sassy pepper and friends
A sassy lady pepper stands in the foreground in front of a merry band of dorky veggies doing a kick line
Plant-based cooking with a side of snark
Home2023-11-27T13:56:14-05:00

The Shift to Plant-Based Soul Food

Did you know that Black Americans represent the fastest-growing plant-based demographic in the country?

The Pew Research Center reports 8% of Black Americans eat vegetarian or plant-based diets, compared to 3% of the non-Black population. Much of the recent growth is attributed to COVID. Black people were disproportionally affected by the epidemic, due to higher incidences of COVID risk factors like heart disease and diabetes. As a consequence, there’s increasing recognition, within the community, of the relationship between food and health.

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A Taste of Tempeh

Tempeh is the underdog of the plant-based protein world. It shouldn’t be. Like it’s better-known, squishier cousin, tofu, if you think you hate tempeh, you simply aren’t cooking it the right way. In other words, with all due respect, it’s you, not the food.

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Love at First Slice: How Pizza Became Our Love Language

I fell in love with my husband Max over pizza. We were in college, and it was all we could afford. And all we wanted to eat. Decades later, I can still close my eyes and imagine the mouthfeel of that chewy, slightly salty crust, and how the hot, gooey, mozzarella left a burn on the roof of my mouth for days. The first gift I gave Max was a t-shirt: Pizza Makes Me Passionate

Pizza is still our favorite food. It’s the only meal Max cooks, and each one is a masterpiece. We eat it to celebrate every birthday, anniversary, and, of course, every Valentine’s Day. With a bottle of California Cabernet on the side.

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All About the Sauce: 5 Simple Saucy Suppers for More Flavor in 2024

January is a big month for making resolutions. Most require us to quit something we find pleasurable. The increasingly popular Veganuary campaign admonishes you to stop eating animal products. Similarly, Dry January demands that you stop drinking alcohol.

This approach has never worked for me. As soon as someone tells me, “don’t eat that!” I crave it even more. Now that we’re a few weeks into 2024, I bet more than a few Veganuary and Dry January participants are chiding themselves for not sticking with their admirable resolutions. Read More

2023 Guide: 10 Essential Kitchen Tools for Plant-Based Cooks

Last year, I debuted my first annual Essential Cooking Gadgets list for the vegan kitchen, inspired by my friend Jan’s wisdom that the right kitchen tools make all the difference. After trying her velvety New York-style cheesecake (made with her KitchenAid Mixmaster), I was sold. Although I’ve not eaten cheesecake in some time, I have held on to Jan’s advice, and assembled a group of reliable gadgets and appliances that make cooking easier and more fun.

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Paul McCartney Wants to Take You to Brazil

Who was your favorite Beatle? Mine was the cutest, Paul McCartney. Now, more than five decades later, I’ve rekindled my Paul Love. Recently I learned that McCartney and his daughters, Mary and Stella, were co-founders of Meat Free Mondays, a campaign to encourage people to adopt a climate-friendly approach to eating — cutting back on dairy and meat.

The Cutest Beatle is going back on tour. And he’s upping his commitment to the Meat Free Monday Foundation by making the following offer: Free VIP tickets to the final show of his Got Back Tour, in Rio de Janeiro.

Read on to:

  • Enter Paul’s sweepstakes (it’s a fundraiser, but you can enter for free).
  • Use Meat-Free Monday’s Impact Calculator, to see the world of difference you can make by going meat-free for a single day.
  • Watch a short video of The Cutest Beatle making his case for Meatless Monday.
  • Learn how to cut back on meat and dairy easily and slowly.

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A 21st-Century Thanksgiving

Mains & Sides to Impress

Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell

What would a modern-day Normal Rockwell Thanksgiving painting include? Perhaps that iconic turkey. But at least one, probably a few, at the table would not eat it.

