Monthly Archives: September 2013

Mason Jar Jack-O’-Lanterns

Make your jack-o'-lantern as silly or scary as you like!

Make your jack-o’-lantern as silly or scary as you like!

I can’t believe that tomorrow begins the month of October.   The countdown to Halloween is officially here!   For me, Halloween is such a fun season to use creativity and imagination with everything from costumes to food, decorations, and more.  When most stores are overstocked with the same old, boring, commercial “Made in China” Halloween decor…using one’s creativity is essential.

Fortunately I have a fiancé who loves Halloween just as much as I do, maybe even a little more.   Last week he came up with the brilliant idea of reusing some mason jars with some of our existing arsenal of craft supplies to make these adorably cute mason jar jack-o’-lanterns!  So I wanted to share this with all of my readers so you can join in on the fun too!   It really doesn’t get more easy to make and most of the supplies you probably already have.

  • Mason jar
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Orange tissue paper
  • Black construction paper
  • Green ribbon
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Rice
  • Tealight candle
  1. Cut strips of orange tissue paper and lightly glue them vertically to the outside of your mason jar.
  2. With a pencil, draw eyes, a nose, and mouth on the black construction paper and cut them out.   Great jack-o’-lantern face patterns are available for free downloaded on the internet if you need some added inspiration.
  3. Glue the face cutouts to the outside of the mason jar.
  4. Wrap the green ribbon around the mouth of the mason jar and tie a bow for extra cuteness.   You could also add some crafty extras like fake vine, leaves, etc. if you like.
  5. Slightly fill the bottom of the mason jar with rice and put a lit tealight down in the center.

Voila!   Now you have yourself a cute, little mason jar jack-o’-lantern!

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Fried Green Tomatoes – #ScrumptiousSunday

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Add some homemade spicy-mayo and artificial bacon bits to your fried green tomatoes to kick it up a notch!

You say tomato, I say tomahto…we both say delicious!   This past #TastyThursday I mentioned our abundance of ripe and green tomatoes in our last harvest from the garden, and I said I would post some more delicious recipes using green tomatoes such as Green Tomato Bread recipe.  Today I give you Fried Green Tomatoes!

There’s a debate about where fried green tomatoes actually originated from.   Some say the South and others say the Midwest.  When my German/Russian family immigrated to the United States, the majority of them settled in the Midwestern states…Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois.  I grew up on many delicious dishes such as Fried Green Tomatoes, each recipe carrying with it a long story of where/who it originated from.  Being that most American hadn’t even heard of the idea of battering such un-ripened fruit and frying it in a well seasoned cast iron skillet until the 1991 classic film, Fried Green Tomatoes, the Midwest theory really pans out.  I also did some in-depth online reading, and I hate to burst the bubble of some, but Fried Green Tomatoes are by no means a Southern dish…the accurate debate is whether they’re originally Midwestern or Northeastern!   But enough of about where they came from as we can all agree that they should be enjoyed by everyone!

For the Fried Green Tomatoes

  • 6 – 8 firm green tomatoes
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 cups of almond or soy milk
  • 2 Tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Slice green tomatoes to medium thickness and sprinkle lightly with salt, let stand for 5 minutes.

Prepare your dredging bowls:  In the first bowl, add almond or soy milk.  In a second bowl combine and mix all-purpose flour, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and black pepper.   In a third bowl, add bread crumbs.

Dredging Method

  1. Dip each green tomato slice in the almond or soy milk.
  2. Coat it in all-purpose flour mixture.
  3. Dip once again in the almond or soy milk.
  4. Coat in seasoned bread crumbs.
  5. Gently stack on a plate and set aside.

Heat oil in skillet on medium-high.  To test, drop a tiny piece of bread crumb in oil.  It should immediately crackle when ready.

With tongs gently place each dredged green tomato slice in hot oil.  Be sure not overcrowd.  Fry 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden and crispy.   When done, remove green tomatoes and gently place on a paper towel lined plate.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Spicy-Mayo Sauce

  • 3/4 cup Vegenaise®
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder

Whisk all ingredients together with a fork in a small bowl.  Drizzle over fried green tomatoes.  For some added flare, sprinkle with artificial bacon bits!

Live Well – Eat Well – Be Well

Green Tomato Bread – #TastyThursday

A perfect and unique fall bread - great for brunch or a quick breakfast with coffee or tea.  These tasty loaves make great gifts for friends and neighbors too!

A perfect and unique fall bread – great for brunch or a quick breakfast with coffee or tea. These tasty loaves make great gifts for friends and neighbors too!

