Archive
Tag "Vegan"

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I’m SO happy and excited to announce the official launch of Schoon Soap! For the past few months, I’ve been working on designing the branding and packaging for an amazing new line of vegan soaps. (It’s been hard to keep my mouth shut about this project, believe me!)

Stephanie Klose has been making soap since 2005, but it wasn’t until this year that she decided to fully immerse herself (literally and figuratively) in the business of creating the perfect lather. After a lot of experimentation, she’s come up with a initial line of 12 varieties of soaps, including fragrance-free and fragrance-ful options. Schoon means “clean” in Dutch, and the name pays homage to the Dutch heritage of the New York regions both Stephanie and I have called home: Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley, the latter of which was also my inspiration for the mountain-y logo.

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One of the best things about working on the packaging for these soaps is that in order to fully appreciate their characteristics, I (naturally) had to use them. I’m usually a no-frills, unscented, liquid castile soap kind of gal when it comes to shower time, so making the switch to these truly luxurious bars was a pretty big upgrade for me. The first soap I tried was Bay Rum & Vetiver, which passed my smell test immediately: warm, earthy, spicy. The coconut oil and shea butter base felt so great on my usually dry skin, and I had no irritation at all from the essential oils used to give it its wonderful fragrance.

Most recently, I’ve been using the Pure/Unscented bar, which still feels fancy and luxurious even though it’s fragrance-free! Great news for anyone who can’t tolerate any kind of perfume. ALL of the varieties are free from any synthetic fragrances, parabens, or preservatives, and the entire line is totally vegan. (And they’re all made by hand right here in Brooklyn!)

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I realize I’m totally biased in saying this, but they also look great in my bathroom—wrapped and unwrapped. Each soap wrapper has its own unique pattern and color, so they feel really special and personal. That was the most important thing to me in designing the packaging—I didn’t want the individual varieties to blend into one another visually (though they do also look nice together in a group!). The coolest part of the project? Seeing the logo I designed for Stephanie embossed into a finished bar. So satisfying.

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To celebrate the launch of Schoon Soap, Stephanie and her husband, Rob (who handles the customer service side of things), are offering a 20% discount on all of their soaps until October 6th! Just use the code SCHOONTIME during checkout at Etsy.

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And just for extra fun, let’s do a Schoon Soap giveaway! There will be THREE winners drawn at random, and each winner will receive any three bars of their choosing from Schoon Soap. Yay! International entries are welcome. Deadline for entries is 11PM EST on October 12th.

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. I’ll announce the winners here and on Twitter tomorrow. The winners will also be notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Here’s how to enter:
✚ Visit the Schoon Soap website.
✚ Check out the soaps!
✚ Leave a comment below letting us know which three varieties sound the most wonderful to you.
✚ That’s it! Thanks for entering. ♥

Congratulations on the launch of Schoon Soap, Stephanie and Rob! It was an honor to work with you.

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For much of my adolescence, I lived in a house without a shower. The house was built in 1820, and when indoor plumbing was added, a bathroom was built on the second floor. It had a toilet, a chrome-legged sink, and a cast iron pedestal tub. My mother, two of of my sisters and I took turns taking baths every morning. The tub didn’t have a spray handle, so we kept a big plastic cup next to the tub for rinsing shampoo out of our hair with clean water. I’m not going to romanticize things: It sucked. It made getting ready in the mornings a huge hassle, and it sucked. I loved staying over at friends’ houses so I could take a real SHOWER. (And also so I could eat microwave popcorn and watch cable TV.)

When I was 16 or so, we got one of those shower enclosure conversion things, and life immediately got better. Showers! Every! Day! So! Clean! And do you think I ever took a bath in that house again? HELL NO.

Anyway, that was in 1991. Fast forward 17 years to 2008, when we were renovating the downstairs bathroom. Taking that shower out of commission meant that we were limited to taking baths in the upstairs bathroom for however many months (six…) it took us to finish the renovation. Fortunately we do have a hand-held sprayer so no plastic rinsing cups were necessary, but let me tell you…taking daily baths as part of regular grooming and personal upkeep is one thing, but bathing after a long day of demolition and sweaty, dirty renovation work is quite another. One bath to get the grime off, another bath to get the dirty water off, and then a cleaning session to get the haze of grime off of the tub. There was no lazing about in mounds of bubbles while listening to Mets games on the radio with the window open. No, none of that. All business, no pleasure.

