Author Archives: laurenkrohn

Goodbye to My Mom

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A portrait I shot of Mom in August 2013, five months after my Dad died. She wanted a nice photo to get her started in the world of internet dating. She never ended up going on a date- I’m not surprised, who could seem even remotely interesting after being married to my Dad?

My mom died on Friday night, March 15, 2016 after a two year battle with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and aggressive cancer. At some point I’d like to do a post about my parents’ battles with cancer and how it’s influenced the work I do in chronic disease prevention. But that’s not today.

I didn’t deliver a eulogy at my Dad’s funeral 3 years ago and I’ve regretted it since. So in a way, this eulogy was for both Mom and Dad.

Over the last few weeks I’ve posted dozens of photos of mom in the sixties- friends all over the world seem to have enjoyed them, as well as the stories that accompany these images. I thought some of you might be interested in hearing a little more about my mom, so I decided to post the eulogy here.

Mom's college graduation portrait

Mom’s college graduation portrait

A Daughter’s Eulogy | Esther Krohn 1946-2016

 

Mom with baby me

With baby me

Anyone who knew Esther Krohn knew that she put everyone else first. Her family and her friends were infinitely important to her, and she invested all of her energy into ensuring that the people she loved were happy and well cared for.

This was evident in Mom and Dad’s relationship from the very beginning. Soon after they started dating, Mom bought tickets for a music festival due to take place upstate in the summer. At the last minute, Dad had to take call. Did Mom call a girlfriend and make alternate travel plans? Absolutely not. She stayed in the city on a sweltering August weekend as she didn’t want Dad to feel extra disappointed about missing out. That little music festival turned out to be the most important musical event of the 20th century, if not ever. If missing Woodstock to take care of your boyfriend isn’t the purest incarnation of altruism, I don’t know what is.

Mom and Dad on their wedding day

Mom and Dad on their wedding day

And of course that’s how it went down- because Mom always put herself second. Or third. Or fourth. There was nothing more important to Mom than being sure that her family was happy and that their needs were constantly anticipated and consistently met.

Her desire to care for us took on innumerable forms, some obvious, some more subtle. For instance, during East Hampton summers she monitored the motion of the leaves around our house or the fluttering of the flags on the ocean beaches, hoping that these observations would relate to the conditions at Napeague, ensuring Dad a good windsurfing day. Likewise during those summers she observed and reported the intensity of the sunlight, hoping that I might have a productive and enjoyable day photographing.

Mom never let anything get in the way of caring for the family- what she called “her job.” I don’t remember her being sick a single day in our childhood- and I doubt it was because she didn’t get a cold- it’s because she never let it stand in the way of doing that job. Regardless of whether she had slept 3 hours, which was often the case, or whether she recently had a major surgery- she was always there to make us breakfast, get Dad off to work and us off to school, drive us to after school activities, make us dinner, help us with our homework and get us to bed.

Mom at Summer Stock in the summer of love, 1967

Summer Stock in the summer of love, 1967

At the 1964 World's fair

At the 1964 World’s fair

Mom was expert at caring for those she loved. But she was expert at so much more, in both the physical and intellectual realms. She had an impressive and diverse athletic ability- trying everything from skiing to windsurfing to sailing to running to tennis- she really did it all. And she was an aesthetic virtuoso –this was evident in her legendary green thumb, in her encyclopedic knowledge of art and antiques, home decorating, and her uncanny ability to walk into a space, see the vast potential- and then achieve it.

She took pride in sharing her love of art and culture with us as children- any weekend we weren’t skiing or sailing, she piled us into the car early and ushered us to a museum or performance in the city- I am forever grateful for that immersion so early on.

Somewhere around 1966-67

Somewhere around 1966-67

Everyone here knows of Mom’s phenomenal sense of style- a sense that transcended medium. It was apparent in her knack for decorating, flower arranging and gardening, and in her impeccable personal appearance. The aesthetic details we saw on the surface of Esther Krohn were a confident expression of her vast knowledge of art and design.

My personal favorite era of Mom’s were the 60s and 70s- in fact it’s likely that the photos of her in this era as well as a hermetically sealed time capsule of floor length psychedelic dresses, hidden away in the basement of our childhood home, informed my own love of vintage style. Mom forged on with countless reinventions, all successful in their own way. Even her collection of 1980s hairdos, some rather mullet-y in nature, were pulled off with grace and flair.

My parents in Paris sometime in the early 70s.

My parents in Paris sometime in the early 70s.

A collection of Mom's Scarsdale Pool passes. My favorite mullet is the Jimmy Page-esque one upper left.

A collection of Mom’s Scarsdale Pool passes. My favorite mullet is the Jimmy Page-esque one upper left.

She even had a style overhaul a year into her cancer battle, eventually ditching the wig for a chic pixie-like cut in her natural, strikingly beautiful grey, which no one had ever seen prior. She stopped wearing makeup, with the exception of a bright red lipstick that highlighted her infectious smile. When her clothes no longer fit, she assembled an entirely different wardrobe, resulting in a new look- one more unique and striking than anything I saw her wear since the 70s. It was authentically her, and it was beautiful.

Mom, right with her dear college friend, Sherry, this past summer in East Hampton.

Mom, right with her dear college friend, Sherry, this past summer in East Hampton.

And speaking of beauty, it’s tough not to mention her legendary, outward physical beauty. From the time I was in nursery school, every teacher and parent commented on her loveliness and elegance. And it wasn’t just because she was a babe. Her beautiful smile, engaging nature, compassionate demeanor and sense of humor all played a part in her attractiveness. All of these attributes made her the life of the party, the belle of the ball, and a devoted friend to innumerable people over the course of her life. She was magnetic, and everyone gravitated toward her.

