Sunday, November 27, 2022

My Favorite Plant-Based Cheeses


In the intervening decade or so since I started this blog,  many vegan-friendly, plant-based cheeses have come and gone (looking at you, Nacheez & Nacho Mamma). Fortunately, being in the Bay Area, there are always a lot of enterprising locals who create amazing vegan options. 


Miyoko's Creamery - so many options!  I love the Sharp English Farmhouse - it's one of my favorites for eating with bread or crackers. 

  • Liquid Mozzarella - this stuff is great for pizza, but it also works for open-faced toasted cheese in the toaster oven, and on nachos.
  • Roadhouse Cheddar - this is amazing stuff.  It tastes just like cheddar cheese log cheese, but in a good way.  Maybe I'll make a nut log with it this holiday season. 
  • ALL THE CHEESE WHEELS:  the "Double Cream Classic Chive" tastes like goat cheese. The Sharp English Farmhouse and Smoked English Farmhouse are also favorites.  They are ALL good.

Vegan Butcher's Son Feta - packed in salty brine with a bay leaf or two, this feta tastes exactly like the dairy based version to me (granted, it's been 15+ years since I've eaten any dairy cheese). It's got a great texture - crumble it onto salads, eat with crackers or fruit.  You can buy it in person or through delivery services at

The Uncreamery - Smoked Gouda, Truffle Brie, Ghost Pepper Jack -- great right out of the white paper.  This stuff is so delicious with a nicely uniform, delicate texture.  It never lasts long enough in my house to cook with it, ymmv. or any number of stores, including Rainbow Grocery.


Portland-based Vtopian makes a lot of amazing cheeses.  Any time I am in Portland, this is a required stop and I always end up eating Vtopian cheese with bread for my meals on the road trip home.  You can visit them in Portland, or find their cheese in stores all around the Bay Area (SF's Rainbow Grocery has an awesome selection): 

Bandit Barn Cat --great with bread, dried fruit and on sandwiches.  This savory delight is wrapped in black ash and white paper, this cheese is so delicious and tastes like a blue cheese.  I purchased this at the vegan grocery at Little Saint in Healdsburg, and there may be options near you.

Renegade Foods makes amazing plant-based salame (not GF) -- - also available at SF's Rainbow Grocery.

NON-ARTISANAL CHEESES FOR COOKING: not all vegan cheeses possess the cultured, tang and texture that makes them ideal for eating with bread or as part of your charcuterie. However, there are quite a lot of non-artisanal cheeses that work pretty well cooked in your broccoli rice casserole, nachos or macaroni and cheese. 

Nachos - I like Violife and Daiya shredded cheeses.  They melt pretty well under the broiler of my wee toaster oven. 

Open-faced toasted cheese tastes just like I remember it (plus my version of Grandma Clark's Pottsville Relish) when I use thin slices of Daiya's Grilling Cheese Block (I'm also a fan of Daiya's "Smoked Gouda" and "Jalapeño Havarti").

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

REVIEW: Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey (2022)

The dangers of rest to the dominant paradigm have been well known for millennia. Centuries ago Aesop and other writers described the story of the “Ant and the Grasshopper” as a cautionary tale. For hundreds of years – strikes and work stoppages have been the primary means of resisting the demands of productivity demanded by Capital. People put down their tools and walked off the job and out the factory doors. Truck drivers block ports with their vehicles.  Work stoppage has long been a means of resisting the dehumanizing effects of capitalism.  

“Capitalism commodifies whatever it can and doesn’t allow space for us to experience the full spectrum of being human.”

“We are socialized into systems that cause us to conform and believe our worth is connected to how much we can produce.”

“Fear and scarcity are a big part of how the culture keeps us bound up in the hamster wheel.”

Tricia Hersey’s new book is part auto-biography, part history book and part sermon, offering us a lens for resistance of the dehumanizing, deleterious effects of capitalism & the cult of “productivity” that is womanist, liberationist and at the same time deeply validating of both the need to disconnect for dreaming & private thoughts and of community.  

Hersey makes her keen observations in a style of a song: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, outro.  

She doesn’t need to expand too much on her verses – it’s not novel information for her audience.  It’s the repetition and the chorus – the soothing reassurance that “You are not unworthy. The systems are unworthy.” 

Deep inside, people know:

“ we didn’t arrive on Earth to be a tool for a capitalist system.” … It is not our divine purpose. […] You were not just born to center your entire existence on work and labor.”

