Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Breakfast is Orange and Frothy

So today is Day #3 of my new drive to take charge of my health and weight. I started out on Monday with all the vim and vigour of the newly converted, hitting the gym and the juicer with equal enthusiasm, and vowing to myself that this was the start of something...erm...big.

Or small - whichever way you want to see it.

My fervor carried me through most of yesterday as I shopped for tons of fresh produce, spent a sweaty 45 minutes in the gym again, and noodled around the interwebs looking for inspiring weight loss stories.

But then came 6pm and it was time to cook dinner. :( As mentioned, My Beloved is trim and utterly without a peck of extra flesh so needs to lose no weight whatsoever. This means I have to be careful about dinners - the only meal we share during the week - as it can't be 'just' a salad. So I started preparing some vegan stuffed mushrooms (portabellos), tabbouleh and green leafy salad with a raw peppery-avocado dressing. Normally I would have baked a loaf of fresh, crusty, deliciously-warm-in-the-center bread to go with this, and perhaps a dessert for afterwards too. But this time I refrained. Keeping myself from devouring the stuffing - onions, garlic, spinach, breadcrumbs, thyme, pepper and Daiya cheese - by the handful was the tricky part as my mind screamed at me that I had been great all day dammit and I deserved some actual food!

Still I managed to resist but not without descending fairly rapidly into a crabby mood. It is interesting to me to see that, although I know that my love affaire with food has perhaps the most major impact on my emotional functioning, there seems to be little I have learned to help myself manage this. I am not without insight into my own mind, but still allow myself to be ruled by feelings around food: what to eat, how much to eat, even where to eat - the formality and process of a meal, and so on and so forth. I have read that folks doing a cleanse or a juice-fast (neither of which I am doing, btw) often have to deal with a surge of emotion around the food they are not intaking, but that they usually come out of the other side intact. I have to assume that this will also be the case with me. So for the meantime, I will plough on and just keep putting one foot in front of the other, along this path towards health and wellness.

Breakfast this morning was this:

Looks like an orange-creamsicle, no?

Actually, it is the juice of 2 large carrots, 2 oranges and 1 small grapefruit. And, yet again, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Thanks to the Nutrition Ninja

I can't deny it: I am not a skinny vegan. Nowhere. Near. In fact, I couldn't even claim to be chunky. 'Chubby'? Perhaps 'voluptuous'? 'Curvaceous'! Nope, plain and simple 'fat' is the more honest descriptor. I have battled weight all my life - both in my pre-vegan, omnivorous days and now. The problem is that fundamentally I am physically lazy, except when it comes to food preparation and consumption and then of course I am a dynamo. I can stand and cook for hours, eat as an Olympic sport, bake up a storm, and keep coming back for more. During my lifetime, I have tried the majority of the 'brand-name' diets, but either they don't sit right with me or I don't have enough willpower to make them work. Inevitably some pounds disappear but they always come back and when they do, they bring their friends.

During the course of her visit here, my mother channeled her inner Nutrition Ninja and bought me a juicer. It's one of those kitchen tools I've always quietly desired but never really thought to buy as a. they're expensive, b. they're uni-taskers, and c. I'd use it only for myself. My Beloved, skinny and gorgeous as he is, is more partial to a good microbrew or a glass of wine than he is to juices and I just thought it a waste of money to buy something solely for myself.

Thank you, Mum!

Here's the beastie she sneakily purchased without even telling me:

So I have resolved to incorporate a ton of fresh juices into my diet and see if I can crowd out the calorie-laden vegan goodies I have come to so enjoy. My plan is simple: juice and salads for breakfast and lunch, and smaller dinners with My Beloved.

I have not yet set goals for weight loss or milestones for the challenge, but I just know I have to change how I take care of myself before it all gets too late. I made the change from meat-eater and cheese-lover to vegan very easily and have really not looked back. But I always find it easier to act on behalf of someone else - in this case, the animals whose suffering and death I was supporting with my foolish choices - than to act for myself. This must change and it's started here, with lunch:

Cucumber, celery, pear, green apple, and a blood orange.

