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Recipe: Vegan, Gluten-free Saltines

21 May

One thing that I miss when I’m accidentally glutened (like I was two weeks ago) or just in need of a vehicle for peanut butter or vegan cream cheese and raspberry preserves is a plain cracker. Not the seeded kind with garlic and herbs, or the springy low calorie kind. The gold-standard Saltine.

I recently found a recipe for Saltines that is gluten-free created/posted by Serious Eats, and I slightly modified that to add some additional nutritional value and ensure a flakier texture. Thus, this is a modification of someone else’s recipe, so I am giving credit to the originator here! Thank goodness for you, and for your awesome baking skills!

If only I could keep these on hand for emergencies. I love them, and so does my dog, who I ply with peanut butter cracker sandwiches.


Saltines, ready for the oven




GF, Vegan Saltine Crackers

1 cup Gluten free baking mix*

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup chickpea flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 kosher salt

1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

6 tbsp. cold Earth Balance ‘butter’ (stick form)

1/2 cup cold water


Preheat the oven to 425°F.


1. Mix all ingredients together using a pastry cutter and then your hands, or a KitchenAid stand mixer, as I did to make the crackers.

2. Roll dough out to at least a 1/4 inch thickness between lightly floured sheets of wax paper or using a Silpat or similar mat. (I used the GF flour mixture.)

3. Using a pizza cutter, cut dough into either squares or rectangles. Prick the tops of each with a small fork to prevent bubbles from forming during baking. Sprinkle tops with kosher salt. (If you wanted, you could also make Herb crackers by adding Herbs de Provence or another mixture at this point.)

3. Bake until golden brown and let cool.


*I keep a batch of Cybele Pascale’s Gluten-free flour mixture on hand, which is what I used here.


This is an altered version of a recipe published by Serious Eats!!  The author does not take credit for originating this recipe, only for altering it and disseminating it.



Recipe: Friday Night Chile with Santa Maria Pinquitos and Ancho

1 Jun

It’s pretty hot outside today. In honor of that, and the fact that I ignored vegetable and fruit shopping in favor of enjoying my backyard today, I made something with ingredients that I had on hand tonight: chile.

In our house, we like to shop at discount grocers for staples like canned tomatoes and tomato paste (we find a surprising amount of organic stuff in these places and buy it by the case), and we have a cache of dried spices, beans, gluten-free grains, and raw nuts. We keep most things, including our spices, in mason jars. Some of these jars, like the spice jars, we purchased at a discount grocer by the case (anywhere from $6-$10 dollars for 12 jars and lids) and some we saved over the years when we still purchased pasta sauce. Certain brands sell their products in jars that are great to keep. You can simply purchase a package of lids from the Ball® company. These are typically sold in grocery stores everywhere.

For Christmas this year, my lovely brother and sister-in-law sent us an order of beans, exceptional chile powder, and Oregano Indio from Rancho Gordo™. I had never heard of them before, but they grow and sell a lot of heirloom varieties of beans, grains, spices, and other ingredients like vanilla and even banana vinegar. For this recipe, I used Rancho Gordo™ Santa Maria Pinquitos beans and cooked them in a pressure cooker before adding them to the chile. The Oregano Indio and Chile Powder are also from Rancho Gordo™.

You will not find Pinquitos in stores, but you could use Pinto beans or Pink Beans or any other combination of multiple bean varieties to make your chile and I guarantee it will be just as good! (Really, though, Rancho Gordo™. Can’t say enough good things!)

If we had more veggies on hand, I would probably add kale and red or orange chopped peppers to this, but they are really not necessary!

corner shot of spices Rancho Gordo mail-2 mail-4 mail-1 mail

Friday Night Chile with Santa Maria Pinquitos and Serrano 

 1-2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. Oregano Indio

2-3 tsp. Hungarian Paprika

As many shakes of Colgin Liquid Smoke as you like (I used Mesquite. Colgin is vegan and gluten-free.)