With her granddaughter, my niece Genevieve

With her granddaughter, my niece Genevieve

Many of you reaped the rewards of Mom’s aptitude for entertaining. As Max mentioned she was a gifted cook and an exemplary hostess. Whether a small dinner or a big charity fundraiser, entertaining gave mom the chance to show off some of her numerous talents while taking care of other people.

In working so hard for the sake of making others happy, and in putting everyone else first, I don’t think mom saw herself as coming last. Mom took great pleasure and pride in being there for her friends and providing the vital framework for her family’s happiness and success. That being said, when others need you most, it can be hard to carve out the time and space to take care of yourself, particularly if you’re the kind of person who mom was.

Mom and me on our boat the Nephron, around 1977

On our boat the Nephron, around 1977. My Baby Peggy phase.

Perhaps the most potent example of mom’s altruism, and sadly a tragic aspect of her propensity for caring is that she sublimated her own intense physical suffering when Dad was dying. Who knew that she too had cancer, but put Dad’s pain ahead of her own, so that he would feel loved and comfortable without feeling ashamed or guilty. We all knew that she was suffering emotionally, and that her stomach issues, at the time thought to be anxiety induced, were irritating to contend with. But in retrospect, it is haunting to think of her stoically enduring the effects of cancer alongside her husband.

That was mom. Everyone else first.

I can’t imagine how rough it must have been for fiercely independent mom to eventually let others help for a change once she received her diagnosis.

When she had no choice but to relent and let others help, she never complained of her own pain or sadness. All she communicated to us and to her valiant caregivers was her guilt about disrupting our lives. To the end, her main concern was that her family should not feel inconvenienced.

Just as we all did, I wanted so much to do something meaningful for mom in her time of suffering, and I feel so grateful that in the end she finally allowed me to do just that. On the last night she was verbal, the night we initially thought she would go, Max and I stayed rather late. While he took a nap I sat at Mom’s bedside holding her hand, as we had done for weeks. She thought the end was near as we did- although tenacious as she was, it turned out that she would go on fighting for another week.

Around 1 am, I told Mom that I was about to head home, and I’d be back to see her in the morning. Ordinarily she would say something like “you do what you need to do,” and send me on my way. That was sort of her code for “I kind of want you to stay, but it’s more important to me that you tend to your own needs.”

But that night, she looked uneasy, and didn’t respond. “Mom,” I asked, “do you want me to stay? I can stay.” Mom had a hard time talking in her last few weeks, and with the oxygen machine blaring in the background it was tough to hear her faint whisper. So I put my ear a millimeter from her mouth and heard one very distinct word: “Stay.” Of everything Mom did for me over the course of her life, and there was a lot – that one word was one of the greatest gifts- the permission to return a lifetime of caring by just being there in her time of need.

Skiing somewhere in Europe

Skiing somewhere in Europe. Wear your sunscreen, folks.

I began with a musical tale so perhaps it’s fitting to end with one. My most Proustean memory, at about 2 years old, is being with our parents at a condo called Middle Earth, in Sugarbush, VT. It’s 1976 and the the two 8 tracks perpetually on were two of our parents’ favorites- the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road. To this day, any time I hear those albums I am transported to Middle Earth, and am instantly embraced by a sense of warmth, home, and the unconditional love of my parents. But even as a child, those albums were tinged with sadness, as it occurred to me that they would be uncomfortable to hear when my parents were gone. I never imagined that time would come so soon.

The last line of Abbey Road’s The End is  “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Our parents put a tremendous amount of love out into the world, and in return, were blessed by the love of each other, of their family, and a vast network of friends. Their example of love and compassion continue to inspire me every day of my life. I only wish they could have stayed around a little longer to inspire us all.

On one of Mom and Dad's boats- either The Intuition or The Nephron

On one of Mom and Dad’s boats- either The Intuition or The Nephron

Mom and dad at my brother's wedding in 2006.

Att my brother’s wedding in 2006.

Mom just after giving birth to me. Kind of unreal. With her sister, left and her mother, right. I need every piece of clothing in this photo, btw.

Just after giving birth to me. Kind of unrealistic postpartum beauty! With her sister, left and her mother, right. I need every stitch of clothing in this photo, btw.

 

3 Layer Polentil Loaf

My apologies for completely abandoning the blog! It’s been a busy few months, in part due to my taking on a new role as social media manager for a fantastic organization called The American College of Lifestyle Medicine. We just had our conference in Nashville, which was incredibly inspiring- luminaries including Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Michael Greger and the Blue Zones’ Dan Buettner all spoke. In between the fantastic keynotes we were spoiled with delectable whole foods plant-based fare that was as creative as it was tasty.

The finished Polentil loaf! I promise that your efforts will be rewarded.

The finished Polentil loaf! I promise that your efforts will be rewarded.

The tour de force of the conference cuisine was a tamale pie, the recipe for which I’m waiting patiently. That pie has left cornmeal on my mind – so while I had planned on making Gena Hamshaw’s lentil walnut loaf for Thanksgiving, I felt the need to alter things so as to include some of that marvelous maize.

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The result was this polenta- lentil loaf, or as I like to call it, Polentil loaf. (although, frankly, I do wish someone would develop a synonym for the word “loaf”. It’s so unsexy.)  Turns out that Gena’s recipe and my recipe rebelliousness were a match made in heaven. This dish is rich, flavorful and complex- the aromatic lentil layer complements the cornmeal beautifully. The toothiness of the lentils and vegetables create a nice texture contrast with the fluffy polenta.

Dig in!

Satisfying, hearty, and a showpiece all at once- this is comfort food at it’s best! If you’re looking for a show-stopping holiday dish, this might be the one for you. It wins points for both presentation and tastiness.

Polentil Loaf – adapted from Gena Hamshaw’s recipe. Check out her amazing blog The Full Helping!

