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Roasted Cauliflower with Smoky Dipping Sauce

 

Roasted Cauliflower with Smoky Dipping Sauce

 

I love me some cauliflower!

It hasn’t always been that way, though. It’s not something I ever really ate, growing up, and my passing encounters with it were limited to the occasional raw veggie platters at parties and gatherings, where I picked carefully around the odd, white, broccoli-wannabe for my more familiar favorites. Eventually, I decided that maybe cauliflower deserved another chance from me and the rest, as they say, is history.

I think part of the reason I like cauliflower so much is that it’s so versatile. You can mash it, you can “rice” it, you can turn it into a soup and you can roast it, which happens to be my favorite way to enjoy it.

Although it’s super delicious on its own, you can bump up the “wow!” factor of a simple batch of roasted cauliflower by pairing it with a lip-smackin’ dipping sauce. This one, which is a bit tangy, a little spicy and has a bold, smoky undertone, is my favorite go-to. (This dip is also delicious as a spread on a sandwich or atop a baked potato.) It only requires a few ingredients and is a cinch to make.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika*
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper*
  • salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Wash cauliflower thoroughly and chop into bite-sized segments.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cauliflower, olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer cauliflower to a baking dish and roast for about 35 minutes, or until edges begin to brown.
  5. While cauliflower is roasting, combine mayo, vinegar, paprika and cayenne and mix well. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Allow cauliflower to cool for 5 minutes, then serve immediately with sauce on the side.

 

*I tend to be a bit heavy-handed when it comes to spices. If your tastebuds don’t like heat and smokiness quite as much as mine do, add a bit less paprika and/or cayenne.

Makes about 3 servings.

How do you feel about cauliflower? What’s your favorite way to eat it?


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Three Things: New Year’s Edition

word three

Happy 2015!! I hope your holidays were full of happiness, love and laughter.

January 1, 2015 marked a new chapter in each of our lives; a blank slate; a chance to begin anew.

Although I’ve never really been one for making resolutions, I have really been enjoying my monthly goal-setting initiatives, so I’m going to continue doing so into the new year. As we roll into 2015, though, there are three specific things I’d like to try to focus on in 364 days ahead — my ‘resolutions,’ if you will:

  • eat cleaner
  • write more
  • bump up my activism

Whether or not you made a resolution this year, I invite you to share your own goals for the month or the year ahead in the comments. I think it’s important to always maintain a list of goals and I believe that it’s one of the best ways to ensure continual personal growth. I can tell you from experience, that when you share your goals with others, you’re much more likely to stick with them and see them through. And remember to always strive for progress, not perfection. We are all works in progress and need time to evolve into the best versions of ourselves!

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2015 be the best year, yet!

P.S. — If you’re hoping to dip your toes in the vegan waters this year, or maybe you just want to eat fewer animal-based products, check out the awesome vegan resource round-up that Melissa from It’s Got Vegan In It put together. Her list takes a lot of the guesswork and mystery out of the vegan equation.


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Mineral Fusion Nail Polish: A Review

MF_Nail_Color_Galaxy

I’m not usually a fan of blue nail polish or glittery nail polish.

To me, blue and glitter just scream “I’m a tween!” or, maybe more accurately, based on some of the more interesting folks I’ve seen sporting blue glitter polish, “I’m forty but I think I’m a tween!,”  but when I saw “Galaxy” by Mineral Fusion in Whole Foods, something came over me and I had to have it!

I’ve known about Mineral Fusion for some time and have a few of their body washes and lotions. I’d been wanting to try their nail polishes, specifically, because they’re vegan, cruelty-free and are formulated without formaldehyde, toulene, camphor, dibutyl pthalate and some other hard-to-pronouce nasties. That’s hard to find in a nail polish, and especially hard to find in mainstream store offerings.

That particular day, bottles of Mineral Fusion nail polish were on sale for $5.99 at Whole Foods — a decent price, I thought — and I was debating between “Galaxy” and”Royal Rubble,” a dark plum. Then, I spotted a three piece mini set in the holiday gifts section for $9.99 and screamed a little silent scream, out of excitement. The mini set made up my mind for me. It included both “Galaxy” and “Royal Rubble” as well as a third cranberry color, “Berried Gem.”

polish kit

As soon as I got home (after unpacking groceries, actually), I busted open that baby and treated myself to a DIY mani with the “Galaxy” shade. It’s a dark blue base, with fine blue shimmer and chunks of iridescent glitter. The name is definitely fitting — it’s reminiscent of a bright, starry night sky, but the green and silvery iridescence in the glitter also reminds me a bit of a mermaid’s tail, as well. It’s really beautiful and surprisingly subtle. Anyone can wear this polish with sophistication without the risk of coming off as “tweeny.” Photographs really don’t do it justice. You have to see it in person to appreciate it, but here’s a shot of my hand after application of two coats:

fresh nails

I skipped top coat but quickly realized that that was a mistake. Although the polish claims to be chip-resistant, it started chipping the next day. I wasn’t surprised, though — I’m tough on my nails. I’ve had salon manicures chip the very next day. On day two, I applied top coat to just one thumb to see if made a difference, and it definitely did. After a week, this is how my nails looked:

7 days nails

So, obviously, top coat is a very smart idea (Mineral Fusion makes one, as well as a base coat and a cuticle treatment)!