The effects of this fatigue remove community and intellectual agency – turning us into machines: 

“When you are exhausted, you lack clarity and the ability to see deeply. Your intuition and imagination are stifled by a culture of overworking and disconnection."

“[…] stealing your imagination and time, grind culture has stolen the ability for pleasure, hobbies, leisure, and experimentation.”

Black liberation and womanism are woven throughout the book – her message that “Black liberation is human liberation” is strong and consistent.  The goal of capitalism and white supremacy is to strip away the humanity – it’s essentially reductionist and isolating.

“Black liberation is a balm for all humanity and this message is for all those suffering from the ways of white supremacy and capitalism.”

If you are reading this book and feel that the topics of white supremacy and black liberation are a bit heavy – you have a lot more work to do before you can well and truly appreciate what is being communicated in this book.

The goal of this work is to decolonize your mind and enable a culture shift.  If your reaction to creating a nap practice, making time for day dreaming or resting as resistance is to immediately think of slackers, freeloaders and laziness – you’re falling into racist stereotypes as well as white supremacist programming. 

“We have been bamboozled. This is why it’s so critical that we create systems of care to help people dismantle and decolonize their minds.”

“We are resting not to do more and to come back stronger and more productive for a capitalist system.”

The loudest chorus in this book is that you don’t have to always be “productive” – and that busyness reduces your ability to heal, dream and tap into your imagination. Even Hersey’s grandmother would rest with her eyes closed and reminded her granddaughter that every shut eye was not asleep.  We close our eyes to reduce distraction and focus inward on our own experience whether it’s breathing in meditation or processing feelings or enjoying the fragrance of a flower (to name a few). 

  • “Resting is not a state of inactivity or a waste of time. Rest is a generative space.”
  • “Naps provide a portal to imagine, invent, and heal.”
  • “Rest is not a luxury, privilege, or a bonus we must wait for once we are burned out.”
  • “Rest is not a privilege because our bodies are still our own, no matter what the current systems teach us.”
  • “Your bodies don’t belong to capitalism, to white supremacy, or to the patriarchy.”

Social media is another area covered by various choruses throughout the book.  Just as a reminder:  where anything is “free” – you are the product.  Hersey rightly points out that social media is a marketing tool and an extension of capitalism. “The goal is to keep you scrolling long enough that you become a consumer. The goal is for you to buy, buy some more, and stay on as long as possible until that happens.”  Social media “is a space of dependency” and “robbing us of the archives and memory. Taking from us the ability to go to the past for guidance, motivation, and grounding.”

Hersey highlights the disruptive nature of social media and how it has absorbed “our quiet time” – and urges us to “detox intentionally and often if we are to find rest.”

Our challenge is to “spiritually disconnect from the shenanigans of grind culture while physically still living in it.” Establish healthy boundaries, resist responding right away to email or social media. Reject urgency.

“You cannot achieve deep rest in a consistent way if we don’t detox regularly from social media and the internet. Technology is not built to support our rest or make space for our rest.”

Finally – you have to accept that you have been brainwashed.  You have been swimming in a pool of the dominant paradigm for so long, there’s no way it could be any other way.  The repetition in this book serves a purpose – to begin unspooling the cocoon that has been limiting us for so long so that we can claim our birthright.  

We are enough just as we are – we are enough because we exist.  We do not have to be productive, busy or constantly contributing.   There is no quick fix – dismantling millennia old mindsets and building communities of care takes time.  

“Our interconnectedness is a form of resistance in times thriving against the dehumanizing ways capitalism and white supremacy sees the world.”

“We will not heal alone. We will not thrive alone. Communal care is our saving grace and our communion. Community care will save us. It is already saving us.”

Hersey offers some places to begin:

- Intentionally and regularly detox from social media

- Learn boundaries – “heal the individual trauma you have experienced that makes it difficult for you to say no”

  • Establish a “daily practice in daydreaming”
  • “Slow down”
  • “Listen more”
  • “Create systems of community care”

Print out this quote and stick it up in your environment in a half dozen places:

1. I deserve to rest now. 

2. I am worthy of rest. 

3. I am not lazy. How could I be lazy? My Ancestors are too brilliant for that. 

4. Capitalism wants my body to be a machine. I am not a machine. 

5. I am a magical and divine human being. 

6. I have the right to resist grind culture. 

7. I don’t have to earn rest. 

8. Do less, watch how I thrive. 

9. Ease is my birthright. 

10. I Will Rest!”

“You don’t have to wait on permission from the dominant culture.”