2 tsp. Mexican Red Chile Powder

1 tbsp. cilantro paste

4 tsp. cumin

2 oz. pimento (I used half a jar of Goya pimento)

1 large Vidalia onion, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

4-5 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped

1 whole dried Ancho chile pepper (We purchase Poblano peppers and dry them ourselves. A dried Poblano pepper is called an Ancho chile.)

2 carrots, chopped

1 tsp. red hawaiian salt or kosher salt

28 oz. can peeled ground tomatoes or diced tomatoes (I used Classico Organic brand)

14.5 oz can of Fire Roasted tomato with green chile (I used Muir Glen Organic brand, but you can use whatever 14.5 oz can of tomatoes you have and simply add diced jalapeno to them)

1 cup TSP (Textured Soy Protein), cooked in water according to directions (TVP, which is not the same as TSP, is not gluten-free. If you are gluten-free or cooking for someone who is, you cannot use TVP. I use Bob’s Red Mill.)

1/2 lb. Santa Maria Pinquito beans or other kind of dried bean, cooked until done (If you use canned beans, all you have to do is drain them)

1. Saute ingredients from oregano indio through carrots in the olive oil for 5 minutes on medium high heat. The chile will soften in the oil and flavor the dish.

2. Add the ingredients in Group B and cook for 5 minutes on medium high heat. Remove the chile pepper and throw away.

3. Serve over brown rice with a dollop of Vitamix Not-so-Cheese Sauce (pictured), Daiya, avocado, cashew crema, or other vegan toppings.

This is the author’s recipe. 

Who is Vegan anyway?

31 May

There are loads of exceptional (!) blogs about animal rights and veganism out there. (Some are listed over there in my blogroll – yep, right there. To the right!)

It often seems that they are written for an audience of people who are already in the know, working in the field or related fields (yeah – you can get degrees in those things now!), or to enable visitors to stay on top of current news and trends because it’s part of how they define being vegan. But what if you’re not one of ‘those people’?

I worry that maybe we assume too much within movements, disciplines, and in our day-to-day interactions with each other as people. I worry that we assume that people know what veganism really means to those who practice it, who those people who practice it are, why they practice it (their intent), and how it’s very different from ‘plant-based diet’♥ and ‘vegetarianism.’

How many people, you ask, are actually vegans?

The number of actual vegetarians in the United States, a category that includes vegans, is said to be somewhere between 1% and 3% of the total population – and reportedly growing, but this might be confirmation bias. You can barely pull up Huffington Post or Salon or open a copy of The Atlantic these days without seeing at least one article about Ag Gag laws, vegan BBQ, the latest vegan fashion designer, or a review of the next AR book revealing problems within the factory farming industry, for example.  Or maybe you don’t see these things because unlike me, you are not actively seeking the information. You are interested in other things.

When you pull out your pencil and crunch the numbers using the most recent US Census Data (2010), you’d see that the ballpark vegetarian/vegan estimate of 1-3% of the total population is about 3,087,455 to 9,262,366 people. Though it’s just a guesstimate after all, that’s 3 million to 9.2 million people living either vegetarian or vegan all around you if you live in America.

Animal welfare is good at using social media and everyone is loving infographics right now, as a consequence of that fact and the fact that we are obviously a visual world. Don’t take my word for it – you can read this fairly recent and probably still true Chronicle of Philanthropy article on the subject.  Infographics, which I really like and plan to feature prominently in this blog, are super powerful ways to present data, but they are not always factually correct. Here’s a very recent infographic based on research conducted by the Humane Research Council that answers the ‘how many vegetarians/vegans?’ question:

An older study was conducted by Vegetarian Times Magazine in 2008.The study data, which was collected by Harris Interactive Service Bureau surveyed 5,000 respondents as a statistically representative sample. It showed that 3.2% of US adults followed a vegetarian or vegan diet – and that 0.5% or just 1 million of those are vegans.

