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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Farm Sanctuary Tour & a Veg McMuffin Recipe

What a great day! I started the morning off with my friend, Breanne. We decided to try a spinning class in the South End at a place called Recycle Studio. It was just what the doctor ordered! I hadn't done a cycle class in years - since I lived in DC and would go to a studio in Bethesda with my friend, Jen. So once Breanne suggested it, I was fully on board. And it was everything we hoped it would be. A small sized class, dimly lit studio for a very zen experience, and everyone was so nice and welcoming, which feels good when you're a newbie! I had forgotten what an awesome workout cycling was, but leaving the 45-minute class drenched with sweat and feeling that good kind of burn, I was quickly reminded. :)

Once I got home, showered, had some lunch, and snuggled Jakers and Mabel, I hopped back in my car and drove about an hour west of Boston to a town called Mendon. I had signed up for a tour of Maple Farm Sanctuary. They are a non-profit that exists solely to rescue animals and allow them to live out their days in peace and harmony. Many of the rescues are from factory farms, but others have come from irresponsible pet owners who don't realize what they're getting into when they buy that cute baby goat or pig.
This place is awesome. 120 acres of bliss. I was in heaven, hearing the stories of rescue and petting these sweet babies. They have so many goats that just roam the barns like dogs - so friendly and sweet. The highlight might be Jonathan - their 600 pound pig! Here are some highlights:

One of the many llamas on the farm.
 These sheep were rescued from abusive owners. So sweet.
 A potbellied pig that an owner decided they couldn't handle.
 Jonathan, the 600 lb pig and his best friend, a miniature horse. Also, more llamas & goats.
 A beautiful male turkey rescued from a factory farm.
 A dairy cow rescue who was super friendly and affectionate.
 Some of the many ducks and chickens that seem to really love each other. :)
 Putt-Putt, the sweetest little goat you'll ever meet!

Okay, so that was a lot of pictures - but it's hard to pick just a couple. So many animals that I adore! I just emailed them my volunteer application. I hope to make the drive every-other weekend to help with anything they need. My ultimate dream is to open my own farm sanctuary someday, so this will be valuable experience!

Today's tour was also a good reminder of why I make the effort to live a vegan life. And, during my drive to and from Minnesota for the holidays, I was reminded of how challenging it could be when I was craving breakfast, but couldn't eat anything on the drive-thru menus. But it got me craving a breakfast sandwich, so I made my own this weekend! Check it out - it's amazing how much the right seasonings can make the tofu taste just like an egg!

Vegan Breakfast Sandwich (Veg McMuffin)

  • English muffin
  • Vegan cheese slice (I like the Galaxy Nutritional Foods American slices, which you can find at Whole Foods)
  • Vegan sausage patty (I like the Whole Foods, 365 brand)
  • Extra firm tofu
  • 1 Tbsp Canola Oil
  • Margarine
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Salt & Pepper
Lightly toast your english muffin and spread margarine lightly on both halves. Prepare vegan sausage patty as directed (microwave is easiest). Heat canola oil in saute pan over medium heat. Slice tofu into 3/4" section and use a drinking glass to cut out a circle. Press tofu circle firmly between towels to get moisture out. Add to hot oil. Lightly season tofu with nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. After 3-5 mins (when side facing down is lightly browned), flip and season other side with just salt and pepper. Allow to cook for another 3-5 minutes. Assemble sandwich and enjoy while hot.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2013 Here We Come!

Happy New Year! I can't believe how quickly 2012 flew by, but 2013 is off to a great start.

I once again took 2 weeks off from work and drove to Minnesota for the holidays. Heaven forbid I celebrate a holiday without Jakers and Mabel, right!? I had a wonderful time with friends and family. I hadn't seen my two older nieces in a year, so it was SO much fun spending time with them. And my newest niece is only 4 months old, and I hadn't met her until Christmas. Love snuggling that chunky little girl!

Family shot on Xmas Eve

Usually, after 2 weeks at my mom's house, I'm anxious to get back to my own life and have a little breathing room from the fam (I mean that in the nicest way), but this year was different - I could have used another week or two in Minnesota. Although, I was happy to leave the weather behind. SO COLD. I forget how cold it is until I'm back in it. Yikes.

