Summer’s garden bounty — zucchini, zucchini, zucchini everywhere.

Ciambotta (Italian vegetable stew, pronounced JumBaut), air-fried breaded zucchini frites, zucchini frittata. I could go on and on… But, it wouldn’t be garden zucchini if I didn’t include a zucchini bread, now would it :-)!

My version is a bit atypical, but I think you’ll really like it.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Growing up, my Italian Grandma Mary would make these delectable and delicate cookies on what looked to me like a mini waffle iron. She would stand in front of that machine for over an hour, as each set of cookies (her “iron”, which I have come to know as a pizzelle machine, made two at a time” would cook the cookies in a minute flat. She’d then remove them to a cooling rack and sprinkle them with powdered sugar, and if we grandchildren didn’t snatch them before she got to do it, after about another minute or two, she’d stack them onto a beautiful ceramic platter.

Of course, her recipe, which she passed on to me, was not vegan, having eggs and milk in it. Also, they were made with your typical white flour. Today, I’ve been able to use my ‘veganification’ methods, and convert her heirloom recipe into the exact same, absolutely delicious, cookies that I so fondly remember, without any sacrifice, and now 100% plant-based, vegan.

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One of my favorite culinary techniques is working with doughs or all sorts. I think I probably have the most fun with focaccia dough because it is rather unlike most other doughs in that it is soft and wet. Rather than kneading the dough and punching it down, you instead do a sequence of stretching and folding the dough to develop the gluten followed by a sequence of what I like to call “playing the piano.

The lightness and airiness of the interior of the focaccia coupled with the crispiness of the crust and the toppings you select make for a delightful bread that rightfully can stand alone but also makes a great sandwich bread or dipping into gravy (either my Italian tomato gravy or Bolognese).

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During Martin Luther King’s Birthday weekend, I participated in the Sedona VegFest as an Exhibitor (that’s me on the right-hand side representing the Meetup Group that I founded/organize, Verde Valley Vegans). It was an exciting weekend, having the opportunity to meet so many like-minded, wonderful, and interesting people.

As is typical of me, conversations tend to shift towards the direction of food and recipes. One of the lovely participants (who requested to remain anonymous but gave me permission to share her recipe), told me about one of her family’s heirloom recipes for a Gingerbread Cake. It was not at all vegan; however, she successfully veganized it; and shared it with me so I could share it with you.

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I am fortunate to have whom I consider to be the absolute best neighbors in the world. They live across the street from me. For the first six years, I did not reside in my home, but rather, visited several times each year. During the first six years, we became friendly with one particular couple. And then finally, on September 1, 2015, it happened! I was able to semi-retire and move to my dream house in my fantasy world, although it was neither a dream nor a fantasy. It was real life. Ah, so much to be grateful for today. Since then, we (my partner, Richard, and I) have become endearing friends with Skip and Cynthia. But, I am digressing here just a bit. Back to being on point….

If you’ve been following this blog, you might have realized by now that I not only love to cook, but also have a real passion for baking as well. Coupled with that, it positively feeds my soul to gift my baked treats to those I love.

Skip is diabetic, so I tweaked my original carrot muffin recipe (which was not vegan) into a delicious (and quick and easy) sugar-free carrot-apple muffin in his honor.

I just finished baking these muffins as part of my Holiday gift to Skip and Cynthia. I will be presenting these baked goodies to them on “The Giving Plate”. The giving plate reads: This special plate is yours today. Its purpose is very clear. It comes to tell you that you’re loved and someone holds you dear! Savor all the plate contains and fill it full again. Then send it on renewed with love to family and friends.

So, here’s my new, veganized recipe. At the very end, I will include my former original non-vegan recipe, since after all, this blog is “veganification”, celebrating the journey of becoming and being vegan. That includes recipes in addition to us sentient beings.

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Here’s a simple, yet extraordinarily delicious, muffin that you can whip up and serve on your Thanksgiving table that will wow everyone who likes to have a piece of bread to sop up that amazing vegan gravy you’ll be serving.

All you need are the ingredients, which you probably already have in your pantry, a large mixing bowl, a wire whisk, a 12-cup muffin tin (or a 6-cup large muffin tin, but I recommend the small muffins for the best results), and an oven.

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