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 desserts

meatless_monday_logoGot a sweet tooth?  You can still enjoy a Meatless Monday all the way through dessert.

Vegetarian desserts are everywhere!  And vegan desserts are pretty common, too.  Here are some ideas for familiar veg desserts that are easy to find in stores and restaurants– plus, most are easy to make when you want something sweet.

frozen desserts

  • sorbet—try lemon, blueberry, raspberry, chocolate or mint
  • chipped ice with maple syrup, Vermont’s version of a snowcone
  • frozen banana, dipped in chocolate if you like– any frozen fruit or cake dipped in chocolate would be good

fruit-based desserts

raspberry bush

Dessert can be as simple as fresh fruit from the garden– or as complicated as you care to go– and it can all be veg!

  • fruit pies and tarts– it’s easy to make these without butter, milk or eggs.  Use seasonal fruits– strawberry-rhubarb in spring; peach and cherry in the summer; apple in the fall; frozen or canned fruit in the winter
  • fruit crisps and cobblers —easily made without dairy or egg
  • fruit compotes
  • apple sauce—it’s easy to make from scratch, and delicious!
  • fresh fruit salads– mix fresh, seasonal fruit with fresh mint leaves or spices like cinnamon or cardamom
  • fresh fruit– without embellishment

creamy desserts

The rich and creamy desserts are usually made with dairy and egg, but substitutions make delicious sense.  Almond milk, coconut milk and bananas give can give a wonderful creamy texture and flavor to creamy desserts.

baked desserts

Most cakes, cookies and bars can be vegan, by swapping a few ingredients or techniques.  The post-punk kitchen has some great vegan desserts—they’re well-known for their cupcakes!

  • ginger snaps from the store are often vegan
  • your favorite cakes and cookies can be vegan—experiment!

chocolatey desserts

  • dark chocolate
  • fondue– make it with dark chocolate and coconut milk or almond milk

drinks—- as dessert

if you don’t like a lot of sugar, but want a sweet treat, try a sweet drink.

  • in a tiny glass—dessert wine or maple syrup
  • soda pop
  • sweet tea

Værsågod! (Norwegian for ‘dig in!’)

familiar vegetarian and vegan foods for cookouts and picnics

fresh veggies are part of a cookout that offers something for everyone

fresh veggies make a vegan friendly cookout

Summer cookouts and picnics are fun— friends, food, fresh air and, with luck, sunshine.  The informal, often potluck, atmosphere makes it easy for everyone to eat what they like—  so it should be easy to eat veg.  At the same time, I find it’s also a difficult time to be vegetarian—because the main stage is the grill and the main topic is meat.

Familiar vegetarian and vegan foods at the cookout are often side dishes.  And this is one occasion where I’m usually pretty content to make a meal of food that other people consider side dishes.  There are lots to choose from—and it gives a sometimes rare opportunity to taste food made by friends and family whose cooking usually centers on meat.

Here are some of my favorite vegetarian and vegan foods to bring to the cookout; these are great choices for hosts who want to offer food that can appeal to all their guests.  I’ve linked to recipes from a wide variety of cooking sites on the web:

for the vegetarian & vegan grill

  • grilled portobello mushroom— put it on a bun with all the burger fixin’s
  • grilled pizza  with your favorite veggies
  • burritos—why not?  just make your favorite burrito, coat it lightly with oil and put it on the grill until warmed through and crispy on the outside
  • roasted vegetable kabobs
  • crusty bread with grilled vegetables and pesto, hummus or red pepper spread
  • roasted corn on the cob
  • baked potatoes or fries

    grilled mushrooms for a vegan cookout

    marinated mushrooms are great on the grill (these are winecap mushrooms)

For grilling, of course, you can buy lots of veg burgers, hot dogs, sausages and other meat-like processed foods.  I think some of these are great, but they’re an acquired taste, so I usually avoid them at cookouts.  Depending on the crowd, you can bring some to grill and share.

hearty veg side dishes

  • potato salad—made without mayo; use a delicious vinegar or mustard dressing
  • cole slaw—made with a vinegar dressing, instead of mayo, it’ll be vegan and it’ll keep longer
  • seven layered bean dip & chips—for a vegan version, swap the sour cream and cheese layers with another tasty treat, like shredded fresh veggies or garlicky mashed potatoes
  • baked beans—some recipes have pork, some don’t
  • bean salad—the classic 3 bean salad is usually veg, but sometimes people add bacon
  • plus, there are more salads, fresh veggies and fresh fruits than I can list– but plenty to fill your plate!

Enjoy the party!  Værsågod! (Norwegian for ‘dig in!’)



familiar vegetarian and vegan snacks

meatless_monday_logo_250x134Earth Day and Meatless Monday– a perfect pairing!

Vegetarian and vegan snacks are everywhere— and everyone loves them.  We often don’t even think of them as vegetarian, so snacks can easily be vegan without making anyone uncomfortable.

salty snacks

Most salty snacks are vegan, unless they have added flavors like cheese, sour cream or ranch.  Milk and whey show up in a surprising number of seasoning blends for chips– even when you wouldn’t expect it (some black pepper and salt potato chips, for example).  And you can’t be sure about “natural flavors” unless you check with the company and ask if the ingredients are veg.

