Sweet Potato Casserole

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and one thing I am grateful for is Sweet & Sara marshmallows (yes, I am easily excited by things like that).  Gelatin is gross and these marshmallows rock!  I made this last year and everyone loved it.  I’ve had many people say the Sweet & Sara marshmallows are better than regular ones!

  • 5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or amber agave nectar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the sweet potatoes in a large pot of water (enough to cover the potatoes) and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.  The sweet potatoes should be easily pierced with a fork.

Drain the water off the potatoes and add the milk and margarine.  Mash with a potato masher.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients and spread into your prepared casserole dish.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

While the casserole is baking, slice the marshmallows in half length-wise. (You only need to do this if you are using Sweet & Sara marshmallows as they are quite thick.  Cutting them in half will save you money, as you will use less marshmallows.)

About 10 minutes before the casserole finishes, take it out of the oven and top with the marshmallows.  Return the casserole to the oven and peek in on it every few minutes to make sure the marshmallows are browning ok.  Once the casserole is done, if you want the marshmallows toasted more, place the casserole under the broiler until the marshmallows are as dark as you want them (you MUST watch the marshmallows under the broiler CAREFULLY as they will burn very quickly!).

P.S. Chicago Soydairy also makes Dandies marshmallows, which are vegan as well.  They make the mini ones that you can put in cocoa and you may prefer to use these in this recipe so you can eliminate the cutting-in-half step.  I haven’t used Dandies in a casserole before though, so just make sure you watch them so you don’t wind up with blackened marshmallow topping! 

Both Dandies and Sweet & Sara marshmallows roast up nicely over a fire and work well in rice crispy treats, just like their gelatin-laden counterparts.

Lentil Loaf recipe (#1)

Since the holidays are coming up, I thought I’d post several main dish ideas to replace the dead animals on the table!  This lentil loaf is amazing and is one of several that I’ll be sharing with you.  I double the glaze recipe and save half because it’s so good and I always want extra for serving!

Lentil Apple Walnut Loaf (from Clean Food by Terry Walters)

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 thumb size piece Kombu (I didn’t use this)
  • 3 TBS ground golden flax seed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 2 TBS mirin
  • 1 apple, peeled, grated and mixed with 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup toasted walnuts chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 6 – 7 dashes ume plum vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs

The Glaze

  • 2 TBS ketchup
  • 1 TBS Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBS maple syrup
  • 1 TBS apple butter (I left this out since I didn’t have it and it was fine)
  • 1 TBS Arrowroot (you can use cornstarch)

Preparing dried lentils:  Rinse and place in rice cooker or pot and add stock and kombu.  Bring to boil and reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender (about 30 minutes).  Remove from heat, discard kombu and set aside.

Preparing loaf:  In a small bowl, combine ground flax seed with water and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion, carrot and celery in olive oil for 2 minutes.  Add mirin and sauté 3 minutes more until soft.  Add grated apple, raisins and walnuts and sauté another minute.  Add thyme, vinegar, and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and fold in cooked lentils, breadcrumbs and soaked flax seed until evenly distributed. Press mixture firmly into lightly oiled loaf pan and set aside.

Preparing Glaze:  In small saucepan over no heat, combine all glaze ingredients.  Place over medium heat and stir continuously until thick (about 2-3 minutes).  Spread evenly over loaf and bake, uncovered 40 minutes.  Remove and serve.

Finding Joy

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Jeanna.

I actually wrote this blog yesterday and let it simmer overnight, to make sure I had said all that I wanted to say in the way that I needed to say it.  This morning, the following arrived in my inbox, from a co-worker who signs up for the daily “Pause for Beauty – Reflections of a Wild Artist” at http://www.herondance.org/.

 

I am sometimes tempted to think that my life should be easier, that I should exist in a state of perpetual enjoyment, that I should move from one triumph and success to another.

That’s just not how it is. Or meant to be, I don’t think. Life is movement in a resistant medium. That’s how we grow; that’s how we appreciate the little things. That’s how life wears us down to the point where we learn acceptance.

Trees in the woods struggle for sunlight, for water, for the ability to reproduce. In the process, they grow.

Birds living on islands without predators sometimes lose the ability to fly.

Wildflowers grow most beautifully in low nutrient soil, I’ve been told by a horticulturist friend.

Art, created by someone who has experienced a lot in life, a lot of ups and downs, tends to be deeper, more meaningful (although not necessarily more beautiful) than art created by someone who has had an easy life.

Journal question: Do I think my life should have been easier? Why? If my life had been easier, would I have been a better person?

