Fresh bread, rice porridge, green plantains, or muesli. How will you start your day?
Did you know that there are some places where they actually sit down for breakfast? Where it’s not eaten on the run, on the go, or on anything but the table? And that some countries’ breakfasts are based on centuries of fine-tuning the grains, fruits, dairy, and yes, even meat, that are readily available on ample farmland and not on what marketers and advertisers have told them to eat? It’s true. These places exist!

In my quest to discover alternatives to the standard American breakfast, I asked questions of five people who spent the majority of their lives elsewhere–Bosnia, China, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, and Sweden–before moving to the States. My small study reinforced some of what I already suspected: other countries pace their meals, use less sugar than we do (especially at breakfast), and, for the most part, prioritize lunch.

Some of what I learned surprised me: there’s no fear of bread or dairy or meat or even sugar, as long as it comes naturally from fruit. Eggs seem a-okay, too, though I suspect they were from local farms, not massive operations. Some of what I learned harked back to things I’ve heard along the way: breakfast and lunch, not dinner, should be the bigger meals so your body has time to digest before going to sleep. There’s also a general antipathy toward cold water. (I had first heard this from my host mother during my study abroad in Spain, who told me that a king returned home from war, drank cold water, and dropped dead. Apparently, the country stopped drinking cold water after that.)

Overall, the international approach to breakfast seemed to be exactly what many American marketers and processed food companies have long been hawking but not necessarily delivering: balance. The traditional breakfasts can knock out several food groups in the pyramid without overdoing any of them. They trend toward savory or, at the very least, not sweet. They are designed to be savored at a table and not in the car or walking to work. They certainly aren’t meant to be ignored altogether.

How can we bring a little bit of the balance and tradition home? Read on.


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Yes, You Do It Too

Oh, man. What a ride. I sat down to write this post several days after it was “due.” I have, of course, been putting it off for days, finding other activities (and non-activities) to fill my time instead of following through on what I’m supposed to be doing.

I had been meaning to share a word with you that would give a name to that thing you’re undoubtedly already doing. It’s the perfect descriptor of the thing you know so well, the word that would help you band together with your fellow humans who do the exact same thing.


It’s the act of eating instead of doing whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing.

But here’s the rub. Despite my eureka moment nearly 10 years ago, the internet got to spreading the gospel on this one first. Now, the word’s just a Google search away and the concept pops up on Wiktionary, in Shape magazine, and on And though I’m fairly certain that I registered a Tumblr account for the name nearly 8 years ago, I no longer own it. Plus, I never could figure out Tumblr.

A search through my email yielded the Tumblr registration but no trace of the page name. A quick look at proves that I either registered something different entirely or, at some point, gave up the name. A little bit more digging in the annals of my email and voila: maybe I came up with an even MORE perfect word for my particular style of procrastination.


Yup, there it is. The art of finding something to bake and/or knead while you should totally, definitely be doing something else.

Luckily, it doesn’t seem like the internet has caught on yet, despite the oodles of food bloggers and bakers in the world.

So get to it. Get to procrasti-kneading with your favorite recipe or with something brand spanking new. At the outset, you may feel that gentle tug that says, “You should be doing something else…” but when those hot chocolate chip cookies or molten brownies come out of the oven, you’ll realize it was the best decision you’ve made all day.

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Valentine’s Day Results: When Life Gives You Carrots, Make Carrots Four Ways

It happened! Our second annual Valentine’s Day challenge. If you’ve read our previous post you’ll know that last year, the Vegend and I started a Valentine’s Day tradition that is more creative and less expensive than any restaurant meal we could have.

The simple premise–I determine which ingredient he should use and he determines mine–has forced us to push the boundaries of our usual (delicious) meals, be thoughtful in our execution, and try new things. I’m here to tell you that last night’s results were astounding. So astounding, in fact, that I ate a good portion more while I was cleaning up. Now, that’s the sign of a good meal.

I had challenged the Vegend to use carrots in our main course and boy, did he deliver. He presented carrots four ways and each way was a nod to something we’ve eaten or cooked before. First up, he pickled carrots in rice wine vinegar, ginger, shallot, honey, and salt, a delicious trick we had first seen at Brooklyn Grange’s Veggiepalooza 2017 but had not yet tried. A quick toss in sesame oil, carrot greens, and scallions provided a tasty and colorful start to the main meal.

The main dish was mind-blowing. Three more ways of carrots, each distinct from each other and, if I’m being honest, a party in my mouth. The sweet roasted carrots with homemade chimichurri (cilantro, parsley, shallot, jalapeno, red wine vinegar, salt, and olive oil) made me want to slather chimichurri on everything. Everything! I didn’t even know I liked chimichurri!

The carrots with yogurt sauce (Greek yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, carrot greens, scallions, roasted cashews, and salt) were inspired by Canoe Hill in Millbrook, NY, whose own carrot-yogurt-cumin combination wowed us just a few weeks ago.
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Steal This Valentine’s Day Idea

Eggplant and Cherries

I’m going to be real with you: the Vegend was my first (and now only) Valentine. Any previous “relationship” somehow started directly after the day and certainly didn’t last until the next one. I stormed the theater with a group of ladies to see He’s Just Not That Into You on V-Day 2009 and considered doing the same, solo, for 50 Shades of Grey in 2015. A typical February 14th had me silently cursing flower delivery guys for reminding me of my status. I know it wasn’t their fault; I never did respond to their catcalls.

But then the Vegend arrived.

