maple milk– a vegan cousin of eggnog

Maple milk -- a vegan alternative to egg nog.

Maple milk — a vegan alternative to egg nog.

This holiday season, we’ve discovered a tasty new treat to drink– maple milk.  If you like eggnog, give this a try.  It’s vegan and delicious and free of the problems of drinking raw eggs.

You won’t find it in stores (my husband dreamed this up) but you can make it at home in less than a minute.  Here’s a recipe for a creamy holiday cocktail:

maple milk (serves 2)

  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup (the real stuff!)
  • 1 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk (we use vanilla-flavored almond milk)
  • *optional for adults:  add a shot of dark rum or vodka to make a stronger cocktail

Mix well. Adjust the sweetness to your own taste.

Add a dash of cardamom or nutmeg on top of each glass, if you want an extra bit of color and flavor.


familiar vegetarian and vegan dinners

meatless_monday_logo_160x86Dinner can be daunting.  The classic American meat-and-potatoes dinner seems like the standard meal, but tastes have been changing and there’s more to a familiar supper than a cut of meat and a side of potatoes.

When you think about familiar foods on the dinner menu, there are a lot of vegetarian classics.  And there are many dishes that combine vegetables or grains with just a small amount of meat– and the meat can be easily omitted.

Here are some ideas to get us started, but this topic is going to have to span several posts.  The underlined text links to recipes ideas from a variety of sources– ranging from Good Housekeeping to vegan food blogs.


stir fry


rice dishes

from the grill



baked potatoes

Dress up a baked potato with all kinds of toppings– if you’re in a real meat-and-potatoes place, this might be your best option.  Top a potato with any of these:

  • olive oil, salt and black pepper
  • green onions or shallots
  • sauteed broccoli and red pepper
  • avocado or guacamole
  • fresh basil or parsley
  • chili
  • stew

There are more ideas in the veg cookout, lunch, leftovers and even breakfast posts.

We’ll come back to this topic again!

Værsågod! (Norwegian for ‘dig in!’)

Author:  Susan Ask


Thanksgiving leftovers — veg style

After a great holiday meal, we always look forward to leftovers.  Delicious, easy, cheap and good for the environment.  What more could you want?

i love leftovers memeWhat does this have to do with sustainability and climate change?  Feasting on leftovers reduces food waste—which means less landfill, less energy, land, water and materials used to grow, raise and transport food that’s never even eaten.  Food waste in the US adds up to 2.6% of US Greenhouse gas emissions, according to NRDC because of all the resources that go into growing and raising food.  Food waste is a big issue; ccording the Environmental Protection Agency, 36 million tons of food was landfilled in 2011.

The solutions, starting at home, can be easy, economical and delicious.

Dig in

Here are a few ‘recipes’ for using leftovers*:

  • veggie hash:  chop up any leftover cooked vegetables along with a savory protein beans, tofu, seitan, leftover tofurkey or meat and sauté them in olive oil for 10 minutes—until heated through and slightly browned— add salt and pepper if needed and serve with leftover toasted or grilled bread or rolls.  (Need more help?  Use one of these hash recipes from Eating Well as a guide, simply substitute what you have on hand– and you can skip the eggs.)
  • veggie pot pie:  chop up any leftover cooked vegetables, and some beans, tofu, seitan or leftover tofurky or meat and put them in a pie plate.  Pour in any leftover sauce or gravy.  If you don’t have gravy, make some by sautéing a little chopped onion in olive oil, adding some corn starch or flour, then whisking in some rice milk, stock or water.  Cover the mélange with leftover mashed potatoes or a simple biscuit crust and bake for 45 minutes to an hour in a 350 degree oven.  (If you want a more complete recipe; try these recipes for pot pie and shepherd’s pie from Isa Chandra Moskowitz.)
  • soup:  chop up any leftover cooked vegetables beans, tofu, seitan or leftover tofurky or meat and put them in a pot with stock or water.  Add salt, pepper and other spices as needed.  Heat through and serve with leftover bread or rolls.  (Here’s a basic soup recipe from Martha Stewart.)
  • fresh veggie salad or sandwich:  chop up any leftover fresh vegetables, mix them in new combinations with dried fruit or nuts for a salad.  Put the veggies on toast with hummus for a sandwich.
  • dessert:  if there are any leftover sweets….. freeze them before they disappear.

*These are mostly vegan, but all of these ideas will work with leftover meat added, too.

Keep it cool

Get started by putting your leftovers in the fridge promptly; click here for more details from Michigan State University Extension.  If you have more leftovers than you can use, freeze them.  A great reference for preserving food comes from University of Georgia Extension; here’s a link to their guide to freezing leftovers.

