Saturday, November 26, 2011

Top Vegan Christmas Gifts

Thanksgiving is over, consumers have shopped their Black Friday hearts out, and the Christmas season is upon us.  This year I have been thinking about useful gifts to put on my list and to give to others.  I try to avoid the mall at all costs during the holiday season, so all of these can be purchased locally or online. 
  1. Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook 
           This is the most comprehensive guide to vegan cooking, and includes
           250 recipes and tips for the kitchen. 

  1. BabyCakes Cookbook
Bomb recipes for the vegan with a sweet tooth.

  1. Gift card to Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, the local public market, or your friendly health food store
Nothing better than free groceries!

  1. Bountiful Baskets or your local equivalent
Find a co-op that distributes fruit once or twice per month or enroll in a service to have fruit delivered on a monthly basis.

  1. Gift basket of vegan food items
Some of the better vegan products can be a bit pricey, so a basket of animal-free items would be a fantastic gift.

  1. Animal-free beauty basket
Some products carry the vegan label, such as certain shampoos at LUSH.  Stores such as Trader Joe’s carry many vegan beauty products.  Just make sure that whatever you buy is vegan, and not just cruelty-free.

  1. A pair of vegan TOM’s
Practical and stylish!

  1. Vegetarian Times magazine subscription
Great recipes, shopping tips, and kitchen advice—it’s one of my favorite reads!

  1. A gift from a local business or craft fair
Lots of vegans appreciate locally produced or handmade gifts.  Plus, a gift like this can be much more special than one that could be purchased just anywhere.  If you don't have a local craft fair, you could even order something from Etsy

  1. A gift that passes the Good Guide filter for animal welfare
I have just added the Good Guide app to my iPhone and wow!  It allows you to scan bar codes and learn the “real deal” behind all kinds of products.  I highly recommend it for doing a background check on your holiday purchases.


Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Vegan Thanksgiving

One of the hardest things about my first year of being vegan was the holidays.  We all have certain traditions, and abandoning those in search of new ones is not easy.  Sure, going vegan may sound super in terms of the health and environmental benefits, but wait!  No chocolate Easter eggs?  No Halloween candy?  When you realize that you have given up mom’s famous pudding pie on your birthday, eggnog on Christmas, and turkey on Thanksgiving, being vegan becomes a much greater challenge.  Never mind that the pudding pie gives you a stomach ache, last year you had three cavities filled after Halloween, and Eggnog is downright gross.  What would life be without these family and cultural customs?!  How will you attend holiday celebrations with your new vegan lifestyle in tow?  What will you eat?  Will you spend the entire evening being interrogated?  As November approaches the halfway mark, you wonder, can a vegan “do” Thanksgiving?

Last year was my first vegan Thanksgiving, and it was amazing.  Luckily, besides the turkey, Thanksgiving is all about the vegetables; think of that cornucopia, brimming over!  We learned that it was fairly simple to ensure that all of the side dishes, like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and assorted vegetables, were animal-free.  The meat-eaters in the group brought their own turkey.  I sat at one end of the table, and the turkey sat at the other.  As I have mentioned before, I am not a big fan of fake meats, so Tofurky was not an option (yuck!). Instead, for the main vegan dish, I prepared acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, cranberries, and toasted almonds.  Vegan desserts are a cinch; there was a delicious cobbler and my favorite pumpkin cake with chocolate frosting.   


All in all, there were some new traditions created, but it was really about altering some of our old customs slightly to ensure that everyone could enjoy the day.  My friends were more than accommodating, and we all had a lovely time.  In addition, I don’t think anyone felt as disgusting as in past years by the end of the night, since our meal was much healthier than the usual Thanksgiving spread.  So log into VegWeb, break out your favorite vegan cookbook, and create an amazing menu for your vegan Thanksgiving.  Maybe it will be your best Thanksgiving yet. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ooey-Gooey Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

It’s October and I miss having a real “fall” out here in Phoenix.  The weather back in New York is currently cool enough to wear jeans and a sweatshirt and to break out my fantastic fall wardrobe.  I yearn to feel an autumn breeze while picking pumpkins and apples.  I miss driving along I-95 with the vibrant hues of fall painted on a canvas on either side of the road.  Instead, it is 95 degrees in Phoenix, I am still wearing shorts and a tank top, and the air conditioning is pumping in my apartment. 

At this time of year, I go into a fall cooking frenzy to compensate for the lack of what I consider real seasons in the Southwest.  Butternut squash, sweet potato, apple, and, of course, pumpkin dishes are a terrific way to celebrate my favorite time of year, even if there is no authentic autumn weather.  The following is a recipe for chocolate chip pumpkin bread that I modified from one on my go-to site, www.VegWeb.com.  It’s a very simple recipe:

Ingredients:

    1 ¾ cups unbleached flour
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    ¾  teaspoon nutmeg
    ¼ teaspoon allspice
    ¼  teaspoon ginger
    1 and ¼ cup pumpkin puree
    ½ cup Earth Balance, melted
    ¼ cup applesauce
    1/3 cup vanilla soy milk
    1 cup vegan chocolate chips      

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease one loaf pan.

2. Combine dry ingredients. 

3. Mix wet ingredients. Then stir in dry ingredients. 

4. Fold in chocolate chips. 

5. Pour into pan. Bake 45-50 minutes.


The result is a concoction of gooey, chocolaty, vegan goodness.  Wait a few minutes after taking it out of the oven and scoop it right out of the pan, or enjoy after allowing it to cool completely.  Either way, you will not be disappointed.  This is some seriously good pumpkin bread and a delicious treat, whether or not you are pining for autumn. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vegetarian Awareness Month

October is most commonly known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  As a Women’s Studies major in college, I also helped promote Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  But low and behold, I just recently learned that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, too!  Here are ten things you can do to spread awareness and join in the celebration, whether or not you are a vegetarian or a vegan:

  1. Cook a delicious vegetarian or vegan meal for your family and friends.
  2. Read one article or book about the benefits of an animal-free diet.
  3. Check out a vegetarian or vegan website or blog (holler!).
  4. Try the meatless option on the menu at a restaurant.
  5. Try to go at least one day per week without eating meat (Meatless Mondays).
  6. Peruse a vegan or vegetarian cookbook.
  7. Check out a documentary, such as Food Matters, Food Inc., or Forks Over Knives.
  8. Try one of the delicious desserts I posted about in “Cruelty-Free Desserts.”
  9. Pledge to go vegetarian for a day, week, or the entire month, and enter to win between $250 and $1,000 at worldvegetarianday.org!
  10. If you are already a vegetarian or a vegan, pat yourself on the back for helping animals and the Earth every day!