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“A Very Vegan Christmas” at Tucson’s Hilton El Conquistador Resort
Dec28

“A Very Vegan Christmas” at Tucson’s Hilton El Conquistador Resort

This year, our family decided to celebrate Christmas at the nearby Hilton El Conquistador Resort. Christmas Eve is a very late night for us; not having to host on Christmas Day means getting to sleep in, and then just relaxing around the tree and opening presents without having to rush into the the kitchen to get things going. The tricky part was that the dinner buffet — like many resort buffet events — tends to focus on having multiple “carving stations” and extravagant seafood dishes. And, looking over the El Conquistador’s holiday menu, even the honey-glazed carrots weren’t going to work for us. However, a quick call to the hotel resulted in a nice conversation with the chef, Vincent Renteria. I was hoping the kitchen would be willing to put together a vegan entree plate for my husband and me — not wanting to make too much of a fuss, but also not wanting to be grazing on lettuce leaves and tomatoes for our holiday dinner. Similar to my experiences in the past, my simple request was met with great enthusiasm. Culinary experts seem to welcome an opportunity to get extra creative in the kitchen. Kudos to Chef Vincent for creating this special “A Very Vegan Christmas” menu for us:   Winter Greens Arizona candied pecans, dried cranberry, herb vinaigrette Charred Vegetable & White Bean Stew asparagus, peppers, tomato, crispy onions Herb Popped Tomatoes portobello ragout, pine nuts, chef’s garden basil Grilled and Smothered Cauliflower mesquite gravy, sweet onion jam Cinnamon Scented Quinoa caramelized shallot, vanilla roasted pasnip Agave Baked Butternut sage,hazelnut, brown sugar Bruleed Banana Pudding pumpkin spiced crisp Not only did Chef Vincent go above and beyond with all these amazing dishes, but he also offered to serve the food family-style at our table so that we could share with other family members. Our canine family members, Otis and Galileo, also were very happy about the leftovers we brought back home. I cannot thank Chef Vincent and the Hilton El Conquistador enough for making our last Christmas Day here in Tucson with family (our move back to NYC coming soon!) such a wonderful time. I’d love to see some (or all) of these delicious culinary creations added to next year’s Christmas buffet for everyone attending to enjoy.    ...

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Passover: A Vegan Seder
Apr02

Passover: A Vegan Seder

While I will be celebrating Easter this Sunday, many of my friends will begin the celebration of Passover this weekend. One of my favorite cookbooks, Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas, includes recipes for two seder menus: An Ashkenazic Seder Mock Chopped Liver (cashew, onion, and mushroom pate) Simple Vegetable Soup with Vegan Matzo Balls Vegan Matzo Balls Traditional Haroset Spectacular Spring Salad Spinach, Leek, and Potato Matzo Gratin Quinoa Pilaf Sauteed Asparagus & Broccolini Passover Fruit Crisp ot Chocolate Matzo Brittle, or Coconut-Almond Macaroon A Sephardic-Style Seder (includes legumes and grains other than wheat) Sephardic-Style Date Haroset Moroccan-Style Vegetable Soup with Vegan Matzo balls Green Salad w/ Artichokes, Oranges, and Pickled Beets Eggplant Matzo Mina Morroccan Carrots Sephardic Stewed Green Beans Just to tempt you, here’s the recipe for the Mock Chopped Liver, which I’ve tried and love. It’s easy to make and a delicious substitute for  liver pate. I hope you’ll check out this cookbook and also be inspired to look for other cruelty-free alternatives to enjoy this Passover!   * * * * * * * * * * * * Mock Chopped Liver (cashew, onion, and mushroom pate) ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 1/2 cups chopped onion 1 cup sliced baby bella or crimini mushrooms 2/3 cup toasted cashews 1 tablespoon lemon juice salt, pepper, and paprika to taste finely minced fresh parsley for garnish directions: Heat oil in a small skillet. Saute the onions slowly over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until nicely browned. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute briefly until wilted. Combine the onion mixture with the cashews and lemon juice in a food processor. Process until smoothly pureed, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Season with salt and pepper and additional lemon juice if desired, and pulse on and off to work into the mixture. Transfer to a serving dish and cover until needed. If making ahead of time, store in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving. Just before serving, sprinkle the top with paprika and parsley. Serve with raw vegetables and matzo crackers....

