Friday, December 29, 2006


As I prepare for the end of the year and the beginning of a new one, the thought of New Year's resolutions inevitably comes to mind. Some years I make resolutions, but other years I don't. I plan to make one or two for 2007, and mine resemble those that many other people will make. I need to lose about 10 pounds, so I'm going to resolve to exercise regularly and eat fewer sweets. I'd also like to buy more organic produce, and not let what I do buy go bad in the fridge before I get around to eating it.

I usually do well at keeping my resolutions -- for a couple of months! Maybe the fact that I'm sharing these resolutions publicly will help me stick to them for the entire year.

For some tips on keeping your resolutions, try this article.

What about you? Are you making any veggie-related New Year's resolutions this year?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Old Favorites

I enjoy reading cookbooks; occasionally I even cook from them. But even if I don't follow a specific recipe, I learned much of what I know about vegetarianism from such books. But it's not enough, in my book, for a cookbook to have good recipes. It has to have personality. Below is a list of 10 favorites that combine good recipes with good reading:

The Peaceful Palate: Fine Vegetarian Cuisine by Jennifer Raymond. As the name suggests, this is a gentle cookbook with straightforward recipes. But everything I've ever made from it has been delicious.

Vegan With a Vengance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. You can tell from the title that it's not exactly gentle, but lively and opinionated. The vengance isn't about anger, however. Isa (you just feel like you're on a first-name basis with her) is just out to show, with no apologies, how tasty vegan food can be. And she succeeds beautifully. Along with the recipes, you get a side of ideas on activism, how to hold a brunch cafe, and so on.

Vegan Vittles by Joanne Stepaniak. This book raises money for Farm Sanctuary, and it features photos and stories of several sanctuary critters. The recipes by Stepaniak are superb, including many alternatives to dairy (from a fabulous, simple tofu whip for topping desserts to cheese substitutes) and ways to make seitan (a meat substitute make from wheat protein) taste like everything from pepperoni and salami to bbq "spare ribs."

Rainbows and Wellies: The Taigh Na Mara Cookbook by Tony Weston and Jackie Redding. Recipes and menus from a vegan bed-and-breakfast in the Scottish Highlands. Each menu begins with a photo and story about Scottish customs.

Rose Elliot's Vegetarian Christmas. Beautiful color photographs bring English holiday traditions to life, and the recipes are useful year-round. It just feels like Christmas when I open this one up.

Cafe Max and Rosie's: Vegetarian Cooking With Health and Spirit . Cafe Max and Rosie's was a vegetarian destination in Asheville for many years. Sadly, it is gone now, but this cookbook can serve as a reminder of those happy days. It is designed as a cooking course, so it's a great introduction for new cooks.

Simple Food for the Good Life by Helen Nearing. I find this better for reading than for cooking. Nearing, an icon of the simple-living movement, combines delightful quotations from an array of historic cookbooks with her own philosophy of the good life. The recipes tend toward the extremely simple.

Pasta e Verdura by Jack Bishop. This one, all about vegetable sauces for pasta, is more for cooking than for reading -- but it can teach you a lot. The introduction to each vegetable gives tips on choosing and preparing them. It's professionally written and recipes tend to turn out perfectly. Makes sense, since Bishop is an editor for Cooks Illustrated magazine.

Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes by Rynn Berry. This is both fun to read - you can learn a lot about vegetarian history - as well as to cook from.

I promised 10 favorites but I'll stop here. There are so many more cookbooks on my shelf that I love, I can't bear to complete the list and leave anyone out.... What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

Friday, December 22, 2006

A couple of interesting articles

I came across two articles this week that raised some interesting vegetarian-related issues:

*According to a large British study, children with higher IQs are more likely to become vegetarians. The study found that "for every 15-point increase in childhood IQ score at age 10, kids were 38% more likely to be vegetarians at age 30." Interestingly, this did not hold true for vegans, although the sample was so small for that group that it could be a statistical quirk; the study found that vegans' average childhood IQ score was about 10 points lower than other vegetarians. There was no difference between strict vegetarians and "vegetarians" who sometimes ate chicken or fish.