Ingredients:

Lentils:

  • 1 cup green lentils, dry
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups diced white or yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot  
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, dried
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, dried and crushed
  • 6-8 sage leaves, fresh.
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2-3 grinds fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal, mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 Tbsp  nutritional yeast

Polenta:

  • 1 cup dry polenta
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp  nutritional yeast 
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions:

  1. Cook the polenta: Bring water and stock mixture to a boil, slowly pour in polenta and add salt. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring often, for about 30 minutes. Keep a cover partly on as polenta tends to sputter. When polenta is tender and water absorbed, stir in nutritional yeast.
  2. Place lentils in a pot along with the vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a boil and lower it to a simmer. Simmer the lentils until they’ve absorbed all of the liquid and are tender but not falling apart. Add more broth as needed. When the lentils are done, remove them from heat and set them aside.
  3. Once lentils have finished boiling, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrot. Sautee until the onion is clear and the carrots are tender (about 6 to 8 minutes). Add the garlic and sage leaves, along with the thyme, rosemary, salt and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, stir in nutritional yeast. Check the mixture for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper as needed.
  6. Add ½ cup of the cooked polenta to the lentils and stir until combined. Taste the mixture- if the lentils seem too dry, add a few more splashes of vegetable broth. We don’t want them swimming in broth, but we need to maintain some moisture for the baking step.
  7. Brush olive oil into a loaf pan (8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches) Spoon half the polenta on the bottom layer in the pan. Then add the lentil mixture, smoothing over the top. Finally, spoon the remaining polenta on top of the lentils. Smooth the top of the polenta. IMG_0048IMG_0053
  8. Bake for 30 -40 minutes until the top of the polenta is firm. Allow to cool for 5 minutes- if the polenta is still sticking to the sides, run a sharp knife around the sides of the pan to release the loaf. The turn the pan over onto a platter. Voila, beautiful 3 layer polentil wonder.

Crumb-Free Cheesy Lacinato Kale Chips

Somehow I managed to avoid falling in love with kale chips for the first 5 years of their reign. But those days are over, and I am now officially addicted to the green crack. Two drawbacks. One, it’s a pricey habit. My favorite brand runs between $4 and $7 a bag, which I inhale in 2 minutes flat. Drawback two- the majority of the bag disintegrates into crumbs. There’s a perpetual carpet of kale chip dust on the floor of my car, and generally on my face if I’ve been eating them.

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This recipe solves the pesky kale dust issue by swapping out curly kale in favor of lacinato. And because you’re buying simple raw ingredients, it’s way more economical than a packaged kale chip habit. Lacinato (also known as dinosaur, or tuscan) kale is thicker and stays in tact when dehydrating. It also has plenty of ridgy bits to accommodate the sauce, which is important as this sauce is to die for.

Ridgy, but not crumbly. Lacinato kale wins the day!

Ridgy, but not crumbly. Lacinato kale wins the day!

The sauce is actually a queso, and you can never go wrong with a good queso. If you’ve never has queso without the dairy, rest assured that the vegan variety has all of the cheesiness, tanginess and and mouthwateringness of the queso of your youth, but none of the pesky cholesterol, casein or animal protein. The cashews add extra richness, while the miso and nutritional yeast bring an umami punch. It’s so good that you’ll want to find other uses for the sauce- you can use it as a salad dressing, as a sauce for veggies, rice, baked potatoes, your fingers- whatever you fancy.

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For now, let’s use it for the kale chips. I made mine in the Excalibur dehydrator, but if you’re dehydrator-less like most of the planet, you can experiment with making them in an oven. Check out Oh She Glows’ guide to oven baked kale chips for the deets on that route. Low and slow that is the tempo, or so I hear.

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Ingredients:

1 bunch organic Lacinato kale, (kale’s on the Dirty Dozen y’all, so don’t skimp here.) cut into bite size pieces. I actually used Trader Joe’s bag of organic lacinato, it worked pretty perfectly.

For the Queso:

1/2 cup raw cashews

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp white miso

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup water

1) Soak the cashews in a bowl of cold water for at least one hour. Drain the water.

2) Combine the cashews with the rest of the queso ingredients in a Vitamix/ high speed blender or food processor. Process on high until smooth.

3) Grab a pair of gloves. Place cut kale pieces into a large bowl, then pour queso over the kale. Massage queso into your kale so the leaves are evenly coated.

4) Spread kale leaves on dehydrator trays in one layer. You’ll need at least 4 or 5 trays. Dehydrate on high for 4-5 hours- make sure to check your chips at hour 3, then again each 1/2 hour.

5) Store in an airtight container for as long as you can stand not shoving them in your mouth. This won’t be long, I guarantee.

Love Dolphins? Then Please, Don’t Swim With Them.

As I write, it is dolphin slaughter season in Taiji, Japan. With this on my mind, it was particularly poignant to see a Facebook post about a family’s experience swimming with dolphins over their vacation. The outpouring of support for the post via “likes” and comments reminded me that most of us are in the dark regarding the origin of these dolphins.  I was in the dark as well, until I saw the 2010 Academy Award winning documentary, The Cove.

Each killing season, the Cove in Taiji is quite literally a bloodbath.

Swimming with the dolphins seems to be on everyone’s bucket list, and most think it’s an innocent enough activity. Sadly, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. That’s because supporting dolphin swims, shows and aquariums finances the bloody dolphin killings in Taiji.

Each year, fishermen descend on Taiji to slaughter and capture dolphins. Roughly 20,000 dolphins are killed each season for meat, which is considered a delicacy. (a poisonous, mercury laden delicacy at that.) Because live dolphins fetch far more money than dead ones (between $100,000 and $200, 000 each) the same dolphin killers brutally catch and confine additional dolphins who are sold and transported to zoos, aquariums, amusement parks and resorts, such as SeaWorld, Atlantis and countless others. The money these facilities pay dolphin fishermen directly funds the continued killing excursions. The resorts themselves make millions of dollars each year at the expense of these animals.