This year we’ve been kissed by the tomato Gods!   We’ve probably had over 250 ripened tomatoes from our garden and we just did our last harvest this week.   Given that fall is making itself known – we had over 3 dozen green tomatoes which needed clipped as the days are already too short (lack of sun) and the nighttime temperatures have noticeably cooled to temperatures that tomato plants are not fond of.

There’s no need to fret over an abundance of green tomatoes though!   Green tomatoes (which are not fully ripened) can be just a delicious as the bright red fruit, given that you know what to do with them.  So don’t worry about paper bagging your green tomatoes or God forbid, throwing them out…as I will dedicate the next few #TastyThursday and #ScrumptiousSunday posts to some of our favorite recipes using green tomatoes.  Today I give you: Green Tomato Bread!   This delicious bread has the familiarity of zucchini or banana bread, with the unique and tasty cut from the high acidity of green tomatoes.  Oh, and it’s easy!  Bon Appétit!

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup banana, purée
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely chopped green tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the first 6 ingredients in large bowl.  Make a well in the center of mixture.

Combine the banana, oil, and vanilla; stir well.   Add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.  Fold in the tomatoes and pecans.

Spoon the batter into 2 greased and floured 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire rack.  Enjoy!

Live Well – Eat Well – Be Well

10 Fascinating Facts About Pigs

Who loves piggies?  I do!  Who doesn’t love piggies?  Not that I hold one animal greater (or more cute) than another, but pigs played an instrumental part in my conversion to a vegan lifestyle.  Pigs are often times mistaken as being dirty, mud loving animals – but they’re so much more than the common myths and misconceptions.  They’re incredibly smart, remarkably clean, and more like you and I than we realize!   Once you fall in love with pigs, there’s no turning back.   So I wanted to dedicate an entire special post solely to pigs: because they truly deserve it!  Here’s the Top Ten Fascinating Facts About Pigs written by the folks at PETA.  Oink!  Oink!

 

 

  1. Pigs snuggle close to one another and prefer to sleep nose to nose. They dream, much as humans do. In their natural surroundings, pigs spend hours playing, sunbathing, and exploring. People who run animal sanctuaries for farmed animals often report that pigs, like humans, enjoy listening to music, playing with soccer balls, and getting massages.
  2. Pigs communicate constantly with one another; more than 20 vocalizations have been identified that pigs use in different situations, from wooing mates to saying, “I’m hungry!”
  3. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mothers’ voices and to recognize their own names. Mother pigs sing to their young while nursing.
  4. According to Professor Donald Broom of the Cambridge University Veterinary School, “[Pigs] have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs and certainly [more so than human] 3-year-olds.”
  5. Pigs appear to have a good sense of direction and have found their way home over great distances. Adult pigs can run at speeds of up to 11 miles an hour.
  6. Professor Stanley Curtis of Penn State University has found that pigs can play joystick-controlled video games and are “capable of abstract representation.” Dr. Curtis believes that “there is much more going on in terms of thinking and observing by these pigs than we would ever have guessed.”
  7. Pigs do not “eat like pigs” or “pig out.” They prefer to eat slowly and savor their food.
  8. Suzanne Held, who studies the cognitive abilities of farmed animals at the University of Bristol’s Centre of Behavioural Biology, says that pigs are “really good at remembering where food is located, because in their natural environment food is patchily distributed and it pays to revisit profitable food patches.”
  9. Pigs are clean animals. If given sufficient space, they will be careful not to soil the area where they sleep or eat. Pigs don’t “sweat like pigs”; they are actually unable to sweat. They like to bathe in water or mud to keep cool, and they actually prefer water to mud. One woman developed a shower for her pigs, and they learned to turn it on and off by themselves.
  10. In his book The Whole Hog, biologist and Johannesburg Zoo director Lyall Watson writes, “I know of no other animals [who] are more consistently curious, more willing to explore new experiences, more ready to meet the world with open mouthed enthusiasm. Pigs, I have discovered, are incurable optimists and get a big kick out of just being.”

Macaroni & “Cheese” – #ScrumptiousSunday

It has been so exciting to receive so much encouragement and feedback in such a short time since I launched The Vegan Bear!   My passion for the vegan lifestyle, the eagerness in learning to write decently as an amateur, and each and every one of you who follow me make this blog so much fun!  One of the most popular requests I’ve received since I started is for more recipes, so your wish is my command!  I will now start posting recipes on Thursdays and Sundays.  My #TastyThursday posts will be recipes for pretty much everything – salads, sandwiches, main dishes, sides, and desserts.  My new #ScrumptiousSunday posts will be solely dedicated to those recipes that are so proper for Sundays cooking.  These are dishes, desserts, and meals that might mimic a popular and traditional dish that many of us grew up with (vegan, of course), or a recipe that is so scrumptious, hearty, and carries the worthiness of being a Sunday best.

