why I’m not a vegan nutritionist / rawesome pumpkin snowballs

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I am in fact a vegan but I am in no way a nutritionist. I’m a slacker nutritionist. Translation: I can’t do chemistry. I have a BA in English, which is for the most part useless. I’m well educated but lacking those shiny letters that start with an M or a P that are all the rage now. You have a college degree? Nobody cares. You have a Master’s or a Phd? Now you’re talking.

So several years back in my scheme to become a certified nutritionist, I bravely enrolled in Chemistry 101 – not once but on three separate occasions. Why? I obviously didn’t get the message the first two times when my eyes glazed over at the sounds of the words “covalent bonds.” Look, I’m not an idiot but when you’ve been out of college for five years, (and in those five years have been either living with your parents or on an island in the pacific waiting tables and bodysurfing), you forget things. Not important things like how to drive, make credit card payments, and which recyclables go in which bins, but those annoying things that are only relevant in an academic setting. Translation: how to find the area of a triangle, isolating X to find the answer, the difference between a mixture and a solution, finding the square root of some useless number, the necessity of litmus paper, graphing calculators, and three-ring binders, the importance of the Pythagorean theory, and the term degenerate as meaning things having the same energy instead of losers who steal cars. These are the things that evanesced from my brain like morning mist after a sunrise, lost forever beneath the blinding necessities of real life. But in Chemistry 101 I quickly learned that all of these things were incredibly important again. Needless to say, my brain rebelled. Everything the fuzzy bearded professor said went into my ears and was savagely attacked by a reckless horde of macrophages (yes, I do remember what a macrophage is. They are quite possibly the only thing I remember from my high school Biology class.)

I took notes, drew pictures, and tried to ignore the pimple-faced children surrounding me. But I quickly realized that I had become that weird older person that comes to class and no one knows what the hell they’re doing there. I lasted two classes. The second time I attempted Chemistry was while I was living in Hawaii. Need I say more? I made it through one class before realizing the absurdity of choosing Chemistry 101 over drinking beers on the beach. The third attempt was the most horrifying because I had come to the brilliant conclusion that the best way to tear through prerequisite Chemistry courses was to do accelerated classes. Translation: an entire semester of chemistry in four weeks for smart people with science backgrounds.

This time, the professor was hideously overweight with a wrinkled grey shirt that blended in perfectly with the cinder block walls behind him. The room was uncomfortably warm and smelled of pencils and stale chips, and in a matter of moments, he was scribbling furiously on the blackboard about atomic mass and density and other nonsense while I stared bug-eyed with horror at the equations and sweat rings under his arms. The other students nodded their heads with boredom, and I nervously asked the girl next to me why she was taking the course. I’m pre-med, she said, I just want to get a few classes out of the way over the summer. My height went from 5’9″ to 5 inches and I quickly learned that the other geniuses in the room were doing something similar. Pre-med, said one, Engineer, said another.

My fears only increased when we left the grey classroom and entered the lab. It smelled like vinegar and the countertops were freezing to the touch. An eyewash station with orange toggles hung by the door, and again the professor wasted no time before doling out beakers, Bunsen burners, graduated cylinders, and Erlenmeyer flasks. Then he announced that we were going to be finding the “Mass Percent Composition of an Aqueous Hydrogen Peroxide Solution.” That was about the time I started seeing unicorns everywhere.

rawesome pumpkin snowballs!

Now that you’ve failed at Chemistry and have decided to rescue ducks for a living, why not make yourself a sweet treat that’s autumnal and makes you want to carve pumpkins and dress in slutty costumes? Raw desserts are my favorite thing to make because they don’t need sugar (see my post “the devil is white and sweet, not in a 50’s housewife kind of way”), they don’t require any baking nonsense, and they’re good for you! This recipe combines pumpkin and cinnamon and everything that makes fall fabulous, minus the colorful leaves (because vegans don’t eat leaves I swear.)