So, naturally, once the downstairs bathroom renovation was complete and the shower was back in order, I quit baths like a bad habit. Until last month, I think I’d taken a grand total of maybe five baths in the past five years. How pathetic is that? We put all of this hard work into renovating the bathroom and spent a bunch of money having the clawfoot tub refinished, and I’m not even taking baths in it?!?!

Well, that’s all changing now, and you know what the incentive was? No, not a desire for relaxation, but packaging. Beautiful, minimal packaging from Herbivore Botanicals, who I first discovered via their Etsy shop. Seattle-based Julia and Alex started Herbivore Botanicals three years ago, and everything in the line is totally vegan and completely natural. Now, I don’t want to stereotype too much here, but as someone who is increasingly doing a lot of shopping in health food stores’ cosmetics aisles, I can tell you that “vegan” and “natural” are not usually words that I associate with incredible packaging design. And that stuff matters—it matters to me as someone who cares about design, and it matters when it comes to the perception of animal-friendly and natural products as being part of the world of luxury skin care.

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Let’s talk about that Coconut Milk Bath Soak. It’s amazing. It doesn’t make bubbles or anything like that, it really is a soak. It has the most gentle, calming coconut/vanilla scent imaginable—not like one of those gross, chemical-y “birthday cake”-scented bubble baths. It doesn’t make the tub (or you) weird colors. After getting out of the tub, my skin feels so super-soft…not coated or oily, just soft and fresh. There is a subtle fragrance that lingers, but it’s nothing that would interfere with another perfume (if you’re into stuff like that). The Coconut Milk Bath Soak has turned me into a bath devotee. I am committed to taking baths in the evenings on weekends now!

I bought a couple of other products at the same time as the bath soak—Vetiver Cardamom Luminous Body Oil for me, and Men’s Face Elixir for Evan. We love them both! I use the body oil almost every day now, right after I get out of the shower (or bath). It’s much more viscous than body oils I’ve used in the past, so I do need to apply it while my skin is still warm. It’s done an incredible job of keeping my legs from turning into crocodile skin this winter. The cardamom vetiver scent does linger for a while, but it’s exactly the kind of warm fragrance I love when it’s cold out. When the weather gets warmer, I’ll probably switch to the Neroli Blossom version. Evan really likes the Face Elixir! He uses it every night, and was able to give up the very unnatural nighttime moisturizer he’d been using previously.

I have to admit that after having struggled for so many years to find a facial skin care routine that really works for me I am hesitant to change anything about it. I don’t think I can walk away from my prescription medications without my skin freaking out (the emotional distress of adult acne is something I’ve discussed before, I won’t get into it again now…), but I am going to try to phase out the other products—and phase in more natural, animal-friendly ones. I’m going to start by ordering the Pink Clay Soap and see how it goes. My skin is far too dry and delicate for anything like the Bamboo Charcoal.

How about you? Are there any natural, vegan, non-irritating face washes you’d like to recommend I try? Preferably ones that work well with a Clarisonic (not all cleansers do)—and bonus points if the packaging is nice. Of course.

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Ohhhhh yeahhhh. Last weekend I hosted a big family gathering at my house, and even though I wasn’t in charge of dessert, I selfishly decided to make a little vegan cake so Evan and I would have something to enjoy with our coffee. I’m really not much of a baker, but this turned out so beautifully! It was delicious, too.

OK, so…let’s get my confession out of the way first: I used a mix for the cake part. Yes. I know that baking an actual yellow cake from scratch is not difficult, but we had a box of nice, all-natural cake mix in the pantry already and this was a last-minute plan, so there you go. No shame.

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The mix called for adding water and melted margarine. I subtracted a teaspoon of water and added a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, and substituted melted coconut oil for the margarine. I love baking with coconut oil! I divided the batter in half, then baked two layers using an 8×2″ Wilton heart pan.

