Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bye Bye 2013 -- Stay the Course!

One last glimpse of our beach to ring out 2013
Since I've started running, almost every run begins with AC/DC's "Back in Black" blasting through my earbuds. It's a bit of a tradition for me, oddly enough as someone who's no longer into tradition. Late afternoon today, I went on my last run of the year. It was a perfect as perfect could be. The requisite music was on, and as I ran past Pop's house he was at his spot, waving to me. I waved back. A few deer skittled by as the miles peeled by. Several osprey were calling so loudly I actually could hear them over the scorching iPod. The winds picked up and cooled me off on an overly warm and humid evening for this time of year. I sprinted, I walked, and I just ran for a while. It was so good.

I knew with every passing second how great that moment was, nothing slipped by unnoticed.

New Year's is again upon us. These past few months at time went tortuously slow, while others went tortuously fast.

This was not an easy year for us at Deer Run, on a business level and a personal level. Then again, we're no different than most people, who DOESN'T have their ups and downs in life, right?

I don't make resolutions. I set intentions. For me, I intend to stay the course for 2014. This involves activism, work, fitness, food, acts of kindness, and pretty much every other aspect of my life.

Way to be.

I'm not sad to see 2013 go away. There's a few weeks I wish I literally could wipe off the year, they were that bad. There's a few weeks that were so good, I wish I literally could re-live them exactly as they were, they were that good.

Life without peaks and valleys really wouldn't be much fun, would it?

I wish you all a very healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

As always, I keep my faith that more people will choose veg in the New Year, and with every compassionate forkful, the world is that much better.

Blessed Be!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It Ain't Norman Rockwell...

Sunrise came Christmas Eve day at low tide.
It was magnificent.
I've been looking on line from time to time at the pictures of Christmas that the media is posting, as well as things on other people's Facebook pages. Incredibly warm and beautiful photos of giant Christmas trees, twinkling lights, model train sets, children on Santa's lap, snowscapes, and well, you get the drift. Occasionally I get a pang of I'm not sure what. Perhaps it's nostalgia, remembering so long ago scenes like that in my own life. Surrounded by family and friends, snowed in, hot (vegan) chocolate (no mini-marshmallows, Dandies didn't have the minis like they do now way back then), hours spent searching for perfect gifts.

This year's official annual photo of the decorating
of the ocean mangrove.
It's thirsty work all that decorating, ya know?!
The right side is filling in nicely, post-tornado.
A few days ago, I donned my best free box and thrift shop tropical Christmas costume along with a great wig, glitter, sunglasses and sparkly Santa hat. I drove up and down the Keys delivering cookies. All this happened as I turned the volume to maximum as metal music spewed forth towards never ending blue skies painted so bright it hurt my eyes. Palm trees were everywhere I looked. People bicycled in flip flops, Santa hats and t-shirts. Yes, the stores have some traditional looking seasonal decorations. Pine trees, fake snow, Christmas music, and glitter (glitter knows no seasonal or religious boundaries by the way) are the order of the day in the land of retail. But, I know otherwise for I am much wiser.

It ain't Normal Rockwell down here, but probably only because good ol' Norm never visited the Keys. Trust me, if he did, we'd all be looking at a lot more palm trees, and a lot less snowscapes.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I see it's been over a month since I've posted for you. Nothing catastrophic has happened (thank goodness!) to stop me from writing, I just have been preoccupied with some other things. I think I'll get back on the bandwagon and start blogging again. The format of the blog will be improved relatively soon, and I'm going to put myself on a schedule as well.

The best laid plans?

Anyway, since I've last written, I've been in the kitchen working on many new recipes. I'm happy to report almost all of them have turned out well (I admit, there has been one really sad, expensive, frustrating compost walk of shame). I have a few more new product reviews up my sleeve, but those things take time to bring forward. I never reviewed Treeline Vegan Cheese for you during MoFo (boo hiss, simply ran out of time!) but here's a hint: there's more lurking in my fridge at this moment.

The animals are doing great, the rut is on with the Key deer, and Peri is simply wonderful.

I'll be back to you soon. Until then, if I don't get back here in the next 48 hours, it's a safe bet there will be something on our Facebook page, which I hope you've found and "liked" by now.

Thanks for checking in. Be back SOON!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Another Project

I'm in the middle of a tendonitis flare. When my body fails me, I get pretty frustrated. I'm not sure what's causing it this time around, but pretty much everything aggravates it. Last time I had tendonitis it was brought on by kickboxing and working out on the heavy bag. If I have never mentioned this before, the heavy bag is THE best workout of all time. There's no comparison. Be it cardio or anger management, nothing is better. I did this where I used to live on a regular basis, then I moved here. When I went back to it in earnest, it was with a trainer. Those sessions pushed me to my limit and beyond. Working on the heavy bag is when I got my first case of recreational caused tendonitis, and ultimately the cause of my permanently giving up the heavy bag (insert sad face here). Back then it was my elbow. This time its my thumbs. If I had to guess, I think I'm in the middle of a bout of DeQuervain's tenosynovitis. Sounds fancy. It's not.

