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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!

Stay-Calm-Go-ForwardStay-Calm-Go-Back

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Holiday Dessert Roundup

Hello blogosphere! So sorry that I abandoned you recently, things have really heated up at school and the work is pretty intense. Next week I will see my first volunteer nutrition client, I’m really excited to put everything I’ve learned to good use! It’s really amazing that I have the opportunity to help someone on the path to going vegan. In fact, during my training I will be helping several people go vegan.  So many people responded to my ad for a volunteer client- it was unbelievably inspiring and of course, affirming. Affirming, because I went into this field as a response to what I felt was a need. Seeing this need all around me is an everyday inspiration as I toil away at school! I’m looking forward to helping these awesome people and making the transition effortless.

Chloe Coscarelli's awe-inspiring Chocolate Bread Pudding.

Chloe Coscarelli’s awe-inspiring Chocolate Bread Pudding.

Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I’ll get more original content up, but for the moment I want to share some of these amazing holiday desserts I’ve been seeing around. The internet is on fire with gorgeous vegan desserts this season, and I, for one, am drooling. I have to make some time to bake it some point, or else I’ll never get to taste any of these! Hopefully you’ll fit some into your holiday celebrations, and please, send me a slice!

What treats are you planning to make over the holidays?

http://www.thesweetlifeonline.com/2012/10/31/almost-raw-pumpkin-pecan-cheesecake/

http://www.veganricha.com/2013/04/spiced-apple-cake-vegan-recipe.html

http://www.nytimes.com/projects/well/vegetarian-recipes/#recipe/chocolatepumpkin-bread-pudding

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/plant-based-recipes/pumpkin-pie-custards-with-brulee-topping

http://www.thesweetlifeonline.com/2013/01/13/raw-chocolate-hazelnut-cheesecake/

http://anunrefinedvegan.com/2013/11/21/sweet-potato-maple-mousse-pie/

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/plant-based-recipes/gianduja-chocolate-mousse-cake-vegan/

http://vegnews.com/articles/page.do?pageId=1488&catId=11

http://bunnykitchen.com/2013/11/29/wonderful-nuts-review-and-raw-chocolate-salted-almond-tart/

A Compassionate Thanksgiving

This post began as a simple link to Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s marvelous new Thanksgiving video. But since she is my patron saint of inspiration, it doesn’t surprise that it developed a tiny life of it’s own. (I’ll still get to the video, which you must check out.)

The spirit of Thanksgiving is obviously in it’s etymology- so each year I wonder, shouldn’t the day be just that- a day to give thanks? Like many others, I find it hard to feel thankful when a dead bird lies before me on a table, when the air is thick with the smell of her body and so many others in neighboring homes. Obviously the 45 million turkeys have nothing for which they need give thanks. And is the destruction of our planet a cause for thanksgiving? Turkey “farming” yields massive carbon emissions, thus substantially contributing to global warming. Are we really thankful for the foodborne diseases, such as avian flu, MRSA, and super-strains of Salmonella created through animal agriculture? And are the world’s hungry thankful that millions of turkeys are raised on grain that could otherwise keep them fed year-round?

A happy flock of friends at Farm Sanctuary

A happy flock of friends at Farm Sanctuary

On this day, as ever, shouldn’t we behave in a fashion worthy of thanks? Imagine the collective good we could accomplish in changing just one meal. It’s really quite easy to have a joyous, meaningful holiday and decadent meal without killing innocent animals.  When you think about it, Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, so most of the foods are inherently plant-based. Why not build your holiday around these beautiful, nutrient dense foods? Below are just a few of the many fabulous vegan foods I have made or enjoyed on Thanksgiving.

Turkeys are some of the most loving, loyal animals out there.

Turkeys are some of the most loving, loyal animals out there.

Garlic mashed potatoes

Coconut sweet potatoes

Mushroom gravy

Roasted root vegetables

Roasted brussels sprouts

Roasted butternut squash

Acorn squash stuffed with wild rice

Garlicky string beans

Cranberry sauce

Tofurky Roast & Celebration Roasts

Pecan pie

Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin cheesecake

Cookbook author extraordinaire, Colleen Patrick Goudreau makes a gorgeous, cruelty-free Thanksgiving easy to envision in this wonderful video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zljsYQ3jjWE&feature=share

What plant-based foods are you planning to make for Thanksgiving this year? I’d love to hear the menu!

All Gone

All Gone. Those were Grandma Ruth’s words as I spooned chocolate pudding into my mouth. Her melodic voice and proud smile made every spoonful feel like an enormous accomplishment. While I was a picky kid, it wasn’t tough to finish off the contents of that footed dessert glass, particularly one topped with Cool Whip. Grandma made some amazing concoctions from boxed Jello. It all started with plain chocolate pudding, but she eventually graduated to create elaborate pies in neon colors- my favorite at around ten years old was the pistachio- pineapple dessert she made for our Florida visits. Because of it’s green hue,  it was affectionately known as “Grandma’s Slime Pie.”