Actually, quite delicious. And now I want another! :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pizza 2.0: Introducing an Odd but Addictive Ingredient

Right now, my mother is visiting from the UK and because I am on 'best behavior' when it comes to food, we're cooking up all kinds of wonderfully healthy vegan goodies. Massive salads, lots of leafy greens, a veritable rainbow of vegetables from red peppers to deep purple eggplants, and everything along the spectrum. We are also eating low on the food chain and minimizing our use of processed ingredients in an effort to demonstrate that whole food-based meals are not only healthful and nutritious, but delicious too.

But My Beloved and I are not perfect and love our junk food as much as the next person. So, prior to my mother's arrival, we cooked up the biggest honking vegan pizza and devoured it all. Every. Last. Daiya-cheesy. Bite! Oh, and we took pix too so let me share the recipe with you. :)

Our absolute favorite pizza topping is not one that would probably spring readily to mind for most folks. Yes, we like vegan sausage on a pie, but no, that's not it! Yes, tempeh crumbles are sublime, but no, that's not what we reach for either. So what is it? Ok, here's a clue:

Got it yet? Cucumber with Chinese black beans! Yup, I DID say that it might not be the first topping that springs to mind when considering pizza, but please don't knock it until you've tried it because it is simply divine. Here's what to do:

1. Pre-heat your oven to around 450 or as hot as you dare

2. Prepare your pizza crust either by rolling out your dough or by grabbing a pre-made crust. I like to make the dough for my pies, but I can keep your secret if you go the store-bought route!

3. Using a vegetable knife or peeler, peel the skin off two medium-sized cucumbers, or one large 'English cucumber' and halve them lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds so that you are left with cucumber boats and then cut them into half-moons like this:

Ain't this pretty!

You can toss the seeds and pulp but I saved them to give to Darwin the Beagle as a snack. Yes, here's this post's second odd concept: my beagle loves cucumbers...go figure!

4. Finely slice some garlic cloves (how many is up to you but I normally go with around 6 - 8 for a large pizza) and saute in a little oil in a large-ish pan.

5. When the garlic starts to turn golden, add 1 generous tbsp of sambal oelek to the pan and stir well to combine. Sambal oelek is a thinish paste made of ground chillies and is relatively spicy but delish. A little goes a long way and, if this is a new ingredient, here's what it looks like:

6. Next add the chopped cucumber to the pan and stir well to make sure it gets coated nicely in the spicy mix. Add a splash - perhaps 1/4 cup - of vegetable broth and cook over a medium heat until the cucumber slices start to soften and become slightly translucent.

7. And finally: the last 'odd' ingredient goes into the mix....fermented black beans. No, these are not the Mexican kind of black beans as you get in burritos, but are salted, somewhat pungent little critters that I found to be rapidly quite addictive. This is what they look like (apologies for the unfortunately placed price sticker):

Add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of these to the cucumbers and continue cooking for approximately 5 minutes or until the stock is mostly absorbed. As it's cooking down, the mix should look like this:

8. Spread the gorgeous cucumber-spicy-black-beany delight on your unbaked pizza crust, cover liberally with Daiya cheese (mozzarella) and pop unto the oven for approximately 20 minutes (or according to the package instructions if using a store-bought crust).

As you are waiting for the crust to bake, the cheese to melt and the whole kit-and-kaboodle to be ready, the smell emanating from your oven will drive you insane, so it's best to avail yourself of a nice glass of wine and resist checking the progress of your pie every 2 minutes. However, once it is bubbly and golden, hang fire for just a couple more minutes once you've removed it from the oven otherwise you will end up with a burned mouth and that is no-one's idea of a party. While you're waiting for it to cool a little, you can admire it up close:

Go on - try it...I dare you. :-D

Stay vegan, friends!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cackleberry in California!

There is simply no excuse - good, bad or indifferent - for neglecting Cackleberry for so long. So here's one more attempt to get back on track and bring you the great recipes, vegan musings, updates on the animal rights movement and all the other good stuff I used to put out at least semi-regularly.

