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"