So, where is all this taking me? To a project, of course.

I was at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore a few months back and came upon a box of tropical print fabric remnants that were priced so low it was ridiculous. I picked out what I wanted, deciding I would make small ornaments in different shapes, decorate them, and sell them at a low price. Then, I would donate all the money to charity. The problem (before the tendinitis) was the fact that I don't sew, nor own a sewing machine.

I bought the fabric anyway.

My friend J spent some time with me this week past showing me how to sew. She helped me pin patterns, and cut them. She donated more fabric, a bunch of fluffy stuff to fill the ornaments, and in the end when I couldn't find a used sewing machine to buy, loaned me hers. I really had no excuse not to complete the project.

Today as I started to work, I needed something for the project that was in my mom's old sewing box. Actually it was my grandmothers, who then gave the box to mom. When mom died, dad gave it to me. It's a small box with legs, a lid that flips up with tons of spools of thread, an insert that sits within the box when you flip the lid with all little slots for thread and needles, then 2 drawers that pull out. It was up in the attic. I hadn't seen hide nor hair of it since I moved here. I sent the other happy vegan up to the attic to retrieve it for me. As he pulled down the hidden stairway to get to the attic, a penny tumbled out of the ceiling stairway, I swear this is true. A penny? It landed heads up. The year? The year my dad died. The other happy vegan and I kind of looked at each other, then the penny, then each other again. You know that dumb saying "pennies from heaven," right? Well that would be all well and good if I believed in heaven. But I don't. I do, however, believe in messages. The other happy vegan said "it's your dad, he's around because you're sewing!"

My dad used to sew. I find this pretty funny. He spent most of his life NOT sewing, but after mom died, he ended up taking some hobbies, one of them being ultralight flying. He built his plane, and then designed and fabricated the covers for his plane. This took a lot of practice, and a lot of sewing. My dad wasn't sewing regular fabric, he was sewing as he used to say "through concrete." It was special heavy fabric that was UV rated and stuff like that. He made his first set of covers on one of those antique black Singer sewing machines with all the fancy gold lettering and stuff. I bought it for him at a flea market, I think I paid $40 or something for it. It was pretty, and he needed a machine, so I got it for him. It was in perfect condition, and he tweaked it a bit for what he needed. He used that for a long time, finally buying a modern machine that might even have had some programmable settings on it, I really can't remember. I always used to kid him about sewing. He sewed the airplane covers, he sewed his curtains, he sewed the cushions on all the house furniture (this is a sticking point... I still have one of those old chairs, with the covers dad sewed. I cannot bear to recover them, despite the fact that they're stained, outdated, and go with nothing else I own), he made doilies (I still laugh over that). Any time I needed a hem done, I took my stuff to dad. He did buttons, zippers, hems, really pretty much anything.  Me? After sewing classes as a youth, and watching my mom do her seamstress stuff, I could barely sew on a button. So, with a "wow, hi Dad!" the other happy vegan went up to get the box.

It was still wrapped in the moving wrap from when we finally sold our house up there and packed the last precious belongings from that coastal home I loved so much; Stardate October 2007, almost exactly today's date too. I unwrapped the time capsule, and began looking through the contents. It was too much to bear all at once. My mom's knitting needles. Half finished sewing projects she was working on. Her thread, some buttons. Then some of my grandmother's things mixed in... thread, needles. I could tell what was mom's and what was not. Then, the whole bottom drawer was full of my own things, mostly buttons I saved with labels from clothes when I had a nice wardrobe. I always clipped the tags with the extra buttons, and wrote specific descriptions of what each button set was for. I could live with the buttons, but not the knitting needles, the half finished projects, and some other doodads that clearly belonged to mom. Why did I save these things? The box was wrapped in 2007, but mom has been gone well over 25 years now. Should I learn to knit? Should I finish these projects? Where are the rest of the pieces for her projects? How long does thread last? What's that weird curvy needle for?

The scene of the sewing crime.
I put the "dad penny" on the machine so he can supervise.
See that dumb cat face?
That's one of mom's unfinished projects that was lurking in the sewing box.
Where's the rest of it?
I am on a mission to get as many unfinished projects completed as possible in the next several weeks. I do have quite a few things I've started, but not finished. This really is not the way I want to live my life, so it's best I work to change this since it would make me happier.

Today I finished sewing and stuffing all the ornaments that were cut and pinned. All of them, this was no small feat considering the pain (typing is no help either). I have a very high goal, plus now they're taking longer than anticipated thanks to tendonitis. The icing on the cake is I'm also being distracted by my little time capsule that has now been set up next to the borrowed sewing machine.

Why do the simplest, most innocuous things, so frequently turn into such an ordeal?

