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Vegan Chili Verde


1 lb potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbps canola oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped small
thinly sliced peppers of choice, seeded and no membrane – I used one green ghost pepper (very spicy), you could use a green bell pepper (mild) or a couple of jalapenos (medium)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
1.5 lbs tomatillos, skin papers removed, washed, chopped into 3/4″ pieces
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
2 cup vegetable broth (plus 1/3 cup for deglazing)
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro (reserve a bit for garnish)
1/4 cup chopped scallions (reserve a few for garnish)
2 (15-oz) cans of chick peas, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1 lime
Avocado slices for garnish

Place the chopped potatoes in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Let boil, covered, for a little less than 20 minutes, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork NOT MUSHY. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and peppers in oil for about 10 minutes, until everything is softened and the onions are slightly browned.
Add the garlic, cumin, basil, and salt. Saute for 1 more minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the 1/3 cup broth for deglazing and tomatillos, raise the heat a bit to let the liquid reduce and the tomatillos release their juices, about 5 minutes.IMG_0771
Add the apples, 2 cups vegetable broth, scallions, and 1/2 cup of the cilantro. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to partially puree everything, or transfer half the chili to a food processor and puree, then return to the pot.
Taste for tartness: if bitter, add a teaspoon or two of sugar to level things out. Add the cooked potatoes and the chick peas, simmer for a few more minutes, until everything is heated through.
Add the remaining cilantro (reserve a garnish) and the lime juice. Ladle into bowls, garnish with the avocado and a few chopped scallions and cilantro leaves, and serve.

6 – 8 Servings

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012

2012 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards

Inspired by the many Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs, we took the Bacon is NOT an Herb logo and transformed it into a new Hex Sign that will be used as this year’s award.

This year has happily seen a huge increase in local vegetarian and vegan restaurant choices and the 2012 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards will be announced throughout December.

The winners will be local, limited to the counties that are touched by the keystone center of our state illustrated below. The annual awards recognize the year’s best vegetarian foods available by highlighting a few menu items from restaurants we have been able to visit this past year. I hope I will get suggestions from readers on favorites that I have overlooked for 2013; perhaps a People’s Choice category which I would do nothing but tally reader votes.

This year, the categories include region’s best Appetizer, Salad, Soup, Portobello, Chili, Veggie Burger, Specials, Vegetarian Restaurant, and Best Restaurant. Extra emphasis will go to dishes/restaurants that use local ingredients and are created in-house.

2011 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award

Decisions are made from what is offered on regular the menu with limited “hold the pickles, extra lettuce” high maintenance tweaks. To stick with the BK theme, realize I won’t be including large franchise restaurants so don’t expect the BK Veggie to be garnering any awards.

2011 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards recognized region’s best of the year. Congratulations to those who were acclaimed for their Portobello, Veggie Burger, Soup, Salad, Appetizer, Specials, Menu, Ethnic Restaurant, Vegetarian Restaurant and Best Restaurant.

Do you know of a Pennsyltucky restaurant or menu item that you think I should consider in 2013? If it’s in central PA (see map above) and is a regular vegetarian menu item, let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment on any of the awards pages!

Spread the Word and Help!

Spread the Word and Help!

There are still victims of Hurricane Sandy who are without electricity in some of the hardest hit areas in New York City and New Jersey. The many problems many of us have only heard on the news; no heat during a brutal second winter blizzard, no gas for generators, no way to cook food or stay warm.

There are wonderful people helping and we can help them. The award-winning Vegan food truck, The Cinnamon Snail is driving to the hurting locations and giving away hot vegan food to the residents. With donations through PayPal ( you will be giving a warm vegan meal to a struggling neighborhood.

This past summer I was too busy to review my one visit to New York City but I had the privilege to seek out the location where The Cinnamon Snail set up. They are a hugely popular food truck and all of the food they serve is vegan. They have been nominated and won many awards such as the prestigious Vendy Awards and most recently VegNew 2012 – Favorite Street Cart.

The food they serve is vegan, delicious and they are the friendliest bunch of metro-NYC folks I have ever been served by. Working hard in the summer heat on the street in the Flat Iron District June 2012, it was evident that I wasn’t the only one to notice their upbeat attitude. Their tip jar was overflowing with crumpled bills of appreciation. Oh, and they donate ALL of their tips to charity; on August 26, 2012, The Cinnamon Snail team made a generous donation of $8,000 to Farm Sanctuary.