The news is that I moved, with My Beloved and our two rescue pups, from New England to California - finally fulfilling a dream that we'd shared for several years but never been able to act upon. However, when opportunity suddenly knocked, we leapt at the chance to make the transition from plucky New Englanders to carefree Californians. We quit our jobs, put the house on the market and high-tailed it west.

The road has been long and not a little challenging and you can read all about the actual journey at our travel blog,, which we updated each day as we drove coast to coast from Westfield, Massachusetts to Concord, California. We rented an RV - a singular experience in and of itself - and, having loaded all of our 'stuff' into a POD and shipped the cars via transporter, we spent 10 days living on the road. Why did we not just fly? Yes, I can hear you asking the obvious question! Well, the truth of it was that Darwin the Beagle, our senior pup, was undergoing a second course of chemo for lymphoma and he was too sick to fly. Besides which, neither My Beloved nor I were confident that either of the pups would be looked after by the airlines as well as we would want, so driving seemed like the only option to us. We gave him his chemo on the road and each state that we passed through offered a dog-friendly campsite that was happy to welcome a slightly shaky senior to its community. :)

And having settled in and felt the California sun on his Back, Darwin is now doing well, as are the rest of us. West coast living suits us and I am finding new interests and new meaning in my life. No, things have not worked out exactly as I had hoped, and there have been a number of disappointments and frustrations, but overall the change is refreshing and inspiring. I passionately want to get back to writing Cackleberry, to playing with new recipes, sharing new photos, and spotlighting issues within the vegan world. In terms of my commitment to veganism and to the animals, nothing has changed in the slightest.

I do not expect that the kind folks who used to follow this blog will flock back in droves, but I do hope the word might get out that Cackleberry is back: bigger, better, still uncompromising, and packed with news, updates, recipes, restaurant reviews, photos, gossip, and all things vegan and animal.

I hope to see you soon. In the meantime, stay vegan, friends!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Riddle Me a Riddle

Question for you....

What connects literature, animals and the iPad?

Give up?

OK, well the answer is simple: Animal Writes, the new book club just announced by the vegan dynamo Colleen Patrick-Goudreau! Yes, not content with producing her fortnightly podcast, working on 3 upcoming books, guest lecturing all over creation, publishing everywhere good words are read, and guest column-ing (can we just pretend that's a word?) at VegNews, now she's starting a book club too.

Word has it that she's focusing on the kind of texts she occasionally reads on the podcast - books that examine the relationship we have with animals but which are not necessarily hard-core animal-rights treatise. The first meeting is going to highlight Don LePan's novel, Animals, which is set in a dystopian reality in which some species have become so scarce that 'other' sources of flesh must be found in order to satisfy man's craving for meat....

Anyways, the really neat thing about this book club is that it'll meet in the flesh (pardon the pun) if you happen to live in the San Francisco area and also online for those of us not - yet - so fortunate as to find ourselves in the Bay Area. More details are available at the website

Compassionate Cooks Book Club - Animal Writes

so, without wanting to sound like a complete cliche, go check it out!

Yes, literature and animals...not a bad way to spend an evening!

Perhaps I'll see you there...virtually anyhow! :)

Oh, and if you're wondering how the iPad plays into this - LePan's book is available in e-format through iBooks. Just saying.....

Stay vegan, friends! :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Beagle's Battles: Update on Darwin

Sometimes it's easy to feel overwhelmed but all of the bad news there is about animals, especially in relation to the way we treat them. Whether it's through other blogs, my Facebook community, the forums I subscribe to, Twitter or any of the other myriad ways in which I get to hear vegan and animal-rights/abolitionist news it's usually linked to the dark side of the human spirit. So today I realised it was time to redress the balance a little and, albeit indulgent, I'm posting an update about Darwin, my beagle.

As you may know, Darwin is the first animal companion to come to live with My Beloved and I. He was rescued almost 10 years ago from a municipal 'shelter' and has been our constant and faithful companion ever since. Don't misunderstand - he is not loyal because he owes us a debt of gratitude. No, it's more that he knows which house has the biggest cookie jar. Equally, he's not faithful because he adores us...he just hasn't figured out how to unlock the front door and escape.

