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VeganMoFo Day One–A Fresh Start

Welcome to Day One of VeganMoFo 2016 at Ovenbird. This is my first year as a participant, and I am delighted to have a new impetus for blogging about vegan eats. What started two years ago as a companion blog to the more literarily-inclined Thoughts Like Birds is back after a long dormancy, and with less lofty aspirations. Ovenbird was originally intended to be a blog about eating and reading. Truly, these days I’m doing well to feed myself, let alone read something and then write about it.

While reading and writing have (once again) taken a backseat to gainful employment and child rearing, a new passion/release has entered my life: running. I started last March with the Couch to 5K app and have continued to work on building my base, entering several 5K races this fall. I’m not fast, but I’m determined. I’m also 50 years old, so I don’t expect to ever be at the front of the pack. I do plan to keep running, though, as long as my body will abide, inspired by vegan runner Ellen Jaffe Jones, who took up running in her fifties and who, at age 65, has placed in her age group in more than 100 5Ks.

While I’m a relative newbie at running, I have been vegan for 25 years–half my life. Let me assure you that, as a vegan, I have never known privation. Vegan options–including comfort foods and sweet treats–have always been pretty easy to come by, and a quarter of a century on, I’m floored by the ingenuity and creativity of my fellow vegans. I need never go without a cupcake or ice cream (non-dairy, of course) or pizza or reasonable facsimile of mac ‘n’ cheese, but actually, I could stand to go without those and many other vegan delectables for a very long time. I’m generally in good health, but a bit on the, shall we say, zaftig side. And I’m pretty sure I could run a bit faster if I lost some weight.

So VeganMoFo 2016 marks a return to blogging and a simpler way of eating for me, with more whole foods and less sugar, white flour, and oil. I should note that I don’t have it all figured out, and at present I’m not particularly organized about meal planning, which means some of my meals this month will probably look like this: img_5992

It’s all good. Really. I’m vegan for the animals, and not contributing to animal suffering will always be my prime motivation. But I also know I feel better when I’m preparing my own food, eating more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, with minimal added oils.

So let’s start with breakfast. I’m a toast and jam girl at heart (with the occasional toasted everything bagel, topped with Kite Hill or Follow Your Heart, or good ol’ Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese). But I find it’s just as quick and easy to microwave a bowl of rolled oats with some frozen berries and peaches–I think the addition of frozen fruit keeps the oatmeal from bubbling over in the micro–topped with a handful of walnuts, pecans, or sliced almonds and a smidge of brown sugar (just as I probably will never go completely oil-free, I don’t expect I’ll ever give up sugar completely). Obviously you don’t need me to tell you how to make oatmeal (there are numerous variations, from slow-cooked to no-cooked), but maybe if, like me, you’re struggling with feeding yourself first thing in the morning, I can nudge you just a bit in the direction of making yourself a nice hot breakfast. Your mother will thank me for it.

Rainy Days and Mondays–A Recipe for Brownies

You must believe me–I had no intention of baking brownies when I awoke this morning. After a rainy workweek, I spent this past beautiful, balmy weekend tidying the house, hiking with my dog, watching a Harry Potter movie with my family, and making wholesome meals. But sometime during the night the rain returned and when I opened the door for the morning dog walk, I was greeted by a wet, dreary Monday. Even then, the thought of brownies hadn’t entered my mind.

This evening, when I picked up my son from his fall break day camp, he asked to go to Toys R Us. No, I said. He then asked to go to the nearby artisanal coffeehouse for vegan chocolate cake. Again, no. It was still drizzling and darkening, with the days growing shorter by the minute, and I just wanted to get home, get the dog walked, and get into my pajamas. I suppose I could have fallen back on that old parental chesnut and told him that we weren’t going to the coffeehouse house for chocolate cake because it would spoil his dinner, and left it at that. Instead, in spite of my better judgment, I suggested that I might be willing to scrape together something chocolatey at home.

My first impulse was to conjure the near-instant gratification of the microwaved vegan brownie in a bowl. Then, after further questioning my parenting, I decided that I should look up this delicious, lower-sugar brownie recipe I’d made once before (it calls for the optional use of instant coffee–I either eliminated the instant coffee or substituted Caffix, I can’t recall which). But I couldn’t remember the name of the website and didn’t feel like poking around trying to locate it just then. So I pulled my trusty copy of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking from the shelf and made these delectably sweet (to the tune of 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar), moist, chewy brownies.

So chocolatey. Recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau,

Of course, I used the crummy weather and the fact that it was Monday–a perfectly fine Monday, mind you–compounded by the plaintive cries of my offspring, to justify baking these cocoalicious confections. Had it been sunny and Tuesday, I might have let the craving pass like the shape-shifting cloud I knew it to be. And as I was driving home and contemplating this sad state of affairs, the Carpenters’ “Rainy Days and Mondays” crawled into my consciousness, where it lingers still. These are brownies born of manufactured melancholia and self-recrimination. To enjoy them properly, put on your neck-straining, oversized, padded headphones and play this while you eat one. Or two. Or more.

On another note, it pains me to confess that I am still reading, fitfully, Louise Penny’s Still Life. It’s a really good story, truly it is, but for some reason I haven’t been able to find the time to sit down and read it all in one go. I’ve just gotten to the part where Chief Inspector Gamache has identified the killer–or has he? I’m only a little over halfway through, so I have a feeling the plot is about to twist. I did, however, manage to sneak in the tiny Lyra’s Oxford, a short story sequel to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, over the weekend. Lyra’s Oxford, a toothsome morsel of a book, allowed me to get a taste of Pullman’s work while indulging my love of the title city (the slim volume includes a foldout map of Oxford–Lyra’s, that is: a mix of factual and fictive geography). I’d been delaying reading His Dark Materials until my son was old enough for it, and I’m hoping it will be next in line once he finishes the Harry Potter books.