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"

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Quest for the Best Vegan Brownie

I'm very mission-oriented.  There are typically a handful of "missions" that I'm working towards at any given time.  I'm currently training for a half marathon - that's a big one.  I feel like I have to tell everyone about it, (a) so that I'm forced to follow through with the thing, and (b) I've always viewed myself as so unathletic that this is a tremendous feat for me.  That being said, over the past few months I've also, among other things, been on a quest for the best vegan brownie.

There are a few foods that I actually do miss since becoming vegan-- canolis, egg salad, and brownies are on the top of the list.  There are definitely vegan editions of each, but to me, they have not lived up to the originals.  The brownie is the one that bothers me the most.  I went through a phase in college where I baked brownies on a weekly basis.  Ghiradelli brownies with extra chocolate chips.  So fudgey.  Vegan brownies are really not fudgey.  They are cakey.  I've tried baking banana brownies, peanut butter brownies, pumpkin brownies, brownies with black beans-- you name it.  I've also sampled brownies at various vegan establishments.  As you can tell, I've been very committed to this endeavor.

Here are my top three brownies:

1.  Peanut Butter Ganache Brownie from Wildflour Bakery in Providence.
A layer of peanut butter, a layer of dark chocolate ganache.  So very rich - and not cakey.

2.  Pumpkin Pie Brownies from the Post Punk Kitchen.
These are a favorite for Thanksgiving dessert.

3.  This recipe for peanut butter chocolate brownies.
I randomly found this one last week.  It's super easy, and even gluten free.  The results are a-maz-ing -- quite rich and nothing like cake, since there's no flour at all. 

Mission complete.

Blogger's Soundtrack
 Katy Perry - "This is How We Do"

Monday, September 22, 2014

Vegan Mac and "Cheese"

I've been told I don't update the blog enough.  Which is true.  The start and end of the school year are the most hectic times for teachers, besides Thanksgiving, Christmas, standardized testing... actually, it's crazy all the time, so this is no excuse.  One of my coworkers started a vegan meal exchange, because as it happens, there are now two other vegans and two vegetarians on the staff this year.  The idea was that each person would cook one giant meal on Sunday nights, portion it out, and switch at work on Monday in order to enjoy a wider variety during the week without all the work.  The first week I prepared a chickpea kale stew and ended up with a bean and potato casserole and a sweet potato beet hash.  Both were tasty!  The next time I didn't end up participating, but one of the teachers brought in a butternut squash mac and "cheese" with kale.  I was jealous and decided to make my own mac and "cheese."  Obviously I got on Pinterest to do some "research."  I found this recipe for Cauliflower Macaroni and "Cheese."  I used shells instead of macaroni pasta, to which I have a weird aversion, and skipped the last step with the Panko bread crumbs and broiling.  This was also the first time I've ever cooked with nutritional yeast - don't know how that happened.  It took me a minute to get over the fact that I was eating something that looked like cheese but was not actually cheese, but once I did, I liked it a lot.  Way healthier than what I used to eat in college. 

Blogger's Soundtrack
Kasey Musgraves - "Follow Your Arrow"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Overnight Oatmeal

I'm not a big breakfast person.  The only things I'll eat are cereal with almond milk or something like pancakes or waffles.  Definitely nothing savory.  Smoothies are alright, I guess, but I don't really have the time to whip something up in the morning before work.  And by the time I get to work, the bowl of cereal I ate at 6 AM really isn't holding me over until lunch.  This is why my discovery of overnight oatmeal has been so exciting.  You throw some oats (not quick cooking), your choice of milk, and ingredients that will add flavor, into a mason jar or Tupperware container, and leave it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, you have some yummy oatmeal.  It doesn't have to be heated, which has made it perfect for me to take to work and eat at my desk.

Here are two recipes I've tried so far:

Banana/Nut Butter Oatmeal
1 cup oats
1 cup vanilla almond milk
1 mashed banana
1 package Justin's chocolate hazelnut butter OR 2 spoonfuls of peanutbutter

Applesauce Oatmeal
1 cup oats
1/2 cup vanilla almond mlik
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and seal it up tightly!

