Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bean Balls!

Oh, I know. It's the time of year when I should be thinking about tofurky, and sweet potatoes, and stuffing, and... pie, I guess. But, all I can think about is creating the perfect bean balls!

Okay, everyone loves spaghetti and meatballs, right? Great, filling, easy meal. Of course, if you don't eat meat, you go with meatless meatballs. There are some great ones out there! Nate's Meatless Meatballs are our favorites. However, they aren't exactly cheap, and when you are feeding a family of 5, including 2 teens and 1 pre-teen, you definitely need more than one bag for a hearty, filling meal. I just knew this was something I could make at home. They would be fresher, tastier, healthier and cheaper!

My first attempts involved using veggie ground round, a vegetarian ground beef substitute. Honestly, they weren't that good. And, the veggie ground round cost almost as much as the meatballs. Plus, they were sort of a pain in the neck to make.

Next, I tried tofu balls. I really liked them, but Mike did not. He thinks he doesn't like tofu. In reality, he only doesn't like tofu that he can see or taste. Or, if he knows it's in there. I have to be sneaky about tofu use:-)

My latest spark of genius was to try bean balls! I was completely inspired by a recipe I found in "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman. Have you seen this book? Nearly 1000 pages of, literally, how to cook everything. How to peel it, how to cut it, how to cook it in many different ways, how to change it, how to serve it. I borrowed it from the library and I don't want to give it back. It definitely requires a renewal or two, just to get through it all.

So... I took the recipe for "The Simplest Bean Burgers." I changed it a little bit, to make it more compatible with Italian marinara sauce; shaped it into little balls, and baked them up. They were very, very good!! Here's the adapted recipe:

2 C cooked chickpeas, or 1 can, rinsed and drained (if they are homemade, reserve a bit of the bean-cooking liquid)
1 medium onion, quartered
1/2 C rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder, or granulated garlic, or 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg (I did use a real egg)
bean-cooking liquid or stock, if necessary

Combine everything in the food processor and pulse until chunky (not pureed). Add a little bit of liquid, if necessary, to make a nice moist mixture that holds together well. (I think I added too much liquid, so be judicious.)
Let mixture rest a few minutes. In the fridge if possible. Even better, if you have time, make the mixture well ahead of time and let it chill in the fridge for a while. I did this and it makes the mixture much easier to handle.
Next, make the balls. I used a small cookie scoop, about 1 Tbs size. Smaller is better. (!)
Place the bean balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 for about 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.

The bean balls were very tasty; everyone loved them. They seemed a little bit fragile, so I just piled them onto plates and then ladled sauce on top, instead of actually cooking them in the sauce. Very good!

However.... not perfect. Yet. Next, I was reading some recipes in "Veganomicon" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero... have you checked out this cookbook? Oh, my. You really, really should. But, let's stick to bean balls, for now. They have a recipe for chickpea cutlets, which I simply had to try. They are sort of similar to the bean balls with one major exception: they use vital wheat gluten, which gives them a very firm texture, like seitan. They were delicious, though I might have made mine a bit too thin, so they were perhaps a bit too firm. Easily remedied with lots of gravy:-)

So... my next experiment will be to try to merge the two recipes into the absolutely most perfect bean balls!! I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, do try the bean balls! They are delicious and you won't be disappointed.

Oh~ have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
With many thanks~

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Yoga DVD is HERE!

That was quick! The yoga DVD arrived yesterday, so I thought I'd explore it a little bit with you. It's called "OM Yoga & Meditation Workshop." The presenters are Cyndi Lee and David Nichtern. Cyndi is a well-known yoga instructor and owner of the OM Yoga Studios in NYC. David is a meditation teacher, and also a musician.

When you open it up, there is a little booklet that explains the program along with some FAQs; there is a music CD; and then there is the workshop DVD.

The booklet explains the background, what's on the DVD, how to prepare for yoga and meditation practice, and what the benefits of each practice are. There are also details about the music CD and additional products/websites for you to use to continue your practice.

