Friday, August 8, 2014

Vegan Wanderlust

I've had quite an eventful summer - probably the busiest one I've had in a long time - from running the summer school program to catching up with friends and family on Long Island, to having my brother out to Boston for a week and visiting Portland, Maine- it has been lots of fun.  I tried to think about some vegan themes that popped up over the past month, but really I just encountered a bunch of vegan things that I loved in a variety of places.  So this may a bit random, but summer is all about having the freedom to explore- whether it's taking the time to discover something new at the grocery store, try a new recipe, or take a road trip.  Here's what I found.  Enjoy.

Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Blueberries
I love this brand but I had never tasted the blueberry variety - it's so good!  Throw some extra antioxidants in with my dark chocolate and I'm not going to complain about it.

Trader Joe's Super Spinach Salad
I think this may be my favorite salad ever - it includes edamame, pumpkin seeds, quiona, dried cranberries, and a delicious carrot-ginger dressing. Here's a link to make the salad yourself, but seriously, just drop by Trader Joe's and pick it up for $4.  I would not mind eating it daily.


Gorgeous Gelato - Portland, Maine
The place has vegan gelato - who knew this even existed?  It seems like they have a few different vegan varieties each day. 

Vegan Cupcakes at Local Sprouts Cooperative - Portland, Maine
I've talked about this place before, but I must now mention the gigantic strawberry-vanilla cupcake I ate single-handedly on my latest visit.  Where has this cupcake been all my life.



This Recipe for Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream
Acquire an ice cream maker and make some at once.

Homemade Sangria
I tried this recipe and I would probably add less soda next time.  I love love love Sangria in the summer so I'll continue experimenting on this front.

Vegan Food at Weddings
There was a time when I worked in catering - tuxedo and all - and let me tell you, when someone requested a vegetarian meal, they got some pasta with a few vegetables on top.  This has led me to harbor anxiety at wedding receptions.  But look at the kinds of things I get to eat!  Delightful!


Iced Tea
I've gotten really into iced tea this summer.  I enjoy the variety of iced teas at Starbucks and a friend introduced me to Steaz

Cornbread Waffles with Peach Compote at Root
I love Root.  They have the best vegan brunch in the world.  My brother ordered these waffles and they were amazing.


Smoothies at Live Alive - Cambridge, MA
I love Life Alive but I rarely go there.  It's a shame, too, because the Elvis smoothie is incredible - peanut butter, cocoa powder, Fomu ice cream, banana, and rice milk.  All the components of my perfect meal.

Shiraleah Vegan Leather
I spent the entire summer looking for an awesome wallet, and I finally scored one made from vegan leather while in Portland.  And it only cost $12!


It's been a good summer.  Really, vegans, the world is your oyster.  Except leave those poor oysters alone.




Blogger's Soundtrack
John Mayer - Cover of Beyonce's "XO"
Listen to the Afternoon Acoustic station on Spotify - it's great!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Vegan Ice Cream Cake

School's out for the summer!  Until summer school, that is.  The end of the school year was a frenzy, as usual, and the kids knew that I would bring in a vegan dessert to celebrate their hard work.  I generally bake a cake, but it was a bit hot to turn the oven on that week.  I stumbled across a recipe for ice cream pie on Pinterest, and decided to give it a try.  What I came up with was my own very similar version, which is a cake, rather than a pie.  I even went to the vegan ice cream parlor and bought some of their hot fudge to include in the cake.

Ingredients
1/2 box chocolate Teddy Grahams
5 tablespoons melted Earth Balance
1 pint Trader Joe's chocolate coconut milk ice cream
1 pint Trader Joe's strawberry coconut milk ice cream
1/2 bag Trader Joe's semisweet chocolate chips
*vegan hot fudge, cooled

What to Do
1.  Mash the Teddy Grahams into crumbs using a potato masher.
2.  Melt the Earth Balance and combine it with the cookie crumbs until evenly coated. 
3.  Press the cookie crumb mixture into the bottom of a square Pyrex dish.  Freeze for 30 minutes.
4.  Pull the frozen cookie crumbs out of the freezer.  Mash one flavor of ice cream evenly onto the cookie crumb crust, followed by the second layer, giving you two layers of ice cream.
5.  If you are including vegan hot fudge, spread that on top of the ice cream layers.
6.  Spread the chocolate chips over the top of the cake.
7.  Freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.

This ice cream cake was very easy to make, and my 5th and 6th graders loved it.  I used the Trader Joe's ice cream because it's cheap (vegan ice cream can be so pricey) and delicious.  You can use whatever brand or flavor you like.  There's a lot of room for experimenting with this recipe - so have fun!



Blogger's Soundtrack
Sia - "Chandelier"
 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Vegan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

The number of posts on this blog directly correlates to the amount of spare time in my schedule.  I have not posted since April.  Any teacher knows the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year are the best of times and the worst of times.  But mostly the worst of times with regard to the amount of items on the to-do list.  That being said, there are two weeks left until summer vacation and I cannot wait.

On with the blogging.