I knew if I waited until the morning to bake them I wouldn’t have enough time to let both layers cool completely before frosting, so I played it safe. I left the cakes on the counter until bedtime, then wrapped them in parchment and foil and refrigerated them overnight. First thing the next morning, I took them out again so they’d come to room temperature.

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FROSTING. Holy hell, this frosting. It’s so good. I wasn’t sure if it was going to come out right so I didn’t think to take pictures until I’d already started putting it on the cake, but it made exactly the right amount to frost two small layers or one standard.

Coconut cream cheese frosting (vegan)
Adapted from this recipe / Enough for two small layers or one standard (or 12 cupcakes)

1 cup powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar/icing sugar)
1/2 cup coconut oil (must be solid/cool)
2 tbsp almond milk
3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

Put everything in a food processor for 1-2 minutes, or until everything is well-blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate.

After about 30 minutes, mix up the frosting with a fork. It’s going to feel like it’s too runny to work as cake frosting, but don’t worry—once the coconut oil cools and re-solidifies, it’ll be perfect. You just have to periodically mix it as it cools so you wind up with a fluffy end result. I mixed it up every 15 minutes or so for about two hours because I was in the kitchen doing other stuff anyway, but I think it would be fine if you wait a little longer than that. Just make sure it stays in the fridge long enough to be cold and fluff it up every now and then. I left it overnight, then took it out first thing in the morning. After it had warmed on the counter for about half an hour and I gave it another fork-mixing, it was PERFECT.

Note: Taste the frosting, but do not eat all of the frosting with a spoon (even though you’ll want to).

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I prefer the dome-topped look when it comes to homemade cakes, so I only de-domed the bottom layer (then I ate the discarded dome for breakfast, naturally). It’s really easy to do that with a regular serrated bread knife—just get down at eye level and go slowly. Small pieces of parchment paper under the perimeter of the cake will make it easier to transfer the layers to your serving plate after frosting.

(That gorgeous cutting board was made by Ariele Alasko, by the way! It was my and Evan’s Hanukkah gift to each other, and it’s right at home in our kitchen.)

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I am by no means knowledgeable about cake decorating, but the most important thing I’ve learned is to do what’s called a “crumb coat” before frosting the cake completely. It does take more time, but it’s worth it. Spread a very thin layer of frosting across the top and sides using a light hand. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, it just has to lightly coat everything. Put the cake in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes after doing your crumb coat. This will seal the cake surface and prevent crumbs from finding their way into the frosting while you’re doing the real decorating! It works so well and makes a huge difference.

You’ll want to put the frosting back in the fridge, too, if it’s starting to feel a little loose. Don’t let it get so hard that you can’t spread it, of course, just keep an eye on things. If you’re working in a hot kitchen or during the summertime, you’ll definitely need to let the frosting cool down while your crumb coat sets.

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Ah! All decorated! I am not very good at this part of cake-making, but I don’t really care. As much as I admire the artistry of beautifully-decorated cakes, I like to keep things simple. I don’t have any special tools, I just used the back of a wide soup spoon. The sides of the cake were looking a little uneven, so I pressed on some shredded coconut. Carefully transfer to a plate, slide out the parchment, and you’re done.

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Ta-da! The cake sliced cleanly and with minimal crumbling, and it’s a miracle I managed to take these photos at all. My family was all crowded into the kitchen while I barked, “DON’T TOUCH THE CAKE, I HAVE TO TAKE PICTURES FOR MY BLOG!” My brother made rabbit ears behind it.

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SO YUMMY. It might actually be the best cake I’ve ever eaten. It’s definitely the best cake I’ve ever made, and even though I used a mix, I’m still pretty proud. The addition of coconut oil produced a dense but moist cake, almost like a pound cake. That frosting, though—it’s amazing stuff. I want to make another batch for carrot cake! I love that it really tasted like cream cheese frosting without relying on packaged vegan cream cheese. Heavenly.

Most importantly, everyone at my house from young children to grandparents thought the cake was delicious! There really is nothing that makes me happier than feeding people I love.