Rawesome Pumpkin Snowballs

Makes about 12-14 balls

1/2 cup raw pecans

1/2 cup pitted dates, any kind will do

2 T unsweetened shredded coconut + more for rolling the balls in ( I recommend Let’s Do Organic)

1 T pumpkin puree (I recommend Fig Foods)

1 T virgin coconut oil

1 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice blend (I recommend Frontier Naturals)

1 tsp coconut nectar (I recommend Coconut Secret)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt

rolling the balls in toasted hazelnuts

In a food processor, add dates and pecans and pulse until starting to crumble. Pour in the remaining ingredients and blend until mixture resembles a large, gooey ball. In a shallow dish, pour some shredded coconut. Now roll quarter-sized balls in the palm of your hand, and then afterwards, in the shredded coconut. For a variation, you can also roll your balls in other toppings like toasted hazelnuts, cocoa powder, or anything else that makes you happy. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and serve to 6 Chemistry dropout unicorns in need of a sweet fix.

billboard humor / buttermilk pecan waffles with blueberries

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So I made the mistake of listening to an American history book on CD while driving to Florida and have come to two conclusions: firstly, that the Union and the Confederacy should have just gone their separate ways, and secondly, that America has a profoundly unhealthy obsession with making money. But as we crossed state border after state border, the only real opinions I could generate about each state were based on the billboards that stretch along the I-95. They started off with nuance and wordplay, hinting at what they were selling without insulting the driver’s intelligence, perhaps even resulting in a dry chuckle or a whispered “touché”. The chic Audi billboard “Your move, BMW” and the suave reply “Checkmate” got our trip off to a sophisticated start. I nearly had to roll down my window and light up a cuban while pretending that my Subaru was the 2012 Audi A4.
After driving past billboards for ipods, itunes, ipads and all things apple, and at least three billboards for Breaking Dawn: Part 1 that read “forever is just the beginning” followed by a not-so-brief desire for my husband to become a vampire (translation: Rob Pattinson), we reached North Carolina (we don’t need to mention Delaware because I’m fairly certain that no one lives there). This is when we began to see signs like “When you die, you will meet God” interspersed with South of the Border’s witty one-liner’s: “You never sausage a place, you’re always a winner at Pedro’s” and “Pedro’s weather report: chili today hot tamale!”. I quickly found that the combination of the billboards and the increasing heat slowed my brain function, and as we continued south, confederate flags began to crop up on the backs of trucks and Darwin fish were replaced by Jesus fish. Religious billboards continued to multiply like pine trees with bold statements like “Where are you going? Heaven or Hell?” and “Anti-God is Anti-American” (ironically, when we stopped for gas in Georgia, I went into the store and, in addition to the usual items, were a string of occupied slot machines and a neon sign that read “Playboy” above a vast selection of colorful magazines (translation: the billboards aren’t working).
Florida brought with it a slew of ads for community living with walled-in pink stucco houses, palm trees and neon grass. Everyone featured in these ads was 106 and had replaced their cadillac with an electric golf cart, and find bridge absolutely scintillating. There were a few ads for Ron Jon’s surf shop featuring the nearly extinct sun-bleached surfer dude (who I suspect has been hunted and turned into egg-salad sandwiches and prune juice).

post-roadtrip bliss on the beach…

Driving down the I-95 and feeling bored? Whip out your waffle iron (which you obviously packed in your suitcase) and make a batch of yummy waffles! These waffles are hearty, crunchy and have just the right amount of sweetness to make you dream about breakfast every night. This recipe is adapted from the fabulously vegan Post Punk Kitchen. 

Buttermilk Pecan Waffles with Blueberries

2 cups nut milk (I use soymilk)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all purpose flour 
1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup pecans, chopped
Pour nut milk in
to bowl and add vinegar to allow it to curdle. Then combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in another bowl.
Add the flax seeds to the milk and whisk until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add mixture to the flour along with water, olive oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon until mostly combined then fold in the blueberries and pecans.
Preheat waffle iron and let the batter rest. Cook according to waffle iron directions, making sure to oil the iron before making each waffle so it doesn’t stick. Serve with maple syrup and Earth Balance butter, if desired. Makes about 8 waffles, perfect for a herd of 4-8 unicorns with road rage.

