Category Archives: Articles

Indigo Ruby Tomatoes

On the Vine

Last year, Richard and I built a raised bed garden structure out of pecky cedar. We choose that wood because it is untreated, and thus, was in alignment with our desire to have an organic garden. We built it ourselves and had some much fun in the process.

There are 36 3-foot rebar, some inside and others on the outside of the lumber, holding the structure together. Six ton of what was supposed to be organic garden soil was delivered and dumped into the raised bed, whose inside measures 8’x16’. We had irrigation lines put in to ensure adequate and consistent watering, even when we would be out-of-town.

Now, I’m sort of getting ahead of myself here. I should tell you that I am a Jersey Girl, born, raised, and lived the vast majority of my life approximately 12-20 miles outside of Manhattan. Richard, on the other hand, is from Washington State. And here we are now in Northern Arizona, where the climate is dry, the air is hotter, and there are pretty much two growing seasons. Geez, were we (and still are) on a huge gardening learning curve. Continue reading Indigo Ruby Tomatoes

Memories of a July 4 Weekend with a Dear Friend, Her Cake Pan, and Dark-Chocolate Black-Bean Fudgy Cake Squares

Terri’s Cake Pan
Time to Sample!

My friend, Terri, passed away more than several years ago. Like me, she had a love for vegan cooking and an equitable adoration for kitchen gadgets/equipment/tools. One of the beautiful items she left to me was this 9’x13’ metal cake pan with a green lid, with “Vegan Goodies” and pinecones/leaves etched into the top. It’s beautiful; and whenever I pull it out to bake in it, I am immediately brought back to fond memories of Terry.

As a sidenote, I’ll share one of my favorites with you. In 2010, we took the 7 hour drive up to Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York for their July 4 Pignic. It was an idyllic weekend communing with all the beautiful farm animals that have been given a second chance and the ability to live out the remainder of their lives in peace, knowing love and compassion and no terror…a very different life from whence they came, factory farming. The weather was warm with a cooling breeze. We spent two full days on the farm and enjoyed their vegan barbeque and a couple of talks given by their more-than-adept staff. Continue reading Memories of a July 4 Weekend with a Dear Friend, Her Cake Pan, and Dark-Chocolate Black-Bean Fudgy Cake Squares

Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 3 – The Final Chapter – Unexpected Delights

Walking up and down Duval Street, live music abounds, pouring out of restaurants, clubs, and dives onto the streets. The joint that we seemed most drawn to, however, was Willie T’s. It was an open-air, outdoor patio with some of the tables under an overhang. The genre seemed to be predominantly, if not exclusively, solo guitar rock / sometimes margaritaville-like male singers. Each evening, we’d stop and stand on the sidewalk, taking in the sights and sounds. We quickly came to a consensus regarding our favorite—John LaMere. His shtick was classic rock band covers. Geez, could he ever pull of a Mellencamp (as in John Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp, now John Mellencamp)! It was not uncommon for me to break out in dance right there on the sidewalk! So, after our nightly sidewalk voyeuring, we decided that we would eat our final dinner at Willie T’s and arrive at the beginning of John LaMere’s set that evening. Continue reading Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 3 – The Final Chapter – Unexpected Delights

Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 2 – Hits & Misses

We awoke one morning, ravenous and deciding that we wanted to forego the vacation-standard, go-to, made in the room, smoothie. What to eat became the question. It was the only rainy day, at least it started out as such, so we decided to take a trek over to the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum, located in the Historic Seaport neighborhood. We fell into Two Friends Patio, one of the few remaining original Old Towne restaurants, established in 1967 and still family run. The place was hustling and bustling. Cutting straight down the middle of the restaurant, however, is an open walkway, so they had to close off some of the tables because of the rain. No one seemed to care, even those patrons who were graced with the occasional spray of rain. It really didn’t matter to us because, even though we had our all-weather jackets on, we were fairly damp already from the walk. We were hungry, that’s what mattered. And, they had a table with only about a 15 minute wait. Worked for us. Continue reading Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 2 – Hits & Misses

Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 1

Recently, my partner Richard and I had the exquisite joy of traipsing about Key West for a glorious nine days of fun and sun (and eating). Continue reading Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 1

It’s A Wrap

With summer approaching, I love making quick and delicious wraps. They are so versatile, from what you put in them to what you choose to wrap them. They get in and out of the kitchen quickly, pack well for a hike or picnic, and are very nutritious and satisfying. Continue reading It’s A Wrap

Weeds! Aargh–no more! All Natural Weed Killer

When I bought my home just outside of Sedona, Arizona, I was thrilled that I had rocks instead of grass. Living in the desert, landscaping that required irrigation was of no interest to me, both environmentally and in terms of the time commitment. No grass! WoooHoo!