  • potato chips
  • tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole
  • popcorn
  • french fries
  • crackers and hummus or tapenade
  • veggies
  • pretzels
  • gorp (good ol’ raisins and peanuts) and other trail mixes

sweet snacks

There are lots of sweets that are vegetarian; for vegan snacks, avoid typical candy bars and freshly-baked cookies.  Dark chocolate and ginger snaps are good bets at any store.

  • dark chocolate
  • ginger snaps
  • fresh fruit
  • dried fruit
  • Swedish fish candy

This list proves that veg food isn’t always health food.  Use your own judgement about how often and how much to indulge in the less-than-healthy snacks.

When you need a little snack to help you through your earth day clean-up, hike or festival– choose an earth friendly veg snack.  They’re everywhere!


author:  Susan Ask

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

new year, new habits

I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions— for some better routines I’d like to pick up.  I’m inclined to draw on data to help me make plans and so I’ve looked to results from behavioral research which suggests that successful change can be made by setting positive and reasonable goals, encouraging repetition, rewarding positive change and letting go of past failures.  But, data alone don’t always move us to action; sometimes, it takes something (or someone) warmer and fuzzier to provide inspiration.

inca belgian malinois

Inca, who learns new tricks. photo by joe mazza / brave lux

Inca is an almost-14 year old Belgian shepherd dog who moved in with us when she was 8 years old.  She’d spent her entire life, up until then, as a ‘breeder’.  Her main occupation was to gestate and nurse puppies.  Her puppies would be trained to be police dogs, assistance dogs and schutzhund competitors.  But Inca didn’t get the same training.  She was never even trained in the basic obedience of companion animals.  When we met her, she didn’t know ‘sit’ or ‘stay’.  Her lack of training, and meaningful human interaction, was so complete that she didn’t seem to understand that when we talked to her, we were trying to communicate.  She had never lived in a house before, and she didn’t know how to deal with people as companions.  We adopted her knowing that she was not a ‘well-trained dog’ and we were told that she ‘loves to be outside’.  We learned that was a euphemism for ‘she’s never been house-trained’.  It was obvious that Inca didn’t know it was wrong to go to the bathroom on the rug, or in the hall, or in her own bed.  She did it right in front of us.  One day, when my husband was on the toilet, Inca looked at him through the open door—seemed to think ‘that’s a good idea’— and squatted and did her business right there in the living room.  My husband couldn’t do much to stop her at the time.

So, after 8 years of doing her own thing (when and where she wanted), Inca had to learn some new tricks.  And—she did.  She changed her habits—with the help of basic principles of behavioral science:  reasonable expectations, repetition, rewards and letting go of past failures.  We began with teaching her to sit—to get her used to the idea that we expected her to respond to us when we talked with her.  We gave her lots of rewards, including praise and treats, when she did what we asked.  When she failed, we didn’t scold her.  We just moved the treat a bit further over her head, so the easiest way for her to see the treat (and to get it) was to sit.  We repeated this over and over, dozens of time per day; then, after about a week, Inca was sitting on request.  We also started working on her bathroom habits.  We took her out according to a routine schedule— first thing in the morning, after eating and before bed.  We timed the bathroom breaks so she was most likely to succeed; we praised her for going to the bathroom outside.  We avoided setting her up for failure by making her wait indoors too long.  When she made a mistake and peed on the rug (always the rug, never the tile floor), we interrupted her then took her outside and praised her for finishing her business outdoors.  We never rubbed her nose in her mistakes—a strange and unproductive practice that’s given rise to a cliché and some very distressed dogs.  It took many months, but Inca finally learned that going to the bathroom outside was a good idea, even though this new habit was obviously foreign—and inconvenient—to her.  And she came up with her own way to tell us she needs to go out for a bathroom break.

After Inca had been living with us for about 6 months, we noticed something new—something we hadn’t realized was lacking—Inca wagged her tail when she looked at us.

If she could be so transformed, I can pick up a few good habits myself.

With Inca’s example in mind, I’ve resolved to make some changes in my own habits— by setting positive goals, repeating the new practices, rewarding successes and setting aside any lapses— to make a difference for me, our animal companions and the environment.

Here are my resolutions:

keeper, belgian malinois

Keeper, who loves to explore. photo by joe mazza / brave lux

1. to get more out of our daily walks.  Inca needs to take her walks slowly because she’s now having some trouble with arthritis.  But she still needs to go out to do her business and she likes to see other dogs and investigate tracks.  With Inca, I’ll take slow walks and take more time to observe the world at a gentle pace.  With Keeper (our other dog), I’ll increase the distance and speed of our walks, so we both get the fun and exercise of jauntier walks and we’ll return to a healthier level activity.

2. to write more often for the home ecology blog and the transit to trails blog

And– like Inca, I’ll probably learn more along the way.

green friday

5 alternatives to black Friday

green friday sunflower animalia project susan ask

Make it a green friday as an alternative to black friday. animalia project photo by susan ask

The news is full of black Friday.  ‘Buy nothing day’ is one alternative to the post-Thankfulness gluttony.  This year, try more than buy nothing— do something.

