What a great time we had at Grand Valley’s student-led Veg-Out! last Saturday. Ray Kusmack and a team from the Aramark Catering Staff did wonderful demos of smoothies, hummus, guacamole and spaghetti squash. So tasty.

There were lots of informative booths about the Farm Project at GVSU… here’s Roger at the table.

Farm Table

And Meatless Monday was there, too…

Meatless Monday

Roger and I talked about our nearly 30 year journey as plant-based eaters. Roger told the students they were living in a golden age with vegan restaurants and menus and a heightened awareness of the healthiness of eating more plants and less meat. I told the students that I loved animals, people and food, but hated to argue. Therefore I was doing my bit by providing delicious food. (It is not strictly legal, but we pled ignorance of the law and brought out homemade bread, vegan gruyere; kale, navy bean & artichoke dip; and cashew cream cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic.

sampling cheese

The vegan gruyere was a big hit, with many coming back for seconds and thirds.

line for cheese

We agreed to do a mini supper club at Grand Valley with the students and I promised to do a cheesemaking demo. But we’re also hoping to see them at Plantsgiving. Special thanks to Ray, chef Zach Dodsen from Bartertown, student Bryan Smigielski for his thoughtful talk about mindful consumption, Seva Yoga, and organizers Emma Gasinski, Sarah Craven, and Bryan Smigielski for getting us involved.


Comfort Food, Part 1


I’ve been a bit obsessed with ground beef subs. Why? Because ground beef is such a big part of the typical American diet and so to have a ‘go-to’ whole foods substitute to use in traditional recipes is a big bonus with the crowd I work with–namely people who switch suddenly to a plant-based diet for health reasons. You have to be willing to swap out ingredients depending on whether your diner is gluten sensitive, has an allergy to mushrooms or nuts, or is avoiding soy due to an estrogenic cancer. At my plant-based comfort food class, I’ll be providing more specific recipes. But for the moment, I will tell you some of the components I use when concocting a substitute for ground beef that will hold its own when used in recipes like hamburger helper, chili, sloppy joes and spaghetti bolognese.

Nothing beats a half cup of raw soaked walnuts, ground up in your food processor. Add a half cup of dried shitake mushrooms (grind these up, too), 8 oz. of drained and briefly frozen and crumbled tofu, and a half cup of bulgur wheat. Of these, all but the walnuts will act like a sponge and soak up liquid. I like to rub my tofu in spices–because recognizing bits of tofu is a real buzzkill for picky eaters. I usually use something like a tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce, a little beer or red wine, and maybe some coffee. To that, I might add smoked paprika, chili powder, ground fennel seed, freshly ground black pepper, oregano, cumin or blackening spices. Once the tofu is coated, you can mix in the other ingredients. Note that if you are using bulgur and dried mushrooms, you’ll need to add extra liquid to keep the recipe in balance. This could take the form of tomatoes or sauce when making chili or beer when making sloppy joes. In the hamburger helper above, I used a combination of chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce and red wine.

Here’s a quick guide to swapping out ingredients based on your sensitivities.

Can’t do nuts? Do bulgur wheat
Can’t do tofu? Do navy beans, baked at 250 for 30 minutes in the oven
Can’t do mushrooms? Do well-rinsed ground up jackfruit or thoroughly squeezed ground up Butler soy curls.

The point is that the ground beef subs in your grocery store freezer case are highly-processed and filled with weird ingredients–including animal ingredients like egg whites. They’re also expensive! You can mimic the texture of ground beef quite well all on your own. When you’ve found the perfect blend, make a bunch and freeze it. That way your happy helper will be just as quick as the irradiated stuff that comes in the box.

So Summer!

The food just keeps getting better!  And so does the company.  We welcomed Angela Topp of Treehuggers as our special guest in August. Angela’s work in package-free shopping, composting, unique recycled gifts and recycling items not accepted by our city’s recycling system has been such a valued asset to our community!  In every one of my cooking classes, I explained that folks without a VitaMix could use the store’s machine as well as find many wonderful vegan staples in the store.  Sadly, Treehuggers will close in early September.  While I am so sorry to see Angela’s work in its current incarnation go away, I really look forward to her next business venture.  She is irrepressible and entrepreneurial and creative and kind and she loves all the same things we do.  So let’s wish her the best when we see her next month!  Here she is–lower left.

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Could there really be a restaurant better than this?  So many places to eat…

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So many delicious dishes…including plum pastry, tofu curry, pea and tomato salad, nacho mama’s seven layer dip, mushroom potstickers, lentil-cilantro salad, beet hummus, zucchini banana bread and many more not pictured like the savory portabella pie, raspberry pie, chickpea cutlets..the list goes on and on…

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Nor lack for wonderful new friends to meet…

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So, until next month, please enjoy every moment you can outdoors, as our photog Diane Flaherty-Cisler did in August–thank you, Diane!

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And, from your hosts, Sue and Roger, we hope to see you next month.  Until then…

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