Vegetarians also tended to come from and stay in a higher social class, and were more likely to be female.

*In the Dec. 14 issue of Rolling Stone magazine (with Snoop Dogg in a Santa hat on the cover), there's a long article called "Boss Hog" about Smithfield Foods and how the "sea of waste" from pork producers is so devastating to the environment.

Did you know that there are more pigs than people in North Carolina? I was aware of the environmental effect in the eastern part of the state when Hurricane Floyd came through in 1999 and washed 120 million gallons of hog waste into the rivers, but I wasn't quite aware of the everyday effects -- such as volatile gases and oxygen-choking bacteria that are expelled into the air, to kill fish in rivers and cause health problems for people who live nearby.

You can read the article here. A word of caution: The article contains graphic photographs and language. It may make you furious. It should.

The article would totally stop me from eating pork if I hadn't already done so.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Faking It

At a Scottish festival this summer, I was tempted by a can of vegan haggis. It ended up going home with me ... even though I already had at least two recipes for vegan haggis in cookbooks at home. There's something irresistible to me about the idea of veganizing such a veg-unfriendly dish. (For those not familiar with it, my dictionary describes haggis as – and readers with delicate sensibilities may wish to skip the next line - "a Scottish dish made of the lungs, heart, etc., of a sheep or calf, mixed with suet, seasoning, and oatmeal and boiled in the animal’s stomach.")

Vegetarians seem to have two schools of thought about such "meat" products as vegan haggis. Some dislike them. For some, it's simply that the flavor or texture isn't appealing. In that case, there's no sense arguing with taste.

Others have more philosophical objections to faux meats, and here, controversy can bloom. The reasons have some merit. Why try to imitate meat, some wonder, when the vegetable kingdom offers so much to enjoy? Others are squeamish about them – they feel so strongly opposed to the cruelty inherent in meat production that they don't even want imitations of it. And, there is the concern that it gives ammunition to militant carnivores, who can argue that vegetarians face such privation that they must turn to pallid imitations to be able to bear their austere diet. "I could never be a vegetarian," they say. "And why even try? – Even the vegetarians crave meat!"

Still, I'm a fan of these fakes. Tony Weston, the creator of one of those vegan haggis recipes mentioned above, states the case succinctly in his Taigh Na Mara Cookbook. "If something tastes good and it's not caused harm to anyone or anything in its production then I can find no logical reason to deprive yourself of another flavour in an extensive range of healthy flesh-free alternatives," he writes.

And I've found that faux meats can be a way to introduce friends to the vegetarian lifestyle and show them that it can be as comfortingly familiar as they could wish. One of my favorite dishes of all time is Munro’s "Chickenly" Pot Pie, which uses Smart Menu "Chick'n Srips" from Lightlife in the filling. Recently, an omnivorous friend declared "I want to be a vegan!" after a few bites of this pie.

What side of the faux-meat divide do you find yourself on?

Friday, December 15, 2006

California Fresh Buffet

One of my favorite veggie-friendly restaurants is California Fresh Buffet at 1370 Peters Creek Parkway in Winston-Salem. The restaurant is run by the Center for Purposeful Living, and all of its profits go to charities. About 85 percent of its workers are volunteers. It's open for dinner only Mondays through Saturdays, and for lunch only on Sundays.

But let's talk about the food, which is always excellent and, as the name implies, fresh. I always leave feeling stuffed, but a healthy kind of stuffed -- full, but not weighed down by grease. Their salad bar is, in my opinion, by far the best in town and includes marinated tofu, which workers will stir-fry for you in your preference of a variety of seasonings. The garlic-and-herb seasoning is fabulous!

There are always many vegetarian options, such as soup, black-bean casserole, pizza, pasta, "Sloppy Pauls" (a vegetarian version of Sloppy Joes) and plenty of vegetables. And, of course, there's an array of wonderful desserts.