Are you study-ed out yet? Because Gallup also took a poll in 2012!

The Gallup Poll concluded that only 2% of the population considers itself Vegan. Even more interestingly, and getting to the point, which you obviously came for (!), they wondered if “the term may not be as familiar to Americans as “vegetarian” is, given that 7% did not have an opinion when asked if they were vegan, compared with less than 1% “no opinion” on the vegetarian item.” (Which makes me question entirely the results of polls on vegetarianism.)

What does 1-2%, as a slice of the population, look like in America? According to a Pew poll on Religion and Public Life, people who identify as Atheist comprise 1.6% and adults who identify as Mormon and Jewish each comprise 1.7% of the total adult population. All three fall squarely in the middle of the 1-2% spread for Vegans.*

What’s most interesting about the Gallup Poll to me, is that the researchers include a statement that

“almost all segments of the U.S. population have similar percentages of vegetarians, suggesting that most stereotypes of who is and is not the typical vegetarian in American society have little basis in fact.”

This is true for vegans, too. We are not a monolith! We’re parents, seniors, childless-by-choice, adoptive parents, gay, politically diverse, professionals, athletes, etc. Many of us do not practice or like yoga. Many of us do practice and like yoga. We live in cities and we live in the country. You get my drift. There is a panoply of blogs, books, and articles confirming this. (Here’s one to start: “V for Veg: African Americans are indeed in the Vegan Mix,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 23, 2012. Then check on the blogs to the right for more.)

The point is, Vegans are a diverse group in other ways and as a point of reference, there are as many people in America practicing Veganism as there are belonging to the Mormon faith or the Jewish religion.

What does it mean, then, to be Vegan?*

It’s hard to tell how people in the polls described above define the terms vegetarian and vegan for themselves if they were not provided with a definition by the survey-takers. It is likely that there is much more variation in the definition of vegetarian than there is in the definition of vegan, which is pretty straightforward.

Vegetarians, the larger group described in the surveys above, don’t consume animal flesh, but might wear clothing made from animals, like wool and leather and consume other animal-derived products like L-cysteine (an additive in bread and pizza doughs that comes from human hair, feathers, or sometimes hog hair); gelatin (in a lot of foods, like marshmallows and medications, and derived from animal bones); and milk and eggs, which both (like it or not) do involve the killing of cows and chickens.Vegetarians may or may not be dedicated to abstaining from purchasing products tested on animals, like home cleaners and cosmetics.

A Vegan, by contrast, is someone who abstains entirely from the exploitation, killing, use, and consumption of any animal, at all. Veganism is, by its very nature, a rejection of violence and oppression of all species and it is concerned with the advancement of rights for all sentient beings. To that end, Vegans do not purchase or consume animal-derived products or ingredients,  do not wear clothing or use products made from animal-derived ingredients, and do not participate in activities that exploit, harm, or use animals for research, entertainment, or profit. That may sound like a burden, but we see it as liberating, corny though that may sound. Most vegans also practice compassion beyond consumption by working, volunteering, advocating, or openly protesting animal use.

Vegans do argue amongst themselves over the finer points of related ethics, philosophy, politics, and the like. We also individually differ in terms of what specifically motivates us to become Vegan or stay Vegan over our lifetimes.

Abstaining from exploitation in the 21st century is really not hard at the table or in the home, at the restaurant or while traveling. It’s things that we take for granted and don’t really think all that much about – less obvious things – that can pose challenges. These are not insurmountable, but they are also not often discussed widely and perhaps we should start mulling them over. An example is a traditional financial investment option provided by an employer.

Bet you didn’t think I was going to say that!

I once worked for a large animal shelter that offered the Calvert Social Index as a 401(b) option. We liked that a lot as employees, and we thanked our employer for offering it! It was, by comparison, a better option. However, it wasn’t a panacea for the Vegans there (I was Vegetarian at the time). That’s because even the Calvert Social Index, which is an array of companies ranked as being ‘socially responsible’ and an alternative to more aggressive and traditional portfolios, contains companies that participate in the exploitation and killing of animals.

