Saturday, January 7, 2017

On Being Vegan in NYC

I'm sitting at my desk, cat sleeping in my lap, snow streaming out of the sky and coating the neighborhood below in Brooklyn.  It seems like a good afternoon for writing.  I haven't done this in awhile.  Everything that took place this year took me away from writing.  It was a challenging year. I moved away from Boston in the summer, took a new job, moved closer to my family.  I'm still figuring out how to live in NYC.

I've lived in a few cities now, and I would define New York as both good and bad for vegans, depending on where you are and whom you are with.  Let me clarify.  There are plenty of great vegan restaurants, bakeries, and even a bar-- that I know of.  I've read about most of them, but I haven't even hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of exploring here.  On the other hand, it seems like less people that I encounter here understand what being vegan means-- which is very surprising to me.  I think I assumed that since Brooklyn is a very "blue" area, people would be more progressive in their thinking.  At work, when lunch is ordered, I have been presented with a sandwich including cheese multiple times.  Someone asked me if I would eat a meal that included meat if the meat were picked out.  Maybe I need to spend more time in Williamsburg.  Veganism is definitely more mainstream than when I started this thing almost seven years ago.  It could be that while there are more veg-friendly spots popping up everywhere, the average non-vegan just doesn't frequent those establishments.  Who knows.  The last thing, which is a personal challenge, is that there are so many of the delightful foods that I grew up eating-- Italian food and pastries, for example-- surrounding me-- and they are definitely not vegan!  I guess it was easier when I was living in Phoenix and Boston, and the pizza was sub-par (sorry, it's true).  

When I moved to Boston I was surprised by how many wonderful vegan options were available, and I grew to love them all-- especially Fomu ice cream.  I vow to use the next few months discovering vegan Brooklyn, and reporting back here.  

And in case you were wondering, the first vegan joint I visited was the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck.

Onward and upward.

Blogger's Soundtrack
Sia - "Elastic Heart"

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Vegan-Friendly Lifestyle Changes

Today three different people approached me at work and asked for advice about healthy lifestyle changes for the new year-- related to a vegan-friendly diet and reaching fitness goals.  I felt super flattered and also inspired to actually write in this blog after a bit of  a hiatus.  I do think  that going vegan is the best thing  you can do for your own  health and the well-being of  animals and the planet as  a whole.  That being  said, if you don't think you're able or willing to take the full plunge just yet, making some small changes in your daily life and the way you eat are definitely steps in  the right direction.  I've been vegan  for close to six years, and while the rest of my family has not adopted this lifestyle, they have made some considerable veg-friendly shifts which I think others can do as well.

Small Shifts

Non-Dairy Alternatives
The case to stop drinking dairy milk is strong  Switch from cow's milk to one of the many other delicious options carried by most regular grocery stores.  I prefer almond milk, but if you're concerned about the amount of water used to grow almonds and the ongoing drought in California, there are definitely plenty of other choices.   Take your pick: soy, coconut, rice, flax, hazelnut, hemp, quinoa, and cashew milk each have their own distinct flavor and texture.  Soy and almond milk come in a variety of flavors, sweetened and unsweetened-- I prefer vanilla.  It's great in cereal, smoothies, baked goods-- you name it.

Earth Balance
Substitute it for butter.  It's made with natural and organic ingredients, and unlike margarine, does not contain  hydrogenated oils-- which means no trans fat.  My family spreads it on Italian bread and bagels and uses it for baking all kinds of delicious treats, vegan and traditional.   It can be expensive in some stores, so you will want to scope out the prices in your area.

Dark Chocolate
My family is obsessed with chocolate. My mom has made the shift to Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips, which do not contain  any dairy.  The company itself does not endorse these as vegan, but they make my cut.  Dark chocolate has many health benefits-- it contains anti-oxidants and I've read that it can even  improve brain  function.  There are also many brands of fair trade chocolate, including Endangered Species, Fair Trade, Green and Black, Divine, and Taza (out of Boston!).  I would not be vegan if I could not each chocolate, and luckily these brands are widely available in stores like Whole Foods, Shaw's, Stop & Shop, and  Target.

Healthy chips with hummus or salsa replace cookies and other unhealthy snacks.  Do you know how many healthy chips are on shelves these days?  Processed foods are not great, but I would  venture to say that most of us are not going to renounce ALL of them any time soon, so chips from Food Should Taste Good, Stacey's, Beanitos, and other healthy brands can replace yucky snacks like Cheetos.


Vegan-friendly breakfasts have never been much of a challenge for me when I'm eating at home.  I eat cereal with almond milk and fruit every morning.  Vegan cereals include Chex, Cheerios, Quaker Oat Squares, Bear Naked granola, and Kind granola.  You will want to make sure that you are choosing a cereal which isn't loaded with sugar.  I usually go with a plain cereal like Chex and mix in  a bit of banana nut Bear Naked granola and some fruit-- which is a wonderful start to the day.