Back in March, the well-named Anna from Pattern Society emailed me about her soon-to-be-launched rug company, with pictures of some of the designs she was working on. She didn’t have a website up yet, but she does now — and all of the rugs are beautiful! They’re also surprisingly affordable. (And vegan — they’re all 100% cotton!)

Behold, the Union rug:

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Now, if THAT isn’t a rug that isn’t a rug that belongs in my house, then I don’t know what is. I might need to get a yellow typewriter to casually arrange on top of it, too, because I kind of just want to live in this photograph.

The whole collection is really nice (the Post rug is my favorite, I think!), and Anna says there will be more designs coming in the new year. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out, because now that Fritz and Bruno have quit treating rugs like giant wee-wee pads, I want rugs EVERYWHERE.

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(Side note: I really want to play badminton now.)

iced coffee + almond milk

I’ve always kind of thought that making your own almond milk is a little like making your own crackers or shoes. If you have the time to do it, cool, knock yourself out! In the mean time, I’ll be over here buying a perfectly nice carton of almond milk and a box of Triscuits. A few weeks ago, though, Evan and I were up in Kingston checking out Daniel and Max’s new house (side note: OMG!!!), and we stopped in at a super-cute antique store/café, Outdated. As usual, I was on the hunt for an iced coffee, so I checked with the girl at the counter to see if they have soy milk. She told me no, they only have almond milk — and then added (surely noticing the look of disappointment on my face, because who likes almond milk in coffee?), “But it’s homemade! It’s really good!”

And so it was. Like, really, really good.

I put my trust in Angela’s recipe for almond milk and gave it a shot. Incredibly, I already had a nut milk bag on hand and I just fixed our busted blender, so I didn’t really have any excuses. IT WAS SO EASY, GUYS. I know people like ♥ Martha Stewart ♥ like to say stuff that isn’t easy is easy just so the rest of us feel badly about our inadequacies, but making your own almond milk? EASY. Washing the blender is the hardest part, and once you quit being a baby and just wash the thing even that isn’t so bad. If you need more convincing, watch Honey LaBronx — a.k.a. The Vegan Drag Queen — make almond milk. If she and I can do it, so can you.

Not only is it easy, it’s also DELICIOUS. Wayyyyyy better than any store-bought almond milk. The nicest part is that you can control how much liquid you use, so you can make a thicker, creamier milk if you want. This could be the end of buying boxed soy creamer for me, which would be a huge plus given the price of that stuff — not to mention the iffy ingredients in some brands. I drink stupid amounts of iced coffee when it’s hot out, so anything I can do to make that a cheaper, healthier and more delicious experience is worth it.

Speaking of iced coffee, YES, I still use my Bodum iced coffee press, and YES, I still love it.

(I just went over to Oh She Glows to get the almond milk recipe link, and I see that Angela is also writing about homemade almond milk with cold-brewed iced coffee. Hah! See that? I’m not lying — it’s so good!)

Now I want to try making other nut milks. Cashew milk, definitely! Hazelnut milk?? Hmmm. What other nut milks should I try?

tofu lentil salad

Once upon a time in the recent past, I cooked at least 6 dinners a week. On the weekends, I even cooked extra food to freeze for lunches at the office. And then something happened: We got an apartment in Brooklyn. Oh Brooklyn, home of M.O.B., Wild Ginger, Vegetarian Ginger, Britain Indian, Darna Falafel, Siggy’s, Zaytoons and, of course, my beloved Hanco’s, home of the best vegan pork banh mi sandwich imaginable. Brooklyn is a food paradise, and having so many awesome vegan options available — whether by walking a few blocks or ordering delivery — is kind of irresistible.

There are, however, some downsides to all of that delicious convenience:

1. PRICE. Yes, that’s obvious. I know. Buying dinner out for two people night after night is stupidly expensive, and while I know that’s kind of the New York way of life that everyone makes jokes about (“My oven? Oh, you mean where I store my off-season clothes!”), it’s shocking how much it all adds up to week after week. I need to keep that in mind the next time I shake my head at an $8 bottle of olive oil — I mean, the oyster mushrooms I had as an appetizer last night cost $9. C’mon.