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I had a crusty Tofu Bahn Mi and grabbed a couple of their doughnuts. I got S’Mores and Creme Brule flavors and wished I could carry more. Not a fan of sandwiches nor bread in general, it was uncharacteristic of me to finish a huge crunchy Bahn Mi. I think it is humorous that I didn’t make it very far and sat devouring my sandwich on a bench just yards from the food truck; I ate it like I hadn’t eating a good meal in days.

In actuality, I was surrounded by so many vegan options in NYC but this meal stood out as one of the very best. Imagine how much more meaningful it will be to the people in Rockaway Beach and Staten Island who haven’t had a hot meal in over a week. The Cinnamon Snail is also providing them with a charging station for their phones and mobile devices.

This is something you can do to help, instead of feeling like it is too overwhelming and terrible to think about, Spread the Word and Help! Retweet this (@VeganLunchTruck @occupysandy #sandyrelief), reblog this, share it on Facebook with vegans and compassionate groups of people and donate to The Cinnamon Snail’s humanitarian effort through donations through PayPal (!

On your Mark, Get Set, Trader Joe’s!

Starting tomorrow, November 9, 2012, residents of central Pennsylvania will no longer have to drive over 100 miles to find their closest Trader Joe’s. Depending where in Pennsyltucky you live, the closest to the North (Rochester, NY), South (Pikesville, MD), East (Wayne, PA) and West (Pittsburgh, PA) have not been easily accesible for weekly shopping.

Longtime local residents or new to the vegetarian scene may not have ever shopped at nor even heard of Trader Joe’s. My introduction to the brand was about a decade ago when a displaced California resident with whom I worked lamented the fact that she couldn’t understand how we survived without Trader Joe’s. You rarely miss what you don’t have nor ever experienced so I thought she was being pretty dramatic about a grocery store.

To this day, I think I have only shopped at 3 or 4 and have found that there is an art to shopping at Trader Joe’s. Let me share some secrets to getting the most out of your first visits, so you’re not pulling your hair out looking for something like the ever-absent baking soda.

The Line

The couple of times I visited the NYC location in Union Square, I found it so small and crowded that the line to check-out snaked through the aisles of the store. I found we had to dodge a lot of people just to look at what was on the store’s shelves and just “shop!” The 100 or so folks in line were not just there for opening day, each visit was a regular shopping day. It is not just the NYC stores, we have found it to be so in almost any Trader Joe’s at any time of day.

Lines can be so long, that Trader Joe’s will have employees on hand to hold up giant “end of line” signs. Then, when you get closer to the cashiers, there’s a person watching for each of the perhaps 20 cashiers hold up their numbered paddle (like a ping pong paddle) to signal they’re ready for a customer. Unlike most grocery stores in the world, the cashiers have no conveyor belt. They pull out a shelf to set stuff on; a very small shelf.

Here is the best take-away tip – Smart shoppers come in pairs; one to roam and shop, and the other to stand in line the whole time and shop what they walk past.

If you have to shop alone, the best strategy is to shop the middle first. In most stores, this is where you’ll find frozen goodies like frozen pizza, bags of pasta and the accompanying pasta sauce, etc. Then hop on to the end of the check out line, where you’ll walk alongside the vegetables, fruits, breads, and shtuff for the duration of your stay. It is almost guaranteed that the line will be long enough for you to have ample time standing next to each of these refrigerated sections (unless you are in the 10 items or less line).

So, until this new store settles in and becomes less of a novelty be aware of the possibility of long lines. I know those of us who have watched it’s construction and lamented it’s delay from over a year ago (Say it Ain’t so Trader Joe) won’t let that stop us from jumping into the fray.

The Food

The next helpful tip – Veggie shoppers can look for the 2 green symbols on Trader Joe’s product labels.

Trader Joe’s Vegan Products

Trader Joe’s has identified products free of all animal products and/or by-products including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, honey, gelatin, lanolin and confectioner’s glaze with the “V” (for Vegan). Check out the Vegan list.

Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Products.

They also have a Vegetarian list that identify a products in which no ingredients or sub-ingredients are animal derived from meat, poultry or fish. These products may contain eggs or dairy. Those products will be marked with the lighter green trifoliate symbol.

Many of the products are private label; by eliminating the middleman. Trader Joe’s aims to keep prices low on quality products, which means lots of on-the-shelf turnover, and many typical items missing from the store. You are sure to love discovering new products, not breaking the bank on unusual frozen foods and imported foods but if you go with a grocery list of typical household items for the week, you’re sure to be disappointed.

Do note – The fruits-and-veggies section at Trader Joe’s is unique in that you can’t just buy one tomato. The store selects four or five and packages them together – not ideal for shopping for a single meal, but perfect when planning for a week.

Everyone is going to have items that they favor. I have gone through about a dozen online resources so this is a combined list of favorites and best buys.