In rejecting animal exploitation, there is an implied, unstated rejection of capitalism and structures of oppression that give rise to capitalism and propel it forward. I chose the 401(b) option because it demonstrates how this is true in a pretty obvious way.  Another example that shows how impossible it is to truly un-intangle oneself as a vegan are federal taxes. I do not like thinking about how much of my taxes fund animal experimentation, factory farming, and the like and the GDP that these enterprises contribute to the economy. (Hence, Ag Gag laws.) Girlie Girl Army devoted a blog post to this subject, but it mainly discusses animal experimentation and not farm subsidies. More on this later.

The short answer to this question “what does it meant to be Vegan?” is that in a much broader sense, a person is actively refusing to participate in violence and to avoid violence. Some Vegans wear a Jain symbol for ahimsa (which literally means the avoidance of violence) to represent this as a personal reminder, though being Vegan is not synonymous with being a Jain. The two are not the same thing. The symbol represents a hand that is stopping the cycle of reincarnation through the pursuit of nonviolence. It looks like this:


Judging from popular documentaries and what is most talked about in popular media, it often appears as though the mainstream views Veganism as mostly related to food consumption. That says more about the mainstream than it does being Vegan, however, as it ends up coloring much more than the plate.

♥While Vegans consume a plant-based diet, eating a plant-based diet is not the same as being Vegan.

*The author is not asserting here that Veganism is comparable to a religion, though certainly many Vegans feel that being Vegan has a spiritual dimension. Lots of people have been writing about this recently (here is the reason why), which might be covered in a later post on this blog.

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

23 May

What does it mean to be vegan in a world that, well, isn’t vegan?


I didn’t know the answer to that question until after 12 years of vegetarianism – and the revelation that I had 3 extremely severe food intolerances (to gluten, corn, and casein) – I decided to pull the proverbial wool (animal reference intended) from off my eyes and see for myself!

I wouldn’t have guessed that I would one day live this way, but in giving up the exploitation, use, and consumption of animals, I live in a world that is more vivid, delicious, and lovely.

It is also infinitely more complex than before. Every day reveals a new discovery about life in the 21st century that would not have been possible without lifting the veil.

I’m maybe only a little bit wiser now, but more resolute in my decision – and I’m going to blog about it all, sans the sugar-coating. From gardening, to volunteering, to what I see in the media and society at large, to product reviews, recipes, traveling and working as a vegan with serious food intolerances, and being vegan in the day-to-day in general! The sum total of it all will be an exploration of what it means to have a ‘safe kitchen’ and how to cultivate ‘humane homes’ (our soul and brain containing bodies, the physical living spaces we inhabit and visit – and the planet) for people and animals.

Now that you know why I’m tip-tapping away, tell me why you’re here!

a. Are you vegan, too, or in the process of becoming?  Welcome! We/the animals need YOU! Keep on keeping on and coming back, cool cats and kittens. Penny for your thoughts!

b. Do you have a sinking suspicion that maybe it’s time for a change? Are you starting to believe that this really is a damn good life and you’d like to live it to your fullest, for as many years as you can, with a ‘low impact, compassion for all’ approach? Maybe living vegan would benefit you!* But where to start?

c. Has a family member called and announced they won’t be eating your family recipe for sausage and oyster stuffing this Thanksgiving? Was your child was suddenly diagnosed with Celiac’s (it’ll be okay)? Or are you simply having difficulty wrapping your head around the whole ‘vegan’ thing that everyone seems to be talking about these days?

This one is especially for you, my friends in Groups ‘b’ and ‘c’! Happy reading and doing.

As we say in my house every morning before we drink our daily juice, L’Chaim, all around!






*I am not a nutritionist or health expert of any kind – ! I write from personal experience. You should consult with a health professional or three before radically changing your diet and to assess for any existing health problems!

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