Listen up, Thanksgiving hosts! For everyone at your table to be satisfied, you have two options (neither requires you to torture a non-meat substance into resembling a turkey).

  • Wowza! Vegan Main Course: A sure-fire way to say, “I care” to a vegan at your table.
  • Plant-Based Side Dishes: Thanks to Miyoko’s butter, traditional standards are easily vegan-ized. No one will know (except, of course, the vegans, when you discretely whisper in their ears during cocktail hour, “you can eat the sides.”).

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Eat Your Values: How Food Can Reduce Your Environmental Footprint

Donald Trump eats meat. Bill Clinton does not.

As a political activist who has attended more gala fundraisers than there are lawsuits against our former Orange President, I often wondered, as my comrades and I were served over-cooked chicken and tough fillet dinners, how can all of these kind-hearted, generous people, who care deeply about alleviating suffering, and the health of our planet — be eating animals?

Good News Veg is a preach-free zone, so I will educate and advise. Want to reduce your environmental footprint? Stop eating so much damn chicken and beef.

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Beyond the Main: Tasty Vegan Appetizers and Sides

Do you know anyone who includes a traditional appetizer course as part of an average weeknight dinner?  I don’t. Who has the time to fuss with that?

Yet, if you broaden the definition of “appetizer,” to mean anything you eat before the main course, lots of people do. Including my husband and me. In fact, it’s become a running joke in our household. Sometime around 5 pm, my husband plants himself at the kitchen island, typically when I’ve started to prep dinner. I turn from my cutting board and ask him, “What would you like as an appetizer?”

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Dinner in a Bowl: Protein-Packed, Dairy-Free Soup

I hate sheet pan dinners. Love the concept — throw all your ingredients onto one pan, slide it into the oven, and a few minutes later, you have a meal. And yet. Most plant-based sheet pan dinners don’t work. Why?

Ingredients cook at different rates. The broccoli comes out burnt (“charred” seems to be the acceptable term, but burnt broccoli by any other name is still burnt), the carrots too hard, the tofu too tough … you get the idea. Making a decent sheet pan dinner requires maintaining a vigil in your kitchen for 30-40 minutes while you slide a hot! hot! hot! sheet pan into and out of the oven to add and subtract ingredients. Because they cook at different rates.

You can tell I’ve attempted a sheet pan dinner when I have burn marks on my wrists.

The Solution?

One pot soups. The concept and implementation work. You have more control over the ingredients, and your wrists emerge from the process unscathed.

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Plant-Based Protein Made Easy

True or false? People who eat plant-based diets are often protein-deficient.

True or false? Vegans who are not protein-deficient put so much time into figuring out how to eat enough protein, many ignore their partner, neglect their children, fail to care for their pets, and compulsively Google “symptoms of protein deficiency.”

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Against Perfection

What do you see in this photo? Take a few moments to list the nouns, verbs, adjectives — yes, even the judgments — that come to mind. 

Here’s what I see: Fear. Embarrassment. A raucous dinner with friends. A fun-fueled mess. 

What you don’t see: Me backing away from this stove, in defeat.

The trouble started when I asked my friend Irina, our dinner host, “What can I do to help?” Irina was busy mixing the sauce for  Pad Thai. She handed me a bowl with batter, a jar of kimchi, and said, “make the kimchi pancakes.” 

That’s when fear set in. I have never made a decent pancake. They come out too thick, spongy and raw inside, or too thin, and stick to the pan. Which is why I avoid pancake recipes.

“Of course you can make pancakes,” Irina told me. “You write a cooking blog.” More fear.

I rolled up my sleeves, splashed a smidgeon of sesame oil into the frying pan, and warmed it.

The batter was way too thick. Had I tested it before I poured it into the pan, I would have known to add water. 

Pancake #1: Thick, spongy, and raw inside. Embarrassment.

Pancake #2: Too thin, stuck to the pan. More embarrassment.

