Saturday, December 5, 2009

Green Gift Wrap and December Meeting Goodies

(Scroll down to the bottom of this post for new about our exciting January meeting!)

It's hard to believe that the year is almost over, but it is. And with December comes several holidays that many people find themselves in a tizzy over. Stress over spending, waste, and errands can runneth over this time of year. But if you use a little savvy, a little creativity, and a little thrift, you can save time & money, reduce the enormous environmental impact of the holidays, and have fun, too!

As vegetarians, vegans, and earth-conscious people (not everyone is veg who attends!), we are always thinking about how we can step more lightly on the planet. Our December presenter is a lifelong gift-wrapper extraordinaire, who demonstrated how to use things from around the house, the recycling bin, and even the near-trash, to make holiday (and really, year-round) gift-giving fun and practical! The first photo shows how she uses old maps (like the ones that you get automatically when you travel places or stay in hotels, etc.) as well as the bags that cover newspapers, to make a pretty package.

Sturdy liquor bottle containers are wonderful when reused as wine bottle gift boxes. Our presenter found a way to make faux leather on one. The other wine bottle is covered by a shirt sleeve! The rest of the shirt is cut up for cleaning rags.

If you hate those helium balloons, what better way to reuse them than to cut them apart and use them as shiny gift wrap! Some of them will already have the perfect message printed front and center.

There were a plethora of other ideas, from paper bag reindeer coverings, to sheet music for CDs, to mesh onion bag stockings. She even reuses toilet paper rolls like those Christmas crackers with tissue paper, and finds Kleenex boxes to be ready-to-go packaging! One neat way to reuse old holiday cards is to cut out the images and reuse them as gift tags or to cover store names on nice bags. Needless to say, we were all inspired by our presenter's creative, beautiful ideas and thirty ingenuity. May we all do some green gift wrapping this season!

Now, on to the food! The best part of every monthly Veg Group meeting is the goodies we share before our presenter or discussion. Despite the snowy day, we had a slew of yummy things to fill our plates.

First up was this Raw Slaw made from beets, carrots, red cabbage, and raisins, with a Dijon mustard sauce. Wow! Sweet and tangy. Raw, gluten-free and vegan!

This vegan, gluten-free dish was a delicious blend of sweet potatoes, quinoa and edamame.

Another gluten-free (vegan) casserole featured rice, veggies, almonds and lots of great spices! MMMmmmm...

A creamy pumpkin pudding by a new member hit the sweet spot on the dessert table!

These peppermint bark bites had a layer of regular chocolate beneath. They filled the room with delicious smells. Temptation!

Mini blueberry muffins with whole wheat flour were so cute! Also brought by a new member.

Cookie dough scoops were best straight from the freezer. Vegan and gluten-free, they prove that the best part of being vegan can eat the batter! Recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

Warming up our tummies were these wonderful roasted sweet potato bites. Ahh...... (vegan and gluten-free, of course!)

A new veggie loaf recipe (Bulgar Walnut Loaf) was filled with amazing, moist flavor! Recipe from the Friendly Foods: Gourmet Vegetarian Cuisine cookbook. It came in late but got rave reviews. Great alongside the fresh green salad that I forgot to get a photo of - sorry! Vegan, not gluten-free loaf.

Last, but not least, red beans and rice rounded out the meal. This perfect combination of amino acids doesn't remind you of a chemistry equation - it just plain tastes good! Vegan and gluten-free.

Of course, you're already planning on coming to the next Veg Group meeting, featuring the wildly popular Food, Inc. documentary, right? Join us on Saturday, January 2nd, from 11:30-1:00 (we'll start the movie promptly at 11:30) at the downtown Headquarters Library. We'll get some grub, start the film, finish eating and discuss. This movie discusses the answers behind the question, "Where does your food come from?" and doesn't focus on just the meat industry, but all of the groups that control what we eat, how we eat it, and much, much more. Issues tackled include: pesticides, cloning, farm worker rights, factory farms, diabetes, obesity, local foods, organics, genetic engineering, and fast food/restaurants. According to their site, "You'll never look at dinner the same way."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veg Feast to Remember!

November 7th was a meeting to remember! In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving celebration, various members shared dishes that had been made vegetarian or vegan (or even raw!) for the occasion.

First up, S. shared her new skills with raw foods and delighted us with two raw apple pies! A nut base topped with honey, apples, dates and (in one case) coconut was truly delectable! S. says that it was a tasty "burden" to taste test all the variations until she came up with these winners!

We had some fun getting them out of the pan...