After about a week, I said goodbye to my “Galaxy” nails and decided to try out the other shades. They’re pretty, but “Galaxy” is definitely my fave of the bunch.

nails

If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer, a gift for a beauty product junkie or a little something for yourself this holiday, pick up a bottle of this polish or try out a few shades with a mini kit. “Galaxy” would be stunning for a New Year’s Eve celebration, but there are 60 other color choices, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find something for all the nail polish lovers on your list!

So… Get shopping! There are only 11 more shopping days ’til Christmas! :)

Have any of you tried out Mineral Fusion’s products? What’s your favorite cruelty-free nail polish brand?


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Escarole Soup aka Ball Soup

escarole soup

It goes by many names.

In my family, we call it “escarole soup.” It’s “ball soup” to my husband and his family. I’ve also heard it referred to as “Italian wedding soup.” Whatever you call it, if you’re of Italian descent, a version of this soup is probably floating around somewhere in your family’s recipe books. Traditionally, my family eats escarole soup on Thanksgiving and my husband’s grandmother prepared it on holidays and by special request, on birthdays.

My grandmother’s version features escarole and tiny meatballs in a savory broth and it’s topped with small bread cubes. Anthony’s grandmother’s was similar, but instead of bread cubes, included acini di pepe pasta — the ‘balls’ in ball soup.

This past Thanksgiving, we celebrated with my side of the family and since we’re the only two veg heads of the bunch, decided to bring along some special holiday take-out from Wildflower to ensure we’d have plenty to eat.

And plenty we had.

Look at this plate of goodness!:

wildflower thanksgiving

If you’re in South Jersey and haven’t been to Wildflower in Millville yet, what are you waiting for?! Get. There. Now!

Anyway… back to the soup…

In addition, my grandmom made us a special batch of escarole soup, sans meatballs and prepared with veggie broth instead of meat broth. It was delicious and brought back fond childhood memories for both of us.

This week, we decided to try our hand at a batch of our own escarole/ball soup, tweaked to be vegan, of course, and by Anthony’s request, with acini di pepe, and it turned out just as yummy as we’d hoped. It’s simple and delicious and is perfect for a filling, warm supper on a cold, winter day.

Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 heads escarole (green and white parts), washed and chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 vegetarian bullion cube
  • 1 16-oz. box acini di pepe pasta
  • salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare:

  1. In a large soup pot, sautee onions and garlic in olive oil over low heat, until onions are translucent.
  2. Add escarole and continue to cook over low heat until escarole wilts down.
  3. Add vegetable broth.
  4. Dissolve bullion in hot water and add to pot.
  5. Continue to cook over low heat for about 3o minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Prepare acini di pepe pasta to “al dente,” according to package directions.
  7. Add drained pasta to soup, mix and add salt and pepper, to taste.

 

Yields about 8-10 servings

I topped my soup with a sprinkle of grated vegan parm and some crushed red pepper flakes. And I made sure I had a big hunk of crusty bread, for dipping!

Do you have a recipe for escarole soup/ball soup/Italian wedding soup in your family? What’s yours like?

Have you ever veganized a favorite family recipe?


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Three Things: December

mirror 3

Oopsies… It’s the third of December and I just realized I’m late with posting my Three Things!

Life’s been a little hectic around here lately — job stuff, prepping to move, getting ready for the holidays… — so I’m going to take it easy on myself this month and try to just enjoy this time of year. It’s my very favorite and always seems to slip by so quickly. I don’t want that to happen this year.

Here are my goals for this month:

  • go to a Christmas parade
  • use the spa gift card I’ve been holding on to for more than a year
  • start planning my 30th birthday volunteer trip (it’s only a year away!!)

Happy December, everyone! What are your goals for this month?

PS — Here are some adorable dogs singing “The Christmas Song.” Just because…


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You’re A Hypocrite, Thanksgiving

turkey hypocrisy

I just don’t get Thanksgiving.

It just seems like a big, fat hypocrisy to me.

Let me explain…

On this day, Thanksgiving, we gather with the ones we love to celebrate and give thanks for all the blessings we’ve received. And on this day, the star of the show, the creme de la creme, is the tortured and mutilated, yet perfectly basted, stuffed and roasted turkey.

The turkey, which, ironically, was not even a part of the very first Thanksgiving way back in 1621.

The turkey, which Ben Franklin argued would make for a much more appropriate national symbol than the eagle.

The turkey, of which one or two of its species are “pardoned” by the President each year. For what crime? Being born?

The turkey, which is genetically modified to grow so quickly and so unnaturally large that their bodies become too huge for them to move, leaving them with heart problems and painful deformities.

The turkey, which is crudely de-beaked and de-toed (without anesthesia) to prevent injuries to other birds while forced to live in filthy, cramped spaces.

The turkey, which is slaughtered at only 5 months of age — just a baby, and under no protection by any humane slaughter laws — for the sake of a damn tradition.

I just can’t wrap my head around that.