Some ideas to counter the consumption:

1. visit a favorite park or natural area

If you’re thankful for the pleasure, exercise, fresh air and inspiration you get from walking outside, go out and enjoy!  This time, bring a garbage pail & some gloves and clean up some litter.  Recycle or dispose of the litter properly.  Consider taking public transit to get there; the transit to trails blog offers a guide.

You can also join a scheduled volunteer event to take part in a bigger cleanup.  In the Chicago region, look for volunteer opportunities here.

2. cook with leftovers

You’re probably already planning to eat leftovers, but take the opportunity to start a new habit.  Plan a menu around what you have on hand, and what needs to be used up soon.  It’s a great habit to adopt year-round to eat better, for less money, with less waste.

Get started by putting your leftovers in the fridge promptly; click here for more details from Michigan State University Extension.

What does this have to do with sustainability?  It reduces food waste—which means less landfill, less energy/land/water/materials used to grow, raise and transport food that’s never even used.  According the Environmental Protection Agency, 36 million tons of food was landfilled in 2011¹.  As food breaks down in landfills, methane– a powerful greenhouse gas– is created.

A few vegan ‘recipes’ for using leftovers, based on 25+ years of vegetarian cooking:

  • vegan hash:  chop up any leftover cooked vegetables/beans/tofu/seitan 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.
  • veggie pot pie:  chop up any leftover cooked vegetables/beans/tofu/seitan 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.
  • soup:  chop up any leftover cooked vegetables/beans/tofu/seitan 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.
  • 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.

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.

3.  get rid of junk mail

junk mail animalia project susan ask

Get rid of junk mail to save energy, waste, paper, water and other resources. animalia project photo by susan ask

Reduce the volume of junk mail sent to your house.  Log-in or call-up to have your name removed from mailing lists.  Make sure to ask them to remove your name permanently.  There are several options:

  • contact the company or organization directly, via their website or toll-free number
  • send the postage-paid reply envelope back to them with instructions to remove your name from all their  lists
  • log in to Catalogue Choice and have your name removed from a bunch of lists
  • contact the Direct Marketing Association to have your name and address removed from lists of direct marketers

Do this again after the holidays, because if anyone has a gift sent to you directly by a retailer, you’re likely to start getting catalogs.

4.  mend something

Extend the useful life of clothes, furniture, blankets and anything else that’s languishing in a pile.  If you don’t know how to sew or a button or drive a nail, look for instructions online where there are more than enough instructables, youtube videos and diy-guides to basic repairs.  Evaluate the reliability of the source, so you don’t do more harm than good.

5.  make a donation

Just make sure the organization you love doesn’t add you to their mailing list!



¹US E.P.A. Reducing Wasted Food Basics


author:  Susan Ask

updated 10/2/13










joe’s garage, an art supply exchange on december 8th, 2012

puppet by joe mazza recycled materials for art and nature

Hamm, a puppet by Joe Mazza, was made with many recycled materials. Come to Joe’s garage, an art supply exchange, to find out more and to find materials for your own creation.

Reduce, reuse & recycle– art supplies!

Joe’s garage provides a venue for exchanging art supplies where artists, craft-makers, do-it-yourselfers, teachers and others can bring in the materials they don’t need and take new-to-them materials that they can use.

Looking to pick up some cheap / free art supplies?

Looking to pass on materials that don’t quite do what you expected?

Come to Joe’s garage to swap supplies with other artists, puppeteers, craft-makers, teachers and people who feel crowded by the very materials they try to wrestle into creative meaning– or just really pretty pictures.

Bring art supplies and materials that you don’t need– and pass them on to someone who may find that it’s just the thing to finish a masterpiece.  And search for your missing piece amid the treasures others have shared.

The details

When:  Saturday, December 8th.  drop in anytime from 1 to 4 pm

Where:  the garage at 2505 W. Hutchinson St in Chicago.  That’s near Western Ave, between Montrose and Irving Park Rd.  5 minutes to the brown line/Rockwell stop.  near busses #49/78/80 The garage opens into the alley south of Hutchinson St.

Cost: Free to attend the exchange.  Most materials are free (for anyone who has brought in materials to exchange or who pledges to responsibly recycle or pass on materials when they are done with them) or pay $5 a bag (for people who haven’t brought in exchange materials or choose not to make a pledge).

We expect to swap:  acrylic paint, clay, markers, canvas…. and whatever you choose to share!  (Please don’t bring anything dangerous– and email before bringing anything huge–we’re trying to swap supplies, not store more.)

We know we’ll have:  lumber, fabric, coroplast (that white plastic sheeting used for making signs– but this is all bright white and un-marred by political logos!), latex paint….

Early drop off (and maybe even pick-up) of materials is possible.  Email Susan: ask ~at~ to set something up.

Registration is appreciated:

animalia project is pleased to host Joe’s garage, in collaboration with bangbangfou!, the Global Alliance of Artists/ Environment Xchange and Rivendell Theatre Ensemble.

authors:  Susan Ask and Joe Mazza