J.E. shared her favorite meatless loaf, consisting of nuts, grains, eggs, veggies and spices. Flavorful and delicious were the comments I heard! J.E. also shared the techniques of opening a pomegranate, and we all savored the sweet, tart seeds. (Tip: score the skin, submerse it in a large bowl of water, then open it fully and seeds will fall to the bottom while pulp and throwaway stuff floats to the top to be skimmed off!).

C. shared her story of sweet potatoes. As a Yankee visiting friends in the South, she didn't taste this veggie until college! Years later, she "veganized" a Cooking Light recipe to create her Thanksgiving favorite, Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole (follow the link for the recipe!).

Here is a link to a similar recipe that calls for the streusel to be mixed in as well...decadent!

As usual, N. didn't have a recipe to share, but more her adventure in creating this dish. She started with coconut milk and ended up adding garam masala, an Indian blend of spices, among other things to this dish of sliced sweet potatoes. Savory and yum! (She always leaves the skins on for nutrition if she can - yeah!).

After that, it was time to get to the feast! Here's what other members brought to round out the meal...

Potato salad (vegetarian) - creamy and good any time of the year!

Pasta Fazool - lots of veggies and extra gluten-free pasta!

Chili beans and sweet potatoes are a neat mix! (vegan)

N.'s other dish of brown rice, mushrooms and goodies was a hit! (vegan)

A wonderful vegan mix of eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and olives served over...

The ubiquitous brown rice...gluten-free! :)

A melange of lentils, beans and tomatoes hearty enough for the fall! (vegan)

S.'s other contribution - our favorite raw broccoli salad! (vegan)

What would a meal be without a gluten-free dessert! (vegetarian) Crustless Pumpkin Pie! Yummmm.....

And of course, what would our meeting be without Bob's Famous Rosemary Focacia Bread? We're hoping to make this baby gluten-free by the next meeting! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Our next meeting will be on Saturday, December 5th, from 11:30-1:00 (see UUFF info on the left for link and directions to our temporary building). The topic will be "Greening Your Holiday Gift-Giving." Our presenter will teach us how to use everyday things to make reusable, recycled gift wrap and packaging. This keeps with the idea that many vegetarians have a heightened awareness of the environment. Did you know that vegetarians and vegans have a smaller carbon footprint?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Really Happy Thanksgiving

For many people, Thanksgiving is a day to spend with family, eat comfort food, give thanks for the year's blessings, and watch a little football. Many also affectionately call this day, "turkey day." Vegetarians and vegans, however, see this day in a whole other light. I'm not going to make this post all about the horrible (short) lives of turkeys (although I encourage you to visit this link and this one to learn more), but I do hope that people think more about what "turkey day" means to the turkeys.
If you're having a vegan/vegetarian friend or family member over for this special day, you might worry, "what will they eat?" Well, think carefully now. The bird is only one of the many "dishes" served on this day. Most people also gorge on sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted root veggies, green bean casserole, stuffing, corn bread, pie, cookies, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce and more. What will they eat? -Just about everything! If you're up for some tips and a yummy meal, join The Vegetarian Group of the UUFF (that's us! - this blog!) for our monthly potluck and a meal to remember. From a main dish that omnivores will drool over, to bundt cake, to sweet potato casserole (most are gluten-free and there will even be some raw dishes!), various members will teach us how to "veganize" our favorite holiday dishes or make them vegetarian friendly. Remember to bring a vegetarian or vegan dish to share (or a small donation!) and we will provide dishes, friendship and laughter. Saturday, November 7th at 11:30 (until about 1:00) at the temporary UUFF building on Route 3 West, Fredericksburg (see links on left for more info and directions). In the meantime, visit, to learn about some turkeys who've survived Thanksgiving and how you can adopt one!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Welcome Back!

We welcomed back a great crowd of regulars and some fun newcomers for our first meeting of the "year." After a summer off, it was clear that we didn't take the time off from finding new and delicious recipes. Of course, many came for Bob's famous Rosemary Focaccia Bread, pictured here, which in itself would make a wonderful meal. (Several of us are working on gluten-free versions, sinc we have so many Celiacs or gluten-sensitive folks!).

We ate first, followed by speaker Tom Miller, of Green Thumb Growers and the FACSAP who spoke on preserving the summer bounty, specifically canning. He began with an overview of the many preservation options and, following the green trend of the times (although to he and many others, it is merely a lifelong lifestyle) calculated the carbon footprint, energy cost, and financial cost of freezing and canning versus store bought. It was estimatedly cheaper to can, because of the electricity cost of refrigerators/freezers, which, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, uses more electricity than all other appliances (except for a pool pump or a spa pump and heater) in one year. Once you boil the water for the cans (which typically are glass jars, not metal), your energy use is done and they can last for years (although they won't be as nutritious or tasty).