The music CD is really good. As expected, it's 10 tracks of relaxing, east-to-listen to music, suitable for practicing yoga to or just listening to. The thing that I really like about it is that it's not the slow, ethereal, new age-y music that I usually practice yoga to. While the "typical" music is very relaxing and soothing, it can also get boring, and I'm ready for a bit of a change. The tracks are mostly instrumental; only 2 or 3 tracks have words. The music is a bit more jazz-y than you might expect, yet still relaxing and perfect for yoga practice.

The workshop DVD has 4 yoga and 5 meditation sessions, each about 15 minutes in length. I think this is my favorite part! I often put off my yoga practice (or meditation) because I don't have much time, but I can always find 15 minutes. It's divided into 4 sections, with each section having a meditation practice and then a yoga sequence. Of course, you can mix it up a little bit, or do only one part or another.

The first part is called "Making Friends with Yourself." The meditation portion is very introductory and thorough. David tells you how to seat yourself comfortably, where to put your hands, how to hold your eyes. (slightly open!) He then leads you through a very simple meditation, focusing on your breath. I enjoyed it, and it is perfectly suitable for someone who has never meditated before.

Then, Cyndi leads a yoga sequence. She says the yoga on this DVD is suitable for beginner or intermediate students, and I agree, providing the beginner student has had some prior yoga instruction. This is not an instructional DVD, it's a yoga practice. I wouldn't recommend this DVD as your very first yoga class, but it's great if you've taken a few classes or done some instructional DVDs and are ready for more. Cyndi starts with some seated stretches, then downward dog, then several sun salutations in a row. They aren't too vigorous, but they will get your heart pumping. The first couple of sun salutations use the "knees-chest-chin" version of chaturanga dandasana (yoga push-up); then she moves into a full chaturanga dandasana. Of course, you are free to modify any/all of the poses, provided you know how to modify. After some gentle spinal twists, Cyndi moves you into halasana (plow pose) and then shoulderstand. Again, not difficult poses if you've had some instruction.

So far, the DVD is a lot of fun! I will share more information about the rest of the tracks later. Until then.... happy yoga!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Don't Like Pie!

There. I've said it, loud and clear, for all the world to hear. I sincerely do not like pie.

That's not to say that I've never eaten pie, or that I won't ever eat pie again. There is one part of the pie that's quite good: the inside. The outside is yukky. That's correct: I don't like crust. I don't like it thick, or thin; flaky or doughy; homemade or frozen. I don't like it with butter, or oil, or shortening. I just don't like it.

I like the insides, usually. I love baked apples and cherries. And blueberries! I love the inside of pecan pie, even though I'm not sure exactly what the gooey stuff is. Key lime pie isn't bad. Overall, I'll pass on coconut cream, or any of the pudding fillings. And, I'm sorry to to say, that does include pumpkin.

I'll give you that there's nothing like the smell of pumpkin pie and spices wafting out of the oven. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it! But then, I take a bite, and it's all pudding-y and crusty and it's just not my thing. Pumpkin bread: yes! Pumpkin cookies: absolutely! Pumpkin pie: I'll pass.

I realize that I am an anomaly, both in my family and probably, in my country. So, concessions must be made. I will share with you two ways I wriggle around the pie requirements.

First off is the Impossible Pumpkin Pie. (Thanks for the link, Karen!!) This comes to you courtesy of Susan Voisin of the Fatfree Vegan Blog, at Okay, remember those "impossible pies" from the Bisquick mix boxes? Like, "impossible cheeseburger pie"? Where you mix up a bunch of stuff, pour it into a pan, and it automatically makes its own crust? Yes, it's like that, and it's really that easy. You just put some stuff into a blender, blend it, pour it into the pie plate and bake it. There are no weird ingredients or anything. Does it taste good? I don't know. Have you forgotten already? I don't like pie! Here's the one I made yesterday, and today, it's gone, so I guess the four pie-eaters in the house think it tastes pretty good!