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Memo to the Easter Bunny
Mar01

Memo to the Easter Bunny

To: Easter Bunny From: Sharon Date: March 4, 2013 Re: Easter’s coming soon! I wanted to give you plenty of time to put in your order before the Easter holiday! You may recall that I’ve previously explored cruelty-free alternatives to Easter traditions — ideas For the Easter Basket and some creative options to the usual Easter Eggs (please review). This year, I have some new favorites to add to the list of possibilities. While dark chocolate is a nice option for vegans most of the time, specialty “milk” chocolate (using soy, almond, or coconut milk) is probably going to be more popular with the kids. And the adults in the family will love them, too. Here are two sources for some very, very delicious chocolates: Premium Chocolatiers Gourmet dairy-free, nut-free chocolates! Premium makes amazing truffles… but for the purposes of this post, you must check out the Easter Treats available. The larger hollow figures are perfect for the basket centerpiece ($19 each); Bunny Pops ($3 each) would make a great addition to a basket, or for a child to bring into school to give to classmates. Allison’s Gourmet Easter & Springtime specialties by Allison’s Gourmet are hard to resist. The “Speckles” Chocolate Rice Crispy Bunny and Solid Vegan Chocolate Eggs can be purchased together ($42) or separately. There’s also a Vegan Gift Basket that includes salted almond bark and a half-dozen cookies along with the bunny and chocolate eggs. And, though it may not be a typical Easter indulgence, I highly recommend the Vanilla Chai Fudge for the grown-ups.   A Special Note About Eggs Most eggs in the U.S. come from “battery cage” hens that are crowded together in barren wire cages. A battery-cage hen has approximately 67 square inches to live out her entire life — less than the size of a piece of loose leaf paper. She cannot turn around or spread her wings… ever. These hens live out their lives in darkness and many die slow, painful deaths. Organizations including Farm Sanctuary, Compassion Over Killing, The Humane Society of the United States, Mercy for Animals, the ASPCA, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund have supported a bill that would improve the lives of hens by phasing in more space plus other environmental enrichments (i.e., room for for perching and nesting); the law also would prohibit forced molting through periods of starvation (a customary practice in the industry) and mandate labeling so that consumers know if the eggs they’re buying come from “battery cage,” “cage-free”, or “free-range” hens. While I advocate giving up eggs altogether (easy egg substitutes!), I also urge you to support The Egg Products Inspection...

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Valentine’s Day Chocolates
Feb08

Valentine’s Day Chocolates

Happy Valentine’s Day (almost)! Looking for some cruelty-free alternatives for Valentine’s Day chocolates? Try one of these for your sweetie: Endangered Species Chocolates A year-round favorite when I’m in the mood for a little dark chocolate (or simply an impulse buy at Whole Foods). Beyond the bars, though, I’ve discovered on the ES web site that the company has amazing gift collections — think chocolate towers! But my fave fave is ES’s adoption collection: everything from wild dogs to giraffes. Takes cruelty-free “cool” to a whole new level. Last year, I announced that my heart belonged to the one who adopted a zebra for me. My valentine came through for me, and I now have a little stuffed animal zebra to remind me what a lucky girl I am to have married such a wonderful guy. Rescue Chocolates This Brooklyn-based company donates 100% of its net profits to animal rescue organizations around the country. The packaging of each vegan chocolate bar addresses an aspect of the companion animal “overpopulation” issue. For example, the “Peanut Butter Pit Bull” addresses the negative public image of the breed; “Foster-iffic Peppermint” highlights animal foster care for shelter animals until they can find their forever homes. For Valentine’s Day, consider Rescue Chocolate’s “Wild at Heart” — vegan chocolate hearts filled with raspberry ganache. Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates Offering everything from chocolate bars to bite-sized assortments. Sjaak’s offers seasonal products, including goodies for Valentine’s Day… and Easter, which will be here before we know it. I’m already contemplating the Bunny Truffle Gift Box. Wedding favors also are available; just something to keep in mind in case someone pops the question this V-Day. Veganache Chocolate Collection by Christopher Norman This 12-piece vegan truffles collection includes four decadent flavor profiles in Sicilian Orange, Raspberry, Coconut and Rich Dark Chocolate. How luscious does that sound?! Chocolate Valentine’s Nuts & Chews I found this gift box on Pangea’s online Vegan Store. Each 9-piece package contains assorted chewy caramels and nut crunches smothered in organic ricemilk chocolate. Organic and Fair-Trade Certified. A great option if dark chocolate isn’t your valentine’s thing… though there is a dark chocolate version available as well. Chocolate Valentine’s Lollipop Also on Pangea’s site, the lollipop is the perfect “little something” for someone special. From Divine Treasures, this vegan chocolate lollipop is organic and gluten-free, with a cute heart shape and the word “love” in capital letters. GREY2KUSA Valentine’s Gift Packages A hand-painted Valentine’s Day card with your personal message, a matching stamp, and a greyhound-shaped, cruelty-free chocolate. For an additional $15, a greyhound doll of your choice that is simply TOO cute. Not only is this a wonderful...