I think this fits perfectly with what I wrote yesterday:

My favorite cookbook author and animal activist, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, talks a lot about being a “joyful vegan.” She uses this phrase to describe herself and the vegan lifestyle and uses this phrase frequently in her podcasts at http://www.compassionatecooks.com. Being vegan is not about trying to be perfect or viewing yourself as better than everyone else. Colleen says that true joy and peace come “with being fully awake and open”. The root of the vegan lifestyle is in compassion and the metamorphosis you go through mentally when you eat and live compassionately, which ultimately leads to a more joyful life. Colleen refers to the transition into the vegan lifestyle as an awakening of sorts. I occasionally find myself feeling down due to the state of the world. There is so much pain, suffering, abuse, and neglect. People treat other people horribly. We steal from one another and kill each other. You have only to watch the evening news to be left feeling hopeless at how many things can go wrong in just 24 hours. We hear about injustice so often that we want to give up. What good can we possibly do that can outweigh all of this evil? Sometime it feels easier just to live in the moment and have instant gratification than to do what’s right and consider the consequences of our actions.

I want to talk a bit about being “fully awake and open,” regardless of your diet (It just so happens that I have learned these lessons from giving up the consumption of animal flesh.) I want to talk about finding peace and joy within yourself, no matter what is going on in the world. These are things that some people seek and can never seem to find. Others may find balance and then feel they’ve lost it, over and over, throughout their lifetime. You may feel you have a firm grasp on things, and you set out into your day with bright eyes and a smile, only to feel crushed when you receive bad news in a phone call, when you turn on the TV, or when you see someone do something out of hate, jealousy, or spite. What we have to realize is that evil exists in the world. There will always be bad people doing bad things, bad things happening to good people, etc. But if you dwell on these things, they will pull you down. You will find yourself depressed and angry. It will affect your mood, your life, and your loved ones.

In my mind, I picture myself standing in the middle of a see-saw, both sides perfectly balanced in the air so that the see-saw is parallel to the ground. This is the place where I am happy and peaceful. I am content with my life and aware of all of my many blessings. I have set reasonable goals and am working toward them. I am being good to my body, eating well, resting, and taking time to myself to do the things I enjoy that benefit me. Now let’s say something happens to throw me off kilter. I may slide to one side or another, and if I don’t set myself right (or if I am not aware that it is happening), I may fall even further away from my ideal state. If I don’t work to correct this, I may fall off all together, and worse, I may stay there, miserable. If this happens, my entire life is affected, and so are the lives of the people around me. I am down and I start to bring others around me down.

This slipping, sliding, and falling don’t happen because someone is a failure or because they are a bad person. It happens to everyone. What you do to restore yourself to your center is what makes you who you are. The simple fact that you are AWARE of what it means to be centered or at least that you are aware that you aren’t centered is saying a lot. Many people go through life off kilter or lying in the dirt and don’t even know what it means to be their ideal self. They are unaware that there is anything better to strive for or that there is a need to strive for it. They have no idea how much better their life could be. Some people are aware that something needs to change, but they try to change the wrong things. They think that they need to lose weight or find a better partner or buy a new car or go on an expensive vacation to feel better, but these things only bring us temporary pleasure.

If you are centered, no matter what your situation, you will have a buffer to help you deal with things that come your way. I’m not saying you’ll walk around smiling and happy all the time or that nothing bad will happen in your life, but you will act, react, and recover better when you are centered. It also helps to go by the saying “look on the bright side.” When you concentrate on negative things that make you sad or angry, that is what you will tend to think about as you go through life. You will have a tendency to see all of the bad and none of the good. Complaining, arguing, and being upset will become habit and you will start to react to most situations in this way. Make a conscious effort to note the good things that happen throughout your day, count your blessings (seriously!), and recognize the good in others. Bad things continue to happen in the world around you, but your focus will be on people, actions, and events that uplift and inspire you.

Surround yourself with like-minded people, volunteer somewhere to make a positive change (and observe others who are volunteering as well!), and take time to reflect on the positive things in your life. All of us will go through life sliding left and right. Very few of us will get centered and stay there. It’s not about worrying whether you’re going to slide, but knowing what to do when it happens. I truly believe that if you practice this thinking and work toward this state of mind, you’ll find that you don’t slide quite so far away when you do slide or that you don’t fall quite as much. Know that the struggle to return to that ideal state is what makes the difference. The decisions we make at this time are crucial and make us who we are. Being conscious of this means you are closer to being fully awake and open.

Peace and joy, my friends!