Two weeks ago I went to Michigan for the wedding of one of my best friends.  The bride and groom met at the University of Michigan, so the wedding was held in Ann Arbor.  I had never been to Michigan before, but having lived with the bride for five years, watching lots of Michigan sporting events, and hearing all about the place, I was excited to finally see what it was all about. 

First of all, the campus at the University of Michigan is beautiful.  I got a walking tour and the place was just so green.  I liked how you could hang out amid this lovely scenery or walk just down the street and find a bunch of little shops and restaurants.  I have not been to many large university campuses, so I was really marveling at the size of everything.  At one point we were driving and the stadium came out of nowhere, with the gigantic letter M towering above us.  Did you know that it's the largest football stadium in the country?  Well, it is.






I had heard lots of rumors about the thriving vegan scene in Ann Arbor, and I will cut to the chase and say I was not disappointed.  I will also say that I am always amazed when friends go out of their way to make sure I have something decent to eat.  Especially when it's their wedding weekend.  When I arrived we ate at a place called Seva Restaurant.  It was a large restaurant, for a vegan joint, and everything on the menu sounded excellent.  I wanted to try everything, but I went for the Cilantro-Peanut Stir Fry.   It was kind of spicy and really delicious. The menu also included a bunch of juices, desserts, and even milk shakes.  I recommend it if you are ever in the area.  As we were driving around, I noticed a bunch of other places with "vegan" in the title, so I'm going to go ahead and say there are many other veg-friendly options, as well. 



The wedding was held at the Ann Arbor Brewing Company.  Generally there are not too many vegan choices at breweries so I did not have high hopes.  I was wrong.  I almost fell over when they brought out an entire "Special Diet" menu for me to choose from.  I chose the Vegan Boxy Stack, which was "two sweet potato and lentil cakes layered with spicy arugula, juicy tomato, fresh guacamole and thin-cut beer battered onion rings, topped with lemon tahini dip. served with today’s seasonal vegetable."  I regret that I did not take a picture.  It was a fantastic meal, and I couldn't even finish the whole thing.  There were also vegan spring rolls at the cocktail hour, and two vegan cupcakes for me (they are pictured in a separate box off to the side).


It's a good thing I ate so much, because there was a lot of dancing to be done!  I had a great time at the wedding, and in Ann Arbor overall.  I even got hit on by the brother of a celebrity.  But that's another story.




Blogger's Soundtrack
Iggy Azalea - "Fancy"
 



Monday, April 21, 2014

black bean, sweet potato, and red quinoa stuffed peppers

Happy Spring!  It's April break for teachers here in Boston, and I have a gigantic to-do list, Rory Gilmore style.  I've become immersed in spring cleaning over the past few days, along with taking on some crafty projects, and planning out my balcony garden.  I'm also back into running, now that I'm no longer limited to the treadmill, and I'm trying to get back into vegan cooking and baking!  It's going to be a productive week.

Speaking of cooking, yesterday I tried something new for Easter dinner.   I love stuffed peppers, and I actually had not made them in years, when I came across this recipe on Pinterest, and decided to alter it a bit.  Red quinoa, sweet potatoes, black beans, and red bell peppers - some of my favorite foods thrown together - and let me tell you, the results were incredible.  I topped the whole thing off with avocado and grape tomatoes to substitute for the cheese.  This is one of the best dishes I've ever made.  And it was not hard. 


Ingredients
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 red bell peppers, sliced in half with seeds removed
olive oil cooking spray
Avocado and tomatoes

Directions
1.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Combine the red quinoa and vegetable broth and cook according to package directions.
3.  Fill a medium pot with water and add the diced sweet potatoes.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.  Drain.
4.  Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil in a large skillet until translucent.  Add the black beans, cumin, and chili powder.
5.  Combine the red quinoa, sweet potatoes, and onions/black bean mix in the skillet.
6.   Arrange the bell peppers in a Pyrex dish.  Coat the peppers and dish with cooking spray.  Fill the peppers with the quinoa mixture. 
7.  Bake for 25 minutes.
8.  Top the peppers with sliced avocado and tomatoes to serve.


The great thing about this recipe is that you can do each step while you wait for the previous pot to cook.  It does require two small pots, a skillet, and a Pyrex dish, which is a lot if you're working in a small kitchen, but it's doable.  This meal is super healthy, incorporating protein with the quinoa, healthy fats with the avocado, and lots of Vitamin A with the sweet potato and red peppers.  It's also super filling.  So try it! 




Soundtrack
Juanes - "La Luz"

 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunny Side Up

This was just not my week.  I was at the vet twice with Seamus, and was in a panic about what was going on with him.  I felt frantic at work due to the amount of paperwork I need to complete this month, and was having individual conversations with students about their behavior in every free moment.  Yesterday I went on a day-long field trip with the sixth graders, and by that point I just did not have the prerequisite patience and energy left over for such an excursion.  By the time I got home yesterday, I had no food in the house, the apartment was a mess, and I had three loads of laundry beckoning.  So I'm glad it's Sunday.  I've already snuggled with my cats, cleaned the place, and done the laundry.  I look forward to getting a good workout, and after that I will tackle some of that schoolwork so I can feel more in control this week.  And I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the antibiotics work for Mr. Mus.