I feel like I ate my way through the trip -- it's just so natural to meet someone for lunch or dinner when you want to catch up. But after 2 weeks, that gets to be a lot of dining out. My mom also made some great vegan options at the holiday meals for me. She seems to be embracing experimenting with vegan recipes, which I am very grateful for. She's a good cook, so I love seeing her try her hand at cruelty-free cuisine. The highlight of this year were her vegan cheesy potato casserole. She made cream of mushroom soup from scratch to make that happen - what a lady. :) I'm trying to get back on track with healthy eating now that I'm back to reality. Just had a buffalo "chicken" wrap and miso soup for dinner.  I use the Gardein brand Crispy Tenders and coat them in hot sauce for that wrap. Also makes a great salad with my homemade vegan ranch dressing! So good! (Although, miso soup sounds like a strange pairing, I was craving it, so made a pot.) :)

Anyhow, so I'm back in Boston and happy to be home. Jakers and Mabel were absolute troopers on the drive there and back, but they are pretty happy to be in our little apartment, too. :) They seem to enjoy the adventure for the most part, but after 3,000 miles on the road, they are ready for it to be over with. Amen, guys, amen.

Jakers, enjoying his time riding shot-gun.

I tried a couple of new Christmas cookie recipes this year. I actually veganized a Paula Deen recipe that I saw on the Food Network. (Impressive, right?) They turned out delicious! I'll definitely do these again. Maybe even leave off the crushed candy canes and make them non-Christmas cookies. Check out the recipe, below!
Meemaw's Kitchen Sink Cookies (Veganized)

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) margarine, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • Ener-g Egg Replacement: equivalent of 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup puffed rice cereal
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup rolled old-fashioned oats
  • 1 (8-ounce) package toffee bits (I made my own vegan toffee, but you could also just use mini chocolate chips in place of toffee)
  • Dark chocolate, for dipping
  • 15 peppermint hard candies, crushed, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
Using an electric mixer, cream the margarine and sugars. Scrape the sides of the mixer bowl and beat in the oil, Ener-g egg replacement, and vanilla until smooth. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 small additions, scraping the sides of the bowl after each one. Slowly beat in the rice cereal, coconut, and oats. Fold in the toffee bits and refrigerate the dough, covered, for 1 hour.
Drop rounded tablespoons of dough on 2 cookie sheets, leaving at least 1-inch of space around each drop. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.
Using a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate. Dip the cookies into the chocolate and sprinkle crushed peppermint to decorate. Allow to cool or serve warm. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

2012 Chicago Marathon Finisher!

I did it! I've now had two weeks to sit back and reflect on my 5th (and possibly final?) marathon and feel so good about it. I actually just got around to putting together an online photo album this afternoon - I compiled the pictures from my camera and phone with the pictures my friend Patrick took. He's a photographer for the city of Chicago, so his pics from the race were outstanding. I just wish I was cuter while running! :)

Going into the race weekend, a little part of me thought, "Can I do this?! My training was mediocre this summer, my knee problems are ongoing, and I just don't feel ready." So at the expo, I signed up for the 4:40 pace group. I knew this wouldn't be a PR (personal record) race for me (I ran a 4:28 at the Shamrock Marathon back in 2008), but I thought I would aim high and try to stay as close to 4:40 as I could. And I was able to do so for the first 13 miles. But then my pace slipped a bit. And around mile 19, let myself take a short walk break. And once I let myself walk a bit, it's easy to let myself take *more* walk breaks. Long story short, I finished in 5:04. I was so happy with that, though! I felt so good just finishing. And got really emotional at the finish line. Then when I saw Patrick and Emily, more tears. Just a flood of relief that I made it through and felt as good as I did.

Alright...let's get to the pictures!

Lunch at Native Foods with Emily & Patrick!

The amazing view from E & P's balcony (with my friend Heather from Mpls!)

Hanging out at the expo, loving the photo opps!

Race morning - Emily and Patrick walked me to the starting corrals.

Just past the starting line - excited to have found Emily and Patrick.

Mile 13 - wishing this was just a half marathon. :)

 FINISH LINE! Already crying. :)

Emotional while receiving my finisher medal.

Time to party. And by "party", I mean "limp to Chipotle for a burrito"! :)

Beyond the race, I also had a great rest-of-the-weekend. We ate at Native Foods twice - an awesome vegan restaurant, and enjoyed a celebratory dinner in Chinatown on Sunday night. We met up with some other friends throughout the weekend, too. And we were able to enjoy some downtime of just chilling together and catching up. Patrick and Emily live right in downtown Chicago in a beautiful apartment building on the river. With their support before, during and after the race, my weekend was perfect. Seriously. I will always have wonderful memories from this experience...and Chicago now holds a special place in my heart. :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Countdown to Chicago & Collard Greens

TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY!! Oh my gosh, this marathon is sneaking up on me. I know I *can* do this, but it's not going to be easy. This was a brutal summer of training - injuries and distractions everywhere! I realized today (this morning, on a run actually) that I've done most of my training in the afternoons and evenings - which is not my best idea, considering I need to run 26.2 miles at 8:00am. And your body is just at a different place in the morning vs the evening. I used to always be a morning runner, but in my old age, it gets harder to get out of bed. Especially when I've got a cat and dog snuggled up next to me - SNOOZE BUTTON.

