Category Archives: Veganism

When in Philadelphia…eat all of the vegan food

Greetings, folks! We returned yesterday from our eastern seaboard adventure. We decided to keep our summer vacation cheap and simple by visiting friends in Philadelphia. Driving the 13 hours and sleeping on our friends’ trundle bed proved to be the most fiscally efficient way to get out of town for a few days, and it made for quite the vegan adventure. Can I just say that I loved Pennsylvania way more than I anticipated? Largely this is due to the complete lack of research I did (I am a control freak and I plan our vacation itineraries to a T–but since we were visiting friends, I relinquished my inner control freak and got to do this crazy thing called “going with the flow”). The small amount of research I did do before we embarked on our journey was to scout out some restaurants along the way where we could pick up some filling vegan fare. Man oh man, did I luck out.

I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do on vacation, but what I lack in pictures I will try to make up for in vivid descriptions of the sumptuous fare I indulged in. Let’s start from the beginning: I packed a lot of vegan snacks for the road. Bananas, clementines, pumpkin clusters, cashews, and clif bars, oh my! Unfortunately that was where the healthy eating began and ended. I indulged in so much fatty delicious food that I fear it will take me a month to burn off all those excess calories. Point in case, I nearly croaked during my treadmill run today after my week of splurging.

Cleveland

Drew Carey would have you believe that Cleveland rocks, and while I can’t say definitively that it doesn’t, it was definitely the low point of our trip. We arrived in Cleveland at about 11:30 pm eastern time. We intended on waking up around 7 so we could make it to Cleveland Heights to grab breakfast at one of the few restaurants in the area that offers vegan breakfast substitutions, Tommy’s, but 7 turned into 8 and we didn’t hit the road til 9. By the time our not-so-trusty GPS navigated us to Cleveland Heights, it was already 9:30, and we didn’t exactly have time to linger over breakfast. We wanted to check out the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but breakfast took longer than we’d anticipated so we didn’t get to spend near enough time in the museum. I’d go back just to do the museum again, but there didn’t seem to be much else in town to warrant a second trip.

Tofu scramble with fruit and dry wheat toast at Tommy’s

The tofu scramble was okay but the broccoli was a little on the (monstrously) large side. It was a good, hearty breakfast before the second leg of our journey, though.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame entrance. I don’t know what the plaque below the guitar said, but the building is sort of reminiscent of the Louvre, no?

The line for tickets was crazy long and we sped through the museum like it was our job. We picked up some collectibles on our way out (a shot glass for him, a pint glass for me) and were back on the road by noon.

Philadelphia

I expected Philly to be dingy and gross, thanks to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In fact, it wasn’t (at least, Center City wasn’t). The best part is how vegan-friendly this city is. Even the most carnivorous of restaurants has at least one vegan option, for the most part. I’m always surprised by that as I hail from a very un-vegan friendly suburb of Chicago. We arrived around 6:30 pm and immediately set out to one of our friends’ favorite restaurants, Wrap Shack. I ordered the vegan volcano on a spinach wrap (not pictured, due to my excitement and ravishing hunger) and DAMN was it delicious. Black bean hummus is apparently a thing, and a delicious thing at that. We shared a pitcher of Yuengling, which might not be a vegan beer, but I’m less anal about that. We needed a drink and we wanted to have an authentic ole time in Pennsylvania.

We wound up at several bars that night and drank all of the beer in sight. Center City at night on a Saturday is just lovely and we had a blast.

We ended up at a bar called BAR (insert hipster joke about how it’s so cool that you’ve probably never heard of it) where “pickleback” shots are the specialty. I was too chicken to try one but it’s just a shot of whiskey chased by a shot of pickle juice. Our more courageous friends tried it and said it was delicious.

Sunday was my birthday and we spent it at a Phillies game, followed by a trip to a few bars and brew pubs. Monday, both of our friends were working so we spent the hot-as-balls day in Old City checking out all the historical sights, including the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin’s grave. But first! We went to Green Eggs Cafe, where I had the most delicious tofu scramble to date (not pictured) which was served with rosemary potatoes. I would go back to Philadelphia just for those potatoes. No joke.

We made a pitstop at an all-vegan pizzeria after touring Old City, which was kind of sketchy but hit the spot.

Daiya and seitan pepperoni pizza

Before leaving Tuesday morning, we stopped at Greens Eggs Cafe again and I had some delicious vegan french toast that rivals that of Herbivore in San Francisco.

This came with non-dairy whipped cream and strawberry deliciousness. (This one isn’t served with rosemary potatoes, so we shared an order, obviously.)

Gettysburg and Pittsburgh

We decided to stay in Pittsburgh on the way back to attend a Pirates vs. Cubs game. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but my boyfriend’s life goal is to tour every ball park in America. Every city we go to, we either attend a game or a ballpark tour if the team is traveling. We had great seats in left field, three rows up, and a home run was caught four people down in our row. So, I was even on TV! How’s that for exciting?