2. WEIGHT. As in, I have a lot of it to spare. That whole thing about vegans being skinny? That’s a damn lie. Healthful eating and fitness are about a whole lot more than whether or not you eat animal products. If you eat giant portions of processed takeout food every night, guess what? You’re going to feel (and see!) the effects on your body. It isn’t even so much about size specifically as it just feeling slow and tired and knowing that the weight gain is the result of eating too much of the wrong stuff all the time.

3. STRESS. I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember this when it’s 8:00 at night and I’m starving, but cooking and preparing food makes me feel really good. I’m a big fan of task completion even when it’s on a really small scale, probably because I work in an industry where nothing ever really feels done. Having a sense of definable accomplishment is a huge motivator, and getting a healthy, yummy meal together is a huge stress reliever. The same goes for doing the dishes…but now I’m going off on a tangent. (OK, so this whole post is a tangent.)

To help curb my addiction to takeout, I’m assembling a small arsenal of simple recipes that I can fall back on night after night. Aside from being vegan, the only rules are that I have to be able to prepare the meal in less than 30 minutes, it has to be reasonably healthy, there can’t be any ingredients that would require me to buy huge amounts of something perishable when I only need a tiny bit and, most importantly, Evan and I both have to LOVE the way the meal TASTES. It’s going to take a little trial and error, but I’ll post the successful recipes here along the way. (Please feel free to share your own favorite fast, cheap, vegan recipes in the comments, too!)

Tofu lentil salad (vegan)
Serves 2

8 oz super or extra-firm tofu
1 tbsp peanut oil
salt
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp brown rice vinegar
1 tbsp Sriracha (or to taste)
5 oz salad greens, any type
1/2 cup cooked lentils (Either make a bunch in advance and store them in the fridge, or cheat and buy a vacuum-sealed pack from Trader Joe’s — they go a LONG way)
Spicy peanut dressing (I’m lazy, so I buy Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette from Trader Joe’s, but you can certainly make your own)
Whatever other stuff you have in the fridge: Avocados, cherry tomatoes, sprouts…

Slice the tofu into quarters, press to remove excess moisture and cut into chunks. Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat, then add peanut oil. When the oil is hot, add the tofu in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. I follow all of Isa Chandra’s advice when cooking tofu — if you’ve had trouble getting it to come out nice and brown, definitely take a look at her suggestions.

Once the tofu is nicely browned on all sides, reduce the pan heat slightly and add in the mirin, vinegar and Sriracha. Toss with a spatula to coat, and turn off the burner. Let the tofu sit in the hot pan while you prepare the greens.

In a large bowl, toss the greens, lentils and any other veggies with the salad dressing. Divide into two bowls, and top with tofu cubes. Done!

maple pepper popcorn

When people ask what my favorite food is (um, all of them?), I usually say one of three things: Toast, kale…or popcorn. I’m a greedy popcorn freak. To quote Evan, “The only way I get to eat popcorn is if Anna isn’t in the room.” Before I make popcorn, I always ask if Evan wants any, and, if so, exactly how much he plans to eat. If I think he’s going over the agreed upon amount, I’ll give him a side-eye and ask if he wants his own bowl.

Yeah, I’m kind of a jerk when it comes to popcorn.

I make it reeeeeeally good, though. Until last year I always either popped it in olive or peanut oil, but now I’m a total devotee of coconut oil. It does lend a very mild, barely-discernible coconut flavor to the popcorn, but not enough to make you feel like you’re eating suntan lotion. Sometimes I just sprinkle on a little salt, other times liquid aminos and nutritional yeast, or if I’m getting really fancy, crumbled up kale chips and cayenne pepper. Lately, though, this is my snack obsession—Maple Pepper popcorn. So yummy.

