World Vegan Month + Nablopomo = Done!

Pigs at Woodstock

Happy World Vegan Day, guys!

That’s right, November 1st is World Vegan Day, and it also kicks off both World Vegan Month and Nablopomo. Since starting Leaves of Kale, I’ve been planning to participate in Nablopomo, which is a challenge that bloggers take on to write a post each day of the month. (The organization BlogHer now hosts a challenge every month, but November is still considered the official month of Nablopomo.) Having already planned to take this on, when I realized that this month is also World Vegan Month—well, come on! It’s just too perfect.

So, since it’s Nablopomo, and in celebration of World Vegan Month, I am planning to write and publish a post here every day for the remainder of November.

I have no illusions that this is going to be an easy task, especially with a toddler to chase. My posts will no doubt range from fully photographed recipes to a list of articles that I’ve enjoyed reading, a few thoughts, or maybe a series of simple iPhone snaps of whatever I’ve eaten that day. I know that this month will challenge my perfectionist tendencies, and I hope that it will push me into a consistent blogging groove. It’s going to be an exercise for sure!

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Snacks on a Plane (and other vegan, toddler-friendly food tips for travel)

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Immediately after we booked our plane tickets for our visit to Minnesota/Wisconsin last month, I began to panic. Well, more like plan/panic. Planic?

The first two times we flew with Roman, the question of what we’d eat while traveling, and specifically on the plane, wasn’t a huge deal. We probably stashed a couple bars in my bag for ourselves and maybe bought some nuts or something at the airport. As far as Roman was concerned, well, I just made sure to wear a nursing top. His first plane ride was at 2 months old, at which point he was basically on the boob all the time anyway, and even on trip number two, at just shy of 11 months, I was still his primary source of nourishment. Whenever he was hungry or moody or tired, I’d just pop him on the boob. Easy peasy.

Twenty months, however, is a different game. While Roman is still happily nursing down for naps, bed, and comfort, food-food now makes up the more significant part of his caloric intake. The kiddo needs to eat and has definite mealtimes, which are essentially impossible to avoid in the several hour process of: travel to airport –> check in at airport –> wait at airport –> wait on plane –> fly on plane –> wait at baggage claim –> wait for car –> travel to destination. And while mealtime is so, so, so much cleaner than it used to be, he is still an uncivilized little animal who takes no issue with occasionally smearing food all the way up to his eyebrows, a complicating factor for in-air dining.

So two months out from our trip, in my early onset flurry of “planic”, I started searching for kid-friendly vegan travel eats. The lists I found included things like hummus, sandwiches, and hummus sandwiches. Others recommended nuts or salads (grain, green, and pasta). Don’t get me wrong, these are all great ideas—they’re just not the most toddler-friendly ideas.

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Moroccan Chickpea Stew

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

The first time I made this stew was one of those days where I looked up and realized that it was somehow, impossibly five-o-clock and I didn’t have anything planned for dinner. I began to panic and texted Chris to see if he might be able to bring something home. No response. He was probably in a meeting.

With dinnertime looming, I couldn’t just wait around and do nothing. The frantic fridge and pantry raid began. Almost immediately the three cans of chickpeas in our cupboard jogged something in my memory. I’d once made a Moroccan chickpea soup that was pretty decent and had called for three cans of chickpeas. Did I have everything else on hand? I found the recipe and confirmed that I did.

But….

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Pumpkin Spice Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

Pumpkin Cake

Many exciting things of the nuptial variety have been happening in our families over the past few months: one of my cousins got married, two of my other cousins got engaged, and we finally received the call from my sister-in-law Amy telling us that her boyfriend had proposed! (Sorry for using the word “finally”, Jeff, but we knew you were the dude since, like, the day we met you, so we’ve all been waiting. 😉 ) Their wedding planning is well underway, and Chris and I are excited and honored to have been asked to be members of the wedding party.