Be that as it may, loyal and faithful he is - despite his motivations and physical limitations (front door locks tend to require a degree of dexterity afforded only by the use of thumbs). And, from our side, we totally adore him. So it was quite a shock when we took him for a routine teeth cleaning several months ago and learned he had cancer.

They didn't immediately use the 'C-word'; they said 'lymphoma', which I misheard as 'lipoma'. Well, he's had several of those, I replied confidently, and they're always benign....When the full reality sank in and I came to understand the situation, My Beloved and I reviewed our options. Although we live in a somewhat progressive and 'alternate' area, we did not feel sufficiently confident to eshew conventional therapies altogether, so opted for a middle path of chemo combined with a program of acupuncture, nutritional therapy and chinese herbals. And it does seem to be working well: he's following a 25 week chemo protocol and has been officially 'in remission' since week #6. What's more, his quality of life is almost completely uncompromised. He does not suffer nausea or vomiting and retains full control of his 'bodily functions', he has boundless energy and a wolf-like appetite and generally does not show any outward signs of illness. OK, the food regime requires a little care, but it's a tiny price to pay for terrific benefits..

Now let me say up front that I am not a medical doctor, I do not have veterinary skills, and I am not an expert in nutrition: I am just someone who's experimented and observed what works with my particular dog. And I'm also someone who refuses to accept a paltry 6-month prolongation of life expectancy or the idea that we are helpless in the face of illness. So with that caveat out of the way, here's what we've been doing with Darwin to achieve the results so far....

As said, the whole treatment regime includes conventional chemotherapy, twice monthly acupuncture, chinese herbal treatments, nutritional therapy, a multi-vitamin and mushroom extract. Although that sounds like a lot, it's actually really easy. We changed his one-meal-per-day routine to two smaller meals per day to help him have sustained energy and minimize the blood sugar lows. Every morning he has a half portion of his dry kibble - Natural Balance, vegetarian formula (which actually is vegan) - plus about 3/4 cup of cooked red lentils. The idea with these lentils is to boost his easily digestible proteins and skew the balance of his food towards the protein and fat and away from the carbs. He also has his first dose of the chinese herbals  - one capsule hidden in a ball of peanut butter.

In the evening, he has the second half of his dry kibble, again with the lentils, but we also add in a good tablespoon of organic flaxseed oil (for Omegas), a teaspoon of liquid multi-vitamins and the powdered contents of a maitake mushroom supplement capsule. We had experimented with mashed beans instead of the lentils but he doesn't seem to appreciate the texture as much. The cannellini beans were deemed acceptable, but the red kidney beans were apparently something of an affront to his delicate palate. Perhaps had we blitzed them in the food processor that would have been ok, but as it was hand mashing them clearly didn't cut it. The bean skins were carefully isolated and spat out disdainfully onto the floor around his bowl and we were rewarded only by the most half-hearted tail thump you've ever seen. With the lentils, however, the bowl of food is inhaled more than eaten and he always graces us with a big beagle-y smile.

Last thing at night, as a little treat, he gets his second dose of the Wei Qi booster, wrapped either in a peanut butter ball or stuffed into a strawberry. Yeah, taking pills has never been so easy!

A couple of folks have asked me how the treatment is going so I guess this post is an answer to that question. So far, the combination of allopathic and complementary medicines, excellent nutrition, lots of TLC and Darwin's own indomitable spirit seem to be just what the doctor ordered. He's doing great...if you'd like to see what he's up to click here!

Enjoy and stay vegan, friends!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Restaurant Review: Karma (Northampton, MA)

This evening, My Beloved and I managed to follow through with our plan to check out Karma, the new vegan restaurant which opened in Northampton last week. When we learned that its specialty was raw food, I have to confess that I was a little disappointed as I feel - rightly or wrongly - that the raw niche is such a small segment of the vegan community. And if we are to have one dedicated vegan restaurant, I would have preferred it to be one which serves both raw and cooked options.

