My Vegan Inspiration: Auntie Jae

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Day 18: Honor a human or non-human animal who inspires your veganism.

Truthfully, every non-human animal I meet reinforces my veganism. From the dogs who come to work with me to the rescued animals I meet at every sanctuary I visit, every animal reminds me that we are all alike and all equally deserving of compassion, respect, and humane treatment.


From left to right: 1. Our little adopted Luna, a tiny mutt with megaesophagus. She’s often aloof and enigmatic, and she requires special care, but when she deigns to give us a lick or a nuzzle, our hearts just melt. 2. Rescued piggies at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary. You can’t not smile when you see how much they enjoy wallowing. 3. My Moria, the sweetest girl in the world.

On the human front, so many people buoy my spirits and keep me going. Steven is, by far, my #1 supporter and my #1 champion. My parents, who are vegan and mostly vegan, make me proud every day. My compassionate friends are forever enthusiastic about vegan food and cute animals and saving the world. There’s a lot of inspiration in my life.

But today I’m thinking especially of my Auntie Jae. She was the first family member to go vegan, years ago, in an effort to address a few health problems. I think she was the first vegan I ever knew! She’d bounced around from diet to diet, but nothing stuck — except veganism. It’s a far cry from Atkins, but veganism has one big difference from all those fad diets: its base in ethics. As my aunt says, once you learn about the horrors of factory farming and what goes on behind closed doors, you can’t go back. And even if you become vegan for health reasons, the ethics behind it keep you going.

My smart, compassionate, lovely aunt.

My aunt is one of my biggest fans. She’s an enthusiastic supporter of my blog and always likes to hint about a future cookbook, which is flattering and charming. When we get together (which is rare, because I’m in Maryland and she’s in Colorado), we chat about veganism and food and politics and all those topics that help you really get to know how someone else thinks and feels and believes. We’re very much on the same wavelength where it matters. I like to think it’s because she babysat me when I was an infant and my mom was wrapping up her last year of teaching — like she passed on her progressive values to my tiny self!

So here’s to you, Auntie Jae! Thank you for showing me that veganism is both simple and incredibly important. I can’t wait to share a meal with you soon!


Rhode Island Recap

Hello! I returned from Rhode Island bright and early this morning… early enough to head into work just an hour and a half later than usual. Yay for not needing to take an extra vacation day; boo for getting up so early! But my visit home was lovely in nearly every way, and I have to admit that I appreciated the brief break from posting, since I’d prescheduled the last three posts.

Last night, though, my mom asked about my post for today. When I told her that I would just post about my weekend and the food I ate, we had this exchange:

MOM: Are you sure? You could make something for us tonight.
KELLY: No, Mom! I don’t want to cook on my last night!
MOM: You don’t want to make something for breakfast tomorrow? Some of your oats?
KELLY: No! My flight’s at 7:00 in the morning!
MOM: Okay, fine… I just wanted someone to cook for me!

Ha! Sorry, Mom!

Anyway, some of my eats this weekend just happened to include some seasonal food… mostly of the dessert variety. ;) Other than a bunch of regular ol’ apples and blueberry muffins my mama made (and I forgot to photograph), here’s what I had.

First, delicious desserts from Wildflour Bakery! A friend and I spent Sunday morning at another friend’s gorgeous apartment (it’s in a converted mill with exposed brick, high ceilings, and huuuge windows… drool!), and friend #2’s girlfriend came home in the early afternoon with a whole box of treats from Wildflour! She’s lactose-intolerant and is apparently quite the Wildflour connoisseur. Because friend #1 is also allergic to nuts, we had a nut-free, vegan feast of scones (chocolate chip, ginger, and blueberry-lemon) and pumpkin whoopee pies. Everything was scrumptious, as always!

Top-down view of a bakery box filled with scones.


(A disclaimer, though: I also went to Wildflour with my family right after I arrived Saturday morning. I had a tasty piece of strawberry strudel bread and an almond milk latte, which were both fine, but I noticed that they offer dairy milk in their coffees—despite the fact that they call themselves a vegan bakery. Not cool.)