I don't think I've ever mentioned Boston Organics on my blog, but it's this great service I discovered shortly after moving to Boston. Basically, you sign up for a type of box - I do the "small box" - and every Friday they deliver me a bunch of delicious fruits and veggies. It's been great, because it has gotten me to try a variety of produce that I wouldn't normally pick up at the grocery store. I've learned I love daikon radishes (recipe to share later!) and also had my first try at making collard greens. I already knew I loved these - one of my fave DC restaurants, Everlasting Life Cafe, makes some amazing greens! - but I'd never prepared them myself.

An Instagram photo from a Boston Organics order - yum!

After a quick Google, I found a recipe on Food.com and it looked like a winner. And I was right - so tasty! The cider vinegar gives it a bit of a bite, though, so keep that in mind if you want to add a little less for a little less of a kick! I'll put a link to the recipe below, and also copy & paste for convenience.

Vegan Collard Greens
2 lbs collard greens
4 -5 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Wash greens well, submerging in a sink full of cold water to remove any dirt and grit. Drain well. Cut off the stems right where the leaf starts. Stack about 5-8 leaves on top of each other, then roll lengthwise. Cut rolled up leaves into 1" slices widthwise. Repeat until all the greens are done, and add to a large pot.
Add all other ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes or until greens are extremely tender. Serve hot, using a slotted spoon to drain the liquid from the greens.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

End of Summer & Great Vegan Lasagna

So we've come to the end of summer. And I could not be happier about it. I love everything about fall and, more than anything, I am happy to say 'good riddance' to heat and humidity. Especially as the Chicago Marathon approaches - I've got less than 5 weeks left to get ready for it, and would LOVE some cool mornings to get my last long runs in.

Also with the end of summer comes the end of an era. Had you told 16-year old Becky - way back in 1998 - that someday she wouldn't even WANT to own a car, she would have laughed in your face. (Especially since she was the proud driver of a SUPER CLASSY Plymouth Reliant!) But ever since I moved to Boston, I just don't drive very much - beyond moving my car from one side of the street to the other for weekly street cleaning. So I've decided to list the Sonata for sale and say farewell. It was such a high for me when I bought her last year, but now I realize that the money spent on her can be invested other places. We'll just see how long it takes to sell - we're 2 weeks in with very little interest. Oh well, I can be patient. :)

I've got a great recipe to share today, too. A coworker of mine recently sent me a link for her favorite lasagna. I'll include a link to it here, so I give full credit to the original blogger/creator, but I'll also copy and paste below for convenience. I've posted a vegan lasagna recipe years ago, but this one is even better. You won't be disappointed! And I love how this blogger posted nutrition information - this is NOT one of those unhealthy pasta dishes where you need to feel guilty after indulging in a huge piece. Less than 200 calories per serving and it's loaded with veggies!

Easy Vegan Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

From FatFree Vegan Kitchen


  • 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 24-oz jars of spaghetti sauce (or your favorite pasta sauce)
  • 9 lasagna noodles (regular lasagna noodles, uncooked)
  • Soy Parmesan (optional)
  • Sliced black olives (optional)


  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 lb tofu (firm, reduced-fat recommended–not silken!)
  • 1 tsp. salt (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast (adds a cheesy taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary, crushed
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper


  1. Sauté the mushrooms and garlic over medium heat in the 2 tbsp. water until tender; cover between stirring to keep them from drying out. Remove from heat and add the spaghetti sauce.
  2. Place the tofu and thawed spinach in the food processor and process briefly. Add the remaining filling ingredients to the processor and blend until smooth. (You may do this without a food processor by using a potato masher on the tofu.)
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Spread half of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×12-inch pan. Place a layer of noodles over the sauce, using three dry noodles and leaving a little space in between them. Spread half of the tofu mixture on the noodles (I drop it by spoonfuls and then spread it). Cover with another layer of 3 noodles and then spread the remaining tofu mixture over them. Top with a final layer of noodles, and pour the remaining sauce over this. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with soy Parmesan and sliced black olives if you want. The lasagna will cut better if you allow it to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Father/Daughter Bonding in Boston. And (More) Cookies.

Earlier this month, I played hostess once again. My dad flew out to Boston for a long weekend. We had been planning this weekend since January. His birthday weekend just happened to coincide with the Twins/Red Sox series at Fenway. And I knew my dad had always wanted to see Fenway with his own two eyes, so I knew it was meant to be!

We really did have a weekend of nonstop fun. He arrived Thursday afternoon, so I picked him from the airport and stopped at a great local Charlestown pub. A burger (veggie for me!) and beer was the perfect fix for a morning of flying. Then we headed to my apartment. Jakers went BONKERS. For only seeing my dad a few times a year, he is obsessed with him. I tried not to take it personally...until Jakers chose him over me at bedtime. But I've since forgiven him. :) After a little down time, we headed over to the North End for some of the finest Italian I've ever tasted!