photo 1I hereby christen #ScrumptiousSunday with one of my all-time favorite recipes:  Sister Kitsiyah’s Macaroni & “Cheese”!   This is one of the most popular dishes at Everlasting Life Cafe (soon to be Woodland’s Vegan Bistro).  For those of you who don’t already know, this is absolutely my favorite place to eat in the entire Washington, DC area.   This award-winning restaurant and their food truck offer the perfect variety of 100% vegan, gluten-free soul food.  Yes…vegan soul food!  Sister Kitsiyah, is a health food nutritionist who studied vegan cooking in Israel with the African Hebrew Israelite Community.  This recipe for macaroni and cheese is from her Food for Life Cookbook.   Many of my non-vegan friends even assert that this Macaroni & “Cheese” recipe is top-notch and some even say its better than their grandmother’s!   The only thing better than its satisyfing taste is the easiness in making it.   Once you make your first batch, be sure to leave a comment on this post and let me know what you think!

  • 16 oz. bag/box of elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons of Spike seasoning
  • 1 ½ cups soy milk
  • 1  garlic clove
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¾ cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta as directed.  In a blender or food processor, blend the nutritional yeast, Spike seasoning, soy milk, garlic and paprika.  Slowly pour the oil in the food processor while it is running.  The mixture should be creamy, as this will be the “cheese” sauce.

Strain the pasta and run cold water over it.  Be sure to shake all of the excess water out of the pasta.  Put the pasta back in the pot and mix it with about 1 cup of the “cheese” sauce.  Put the cheesy noodles in an oven casserole dish (I use a 7 ½ x 12 inch casserole dish).   Pour the remaining cheese evenly over the noodles.

Sprinkle with paprika and cook in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let stand for 30 minutes before serving.  May your Sunday be scrumptious and cheesy…in all the good (vegan) ways.   Enjoy!

Cinnamon Swirl Bread – #TastyThursday

photo 4 (5)This is one of many delicious recipes from one of my favorite vegan recipe books, Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites.  What I love some much about this recipe is that it’s completely versatile.   Serve it with some marmalade for an amazing brunch or enjoy it warm after dinner with a generous scoop of your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream.

The name “Cinnamon Swirl Bread” is a little deceiving as this is more like a sticky, gooey, old-fashioned cinnamon roll…which is probably why I like it so much!  So be sure to serve it with a fork, and try it with raisins and/or nuts for some added awesomeness!

 

For the Dough

  • 1 cup soymilk, heated to lukewarm
  • 1/4 cup water, heated to lukewarm
  • 1/3 cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil, divided
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Swirl

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tablespoons nondairy butter, melted

To Make the Dough

photo 1 (11)Combine the soymilk, water and 1 tbs of the sugar in a small bowl.  Stir in the yeast and let sit for a few minutes until bubbles appear.  Add 2 tbs of the oil to the mixture.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, cinnamon, remaining sugar, and salt.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing until combined.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and pliable, adding more flour as needed if the dough is too sticky.  This is a dry, stiff dough, but it should still be workable.

Lightly coat a large bowl with the remaining 1/2 tsp oil.  Place the dough in the bowl and gently turn to coat.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes.

To Make the Swirl

photo 3 (8)Combine the swirl ingredients into a paste and set aside.

Gently deflate the dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes.

Roll the dough into a rectangle 8 inches wide by 24″ long.  Spread the cinnamon paste thinly and evenly onto the dough.   Starting at the short end, tightly roll up the dough.  Cut into 2 separate loaves.  Place the rolled-up dough, seam side down, into an 8×4 inch loaf pan.  Let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the outer crust is golden brown and hard to the touch. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Alternative: press down 1/2 cup raisins and/or 1/2 cup chopped pecans into the rolled out dough.

Another Day, Another American Mass Shooting

Monday mornings are when I sleep in as they’re typically my day off every week.   My routine for waking up consists of going pee, letting the dogs out to pee, then stumbling back to bed to finishing waking up.   It is there that I unplug my fully charged iPhone and start to read the Facebook posts of friends, family, and fellow activists whom most start their days earlier than I do.   The first post I read is from a friend, “Scary situation here in DC.  US Navy Yard is under lock-down.  Police everywhere in southeast section near DC.  I didn’t drive in today but if I did, I park very near to the Navy Yard.”   Before I reach for the remote control to turn on the bedroom TV, I comment:  “what happened?”  Already in my gut I knew that there has been some type of shooting.   I turn on my TV.

Myself and others from the community gather for a candlelight vigil in Freedom Plaza to remember the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting massacre.