Maple Pepper Popcorn (vegan)
Serves 2 (but let’s be honest here, this is how much I make for just myself)

1 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1 tsp Earth Balance
Maple Pepper

In a small pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Pour in the popcorn kernels, stir to coat and put the lid on. Get excited when the corn starts to pop, but listen carefully—when you hear that there are more than 2 seconds between pops, turn the heat off. Pour the popcorn into a big bowl, then put the Earth Balance in the empty pot. No need to turn the heat back on, the pot will still be hot enough. Pour the melted Earth Balance over the popcorn, and sprinkle liberally (and I mean liberally) with Maple Pepper.

If you’re alone in the room when you finish, lick the bowl.

Oh, and about that Maple Pepper

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What’s Maple Pepper, you say? Glad you asked. I hadn’t heard of Maple Pepper until I saw a photo of a jar on Jen’s Instagram. It was a gift to her from Tamera. When Jen discovered I share her intense love of all things maple, she sent me two jars (one for the house and one for the apartment, of course). Now I need to choose a friend to give some to. We’re all paying it forward with Maple Pepper.

I’m so in love with this stuff. It’s a blend of pure maple sugar, black pepper, sea salt and citric acid. The resulting flavor is, obviously, both maple-y and peppery, but the saltiness is definitely noticeable, as is the citric acid, which comes across like a very very subtle hint of lemon. It’s faaaaaabulous, and I put it on (and in) EVERYTHING: Popcorn, toast, coffee, tea, ice cream, Brussels sprouts, spiced almond milk, tofu scramble, kale chips, baked sweet potatoes…everything. Maple Pepper is just always the right thing. It comes in other flavors (Garlic! Habanero!), too. I’ve only tried the original so far, but I’ll be branching out soon. I bet they ALL taste good on popcorn.

That nifty tea towel is the work of the incredibly talented Shanna Murray. Both the towel and the popcorn bowl were purchased at West Elm…and both have since been discontinued, unfortunately.

So, I’m sick. Super-duper sick. Pretty sure it’s the flu, which serves me right since this is the first time in years I’ve gone without a flu shot. Sleeping and recuperating has taken over my life in recent days, so please forgive my quietness! Here’s a holiday repeat until I’m back on my feet.

vegan kottbullar

I came up with a vegetarian version of my mother’s meatballs (which are themselves somewhere between between Swedish and Danish, as a result of her mixed origins) years ago, but a couple of years ago I created a fully vegan version. I’ve made them for holiday potlucks at work and for my whole family to enjoy. They’re delicious reheated (or cold!) the next day, too.

Vegan Svensk-Danska Köttbullar // Vegan Swedish-Danish Meatballs
Makes about 40 meatballs

1/2 cup unsweetened MimicCreme*
1 unit egg replacer*
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 lb Lightlife Gimme Lean (sausage style)*
3 tbsp Earth Balance

In a large, heavy pan (preferably cast iron), sautée onions in 1 tbsp Earth Balance until translucent.

Beat together cream and egg replacer in a large bowl. Add breadcrumbs, pepper, allspice, and onions; combine and let stand for about 10 minutes.

Add Gimme Lean to mixture, and use your hands to combine everything thoroughly.

Roll mixture into small balls no more than 1″ in diameter (I try to aim for about 3/4″), arranging on a tray or plate until finished.

Heat 2 tbsp Earth Balance in the cast iron pan until it’s lightly browned and the pan is very hot.

Add meatballs to the pan in a single layer. Turn until hot and dark brown on all sides—I like to pick up the pan and just jostle it slightly rather than use a spatula. Don’t be afraid to overcook the meatballs! You want them to be nice and dark.

Serve hot with boiled potatoes, lingonberry sauce, and, if you wish, vegan gravy—my mother thinks putting gravy on meatballs is barbaric, but I like it!

If you wind up with leftovers (as if!) or want to prepare your meatballs in advance, they can easily be reheated in a pan or covered in a 400° oven.

* A few notes about the ingredients:
I’m unsure of the availability of the pre-packaged products outside of the U.S., so perhaps readers can chime in with suggestions for vegan substitutes (for heavy cream, egg, and ground sausage) that could work in other parts of the world. For egg replacer, I used Bob’s Red Mill, but there are other brands that will work just fine.