“Grind culture is violence. Resist participating in it.” 

Friday, July 08, 2022

"Barbarian Coffee Cake"


This recipe is based on my grandmother's Barvarian Coffee Cake recipe which had a LOT more sugar, fat and refined flour.  I've veganized it and made it a vehicle for lots of fruit!

I doubled this recipe so that I could do apricot & plum - and put them in the same pan.  I also added some pitted cherries because - why not? You can use any fruit -- you can put applesauce in the batter and put a (strained) can of pineapple or canned cherries on top. 

Bowl 1 - Sift together

  • 1 c whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 c almond flour 
  • 1/2 c white flour (optional if you are using whole wheat pastry flour0
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt

Bowl 2 - wet

  • 1/2 c sugar (I used turbinado but sucanat would be good, too - I like the molasses flavor)
  • ~1 c fruit purée
  • 1/2 c melted coconut oil or neutral oil / vegan butter
  • 1 Tb almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanillazest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • water or plant based milk as needed

Thoroughly blend each bowl then add wet to dry.

Plum was processed through the Vittorio food mill which results in a much messier process in the kitchen but plum skins don’t shred very well in the blender in my experience.

I processed the apricots in the blender to make the purée.

The batter should be really thick but not so stiff that you can’t mix it so add liquid to loosen it up.

As you can see I did apricot and plum. 

I used 2 part tart pans, so I don’t want the batter to be so thin that it’s going to leak out the bottom.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 min - wooden toothpick inserted near the center should come out clean. Glaze with melted jelly - In this case I used leftover apricot syrup from the process of making glacee apricots.

Be careful to not overfill your cake pan -- once the baking powder/soda start working, you may have a bit of spillover.  Put a cookie sheet below your cake if you are concerned about overflow. 


Sunday, May 29, 2022

 Avocados in May!  51 harvested today -- and there are probably another dozen or so hiding in the glossy leaves of the avocado tree. 

Friday, December 24, 2021

The Straight Poop on Cat Litter

I have 6 adult cats -- here's our system:

In the last 30 years as an adult living on my own - I have gone through MANY many kinds of cat litter.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Butternut Squash on Bittersweet Blog

Made some ravioli - guest post up on Hannah's Bittersweet blog - maybe I'll start blogging again here...

Here’s a quick “no measure” recipe for a rustic ravioli dish that will make any occasion seem super special. You don’t need any special equipment — just a rolling pin though I prefer to use my Kitchen Aid pasta roller attachment to save time.

1-2 cups of fine semolina flour
2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
water, as needed

1 butternut or kabocha squash, roasted and seeded
chopped fresh herbs (your choice), quantity as needed
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg

To make the ravioli filling, Just mash the roasted butternut (or kabocha or pumpkin) and blend with the finely chopped herbs and spices. You don’t want this to be too fine a puree, you want to be able to drop it by the spoonful onto the pasta.

1. Make the pasta – mix the dry ingredients and start adding the olive oil and mix well. Add cold or ice water in a thin stream, in small amounts, until the semolina starts getting a sandy texture. Check it periodically to see if you can clump it by smashing some inside the palm of your hand with your fist. If it is too tacky and wet — add more semolina (easy, right?). I prefer to use my stand mixer but you can do this by hand.

2. Use a flexible spatula to scrape out of the bowl onto a work surface. Work it with your hands to press, squeeze and smush it together into a ball that starts to really stick together. You want to develop the gluten. Get out the rolling pin and work it flat, fold it and repeat.

You can continue to work it with the rolling pin or you can get it thin enough (about 1/4″ for the widest setting on your pasta roller) to start putting through the pasta roller. I start out at “0” on my KA attachment and after a couple passes, narrow it a few more times until I get to 4 or 5.

Get the pasta sheets as thin as you can without them being transparent, developing holes or tears when you try to stretch a bit (since you’ll be doing that to make the ravioli) but not so thick that you just have a super squishy dumpling.

To shape the ravioli – you can do this with a water glass or biscuit cutter, a fancy ravioli cutter (I have individual cutters as well as a metal mold that is about as wide as the sheet of pasta.

Get a small bowl of water and maybe a brush to keep at hand. Once you roll out your sheet of pasta — put it on the form or lightly mark it with your cutter, then use a measuring spoon to scoop a small ball of your cool filling onto the center of that mark.