Jakers goes NUTS when he sees Grandpa! (alright, so this is pic is actually him yawning, but I like it)

Friday morning we were up early and opening presents. Since my gifts included our whale watching and Red Sox tickets, we needed to get these opened up before heading to the harbor for our whale adventure! We had a great morning -- the whales, they were a-leapin'! I was so glad it was such an active day on the water. Then in the evening we headed towards Fenway for a night of excitement. The Twins did not disappoint -- we watched an extra-innings win!

Twins fans at FENWAY!

Saturday morning was the Boston Duck Tour. AWESOME. I hadn't done this yet, but see the ducks all over the city. It was really cool and we learned a lot. It was also a good way to show my dad parts of the city that we wouldn't have otherwise visited. Then, we headed over to Beacon Hill for (drum roll, please) CHEERS! My dad has seen every episode of "Cheers" at least a thousand times. So this was a thrill for him - and I must admit, kinda neat for me, too. :) After ordering both a beer and a bloody mary with his meal, so he could have the souvenir glasses, we headed home for some down time. Then in the evening, we drove up to the north shore and enjoyed a seafood dinner on the water in Gloucester. A perfect end to the perfect weekend.

Making dreams come true :)
I'm really close with my dad, but we can also both be really stubborn and have our issues. So I was happy that we had such a nice time together and didn't have any disagreements. And Jakers & Mabel were delighted to have Grandpa here for a visit.

  VEGAN Boston Cream Pie for the birthday boy!

So, segueing into a recipe, *another* one of my gifts included a tupperware filled with cookies for Dad to take home. I made my Aunt Carlotta's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They are SO decadent, and have a secret ingredient that gives them just a little crispy surprise. SO DELICIOUS. I like to keep a stash in my freezer as a sweet treat after dinner.
Carlotta's Chocolate Chip Cookies (with Corn Flakes!)

  • 1/2 c margarine (room temp)
  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 3/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp milk (I use almond milk)
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • Ener-G Egg Replacer, equivalent of 1 egg 
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 c flour
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bag chocolate chips
  • 1 c oatmeal
  • 1 c Corn Flakes
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Blend  in sugars. Add in flour, soda and salt, combine. Add in chips, oatmeal and corn flakes and mix. Drop teaspoonfuls on cookie sheet (I prefer a baking stone) and bake at 350-degrees for ~12 minutes. Keep an eye on them - you want them to *just* start browning.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer in the City...And Some Stellar PB Cookies!

What a great summer so far!
I hosted my mom from Minnesota and my brother from Los Angeles over 4th of July weekend. We had a great time! We did a lot in one weekend: whale watching (it's my go-to activity these days), day trip to Maine, walked the Freedom Trail, won a night of bar trivia, Cirque du Soleil (TOTEM), and Harpoon Brewery tour just to name some.

 Celebrating our big trivia win in Cambridge! (yes, that's Ryan's happy face.)

Then, the following week, my other brother was in town from DC for work, so we did dinner and drinks and bar trivia (< once I had the taste for winning, I needed more).

And then last weekend, 6 friends from Minnesota and I flew into Chicago to surprise another friend. She had no idea we were coming, and as she appeared at the bar to meet her boyfriend for happy hour after work on Friday, there we were! It was great. :) We had so much fun catching up with one another, enjoying some good drinks and food, and seeing Chicago.

 The whole crew in Chicago, enjoying the Grant Park Music Festival

I'm now looking forward to my dad visiting in a couple of weeks. It's his birthday weekend and the Twins are playing the Red Sox, so we're going to spend some time at Fenway, check out the original Cheer's bar (he's a big fan of the show), and possibly do some exploring of the North Shore. Should be great. :)

I made a batch of my mom's peanut butter cookies when she and my brother were in town, and since I had a few leftover, brought them along to Chicago. This is one of my favorite cookie recipes (do I say that about all of my cookie recipes??). You literally cannot taste any difference between the original recipe and my veganized recipe. Give 'em a try!

Mom's (Vegan) Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1/2 c. shortening
  • 1/2 c. margarine
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • Ener-G Egg Replacer = equivalent of 2 eggs
  • 1 c. peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
Combine shortening, margarine, sugars, egg replacer, and peanut butter in large bowl and mix well. Blend in the remaining ingredients. Cover (I use wax paper) and chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.
Put a little additional flour on a small plate. Remove dough from fridge and form into balls. Place balls on cookie sheet (I prefer a baking stone) and - using a fork dipped in the flour - press down in a criss-cross pattern. Bake 350-degrees for 10-12 mins. Enjoy!