Ah, but I didn’t realize how little soil, if seemingly any, weeds need to grow here in this arid climate. It seems they pop up literally overnight! Go away for several days, and the property seems almost overrun with those pesky weeds.

‘NO’ to Roundup or anything else like it

I refuse to use chemicals, and I can tell you that the task of pulling weeds is excruciatingly daunting, to say the least. Well, considering the fact that it is more my partner, Richard, rather than me with whom this task befalls more frequently than not, I suppose I ought not to be whining quite so much.

So, regardless of who is performing the task, it is not sustainable, especially when we moved out here to be outdoors, but we were thinking more like hiking/walking, etc. Well, gardening, too; but that’s different, and another story for another day.

After last summer, we were both dreading the arrival of the weeds this season. And lo and behold, I got to talking to one of the local landscapers, who told me he refuses to use chemicals, not only because of the environment but also because of his own health and wellbeing. He was kind enough to share his recipe with me. Honest, it works! It might take a day or two for the stubborn, sturdy weeds to bow out; but they do and will. Never fails.

  • Pour one gallon of white vinegar into a bucket. Everyday 5-percent household white vinegar is fine for this weed killer. Costco trip proved fruitful…under $7 for two one-gallon bottles of white distilled vinegar. You won’t need higher, more expensive concentrations such as 10 or 20 percent. It may take two or three days longer to kill the weeds with the lower concentration, but they will die.
  • Add one cup of table salt. Costco again, for the mega-sized bag for under $3. It will last a couple of seasons. Stir the solution with a long-handled spoon until all the salt dissolves completely.
  • Stir in 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap. This will act as a surfactant and make the vinegar and salt solution adhere to the weeds more efficiently. Blend thoroughly.
  • Funnel the weed killer into a plastic spray bottle. We took the plunge here and actually purchased a pump sprayer that holds the entire gallon mixture and has a handle sprayer. Sure made this job easy to simply walk around the property, aim, and spray. No bending, no pulling, no carpal tunnel pain from pumping the hand-held spray bottles. Well worth the $15 investment.
  • Drench the weeds with the solution on a dry, sunny day. Coat all surfaces well with the spray. Any plants soaked with this solution will die within several days. They won’t be back and nothing else will ever grow there.
  • Store sprayer in a cool, dark spot indefinitely.
  • Depending on where you live and how wet/dry it is, do your walk-about on regular intervals to keep yard weed-free. Here is the Verde Valley since we have not approached the monsoon season yet, once weekly suffices. Once we hit the rainy season; however, I’m sure we’ll need to do it more frequently.
  • Don’t forget to admire how lovely your yard looks and remains.

Creating An Exclusive, Extraordinary Vegan Night Out In An Omnivore Venue

May 4, 2017 was a beautiful and balmy evening in Old Towne Cottonwood, Arizona (just a stone’s through from Sedona). After a couple months of planning, the evening finally arrived. Veganification and Verde Valley Vegans, the Meetup Group that I sponsor/organize, converged upon Abbie’s Kitchen, a quaint, intimate artisan restaurant tucked inside a renovated bungalow.

  778 Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ 86326

For the entire evening, we had the restaurant all to ourselves. Now, I have to tell you that Abbie Ashford in not a vegan chef. In fact, her restaurant is not vegan nor vegetarian. However, that being said, Abbie is a culinary master. Typically, dining there is by reservation only. When you call, Abbie personally answers the phone; and even though she has a menu, she proceeds to ask you about your taste preferences and dietary requirements. After several times dining there, Abbie got to know my likes and dislikes; so when I call now, I just say, “surprise me”. Of course, I have never been disappointed. Abbie continues to delightfully astound this food snob’s palate with her dedication to culinary excellence.

Abbie Ashford

So, back to May 4….thirty people arrived, hungrily anticipating the evening’s prix fixe dinner extravaganza.

The dinner began with hummus and crudité with a garnish of roasted garlic cloves. Sugar snap peas alongside slices of cucumbers, carrots, and peppers made utensil-less vehicles to scoop up the hummus, which had a hint of lemon running through it. A nice way to awaken the palate for the next course.

Second course was a salad that was lightly dressed with Abbie’s homemade Moroccan lemon preserve dressing with a raw minted pea soup shooter, which had just the right amount of mint to make it apparent and enhance the flavor of the fresh peas but not overwhelming where it starts to taste like perfume (it is truly a work of art to get that flavorful balance done right).