However, I will admit that I was very, very pleasantly surprised. Karma is a cross between a restaurant and a cafe - casual yet elegant, friendly yet impressive. The decor is quite formal with blown glass pendant lighting and button vases of fresh flowers on each table. My Beloved and I arrived early in the evening - around 7pm - and there were only a couple of other tables occupied. Oh dear, we thought....

Our trepidation vanished very rapidly though when we saw the menu. It is surprisingly extensive, with appetizers, soups, entrees, sandwiches and noodles, albeit the sandwiches are available only for the lunch menu. To begin, we selected the Veggie Nori Wrap and the Nut Cheese and Cracker Platter both of which turned out to be superb. The home-made dehydrated crackers were a touch spicy and peppery, and the soft heapings of nut cheese were tangy and fresh - a real winner! Likewise the nori wraps were beautiful in presentation and very tasty too.

For our entrees, I chose the butternut squash fettucini noodles with cashew cream sauce, which looked delightful on the plate - ribbons of curled shavings of golden-orange squash, enrobed in a pale silken cream sauce. My one criticism of the dish might be that the fettuccini noodles were perhaps just that fraction too thick which made eating them harder work than their non-raw, conventional equivalent would be. But that is a very minor point, I'm sure, and one born of my unfamiliarity with the raw scene. The cashew cream sauce, on the other hand, was very good and plentiful and the wide noodles proved an excellent vehicle for sauce delivery! My Beloved opted wisely for the zucchini and summer squash 'angel hair noodles' with a pesto sauce, which was the clear winner. Although we both found the pesto is a little thin in consistency and hence not as bold a flavor as it could have been, this was easily remedied with a sprinkling of salt, making for a really delicious dish!

And so to dessert: we had a hard time choosing between the raspberry coconut cheesecake, dark chocolate cherry brownie a la mode and pineapple carrot cake. Personally I wanted to try them all, but was persuaded that we really ought to save something for the next visit so plumped for the first two, as the brownie came with vanilla bean ice-cream. Thus we got to try three items anyways!!!!! And they were the highlight of the meal  - absolutely excellent! Both plates had beautiful presentation with very enjoyable attention to detail. Each bite of the cheesecake was smooth and creamy, and the swirl of sweet raspberry in the main body of the cheesecake accented the mild coconut flavour. The sweet almond crust was wafer thin yet held together nicely. Our second selection, the cherry brownie, had a gorgeous chewy texture and was studded with cherry pieces. Not too sweet, it sported a crown of coconut milk-based ice cream with a creamy, luscious consistency.

Although we did not leave room for an after dinner tea, Karma does offer a lengthy list of artisanal brews in all shades - black, green, white, red. They also have a line in herbal blends from Camomile to Fairytale to Chai to 'Persephone's Tea' - dandelion root, burdock root, Oregon grape root, yellow dock root, eleuthero root and milk thistle seed.

The service was excellent too - casual but very friendly and comfortable and our server was very quick to point out clearly that this was a raw vegan restaurant, so no-one could claim ignorance. Which we really appreciated because we like to know what we're getting into. The prices were very reasonable, with entrees ranging from $8 to $15, but skewed to the lower end. The whole meal, with a fruit smoothie each, came to less than $60, which coincidentally was the price per head for the tasting menu of the only other raw food restaurant we've ever been to. And that evening, we went home hungry...

This evening, in contrast, we have some nice leftovers in a recycled paper-based container - so much better than plastic! - and full bellies of fresh, organic, local, nourishing and delicious food. And you can't ask for much more than that.

Good start, Karma, let's keep it going!
Oh, and next time, could you add me to the list of invitees when you have a social event??? Just asking...

Eat well and stay vegan, friends!

At last, an iPad!

Today, at long last, I bought an iPad. I really hope it'll help me in so many ways, one of which is in letting me update Cackleberry a little more frequently and more easily. It's not that I don't have anything to say, but that - like everyone else - I have limited time to write. So the snatched 5 minutes here or 10 minutes there are going to come in handy as I get back to a more frequent and regular blogging habit.