I was also incredibly honored when my mother-in-law asked me to make a cake for Amy and Jeff’s engagement party. Chris’ aunt, a seasoned baker, would be making a regular cake already. We have a fairly significant list of dietary restrictions in our group, though, so I was tasked with producing a vegan, gluten-free, soy-free cake as well.

No problemo!

(Hindsight being 20/20, this cake should and could have been nut-free also, but I made it using homemade cashew milk. Apologies to the nut-free cousins!)

After a few inquiries as to what the guests of honor might enjoy, I decided on a season-appropriate pumpkin spice cake with a hint of cardamom and a vanilla buttercream frosting. Sound good? It really was. But before I get into how good this cake is, let me first tell you that this is apparently (thankfully) a forgiving recipe.

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Vegan Among Omnivores

Proud vegan kitchen 2
We returned last Wednesday from an almost week-long visit to the Midwest. It was great to spend some time with my family, who we only see once or twice a year. Plus we were glad to be there to celebrate my cousin’s wedding and, a few days later, my not-so-little brother’s twenty-sixth birthday. However, it was also—a bit unexpectedly—the most difficult visit we’ve made yet.

We knew it would be more challenging going in. First, we’d be traveling with an active and independent toddler; the last time we took a trip like this with Roman, he wasn’t yet walking and still slept pretty easily through flights and car rides. Second, this would be the first time that we weren’t spending a good portion of our visit in the Twin Cities area. When you’re near a major metropolitan area, you can be fairly certain that you’ll have at least a couple of vegan dining options available. Pizza Luce is a staple for us whenever we visit, and we know that we can always hit up Whole Foods in either St. Paul or Minneapolis for provisions if needed. This time, we would be spending our entire visit in northern Wisconsin.

We prepared as much as we could for both of these things. We bought a set of headphones and downloaded a few episodes of Thomas for Roman and made sure to pack my entire purse and half of a small suitcase full of food and snacks (I’ll share some of my travel tips soon). Chris was pretty insistent in the days before we left that I was over-preparing food-wise. By the end of our trip, though, we were mighty thankful for Thomas the tank engine and glad for every bit of food we’d brought.

So while there were trying moments with the kiddo, and while we definitely found ourselves feeling hungry more often on this trip than others before, overall we felt that we prepared pretty well for the challenges we foresaw. What made things really difficult for us this time around was something that we didn’t see coming—how hard it would be simply being vegan in a region that is decidedly not.

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Maple Green Chile Cornbread

Maple Green Chile Cornbread Slice

It’s officially fall. I can say that now without simply meaning that it’s “official” because I’ve had to put a sweater on before going outside for more than a week, my skin is getting a little dry, and we put our heat on the other day for the first time in months. Though maybe somehow those things count more than what the calendar says? Either way. It’s official.

I can also tell that fall has arrived because my mood in the kitchen has shifted. I’ve moved away from spiralizing zucchini into piles of raw pasta and more toward big pots of chili and smoky baked beans. Chris always teases me that I cook according to the weather. It’s true.

And why not? It feels good. A plateful of crisp, raw veggies is a light and refreshing foil to the heat of summer (I flirt hard with raw foodism in those dog days). Conversely, who doesn’t like to come in on crisp fall day, shake off the chill, and sit down to a bowl of something hearty and hot?

Maple Syrup & Green Chiles

So it would stand to reason that I’d be serving up a hearty pot of goodness fit for fall, right? Nope! Instead I’m going to give you a sweet and savory sidekick for your own big pot of something.

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Homemade Almond Butter

Almond Butter in a jar
I may not be reinventing the wheel with this one, but it’s a staple around here and a method that merits mentioning—even though I’m decidedly not the first to do so. If you haven’t seen this party trick yet (or just haven’t gotten around to trying it out), get ready to save some money and impress all your friends, all while barely lifting a finger.

Homemade almond butter, people. Toss some almonds into a food processor, turn it on, let it run until you have almond butter. End of story. Goodnight!