The grilled platter was not your ordinary grilled veggies. We were delighted with peewee potatoes, asparagus, and fennel perched alongside an upright roasted tomato. What can I say, other than, YUM! The vegetables were warm yet still had a crispness to them. The integrity of each vegetable remained intact, even when topped with the herbaceous basil pine nut pesto, sans cheese.

Intermezzo – the palate cleanser – was a homemade lemon sorbet. A fresh and delicate way to acknowledge the introductory courses while preparing us for the Main Event …

Abbie’s quinoa and vegetable stuffed artichoke. Now, this was not just any artichoke. At any other restaurant where I’ve ordered a stuffed artichoke, they merely plopped a dollop of their ‘stuffing’ on the top of the middle leaves. Oh, but not Abbie. She first removed the choke, making the journey to the heart smooth sailing. She then filled not only that cavity with the stuffing but also stuffed all the leaves so that each leaf came off with a bite of quinoa and vegetables. So, let me tell you about the stuffing. This wasn’t your ordinary quinoa and vegetables. While it looked like simply quinoa that was tossed with some diced veggies, the flavor that Abbie imparted into that stuffing made it quite clear that she didn’t just throw this stuffing together. It was a very sophisticated mélange of flavors that beautifully complimented the earthiness of the artichoke leaf’s flesh. So, round and round we went, eating and savoring each leaf and its stuffing, dipping it sometimes first in melted compound herb butter that was served abreast the artichoke. Ah, fingers dripping from the ‘butter’, we got to the heart of the matter—the artichoke heart. It was delicate, soft, deliquescing in your mouth as it burst with its creamy, mildly somewhat nutty, sweetly earthy taste. I could have been done at this point, my palate who so incredibly sated…but wait, there was yet another course remaining…dessert!

If you’ve been following my blog, you might recall that I gave you my original recipe for my Limoncello Cake. It took five blog posts, Blogs 27-31, November 11-16, 2016. It starts with making homemade Limoncello, and then every component of the layer cake is all about the limoncello. Well, that was the main dessert offering.

However, for those individuals who avoid gluten and/or sugar, my friend Kaleah gave me her recipe for her raw chocolate cake topped with a vanilla cashew cream icing. Delightful!

And as if that wasn’t enough, Abbie brought out plates of chocolate dipped fresh strawberries with candied lemon peels.

As the night came to a close, we all decided that this MUST become an ongoing event. Thanks, Abbie Ashford and your staff for making May 4 truly A NIGHT TO REMEMBER AND SAVOUR!

Abbie, Luna, and Me

First Course

Hummus and Crudites with Roasted Garlic and Olives

Second Course

Moroccan Lemon Spring Harvest Salad with Minted Fresh Pea Soup Shooter

Third Course

Grill of Asparagus, Fennel, Potato, and Tomato Brushed with Basil Pesto

Fourth Course

Almond and Quinoa Filled Artichoke With Chive and Tarragon Compound “Butter”

Fifth Course

Veganification’s Limoncello Layer Cake With Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberry

Pulling this event together was not all that difficult; and I encourage you to do the same thing in your neck of the woods. It is a wonderful way to expose restaurants to the ease of adding vegan offerings to their menu while creating a unique way to build community.

Once Abbie agreed to the idea of the event, together we crafted the menu.

We decided on a prix fixe menu that not only included all five courses but also included non-alcohol homemade beverages, coffee and tea service, taxes, and gratuities. The only extra that someone who have to pay for would be wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverage.

Next step was to develop the flyer, which I did pulling together logos and the menu into a document. Flyers were printed and distributed at the local health food stores and handed out during my cooking demonstrations. I also emailed the flyer to my Veganification and Verde Valley Vegan contacts.

I used the Veganification website as the vehicle for ticket purchases. Since my Veganification trademark was officially approved on April 18, I had pins and pens made, which were strategically placed at each place setting. Easy breezy, actually. In fact, by the time the evening came, I was dressed up and ready to roll. There really wasn’t anything for me to do but enjoy the company of good friends, new friends, and excellent food.

So, reach out to your favorite non-veg restaurant in your area and do the same. Heck, if you have any questions, you can always reach out to me. I would be more than happy to share my experience and documents.  We’re in this together.

Phoenix Vegan Food Festival – Review

Saturday, February 25, started out with a bit of crispness in the air with the sun shining. A beautiful day for a vegan food festival, most of which was outdoors.

The location was the Phoenix Theater, an absolutely perfect place for the festival.