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Bucket list of blood.

Once in these facilities, dolphins live shorter lives during which they suffer trauma, depression, (as in Blackfish) and physical harm. Their biology makes them appear as if they are enjoying themselves (they’re not actually smiling, it’s just the way their their bodies look) but they face tremendous anxiety, confinement, and lack the usual social connections these mammals generally enjoy in the oceans. You may have fun swimming with them, but their experience is an entirely different story.

Tiny Key Deer at Deer Run B&B

Tiny Key Deer at Deer Run B&B. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Ostensibly people swim with dolphins because they enjoy these intelligent creatures. I completely understand this- at one point in my life, I visited aquariums and zoos in attempt to be close to the animals I adored. It took many years for me to realize that I was funding the animals’ misery.

If you do not wish to cause suffering to the animals you admire, please consider other activities that do not harm them. Want to get up close and personal with animals? Visit a farm sanctuary such as Farm Sanctuary, both in upstate NY and California, or Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. If you’re set on seeing more exotic animals, visit Best Friends Sanctuary, or Deer Run Resort in the Florida Keys. I’ve spent time at all of these amazing locations (with the exception of Best Friends) and believe me, it’s a blissful, educational experience for adults and children alike.

You can also observe animals at your local parks- even here in Brooklyn we have hundreds of species in Prospect Park. Or adopt an animal, volunteer at an animal shelter, and hang out with your friends’ pets!

Sweet piglet at Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen

Sweet piglet at Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Please, do not support the criminal animal use industries. There are myriad ways to experience nature and be inspired by animals without harming them; sometimes we just need to challenge ourselves to look outside what we already know.

Learn more about this issue, what’s being done to stop the dolphin slaughter, and what you can do to help in links below:

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/captive_marine/facts/swim_dolphins.html

http://www.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/

http://dolphinproject.org/

http://www.ethicaltraveler.org/2014/09/swim-with-dolphins-tourist-trap-leads-to-travel-conference-boycott/

@CarnivalCruise @CoveMovie_OPS @RichardOBarry Don't sell swimming with dolphins excursions. #dontswimwithdolphins

Secret Weapon Purple Miso Soup

Winter is certainly upon us! Here in Brooklyn we’ve had a string of days in the teens, and that means soup- a lot of it. Cold certainly sends me toward soup, but so does the annual effect of said cold. That is, a cold! Whether it’s a tinge of sore throat or full on flu, nothing makes me feel better than this recipe. Miso soup is this vegan’s version of that other soup people eat when they’re sick.

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Why is this soup purple? Because it’s made from purple cabbage cooking water. You can definitely use different vegetables, but cabbage flavors the cooking water beautifully, making a richer broth. And while you’re eating cabbage, you might as well eat the purple variety as it’s high in anthocyanins, potent cancer-preventative phytonutrients. Anyway, how often do you get to eat purple soup?

Current vegetable obsession- purple and rainbow carrots! Pick up the organic rainbow carrots and Trader Joe's or your local farmer's market!

Current vegetable obsession- purple and rainbow carrots! Pick up the organic rainbow carrots and Trader Joe’s or your local farmer’s market!

Miso is one of my all time favorite ingredients. It’s savory, umami, and salty. Plus it’s a whole soy food, so you get those incredibly healthful isoflavones. One of my pet peeves though are recipes that recommend cooking miso. Big no-no. Miso may confer some probiotic effects, so never cook the paste. The best way to dilute miso is to add just a couple of tablespoons of hot water to the paste, then whisk with a fork. At that point, you can add it to your soup (or stews, grains, or nearly anything else) Never boil it!

The kale from the Park Slope Food co-op shines above all other kale!

The kale from the Park Slope Food co-op shines above all other kale!

I find that miso soup tastes best with both white (sweeter) and darker red/brown miso as ingredients. You can get away with just one, but the complexity of the two is divine. The nutritional yeast adds just the extra bit of umami to make this soup so comforting. Let’s get to work.

Recipe:

Serves 1-2

Ingredients:

6 cups water, boiled

1 Tbsp White Miso

2 Tbsp Red or Brown Rice Miso

2 Tbsp TVP  (or 1/4 cup cooked lentils)

1-2 Tbsp Dried wakame

2 tsp Nutritional Yeast, B12 Fortified 

2 tsp sesame seeds

Purple cabbage, Lacinato Kale, and /or greens of your choice

2 carrots, sliced into 1/2 inch chunks

Boil a kettle with about 6 cups of water.

First, steam your veggies. Pour about 4 cups of the water you previously boiled into a large pot. Place carrots and cabbage into a veggie steamer above the water.  After about 4 minutes, add the kale. Steam for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove veggies from pot, reserve the cooking liquid. 

Meanwhile: soak seaweed in water for a couple of minutes. When softened, drain, rinse and chop into shreds if not already shredded.

In a large bowl, add the miso. Add a small amount of your cooking water to thin your miso paste- about 2 Tbsps water .(it need not be precise.) Whisk miso and cooking water until you no longer have large chunks of miso. Add TVP, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast and seaweed.

Add remaining cooking water to the bowl. Stir to incorporate miso. Taste and add more water from the kettle if needed. (it will likely need it) Add vegetables. Enjoy!

Savory Butternut Squash and Tomatoes

I don’t know about you, but as soon as fall rolls around, I’m ready to eat all of the squash. From October to March you can always count on at least one variety of squash (and a pile of sweet potatoes) residing in my kitchen. They’re truly fall and winter staples.