Værsågod! (Norwegian for ‘dig in!’)

updated 11/25/17

Halloween treats without tricks

Lots of choices for Halloween trick or treating-- some are better than others.

Lots of choices for Halloween trick or treating– some are better than others.

Trick or treating is a highlight of a kids’ year.  Who doesn’t want to load up on junk food?  As an adult, it’s not so simple.  Thinking about the environmental and ethical aspects of Halloween snacks is not such a treat.  But I love seeing all the neighborhood kids out roaming the streets with their friends—and often their families.

I don’t want to blow the fun by talking about the really scary aspects of food production, health and whatnot.  So—I’ve been quietly giving out familiar treats with smaller footprints.

Last year, we had an informal experiment: we have two families sharing one porch in our building and we both set out bowls of treats for kids to pick their own.  Our neighbor had a bowl of the usual candy bars (snickers, milky way, reese’s, etc) and we had a bowl of pretzels and lollipops.  (We thought kids would grab a treat from each bowl, but they were super polite and thought they had to pick from only 1 bowl.)  Lots of kids picked the pretzels or lollipops instead of the chocolate bars.  I was surprised!  I probably would have taken the chocolate when I was a kid.  But I think a lot of kids appreciated the novelty of the salty or fruity snacks.

Here are a few of my favorite veg Halloween treats

—the ones listed in bold have all made neighborhood kids smile; we’ll be trying out the others this year:

lollipops—YumEarth brand uses organic ingredients and natural flavors & colors {about 10-12 cents each)

pretzels—some brands come in Halloween shapes, like bats and pumpkins (13-25 cents each)

smarties  (less than 5 cents each)

gummy candies  (30-80 cents each)

juice boxes– made with organic juice (25-75 cents each)

toys!  mini-slinkies, colored pencils & markers (10 cents to $1 each)

 Many of these cost about the same as the more common treats, which I found at a big box store for 10-15 cents each.

Ingredients we’re avoiding in Halloween treats:

animal products including milk and gelatin

chocolate that isn’t fair trade

palm oil

corn syrup


Coming up next:  price comparisons to find real treats you can afford.  And this year, I’ll keep track of how many treats of each kind are given out.

We had a great Halloween with real treats that the kids loved– without the problems we want to avoid.

familiar vegetarian and vegan lunches

meatless_monday_logo_250x134Meatless Monday is tomorrow.  And today is World Health Day, when the World Health Organization is asking people to think about, and do something about, high blood pressure (the 2013 theme).  Why not use the occasion to pack your lunch for Meatless Monday?

Vegetarian lunches might be as easy as vegetarian breakfasts.  Lots of lunch-bag staples are vegetarian or vegan.  Maybe it’s because we often eat lunch away from home and want foods that won’t spoil in our backpacks or desk drawers– and some, but not all, vegetarian and vegan foods are fine without refrigeration.

Today’s list of familiar foods that are vegetarian and vegan focuses on lunch—especially lunch away from home.  You can make these lunches at home to carry along through the day or you can order many of these meals at lunchtime restaurants, including some of the major chains.

familiar vegetarian and vegan sandwiches

Sandwiches are a familiar staple, with lots of familiar vegetarian and vegan choices.  Because sandwiches are often composed with what you have on hand—without a recipe—it’s easy to create a vegetarian or vegan sandwich.  If you’re new to vegan sandwiches, add some zippy sauces (like vinaigrette or pesto) or bright condiments (like mustard, pickles or olives) to intensify the flavors on your sandwich.

  1. homos & veggie-stuffed pita
  2. veggie wrap
  3. bean burrito
  4. open-faced veggie sandwich
  5. portobello burger
  6. pb & j
  7. peanut butter and apple or banana sandwich—for some fresh variety
  8. bagel and peanut butter
  9. make your own sandwich with any leftovers

Try marinating vegetables in a vinaigrette, then piling the seasoned veggies in a roll, pita or wrap.

familiar vegan soup

Some common soups are often vegan, but check the menu or ask the server if the soup stock is vegetarian when you don’t make it yourself.

  1. tomato soup
  2. lentil soup
  3. butternut squash soup
  4. gazpacho
  5. minestrone vegetable soup

familiar vegan salads

If you’re buying a salad, it can be surprisingly hard to find a prepared salad that doesn’t have big chunks of meat in it.

  1. pasta salad– with many variations
  2. tossed green salad– with even more variations

Make a big pot of soup or a big salad on the weekend, so you have a week’s worth of home-made vegan lunches all ready to go.

easy-to-find or make vegetable and fruit based lunches

  1. veggies and dip
  2. fruit smoothie
  3. baked potato
  4. vegetable sushi

And—why not have a second breakfast if none of these ideas inspire?