I'm pretty into sandwiches.  Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread (some brands do contain milk) is a very easy vegan lunch.  I also frequently make "salad sandwiches," which involves spreading hummus on one side of the bread, avocado on the other, and putting everything that I would include in a salad in between: spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, and bell peppers.  I typically make a huge mess while eating this, but what else is new.

There are tons of easy veg-friendly recipes online.  If you have Pinterest, do a search and create a board.  I wrote a post a while back about easy vegan dinners.  My family often eats the diced veggies and quinoa dish for dinner.  Since then I've become a fan of the book One-Dish Vegan, which includes lots of easy dishes.  I also enjoy this easy Italian Orzo Spinach Soup.  Try a veg-friendly meal a few nights per week!  Cook a big meal on Sunday night and eat leftovers throughout the week!

Eating healthy or choosing veg-friendly options doesn't mean eating "rabbit food" or sacrificing flavor.  In fact, it's about enjoying better food which makes you feel energized, satisfied, and ready to tackle your new year's fitness goals (more to come on that later)!  Making a few small changes in your diet is pretty darn simple, so you don't have to be intimidated by the idea of adopting a full vegan lifestyle.  One thing  at a time!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

An Ode to Root

Recently my favorite vegan joint in the Greater Boston area shut down.  There was no warning or explanation-- just boarded up windows one day in August signifying the end of Root Allston.  Maybe there is something about this location which does not bode well for vegan establishments, for the same thing happened with Peace o'Pie when I first moved to town in 2012-- here today, gone tomorrow.  Only I didn't care so much about Peace o'Pie because I'm not very partial to faux cheeses.  Root was my fave for a number of reasons, and I spent lots of meals there with family and friends over the years, from Taco Tuesdays to vanilla or pumpkin pancakes on the weekends.  I ate there with my parents after I successfully ran my first half marathon.  Sometimes I popped in for an LA wrap or some of the hand cut fries with homemade ketchup.  Oh, and the sweet potato home fries! Wah.

There's a new vegan cafe called Whole Heart Provisions opening in place of Root.  I will give it a try, but unless they will have pumpkin pancakes this fall, I'm not sure it will live up to Root.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Semi-Vegan Baby Shower

My niece, Philomena, is one month old.  When my sister was about 8 1/2 months pregnant, during the dreadful winter of 2015, I threw her a baby shower with mostly vegetarian/vegan food for lunch.  My sister is not vegan, so it didn't make sense to host a shower with all of my favorite foods.  I did my best to be fair.

The Theme
You are My Sunshine - the decorations were yellow, and included sunflowers, lemons, and some handmade items I created during the many snow days I spent pent up in my apartment

The Menu
-Trader Joe's sparkling lemonade
-Hummus and pita bread
-A variety of vegan and traditional wraps from the bagel store where our dad works
-Chef Chloe's Artichoke Pesto Crostini
-My mom's famous spinach pie

-A traditional cake
-Vegan coconut-lemon cupcakes

coconut lemon cookies with a packet of sunflower seeds

The Pictures

Vegan in Portland, Oregon

I finally went to visit my friend and former roommate, Erin, and her cat Casista, in Portland, Oregon for Spring Break.  I had been hearing about the amazing vegan food in this city for quite a while.  Added bonuses included crossing two new states off my list (we also drove through Washington), and being blown away by the gorgeous scenery.  There were lots of hipsters, bicycles, cats, and beer-- so in my opinion, it's a fantastic city.  Besides all of that, the people are the friendliest you'll meet, and things are CHEAP.  It was hard to leave.

Below are some of the vegan eateries I visited.  I ate my way through the city, and I'm sure I didn't get to even half of the vegan places in town.  I was totally overwhelmed because I really could have eaten good food almost anywhere.  That's just not something a vegan girl is accustomed to!

Sweet Hereafter
A vegan bar, and the most hipster place I've ever been.  We were probably the only two people in the place without tons of tattoos.  I tried the Jamaican Bowl, which was a bit too spicy for my taste.  Erin watched the Blazers game and I did some people watching.

Street 14 Coffee - Astoria
Erin grabbed a cup of coffee and I had an amazing black berry crumble pastry.  They also serve breakfast and lunch with vegan options.

Wolf and Bear's food cart
Food carts abound in Portland.  This was located in the Southeast part of town, and it was here that I had a gigantic falafel wrap and a cup of lemonade with a dash of mint.  We listened to Drake rap about his enemies and people make their plans for 4/20 as we ate.  I wish I had another one of those wraps right now.