Today I bought some vanilla almond butter, which I will try this week, and once the weather is cooler, I'll make some pumpkin oatmeal, as well.  So many possibilities!

Blogger's Soundtrack
The Beatles - "Yesterday"

Spicy Spaghetti Squash Tacos

It's 91 degrees in September!  I think I'll spend the rest of the day in my air conditioned apartment, thank you.  School has started, so I'm back to cooking huge meals on Sunday night to eat for the rest of the week.  I'm also training for a half marathon, so I need some extra calories!  I find lots of recipes on Pinterest, and I was enticed by this one for spicy spaghetti squash with black beans.  I like spaghetti squash, but you really need some elbow grease-- or a chain saw-- to slice that thing open.  Hopefully you own a better knife than I do, because this is a delicious meal!  Overall, I stuck to the original recipe, but I did not include the cilantro or sea salt.  Then I used the squash mixture as soft shell taco filling and topped it off with chopped cherry tomatoes and avocado.  Yum!  I even ate some cold with blue corn tortilla chips as a snack later in the week.  Try it!

Blogger's Soundtrack
Coldplay - "Sky Full of Stars"

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 Life 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.

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. 

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

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! 

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.

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.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Wildflour Vegan Bakery - Pawtucket, RI

Despite the fact that I went to college in Providence and drive through there fairly frequently on the way down to the ferry in Connecticut, I had never been to Wildflour Vegan Bakery and Juice Bar in Pawtucket, RI until today.  I'm ashamed to admit this, but I do have a reasonable explanation.  In Arizona, there is a place called Wildflower Bread Company, and somehow, whenever anyone asked me, "Have you been to Wildflour?", this is what I thought they were talking about.  Foolish, I know.  I finally figured out that there is a full-fledged vegan bakery just an hour's drive from Boston, and I checked it out with a friend today.  I was not disappointed.  They have a variety of cupcakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, and bars in the showcase, along with lots of beverages, including smoothies.  Oh, and lots of their stuff is gluten-free, too.  I tried a gluten-free lemon vanilla cupcake, which was delightful - the cake was dense and the frosting tasted like butter cream.  I also brought home a giant chocolate chip cookie and a peanut butter brownie - nomnomnom.  Anyone who knows me knows I love a good smooothie, and there were plenty to choose from.  I went with a refreshing berry-flavored ice tea, though, which was sweet, but not too sweet.  Loved it.

The place was hopping, but there were plenty of seats inside and outside, and we were able to snag a table.  I definitely plan on stopping by Wildflour whenever I'm in the area again - and what's more, there's a vegetarian restaurant just a few doors down - Garden Grille Cafe!  Today was a good day for vegan discoveries.

Blogger's Soundtrack
Justin Timberlake - "Not A Bad Thing"
(featuring the LIRR  - hah!)


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vegan and Irish

St. Patty's Day weekend in Boston - today everyone and their mother was at the grocery store buying corn beef and cabbage.  And beer.  Last year I went to the parade with friends, but I won't be doing that again this year.  Even after experiencing March 17th four times at Providence College, I found it pretty hectic.  Although it doesn't really seem like St. Pat's without a parade.  I marched in one every year when I was younger, first as a Girl Scout and then with the marching band.  I think I can still play the Irish March on my flute from memory.  I can definitely whistle it.

This year, I'll be cooking up an Irish dinner and gearing up for a hectic week at work instead.  I scoured the internet for some simple yet tasty-sounding vegan renditions of classic Irish recipes.  I went with shepherd's pie and oven roasted garlic cabbage.  For the shepherd's pie I don't plan on including the gravy- just not my thang.  I also already whipped up a mint chocolate mousse topped with crumbled mint oreos, by using this recipe minus the pie crust and vegan cool whip.  I will provide some photos of the results, but I'm sure the meal will be grand.

Blogger's Soundtrack
Dropkick Murphys - "Shipping Up to Boston"

Monday, March 10, 2014

Being Vegan is Fun

According to Blogger, someone found this site by Googling "being vegan is fun."  I like it.  Maybe that should by my new slogan.  Seeing that made me think of my post "When Being Vegan Isn't Fun," which, for whatever reason, caused a huge reaction within just a few hours.  Now, this entire blog is about the multitude of ways being vegan is terrific, but the one time I'm in a snarky mood and write a tongue-in-cheek post, the entire world checks out the blog.  Gosh. 