Watching me struggle, another guest, our friend Paola, said, “I’ll make the pancakes. I’m really good at them.” But even Paola was not good enough to turn these pancakes into a success.

Why?

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SH*T! Vegans are Coming to Dinner!

What to do when an omnivore wants to invite a couple of vegans to a dinner party? If you’re my friend Chris, you spend months reading recipes until you find it, the perfect wowza! dish.

Only an over-achiever like Chris would attempt a vegan lasagna. Frankly, if I had landed on the recipe I would have kept scrolling. Lasagnas take a lot of time, and eliminating dairy is a challenge.

Chris nailed it. Even her meat-loving, fly-fisherman, vegan-skeptical husband said, more please. The casserole was flawless and beyond delicious. I’ve added it to my dinner party repertoire.

And yet.

Chris had many challenges, which I asked her to share with you.

Reading it, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel Chris’s pain. You’ll cheer for the damn no-cook noodles, and best of all, you’ll learn how to make Vegan Lasagna Bolognese.

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Comfort Food

Quiz Item #1: Which of the following do you consider comfort food?

  • 1) Grilled cheese & fries
  • 2) Meatloaf & mashed potatoes
  • 3) Pizza
  • 4) All of the above.

Quiz Item #2: Why does comfort food typically = unhealthy, not-great-for-us food?

This week I needed comfort. My husband, dog Becca, and I arrived home in Vermont, after six months on the road. Last November, we took off in our Honda CRV, down the southeast coast, across to Arizona, up and down the California coast, and landed in Berkeley for two months.

Favorite restaurants:

The drive home was brutal. Zero-visibility white-out, wind gusts of 70+ mph through the Salt Flats of Utah. Snowstorm at 8,000 ft. approaching Vail. Trump 2024 signs plastered on barns across Missouri.

Ten days of  breathing the stale air of I-70 highway motels; lunches of peanut-butter-on-a-rice-cake-with-a-side-of-vending-machine-pretzels; salt-infused restaurant dinners (insert any entree here) everywhere.

I hungered for my own food: clean soups, fresh salads, pasta with crisp vegetables, tossed lightly — not drowning — in sauce. I missed my Boos cutting board, (alphabetized!) spice drawer, the condiments inside the door of my refrigerator.

Cooking our first meal back home, I had an epiphany: Preparing a healthy meal comforts me as much as eating it. Measuring, chopping, and stirring, knowing the end result will make me (and Max) hum with delight, is my Comfort Place.

These are the first 3 meals I made. Try one, two, or all three. My hope is they’ll bring you comfort, too.

  • Pesto pasta with broccolini. Last summer I experimented with pesto recipes that did not use parmesan. It is with informed confidence I proclaim:
    • The secret to dairy-free pesto that sings: Follow Your Heart dairy-free parmesan. No one has been able to tell it’s not the “real thing.” Not even my dear friend Marjorie, who refers to my pesto as Green Gold.

Save clean-up time by dropping the broccolini into the boiling pasta during the last minute. Close your eyes while eating, and imagine yourself on a sidewalk cafe in Genoa.

  • Wonton Soup: Go to Trader Joe’s (or a supermarket, but TJ’s are the best) and buy two bags of frozen veggie dumplings. Ignore the recipe step that instructs how to make your own. If you do, this soup is ridiculously easy; 15 minutes to put together.
    • Use any veggies you have on hand (bok choy rocks this)
    • Chinese cooking wine is a must. Buy it here. You’ll use it again and again, I promise.
    • Substitute veggie stock for chicken stock; go for No Chicken Broth if your store has it.

BONUS: Considering a road trip this summer? Don’t leave home without these phone apps:

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What’s Up With Kale?

People have strong opinions about kale.

Some — including the health & fitness editor of Philadelphia magazine – hate it so much, they are willing to risk their professional cred by publicly confessing, “I Really, Really, Really Hate Kale.”