Also, since it came up the last time I posted this recipe, I should mention that I use processed fake meats in cooking very sparingly—but for special occasions a few times a year, I think it’s okay to use some of the pre-made products that are out there, particularly if they help to recapture some of the traditional flavors we might miss. Everything in moderation, including moderation!

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A few weeks ago, superawesome artist Jen Ray (she who will make you happy) posted a photo of a yummy-looking mug of spiced almond milk with a weird-sounding list of components on Instagram, and she said it was her new favorite hippie drink. I told her the inclusion of tahini was freaking me out, but she assured me it’s delicious. It took me a while to get around to finding out for myself, but now it’s my new favorite thing. I want to drink it all the time! The weather in New York has dropped below freezing at night, and this is just the thing to warm me up and make me feel ready for bed.

You’ll need to play around with the amount of agave you use, since the type of tahini (some brands have less bitterness than others) and whether you use sweetened almond milk can affect the outcome. I suggest starting with a teaspoon and adding a little more only if you need it.

Spiced Almond Milk, a.k.a. “Jen Ray’s Hippie Drink” (vegan)
Serves 1

1 cup almond milk
1 tsp tahini
1 tsp agave
pinch turmeric
pinch nutmeg
pinch cinnamon

In a small pot, heat the almond milk on medium-low. Be careful not to let it boil, or a skin will form. Whisk in the tahini, being sure to blend any lumps. Add the agave and spices, and heat until steamy. Pour into a mug, add a little sprinkle of cinnamon so you can feel fancy, and drink up! So good.

And since I can’t mention Jen Ray without sharing a couple of my current favorites from her shop, Corduroy, here you go! Behold “Zukunft so hell muss ich eine sonnenbrille tragen!” and “Para bailar la bamba!” Makes you happy, right?

The whale cutting board is from Suddenly, it’s real!, the tea towel is from Bookhou, and the mug and spoon are from CB2. Alas, the tea towel is the only one of these things that’s not discontinued!

Oh, Brussels sprouts. How I love thee! It’s a tough call, but I think Brussels sprouts are the best cold-weather vegetable (broccoli rabe is a close second). There are so many ways to prepare them, but the classic boiling method is probably my least favorite—and also probably the reason why a lot of kids think Brussels sprouts are gross. The best way to make them? Pan-roasted.

I’m not going to lie, this recipe has a whole bunch of sugar and fat in it and probably a gazillion calories. I don’t care, though—there’s a time and place for junk food Brussels sprouts, and holed up after a hurricane is definitely it. Jen and I are both maple freaks, so I made this for lunch one day when she was visiting. Oh man, SO GOOD. I can’t stop thinking about it. Jen has now started using the word “maple” as a verb, so this recipe is named accordingly. The Brussels sprouts have been mapled.

I served the sprouts alongside a slice of Celebration Roast, a grain-based roast stuffed with butternut squash, mushrooms and apples. I really like the whole Field Roast line of products, by the way, especially the grain sausages. I don’t really think of them as a “meat substitute”—they’re kind of their own thing. Definitely recommended.

Mapled Brussels Sprouts (vegan)
Serves 2–4, depending on gluttony

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
3 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil (any oil that can handle high heat is fine)
Kosher salt and fresh pepper
2 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan butter (coconut oil would also be OK, but it will affect the taste)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Put the oil in a large, cast iron pan over medium-high heat. While it’s warming up, wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. I like to cut the end off, remove any weird-looking outer leaves, and then slice them lengthwise. It goes quickly with two people.

When the oil is good and hot, add the Brussels sprouts to the pan along with some salt and pepper. Toss quickly to coat, turn the heat up a bit, and then leave everything alone for a few minutes. The sprouts should get nice and brown and even charred a bit.

Add the Earth Balance and the brown sugar and slowly stir. Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the maple syrup, and let everything get roasty for 10-ish minutes (more or less depending on the size of the Brussels sprouts) until tender. You want the sugars to caramelize, but if the pan is looking too dry you can add a couple of table spoons of water and stir gently. Add the vinegar and cool a minute or so more.

Once the Brussels sprouts are looking fully mapled, serve!!

(Based on this recipe from Food & Wine)