I made this Wordle to encompass some of the reasons I love being vegan.  I even became really savvy and learned how to use the Snippet tool in order to include it here. 

However, this graphic doesn't begin to convey all of the great experiences I have had all because I started reading books like The Kind Diet and Eating Animals and one day decided to go vegan.  Most of this stuff doesn't even make it to this blog, because it's just part of my daily reality.  There was the first time I tried to bake a vegan cake and it looked like two pancakes with some frosting slapped on top, but somehow tasted fine.  There was the afternoon my brother and I found a vegan restaurant run by hippies in Sedona, complete with a psychedelic van and gigantic flowers straight out of the 70's painted all around the perimeter of the parking lot.  We ate some really tasty raw desserts that day.  There was the birthday when my entire family came together to attempt grilling pizza.  Everyone had a job, from transferring the dough onto the grill to adding the sauce and vegetables, and while some of the dough ended up dripping through the grates on the first try, some of the vegetables landed on the patio, and I yelled at everyone, the pizza was fantastic and nobody will soon forget that cooking experience.   There were the vegan Thanksgivings with friends in Phoenix, when we weren't sure the meal would be acceptable without animal ingredients, and ended up feasting on vegetables and vegan stuffing for days.  There was the time I dragged my friend to the vegetarian food festival and after getting lost driving around Roxbury for an hour we found ourselves in a gym so jam-packed with veg-enthusiasts that we both felt claustrophobic but still scored some delicious vegan canolis.  There were all the meals I cooked with my roommate as a guinea pig.  I like to think they were all delicious, but I can't be sure.

I call these my vegan adventures.  Adventures in cooking, baking, seeking out new restaurants, trying colorful and creative vegan dishes, and living outside the box.  Being vegan is fun.  You should try it.


Blogger's Soundtrack
Foster the People - "Coming of Age"

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Brunch at Root

In Phoenix there were not many places serving vegan brunch.  In fact, I can only think of one.  I was pleasantly surprised when I moved to Boston and discovered that there were not only lots of vegan restaurants, but many of them also served weekend brunch.  Super -- only I never actually got around to going to said brunches because I was busy doing things like laundry and school work.  Excuses, excuses.  This morning I did the laundry extra early, went for a run, and then walked over to brunch with a friend.  It was slightly colder than the 50 degrees we saw yesterday in this neck of the woods, but still good weather to go for a walk, and to wait outside in the sun for a table to open up at Root.

The place serves brunch from 9:30-2:30 on Saturdays and Sundays.  We got there at about 11:45 and waited forty minutes for a table.  It's kind of what I expected, since the restaurant is quite small.  The restaurant was occupied by a crowd of twenty-somethings sporting thick-rimmed glasses, combat boots, and dresses with leggings.  You know, the usual.  We were seated at a high-top at the window- our favorite spot to people-watch.  The menu was actually a bit different than the one I had seen on their website.  There were two different types of pancakes, and neither had fruit as an option, while waffles were not listed at all.  I ordered the vanilla pancakes (with 100% maple syrup) and sweet potato home rries.  My friend selected the tostadas, which also looked like a new menu item to me, and home fries (clearly).  

The food was served pretty quickly, and it was really, really good.  The pancakes were so vanilla-y and topped with powdered sugar.  The sweet potatoes were just the way I like them - roasted to perfection.  The meal was huge, so I ended up bringing some of the sweet potatoes home with me.  Tomorrow's lunch will be stellar!  The tostadas got the thumbs up from my friend.  I am not a fan of savory breakfast foods, but they looked lovely, if you like that sort of thing!

I don't know why I waited so long to try brunch at Root, but I will definitely be back.  I should also get around to trying out some of the other vegan brunches in Boston.  So many vegan adventures await.