My grandparents, departing for their honeymoon, in 1935.

My grandparents, departing for their honeymoon, in 1935.

The house where my Dad grew up, in Sheepshead bay. My grandpa on the left, Mom in the pink shirt with me, Grandma on the right. When asked about the apartment house behind, put up ten years after they moved in, my Grandma used to say, "What apartment house?"

The house where my Dad grew up, in Sheepshead bay. My grandpa on the left, Mom in the pink shirt with me, Grandma on the right. When asked about the apartment house behind, erected ten years after they moved in, my Grandma, ever the character, would say, “What apartment house?” Click and you can zoom this photo in big to see faces.

When I was thirteen, my Dad told us that Grandpa Sam had died in the night. He delivered the news through the first tears I had seen him cry. On a grey morning this past March, my mother called to tell me that my Dad was gone. This morning, it was my brother’s turn to let me know that Grandma Ruth died last night. Suddenly, all gone.

All beaming proudly, after my Dad's medical school graduation.

All beaming proudly, after my Dad’s medical school graduation.

For the last fifteen years, Grandma had been in a state of here sometimes, gone other times, but she was still here, a loving and permanent presence, her thoughts firmly attached to the events and everyday moments of her family, whether those thoughts were in the present or in 1935.

Grandma died just five days shy of her 99th birthday. Earlier this month, my brother and I talked about sending her story to The Today Show’s centenarians announcements, the goofy segment on which Willard Scott touts the talents and accomplishments of those who’ve lived to 100- now fortunate to be seen plastered on a jar of Smuckers jam. Max was given erroneous information that 99 year olds were eligible, but I’m glad I didn’t know the rules, otherwise I might have missed out on one last visit and an excuse to photograph her for a last time. So last week I visited Sarah Neuman, her nursing home in Westchester, with a mission.

Where I learned to play piano, Salem Drive in Scarsdale. Although I was more interested in a cookie here. My brother is beside me, my cousin, who Grandma also loved dearly, in front.

Where I learned to play piano, Salem Drive in Scarsdale. Although I was more interested in a cookie here. My brother is beside me, my cousin, who Grandma also loved dearly, in front.

The elevator doors open on the second floor and I see the familiar backs of thirty-odd white heads, staring up at a small television from their respective wheelchairs. Five years ago, it was easy to pick out Grandma’s trademark bouffant hairdo, but recently, it has lost it’s volume and deliberate shape. After failing to find her in the crowd, I discover her in a narrow hallway, asleep in her wheelchair, lunch staining her face. A nurse obliges my request to clean her up, and we roll off toward her room, she in her chair, I in the scooter I use to travel longer distances.

During these visits, our conversations are pretty one sided, and often I am unsure if she knows me as her granddaughter. Nevertheless, I operate under the assumption that she knows, or at least that she senses I am a person who cares. I tell her all the news about the family, about what’s going on in my life. I show her the family photos facing her bed, shrine-like, adjacent to a stuffed badger and sundry objects, no doubt left over from a previous resident. She looks at me, as if there is something she wants to say, but the words never come. She might fall asleep, or look away, as if I’m not there anymore. These times invariably recall my father’s last days, six months ago, in his respective nursing home, when the brain tumors impeded his thoughts, perceptions, possibly sight and hearing. And I wonder if she knows my Dad, her only child and near-daily visitor, is gone.

In her room at the nursing home, last week.

In her room at the nursing home, last week.

I had awoken her from a post-lunch slumber when I arrived, so it is no surprise when her eyes close softly as I point my lens toward her. But several minutes later, while shooting interiors, I look over to see her quietly smiling at me. It was as if she were somewhere else when I arrived, and was back now. Dad took these journeys as well- he would travel elsewhere for days, then return to us.

Grandma gives me a kiss when she awakens- on these visits, that one kiss is a gift, and the silence and surroundings shrivel in their importance. In her more conscious days, my Dad called her signature the “machine gun” kiss- not one, but a series of rapidly successive, waxy orange- colored kisses in the same spot. Difficult to remove, but easy to love. These days, all she can manage is one soft peck. The lipstick, once a rule (I was often chastised for appearing in public sans lipstick, even if public meant an emergency room) has been long gone from her mouth. Gone as well is the fancy shoe collection, accumulated from every flea market in South Florida. And her trademark gold baubles that once adorned so many limbs and appendages, clinking musically as she moved.  And of course, her impeccably manicured, two inch long nails are no more, the nails I heard clicking on the piano keys as she imparted the wisdom of her Julliard training.

That smile. The hair, poofed on the right, covers a large benign tumor on her head.

That smile. The hair, poofed on the right, covers a large benign tumor on her head.

The quiet smile I now see through the lens is one of remembrance, one of a different time and place. It is the state I had hoped to capture and preserve. It feels like pure Grandma, one without judgement, without  expectations, without constraint. It was the smile behind her voice as she read me The Little Puppy at three years old. It was grandma, who loved me, just as I was.

I click the shutter. She returns to sleep.