One of the first things I'll be doing is a restaurant review. Tonight My Beloved - without whom, let's face it, the iPad would have continued to be a dream - and I are going to visit Karma, the new vegan restaurant I mentioned in my last post. It turns out that their niche within a niche is actually raw vegan. And as neither of us are huge fans of raw food - except the naturally raw stuff like fruits and veg and salads - this will be interesting. Nevertheless, intrepidly we go forward this evening and will report what we uncover at Karma!

Meanwhile I shall continue to learn what this neat little iPad doohicky can do....

Stay vegan, friends!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A brand spanking new vegan restaurant opened in NoHo today.

'Karma' held its pre-opening party, hosting the illuminati of the local vegan community.

I was not invited.

Meep! :(

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I just might be an i-Egan...

Yet again, it has been an absolute age since I last managed to post anything. But it is not for lack of will, but more for lack of time. But I do care about this blog and I love the folks who actually take time out of their busy lives to read my mumblings, so with that in mind, I have a few rambling thoughts for you today.

First, I have to say how freakishly happy I am that spring is finally sprung. Here in New England, the winters really are a royal pain in the posterior and I have truly had enough. As I think I've mentioned before, I do not ski, I do not snow-shoe and I do not ice-skate - purposely anyhow. All I do from November through April is take my life in my hands twice a day to drive to work and spend my 'free time' shoveling snow off the driveway so I can perform the aforementioned death-defying 'driving-to-work' act...

But spring is here and with it comes fun weekend brunches like this one today - vegan crepes, fresh berries, oranges and pineapple. With a splash of coffee rounding out the fun. During brunch, I had a quick perusal of the vegan blogosphere and found the most hilarous comment on a post by the always erudite Mylène Ouellet of My Face is On Fire. Her post, Hegans Indeed, was very interesting and reflected on the creation, by Boston Globe writer Kathleen Pierce, of the term 'hegan' to describe men of a certain age who take to veganism in order to 'cheat death'. However, it was in the comments section that I found a veritable dictionary, created by Philip Steir, of other wannabe vegan terms. I am shamelessly reproducing it here because I think it's wonderful. Enjoy:

Megans= People in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s who are vegan because it's all about them!

Wegans= a collective of humans who embracing an animal free product lifestyle of eating habits so as to feel a part of a group who cheat lonliness, alienation and the feeling of being isolated in ones solo veganism.

Fegans= Females in their 30s,40s and 50s who are vegan because it really adds on that extra amount of femininity to their womaness.

Veguns= both men and women in their late 20s (but can be of many ages) who eschew animal products for a wide variety of reasons, but just don't know how to spell very well.

Pegans= Heathens who no longer believe in eating animals.

Tegans=First half of the identical twin sister Canadian indie band from Calgary who no longer eat animals but play guitars, write and sing songs mainly about meeting boys (maybe girls also) on the road who only care about meeting Sara.

Begans=the new face of veganism..Literally! Those who begin embracing a restrictive lifestyle the minute they begin life. Many start at conception however, some may start at birth or right upon exiting the womb whichever they believe comes first. There is ongoing heated and often rage filled internet arguments on when this type of veganism actually begins.

Chegans=Revolutionary marxist socialist hipster men in their late 20s early 30s who no longer eat animal products because of leftist communist trademark issues in regard to on going legal and illegal t-shirt copyright sales disputes.

Kegans=Men and women who no longer eat animal products while contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor.

Phegans=hegans (males in their 40s and 50s...well all men actually) who put a big capital P in front of their title as to make up for feelings of certain inadequacies.

i-Egans=People who follow a strict Apple only diet.

Regans=Philosophers who no longer eat subjects of a life yet will save a human over a dog if the life boat gets too crowded or sea gets a bit rough.

Just fabulous! And if you liked that as much as I did, check out Philip's blog over at Vegan Sanctuary.

Thanks for stopping by and stay vegan, friends!