Field Roast Reviews (Celebration Roast & Classic Meatloaf)

Since the holidays are coming up, I decided to do a review of two common Field Roast Grain Meat products that are served at Thanksgiving and Christmas for those of you who haven’t tried them and may be curious. First, you may be wondering what grain meat is. If you’ve heard of seitan, it’s essentially that, with other spices and vegetables added in. Seitan is a faux meat product made from vital wheat gluten, broth, and spices. This makes for a high protein, soy free* replacement for people who don’t eat animals. (*Some store-bought seitan is made with soy sauce to add flavor, so if you are allergic to soy, you can make your own or look for a soy free brand.) I have recently tried two Field Roast products with the coupons they sent me. I tried the Celebration Roast and the Classic Meatloaf. Here are my thoughts:

Celebration Roast


I made this in the toaster oven and baked it according to the instructions. I basted it with vegetable broth every few minutes because it started to look dried out (the instructions recommend basting as well). The roast was stuffed with a mixture of butternut squash, apples, and mushrooms, but I missed the part about the stuffing being “sausage-style.” I did not expect the roast to taste like sausage, but that’s all it really tasted like. If you’re looking to replace the flavor of turkey during the holidays, this doesn’t do it, in my opinion. If I wanted sausage or had expected sausage flavor, it may have been okay, but I was never big on pork when I ate meat anyway. I suppose this would probably be good crumbled up in spaghetti sauce or chopped and put into stuffing (for those who like sausage stuffing), but it just wasn’t my thing, flavor-wise. I thought it had a good texture, however. It sliced well and held together, so it would be good on a sandwich or a biscuit (again, if you like sausage).

Classic Meatloaf


I enjoyed the meatloaf much more than the celebration roast. I spread ketchup on top and baked it in the oven. The texture worked for me, same as the Celebration Roast. The flavor was good (it has carrots, celery, onions, tomato, and garlic in it) and tasted like you would expect meatloaf to taste. This would probably make a great sandwich as well. I served it with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. I would buy this again, but honestly it’s cheaper portion-wise (and more tasty) to make my own lentil loaf!

A con to both products is that they aren’t very good re-heated. I recommend eating them immediately after baking. Once refrigerated and then heated in the microwave, the gluten takes on a rubbery texture that isn’t very pleasant. I’ll post my lentil loaf recipe soon as my partner said she liked it much better than the products above.

You can learn more about the Grain Meat Co and their other products at http://www.fieldroast.com/products.htm.

Ask and You Shall Receive (coupons!)

People always talk about how expensive they think a veg diet is, despite the fact that veggies and beans cost much less than meat.  However, I must admit that items like vegan mayo, cream cheese, sour cream, cheese, butter, etc. can be more pricey than the non-vegan versions. I am personally willing to pay more for these items when they are made with quality ingredients by companies that produce them with ethical, sustainable methods (I always say that it’s not that good food is expensive, it’s that cheap food is deceptively cheap – we and the Earth pay for it in other ways), but it’s sad that you don’t find coupons for these types of products in the Sunday paper.  

My close friends and co-workers know that I am a letter writer.  If I have bad service at a restaurant or hotel, you better belive I’m writing a letter as soon as I get home!  I’ve gotten a lot of gift cards this way, but that isn’t my motivation for writing letters.  I also write letters when I experience exceptionally good customer service or when I see someone going above and beyond to ensure my great experience.  It’s very rare that I write a letter and don’t receive a response.  I find that companies desire feedback, good or bad, so that they can grow from it and/or properly reward their employees.

So I took up my pen and paper (ok really, I just sent emails and filled out web contact forms) and wrote to the companies who make my favorite veg products to let them know how much I appreciate them.  I wrote a short paragraph to each of five different companies:  Earth Balance, Field Roast, Aubrey Organics, Follow Your Heart, and Amy’s Kitchen.  I mentioned the products I enjoy, why I like them, and thanked them for making quality products.  I also briefly mentioned that I would love it if they sent me coupons and gave them my address. 

Every single one of these companies sent me coupons in the mail!  Here’s what I received:

Amy’s Kitchen
-Three coupons for  .55 ¢ off Amy’s non-refrigerated items that can be used on soups, chili, salsa, pasta sauce, or canned beans.  
-Three $1.00 coupons for frozen meals. 
– Five .75 ¢ off coupons for various frozen items like their burritos, cakes, and pot pies
After about 3 months, without asking, I received another envelope of coupons too!

Field Roast Grain Meat Co.
I received a hand written letter back and three $1.00 off coupons that can be used on their celebration roast or meatloaf.

Follow Your Heart
– Three .55 ¢ off coupons for Vegenaise
– Three .55 ¢ off coupons for their vegan cheese slices

Aubrey Organics
– Four $1.00 off coupons that can be used on any of their skin care, hair care, bath/beauty related products (and they have no expiration date!)

Earth Balance
 – One $1.00 off coupon for their new Organic Coconut Spread (use instead of butter)
 – One $1.00 off coupon for Mindful Mayo vegan mayonnaise

So whether you use these company’s products and love them or want to give them a try, start typing and let them know.  They will appreciate your feedback, and if you ask, send you coupons as well!