Some love it so much, they are willing to go up against fast food behemoth Chick-Fil-A for the right to announce their enthusiasm. (Yes, Chick-Fil-A sued an Eat More Kale t-shirt seller).

To quote the late, great John Lennon, All I am saying, is give kale a chance.

Here’s my beloved geeky Youtube star, Dr. Michael Greger, demystifying why kale’s so friggin’ good for you — in 2 minutes! (If you can’t get enough of this guy, who I understand may be an acquired taste, here’s another 4 kale minutes).

Summary: It lowers cholesterol and blood sugar, and boosts immune systems. It’s a Powerball of health.

Because I love you, and I want you to live a long, healthy life, I’m going to help you find your way to Kale Love. If you’re already there, gather ’round with the non-believers, and read on for some of the best kale-inclusive recipes around.

Start with this kale primer. Then, move on to 10 Ways to Eat More Kale.

Marla’s World Famous Kale Chips have made kale-believers out of kale-naysayers. They’ll make you wonder why popcorn  became the default movie theater food, not kale chips. (Warning: If eating the chips with another human, make sure you ask, “do I have dark green flecks on my teeth?” when you finish).

By now, I bet you’re craving life-changing, kale-affirming soup, salad, stew, and pesto recipes.

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Stevie Wonder, Angela Davis, Crab Cakes & Me

What do the singer, the activist, and I have in common?

We love The Land of Kush, a Baltimore vegan soul food restaurant that serves the World’s Best Crab Cake.

As a native Baltimorean, crabs are in my DNA, the only food I missed (for 32 years!) as a vegetarian. Imagine my happiness when Veg News published The Land of Kush’s crab cake recipe. I ripped it out of the magazine, filed it in my Recipes folder … and never made it. The ingredient list was daunting.

My solution: I scheduled a trip to Baltimore to visit my mother, arrived a night early (don’t tell her), and booked a hotel near The Land of Kush.

Sinking my teeth into that crab cake — crisp-perfection on the outside, moist, flaky chunks of meat seasoned with Old Bay on the inside — I closed my eyes and hummed. I wanted to marry that crab cake.

But I did not want to make that recipe.

Thus began my search for a crab-less, easy-to-make crab cake. And because I like you, I’m going to share what I learned.

Enjoy, hon.

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The Golden Age of Veggie Burgers

Do you remember your first restaurant burger?

Was it thick and juicy? A grainy grey disc? Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun? (Remember that TV ad?).

My first was a grainy grey disc at Gino’s, a chain founded in 1957 by three Baltimore Colts (rant alert: I will never forgive the Colts for moving to Indianapolis, nor do I consider the Ravens my home team). Though I could not have been more than four or five years old, I felt strongly that a Gino’s burger was far superior to McDonald’s.

I still crave burgers — but not the meat. Which makes me oh so  grateful to be living in the Golden Age of Veggie Burgers(It is also the Golden Age of Fake Meat Burgers, which I’m glad exist, but won’t eat).

Shake Shack, Burger King, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s offer non-meat burgers. At lunchtime, hipsters across the world (!) line up at plant-based chains like Slutty Vegan, Hart House, Hip City Veg, PLNT Burger, and Vegan Junk Food.

This is all good. But not good enough. Because I can make better, healthier burgers at home. And so can you. To quote one of my favorite, non-vegan chefs, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, “Good vegan burgers don’t have to suck.” Here are a few, non-sucky, yummy burger recipes to get you started:

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Let’s Talk Tofu.

It took Americans 216 years to go from tofu-ignorance to tofu-contempt.

  • In 1770, Benjamin Franklin became the first American known to write about tofu, in a letter he sent from London to Philadelphia. He enclosed soybean samples. (And, one can only assume, a how-to manual).
  • In 1986, a Roper poll published in USA Today named tofu “America’s most loathed food.”