I arrived for the VIP opening, excited for the day to begin. I was greeted by the friendly staff, who handed me my Swag bag, which included some valuable coupons from Daiya Foods and Tofurky, along with many others. Samples included Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Egg, and bars from several companys, such as Raw Revolution Organic Bars, Go Macro Bars, and Kind Bars. Sir Kensington’s even included a small bottle of ketchup.

I had my plan of attack laid out….first, check out all the vendors; and second, get into the auditorium where the speakers would be early so I could get a center seat towards the front of the room (yes, I am one of those people who like to sit in the front of the classroom 🙂 .

Upon perusing the vendors, I have to admit that my wallet was also a frequent visitor. Thankfully, I had my swag bag to assist as storage compartment for my acquisitions as I meandered through the vendor aisles. So many wonderful items to choose from, from conscious clothing and accessories to the most mouth-watering vegan food. One of my favorite scores was from Grape Cat Vegan Clothing and Accessories, a matching wallet and coin purse, which are richly-colored in a dark fuchsia with a black cat on them. The wallet even came with a shoulder strap, so it could double as a purse. Oh, and vegan, of course! I really did damage at the stand, also purchasing two birthday presents for loved ones. But, shhhh! Please don’t tell, they are a surprise.

I adore anything Picasso, and at Davisson Studio, I scored a serving tray that I will use this upcoming Monday during my cooking demonstration. Isn’t is lovely?!

Ah, the food! It was absolutely everywhere…from nestled between the non-food vendors to an entire row of nothing but vegan food trucks! It was a vegan’s sensory overload with fragrant aromas coming from every nook and cranny. The list is far too long to include here; but suffice to say that it included area favs such as, 24 Carrots, Café Lalibela, Green New American Vegetarian, Pomegrante Café, Udupi Café. Food Truck Row, as I like to refer to it, included Affogato Truck, Loca Popa, Mustache Pretzrels, Pho King Kitchen, Mi Vegana Madre, to name a few. Oh my! Throughout the day, there were lines at all the stands and trucks, and rightfully so, for sure.

Knowing that I couldn’t eat my way through the festival (it would have been nice to do so; but I knew I wanted to hear the speakers, so off I went to the auditorium).

The speakers opened with Chef Madelyn Pryor, from The Vegan Taste. In addition to her amazing cooking prowess, she has an astounding sense of humor. What a delight! She prepared two raw blender soups that were flavorful, quick, and easy. When she realized she had forgotten the top to her VitaMix, she didn’t skip a beat. She grabbed a paper plate, and improvised.

Will Tucker, vegan body builder, owner of Will Tucker Fitness (WTF!) and contributor to Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine was electric. He talked about how his shifting to a plant-based, mostly fruit, diet transformed his professional body building competing into a winning run.

Jason Wyrick, from the Vegan Taste, was up next. What can I say about our local vegan chef hero! He is the author of two wonderful cookbooks (Vegan Tacos: Authentic and Inspired Recipes for Mexico’s Favorite Street Food and Vegan Mexico: Soul-Satisfying Regional Recipes from Tamales to Tostadas).   But more importantly, he tells his personal story of triumph from a life-threatening diagnosis to wellness as a result of shifting to a healthy, plant-based diet. For me personally, I LOVE, yes LOVE, his recipes! One of my biggest gripes with most vegan restaurants is their lack of seasonings, thus resulting in boring, bland food that I find rather unappealing. Not with Jason’s recipes! He is neither shy nor bashful about how he heightens and enhances the flavor profile of his creations. Brilliant is definitely an understatement. If you haven’t checked out his website or his cookbooks, you absolutely must!

So, several years ago I remember hearing about this young woman who was traipsing around the U.S. in a van in search of the quintessential meal at vegan restaurants. I remember thinking how much I envied her gumption, first of all, to even think about, then embark on such a journey. Then, being the food brat that I am, how I wished I could have the courage to leave my everyday life behind in search of vegan meals. I couldn’t wait to hear her speak. Her name — Kristin Lajeunesse. Her blog that chronicled her two-year expedition – Will Travel for Vegan Food. Her story was inspiring, not only because of her actually pulling it off but also because of her effervescent tenacity and down-to-earth approach to life. It was a real treat hearing her story.

Last, but certain not least, was Tess Challis, author, wellness coach, and vegan chef. She prepared a caramel corn that was easy, healthful, and would satisfy all urges for a sweet treat.

It was a full and glorious day of community, conversation, impulse purchases, great food, amazing speakers, and music.  Oh, I seem to have forgotten to tell you that live music abounded everywhere.  Outdoors, there were three different music venues.

I am already looking forward to my next Vegan Food Festival, wherever it takes me.