Dab a bit of water all around where the edge of the ravioli will be using the brush or your finger tips. Lay another sheet over top (or just fold a very long sheet) and then use your cutter (or rolling pin) to score the raviolis. Check to make sure the edges are sealed the first few times and then lay them out in a single layer on cutting board or cookie sheet to rest.

Freezing the ravioli before you cook them yields better results. You can drop them into boiling water and then scoop them out and cover them with sauce, but for this thanksgiving treat — we browned some of Miyoko’s vegan butter and crisped up the ravioli on both sides with some holy basil out of the garden, and then sprinkled with vegan parm.

You can’t eat just one!

Oh yeah – and – if you have more pasta than energy to make ravioli — you can slice the sheets up into linguine or fettuccine, or make farfalle (butterfly or bowtie pasta) just by cutting squares and pinch in the middle. In all cases — leave pasta on a cookie sheet to rest and freeze or dry. You can also tightly wrap leftover pasta ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate to roll out later.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Exploration: Reducing Refrigerator Dependence

The recent fires in Butte County have given me a lot of time to think, while hiding out from the smoke filled skies of the Bay Area.  I read that PG&E had considered shutting down the power grid -- but did not, and conditions resulted in the massive wildfire that decimated the town of Paradise and the evacuation of over 50K people.

One of the key considerations is the reliance on electricity and the challenges faced by less affluent households when the power goes out:  they can't afford solar panels or generators to keep their food in the fridge.   If you're not in a hospital or nursing facility, or dependent on electricity for some kind of healthcare related system -- your biggest risk is your week (or more) of food in the refrigerator and freezer.

So, how can we reduce our dependence on the refrigerator?  I found this interesting article about the history of refrigerators in the US -- and it got me wondering whether I could cut back my use of the refrigerator to a point where I would not lose perishables in a power outage of longer than 2-3 days (or however long a refrigerator stays cold).

This would require changing my shopping habits -- making purchases of fresh vegetables more frequently -- and not storing anything in the freezer.  I would also have to stop stocking up on perishables like vegan cheeses, seitan and condiments.  I've already experimented with using my Excalibur dehydrator to dry pesto and harissa -- and this year, I canned all my enchilada sauce (but not my tomato juice, for example). 

I'm going to start working toward reducing perishables in my freezer and fridge - and identifying foods that don't need to be kept in the fridge (does the hot sauce really need to be refrigerated?). 

If you have any experience with such an experiment -- I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Plum Jelly Round-Up

Earlier this year, tired of squirrel bandits on my bird feeders - I discovered that I could trap them in my Hav-A-Hart trap -- and relocated 3 of 5 squirrels to a park two miles away.  The unexpected upside of this is that my neighbors finally got tree-ripened loquats and I had a LOT more plums on the tree in my backyard this year -- I harvested about 125 lbs in the two days before July 4th!

I barely had room in my freezer and fridge to put all the juice and puree -- and this week I am making up jelly -- a lot of it!

16 c plum juice + 1 c lemon juice + 4 c sugar + 5Tb & 1tsp pectin + 5Tb & 1tsp calcium water + 3.75 oz habaneros (seeds cut out) =
  • 21- half pints plum habanero jelly

  • 18 - half pints 
  • 15 - quarter pints
20 cups of plum juice + 5 c sugar + pectin/calcium water + 1 c lemon juice =
  • 11 - 20 oz jars 
  • 13 - half pints

24 cups of plum juice + 6 c sugar + pectin/calcium water + 1 1/4 c lemon juice + lemongrass =
  • 33 - half pints

Monday, July 16, 2012

Zucchini & Tomato Soup

What else do you do with a giant zucchini - or two - but make a pot of soup (if you aren't making my Zucchin-Carrot Relish!) -- here are a couple recipes I have made recently, and since I put the information in on a web app - actually have the caloric data for it!

I threw in 3-4 frozen cubes of home made basil-garlic-raw almond pesto - so made the almonds an optional ingredient here, as well as the olive oil.  I also have a lot of roasted red padron puree in the freezer from last fall - one ice cube is roughly 1/4 c, I think, and I added that in - you could substitute Harissa paste (if you want heat), or chopped fresh red or green bell peppers.  Or throw in any spicy chopped peppers!