Favorite Vegan products:
• Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles
• Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
• Vegetable Panang Curry with Jasmine Rice
• True Thai Vegetable Pad Thai
• Thai Vegetable Gyoza
• Falafel Wrap
• Chickenless Crispy Tenders
• Chickenless Nuggets
• Turkey-less Stuffed Roast with Gravy
• Cherry Chocolate Chip Soy Creamy

Vegetarian best buys:
• The Chocolate – From Valrhona and Toblerone bars to Belgian and Swiss bonbons, Trader Joe’s chocolate comes from all over the world at down-to-earth prices. The Valrhona bars that sell for up to $4.99 elsewhere can be had at Trader Joe’s for just $2.99. And Trader Joe’s house-brand bars, none of which contain any artificial flavors or preservatives, are even cheaper. Trader Joe’s chocolate chips ($2.29 for a 12-ounce bag) are a particularly good buy: In a taste test of 12 brands on foodie site, they bested Ghirardelli and Hershey’s — at more than a dollar less per bag.

• Fresh Flowers and Plants – The flowers at Trader Joe’s are high quality and the prices often better than even the wholesale prices she gets at local flower markets. Potted plants such as rosebushes, bromeliads, and herb gardens at Trader Joe’s typically sell for at least 20 percent below what they go for elsewhere, including nurseries.

• Cheese – Trader Joe’s stocks about 60 cheeses at any one time, and with a fairly compact display space, the turnover is fast, keeping it super-fresh.

• Nuts and Trail Mixes – Variety alone makes this category impressive. Trader Joe’s stocks 20 different types of trail mix, including peanut butter cup, mango and cashews, raspberry and chocolate, wasabi, and even espresso bean. And the prices are right, too — 12-ounce bags of Trader Joe’s trail mix cost $3.99 to $4.99, in some cases more than a dollar below supermarket prices. When it comes to nuts, Trader Joe’s carries five different varieties of almonds alone.

• Toilet Paper – Trader Joe’s 100 percent recycled toilet paper scored a “green” rating on the Natural Resources Defense Council tissue guide in 2009, based on the percentage of post-consumer fiber used (80 percent) and the chlorine-free bleaching process used to make it. And while Charmin and Cottonelle (both of which the NRDC slapped an “Avoid” label on) typically sell for $8.99 for 12 rolls, Trader Joe’s rolls sell for less than half that ($3.99 for 12). Take that, Mr. Whipple!

• Maple Syrup – This may be the sweetest bargain in the store, with Trader Joe’s Grade A Medium Amber maple syrup from Canada costing just $5.49 for 12 ounces. Time Out Chicago rated this the best-tasting maple syrup in a blind taste test, beating, among others, Whole Foods’ store label syrup, which cost 60 percent more.

Vegetarians that eat…

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fish, chicken… BACON!!?

I am a vegetarian and although I strive to cut out more and more animal products and eat vegan at home it never has completely worked. If someone wants to argue the finer points of rennet in the cheese products I eat and the fact that I step on bugs and worms when I go running, I will concede to them. I am, however, a vegetarian; I do not knowingly eat animals. I will even waste food and throw it away, or set it out for other animals to eat, if someone tells me there is animal parts in it.

There are certain places and people I do not expect to understand vegetarianism. I am patient with many restaurants even though in this time in main stream USA vegetarianism should be understood by the food service industry. When making new acquaintances I have no problem in describing just what I will and won’t eat because the many people’s dietary choices are for different reasons. Health, religion and personal ethics can all muddy what is considered meat. The pork industry still describes itself as “the other white meat®” to try to blur the lines between what is real meat and what is not.

Take the observance of Lent as an example. One Lenten requirement is that all Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. Abstinence, in this context, forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, milk products or condiments made of animal fat. This chosen “abstinence” does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are not forbidden. So it is permissible to use lard and even bacon drippings which contain little bits of meat may be poured over lettuce as seasoning. These Lenten ideas on abstaining from eating meat are about as clear as the warm bacon dressing it is served up with.

A place I would expect to have a clear understanding of vegetarianism would be in a health food store. Our local store, Nature’s Pantry, had a day where vendors came in to share samples and information about their products. They were very aggressive when it came to encouraging customers to try their products and even more so in bombarding us with their information. We avoided most of their tables after sampling a terrible cup of chicory coffee that was just as overpowering and obnoxious as the vendor was. We stood in line to pay for our regular purchases and had to walk by one last snake oil salesman. Actually she was pushing products with fish oil in them and was touting them as vegetarian. She demanded our attention as we stood in line and I cringed from her product and said, “No thank you, I am a vegetarian.” This opened up the flood gates of her argument that there are all kinds of vegetarians and even some that ate fish. I now know they are actually called pescetarians, thanks to my post-argument research, but at the time all I could do was look nauseated and tell her that I don’t eat ANY animals. She must have earlier over-dosed on her neighbor’s chicory coffee because she would not shut up nor take any visual clues that we did not want to be involved in her argument on what vegetarians actually ate and what each of them are called. Jim pretty much ended the conversation by saying, “Yes, and I am sure there are vegetarians who eat cows and call themselves ‘Bovine-vegetarians’ but we do not.”

