the toppings. “That’s the best part!” they say, “why aren’t you eating it?” Well, let’s imagine for a moment that those rainbow sprinkles, oreo crumbles, chocolate sauce, and maraschino cherries are cows, pigs, chickens, and fish (I do realize that this makes the sundae idea rather revolting). And let’s imagine that those animals had a “typical” life (I’d rather not turn this post into a factory farm expose, but unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably at least heard of a factory farm and the atrocities committed there…Google it with some tissues in hand). You know those commercials with the cows out in pastures under a blue sky? Yeah, that’s definitely not the kind of life these poor animals have. And then imagine that after these beautiful animals are inhumanely slaughtered, chopped up, and sold in plastic packages as steak, hotdogs, burgers, chicken nuggets, etc., you pile them on your sundae and slurp them down only to discover that you are also ingesting pesticides, hormones, saturated fat, and some seriously bad karma…kind of unpleasant, right? And yet, we still continue to eat them, even though there is a wealth of knowledge out there that supports the idea that eating a plant-based diet is better for the animals, the earth, and ourselves. So what gives? In a nutshell…it’s hard to change. Most of us have been raised eating animals and are accepting of the idea that these creatures were put on this earth solely for our needs. This is a gross misconception of course, but when you suggest to others that cows, pigs, chickens and other animals are sentient beings who share our same passion for life, love & family, they look at you as though you’ve lost your marbles. “What would they do if we didn’t eat them?”  Umm…live their lives, just like the rest of us!
Here’s something that always baffles me: why is it that we eat some animals and keep other animals as pets? I mean, why don’t we eat dogs, horses, and cats? “Gasp!” cries the fatty with the bacon burger, “How could you eat your dog!”  Well, I couldn’t of course, but I don’t see a difference between a dog and a pig, a horse and a cow, a cat and a chicken.
Several years back, my husband and I visited Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, which is the permanent home of hundreds of rescued farm animals who would’ve otherwise been slaughtered. It was a magical experience because I realized the interconnectedness of all beings. The cows reminded me of my horses, nuzzling into my arm with their soft muzzles and long whiskers, the sheep leaned against the fence with their eyes closed while my husband scratched behind their velvety ears, the pigs snored loudly and flicked their legs and tails like dogs in dreamland, and a mischievous, black goat nibbled on my jacket. These animals have been cursed with the titles: food animal, farm animal, meat, poultry & bacon, but they are every bit as precious, loving, and playful as the animals we call pets.
For me, it’s simple….
I don’t want to cause unnecessary suffering. I have been put on this planet for some reason or maybe for no reason at all, but while I’m here enjoying the sun, the rain, the trees, the mountains, and the incomprehensible beauty of this world, I will do my best to live peacefully. The simple fact is: we don’t need meat to survive or to thrive. Sure, back in the cave men days when we didn’t have tools and didn’t know how to farm the land, gnawing on the leg of a woolly mammoth was probably the best solution, but come on people, let’s evolve already! If you could save the lives of nearly 100 creatures every year, wouldn’t you? If you knew that abstaining from animal products (or at the very least moderating your intake) would make you healthier, wouldn’t you? If you could look through the window of a factory farm where innocent animals were being slaughtered, and could proudly say that you weren’t supporting such a horrific industry, wouldn’t you?
I remember the first time I heard the comparison of slavery to factory farming. It was in a pamphlet by PETA, and it really stuck in my head. When you think about how horrible slavery was, don’t you wonder how people could ever do such a thing? But at the time, slavery was a generally accepted practice, and it took a long time for people to wake up and realize that it was unethical, inhumane and completely unnecessary. Enter factory farming and the mass murder of billions (ten billion to be exact) of animals per year for the purpose of filling our bellies.
I wonder if a hundred years from now, we’ll look back on eating animals as we do on slavery…why did we ever do such a thing?

*** my purpose in writing this post is not to make you feel guilty; I just wanted to share with you my personal reasons for living the way I do. Food is personal, and irrevocably rooted in the depths of our individual identities, like politics and religion. Most of my friends eat meat, and I love them just the same, but we each must decide which path leads us to a happier life, and for me, veganism is the road of my choosing. If you feel inspired to incorporate some vegetarian meals into your life, that’s great, and I encourage you to do so. Not sure where to begin? Try having “meatless mondays” every week, or pick one animal and stop eating it for awhile and see how you feel!***

Now that I’ve thoroughly upset you, I will try to make you happy again with another easy recipe! Kale is synonymous with health nuts who live on bark and berries (I have literally been asked if I eat those things...sigh), but that’s fine with me because it’s absolutely delicious! Kale is chock full of antioxidants, cancer preventing flavonoids, and vitamins A, K, and the mineral Iron, as well as having no cholesterol and barely any fat…Hooray! Now, add in some nutritional yeast (cheesy yeast rich in B vitamins) and cayenne, bake it in the oven, and you’ve got yourself some seriously healthy and yummy snacking to do! Wow your guests with this “potato chip” alternative, and then tell them how it’s so annoying that you just can’t seem to put on any weight…
Cayenne dusted cheesy kale chips
1 bunch curly green kale (the red russian variety works too), stems removed & shredded into snacking size, then washed and spun dry
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (buy in the bulk section of Whole Foods, the code is 5176…aren’t I insane?)
a few pinches of cayenne
1 T extra virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste
Preheat oven to 325.  In a large mixing bowl, mix kale with all ingredients.  ***Note: the amounts I’ve given are approximations, so use your judgement.  You don’t want the kale wet with oil because it won’t crisp up in the oven, and a little salt and cayenne go a long way.  The only ingredient you don’t need to be conservative with is the nutritional yeast, so load it on!***
On a large baking sheet (you’re going to need at least two sheets or you can make it in batches), spread the kale in a single layer (a little overlapping is okay).  Bake in the oven for ten minutes, stir kale with a wooden spoon, then bake another ten minutes, until kale is crispy but not brown.  Serve as a snack or hors d’ouvre for a small gathering of hippie unicorns.