What is a tradition, anyway? Dictionary.com defines a tradition as “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice,” but, put more simply, isn’t it something you do just for the simple reason that you’ve always done it and those around you always have?

Think about that. How much sense does it really make?

I think this meme sums up the notion of “tradition” perfectly:

tradition

And you can replace “stupid” with another adjective, like, “cruel” or “wrong” and the point still sings very clearly. Just because something — a tradition — has been a certain way for so long, that doesn’t make it right. And it doesn’t mean it has to continue.

Why can’t Thanksgiving traditions change and evolve to include showing thanks for all blessings and all life, instead of just some? During this time of year, we’re keen to the suffering of others and offer to help in the ways we can — we donate food to the hungry, we buy toys to give to kids who wouldn’t get Christmas gifts, otherwise, we gladly donate our outgrown coats to make sure the homeless stay warm through the winter — but we’re absolutely oblivious to the suffering that’s right in front of us, on our plates.

If we only stopped for a moment and really thought about our food — what it is and where it comes from — maybe things would be different.

This poem, written by my favorite poet — the brilliant Shel Silverstein — will do that for you, if you don’t want to do it yourself:

point of view poem

 

If only we sent our kids to animal sanctuaries for their field trips, instead of zoos, maybe things could be different.

If only we weren’t so reluctant to question the status quo, maybe things could be different.

If only we could look past our blind ignorance to the fact that every action we take — including the foods we choose to eat — affect so much more than just ourselves.

But instead, tradition continues. People go on eating turkey on Thanksgiving because, that’s just what you’re supposed to do. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say that they don’t really even like turkey, but they eat it on Thanksgiving, anyway, because it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if they didn’t.

Really? Really?! Is that really what Thanskgiving is about? The food?

Would Thanksgiving be any less special if it didn’t include a turkey? If you said that yes, it would, I think it may be time to reexamine your priorities. Any maybe consider getting a new group to celebrate with. Thanksgiving is about the memories, the conversation, the laughter, the moments shared with loved ones. Not about the food. And certainly, not about the turkey.

For me, Thanksgiving has never quite been the same since becoming vegan. Although a day full of time well-spent making memories with my loved ones, it’s incredibly difficult to look at the world through compassion-colored glasses and not have a different viewpoint on Thanksgiving. Truthfully, it makes me sad. My sadness is, first and foremost, for the turkeys, but also for those who just can’t see or who refuse to see how the choices we make affect each other, other species and our planet.

That’s why I’m incredibly grateful for the small glimmers of hope that show that things can and are beginning to change. Pieces such as this, on mainstream media, highlight the wonderful programs that animal sanctuaries around the country have been holding for years. Celebrations where guests feed the turkeys, instead of the other way around offer guests a chance to hang out with these incredibly social and friendly birds up-close. I haven’t attended one such celebration yet, but having spent time with turkeys during visits to sanctuaries over the last few years, I can assure you that if you got the opportunity to get to know a turkey, you would definitely think twice about digging into his/her cousin lying in front of you on the Thanksgiving table. Many sanctuaries are offering turkey sponsorships (we “adopted” Lennon, who lives at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. We met him during our visit last month and he is awesome!) and a collective art project called 46millionturkeys is raising awareness of the plight of turkeys in this country. Some awesome and compassionate people even open up their hearts and homes, adopting turkeys and allowing them to live out their lives, ensuring that they’ll never become someone’s Thanksgiving dinner.

So maybe, just maybe, things are slowly beginning to change. That will lessen the sadness just a bit on Thursday.

Lennon selfie

Someone close to me told me I shouldn’t post this piece. That I shouldn’t push my views on anyone else and that, frankly, no one wants to hear about this stuff. At first, I was taken back, but then I came to the realization that that is exactly the reason why I needed to post it. Because it’s true. People don’t want to hear about it and they’ll do everything possible to make sure that they don’t. They’re not going to stumble upon this information on their own, so if things are going to change, I’m going to have to put it out there for them to see. Present some facts. Spark some change. Change has never happened because someone stayed quiet. And that’s why I won’t.

So, if I come off as a zealot, maybe I am. If this sounds like a rant, I agree. It does. If it seems like I’m condemning all turkey-eaters, though, that was not my purpose with this piece. I’m not forcing anything on anyone. All I am trying to do is open a few eyes.

I make no apologies, though. I started typing this post and my heart just kind of burst open and spilled out into it. I can’t remain silent about the things I am most passionate about and sometimes I can come off a little intense. It’s how I deal with the feelings that I have that are so incredibly strong that sometimes they make me want to just curl up and cry and at other times, make me want to shake everyone I meet, bombard them with the truth and demand to know why they don’t seem to care at all. Compassion is a double-edged sword, both a blessing and a curse. I can’t find the words to describe it, accurately, but remarkably, stumbled upon them this morning in a post from the incredible Jenny Lawson, better known as The Bloggess, as she quoted social activist, Andrew Boyd:

compassion hurts

I’m working on it.

 

Consider making a new tradition this year. Try leaving turkey off your plate. I think you will find that dinner tastes a whole lot better without all that suffering, misery and hypocrisy.

May all beings know peace.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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