Bless the vegan blogger Quarrygirl for recently calling out a popular vegan magazine, VegNews, for being so ridiculous as to using Photoshop on iStock photographs of meat entreés and trying to pass them of as vegan meals! Check out her original post, RANT: VegNews is putting the MEAT into vegan issues, and the New York Times coverage of this backlash, Vegan Promoter Uses Photos of Meat and Dairy Items, and Fury Follows.

My personal rant started to come to a head over the past day when, for the second time, I was served chicken at My Thai. The first time was in December for my pre-race pad thai when I ordered tofu as my protein choice. The older woman waitress had the audacity to argue with me that I had ordered chicken. It has taken me over 4 months to relent to Jim’s, “How about My Thai for supper?” suggestion/requests for me to set foot into the restaurant again. We had purchased takeout for guests a couple of times but yesterday was my first sit down visit, the first time I didn’t wait in the car.

The same matron waited upon us and we clearly stated our curry and veg/tofu choices. Jim ordered Red Curry with tofu and I ordered Masaman Curry with vegetables. We listened carefully as she repeated our orders back to us but upon it’s arrival mine looked distinctly like chicken and I questioned it even before she had removed her hand from setting the steaming bowl in front of me. She looked carefully at it and although I bristled and was ready to have it out with her she apologized that it was an order for another table and whisked it away before the folks who had ordered it noticed me looking at it in disgust. She apologized again when bringing our correct bowls but I just couldn’t bring myself to being sympathetic toward her.

In typical true indigo fashion, to try to bring something positive out of all of this frustration, I decided to take some photos of an artichoke dish I am making for lunch. It’s not iStock photography so the surroundings have that look that shows I love and use my kitchen a lot.

Although I didn’t photograph the use of it, I am really pleased with how well my melon baller works for taking the choke out before steaming the artichoke for about 25 minutes. I rinsed it in cold water to stop the cooking process and drained it well before topping it with a nice drizzle of sauted garlic and lime juice then topped it with feta cheese. I popped it under the broiler for a quick melt and served it up with some left over risotto.

Other than the melon baller, I am pleased to feature some of my other little gadgets used today. The super fast garlic mincer (with wheels and blades!!) and the metal bar of soap for washing onion and garlic scent off my hands. Both were given to us by the ever-savvy, lusciously-geeky, gadget-oriented Lukens-Chens. Although not a gadget, I love the usage of foil on my baking trays for broiling. It might seem a wasteful use of foil but clean up is less of a headache and I cram the used foil into a cat food can when I take out the recycling.

Mine is not professional quality nor vegan photography but definitely shines with my love of creating vegetarian meals. For some awesomely scrumptious vegan food photos, visit the vegan selections at Food Gawker.

The Perfect Meal

The weather forced us to slightly alter our plans this Thanksgiving day. Freezing rain and sleet made us begrudgingly punt on running in our first Turkey Trot this morning.

We knew the weather might have an impact even last evening as we shopped for a few groceries. No, we didn’t stock up on bread and milk but bought a single TastyKake Pumpkin Pie to split today with what ever meal we pulled together.

We didn’t have the scent of hot turkey fat to wake up to like I can remember 40 years ago. As Jim decorated our indoor Norfolk Island Pines, thus dubbing them our our Yule Trees for the year, I threw together a lunch of left overs.

Left over Tofurky sandwich slices on some seeded rye with a healthy pile of mixed greens, a few wedges of tomato, a dollop of spiced butternut squash, perfect avocado slices and the condiments of Vegenaise® and a cranberry apple chutney made the most perfect Thanksgiving meal.

No, I fibbed. What made it perfect was the company. We weren’t surrounded by every member of our loving family but Jim and I had each other. We munched a Dagwood sized sandwich and smiled as we did the best we could to make the holiday feel festive. I am thankful for Jim’s heart that lifts me on the gray and gloomy days. Redefining each stage of life is a challenge but with him I am up to it.

This is a similar sandwich, the real one disappeared before I got it photographed.

Homegrown Pad Thai

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Ingredients I grew to use in our Pad Thai lunch.
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