Tomorrow I've got more cutting, pinning and sewing planned. I will get this project completed. It would be really sad if I get cut down in the prime of my life just like my mom was and someday someone opens up boxes of my things and wonders all sorts of weird questions with unfinished projects.

I guess this is just part of the human experience. Such a mystery to me.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Vegan MoFo Day #30: Deer Run Bed and Breakfast, My Own Vegan Dream, Sort of Realized

I will never forget my first experience patronizing an all vegan business. It was a restaurant; they are long since closed, moved on to other things, but I still pine for the place. I have the best memories from there. The feeling of joy as I read that menu knowing I could order anything and everything was incredible. This was a long time ago, way before things are the way they are now (thankfully!) with so many established, as well as up and coming, vegan restaurants, yet I still remember this as if it were yesterday. Despite that experience, it never translated to me that I could open any other type of vegan business, because what other type of vegan businesses were there to own? Clearly I had a lot to learn, clearly I had spent far too long in a world of conformity.

What really opened my eyes was Dina Brigish of White Pig Bed and Breakfast (Virginia) fame. For some reason before I learned about the White Pig, it never really dawned on me that I could do something that combined my own ethics and lifestyle into something that I could consider a job, work, career, or whatever it is called these days. I had never even heard of vegan inns before, and for some reason kind of just figured we vegans don't get to have our own sanctuaries like that for lodging too. Enter The White Pig and the school of life.

Although looking worldwide it seems the bed and breakfast form of lodging is slowly disappearing, we have bucked the trend, and bucked it BIG. Perhaps our size makes it more manageable (we're only 4 rooms in total), but we're often at capacity even off-season, and operating with a long waiting list. Back in the beginning we had a 0% vegan clientele, and most people would come and stay with us "even though" we were vegan. Now over the course of these years, we're sought out BECAUSE we're vegan. Of course non-vegans stay with us, don't get me wrong. For some non-vegan guests, staying makes an indelible impression and gets people thinking, looking at the "bigger picture." Yesterday at MantraFest, while on stage one of the performers said something like "we are all students, we are all teachers; the best students make the best teachers, and the best teachers make the best students." We are all learning, that's what I took from those words.

I still cook and bake some of the core recipes that were written exclusively for, and purchased by, me. They are some of the best recipes I've encountered to date; they are uncomplicated, use only unprocessed food, and are delicious. I think my teacher from way back then would be proud and happy to hear that I still use almost all the core recipes on a regular basis here. Since then I've also tested hundreds of other recipes, and added dozens more to the collection. Dozens? Probably hundreds. I now own pushing 100 vegan cookbooks, and have 5 loose leaf (nicely organized, finally) binders of recipes categorized too.

This is one of my best recipes, from my core collection.
 It's called the happy Buddha frittata.
It's gluten free, and I now I've even crafted a soy free version for people with allergies.
I love this recipe, it's delicious and so versatile.
Here this was served with oven roasted potatoes, fresh fruit, and mini corn muffins.
So, on a typical day, you'd have all this, plus a muffin, juice,
and organic, fair trade coffee and tea.
Don't worry, be happy! Be VEGAN!
Even though I still use my core collection of recipes, things have changed a lot since the very early days here. I was much more rigid in the recipe rotation system when we first opened. I was much less apt to experiment on my own, and I struggled with finding decent recipes when people would come through with allergies. No one can really imagine the angst I used to put upon myself when I would get someone with a special food allergy consideration that I had never had to deal with before. I do not have years of culinary school under my belt, and probably never will. When I was much younger, if I knew "then" what I know "now" I probably would have spent at least 6 years at different trade schools, including culinary school, I would have gotten a business degree, and would have taken auto shop in high school. After this long time, I feel very comfortable in the kitchen, and spend the bulk of my time related to kitchen work. I've met and exceeded challenges here with guest needs that I never could have imagined. I've realized that being vegan and organic is attractive to some people who have profound illness or chronic disease. Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food.

Do not ask to take, nor actually take, my picture.
But, I'm not shy about showing off my favorite apron (thanks Herbivore!)
Organic vegan flax pancakes.
This time red, white & blue style
(strawberries, bananas, and blueberry compote).
On a day like this, you'd also have a smoothie, muffin,
maybe a parfait, plus coffee and tea.
When you come to Deer Run Bed and Breakfast as a guest, you see my heart and soul at every turn. When the food on your plate arrives, every part of it has been labored over with love. Included in our rate is a daily full sit down organic vegan breakfast. I like to typically vary the breakfast every other day with either a "sweet" entree (like pancakes) or a "savory" entree (like a frittata). Every day I bake from scratch so there is also fresh fruit or nut bread or muffin on your plate, and every day I serve either a smoothie or a juice to compliment your meal. Some days there's additional courses like fruit parfaits (all in addition to what I've already written), granola, fruit freezes, or other great food items. My pancake recipe has been written just for me and it is my flagship recipe. I have been begged for that recipe, and believe it or not, more than one person has tried to bribe me for it. I haven't cracked yet. It's kind of nice to be "known" for something, even if it is just the best pancakes, right?