Before Pittsburgh, we stopped in Gettysburg for about an hour and toured the battlefield. It was interesting and I’m glad we made it there.

We didn’t have time for vegan food pit stops in Pittsburgh, aside from some game time food…

Don’t let the name fool you: these are just fries seasoned with Old Bay. We first discovered Old Bay seasoned food in Philly and apparently, it travels as far west as Pittsburgh. They serve the fries with a cheesey sauce that I obviously didn’t eat. I think I need to buy some Old Bay!

While we didn’t have a proper meal, we did hang out at a couple of bars after the game. Penn Pilsner is pretty delicious, I found out, and Iron City isn’t so much. As we were driving back to our hotel, we somehow ended up at a casino (my first time) and apparently, I’m pretty good at Roulette. We each decided to play with just $20 and we won $30. I said I’d never go to a casino but somehow, after a few drinks, I was convinced. When in Rome…

And that was that. Sweet home Chicago was ours for the taking again at around 4 pm yesterday, and I went back to work today. So much good food, so much great beer, and so much fun with friends. We can’t wait to travel again. It was a whirlwind!

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the one where I talk about the worm I found on my kale

Hi all. I haven’t been posting very often, and the reason for that is twofold: 1) I haven’t really been making anything interesting worth posting about, and 2) I’ve been kind of bored with my life and haven’t found much reason to update. But something so disgusting and so obscene happened just the other day that I’ve dragged myself here to write it down.

Around noon, when I was sitting at work, I got a craving for something salty and crisp. Remembering I’d purchased a big bunch of kale three days prior, I salivated at the thought of coming home to bake some kale chips. I was so excited because kale chips are the best, and I only recently discovered them. I got home from my workout and even before showering, I decided I wanted to get these puppies in the oven. I pulled out my bag of kale and picked out a few choice leaves.

As I was getting ready to rinse them, I noticed something black and white in the center of the best looking leaf. At first I thought there was just a small rotted piece. The rest of the kale looked fresh so I thought huh, how strange… I was getting ready to cut that piece out and then I realized it was not a rotted piece of the leaf: it was some sort of larva. Larva. In my kale. LARVA.

Did I want to take a photo of this? Yes. But I couldn’t stand the thought of this larva-infested piece of kale sitting on my cutting board while I went to find my camera. I have to assume it was dead but I didn’t let it stick around long enough to find out. My stomach turned. LARVA!

Needless to say, I did not eat any kale chips. I tossed the whole bunch. Poor kale.

This was bound to happen eventually, right? It only makes sense: produce comes from outside. And, duh, so do pests. But did I expect to find larva on my storebought kale? It wasn’t even organic kale, so no, I did not.

The sight of this white larva surrounded by black something-or-other has turned me off of kale for a while, I’m afraid. You best believe I’m going to be thoroughly inspecting my produce from now on. Ugh.

So, that was the bad news, but I have good news too. I’m down 13+ pounds since I’ve started working out in February. I expected a faster weight loss since I have so much to lose (I aim to lose about 40 more pounds). But, instead of beating myself up for this, I’ve decided to embrace it and give myself credit where it’s due. I’m doing well and I should be happy. And, for the first time since high school, I ran 2 miles straight the other day on the treadmill. No, it’s not quite a 5k, and yes, it’s on the treadmill–which is much easier to me than pavement–but it was 2 miles! I’m well on my way. I will get there.

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kitchen successes & failures

I found myself with a strange craving for eggs the other day. I found this exceptionally bizarre because I really don’t find myself craving anything from my “pregan” days–not even cheese (though you’ll see below that I do tend to use daiya liberally nonetheless).

Not only did I want eggs, I wanted an omelette. A quick google search landed me on a potential recipe–basically, tofu scramble using silken tofu rather than extra firm–but it warned about the trickiness of flipping the “omelette” and keeping it all in tact. Silly me, I tried anyway. Here is the succession of my failure. I aptly refer to this as the tofu omelette mess:

Luckily, I don’t have too many kitchen catastrophes. I replaced tofu with seitan in my simple stir fry recipe and the results were sensational:

I’m a busy vegan lady and I don’t always have time to prepare everything from scratch. Luckily,it’s gardein and daiya to the rescue! Behold, “chicken” tender lettuce wraps with slices of daiya havarti (my number one most favoritest cheese substitute thus far):

So, that’s what I’ve been up to the past couple of weeks. How about you?

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spicy spaghetti

Some things are meant to be simple. Like Friday night dinners.

Thin spaghetti tossed with canned tomato sauce, crumbled “Italian sausage” seitan, and plenty of garlic powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, and black pepper.

Simple is a relative term…if only I can learn to heat pasta sauce without the tomato bubbles spitting fury all over my stove.

To make up for the absence of a real post, please enjoy one of my kitties really enjoying putting-away-groceries time. What a helper!

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kale chips are my jam!