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Gifts for Valentine’s Day: spread the love!
Jan31

Gifts for Valentine’s Day: spread the love!

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day, going all the way back to elementary school when it meant writing out all those little valentines for my classmates. Whether I’ve had a sweetheart to lavish all the attention on, or my Valentine’s Day has been centered instead on surprising friends with flowers or fun gifts, I relish the chance to get creative and let some very special people in my life know just how much I adore them. Last year, I looked into several fantastic options for Valentine’s Chocolates. If you’re wanting to surprise your sweetie with some vegan sweets, you’ll want to check out my previous post asap, to give yourself time for any ordering and delivery. This year, I wanted to highlight a few other alternatives for the holiday, ways to surprise and indulge our loved ones while supporting some wonderful organizations at the same time. Check out the following online shopping opportunities: Farm Sanctuary For 25 years, Farm Sanctuary has been saving farmed animals from cruelty and raising awareness about how these animals need our protection and compassion. For this Valentine’s Day, the online store has a FS Logo Vegan Chocolate Heart available. The chocolates are made by Sjaak’s, one of my favorite chocolate makers. Humane Domain The Humane Society of the United States is offering some pretty adorable gift items as part of its online store’s  “Be My Valentine” collection. Cute tee-shirts and apparel for both men and women include “Animal in Bed” boxer shorts,  pajamas and robes, “luv paws” fingerless gloves, and lots of jewelry items. But what I love even more on this site are all the gifts for our four-legged valentines: a play tunnel and other cool toys for the kitty; a heart box of V-Day pup treats and a catnip gift box; heart toys and “sweetie pie” tennis balls; and — my favorite — the Jumbo Love Pup Toy. National Canine Cancer Foundation Canine cancer affects one in three dogs. I love this organization and the research it’s funding, and it’s especially near and dear to my heart because my Pushkin lived with cancer for over two years. NCCF’s online store has everything from jewelry to apparel to personalized picture frames. The Peace Love Dog shirt would be a nice gift for anyone who has a soft spot for pups. These are just a few of the many, many organizations that offer some special items for purchase in anticipation of V-Day. I hope everyone has fun making plans and doing a little shopping for the upcoming...

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Pretty Vegan Gift Basket!
Jan30

Pretty Vegan Gift Basket!

Last week, my husband Seth was surprised by his new team with a gift basket. After just having met many of them for the first time, during an offsite retreat  — during which time they shared a few meals and therefore learned about Seth’s vegan lifestyle — Seth received a lovely follow-up “welcome”: a fair-trade, hand-made grass basket from Bangladesh, filled with all vegan goodies, arranged and delivered by Garuda International. The basket included: Sjaak‘s Organic Chocolate Assortment JJ’s Cocomels, coconut milk caramels Edward & Sons Exotic Rice Toast (Purple Rice & Black Sesame)* Wilderness Poets “Song of Abundance” Raw Trail Mix Betty Lou’s Organic Harmony Granola Bars & Cookies Dandies Mini Marshmallows* Eli’s Earth Bars (“Celebrate Bar” & “Treasure Bar”) Liz Lovely Ginger Snapdragons Pirate Brands Original Tings Crunchy Corn Sticks Sen Cha Green Tea Mints Primal Strips, vegan jerky (Hickory Smoked, Hot & Spicy, Thai Peanut, & Texas BBQ)* I have to thank the team myself — I’m definitely enjoying my share of the goods! It’s been fun for me to sample some products that I’ve never had before, such as the Primal jerky. Which got me thinking: vegan gift baskets are wonderful to give anyone, from the well-seasoned vegan to an omnivore friend. A basket will have plenty to choose from, so there’s something for everyone. Besides purchasing a basket from a company like Garuda, there’s the option of creating a basket ourselves, filling it with things we love and think our friends would enjoy as well. Whether it’s to welcome a new colleague, offer as a housewarming gift, celebrate a birthday or any other holiday, a basket filled with delicious treats is bound to bring a smile. And who knows… the recipient may discover some new cruelty-tree favorites of his or her own. Thanks again to Seth’s new team for the basket, and for the thoughtfulness behind the gift.   *also...

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