Special order toasted coconut cake with chocolate buttercream icing
Vegan, organic, always and forever.
Special order carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.
Vegan, organic, always and forever.

You met Katy a couple days ago, remember?
This was her cake 1 year, I liked this one a lot...
see those little pink flecks? They're edible vegan pink hearts,

Marbled fondant, molded sea turtles and other sea life.
Huge multilayer cake I made and donated to
last year's Save-A-Turtle end of year banquet.
100% vegan. There is no other way.
This was my personal Yule log one year.
Pressed for time as always on high season, it's not as fancy
as I've done other years, but it was delicious, vegan, and organic.
Simply beautiful in my eyes.

Three tiered wedding cake, fondant covered with
simple fondant rolled roses.
The horizon is straight, the cake is straight, but
alas the photo is not.
Another wedding cake.
I did a little better on the picture this time.
This was a small cake, still double layered.
I liked this one a lot, I got to play with glitter.
When we close our eyes and turn a blind eye to injustice, we simply become part of the machine pumping out injustice. For as long as I am at Deer Run, a large form of my activism is my cooking. I speak through my food creations, and I hope people will listen. Every aspect of this bed and breakfast is considered with mindfulness. We do things to cause the least impact on the Earth, we conserve resources, we don't take more than we need, we give back to our community and causes we care about. We cherish and nurture the Earth and everything upon it. We take nothing for granted, and still work as hard now as we did on the first day we showed up here.

Vegan, organic muffins.
My kitchen has cranked out thousands of these beauties.
Some vegans come here and this is their first experience at an all vegan establishment. When that happens, I am flooded with joy. I like to think that they will have the similar joyous feelings 20 years from now like I do about the first time I went to an all vegan place (noted above).  I wanted everything on the menu and I didn't want to ever leave. Sometimes, vegans come here and when they discover they can get a vegan Key lime pie, cookies, brownies, or something else special, they want it all too. The question "can we eat a whole pie in 3 days" has come up more times than I can count.

This is an organic Key lime pie I whipped up for an "emergency" pie person.
On such short notice, the crust wasn't home made,
but it was natural, Arrowhead Mills and vegan.
The Key limes, Key lime juice and all that beautiful mango are
organic, and local.
Looks similar to the Buddha, but it's so not.
This is my version of the Vegan Zombie's quiche.
I make them individually, and then pop them out of the ramekin.
Here this was served with coconut grits, fresh fruit,
herbed "cheesy" biscuits I make using basil and Daiya, along with
of course juice, muffin, coffee and tea.
I like to play with cookie cutters when I make biscuits.
Doesn't every kitchen include a manatee cookie cutter?
I still get jazzed about naked fruit.
Here's one of the cases of organic peaches I bought this year.
So beautiful.
A work of art in their own right.
Why do they insist on putting a little plastic label on every single peach?
Organic vegan triple layer chocolate ganache cake with
edible vegan gold dust.
Being vegan is the opposite of deprivation, trust me!
This was a raw birthday cake I made.
Vegan obviously.
The mango came from my garden.
You don't know mango until you've had one fresh from the tree.
Raw used to be foreign to me, but no longer.
I've really come to enjoy most of what I make when I do raw.
This was an organic vegan raw vanilla bean chia pudding with
fruit and nuts; served with organic apples and that
to-die-for organic raw coconut butter by Artisana.
More raw.
Carrot cake bliss balls.
We have had weddings, commitments, memorials, graduations, reunions, birthdays and other events for our guests here. I've baked wedding cakes, graduation cakes, birthday cakes, tons of holiday goodies, and any other special request that a guest can throw at me. So far I have never failed to meet any request given to me, as best as I can remember. It's not always easy, but given enough time, I can do it. And, this has been my mission for as long as I'm here. The other happy vegan and I are here to make this the best experience possible.

Admittedly I've learned that we are not for everyone. We've done our best to be as transparent as possible with who we are, and what we do. I think that is important and fair. We have learned that not everyone or every place else plays by these same rules.

I am inspired by living down here. I see magic at every turn. There are animals everywhere, there is sunshine, sand and ocean. Being here makes me want to live in harmony with nature as much as possible. This is not something that is not important to everyone, but is important to many. Here, we think about harmony as doing the least amount of harm, and doing the most good. We think about the food we buy, the products we bring into the place, the wrapping for everything, the paints on the walls, and the furniture in the rooms. Fair trade is important to us here, and keeping it "local" by supporting other like-minded businesses is extremely important to us. This is small town living. This is my community.