When it comes to squash, butternut and kabocha are my all time favorites. I’m pretty lazy with kabocha and generally just do a quick steam. But I’m willing to put in the time with butternut. True, it’s rich and savory simply baked in the oven with a brush of olive oil. But this dish, adapted from a 2007  New York Times recipe, turns an already beloved ingredient into a complex and comforting centerpiece. Make it for a dinner party, holiday or potluck and I guarantee you’ll get rave reviews.

Kabocha squash is nutty, sweet and pairs so well with cranberries.

Kabocha squash is nutty, sweet and pairs so well with cranberries.

The Times’ original recipe serves as a pasta sauce, but I’ve adapted (and veganized) it into the main affair with the addition of beans. In lieu of said beans, I’ve also used Beyond Meat chick’n or tempeh, either do nicely. Definitely serve it with a heap of broccoli rabe, kale or another dark, leafy green. The garlicky squash and deep greens are the perfect pair. But feel free to round it all out by piling the squash onto whole wheat pasta or quinoa. Either way, this is a satisfying dish that will warm and comfort you on the cold nights to come!

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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup sliced shallots

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

2 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)

1 butternut squash, cubed or shredded

1 can white beans or chick peas

1 Tbsp Nutritional yeast (or to taste)

Pink salt or sea salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots and pepper flakes and cook for about a minute; add tomatoes and squash, and cook with some salt and pepper.

2. When squash is tender — about 15 minutes  — add beans and nutritional yeast. Stir to incorporate and cook until beans are heated through.

Becoming Greener

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Greetings dear VVP Potluckers! Hope you’re not full-up on smoothies yet-  I beseech you to give just one more a go. Our featured ingredient (by way of orange) sings along with spinach, pineapple and coconut water in the recipe below my “green awakening” story. Enjoy, and happy potlucking!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I was scared of green smoothies until just this past summer. Kind of hard to believe, considering the fact that I love greens, I love my Vitamix, and I’m a vegan nearly-nutritionist. Thankfully, all this has changed, and I have The Seed and Victoria Moran to thank.

The Seed is a plant-based nutrition expo/ conference based in New York- this years’ was held in early August in Soho. Dozens of vegan luminaries gather to speak, give demos and generally inspire us all. There are also scores of vendors showcasing their foods and services. I was lucky enough to attend both days thanks to my friend Sarah, amazing creator of the unparalleled Rescue Chocolate.

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Over the course of the weekend I was awed by incredible speakers, among them were Victoria Moran, JL Fields, Jenny Brown of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and Dr. Robert Ostfeld of the Montefiore Cardiac Wellness Program. Each of these lecturers left me feeling inspired and re-invigorated in my own plant-based nutrition mission. Months later I still revisit their talks in my mind.

So what does this have to do with green juice? I began my Seed experience at Victoria Moran’s talk on the subject of aging gracefully inside and out. If there’s anyone who is an authority there, it is Ms. Moran, as she is gorgeous, eternally youthful and full of vitality. Each time I hear her speak I hang on her every word- she’s not only entertaining but oh so wise. And she’s one of those women who simply glows. Seriously, her skin is just luminescent.

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During her talk, she lauded the power of green juice. “When you’re feeling like that latte at 3pm- get yourself a green juice instead. And then if you still feel like the latte, have that, but I’m pretty sure you won’t.”  Yes, I love my soy latte. But if Victoria’s regimen has anything to do with that unbelievable glow, I’m willing to give it a shot.

So I started drinking green right after her talk. (I went for the smoothie and not the juice, but I still drank my veggies. More on the difference to come) It was a pineapple-orange-spinach coconut water blend and it was my epiphany. I chased that with several other juice & smoothie samples over the two days at the Seed, I particularly loved the Green Mustache orange mango smoothie.

One of the fragrant green smoothies I sampled at the Seed. Orange mango and greens, another combo I need to make at home!

One of the fragrant green smoothies I sampled at the Seed. Orange mango and greens, another combo I need to make at home!

Still I didn’t believe that this sweet green elixir could ever replace my latte or sundry caffeine/ chocolate fix. But wouldn’t you know, it eventually did just that. There I was yesterday, late afternoon, standing at the refrigerator, poised to eat a piece of chocolate when it hit me. I don’t really want chocolate, I want ANOTHER green smoothie! Yes, two green smoothies in one day- I’m still in shock.

(btw, this is not to say there’s anything wrong with chocolate, but when I want chocolate it’s generally because I have low blood sugar.  Chocolate isn’t going to fix that in the long run.)

 And then miraculously, I actually went for two days in a row without coffee. So yes, Victoria was completely spot on.

The inaugural green smoothie at the Seed

The inaugural green smoothie at the Seed

Why should we drink green smoothies & juices anyway? The same reason we need to eat our veggies. Most Americans eat less than one serving of fruits and vegetables daily. No wonder we are so sick- vegetables are really not optional. The micronutrients and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables are integral to so many of the basic metabolic processes our bodies perform everyday.

We may not initially see the damage we do our bodies by depriving ourselves of these vital nutrients. But it catches up with us eventually, and may manifest in any number of forms from obesity to osteoporosis to cancer.

In fact the risk of cancer decreases with an increased intake of fruits and vegetables, and the earlier in life one begins eating large amounts of these foods, the more protection one has. So really, we should try to get in as many servings of fruits and veggies as we possibly can. Even the five a day recommendation is really conservative.

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Here’s why smoothies are so amazing. If you really tried, you could probably get in 10 servings of fruits and veggies into one 12 oz glass. My smoothies have at least four or five. I try to get in at least three servings of green veggies along with a fruit or two. Your green smoothie will provide you with iron, calcium, protein, and so many other important vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

And why am I touting smoothies and not necessarily juice? Juice is great too, I drink juices now and then when I’m out and about. But I chose to buy a Vitamix because making smoothies retains all of the fiber, and phytochemicals work synergistically with the fiber to which they are bound.  Drinking the vegetables and fruits in their whole forms can be even more powerful than drinking the nutrients stripped from the fiber, which occurs in juicing.

