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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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My Vegetarian Lunch

Uploaded: Nov 20, 2011
My October 27, 2011 blog was on Healthy Eating in San Ramon. I wrote about the Tri-Valley Vegetarian Society lunch on November 19th, which I planned to attend.

I wanted to bring Kasha Varnishkas, which are buckwheat groats and bow-shaped noodles cooked in broth with sautéed onions and mushrooms. The onions are typically sautéed in schmaltz, or chicken fat. The kasha is typically cooked in chicken broth, after being mixed in an egg and toasted. I could replace the chicken fat with olive oil and the chicken broth with water or vegetable broth, but I felt the egg wash was mandatory.

I contacted Lisa Books-Williams who planned the Vegetarian Pot Luck lunch and asked if it was OK to use an egg my dish. Here's her reply, "Most of the food will be vegan and that is preferred and recommended but you can still make a vegetarian dish since not all attendees are vegan. Just provide a card with the list of ingredients to let people know what is in there."

So now I knew the difference between vegetarian and vegan. Vegetarians don't eat animals or birds, and vegans don't eat any animal products, such as milk or eggs, as well. I could probably be a vegetarian but never a vegan. I like dairy too much, and so many things I like are made with milk, cheese, or eggs.

Saturday morning I made the Kasha Varnishkas with an egg, but they didn't cook up fast enough; so I turned the heat up and went to my office to check email. I should never do that with something cooking because I forget about it. When I went back to check on it, the water had cooked out and the bowtie noodles were burned on the bottom of the pan.

I was able to salvage about 1-1/2 cups of kasha and noodles that had not burned but I also brought a bowl of stewed eggplant I made Friday night just in case something went wrong with the kasha.

I was 20 minutes late and about 30 people were seated at a U-shaped table eating the appetizers. I was given a plate of appetizers and sat down next to a man named Mack and across from Anne and Brad. These folks are long-time vegetarians, but they were very helpful to a novice like me.

Lisa Books-Williams emailed me the list of everything that was served at the lunch. The appetizers were "Squash Hummus served with Fermented Cumin Krackers and Veggies and Not-So-Cheese Sauce served with Jicama Fries."

I tasted everything and except for the "Not-So-Cheese" Sauce, it was all pretty normal crunchy vegies. I like real cheese too much to accept a vegan substitute.

After the appetizers, Lisa literally whipped up a Cranberry Apple Orange and Mint Relish, which was served with the main dishes. Here's the recipe she sent me:

Cranberry Apple Orange and Mint Relish
Chef Lisa Books-Williams
1 12oz Bag of Cranberries, rinsed and drained
1 Fuji or Honey Crisp Apple, cored and chopped
1 Navel Orange, peeled and seeds removed
2 Mint Sprigs, leaves removed
1/2 - 2/3 c pitted dates
1/8 t Allspice
1/8 t Himalayan or sea salt

Step 1: Place dates in small bowl and cover with water. Soak for 20 minutes.
Step 2: Place soaked dates and orange in food processor with "S" blade. Process till smooth.
Step 3: Add cranberries, apple, mint leaves, allspice and salt and pulse chop till desired consistency.
Step 4: Chill (if desired) before serving. Relish will keep in refrigerator for 4 days.

The relish was served with the main meal, which is listed below.
- Kale Pomegranate Salad-
- Roasted Root Vegetables
- Chestnut Apple Stuffing
- Celebration Roasts
- Three Mushroom Gravy
- Macaroni and "Cheese"

Desert
- Pumpkin Custard Tartlets with Pecan Praline Crust and Candied Pumpkin Seeds

I liked the desert best.

After lunch Christine Durrant of Animal Matters gave a slide presentation on the terrible conditions of turkeys and farm animals raised for food. She also showed photos of "free-range" chickens crowded on top of one another. This is why vegans don't eat eggs.

I buy my eggs from the Farmer's Market, or Judy's Eggs (or Gold Circle, which is also from Judy's Egg Farm), which I hope are treated better. They show nicer pictures on their website.

The second speaker, Josephine Bellaccomo, instructed the group on how to "Move the message: Your guide to making a difference and changing the World." After her presentation Bellaccomo signed copies of her book of the same name for sale for $20. I must have been the only person there with a pen, because she had to borrow it from me to sign a buyer's book.

The attendees at the lunch were a diverse group of young and old. Several children were at tables in the hall or the back of the main room. The people next to me were not from the Tri-Valley. Mack and his family are from Richmond. Anne and Brad are from Fairfield.

I posted information on this vegetarian pot luck in the Safe-Cat email list. Most of the members of Safe-Cat Foundation are vegetarians, but since they are almost always at pet adoption events on Saturday afternoon, no one from the group was able to attend this lunch. Maybe next time.

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