Værsågod! (Norwegian for ‘dig in!’)

For lots of vegetarian and vegan recipes, try Meatless Monday and Post-punk kitchen (especially for the dairy and egg-free baking recipes).


author:  Susan Ask

familiar vegetarian and vegan breakfasts

meatless_monday_logo_250x134It’s meatless Monday again!  Breakfast is featured in part two of this series on familiar vegetarian foods.

Vegetarian breakfast is easy.  So many classic American breakfasts are vegetarian; from a quick bowl of cereal to a more elaborate omelet with hash browns– many of these vegetarian breakfasts are staples for people who wouldn’t think of calling themselves vegetarian.  If you include dairy and eggs in your diet, you’ll hardly notice the difference in a meatless morning meal.

There are also a lot of vegan standards for breakfast.  And it’s not hard to shift a vegetarian breakfast to a vegan one.  Have your cereal with almond milk instead of dairy; make muffins and pancakes with almond, rice or soy milk and some easy egg-replacements; scramble some vegetables with a bit of tofu for a breakfast skillet.

If you really miss the sausage and bacon, there are more varieties of vegan sausage links, patties and bacon than ever before.  Some are really good– and I’ve never been a huge fan of ‘fake meat’.  I think the best part of sausage is the spice, so I like to use savory spices like sage, rosemary and black pepper to season meals.  A good strong olive oil adds more depth and flavor to pan of sauteed veggies and tofu–  one of my favorite breakfasts for a day off.

familiar breakfasts that are vegetarian or vegan

pbj brave lux joe mazza animalia project familiar vegan food

Start the day with pb & j — a familiar food that’s vegan! photo by joe mazza / brave lux

  • peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • oatmeal
  • toast with jam or honey
  • fresh fruit—half a grapefruit, maybe
  • fruit smoothie
  • granola bar
  • biscuits
  • muffins, sweet rolls and donuts are vegetarian (if not low-calorie) and you can easily bake (or buy) vegan varieties
  • hash browns
  • toast with marmite or vegemite
  • cereal or granola with (almond) milk
  • bagels with jam or peanut butter
  • open sandwiches with cheese, cucumbers
  • a skillet scramble with veggies and tofu

Breakfast is an easy way to start a meatless day with familiar foods.

If you like to bake, experiment with substituting almond milk for dairy.  I’ve never noticed any difference in the chemistry of baking– and I think the mild almond flavor is a delicious complement to breads, muffins, pancakes and other baked breakfasts.  You can also use other milks made from rice, soy or hemp.  Baking without eggs is relatively easy, you just have to find the right substitute for each recipe and that depends on whether the eggs provide leavening, binding, flavor or something else.  I really like the recipes for vegan baked goods from the Post-Punk Kitchen— the baked treats come out tasty and light–  and when I serve them, no one believes they’re vegan.

For lots of vegetarian and vegan recipes, try Meatless Monday and Post-punk kitchen (especially for the dairy and egg-free baking recipes).

Værsågod!  (Norwegian for ‘dig in!’)


author:  Susan Ask

familiar foods without meat

Today is the vernal equinox and the Great American Meat Out.  Both designations are important for homeEcology.  The equinox marks the transition into the season of more daylight.  It’s also a good time, inspired by images like the one below from NOAA, to think about earth systems, climate change and conditions on earth.

Equinox GOES satellite image NOAA

Vernal equinox 2013, shown in a satellite image from NOAA. The northern and southern hemisphere experience equal shares of daylight and darkness on 2 equinoxes per year. Photo courtesy of NOAA (the image of earth is a satellite image; the image of the sun is an illustration).

The Great American Meat Out is an annual call to go vegan for a day.  The climate footprint of meat is one of many reasons to eat a plant-based diet.  Livestock production for meat is responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions; 18% to 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to meat production, according to recent estimates¹,².  I’m working with a group to highlight the role of meat-production in climate change.  More to come on that later.

I was talking with some people in that group and I said that, after 25 years as a vegetarian, I don’t really think about cooking without meat as anything different than just cooking.  And, I said, a lot of familiar foods are vegetarian.  When pressed to list them, I got stuck— and I’ve been putting together a mental list since then.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a list of vegetarian and vegan foods that are meat-free in their familiar form, even in the homes of people who never think of eating a vegetarian or vegan meal.  Check back on Meatless Mondays for vegetarian breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and desserts that are common in American kitchens.


¹ Livestock’s Long Shadow:  environmental issues and options.  Steinfeld et al.  2006.  Food and Agriculture Organization.

² Livestock and Climate Change.  Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, 2009.  World Watch Institute, November/December, 2009.


author:  Susan Ask