Changing the attitude of a tofu non-believer requires, first and foremost, eliminating its squishiness. There’s a two-part solution:

Now that you’ve drained the excess water from the protein-rich, low-fat food, you’re ready to crisp it up to make salad croutons, spice it up for Chipotle-esque burrito bowls, crumble and bake it to mimic ground beef for chili, turn it into an Indian tikka masala that will rock your world, add it to a veggie stir fry or a coconut curry noodle soup.

Either you love tofu, or you haven’t prepared well.

These recipes will have you, your friends and family, asking, “please, may I have some more?
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Take the Plunge. Make Soup.

I never understood why people ate soup. What’s the point of filling up on a non-alcoholic liquid before a meal?

Then, in grad school, when I went vegetarian after reading Diet for a New Planet, and it dawned on me I had to learn to cook, I made my first soup. (Curried pea, a recipe my classmate Prashant gave me — admittedly an odd choice for my first, but it was simple and delicious). Now I got it.

These days, I make soup at least once a week. Sometimes, if it’s light enough, I eat a bowl before the main course, but mostly I’m drawn to soups substantial enough to be the main course. Add a salad, a side of kale chips (note: I’m kinda famous for these), a piece (or two) of crusty bread, and you’ve got a vitamin-packed dinner. And the next day’s lunch.

This Bon Appetit primer on how to make dairy-free, creamy soups is short, sweet, and spot-on.

Now let’s get this started… 

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Holiday Meals: Vegans, Vegetarians, Gluten-Free, WTF?

Show me a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table without a single guest who’s vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free, and I’ll show you a self-sufficient fishing village off the coast of Alaska.

When Aunt Marlene stopped eating gluten, her back pain finally disappeared; cousin Marissa, home from college, is preaching against factory farms; vegetarian Uncle Joe is running a half-marathon on Boxing Day, longing for pasta. What’s a host to do? (Hint: Answering Tofurky on this quiz will get you a C+, not an A).

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Today’s a Holiday! Who Knew?

Do you have World Vegan Day on your calendar? I didn’t. Imagine my horror when I remembered, just two days ago, that vegans throughout the world celebrate their veganocity today, November 1st. With so little time to plan, what was I to do?

I channeled my Inner Vegan Martha Stewart. Here’s what she said: Go to your backyard, and harvest the soybean crop you’ve been lovingly tending throughout the year. Today’s the day! It’s time to make tempeh. You’ll need to soak, de-hull, and mash your beans — but why settle for a decent product that’s readily available for less than $5, when you can spend days making your own? Nothing says, Happy World Vegan Day! like a gift platter of Vegan Martha tempeh. And don’t forget to download stencils of festive vegan themes, to decorate …

That’s when I asked Vegan Martha (politely), please stop!

I’m celebrating World Vegan Day by sharing a sampling of my favorite plant-based weekday suppers with you — simple pasta, tofu, Indian dal, enchiladas, and no-fuss burgers.

If you read these recipes and think, “nope, not ready to tackle any of this quite yet,” that’s okay. Reading is the first step. Happy Cow will happily guide you to a nearby plant-based restaurant.Read More

Welcome Back Good News Seekers

Throughout the interminable four years that Donald Jessica Trump labored to break America, I did my best to help you (and myself) get through America’s Nightmare, by publishing 105 issues of Good News from the Resistance. Now, I’m back with more Good News –news about my new-found passion, thanks to pandemic-imposed downtime: How to make delicious food. From plants.

The idea germinated with my husband Max: During the early, scariest days of COVID, he decided to go full-out plant-based. I didn’t know what to cook. We’d been vegetarian for decades, but eliminating dairy was a challenge. No more pesto (parmesan), Indian curries (butter), or bean burritos with shredded cheddar. The thought of hosting post-lockdown dinner parties (my favorite social activity), left me somewhere between fearful and despondent. What would I serve? Tofu? No one would come over. Witty conversation and Max’s Cabernet-heavy wine cellar would go only so far.

And then.

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