Each night of the week features a different culinary theme, and one section of their hot bar is devoted to foods with that theme. There are always vegetarian theme entrees. (I'm especially fond of the mushroom-and-spinah torte on Mondays and the Greek spinach pie on Thursdays.) The themes are: Italian (Monday); Caribbean/Cajun (Tuesday); Asian (Wednesday); European (Thursday); Mexican (Friday); Oriental (Saturday). Sunday brunch features breakfast items, such as quiche, sweet-potato pancakes and made-to-order omelets.

Vegan buffet items are marked, as are heart-healthy items -- CFB is a participant in Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center's Heart Center Dining Program. And if you go in on your birthday, you'll get a free meal! (And sung to by the workers -- just a note of warning if that sort of thing embarrasses you.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tasty accents

One of the joys of being vegetarian is trying foods that aren't usually encountered in the Standard American Diet. If you're a little hesitant, though, condiments are a good place to begin - you can start with a little, on just a bite of food, to see if you like it.

If it doesn't suit you, it's not like an entire entree or side-dish that you have to make your way through. And if you do like a new condiment, you can invent all sorts of ways to use it. Here's a quick introduction to three out-of-the-ordinary condiments that have become staples in my pantry:

Umeboshi – This Japanese pickled plum (the fruit of Prunus mume, a.k.a. the Japanese apricot tree) is tart and salty, and adds a tantalizing "twang" to almost any savory dish. You can find whole umeboshi or umeboshi paste at natural foods stores. A very thin layer of the paste spread on corn on the cob is tastier, neater and less fattening than butter. Ume vinegar – the plum-pickling liquid – has the same tart effect and is handy to use. Whenever a soup tastes a little "flat," a dash of ume vinegar will pick it right up. Or sprinkle it on sauteed vegetables in place of salt. It is salty, but adds another taste dimension as well.

Nutritional Yeast – This comes as golden powder or flakes, and has a mild flavor that is cheesy and nutty. It's high in protein and B vitamins; and some types (but not all) are fortified with Vitamin B12, which is important in vegetarian diets.

There are so many uses for this: It can be sprinkled on top of spaghetti in place of Parmesan cheese. You can make garlic toast to go with the spaghetti by spreading margarine on bread, and sprinkling on garlic powder or chopped garlic, and nutritional yeast, and broiling in the oven. You can also make tasty popcorn by spraying the popped corn with soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Aminos and tossing with nutritional yeast. Or you can stir some into vegetable broth or gravy for an almost "chickeny" flavor.

Note that nutritional yeast it is not the same as brewers yeast or the active yeast used in baking. You won't be happy if you use those where you should be using nutritional yeast.

Sea vegetables – Sea vegetables come in many forms, from the sheets of nori that you may have seen wrapped around sushi; to dried fronds of wakame, dulse, hijiki, kombu and so on; to ready-to-eat sea-vegetable salad.... But perhaps the easiest way to get to know them is with the powdered "sea sprinkles" that are now available. They look like little salt-shakers, and because they come from the sea they can add a salty flavor with the bonus that you're eating less sodium and more minerals. I don't find them quite as versatile as umeboshi or nutritional yeast but they can add a welcome touch to soups, salads and vegetables.

What are some of your vegetarian favorite flavor-boosters?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fast-food vegetarian

Eating while traveling can be a bit of a pain for vegetarians. Most of us, at one time or another, have been driving on the interstate for hours when our stomach starts to growl. Then it's time to look for a quick place to grab a bite to eat -- but what is there for vegetarians to eat amid all those Golden Arches and other fast-food restaurants?

My quick-stop eatery of choice is Subway or Quizno's. It's generally fairly easy to find a Subway when you're traveling, even if it's somewhere unfamiliar. Just get off the highway at a busy exit and look for a strip mall. My favorite thing to get at Subway is a vegetable-patty sub -- it's really good! The drawback is that it's not offered at all Subways. You can also get a veggie-delight sub or a veggie salad. Quizno's has a fancier veggie sub, whose ingredients include guacamole.