If you want to try it yourself, here is the link to the recipes and some lovely pictures on Susan's blog: You should really spend some time browsing around there, for delicious recipes and beautiful photographs.

The big question is always: What about Thanksgiving? It's almost illegal NOT to have some kind of pie on Thanksgiving, right? I solve this problem by making Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie. First of all, it has a graham cracker crust. I don't love it, but it's not bad. You can make your own or buy one pre-made; makes no difference to me. The filling is just pumpkin, any kind of vanilla ice cream (made with rice milk, or soy milk, or cow's milk), brown sugar and spices. Incredibly easy, perfect to make ahead of time, and even I will eat it! Here's the recipe, if you want to give it a try:

Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

  • 1 C canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • 1 9" graham cracker pie crust

Combine first 4 ingredients. Mix until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the slightly softened ice cream. Pour into pie crust. Freeze 4-6 hours or until firm. Garnish with chopped pecans and whipped cream.

One final note: The rest of my family likes it topped with whipped cream, but not me. You see, I don't like whipped cream! But, that's a topic for another time:-)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Prize, A Recipe, A Secret

First of all, I won something!! I was checking my email the other day, and one had a subject line that said: "WINNER YBBM OM yoga DVD." At first, I thought perhaps I had won the British lottery AGAIN. My finger hovered over the delete key, but I thought, "Wait a minute...." I suddenly remembered that I had entered a contest! The contest was sponsored by the OM Yoga Studios in New York City, and the grand prize was a trip to Kripalu to attend a weekend workshop called "Yoga Body, Buddha Mind." All I had to do was tell them why I love OM yoga, in 200 words or so.

The fact is, I DO love OM yoga. I've never been to their studios, but I took a workshop with Cyndi Lee (studio owner) a couple of years ago at the Yoga Journal Conference in San Francisco. She is an amazing teacher and really helped me to connect-the-dots with some of my physical issues with yoga as well as my spiritual practice. So, I wrote a few paragraphs and sent it in. And, I actually won something!! No, I didn't win the trip to Kripalu, but I'm not sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I won an OM yoga DVD and I'm simply thrilled! Thinking positively, I will be able to watch the DVD over and over again and study it and really learn. I will be sure to post a review as soon as I receive it. Meanwhile, many thanks to Cyndi and everyone at OM.

Now, for a quick recipe. Did you ever just get a craving for something, and then eat it and eat it and eat it some more, and love every single bite? That's where I'm at right now. I made this white bean spread and I love it to pieces. The very best way to eat it is thickly spread on a piece of toast, or, even better, a whole grain bagel. My mouth is watering. The beans make it almost buttery, and the pine nuts give it a little bit of richness. If you feel the craving coming on, give it a try:

White Bean Spread

2 Tbs pine nuts
1 clove garlic
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (reserve juice if organic)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
optional: chopped fresh parsley or other fresh herb, to taste
Salt (1 tsp, +/-)
pepper to taste
optional: dash of Tabasco sauce

Pulse the garlic and pine nuts in the food processor until nuts are chopped finely.
Add the cannellini beans, olive oil, and a couple of Tbs of the reserved bean juice (or warm water or broth) and process well, until smooth. Add the lemon juice, optional parsley and salt and pepper, and pulse to combine.
That's basically it. It tastes better if you can let it set a bit before digging in. I sometimes add the Tabasco if I'm using it as a dip. So good.

Finally, I'm going to share one of my secrets. It's a knitting secret. It's a knitting project that I started a long time ago and never finished. I have no idea why! I love the yarn, love the project, hope to finish it eventually. I just don't feel like it! How's that for an excuse? I'm hoping that by digging it out, taking a picture, and sharing it with my hundreds of readers (that was a joke!) I will get inspired to work on it again.

Without further ado, here is my scribble shawl/scarf: (see, I'm not even sure what it is!)

If you are not familiar with scribble scarves, it's a scarf knit with a laceweight/very thin yarn, and also with a very, very thick yarn, using big needles. It's sort of airy and open, but has an interesting texture with the thicker yarn. I'm using Rowan Kidsilk Haze and Colinette Giotto, a ribbon yarn. The effect is sort of... artsy.