Here are some other links on canning and preserving that might be of interest:
We all enjoyed Tom's presentation very much, and there were lots of great questions. It's a good thing we had eaten already, or our questions might have been drowned out by hungry bellies! Here's what we noshed on for our first meeting back (feel free to email or comment here if I have made a descriptive/labeling mistake):

A intriguing new take on a favorite summer fruit: Watermelon Salad (feta cheese optional, thank you!)

Whole Wheat Couscous and Tomato salad

A delicious lentil and corn based salad (gluten-free of course!)

A gorgeous dish from a newcomer: hummus surrounded by dipping options - wow!

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookies - yay!

Vegan Coconut Snow Drops

Some raw, vegan cookies, these being Pecan Pie flavor (not shown, Trail Mix Cookies). We have more raw foodists in our mix every month!

Garlic and Sour Cream Bread, possibly from Eileen's, the store that bought our old UUFF building (??).

A rich-looking Pineapple-Cheese Casserole

Local, organic watermelon from Tom :)

Of course fresh fruit from many others, all vegan ;)

Another couscous-lentil dish (vegan) - we love warm meals like these and expect more as the seasons change!

A nice, fresh chickpea-tomato-cabbage salad

And the crowd favorite, a raw, vegan broccoli salad, with a dressing made from nuts. We can't wait for this recipe to be posted on the wiki! (Contact us to be added to the wiki).

We are already looking forward to next month's presentation by Jen Z., on Vegetarian Lunches for the Young and the Young at Heart! She will also focus on her experiences raising her two (very healthy!) vegetarian children. See you on Saturday, October 3rd, 11:30-1:00p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg, located on Plank Rd (Route 3) across from Meadow Farms (5044 Plank Rd).

Next month also brings a Vegetarian Month food and information presentation, entitled, "Where's the Meat?" at the Salem Church Library, not far from the UUFF. On Wednesday, October 7th, from 7-8, there will be a delicious hour of vegan desserts, information for those interested in the vegetarians/vegans lifestyle, and cookbooks and meal ideas for anyone who's interested in a healthier lifestyle! Bring your friends!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

See You in the Fall!

We closed out our year of meetings with Downtown Greens' Laura Shephard, educating us about organic gardening at our June 6th meeting! See the end of this post for highlights, links, and pointers. Our next meeting will be on September 5th, with CSA gardener and organizer, Tom Miller, on the topic of canning and preserving. Meanwhile, here is what we shared this time around..
Raw Tacos
from Rawvolution cookbook, a party in your mouth!

A fresh from the garden salad...

a raw salad (with an amazingly rich dressing, the name of which escapes me at this moment!...)

some raw onion bread (can you tell that our speaker on raw foods a few months ago really got into our heads?)...

raw vegan cherry chutney with cucumber slices...

a beautiful pasta dish with peppers and tomatoes...

Lemon Walnut Brown Rice casserole...

fresh cucumber salad...

deliciously warm veggie couscous...

Udon noodles with seitan and Thai basil...

and last but not least...dessert! To start, Chocolate Pudding Cups...

adorable mini muffins...

strawberry-coconut macaroons (yes, they're raw, too!) from Ani's Raw Food Desserts...

and raw Cinnamon Girls (from Rawvolution- recommended to keep these in the freezer or fridge right up until serving)...

So, here are the highlights about organic gardening that Laura imparted upon us:
First, intentions matter. If you put pesticides on your soil, they may or may not work. If you have good intentions - treat the soil, water, plants, and everything with care, you will still have "problems" just as much as if you use all the chemicals in the world, but everything is a choice. Make good choices and good things will usually come out of them.

  1. Good soil: compost, don't till let the worms do their work, it's good to have bacteria in the soil (natural)
  2. Good seeds: try different varieties, heirlooms, etc. Growing one kind of seed doesn't help diversity and taste. Rotate crops.
  3. Good water: filtered doesn't always mean it's any good.
  4. Don't use chemicals: pests become resistant, chemicals destroy bacteria in the soil, destroy the soil itself, you ingest them, gets into the water, etc.
Here are some links to articles that she discussed or had on hand:
Get Back to (Grass) Roots (eating local "wild" plants)
USDA National Organic Program
Certified Naturally Grown

Suggested Reading:
The Lost Language of Plants, by Buhner
Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture, by Steiner
The Secret Life of Plants, by Tompkins and Bird
Introduction to Permaculture, by Mollison, by Dr. Elain Ingham
Energy Evolution, by Shauberger
The Humanure Hand Book, by Jenkins
Cradle to Cradle: remaking the way we make things, by McDonough and Braungart
Hepburn Permaculture Gardens - 10 years of Sustainable Living, by Holmgren