Friday, December 29, 2006

The Veggie Queen Travels

Yes, it's true. I went away. This time it was purely for fun and relaxation, needing lots of the latter after a truly busy year. My family and I took a cruise vacation. We last did this 4 years ago and found that it was a great way for me and my husband to be alone while our son was safe and entertained. I like it because I don't have any of my usual routines that include work, cooking, cleaning, driving and the like. We took a Carnival cruise to Mexico. I'll sum it up here:

I came back tanned, relaxed and rested, until we entered the chaos zone at the Oakland airport. But that was a minor price to pay for many days of mostly stress-free living.

I did have some food issues such as eating breakfast. I like what I like, don't you? Well, I'm not someone who eats bacon, eggs, sausage or hash browns for breakfast. I also don't eat standard breakfast cereal with milk, or usually pancakes or French toast. (I know, you're wondering what I do eat.) If pushed, I will eat oatmeal but I prefer other hot cereals but only now when it's winter, not when it's 80+ degrees outside (as it was in Mexico). Still, I did eat oatmeal but I had to smuggle raisins into the dining room from the casual place upstairs. I learned to ask for the bananas, blueberries and strawberries that go with the pancakes (hold the pancakes, please. I felt like Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces asking for his toast.). One day I got a piece of the worst not-very-whole wheat toast with peanut butter and jelly just for something different. But that was only a minor glitch, but not a good way to start every day.

Lunch and dinner were somewhat better as there were more choices, especially at lunch where they had stations set up in the casual eatery. I often choose the Chinese where there were lots of fresh veggies, or the salad bar with many different types of salads that almost made up for the lack of anything too green except Caesar salad (which is too greasy, gooey and cheesey for me), I saw more iceberg lettuce than one ought to see in the entire world.

The first night's Indian Vegetarian Dinner was the best and should have been repeated nightly or at least every other night, for my satisfaction. They did serve Indian at the lunch buffet once and I'd already eaten which was fine since I had a veggie samosa for dessert.

Our dining room waiter, Jaime from the Philippines, was a good singer and dancer and knew how to provide good service. His assistant, Wanida from Thailand, was so cute and nice, We had a great table by the window and enjoyed our quiet section of the dining room a lot.

My favorite port of call was Zihuatenejo, where we spent our time at La Playa Ropa (the clothes beach?) enjoying food, drink, the ocean and getting my hair braided.

I took all the yoga classes offered on the ship, which was 4, one for each day at sea. While they were not my regular routine, or type of class, it was great to do it although balancing on a moving vessel is quite difficult, at least for me.

It's been quite chilly here in the mornings and I already long for those 80 degree days and my time being served but I made quite a wonderful New Year Good Luck Soup. I gave some away already and have been asked for the recipe but I still haven't written it down. It does contain black eyed peas and greens for the luck. May your travels and New Year be filled with luck, health, happiness and abundance. Ahhhh...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Vegetable Power

I am not talking antioxidants here but something that often seems even better. Yesterday was a pumpkin pie eating contest at Tierra Vegetables Tierra is affectionately nicknamed The Cheers of Farmstands in my cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment. All the judges in the contest were kids, one of them being my 13-year old son. But the problem was that it was too close to Christmas and the pie makers must have been busy so they didn't show up. (Last year there must have been close to 15 pies.) So while one of the parents ran to the store to get a premade pie, the other parents hung around the farm stand and shopped. This is where the veggie power comes in.

I was eyeing a large Graffiti Purple Cauliflower. My son wanted it (I am not sure why since he doesn't really eat it). And so did I but it was too big. A woman standing there was also admiring it. I asked her if she'd like to share it, and she said yes. Yippee. We both had what we wanted. Now, isn't there power in that? But it gets better.

Another woman, this time one of the moms, asked. "Are you the person that does something with vegetables?" She may have said The Veggie Queen but I'm not sure. She said that she read my blog and had commented on it. Then I recognized her as Kate from Sky Saddle Winery http://www,, that zin that I had (written about here previously) that was so jammy, yummy, unctuous. Well, Kate told me that she's a vegetarian. It was getting even better.