Comments are welcome. "Rip it out!" "Finish it, for goodness sake!" "What is it?" These are all great comments. I'm just hoping for a little bit of inspiration!

(Did you notice that I was able to combine veggies, yoga and knitting in ONE post?? Don't expect to see that again:-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Loaf of Bread....

Call me crazy; I can take it. I just can't take any more high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils. I don't want them in my food or in my house or in my body. They are not welcome here! I'm not going to go into a lot of explanations here, but rest assured that high fructose corn syrup is a cheap sugar substitute that the body doesn't even recognize as a food, and that partially hydrogenated oils are the worst kinds of fat you can ingest. Nuff said.

Yesterday, I stopped by gigantic store-which-shall-remain-nameless in search of some hot dog buns for some Tofurky sausage "hoagies" for dinner last night. I was SO MAD that I could not find any hot dog buns without the offending ingredients! Hamburger buns, yes; hot dog buns, no. Why? As I read the ingredients on the hamburger buns, I was sort of stunned by the long list. I decided that I really didn't want any of that stuff in my home, so I decided to roll my own:-) (Sorry; that just worked so well there, don't you think?)

Now, time was not exactly at a premium, having wasted the entire morning reading labels at gigantic store, among other things. So, I needed something quick. As I pulled into the garage, my headlights illuminated: THE BREAD MACHINE. I got the bread machine as a wedding gift, oh those 17+ years ago, and I used to love it. Somewhere along the way, our love affair staled... maybe when the Kitchen Aid mixer moved in. Then, I became all about shapes and crusts and textures, and the bread machine moved to the garage. But yesterday, I remembered the "Dough" cycle. You know, where the machine mixes and rises for you, then you can pull the dough out and shape it and bake it however you wish!

I found an old recipe that can be used for rolls, changed it, and let 'er rip. The dough was a bit sticky, but I rolled out some little logs, let them rise again, and popped them into the oven. The results were... delicious! They were sturdy little rolls that tasted simple and lovely.

Today, Tuesday, is my crazy-busy day. I planned on a pot of soup for dinner and thought I'd pick up some bread at the store, but the bread machine was still sitting on the counter, so I thought: why not? Juggled a little bit, guessed on the baking time and the bread is ready and waiting for dinner! Here is a picture of today's loaf, and one leftover roll from yesterday:

Here is the recipe, if you still have your bread machine sitting around:

Easy Bread or Rolls

(NOTE: on the first day I used a real egg; on the second day I used Ener-G egg replacer. They both worked fine. I used olive oil, but you could use canola oil or even melted butter/spread. I used soy milk, but I'm sure it would work fine with rice milk or dairy milk.)

1/2 C soy milk
1/2 C water
equivalent of 1 large egg
1 Tbs olive oil
1-1/2 C all purpose flour
1-1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 Tbs. vital wheat gluten
1 tsp salt
1 scant Tbs yeast

Place ingredients into your bread machine and set for the dough cycle.
When it beeps, turn out your dough onto a lightly floured surface.
Form into a large "log" for a large loaf of bread, or, divide into about 8 equal pieces. Roll out into mini logs for hot dog buns, or mini rounds for hamburger buns.
Place shaped loaves onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, which has been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover lightly with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise again for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Place the baking sheet in the center rack and bake until lightly browned. It will take 15-20 minutes or so for the rolls, depending on size, and about 30 minutes for the large loaf.

That's it for today; tvp recipes coming soon, I promise!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mad About Tweed!

First, the sweater. Yes, I did finish it! I washed it and carefully blocked it and let it dry, and then I tried it on. The verdict: well, I don't love it. I want to love it, I really, really do!! But, I don't. Even though I swatched, and washed the swatch, and carefully measured, and tried on, it's just not quite what I had hoped for. Now that I look at it, I wonder if I made the smartest choice of patterns? Do I really need a sweater that HUGS my tummy? It feels a little snug. And the sleeves are snug. I'm not really sure. I'm going to let it chill out in my closet for a while and then try it on again, with different things under it, and hope I'll change my mind.