Q'doba is also another good choice. I love their grilled-vegetable burrito (I usually get it "naked" in a bowl) and grilled-vegetable taco salad. They're not quite as easy to find as Subways, though.

Wendy's will also do in a pinch, for a light meal of a baked potato and garden side salad. They used to have a large garden salad that I was very fond of and ate quite a lot, but unfortunately they no longer offer it. This was a huge blow to me! I also remember when they had the pitas years ago -- they had an awesome vegetarian one. I hate that they seem to have gotten LESS veg-friendly over the past few years.

Another solution I've found is to find a mall and head to their food court. There will generally be someplace there where you can get a veggie sub or slice of veggie pizza.

Fazoli's is a fast-food Italian restaurant where you can get cheese pizza, a cheese-and-tomato panini or pasta with marinara or alfredo sauce. They're not very easy to find, however, with a lot fewer locations that McDonald's or Burger King.

Speaking of Burger King, they offer a veggie burger (as does Backyard Burgers), but I confess that I've never tried it. I just don't "trust" a veggie burger from a fast-food hamburger restaurant -- I really don't want one grilled on the same grill as the hamburger patties. I applaud them for at least making a token effort, and you could always ask them to microwave it instead, but I'd rather go elsewhere. Though I suppose I'd get it if it were the only restaurant for miles and I was REALLY hungry.

What do you do for meals when you're traveling? And do you trust the veggie fare at fast-food restaurants like Burger King?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

More from Asheville

After Cassandra's post about Asheville, a couple of friends and I made a day trip there to visit Rosetta's Kitchen. And we were glad we did.

The restaurant is tiny and very casual. You place your order at the counter, and afterward you bus your own table. But it's attractive, with a garden mural and lots of plants and windows. And the food - Well, it will take several repeat visits to do justice to the varied menu, which is all vegetarian, with many vegan choices.

I tried the Mini Favorite, a comfort-food meal of peanut-butter baked tofu, sauteed kale, and mashed potatoes and incredibly tasty gravy. "Mini" is a misnomer, however; I couldn't finish my plate. All the portions are generous.

The Pad Thai Kitchen Style that one of my companions ordered was delicious, too – the "sweet & spicy peanut-apricot sauce" described on the menu was a perfect complement to wide noodles with vegetables, sprouts and cilantro. The third dish we tried - The Mountain – featured layers of brown rice and sauteed kale topped with crispy fried tempeh and a tahini Korean barbecue sauce.

If you'd like to find out more, visit There are two entrances to the restaurant, from 16 N. Lexington Ave. and 111 Broadway.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Asheville is a lot more than just the Biltmore House. In my opinion, Asheville is the most vegetarian-friendly city in North Carolina. For a town its size (only about 70,000 residents), it has a surprising number of vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants. The town itself is cute and eclectic, downtown is great fun to walk around, and the atmosphere is definitely more open to a veg lifestyle than most small Southern towns. It makes a great day trip. Whenever I visit, I always wish that Winston-Salem was that veg-friendly! Local vegetarians have a Web site -- -- and offer a VegDiscount card that provides savings at area businesses. What a great idea!

My favorite vegetarian restaurant in Asheville -- and one of my favorites anywhere -- is Laughing Seed Cafe, on Wall Street downtown. I'm especially fond of their Harmony Bowl, a delicious mixture of organic brown rice, pinto beans, tofu and steamed vegetables in a sesame ginger sauce. Other enticing options include wild mushroom enchiladas, curried tempeh napoleon and a Sloppy Joe sandwich. They also offer some decadent mixed drinks -- the Black Orchid is to-die-for. And the restaurant is beautiful, too, with a lovely rain-forest mural to set the mood. (Just a heads-up: It's closed on Tuesdays.)

Have you discovered a favorite place in Asheville? Or anywhere else in the state, for that matter? I always enjoy visiting new towns, and if I can get a great vegetarian meal there, so much the better!