Blogger's Soundtrack
Vance Joy - "Riptide"
I saw this band open for Young the Giant last weekend, and I liked this song.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Amy's Kitchen

I'm really not big into frozen food.  In college I was kind of obsessed with curly fries, but that seems like ages ago.  I have no idea why people would eat frozen vegetables when they can buy fresh ones.  My freezer literally contains some ice trays, meals I've cooked in large batches and then frozen to eat throughout the week, and a few burritos from Amy's Kitchen.  Speaking of which, does anyone else love Amy's Kitchen?  All of their products are vegetarian and made from real, organic ingredients, and there are lots of vegan choices.  Amy's products can be found in many grocery stores throughout the country, and they are generally not too pricy.  I had no idea how many products the company actually offered until I perused the website.  I have a few favorites which are pretty much a staple in my diet during busy weeks.

1.  Bean and Rice Burrito - Non-Dairy
I eat two or three of these per week, and I've been doing so for years.  I just never tire of these things.  I bring them to work when I'll be there late so I can be sure to have a decent dinner. They're the

2.  Indian Samosa Wrap
Sometimes I eat these instead of the bean burritos if I want to switch things up a bit.  There's tofu inside and I actually like it.  Yes, I'm vegan and I don't really like tofu.

3.  Organic Lentil-Vegetable Soup (low sodium)
I'm not a big fan of soup, but I do love this variety, and it really hits the spot.

4.  Roasted Vegetable Pizza
It's just so good, and I can eat it for dinner over two nights.

Here's a list of all the vegan products Amy's Kitchen offers.  What a great company!

Blogger's Soundtrack
Sister Hazel - "All For You" (Acoustic)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Freakishly Un-Vegan Products

The more I read food labels and articles about food labels, the more I realize that a vegan has to be careful because animal products are hidden in the least likely of places.  Evil of evils!  Just when thought you had it all figured out, you realize that your orange juice may include products derived from fish or sheep's wool.  Weird.  Gross.  Rude.  Here's some info so you don't end up eating crunched up beetles, lard, or something equally disturbing.

Products you thought were vegan but actually aren't:

1.  Tropicana Heart Healthy Orange Juice.
I've read that the Omega3 comes from fish.  Also, the OJ fortified with Vitamin D3 contains derivatives of sheep's wool.  What the heck?

2.  FritoLay Chips - Specifically, the BBQ variety.
The BBQ chips contain "natural seasoning," which contains chicken flavoring.  Some of the other chips have pork enzymes.  Why?

3.  Altoids.
Made with gelatin.  Curiously minty.   Curiously not vegan.

4.  Worcestershire Sauce.
Made with anchovies.  I wasn't a fan anyway.

5.  Cesar Salad Dressing.
Also made with anchovies.  I feel like this is a pretty well known fact, though.

6.  Refried beans.
Made with lard.  Gag.

7.  Beer.
Some brands use gelatin or fish bladder as a filtering agent.  You can find a list of vegan beers here.  Thanks, VegNews.

8.  Thai Curry Paste.
Made with fish oil.  Doesn't seem necessary.

9.  Cake Mixes include beef fat.  White sugar is filtered with bone char.  It's just not right.

10.  Packaged peanuts.
Contain gelatin.  Planters Peanuts are not your friend.

11.  Flu Shot.
Contains egg products.

Ingredients to look out for:

Casein, lactose, whey, butterfat, buttermilk, ghee - from milk
Fish Oil or Omega-3 enriched - from fish
Gelatin - made from fish bones and connective tissues
Lanolin o r unspecified Vitamin D3 - from the wool of slaughtered sheep

While this information can be rather unsettling, the upside is that the consumer does have some power.  When it became known that Starbucks was using crushed beetles to make the Strawberries and Cream Frappuccino, there was such an uproar that they changed the ingredients.  So read labels, know your stuff, and don't be afraid to yell at a company that is hiding animal products in otherwise perfectly vegan food items.