However, I am NOT daunted!! Not in the least!! I love knitting top down sweaters right now and I'm going to give it another whirl. I'm even willing to try "bottom up" sweaters, if they are knit in the round. Different pattern, different gauge, different yarn, namely: TWEED. I don't know why, but I'm suddenly, inexplicably smitten with tweed! I found some beautiful tweed on sale at, and WEBS has some Cascade tweed on sale. So, now I am in search of the perfect sweater pattern, one that will be suitable in tweed.

Here's how my search is going: I started with this book, appropriately titled "Tweed" by Nancy J. Thomas. There are some seriously beautiful sweaters here, especially the Carrick Pullover, a tweedy, ribbed turtleneck. However, all of these patterns are knit in pieces and then seamed together. I don't feel like doing that right now, for whatever reason. And I'm certainly not ready to do a major pattern conversion yet. So, my search continues...

I love Wendy Bernard's blog and patterns (, and I heard that her new book, "Custom Knits," is all about top-down sweaters, so I decided to check it out. This could be "IT"!! Beautiful patterns, truly, with detailed directions (which I need) and customization options! I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I am anxious to get started. I love many of the patterns and I hope I can figure them out. And, find one that will be perfect in tweed!! Maybe this one?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ahimsa, and More About Food :-)

I don't intend on writing a novel about yogic philosophy; others are much better at that than I am. All I am really planning on doing today is explaining a tiny bit about yoga and how it relates to the food I eat. Or don't eat.

In this country, we tend to think of yoga as a strictly physical practice. Stretching, posing, balancing and twisting come to mind. In its origins, yoga is much more than a physical practice. In fact, the physical postures (asana) are a very small part of what yoga is all about.

The first person to actually write down details about yoga was a man named Patanjali, sometime between 500 and 200 BC. His writings are known as "The Eight-Limb Path of Yoga", also called "The Eight-Fold Path." They describe eight different parts (or limbs), which are further broken down into 196 succinct lessons on the nature of the human condition, human potential, and how the potential can be realized. The asana (postures) are only one of the eight limbs.

Two of the limbs are the yamas and the niyamas, which are the five moral restraints and five observances, respectively. Narrowing our focus to the yamas, we look at the very first yama, which is ahimsa. Ahimsa roughly translates to mean "non-violence." When I first thought about non-violence, I thought about physical violence, and I was almost dismissive, thinking this couldn't possibly apply to me! I am not a physically violent person! However, as is often the case, non-violence goes much deeper than the physical level.

Ahimsa pertains to non-violence to self and to others, in thoughts, words and deeds. Oh. I get it. The very first thing I thought was: Oh, I am so stupid! The second thing was: Oh, wait a minute. Was that thought violent towards myself? And the simple answer: Yes. Listen to the chatter in your head. How often do you think bad thoughts about yourself? If you are like me, it's a scary realization how often I put myself down in my head. What about thinking bad thoughts about others? Gossip? Just being mean? These are all the things I work on, constantly.

Many people believe that ahimsa is the cornerstone of yoga, perhaps even the most important aspect. I have heard of ahimsa being described as "the opposite of love." When I was in my yoga teacher training program, my teacher just assumed we were all vegetarians. I admitted I was not and didn't understand what eating meat had to do with yoga. I came to understand that non-violence to others doesn't just refer to other humans. My teacher asked that I stopped eating meat for at least one month and studied ahimsa, and how it pertains to animals. That was the beginning of my vegetarian journey.

I stopped eating meat and I felt so much better, and happier, and... lighter, maybe. And I studied and learned and deepened my understanding of ahimsa, how it relates to me personally, and how it relates to our world. I don't expect everyone to agree with or understand my decision. I try not to be judgemental of what anyone chooses to eat. I understand that our society defines food as "meat and potatoes," and I don't forget that, for most of my life, so did I. This month, I celebrate my 10th year of being vegetarian. I am not, nor have I ever been perfect! To me, it's more about being aware and making conscious, informed choices, about the food I eat, and about the way I live my life.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Come and Bake With Me!!