I do not seek out validation from others for my ethics, my beliefs, or my business. We are a vegan business in a non-vegan world, but through it all we're making our way, and we know we're paving the way for others too. We also know compassion IS the way and we strive to help others find this path too. Many animals suffer because people are selfish. This simple fact is so difficult for me to know. Yet, I am exceptionally fortunate to be where I am, doing what I do. This didn't happen by accident  or luck; there's been a lot of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice involved on every level. I say this is my own vegan dream, "sort of" realized only because there are so many more plans I had here. We've encountered difficulties at every turn through local government, but no matter what the future holds, Deer Run will be one of the jewels in my own self-described crown.

Here, we are activists at heart.
That's me behind those 2 giant anti-Monsanto signs.
In the future when we're not tethered to this place, the plan is to unleash
an onslaught of activism; there are big things to come.
Until then, we do what we can, including things like
March Against Monsanto.
Coming to Deer Run has been an exercise in how to live, at least for me. I strive to live with gratitude, serve the community (locally and globally), learn, observe, not put my expectations on others, and be the best that I can be. It's been, and continues to be, a testament to the truth to turn things over to the Universe, not have too many expectations of how things "should" be, instead let go and embrace the freedom that comes with letting go. Divesting myself of the trappings that surrounded me for a large portion of my life has been enhanced by what I believe Deer Run stands for. 

We are living proof: if you build it, they will come. With that, I guess I can say the same about Vegan MoFo, right? This is the last day of September, so it's my last MoFo post for 2013. I hope you have enjoyed my contribution to this international event, and I thank you for coming along. I think saved the best for last. I'm proud of what we've managed to create here, and what we are able to do for others.

If you've got a dream my advice is to make a plan and get to it. Life is short. Be kind. Be humble. Find a way to serve others no matter what it is you do. Live with compassion towards all sentient beings (even people). Animals have no voice, we must take action for them, and stop victimizing them. Carpe Diem baby, Carpe Diem. This is what Deer Run is about. All that, and vegan organic chocolate cupcakes too.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

VeganMoFo Day #29: Being Vegan at MantraFest Miami

I woke up before dawn. I went to MantraFest in Miami. I just got home. It's been a long, wonderful day.

The view as we head out of the Keys.
Two friends and I headed up to Miami as the sun was barely rising. By 1pm, I'd been through a drumming and chanting session, a sound bowl meditation and shamanic journey, and finally a sound bath.

This really is how I need to roll much more often.

Lunch was an incredible feast of vegan food. When we got into the cafeteria, save for 2 desserts, EVERYTHING WAS VEGAN. I went with a rice bowl, which had mixed rice with diced veggies, then all this: portobello mushroom quinoa, hummus, falafel, more vegetables, tabbouleh, hm.... I'm missing something... what what what...... cannot remember, darn it. Then it was covered with a balsamic vinaigrette. We had choices for desserts, and I went with an apple. Yes, I turned away the sweet potato cake (vegan, really, what was I thinking.... I should've gone with the cake), and then finished it all with fresh chai made with almond milk. ALMOND MILK! We were living large today.

There's so much piled here, you cannot even see.
It was enormous.
It was delicious.
It was appreciated.
It is all gone.
Insert smile.
GuruGanesha Band
After lunch, we watched the GuruGanesha Band. I think these are some of my new favorite people. At one point, they even did Raga, Rasta style. I didn't want it to end. The headliners today, Deva Premal and Miten with special guests Manose and Maneesh de Moor were up later in the afternoon. I am relatively new to chanting. I couldn't bring myself to take photos during Deva and Miten's appearance. I was too busy immersed in the experience.

I should write more. Part of me wants to write more. I'm tired, and done for today. I will leave you with this beautiful mantra, chanted for healing our Mother Earth.

ra ma da sa, sa say so hung

Hard to believe, but it might sound even more beautiful with a vegan cupcake in one hand, and a vegan pumpkin chai latte in the other. There's no rules in chanting, at least no one's mentioned that I've broken any yet.

Om. Om. Om.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

VeganMoFo Day #28: Good Food Conspiracy Is Love

I make lists to help me make decisions. Plain and simple I write "yes" and "no" on a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle and get to it. When I agreed to move here, one of the reasons in the "yes" column was this island had a health food store. Most places I've ever lived have had a health food store within reasonable driving distance. The exception was when I lived down the shore, one was sort of close, but it was really inconvenient to get to. Being that we had vacationed here so often, I was comfortable with the store on the island, and knew what to expect for the most part if I moved here. I knew that I needed a health food store not just for my personal reasons, but because I was going to be running a vegan bed and breakfast; I needed to establish a working relationship with a good natural food retailer in order for my own business to thrive.

Good Food Conspiracy is owned and operated by the Rev. Marney Brown. The store has been right where it is for just about 33 years. That is several lifetimes in Keys-speak. The Good Food Conspiracy isn't just a health food store; Marney is also a highly educated healer who has a holistic health center behind the store. For people like me, Good Food is the epicenter of social activity in the lower Keys.