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And fiber is incredibly important of it’s own accord- it helps in cancer prevention, in maintaining good cholesterol levels, a healthy weight, and healthy blood sugar levels. And remember, we only get fiber through plant foods.

Another plus for the smoothie side- many nutrients are fat soluble, so they are more bioavailable in the presence of healthful fats. Adding a little coconut or almond milk to your smoothie will help your body soak up all those vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients from the fruits and vegetables. But please, don’t add cow’s milk (or any other animal’s) as dairy inhibits our uptake of phytonutrients.

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Nowadays my first stop in the morning is the Vitamix. Even before I have my tea! It took a wee bit of experimenting but I’ve arrived at my favorite combination of ingredients. I do vary it a bit, but my eye opening smoothie needs a base of pineapple, spinach and coconut in some form. I suggest:

2 or 3 two-inch slices of pineapple (roughly 1/8 of a medium pineapple)

3 cups baby spinach

1 small orange

1/2 cup coconut water

3 coconut water ice cubes (just pour coconut water into an ice cube tray, and voila!)

30 seconds in the Vitamix and there you have it- delectable green power.

For variation, sometimes I’ll add some mango or some frozen organic berries. But beware! Berries will turn your juice brown. While it still tastes divine, it makes me sad to lose that green hue.

So thank you Victoria- I’m finally on team green. Hope you, dear reader, will join us!

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YOU Can Help Reverse Climate Change- Don’t Pass the Buck

400,000 people turned up to the People’s Climate March on Sunday here in New York City. The consensus is clear- we don’t want to drown under rising oceans or burn up under depleted ozone. But how many of those marching really want to do what it takes to turn this thing around?

I salute the thousands who took to the streets. The vegan contingent was impressive, and I sincerely hope that their signs were a beacon to the rest of the march. But sadly, my vegan brethren were just a fraction of those marching. The majority ate the very meat, dairy and eggs en route that are responsible for an estimated 51% of greenhouse gas emissions.

I don’t doubt that the marchers are concerned for the state of the planet. But I do question whether the majority are truly willing to be part of the solution.

From Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary's Instagram feed

From Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s Instagram feed

The marchers wanted to inspire the U.N. to take notice of the environment. But to me this seems like passing the buck. Rather than acknowledge their own respective roles in the environment’s decline, it was simpler to blame climate change on “world leaders.”

In any case, giving the U.N. this task does not absolve us of responsibility as individuals. Any potential U.N. action would mean little if the rest of us are unwilling to affect change. Activism does not end with holding a sign. In my mind, activism implies taking real action, and in the case of the environment, the most important action we can take is abstaining from eating meat, dairy and eggs.

 While it’s hard to avoid hearing of animal agriculture’s devastating environmental consequences, few seem to make the connection that their personal food choices impact our planet. Perhaps it is denial, perhaps laziness. Nevertheless, throughout the day Sunday I saw countless posts from proud meat eaters on the march. In some cases, literally holding a picket sign in one hand and a burger in the other. Anti-fracking signs notwithstanding, they simply continued the behavior that keeps climate change on it’s current, deadly trajectory.

The Cowspiracy team, a new documentary on this very issue

The Cowspiracy team, a new documentary on this very issue

Which is why Sunday left me feeling skeptical. This is the same skepticism I reserve for campaigns like pink ribbons adorning buckets of chicken. KFC wants us to think they’re fighting breast cancer, but in reality they’re selling carcinogens (like PHIP and HCAs) in big greasy buckets. The same principle applies to many of the marchers. Saying you want to rid the world of a scourge is great, be it breast cancer or global warming. But back up the idea with action. Don’t sell or consume the product that contributes to it’s very creation.

In other words, if you want to affect change, BE that change.

photo: Marisa Miller Wolfson

photo: Marisa Miller Wolfson

But who knows, there could be hundreds of thousands who went to the march and didn’t have an inkling about the dark side of the meat, dairy and eggs they eat. So let’s just say you went to the People’s Climate March for the fun of it. And perhaps, for the first time, you made the connection- it’s not just the transit sector, fracking, the factories and generally other people in other places far beyond our control. Suddenly you realized that global warming is the result of our collective behavior, beginning with what we eat every day. That’s a lot to take in. So where do you go from here?

Where to go next? How about your local farmer's market! Photo: Lauren Krohn

Where to go next? How about your local farmer’s market! Photo: Lauren Krohn

Look at it this way. You’re in a really powerful position- you can play a part in reversing climate change RIGHT NOW! You can contribute to a better world by voting with your pocketbook as well as your fork. It’s in our hands, and the longer we tell ourselves it’s someone else’s problem, the bigger the problem gets.

And if you’re reading this post when it’s hot off the press, you’re in luck. It’s Monday, which means it’s Meatless Monday! Clearly there’s no better place to start. So try one meatless day, or one meal if that’s all you’re ready for. (mind you, there’s no sin in making it a Meatless Tuesday if that’s the day you’re reading. Or you know, in general.)

Yes my friend, vegan pancakes exist and they're even better than the other kind. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Yes my friend, vegan pancakes exist and they’re even better than the other kind. Photo: Lauren Krohn

And don’t forget, while animal-based meat fuels global warming at an alarming rate, plant-based meats such as Tofurky, Field Roast, Beyond Meat and Gardein are sustainable foods that use a tiny fraction of the resources used for animal-based “foods.”

Listed below are some of my all time favorite food blogs, each of which demonstrates that animal-free food is diverse, decadent and fun. It’s not all salad people, believe you me. In this day and age, any dish you can imagine can be made vegan.