Am I the only one who likes "falling back"? I love waking up feeling well-rested and refreshed and realizing it's only 7:00am! I love it when the days get shorter, and it gets dark earlier, and I can snuggle up inside with a fire in the fireplace and cookies, cobbler or pie in the oven. Yes, that's what I said: Cookies and cobblers and pies, OH MY!
Yes, I am very health and nutrition conscious. I watch and worry about everything my family eats. I am into healthy eating; I'm NOT into deprivation! Besides, I know the kids are going to eat baked goods anyway. I'd much rather have them eat something I bake at home than anything store-bought. I know I'm not alone here!

So this year, as the darkness creeps in earlier and the holidays approach and the urge to bake strikes, I am more prepared than ever. I am not going to dig out the index cards, the newspaper and magazine clippings, or the post-it note recipes. I have everything I need in one place: "The Joy of Vegan Baking" by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau!

WAIT!!! Don't close the blog window just because you saw the word "vegan"!! I promise you, these are recipes that everyone will love. No weird, hard to find ingredients; just pure delicious! I have made an embarrassing number of these recipes and I assure you, not one crumb has been left by any vegetarian, vegan or omnivore who cared to indulge!

This is a big, beautiful book filled with color photos. Colleen gives clear explanations about all of her substitutions, including what to use for eggs and butter. There are tips throughout the book for making the preparations even easier, not that any of them are difficult. There is also a lot of fun "food lore," with which you can dazzle your friends with your brilliance, or pick up a few extra points while playing "Jeopardy."

And the recipes. Oh, the recipes. Let's be clear: these are not health food recipes. They are REAL baked goods, with sugar and spice and everything nice; just no animal products or by-products. The chapters include muffins and biscuits, quick breads, cakes, pies, cookies, pastries, yeast breads, puddings, candies, smoothies, beverages, toppings, and so much more. No one is recommending that you indulge in these foods every day; but when you do indulge, these recipes are the ones you should make. (Although, I could easily make a case for eating the Waffles II every single day! The recipe is oil-free and you just whip up the waffle batter in your blender!) But, I digress.

I have to say a few words about Colleen, who I have never met, yet I feel like I know her from her blog and podcasts. She is a fantastic cook who is passionate about sharing her compassion for animals. Please, check out what she has to say at: I guarantee that you will be both educated and moved by her words.

Colleen gave me permission to share one of her recipes with you. It was a difficult choice, because honestly, every single thing I've made from her cookbook has been wonderful. In the end, I decided to share her recipe for chocolate brownies. This is a recipe I've made several times and we all love it. These are thick, moist, chewy brownies, sure to please. I feel really good about these brownies because, while there is fat from the chocolate chips and nuts (ooh, ooh, nuts have GOOD fats:-), there is no added oil or fat. Here is my latest batch, fresh out of the oven: (sorry I didn't clean up the baking dish a bit, but notice it's my Le Creuset dish:-)

Chocolate Brownies

1-1/2 C granulated sugar
3/4 C unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbs water
2 tsp ground flaxseeds
1/2 C water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/3 C unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 C nondairy semisweet chocolate chips
1 C coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. With canola oil, grease an 8x8 inch baking pan.
In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, applesauce and 2 Tbs water.
In a small bowl or food processor, combine ground flaxseed with 1/2 C water. Add this to the applesauce mixture, along with vanilla and stir to combine.
In a separate small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, chocolate chips and nuts. Add to the applesauce mixture and stir just to combine.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, or longer if you like a cakier result.
Let cool before cutting. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (AS IF!!) or in the freezer up to 3 months.

You will love these, and all the recipes in this book. No, it's not "healthy" food, but it's a much better option. Better for your body, better for the animals, better for the planet.