Good Food is an "old style" health food store, meaning basically whatever "it" is that you need, they will have "it." It's not a very big store, but every nook and cranny is crammed with product. Half the store is groceries, about a quarter of the store is vitamins, supplements and herbs (the herbs available are VAST. There's shelves and shelves of them, and then a shelf that goes around near the ceiling almost the whole store with even MORE herbs), and the other quarter I'd say breaks down into odds and ends like bulk items, gift items that come and go mostly made by locals or artists passing through, and other miscellaneous items. Smack dab in the middle of the store is the juice bar. Every day there are between 2-4 scratch made soups available for sale (always offering vegan choices, some days everything is vegan!), toasted wraps with many vegan options, smoothies, juices, fruit freezes (oh heck yes!), salads, and more. There's a few bar stools on each side of the juice bar counters, one medium size table with a few chairs around it inside the store, and out back there is a garden with a few picnic and patio tables.

This is the view when you walk in, the path leads straight to the juice bar.
Organic fruits and veggies are available, as are local grown items.
The local stuff is really what I get jazzed about...
it's all seasonal locally, so that part is catch as catch can.
On high season I am in Good Food every day, 7 days a week (sometimes twice a day if my time management fails). This time of year typically I get in there about 3 times a week. In fact I have just now returned from a bit of shopping, and eating, at the store.

Bulk items ready and waiting.

If I get lazy and fail to make my own seitan, they've got me covered.
That chicken style seitan is really good for the "unchicken" and clouds
recipe I put up on my Facebook page a while ago.

Vegan sugar fix coconut style, soy style or rice style!
MMMMM, get some!
The girls at the store are my friends. They are a wealth of information, and always there with a smile for customers who are having a hard day. I have managed to maintain an excellent working relationship with Marney and everyone in that store, while being close friends. That is no small accomplishment based upon my prior experiences in other areas I used to live, but somehow in the Keys it's really not difficult at all. Maybe the people at Good Food just make it seem easy, not sure which. Regardless, Good Food Conspiracy is where I very often see friends, acquaintances and colleagues. Island living is small town living, and places like Good Food are the heart of the town.

It's a bit difficult for me to actually give an overview of everything this store offers, there's so much. There's the holistic health center, the juice bar and the grocery store. There's also weekly community health services available, other health providers who come in from time to time to do screenings and such, there's at least two Intuitive Arts Fairs offered annually, there's occasionally parties in the garden sometimes with live music, there's been memorials held there, and how can I forget to mention the "free box." On top of all this, Rev. Marney travels off site and performs weddings, commitment ceremonies, and pretty much any other ceremony you'd need an Officiant for. I will never forget the first time Marney came to my place for a wedding. She pulled up with a gong, blessing bells, singing bowls, crystals, sage and some other really cool stuff. She lead one of the best ceremonies I've ever attended. I absolutely adore Marney. She's been around the world, and seen a lot. Whenever I see her, I always think how beautiful she is inside and out. Marney has a heart of gold and would give anyone the clothes off her back if they needed them.

Meet the Rev. Marney Brown.
I took this picture at one of her garden parties. It was her birthday too.
She is wearing a tiara, I wish I didn't chop it off in this pic.
Marney is beautiful inside and out.
You will never meet a more generous person.
She's old school, which means she's there for us when needed.
Around here we lovingly refer to Good Food as "The Way Back" store. When I walk in, I feel like I've stepped into the natural food stores that I spent time in as a little girl. Tye dye clothing and Birkies are frequently sported by customers, and truly some of the most intelligent people I've ever met and had the privilege to chat with have been in that store. I always find something I've never noticed before, and I almost always pit stop across the front wall to stop and smell the incense (Prasad and Nag Champa, 2 of my favorites are sold there).
Personal care items, gift items, and of course incense!
I have not acquired a taste for Kombucha but lots of other people sure have.
Good Food has a pretty big selection of flavors, there's more in stock than shown here.
When I had to leave here to care for my dying father, it was some of the people at Good Food who really stepped in and helped the other happy vegan hold the fort down here while I was gone. It was at Good Food where I met Kevin, who in time became one of my most favorite people ever. And, it is the Good Food family who still grieve the loss of Kevin every day, and honors his memory with the love and respect we all deserve. It was Kevin who was the first person that made me finally realize the ordeal I had been through dealing with caring for, and eventually losing, my dad. The simple loving act of Kevin making my favorite soup became a turning point in so many ways for me. A turning point of whether I planned on staying, going, or deciding to be happy here. A turning point of realizing I had made some good friends here. I am someone who tends to take a solitary path in many aspects of my life. Good Food pushes back against that part of me; they nurture the possibilities within us, they make us remember that each of us needs to take care of ourselves, and then they provide the tools to care for, and heal us, be it with food, herbs, conversation or a quiet moment in the garden.