Another mass shooting.  Reports confirm 4 dead and 8 wounded at the Washington Navy Yard; shooter(s) not yet apprehended.  I sat up in bed, stunned but not surprised.  I’m stunned to wake up and learn that a mass shooting has just taken place less than 9 miles away from me.  Not surprised that it has happened; even in our Nation’s Capital, even at the highly secured Washington Navy Yard.   As each hour passed, the death toll and injury count grew.  In the late afternoon, confirmation was given that 12 victims and the gunman were dead.

sigh

Has this epidemic of American gun violence, especially mass shootings become a new society norm?   Our lawmakers have continued to fail the American people.  With no consequences, they have been bought out by special interest gun groups such as the all-corrupt National Rifle Association which continues to bully the United States Congress with their perversions of the second amendment and their radical insurrectionist rhetoric.  Our elected officials have wiped their ass with the demand of 90% of their constituents and have continued to endanger the lives of innocent Americans.  Petula Dvorak, columnist for The Washington Post said perfectly in her piece this afternoon:

How can this country tolerate another mass shooting after we’ve endured so many others? And why have we allowed ourselves to grow accustomed to this awful bloodshed? Because that’s what these slaughters have become: practically routine.

“How many this time?” we ask as we watch the number of dead and injured climb on TV or Twitter.

….Apple pie, baseball and mass shootings? No. We can’t let slaughter become part of the way we define ourselves.

If we are truly the greatest nation in the world, if we the people truly have a voice, then we have the obligation and power to demand change today.   There is nothing that annoys me more than seeing “let’s pray for the victims of this shooting…” and “my heart goes out to the victims of that shooting and their families…”, yet that seems to be the extent of their action in addressing this very lethal problem which affects every community of our country.

Stand up and wake up, America!   Enough is enough!   Demand action NOW!

Tasty Thursday – Chocolate Avocado Cake

Rich, dense, & creamy - the perfect cake!

Rich, dense, & creamy – the perfect cake!

I’m sure a few you have one eyebrow raised as you read the name of this recipe with skepticism.   Let me reassure you, this is to die for!

Now don’t get me wrong…this is not a low-calorie cake by any means, but it’s vegan!  And we need to remember that we’re allowed to indulge in the incredibly sweeter things in life, in moderation of course.

The unique thing about this cake is that avocado is not only baked into the chocolate cake itself, but it’s also one of the main ingredients in the rich buttercream frosting as well.  I will tell you that the key to making this cake a success is fully RIPE avocados!   If you’re avocados are not yet ripe, be sure to put them in a paper bag and wait…patience is everything!

For the Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond oil (vegetable oil would work too)
  • 1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed (about 1 medium avocado)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch rounds and set aside.

Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar.  Set that aside too.

Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado.  Add sugar into the wet mix and stir.  Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.

Pour batter into a greased cake tins. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cakes cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting with avocado buttercream.

For the Avocado Buttercream Frosting

  • 8 ounces of avocado meat (about 2 small to medium, very ripe avocados)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 pound sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and pit the soft avocados.  Again, it’s important to use the ripest avocados you can get your hands on!  If the avocados have brown spots in the meat, avoid those spots when you scoop the meat into the bowl.

Place the avocado meat into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment.  Add lemon juice and whisk the avocado on medium speed, until slightly lightened in color and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and beat.  Add vanilla extract until combined.

Garnish with some fresh fruit, I used strawberries.  If not using right away, store in the refrigerator.  Don’t worry.  It won’t turn brown!

 

 

 

Never Forget

Twelve years later and I still remember that horrific day of terror, confusion, and pain as if it happened yesterday.  Quickly our nation came together in a way I had never seen before.   We held each other, we wept together, we consoled one another…then we went on with life.  We took down our American flags.   The benefit concerts ceased.   We picked up from where we left off…attacking one another.  In the midst of such tragedy and chaos a dozen years ago:  what happened to that spirit of loving unity that we all shared in?  It took the deaths of 2,977 people to draw us close together as a nation; a family…have we forgotten their memory already?

I will never forget.   September 11, 2001 woke me up and opened my eyes to see life in a totally new way.   It reminded me how love always prevails over hate.  It restored my faith in God and the brilliance of humanity.   Even amidst what seems like never-ending divisions in our world today, the lives and memory of those who perished live on in my heart.   They inspire me to continue to be an instrument for peace, when and wherever peace is needed.   Always remember.  Never forget.

May 11, 1933 - September 11, 2001

May 11, 1933 – September 11, 2001

 

Lord, take me where
you want me to go;
Let me meet whom you
want me to meet;
Tell me what You want
me to say, and
Keep me out of your
way.

 

This prayer was found in the pocket of Franciscan Friar Mychal Judge, the FDNY chaplain and first confirmed victim who died September 11, 2001 at ground zero.

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