After we moved in together, our date nights dwindled to appropriate levels–we were building a life together, after all, and that requires budgeting. So when Valentine’s Day came around and restaurant markups reared their heads, we decided to take a suggestion from my mother instead: “Why don’t you do a Chopped thing? You know, where they’re given the ingredients and have to come up with a dish?” This may be the only time the Vegend and I will agree with and accept motherly advice. We began plotting.

The rules were simple: I would give him one ingredient on which to base the main dish. He would give me one on which to base dessert. We’d have a full meal, half surprise, and on a budget. We both picked ingredients that were remarkably out of season–he offered up cherries and I offered eggplant–but we made it work. His creation–skillet eggplant parm (not breaded but still fried-ish)– and mine–upside down cherry cornmeal cake–were both delicious experiments and filled our apartment with wonderful scents. Also, leftovers for days.

Now, with a week left to spare, we challenge you to do the same. Gather your partner, your best friend, or a whole mess of acquaintances and challenge each other to whip up something delicious and homemade. It doesn’t have to look perfect or even taste perfect. It just has to be filled with love.

It goes like this:

    • If it’s two of you, decide who will tackle the main dish and who takes on dessert. The more people, the more parts of a meal you’ll get–amuse bouche, appetizer, soup, intermezzo, entree, dessert, etc.
    • Feel free to draw the ingredients out of a hat or just assign the ingredients to all involved. Each dish should be centered on a single ingredient.
    • Cook like nobody’s watching.
    • Take a photo and tag it with hashtag #iamvegend and we may repost your V-Day meal.*
    • Enjoy!


  • *If you happen to forget to take the photo before digging in, worry not. As long as there’s still food on the plate, we’ll consider your entry.
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An Ode to the Test Kitchen–A Millennial’s Nightmare

Test Kitchen

The test kitchen is my nightmare. It scares me, what with its imperfect flavors and outcomes, its stumbles and messes, and mistakes laid bare. It’s as if a too-salty oatmeal cookie with over-bloated raisins is some commentary on the type of person I am.

It’s a place where I can’t be perfect, or even good first time around. The place where I’m meant to fail until I get it right. And really, I hate failing. I hate it so much, in fact, that sometimes I don’t even try. In the test kitchen, you have to try. Ugh. And fail. Double ugh.

The test kitchen invites others into my failures; there’s no squirreling them away for a rainy, self-loathing day. Taste testers abound and their one job is to tell me what’s wrong with my cookie or my soup or me. (Okay, maybe not me.) As I brace myself for honest feedback, part of me is hoping for a coddled appraisal, the kind to which I have been conditioned as a millenial. After all, I came of age with participation trophies and all-winners competitions. Grownups even awarded me a ribbon for the piano recital in which I refused to participate. (They really didn’t teach me a lesson with that one.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way (in the kitchen, in life…). I’ve accidentally used rancid oil in a challah recipe and forgot the sugar in the next batch. I’ve klutzily dropped a dozen eggs on the floor, which, as annoying as it sounds (and boy, is it annoying), is less troublesome than mindlessly using rotten eggs whites for meringue and only realizing it once they formed their stiff, glossy peaks.

Setting out to intentionally make mistakes and learn from them? That’s another thing altogether.
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Meet Sweets Days

Sweets Days

I recently got a request from the Vegend’s mother. She said, “Please stop baking so much! For the Vegend’s sake!” I reminded her, as I often do, that she and I are on the same team: we both want the Vegend to be healthy, to feel good, and to be around for a very long time. I assured her that I am careful with what I bake and that I often “disappear” nearly all treats out of our home under the cover of darkness (or an oversleeping Vegend) so there’s not even a crumb to find.

It also helps that my cravings for sweets have diminished over the years. Where I used to bake to satisfy my own needs (OMG peanut butter chocolate chip cookies), I now typically bake for celebrations, special occasions, or upon request. My cravings reduction is no accident; it is the result of a carefully designed approach that, after years of stops and starts with other methods, finally worked.

Meet Sweets Days.

Sweets Days are the three glorious days of the week in which you can–and should–have some sort of sweet treat, provided that nothing else you’re eating has added sugar (looking at you, drinks and packaged foods). It should only be one treat (don’t go all “kitchen sink sundae” on us) and your Sweets Days shouldn’t be consecutive–mine were Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The goal is to slowly wean yourself off too much sugar while still allowing for some fun. I’m not a masochist, after all.
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Just Start

It’s the first of the year! No doubt it’s also the first of many things for you: the first day you’re going plant-based, the first day of your 10,000 steps challenge, the first day finally doing that thing you said you’d do. No matter what you’re tackling this year, you’re doing what that little voice in your head, your heart, your gut, is telling you to do:

“Just start.”

So here I am, too, just starting at I am Vegend. After months (years!?) of talking about the sort of blog I’d like to do, I’m actually doing it.

My food journey probably looks a lot like yours: born into an omnivorous house filled with the scents of roasts and ribs. At ten, my precociousness gave way to an aversion to red meat (I had seen a 20/20 special) but a devotion to chicken. Because I’m really cool, I used my early driving privileges for regular pickups of chicken fingers and french fries until I slowly nudged those out of my life, too.

Then, the final straw. After moving to New York City in 2008, I had no kitchen in which to cook and no money to spend. Vegetarian meals and ingredients were almost always less expensive than meat dishes so I began to fill at least half my plate with produce and grains. After a healthy dose of the hottest food books at the time, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Eating Animals, and others, there was no turning back.
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