Parties spring up from time to time at Good Food.
The arts community down here is so incredibly talented.
So many really great musicians, we are so lucky!
Where there's great musicians, great dancers will follow!
This was, by the way, a Christmas party.
This is DEFINATELY my idea of a Christmas party!
(PS: that's Cindy on the left, Bonnie in center, and Marney on the right)

I could never imagine living on Big Pine without the Good Food Conspiracy, and I'm not just saying that. Not only does the store provide an essential service for this community, but the fact that they've been doing this for well over 30 years says a lot about their integrity, and speaks obvious volumes to their commitment to our Keys community.

Vegan spreads and such are nicely represented.
These cold cases have so much stuff lurking inside,
unless you've seen it with your own eyes, you're hard pressed to believe it!
This is was my view as I sat and ate my vegan vegetable soup over
organic brown rice. I added nooch to mine.... they have lots of
condiments available at the juice bar so you can fix your stuff to your liking
(hot sauce anyone?!!!)
This is Katy.
She is beautiful inside and out.
She makes a killer smoothie, trust me!
If you're feeling ick on any given day, let her make you a juice....
she knows how to fix whatever ails you, she's not just beautiful
she's SMART too!
We love you Katy!
In season this case is chock full of
artisan vegan baked goods, including soy free and gluten free.
Even off season there's a decent selection available on any given day.
Artisan and house made specialties like salsa, Asian noodles, kimchee,
hummus, papaya salad, and more. All vegan.
I would tend to agree.
Hello Kevin!
The garden can be quiet or it can be rocking.
Either way, it's a little oasis on the highway for sure. 
I've been shopping and eating at Good Food Conspiracy for too many years to count. I was a customer of theirs before I even lived here. I would stay at Deer Run as a guest for vacation several times a year, and always would stock up on my daily provisions to get me through my long beach days. Since moving here, it's become an integral part of my life, both professionally and personally. It's hard to believe that places like this still exist, but they do, and I'm fortunate to be less than 5 miles away from this little gem.

Marney, Bonnie, Katy, Cindy, Kathy, Beca are there to serve you (and me!) with a smile. Thank you so much for the good food, good vibes, and the rest of the good stuff. You're one in a million!

Friday, September 27, 2013

VeganMoFo Day #27: Even Vegans In The Keys Love Us Our Pumpkin!

Within a few short days, VeganMoFo will be ending. October 1 marks the official end of this year's MoFo event. October 1 is also the day I traditionally consider the beginning of autumn, even in the Keys.

It's a funny thing this tropical island living... year round warm temperatures, palm trees, beaches and sunshine yes.... but so many people still crave season changing. If you've lived in the Keys a while, you know full well there ARE seasonal weather changes here too, just not quite as dramatic. October can still be scorching hot (as last year was for us), but typically it's in October when there will be the first smell of fall in the air. I usually notice it while I'm running, I truly smell a change in the air. And with that smell usually comes the first noticeable break in humidity here too. Where I come from, the humidity was horrid. If I heard "it's not the heat, it's the humidity" once, I heard it a million times. Then again, I didn't much care. My response was I'll take the humidity if it's the only way I'll get the heat. You know me well enough by now... I really dislike cold. I'm the crazy one down here running around in July in jeans and a sweatshirt (sometimes I do it just to freak people out too...) I cannot recall ever being one to complain about the heat, or the humidity. When I lived up north, I found great ways to cope with the relentless heat that came from living inland; things like buying a convertible, finding respite at the shore as often as humanly possible, and eating lots of watermelon (true!) What I had much more difficulty with was coping with the arrival of fall up there. Granted it WAS pretty to watch the leaves change, but I came to truly despise that time too, all it eventually meant to me was dead, gray sticks would soon be my landscape, then before too long, dreaded snow. When Labor Day came at the shore, people were gone, and I was sad. Humans are a funny lot.... we simply "do" things because we're used to it (witness the eating of meat, right?) So, with Labor Day people dig out the geraniums and plop in those horrid mums. Then they stick a pumpkin on the stoop, rake some leaves and decide autumn has arrived, even on those magical October/November days when the sky is so blue it hurts your eyes, the temperatures hover in the mid-70s, and the house windows are flung open.... just like in July.

I've been a little bit better since moving down here with the arrival of fall. I don't dread it anymore. I still don't like the sight of mums or pumpkins, but with a little more time I'm sure that won't be as annoying to me either. And, I've come further in embracing more traditional seasonal ingredients for this time of year, especially pumpkin.

I grew up not really understanding that pumpkin is a totally edible thing. That seems practically unbelievable, but never forget about the huge disconnect I had of where my food was sourced from (especially animals). And, so it was with pumpkins. I knew people ate pumpkin pie, but I never saw anyone COOK a pumpkin to make a pie. My childhood years were mostly influenced by 1970s advertising like "when it says Libby's Libby's Libby's on the label label label... you will like it, like it, like it, on the table table table." SOME of you know what I'm talking about. Pumpkin pie came from a can. And, it was absolutely disgusting. That is NOT meant to be eaten.