apartment charm / rawesome brownies

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Hy husband and I (and Dragon and Toast and Frodo and the unicorns…) live in an apartment. Let’s just say it’s cozy (translation: pet hair is part of my daily protein intake). Actually, I read somewhere that there are crazy cat ladies and dog people who collect their pet’s fur and–yes, literally knit themselves sweaters and scarves out of it. Umm…I already think it’s freaky how much pet owners look like their furry companions without dressing and smelling like them too. Zolts. Anyway, our apartment is on the first floor of an old house. It’s old in that charming New England way, complete with rusty sideboard heaters, rotting wood in the bathroom, and closets from the 1800’s. What I want to know is, how can a person actually fit all of their clothing in one of these tissue-box sized closets? My husband can’t even have his clothing in our bedroom because there’s no place to put it, so his stuff is in the “guest room” (translation: office / ironing board / dog crate / musical instrument room / place to put that thing that has no place).
The rotting piece of wood in the bathroom drives me crazy. I’ve asked our landlord to fix it a hundred times, but he suffers from that “sweet but dumb” syndrome, and I always feel guilty when I ask him to do anything. He looks at me with that friendly, deer-in-headlights stare that says “I don’t know what you’re asking, but I like cookies”. Needless to say, there is a piece of wood that falls out of the wall and onto the floor, revealing lovely mold, paint chips and other niceties that one ought to have in a bathroom. I push the stupid piece of wood back into place again and again and again, but every time I return to the bathroom, it’s fallen out again (not to mention Dragon plays with the paint chips…hopefully she doesn’t eat them, although that would explain a lot).
We also have neighbors. A wacko living in the garage, a perpetually drunk “carpenter” and his girlfriend in the basement, and an eccentric but friendly loner on the second floor (who gave us a card with a sailboat on it saying “welcome to the neighborhood”). The sailboat guy and the drunk have since moved out, but lucky for us, there’s still the wacko in the garage. The landlord is in the middle of a lawsuit with this guy because he hasn’t paid rent for over a year. He sports a mullet that would make Michael Bolton jealous, and he’s got one of those bouncy walks…you know the ones where the person never puts weight on their heels? Yup, one of those. Apparently some old lady gives him $500 a week to “help her out” (translation: he’s stealing an old lady’s money). Every time I leave the apartment I check to make sure he’s not outside. The problem? He’s always at home…one of those annoying habits of the unemployed.
For a while, I worried that we would get new neighbors of the same variety, but then a nice man from Greenwich Town Hall came to the door and asked how many apartments there were. I said “Four” and he said “Really?” and I said “Why?” and he said “It’s only zoned for two”.
We haven’t seen anybody new since…

So I never eat dessert (yup, I’m perfect). It’s partially due to my eternal hatred / fear of sugar, but also because of the way sweet things make me feel after I’ve eaten them: crazy, bug-eyed wildcat followed by something along the lines of a sluggish Eeyore. Solution? A kick-ass dessert without sugar, without wheat, and without baking?!? Yes, I’m giving you the recipe to RAW brownies, and let me tell you…they are so freaking good that you’ll want to make them every day. And the best part? This recipe takes about 10 minutes to make. Go ahead and thank me for making your life better. This recipe is adapted from amazing raw foods chef Laura at The Rawtarian.

Rawesome Brownies with Chocolate Frosting
2 cups raw pecans
2 cups fresh dates, seeds removed
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 T coconut nectar
1 tsp sea salt
for frosting:
1 cup fresh dates
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
¼ cup virgin coconut oil
¾ cup water
For brownies, pulse pecans in a food processor until crumbled. Add dates and process until incorporated, then add the rest of the ingredients and process until mixed. Pour mixture into dish of choice and press down firmly. Top with frosting and refrigerate a little before serving. For the frosting, place all ingredients in a blender (I use a VitaMix and so should you). Blend on a slow speed and then increase, allowing mixture to blend until velvety and smooth. Top on brownies. Serves 12 unicorns in need of a sweet pick-me-up after another boring day of unemployment.