On the vegan side of things, I've been eating whatever is most convenient in the moment this week, so this morning I decided to make a decent breakfast.  Ever since eating that delicious brunch at Root, I've been craving some vanilla pancakes.  I'm notoriously bad at making pancakes.  I can't seem to figure out what the appropriate time is for flipping, so my pancakes never actually look like pancakes.  It's why I prefer making waffles.  I found this recipe for Very Vanilla Pancakes, and the pictures looked lovely, so I decided to try it.  The batter was super thick, which made it quite easy to flip these pancakes.  The recipe made about six.  They didn't taste bad, per se, but they weren't really the consistency of pancakes.  It was more like eating a vanilla scone, because they were very dense, rather than fluffy.  Another pancake attempt gone wrong.  What can you do.  At least my cat is basking in the sun and purring like a machine.







Soundtrack
Ingrid Michaelson - "Girls Chase Boys"

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sensational Salads

Vegans sometimes get teased for eating so-called "rabbit-food."  I'll admit that before I adopted the veg-lifestyle, I did not view salads as a complete meal option.  But these days I've seen the error of my ways, and I eat a giant, sensational salad almost every day.  In order to have a great salad you have to get creative, mix it up, and include everything you love.  Don't settle for some iceberg lettuce and a few tomato slices when you could be eating an awesome salad including some of the following ingredients:

  • Lettuce/spinach/kale/and so forth - at any decent grocery store there will be a delightful assortment of greens to serve as the foundation for your salad.  I enjoy baby spinach and kale.  I'm not a fan of arugula or romaine.  Whatever floats your boat.
  • Tomatoes - grape, cherry, heirloom, Roma - if you are a fan of tomatoes, there are a bunch to choose from, and you can mix it up from time to time.  I'm currently on a grape tomato kick.  Delish.
  • Cucumbers.  No salad is complete without cucumbers.  Period.
  • Red bell peppers - so tasty.
  • Avocado - I chop up half an avocado and throw it into every salad.  There's your Omega-3 and healthy fat.  You can't go wrong with avocado.
  • Nuts and seeds.  I lovelovelove lightly salted sunflower seeds or chopped cashews in a salad.
  • Steamed edamame.  I noticed it in the produce section one day.  Score.
  • Roasted vegetables - if I roast bell peppers, zucchini, and onion for a pasta dish or pizza, I'll serve it over greens as leftovers another night.
  • Your favorite salad dressing.  This really can make or break a salad.  And you must toss it in a colander or an official salad spinner so the dressing is evenly distributed. I typically go with an organic oil and vinegar dressing of some variety.  Simple yet flavorful.
 What I'm getting at here is that, in case you hadn't figured it out yet, salads are wonderful.  Those salad-in-a-mason-jar things are the rage right now, too, so if you want to be trendy, go for it.  Salads are meant to be individualized.  You do you.



 Blogger's Soundtrack
Death Cab - "Soul Meets Body"

Friday, March 28, 2014

Reinventing Feminism

Lately I've noticed a lot of writers critiquing the emergence of feminism as the newest fad, since everyone from Lady Gaga to Lorde is embracing the label.  It's not the mainstreaming of feminism which is causing the raised eyebrows, so much as the idea that celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon with shallow/misguided reasoning and therefore detracting from the authenticity of the entire movement/philosophy/whatever it has morphed into these days.  Gloria Steinem turned 80 yesterday, and this has also led to a great deal of reflection on what feminism means in 2014.  On Tuesday an op-ed piece entitled "Feminism is no longer a dirty word" appeared on CNN.  This past fall Miley Cyrus called herself "one of the biggest feminists in the world," and The Daily Beast weighed in on the futility of trying to fit feminism into a neat little box.  What does it mean to be a feminist, and is it problematic when celebrities who embrace the label one moment contradict it the next?  Beyonce has probably been the most enigmatic recent example.  She appeared on the cover of Ms. Magazine and released an album that was praised in that publication: "This is how a grown woman sings and celebrates love, sex, passion, motherhood, family, community, the world—with some feminist theory in the mix."   Yet earlier this month, an article in The Washington Post blasted her: "whatever her ultimate beliefs or intentions, Beyonce can’t tell women to bow down and stand up at the same time."  I love that Beyonce album, but I do find aspects of it problematic.  At the end of the day, what intrigued me the most about it was the fact that it made people talk - about feminism.  I honestly don't think Gloria Steinem cares what the specific definition of the term is, or how people embody the idea, so long as it is consistently remains a relevant part of the discussion in a society where gender equality is not yet a reality.  When I was a freshman in college, a girl in my Intro to Lit class asked me, "you're not one of those crazy feminists, are you?"  That girl later became my roommate and one of my best friends, and finally a self-proclaimed feminist, after living with this Women's Studies major for three years.  If feminism can be reinvented as a mainstream mind-set that can be embodied in lots of ways, rather than framed as a pejorative term, I'm all for it.  Same thing with veganism.  Next I would like Beyonce to begin calling herself a "cat lady" - then I'll be all set.