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"

Friday, February 21, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Easy Vegan Dinners

I concocted a few quick dinners this week, and the results were great.  I love when that happens.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burrito

2 sweet potatoes
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 white onion, diced
1 tablespoon cumin
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
spinach, tomatoes, and avocado for toppings
whole wheat wrap

This is a no-frills wrap.  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Peel the sweet potatoes and cube.  Drizzle with olive oil and spread on a baking sheet or a 9 inch Pyrex dish.  Roast for 40 minutes.  While the potatoes are in the oven, heat the diced onion and garlic in a frying pan with olive oil.  Cook until the onions are translucent.  Rinse and drain the black beans and throw that into the pan as well.  Add the cumin.  Once the potatoes and bean mixture are done, spoon some onto a wrap and add your favorite toppings.  Yum.

Diced Veggies and Quinoa

1 cup red quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 white onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
1 green squash, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 scallions, choppped

This meal took 30 minutes to prepare, total.  If you have a vegetable dicer, it makes things very quick.  First, get the quinoa cooking, substituting the vegetable broth for water.  While that pot is on the stove, you can prepare the rest of the meal.  Dice the onions and garlic and saute in olive oil in a large frying pan.  Once the onions are translucent, add in the two types of squash, bell pepper, scallions, and basil.  Stir frequently on medium.  Add the black beans after 5 minutes.  Cook until vegetables are tender and heated through.  Serve the vegetables over the quinoa.  Tastes great with a glass of wine.

I'm currently in an airport and, evil of evils, I packed my headphones in the bag I checked, so no soundtrack for today, aside from the variety of conversations I'm listening to here at Gate B26. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Vegan Fashionista Part 2

"I would never wear fur." -Kristen Wiig

"There's no excuse for fur in this day and age." -Stella McCartney

“Killing an animal to make a coat is sin. It wasn't meant to be, and we have no right to do it. A woman gains status when she refuses to see anything killed to be put on her back. Then she's truly beautiful.” -Doris Day

"I don't wear fur and I understand their cause.  I'm the biggest animal lover in the world.  I have four dogs and two horses, and I have rescued animals all my life."  -Gisele Bundchen

Out of everything I've written on this blog, the post that continues to receive the most attention is "Vegan Fashionista."  I see where our priorities are, people!  I'll chalk it up to the fact that finding something stylish and cruelty-free can be pretty frustrating at times.  This past winter, for example, I really liked  some lovely sweaters that The Gap was selling in a variety of pastel shades.  Unfortunately, they were made from wool.  I also had quite a bit of trouble finding a warm winter coat that didn't involve a down lining.  After having lived in Boston for two vegan winters, cruelty-free fashion has presented more dilemmas at this time of year than during the summer, when everyone is dressed in cotton and khaki.  I'm not trying to be a proponent of capitalism, but shopping at thrift stores is just not my thing.  Sorry, Macklemore.  For many, including myself, an important part of the vegan philosophy entails living simply.  However, you have to look presentable, especially if you're in the professional world.  Here are my latest recommendations.

I would not say that Aldo sells the highest quality product, but there are a variety of stylish man-made bags and shoes to choose from.  I've purchased a few pairs of flats here, my famous "bird scarf" pictured on the right, and even an awesome beaded evening bag.  I like Aldo because it's pretty much a staple in any regular mall, so I can pop in and expect to find what I need when I'm on the run.

DSW Shoes
Walking into Designer Shoe Warehouse is both overwhelming and exciting for me, especially when I know there are a bunch of vegan choices on the shelves.  I've purchased three pairs of man-made boots at DSW, and I've gotten lots of compliments on all of them.  If I see something I like but they don't carry my size, I order it online.  I have really big feet.

Vera Bradley
Lots of ladies like their purses.  Vera Bradley are high-end bags made entirely from fabric.  There are so many different colors and sizes, there is something for everyone.  I was having a really hard time finding a wallet that wasn't either leather or a coin purse designed for a teenager, until I started shopping at Vera Bradley.

Columbia Sportswear
This company and some others are now making coats with a completely cruelty-free heat-reflective material, which is sometimes even made from recycled products.  It leaves me to wonder why all coats can't be made this way.

Did you know that Saucony makes vegan running shoes?  I literally just now learned this.  As a runner, this is the best news I've heard in a long time.

You've probably noticed that I'm talking about regular brands which happen to carry some vegan items.  Vegan products are all around us, even when it seems like everything is made from leather or wool.  Just start reading your labels!  Of course, there are some companies which have received the PETA badge of approval because they sell only cruelty-free products.  You can find a list of those companies here.  I also found this great site called VeganKnit, which explains in detail the cruel practices used to acquire animal products, and provides links to high end shops which sell gorgeous vegan items.  The point is, you can be mainstream, vegan, and a sophisticated fashionista all at once.  


Blogger's Soundtrack
Ellie Goulding - "I Know You Care"