It really is that simple, but let’s talk a little more about why you might want to make your own and all the wonderful ways that you can use this pantry staple.

Almonds in a jar

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Green Smoothie of the Moment

Peachy Green Smoothie
In April of this year, Chris and I bought our first home. We weren’t super well-acquainted with the neighborhood before we moved, but we were very excited that we would be living just one block away from a big park. We were even more excited when we learned that there is a greenmarket in the park every weekend and that the neighborhood CSA program’s pickup location is right next to that market.

Veggie-lovin’ jackpot! Before we even started packing boxes, I made sure we were signed up for the CSA.

We’d participated in our old neighborhood’s CSA a few times, and we loved the spirit of it as well as receiving a huge haul of organic produce every week, but our relationship with that CSA was a bit love/hate. The pick up location was more than a mile and half away without convenient subway access. While a 35-minute walk may not be such a huge deal, the 35-minute walk home loaded down with pounds upon pounds of produce in the middle of August was another story. It also didn’t help that the route passed through a pretty sketchy industrial area. Our solution to this problem was to rent a Zipcar each week to retrieve our share, which felt indulgent and totally negated the financial benefits of CSA participation.

A five-minute walk through the park to snag our veggies alongside a greenmarket sounded like heaven.

Almond Butter & Spinach
And it has been great! Those Saturday morning strolls feel sweet. We cruise through the greenmarket, stopping for a moment so that Roman can listen to the guitarist near the entrance and show everyone his awesome dance moves. Sometimes we grab lunch from Body and Soul, the vegan bakery stand with a nice gluten-free selection. Then we pop over and pick up our CSA share.

As anyone who’s ever participated in a CSA knows, the amount of produce you receive can be somewhat overwhelming. It took me a while to get back into the swing of using up all of our goodies (I totally forgot about freezing by the way! Next year I will definitely be freezing the things I know I can’t get around to.) but we’ve gotten into a good rhythm with the vegetables. I even used up all of our zucchini last week! The fruit has been a little trickier, though.

We usually receive two different kinds of fruit and will often get a lot of one of them. Early on we’d get quarts of blueberries. This was never a problem since they were sweet and wonderful; I’d eat a heaping cupful with breakfast every day and was sad when they stopped coming. Then, for a few weeks, we were getting dozens of little yellow plums. I dutifully ate as many of them as I could stomach before I’d had enough of wincing through the bitterness of their skins. Lately, we’ve been getting tons of little donut peaches…. 

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A New Leaf

Leaves of Kale
Suddenly I’m the new kid in school.  I’ve done this before, I know very basically how it all goes, but I’m walking down unfamiliar halls and everyone has yet to learn my name.  I’m not sure where I fit in.  It’s been a long time since I had to start from scratch.

If we know each other from a previous life, thanks for jumping across sites to be here.  If we’re meeting for the first time, I’m Britt.  I’ll spare the personal details for the About page, but the short story is that I used to write a food blog called GF in the City about gluten-free living in NYC.   After becoming vegan in the fall of 2011, I increasingly found myself feeling limited by the scope of that blog and decided that I needed a new, veg-friendly place to play. Enter Leaves of Kale.

I’m still gluten-free, which we’ll get into at some point, but basically just means that I bake with all kinds of crazy flours and eat a lot of quinoa.  I thoroughly enjoy food and am a firm believer that dietary restrictions don’t have to mean deprivation.  There is far more flavor and variety in my current diet than there ever was in my omnivorous, gluten-filled days.  I’m looking forward to sharing all that goodness with you here.

Another major reason for the change of address: I’ve been itching for a long time to write freely about plant-based nutrition, my favorite cruelty-free products, and my experiences as a crunchy, hippie-dippy mother to an amazing little boy.  So that’s what I’m going to do.  That and whatever else feels right.  I have a lot of hope for this space and am setting zero limitations for myself.

So here we go, kids.  School is officially in session.  Let’s see where these hallways lead.