Virtually anywhere on earth, you can find phenomenal vegan fare. I had this coconut curry  on a tiny remote island in the Florda keys. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Virtually anywhere on earth, you can find phenomenal vegan fare. I had this coconut curry on a tiny remote island in the Florda keys. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Not only will you help our earth by ditching animal flesh and secretions (yup, that’s what eggs and dairy are,) you’ll be helping yourself to a life with a lower incidence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and so many other diseases. There are quite a few other reasons, including ending world hunger, and, oh yeah, the welfare of billions of exploited animals.

So let’s eat. If you want to get lunch right now, check out Happy Cow. Find vegetarian & vegan food anywhere you travel, or right at home!

Or get cooking with some of my favorite

Recipe Blogs:

www.ohsheglows.com

www.olivesfordinner.com

www.kblog.lunchboxbunch.com

www.forkandbeans.com

www.theppk.com

www.thesweetlifeonline.com

www.bittersweetblog.com

www.veganeatsandtreats.com

www.veganricha.com

www.meettheshannons.com

Or maybe your interest is piqued on this issue, and you’re ready to learn more about animal “agriculture”‘s place in global warming. Then check out the powerful documentary Meat the Truth.

Here are some great places to learn more about veganism, the why’s, how’s, and who’s-

www.joyfulvegan.com

www.vegansociety.com

www.farmsanctuary.com

http://www.ourhenhouse.org/

Home

Nutrition& Health

www.theveganrd.com

www.veganhealth.org

www.PCRM.org

www.nutritionfacts.org

www.drfuhrman.com/library/articles.aspx

www.veganforher.com/nutrition/the-plant-plate/

I leave you with a great video from the people at Chomping Climate Change, where you can find everything you need to know about the link between animal agriculture and the environment. For our planet, for our future, for the animals, for health- so many reasons, just one solution. Be that change. What do you have to lose?

Questions? Please feel free to ask in the comments! 

Eating My Way Across the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival

If you can believe it, this was my first trip to the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival, now in it’s 4th year. And yes, I have been missing out. Each year this festival brings in loads of food vendors showcasing their tasty new products. Additionally there are many inspiring nonprofits in attendance, and an impressive roster of speakers. I won’t have the chance to go in depth on the festival background or the important organizations there this past weekend, but please stop over to the VFF’s website for more info.

Robyn and Stephanie chow down on some soul food.

Robyn and Stephanie chow down on some soul food.

With scores of vendors, I can hardly review all of the products but I’m going to rave the pants off quite a few standouts!

1. Marty’s Fast Foods

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I was barely in the doors when the sweet & tangy aroma of barbeque beckoned. It wafted into the main space trumping every other marvelous scent. We were basically getting a contact high.

Just inside the main entrance, a mob of hungry festivalgoers thronged around the Marty’s Fast Foods stand, a restaurant set to open soon in our town. My mom’s mantra, “Don’t buy the first thing you see” echoed in my brain as it often does, (did anyone else’s mom say that too?) but an hour later, my nose kept pulling me back to those drumsticks. And after hearing several superlative reviews from friends, I plunked down $3 for 2: one BBQ and one Buffalo. Best $3 ever spent! At least in recent memory.

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The drumstick itself was really succulent. Not even remotely dry like some of the plant-based chickens of old. There’s a crunchy coating that isn’t at all greasy, all smothered in a just-sweet enough, tangy barbeque sauce. It was truly heavenly. The Buffalo flavor was also pretty good, but I preferred the sweet vs savory richness of the BBQ sauce. (Incidentally, the Buffalo drumstick was generally served with a Bleu cheese dressing, but I was never a fan of cheese, even the plant-based variety, so I passed on that.)

2. DF Mavens Ice CreamIMG_0579

Just next to Marty’s was some of the most dangerous stuff at the Festival. I’ve been reading about DF Mavens for months now- they’re slated to open a store in the East Village soon. But this was my first opportunity to try their product. Nothing could have prepared me for the deliciousness that awaited. This is the ice cream to end all ice creams. Creamy and rich with incredibly intense flavors, it’s just an inspiration.

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Perhaps I should have been a bit shy about trying 6 flavors, particularly when dozens of drooling customers awaited their own samples. But alas, shyness has never been my strongpoint. DF Mavens makes both almond milk based and coconut milk based  varieties- of the former I sampled the Mocha Almond chip, Chocolate Almond Fudge, and Mint Almond Cookie. All were incredibly tasty, with a rich and intense chocolate flavor. I also tried the coconut based Madagasacar Vanilla Bean as well as Chocolate.  The vanilla was some of the most vanilla-y vanilla I’ve ever tasted. So much so that it challenges your idea of vanilla.

I’m going to be in big trouble when the store opens.

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3. Earth Balance PopcornIMG_0557

I’m late to the party here, as it’s been around for a year. But this stuff is addictive. The Aged White Cheddar popcorn tastes exactly like the Smartfood I binged on as a kid. But it’s not full of harmful dairy with all it’s saturated fat, cholesterol and carcinogens. The buttery flavor is also tremendous. Next time I see a movie, I’ll be smuggling some Earth Balance popcorn into the theater. The only problem is deciding which kind.

4. Alchemy CreameryIMG_0633

I’m somewhat ashamed that I’d never heard of Alchemy Creamery. They have some pretty unique flavors as you can see above- I had the honor of tasting the Salted Peanut butter and Marzipan. Both were incredible. Their ice cream has a rich mouthfeel without feeling too heavy. Super smooth and the flavors are intense. If I hadn’t eaten my weight in DF Maven’s minutes earlier I would have tried some more.

5. One Lucky Duck

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I’m a big fan of macaroons, and also a macaroon snob. But I have to say, these are some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Perhaps even the best! I also tried a marzipan-esque, peanut buttery cookie (the striped one, above) that was also divine. By this point I could barely shove it in any longer but One Lucky Duck’s pastries were so damn good I took one for the team.