Sizzle Pie
So this is a heavy metal pizza place with tons of vegan options.  I thought it was hilarious.  I had a slice of pizza and a huge vegan caesar salad.

Blue Star Donuts
Oh, hey, I hadn't had a donut in five years - NBD.  I tried two vegan varieties - blueberry and sugar and spice.  For the next few mornings I thought about going back for more, but I had to save room for all the other vegan pastries.

Back to Eden Bakery
We kind of overdid it here.  By this I mean that we ordered an ice cream sundae, chocolate mousse pie, and a brownie.  It's difficult to decide when there are two cases of desserts and a full soft-serve ice cream menu.  Amazing.

Missionary Chocolates
Vegan. Chocolate. Truffles.

Sweetpea Bakery
I wanted to try everything, so I went with the raspberry strudel.  It was delicious.  They also serve vegan breakfast and lunch, including a vegan quiche-- we weren't sure what that would entail.

Herbivore Clothing
Obsessed!  Right next to Sweetpea, specializing in cruelty-free clothing items.  There were tons of vegan cookbooks, more than I even knew existed.  Unfortunately, they would not have fit in my suitcase.

Food Fight! Grocery
When a city has a vegan "mall," you know you're in the right place.  At least I do.  Next door to Herbivore, it's a little vegan grocery store!

Veggie Grill
This place is a chain.  I had a fantastic quinoa salad topped with avocado after walking around the Portland Art Museum.  Loved it.

Voo Doo Donut
Had to do it, as it's a big tourist attraction in Portland.  They have a few kinds of vegan donuts, but I actually preferred the Blue Star Variety.

Blossoming Lotus
I had the curry and coconut tofu, and it was outstanding.  I believe it was the best tofu I've ever eaten.

I think that's everything.  We went to a number of other bars and there was something for a vegan to munch on in every location.  At the Portland City Grill we enjoyed a panoramic view of the city while sipping cocktails.  I visited plenty of non-food related sites, including the Japanese Garden, Powell's Books, the Columbia River Gorge, and the coast of Oregon.  It really was a lovely city, and I recommend it to anyone, vegan or not!

Blogger's Soundtrack
Fitz and the Tantrums - L.O.V.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Vegan Thanksgiving

It took me seven hours to get to New York amid the wild weather we were having in the Northeast Wednesday afternoon, but the cats and I made it for Vegan Thanksgiving.  For the menu, we kept some staples, like roasted garlic broccoli, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes, and also tried the recipes below.  At the last minute I decided to whip up some pumpkin applesauce, just because.  Everything was great-- the stuffing was my favorite.

❏ Quiinoa stuffed sweet potatoes with kale and cranberries: 

❏ Butternut squash, brussel sprouts, and bread stuffing with apples: 

❏ Quinoa Salad with Pears, Baby Spinach and Chick Peas in a Maple Vinaigrette: 

❏ Mashed Potatoes: 

Blogger's Soundtrack
Bastille - "Flaws"

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pumpkin Everything

I don't remember pumpkin being such a huge fall fad until maybe a few years ago.  I did some research and several sources connect the explosion with the debut of the Pumpkin Spice Latte by Starbucks in 2003.  That's when I graduated from high school - I guess it took a while for me to catch on.  I have never consumed a Pumpkin Spice Latte - I don't drink coffee, and they aren't vegan (the pumpkin sauce contains condensed milk).  However, I do love pumpkin recipes and products.  Here are some of my recent favorites.

Pumpkin Chips
I am addicted to Laurel Hill Pumpkin Seed Chips and Way Better Snacks Punkin Cranberry Corn Tortilla Chips.  They are especially good paired with some original flavor hummus from Whole Foods.  Best snack ever.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
I came across this recipe on Pinterest and these cookies are the bomb.  Many pumpkin cookie recipes include a variety of strange ingredients, but I had everything for these available in my pantry. I was a bit low on pumpkin puree so I used extra apple sauce.  They ended up super cakey, more like mini muffins, so I ate them for breakfast.  I had planned on bringing them into work, but I ended up eating them all myself.  Oops.

Pumpkin Chili
Here's the recipe. I used diced tomatoes and included about half the cumin and chili powder.  It was unbelievably easy and the flavor outstanding. 

Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oatmeal
This has been my favorite overnight oatmeal recipe so far.  I did not include protein powder or pumpkin seeds.  I might include some vanilla next time-- and there will be a next time.

As you can see, I've been busy.  Here's what I want to try next:
Pumpkin Applesauce
Pumpkin chocolate chip oatmeal breakfast cookies

I just love lists.  And as usual, I have already done the research for you, so get to work.  And if you live in Boston, go to Root in Allston and try their pumpkin pancakes- they will blow your mind.

Blogger's Soundtrack
 Lorde - "Yellow Flicker Beat"