That night, we celebrated my dad’s birthday at The Grange, a new veg restaurant in Providence that happens to be owned by the same folks as Wildflour (and Garden Grille). The place has an upscale hipster vibe (all the waiters seemed to wear plaid flannel shirts…) that seemed to work, but the menu is a bit perplexing: it’s all vegetarian, but nowhere does it indicate what’s vegan. When I asked the waitress for guidance, she told me their policy: They can do everything vegan *except* cheese. Okay! I ordered an oyster mushroom po’boy that blew my mind. It was a thick, soft, chewy pretzel sub roll filled with oyster mushrooms fried in a crunchy, panko-esque batter and topped with a remoulade and gently pickled cucumbers. On the side was a small helping of perfectly crunchy, slightly pickled cabbage slaw. Oh, it was so good, and just the right amount of food for me! My nectarine sour (the cocktail special of the night) was a refreshing accompaniment.

Three-quarter view of a rectangular white plate with a sandwich and cabbage slaw.

It seems like The Grange’s owners have finally perfected their restauranting with this newest establishment—everyone in our party loved their meals. My brother-in-law raved about his kimchi noodles (served with crispy tofu, pea greens, and pickled veggies); I might have to get them the next time I’m there.

Afterwards, we headed home for dessert. My auntie, who’s always been the #1 baker in our family, has finally ventured into vegan cooking and whipped up a huge tray of apple crisp and a whole batch of chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and toasted coconut. (There were also non-vegan brownies.) They were all phenomenal! I had a cupcake and a giant helping of apple crisp and was so full I felt almost sick afterwards. Oops. :) I hope my aunt’s baking success will convince her to explore more vegan baking at family gatherings in the future!

Three-quarter shot of a big metal pan of apple crisp with cupcakes in the background.

There’s a lot of un-pictured yumminess, too—those blueberry muffins I already mentioned… some delicious BBQ cabbage sandwiches my dad whipped up… yummy salad with tahini-lemon dressing… a packaged vegan coconut-oat bar and a fantastic soy latte at Dave’s Coffee… hmm. I eat well when I’m home! And I didn’t have to do any cooking this time! (Sorry, Mom!)

But even better than the food was all the time I spent with my family and friends. It was really one of the nicest trips home I’ve had in a while–no rushing around, and lots of time to make spur-of-the-moment plans. I had a relaxed tea with one of my best friends, that snack-and-chat time with the friends I already mentioned, a birthday party for my 16-year-old cousin, and lots of QT with my immediate family. I visited my grandma in her nursing home, went out to the birthday dinner with my other grandma and her boyfriend and my aunt and my immediate family… and yet I didn’t feel rushed or overly busy! And of course, I got to cuddle with my ridiculously quick-growing nephew. The kid’s practically an adult now—he has FOUR TEETH!

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for ya. Please excuse my indulgent ramblings. :)

How was YOUR weekend?

Five Days in Maui, or, That Time My Sister Got Married

This has not been a particularly relaxing summer. That’s not a bad thing, really; it’s just a true thing. I’ve been busy. Busy moving across the country and then across(ish) the state. Busy settling into my new job. Busy unpacking and setting up house and dealing with a few too many apartment maintenance issues. Busy dealing with the irritating Maryland MVA. Busy traveling to Hawaii to be the maid of honor in my little sister’s wedding.

Mmhmm. My baby sister… got married… in Hawaii.

Okay, maybe that part of the summer was a little relaxing.

The bright blue-green ocean and a perfect sandy shoreline, with a few beach chairs, and palm trees in the distance.

It was a glorious escape. Five and a half days of sunbathing, reading on the beach, sipping tropical drinks, swimming in the ocean, eating lots of fresh fruit, enjoying my family, and marveling at Maui’s scenery.

A lush green valley topped with hazy clouds.

The wedding itself was small and sweet, with only the closest of family members in attendance. The ceremony took place on a bluff overlooking the ocean. S played guitar and sung. The wedding party walked barefoot on cool spongy grass, holding bouquets of flowers plucked from the abundant native foliage. My brother-in-law’s father, a pastor, officiated. My sweet baby nephew slept through his parents’ marriage vows, held by his grandma and then by me.

It was, in a word, lovely.

View of green hills, the ocean in the distance, and lots of blue skies and clouds.

Later, after my sister and her husband had had their fill of post-wedding photography among the gorgeous views, we all reconvened at a nearby restaurant for dinner. The chef had prepared a special main course (Israeli cous cous with vegetables) for the three vegans and one mostly-vegan, and S and I chose a scallion-lime tofu appetizer topped with crispy kale and sesame seeds to start. We rounded off our meal with passionfruit sorbet. (And superbly delicious drinks, a Mai Tai for S and a mango martini for me.)