Just a few short years ago I discovered that all pumpkin really needed to be loved was a chocolate hug. I've come to embrace pumpkin in my baking and cooking. Yesterday one of my goals in the kitchen was to perfect my pumpkin biscotti recipe. Mission accomplished. It is so good, I ate 2 of them with NO regrets (although during today's run I had a momentary "why, oh why" lapse. It passed).

There's been a lot of chatter on the net lately about Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. It's not vegan, even if you order it with soy milk. The problem is the spice mixture, not just the moo crap. So, people every fall freak out over Starbuck's pumpkin spice latte not being vegan. I mean seriously, can we talk about FAIR TRADE issues at Starbuck's? I'm not really sure why people go there... status? I used to go there in a prior lifetime, but once I learned about things like fair trade I have changed my ways. I've seen a fair trade offering now and again at Starbucks, and I do know most (not all) have soy milk. But, it's still a minefield in there as far as what's vegan and what's not, and they're not really using their worldwide influence as much as I think could be done for farmer's rights and human rights conditions of where product is sourced.

I remember someone sharing a recipe for a vegan pumpkin spice latte recipe, so I printed it out. Tonight I REALLY wanted to make that, but I couldn't for the life of me find the recipe. I went to the internet, and began a search. I found so many vegan latte recipes I got overwhelmed, yet couldn't find the one I wanted. Then I found one I liked from (which I am going to share with you) and as I was making it, I realized this IS the recipe I was seeking! What sets this one apart is that the foam is PUMPKIN foam. I'm so in love with my $3 thrift shop stainless steel manual frother that I cannot get enough action out of this baby. So pumpkin foam made this one a no-brainer standout.

By the way.... I've cut the espresso and coffee out at night. My insomnia is already close to a death sentence for me, the espresso took it to a new level. Instead, I made my pumpkin spice latte with Yogi Mayan Cocoa Spice tea. It has caffeine, but doesn't seem to bother me as much ... I know what to expect when I drink the chai.  I have just about drained my Yogi tea pumpkin spice latte as I've put this post together. Thus without further delay, here's the recipe with pictures for you.

Kathy's Real Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte
(courtesy of

1.5 cups vanilla soy milk (I used about 1 cup water instead of soy milk)
1-2 shots espresso OR 1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee (I steeped 1 Yogi Mayan Cocoa Spice tea bag in the water and used NO coffee/espresso)
1.5T canned pumpkin (I used 1T since I was using less than 1.5 cups water)
sweeten to taste (agave is recommended as the sweetener... I used NONE)
1/2t pumpkin pie spice OR cinnamon/nutmeg (I used my own blend)
1/2 t vanilla
dash of cayenne (optional, but recommended) I omitted

Sweet Pumpkin Foam
1/4 cup warm soy milk (I used unsweetened reduced fat coconut milk)
1t canned unsweetened pumpkin
1t agave syrup (omitted by me)
dash of pumpkin pie spice OR cinnamon/nutmeg
tiniest pinch of salt

TOOL: hand foaming tool (yay! My $3 thrift shop foamer!)

In a small soup pan heat all the base ingredients. Note, if you are using coffee you can add it directly to the pan here, however if you are using fresh hot espresso, you can add it last. 

Stir all the base ingredients until simmering. Make sure the pumpkin dissolves and the spices don't clump.  All I did was dump all the base ingredients into a small saucepan, bring it to boil, whisk it a little, tie my tea bag on the handle and let it steep a couple minutes.

Pour hot base ingredients into a mug, and get to the foam...

Whip up your pumpkin foam by heating all the ingredients in a glass til warm (I used a measuring cup and microwaved it, yikes!), then whip with a foaming wand. All I did was remove from the microwave, pour into my frother, and go to town.

Pour the foam onto the hot base ingredients. If you're using espresso and haven't added it yet, add it now. Dash of spice on top (I forgot), top w/soy whip if desired.

This took me about 3 minutes to make, and was delicious. 

The main ingredients.

Boiled the base ingredients and didn't even set the tea bag on fire!

My frother!

This is my pumpkin biscotti, and in the corner is my pumpkin latte.
I didn't eat any biscotti tonight, but I sure am continuing to admire it.

Anyone can make this recipe at home. If you don't have a frothing wand, or a $3 thrift shop frother, use an immersion blender. If you don't have that, simply pour your foam ingredients into a bowl, and try whipping it by hand with a whisk, or maybe using a hand beater. It's all good.

It's almost autumn, and even in the Keys people love the pumpkin. It's been a long road for me, but this vegan is loving her some pumpkin too. Now fix yourself a nice vegan pumpkin latte and get back to reading VeganMoFo blogs!