I asked if she might want to trade wine for a copy of The Veggie Queen cookbook. And we made a deal. Now, it was truly my lucky day as Kate happened to have a bottle of Sky Saddle organic, biodynamically produced wine in the car because she had intended to ship it to Scotland but it turned out to be prohibitively expensive. I didn't have any copies of my cookbook in the car but I knew that Evie at Tierra had some so I borrowed a copy and voila, Kate and I were both happy. So there's the power of vegetables for you.

I suggest that you hang around veggies as much as possible, as they can definitely enhance your life, in many ways beyond the physical.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Thanks-- calls and emails to The Veggie Queen

This morning I received a call from a woman who lives in a remote area of California who had borrowed my DVD Creative Low-fat Vegan Cuisine from a friend. She was watching it, got the 800 and was convinced that she needed a copy of my cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment. She said that she used to have a bookstore nearby but it closed. And she doesn't use the internet. She's got 4 children and needs to lose a bunch of weight. She wanted to know what you put on your pizza if there is no cheese. I told her about Follow Your Heart vegan cheese, that actually melts, but I can also eat pizza with homemade pesto and veggies, or summer fresh frozen tomato sauce and veggies, or caramelized onions, black or kalamata olives and fresh thyme. The possibilities are endless for me. But you don't have to be a vegan to eat healthy food. Nor do all vegans eat healthy food but it is easier. And for me it's OK to veer from the path every once in a while.

Ray Sikora, an amazing woman and animal rights activist who was living in New Mexico when I met her this past summer at Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA, says that vegans who cheat are cheegans. I don't need any labels for you. What you choose to eat is completely up to you. But I must encourage you to make the healthiest choices possible. The best way to do that is to eat lots of veggies, of course.

So, in this season of excess, please see if you can eat an excessive amount of vegetables. It's best to go with those in season - root crops such as parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery root and more, cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts and more, plus shiitake mushrooms, ginger and garlic for your immune system. Maybe in my January newsletter I will share my "secret" recipe for immune-boosting soup.

Until then, Happy Healthy Holidays and a cheery New Year. And if you want to send me an email just to say hi, or how eating veggies has changed your life, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Wake UP and Eat -- Biodynamic Farming

My sister Donna and I are working on a project together called Wake UP and Eat which will one day become a book and DVD. (Later in 2007.) Please view the website at

The following is my adaptation of what she wrote just the other day (December 2007):
Thanks go to Allan Balliett of Shephardstown, West Virginia, who runs the Fresh and Local CSA there. We were recently fortunate to sample his "biodynamic" greens and meet Alan in person near our home in Maryland.Biodynamics, for those who may not have heard of it, is a way of growing food that seeks to ensure that our food provides vitality. The system, which was largely a reaction to the growing use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, predates today's "organic" food by decades, having been first developed in the early 1920s. Biodynamic farming shuns all chemicals including pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers and instead stresses the use of various types of compost and natural cycle planting.

Alan and his wife brought bins of fresh greens including several types of kale (curly and Red Russian), Bok Choy, lettuces, Napa cabbage, Tatsoi, collards, cardoons, broccoli and more. His happy customers waited for his truck to arrive and sprang out of their cars to gather around the array of wonderful produce. Once we were handed our goodies, we immediately tore off some of the Red Russian kale and found it sweet and flavorful. As we were walking back to our car, Alan smiled and reminded us to "eat it right away" to get the most of its "life force". Not long after, stopping first to walk through the woods in search of late Fall oyster mushrooms, we got to taste the biodynamic greens. The kale was lightly sauteed until it was just tender and brightly colored, sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper, and sure enough, it was undeniably sensational kale and truly, as we ate, we could almost feel our bodies being nourished.

Coincidentally, my lunch today was pressure cooked tofu, oyster mushrooms, onions, garlic and ginger with wilted spinach (I'm saving my greens for a potato and greens gratin), a bit of peanut butter and some hot sauce. Not the same "life force energy" but still incredibly nourishing.