  • 8 c zucchini, skin on, cut into large chunks (remove pithy parts and large seeds) (168 calories)
  • 4 c crushed canned tomatoes (312 calories)
  • 2 oz dried shitake mushrooms (200 calories) - or - 16 oz fresh button mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 Carrots (150 calories)
  • 1-2 c broccolini greens & florets (45 calories)
  • 8 Garlic, Cloves, Fresh (35 calories)
  • 1/2 c chopped basil leaves (4 calories)
  • 2 c sweet/Vidalia onion, chopped or sliced to preference (128 calories)
  • 2 T dried Thyme (or double fresh) (16 calories)
  • 3 c cabbage, chopped (66 calories)
  • 1/2 c green onion, chopped (9 calories)
  • 8 c vegetable stock (160 calories)
  • 2 packages Westsoy Chicken Style Seitan (770 calories)    
  • 1 bunch of chopped parsley (16 calories)
  • 1.5 T Red miso (the refrigerated kind) (45 calories)
  • 3 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (120 calories)
  • 3 Tb raw almonds, finely ground (102 calories)
  • 1/4 roasted red padron puree (9 calories)
  1. Break up the dried mushrooms into quarters or smaller and place into a heat proof dish or pan; pour boiling water over the mushrooms and allow to steep while you assemble the rest of the soup.
  2. Pour the stock into the pan - note - I used tomato juice from canning tomatoes last year -- which is just the water that was around the seeds.  As I seed the tomatoes before putting them in the pot, I put all the seeds into a metal mesh strainer and then stir them around to get all that water out separately and save it for soups.  In this case, about 5 cups of my vegetable stock was tomato water (not sauce!).  If you like more tomatoey flavor, throw in another can or pint jar of crushed tomatoes -- they'll break down and give you plenty of flavor.
  3. Add the Westsoy Chicken-Style Seitan - be sure to keep the broth in the container, it's tasty stuff - and tear up any extra large pieces of seitan with your fingers.
  4. Add the carrots first - I slice them on the diagonal for nice big chunks, and put them into the stock first while it's heating up.  Add in the rest of the veggies items as ready -- and add additional water to cover if needed.
  5. Reserve for last (as in - just a few minutes before serving) any fresh herbs and the red miso paste (which you can dissolve with a small whisk separately before adding in).
  6. Salt & pepper to taste --  and yes, this a HUGE pot of soup but you can eat as much as you want because the entire thing is a whopping 2300 calories -- 12 large servings at 191 calories each!


Sunday, July 01, 2012

Zucchini Vegetable Farro Soup (no onions/no garlic)

I made this giant pot of soup and shared it with my family - the corn kernels mix in with the similarly sized farro and provide a nice counterpoint of flavor and texture.  Tarragon & thyme provide the flavor - no onions or garlic in this soup, resulted in a soup that was sweet from the corn and carrots only.

  • 10 c zucchini, skin on, cut into large chunks (remove pithy parts and large seeds if using monster zukes) (210 calories)
  • 6 carrots (150 calories)
  • 4 c crushed canned tomatoes (312 calories)
  • 2 c farro (400 calories)
  • 4 c broccoli or other sturdy greens like collards (140 calories)   
  • 1 oz dried shitake mushrooms (100 calories) - or - 8 oz fresh button mushrooms, sliced
  • 16 c vegetable stock (400 calories)
  • 2 packages Westsoy Chicken Style Seitan (770 calories)   
  • 2 ears of corn, cut off the cob (147 calories)
  • 3 Tb "Mellow" white miso (90 calories)
  • 4 tsp red miso (45 calories)
  • Dried herbs to taste - I used lots of tarragon & thyme
  1. Break up the dried mushrooms into quarters or smaller, place in a heat proof dish or pan and cover with boiling water to steep while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  When they are soft, add the pieces and the water to the pot.
  2. Pour the stock into a very large pot -- if you cut down the stock by half and use water instead, the soup will probably taste just as good!  Use what you have on hand!
  3. Add the carrots first - I cut them up into big chunks, and put them in the pot so that they cook up faster.
  4. Be sure to add the stock from the seitan package - it's yummy!  If you don't have this brand available where you live - substitute your favorite seitan or even some nice smoked tofu (yum!).
  5. Add the miso paste last -- you will want to take some stock or hot water and dissolve it so that it mixes into the soup better.
  6. Don't cut yourself cutting the fresh corn off the cob - after cutting off the niblets, be sure to scrape the cob with the back of your knife over the pot to get all the juice and flavor out of the corn cob (yum!).