Three food photos: tofu with small bits of crispy kale; cous cous with cauliflower, carrots, and other veggies; and three scoops of a pale yellow sorbet topped with a mint leaf.

I’m fortunate that the folks at my new job are flexible; they had no problem letting me jet off to Maui barely a month after I started. And I’m fortunate to have the family I have, including the extended family that came along with my new brother-in-law. And, of course, I’m fortunate to have the absolute best little nephew in the world.

Me and my nephew in the pool. He's sticking his tongue out at me!

What a kid. What a summer! And it’s not over yet. ;)

Three Reasons Why My Family is Wonderful (or, a Christmas Retrospective)

1. Stocking Stuffers

Our family Christmas traditions are simple yet solid. Ever since I can remember, we three kids have received a new pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve before reading The Night Before Christmas together and then hopping off to bed so SantaMom&Dad can work their magic. In the morning, we kids wake up and peer eagerly at the beautifully arranged presents around the tree before waking up Mom and Dad. Then we troop into the living room to open our stockings – no presents! – before eating breakfast. Mom’s usually in charge of filling the stockings, and this year the stocking stuffers she chose for me were incredibly thoughtful. Check out some of the swag.


Stocking stuff(ers).


Knowing that my vegan lifestyle is becoming more all-encompassing and extends beyond my dietary choices, Mom found a cruelty-free, vegan lip balm for me, along with organic, vegan body lotion, and Tom’s of Maine deodorant. I was so very pleased to discover these treasures in my stocking! The Candy Cane lip balm has a lovely, subtle scent, and the lotion’s Vanilla Chai scent smells just like warm cinnamon buns. Speaking of which…

2. Cinnamon Buns

The next part of our family tradition is the most delicious – breakfast. We break our fast on Christmas morning with half a grapefruit each, followed by delicious, sticky, cinnamon buns. In the past, we’ve gotten them from local bakeries, but this year Mom and Dad knew that I wouldn’t eat non-vegan cinnamon buns, so they sacrificed the safety of tradition in favor of experimenting and making some that I would definitely eat. Because I didn’t get home until 10:30 on Christmas Eve (and I almost didn’t make it at all!), I couldn’t volunteer my services and Mom was in charge of the buns. At my recommendation, she tried out this utterly decadent recipe from VeganYumYum. Although Mom is mostly low-fat vegan, we all decided that for this one day, we would indulge and enjoy ourselves. And, oh, how we enjoyed these beauties.


Sticky, sweet, delights.


These cinnamon buns surpassed all our expectations. They not only tasted as good as the bakery buns of yore, but even better. They were almost too rich for me – I could only finish a half in one sitting, and had to save the rest for a post-present-unwrapping pick-me-up! Mom did an amazing job, especially since it was her first time making anything yeasted. So thoughtful.

3. Sweet Surprises

Another part of our food tradition involves a huge platter o’ cookies and fudge, compliments of my Aunt Nancy. She’s an incredible baker, and she devotes the month of December to making and freezing dozens – if not hundreds – of Christmas cookies. She shares them with friends and family, and no Christmas is complete without a platter or two of her tantalizing treats. Aunt Nancy even provides a special nut-free plate for my sister, to accommodate her allergies.

Unfortunately, none of my aunt’s cookies are vegan, and although she mentioned the possibility of trying some new recipes next year, I found myself unable to eat anything from her platter. Just looking at the macaroons and candied walnuts and mini magic bars made me a little bit sad that I couldn’t indulge, but then I was presented with this.


Sweet surprises from my sissy.


My lovely, wonderful, sister made me a platter of adorably decorated vegan sugar cookies! She knew I wouldn’t be able to eat any of my aunt’s, and took matters into her own hands. I don’t know what recipe she used (she said it called for silken tofu), but I thought they were perfectly yummy. I grabbed one every time I saw the rest of my family cutting a slice of cheesecake or chomping on some fudge, and they made my day so much brighter. Next year, I’ll be home for a few days before Christmas, and I’m looking forward to spending that time baking dozens and dozens of vegan cookies with Rhiannon.

Really, could I ask for a more gracious and accommodating family?! They are so thoughtful and wonderful. Other Christmas highlights included receiving my own Settlers of Catan game and expansion (any other Catan fanatics out there?!), the Babycakes cookbook, and lots of awesome kitchenware. But the best part of all was spending time with everyone, even if it was only for three days. I’m counting down ’til I can take another trip home and spend a little more time with my lovely family.