Blogger's Soundtrack
Foo Fighters - "EverLong"

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My Whole Foods Addiction

It's March 1st - we're so close to Spring, but I'll try not to get too excited, since the forecast is for snow on Monday.  I'm currently laying in bed with my two snuggly cats, writing out my grocery list and listening to Keane, a band which takes me back to college.  Back then I lived in an apartment with three of my best friends, and we would take weekly shopping trips to Shaw's Market in Providence.  Somehow it recently came up in a conversation at work that people hate grocery shopping.  I love my weekly groceries trips and always have, since the days when it first became a ritual with my roommates.  I love perusing the aisles, humming along with the grocery-store music, seeing the same people each week, and returning home to stock my cabinets for the week.  Back in college I shopped at Shaw's.  In Phoenix I frequented a few places - Safeway, Sprout's, and Trader Joe's.  Now that I'm back in New England I prefer Shaw's Star Market, which has a sizable health food section.  I also live quite close to a Whole Foods, and to jump on the bandwagon with the rest of the veg-friendly population, it has become my new fave.  Yep, it can be expensive, but Whole Foods carries more of the items I can eat.  Here's what I love about it:

1.  To start, Whole Foods has the best produce that I've seen (in stores) in Boston.  I got pretty spoiled with the produce situation in Phoenix, so I appreciate a variety of fresh produce all the more.  Hooray for fresh fruits and vegetables!

2.  Hummus.  Theirs is the best, and it's darn cheap.  The original and roasted red pepper are my favorites.

3.  Vegan baked goods.  They carry cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and all sorts of other yummy treats.  I even found vegan ruggelah!

4.   Vegetable sushi.  It's delicious and far cheaper than take-out.  I pick some up on a weekly basis, and it makes a great dinner.

5.  365 Brand items, in general.  The Whole Foods store-brand items are really quite good.  I really like their chips, in particular.

6.  Pizza dough.  Kind of random,  but their pizza dough is great.  There are a few varieties, it's cheap, and it doesn't disappoint.

I don't do all of my shopping at Whole Foods, but I stop by if I'm looking for any of these items. Each time I go in there, I usually come out with at least one new thing to try, since there are plenty of other vegan prepared soups and salads and made-to-order meals at the counter. Although I won't be buying the vegan "chick'n salad" anytime soon.  So snarky.

They've also got a great Pinterest board going, and there are vegan recipes on the main website.  I like it.

Blogger's Soundtrack
Keane - "Somewhere Only We Know"

Friday, February 28, 2014

I left my heart in Phoenix.

I've never gone from 20 to 84 degree weather before, but that's what happened when I went to visit Phoenix last week.  It's been remarkably cold and snowy here in the Northeast this winter, and so I appreciated my trip to the Southwest all the more, in addition to the fact that I had not been back there for over a year and a half.  Being back in Phoenix made me feel as though I had never left, except that my former students were older, new shops and a community garden had popped up in the neighborhood, and my old apartment was inhabited by someone else.  There are things I loved about living in Phoenix, and things I love about living in Boston, and I guess it's just part of being able to call more than one place "home" that leaves one happy yet nostalgic.  It's hard not to yearn for the past when the only things you are immersed in on a trip like that are the things you loved the most.

Besides the philosophical musings that were the underpinning for my trip, there were some vegan-related developments in Phoenix.  First of all, to my surprise and delight, some of the menus at my favorite restaurants have added new vegan meals.  Maizie's now has a vegan burger, and True Food Kitchen has a really enjoyable "winter ingredient" salad, which includes sweet potatoes and cauliflower, two of my favorites.  In addition, there is a new place called the Refuge Cafe, which has opened on 7th Ave, just south of Camelback.  I stopped in for lunch with a friend, and we both really enjoyed the food and scene overall.  We both tried the "seasonal vegetable panini," in which I was able to substitute hummus for the pesto.  I had the chips and salsa and my friend ordered a side salad.  The food was quite delicious, and I had enough leftovers for lunch the next day.  There was also a variety of iced teas and lemonades, and I tried some type of blueberry iced tea, which I found delicious and quite refreshing.  The place itself is much bigger than I anticipated, with two sizable sitting areas indoors, and an outdoor patio.  There was even enough room for a group ukelele lesson to take place while we ate.  Besides the tasty food, what's really neat about this cafe is that it provides funding to nonprofits throughout the Valley and sells and displays art and hand crafted items from refugees around the world.  I definitely recommend this place if you're in the area.

Overall I'm so glad I made the trip.  It was a nice break, but more than that, wonderful to see both friends and students doing well. Until next time, sunshine, shorts, and Phoenix.

Blogger's Soundtrack
Young the Giant - "Garands"