They have a store in the Chelsea Market, but I’ll try to forget this information stat.

6. Upton’s Seitan

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I eat Upton’s all the time, it’s my seitan of choice. So there was really no need for me to sample any, but if there’s Upton’s seitan in the house, I’m going to have to eat it. I think I tried the Canadian Bacon and the seitan crumbles, the former of which I’d never tasted. Really delish. I can totally envision the bacon on a pizza, and the crumbles in chili or a tofu scramble. Or a lasagna. Or a savory pie. It’s versatile stuff. Oh, and I’ll have the opportunity to try it in any of these recipes since I pocketed about 10 coupons.

I tried plenty more, but I have to wrap up the food portion of our journey. Have a look at some of the other foods a bit further below, all of which you can get your hands on by visiting the exhibitor page.

Next…Victoria Moran

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There were plenty of talented speakers over the course of the weekend, but I purposefully planned my visit to coincide with Victoria Moran‘s talk. I had previously seen her speak at Farm Sanctuary – her energy, charismatic yet down to earth nature and of course her brilliant mind had a huge impact on the audience. Once again, Victoria brought it with an inspiring talk on staying vegan.

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She touched on many interesting points regarding dedication as well as vegan recidivism. In addition to hearing her always enlightening perspective, I also learned a tremendously interesting fact- I never understood the mechanism behind dairy’s addictive nature. It actually contains addictive, morphine-like compounds called casomorphins. Casomorphins are protein fragments derived from any mammalian milk, it’s a strong incentive for infants to nurse. No wonder cheese is so addictive, all that casomorphin condensed into a brick- it’s like cocaine!

I wish I had recorded her whole talk, but you’ll just have to hear her for yourself someday, and read her newest hugely successful book, Main Street Vegan.

In case you’re not hungry yet, feast your eyes on some more food porn below. And get to New York next year for the 5th annual Vegetarian Food Festival!

Treeline Cheese, a very authentic nut cheese people rave over

Treeline Cheese, a very authentic nut cheese people rave over

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The Regal Vegan, popular catering company with their highly sought-after Faux Gras

The Regal Vegan, with their highly sought-after Faux Gras

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Beyond Sushi, all vegan sushi near union square and in the Chelsea Market

Beyond Sushi, looking tantalizing. But what a tease putting it right there with the DO NOT EAT sign!

Pretty lavander chocolate cupcakes

Pretty lavender chocolate cupcakes

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Yeah Dawg, everyone's favorite veggie dog.

Yeah Dawg, everyone’s favorite veggie dog.

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Yummy chocolate bunnies. The chocolate is pretty delish, just like the easter bunnies I remember.

Yummy chocolate bunnies. The chocolate is pretty delish, just like the easter bunnies I remember.

Lentil Soup: A Momentary Thaw

This winter, people. Lord help us. As if the mountains of snow here in NYC were not enough, I’m hobbling around in a camwalker boot due to a fractured talus bone. While I’ve been a trooper despite the injury, I draw the line when it’s snowing and/or the roads and sidewalks are a sheet of ice. This means I’ve been in a lot, which translates to a lot of cooking.

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Soup is high on the agenda in this kind of weather. While I had made half dozen other dishes, another round of snow had me craving lentil soup. I generally go straight for The Post Punk Kitchen’s Rustic Winter Stew, but said dish takes just a bit more planning and time. Because the white menace had me trapped in the house devoid of several key ingredients, I set upon making more of an impromptu, easy soup.  All you really need are dry lentils, an onion or garlic, (both are good, but one will suffice) and spices you already have around. I was so pleased with the results that it’s now going to be on the menu at all times.

Why two kinds of lentils you ask? These little red guys will fall apart and give you a nice thick broth, while the green ones will keep their shape.

Why two kinds of lentils you ask? These little red guys will fall apart and give you a nice thick broth, while the green ones will keep their shape.

This soup has more comfort than a fuzzy blanket. Served with greens and baked potatoes or squash, you have the perfect meal packed with protein, iron, calcium, a host of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s also really fast and easy to make, so even if it’s 6pm, you can be eating in about an hour, chop to simmer, with a minimum of effort.

A good deal of the broth gets absorbed by the lentils, so when I feel like a brothier soup I make the dish as is, then dilute it on a per-serving basis with some water and add a dollop of red miso for punch. Definitely thaws you out and has a ridiculously high cozy factor. Run, don’t walk to the kitchen now! (but take it from me, be careful not to trip.)

Yield: about 6 cups
Ingredients:

1 teaspoon Olive oil
1 small onion, diced medium
2 cloves garlic, minced note: Feel free to use either onion or garlic, both are ideal but one will suffice.Use an extra garlic clove if using only garlic.

1/2 teaspoon cumin
Several generous grinds fresh black pepper
2 grinds pink salt or sea salt

2 bay leaves
1 cup green lentils
1/4 cup small red lentils
2- 3 carrots, chopped
About 1/2 package Crimini mushrooms (or the whole thing if you dig them as I do.)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp Nutritional yeast

Method:
Preheat a medium- large pot over medium heat. Saute the onion in olive oil, along with a dash of salt, for about 1 minute. Add the garlic, cumin, pepper and salt and saute a minute more.
Add the green lentils, bay leaves and vegetable broth. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally for about 20 minutes, until lentils are slightly softened.

Lower heat to simmer. Cook for about 10 more minutes, until lentils are nearly soft. Add red lentils, carrots and mushrooms. Check carrots and lentils for done-ness after 5 minutes. The red lentils should fall apart, but not the green ones. Add nutritional yeast, stir and let sit for 10 minutes or so to allow the flavors to meld and water to absorb more into the lentils. As always, serve with extra nooch and sriraja.