I have very particular taste when it comes to vegetables. I love veggies, but I’m set in my routine. The only veggie that I always have on hand is broccoli. It’s my absolute favorite and a definite staple in my diet. It sneaks into all my meals, from tofu scramble to pasta. I’ve even been known to steam broccoli and eat it alone, as a meal in and of itself (though this was more common in my vegetarian days when I’d slather it in cheese).

One cannot subsist on broccoli alone, though. I never tire of it but I’m aware of a deficiency of variety. For this reason, I’ve (begrudgingly) been packing my work lunch with baby carrots. Carrots are not my favorite vegetable, but they’re easy to pack, low in calories, crunchy in a good way, and I can tolerate them raw. The boyfriend and I often disagree about veggies. He’s definitely Team Broccoli, but he’s also more of an asparagus guy, whereas I like to add bell peppers (against his free will) to most of my meals.

While all of the veggies mentioned above are nutrient-rich, there is a vegetable that reigns supreme, especially for us vegans: kale! This is old news, of course, but besides adding kale to my green smoothies, I haven’t spent much intimate time with this cruciferous wonderfood. This handy-dandy chart breaks down the health benefits of kale in a great way, especially for those visual learners out there:

The calcium count doesn’t look huge here, but as someone who has recently realized that they don’t consume near enough calcium, 9.3% per cooked cup is looking pretty darn good. In my MyFitnessPal account, I track my calories, carbs, fat, protein, fiber, and calcium. The only number that I miss by a longshot every single day is calcium. I thought I had it covered in my multivitamin, but my vegan vitamin only offers me 10% of the RDI (and who knows how much of that measly 10% my body is actually absorbing.)

At the store this weekend, I purchased a huge amount of kale. My grocer doesn’t sell it in realistic proportions. I now have a humungous bag of kale in my possession and have taken to creative ways to prepare it so I can waste as little of it as possible. Enter kale chips, something I’ve been weary of but decided to give a try. I had my doubts about this leafy vegetable crisping, yet not burning, in my oven. In fact, it did exactly as it was supposed to. It was magic, and so simple to prepare! I honestly see no reason for potato chips to ever make their way into my kitchen. Kale chips satisfy my hunger for a crispy, salty snack, in just a fraction of the calories–and a huge amount of nutrition to boot!

All you need to do is wash your kale, pat it dry, remove the ribs and chop into approximately 2 inch pieces. For about 2 cups of chopped kale, I used a tablespoon of olive oil, and you really need much less. I tried to pat some of it off because it was over-oiled. Stick your oiled kale on a baking sheet and dust it with sea salt or whatever seasonings strike your fancy (I think garlic powder would be divine). In an oven preheated to 275, bake for 15-20 minutes until kale chips are crispy and are starting to slightly brown on the edges.

That’s it! Crispy, salty, satisfying, and comparatively low in calories when stacked against its over-processed, fattening cousin: the potato chip. Who knew kale could be so tasty?

Gimme some kale love: what’s your favorite way to prepare it? I have a lot to consume by the week’s end!

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the healthy vegan: soy

If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know that the vegan diet, when done properly–plant- and whole foods-based–does wonders for the human body. The vegan diet means a cholesterol-free diet. It can drastically reduce the risk of several cancers, such as colorectal cancer, and can also reduce cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and much more. Still, the diet comes with some concerns, which is what gives the vegan diet a bad rap to those unfamiliar with its benefits. Vitamin B12 in particular comes from almost solely animal-based foods, and omega-3 fatty acids can be equally difficult to get your fill of if you’re not actively seeking out plant-based sources of it, such as flaxseed.

For these reasons, I take a vegan multivitamin. Not everyone agrees with this choice. The theory is that any diet, when done properly, should afford the correct amount of essential vitamins and nutrients in order to thrive. I don’t always trust my diet to do what it should, so I supplement. I try to my best but we are a busy people, and sometimes nutrition falls by the wayside. While my calorie tracking on MyFitnessPal proves that I find no difficulty in obtaining my recommended daily dose of protein, there is more than the “do vegans eat enough protein?” question when it comes to overall vegan health. Although I actively add flaxseed to various foods, like oatmeal, and I also add nutritional yeast to a variety of my meals, which is rich in B12, I ere on the cautious side and continue to supplement. This choice is largely in part to a blood test I was subjected to while I was a vegetarian, about two years ago. I was low on Vitamin D and B12, and my doctor recommended I supplement those two vitamins. Since giving up all animal products, I’ve begun to fear that perhaps I’m not obtaining enough iodine or iron from my diet. While perhaps unnecessary, I continue to take my vegan multivitamin, especially because when I skip it for longer than a week, I feel lethargic. This may be a psychological mind over matter situation more than an actual deficiency, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Besides B12, D, iodine, and iron, there is an even more hotly contested concern in the vegan and vegetarian community: soy consumption. There have been studies done that link a diet with increased soy consumption to thyroid disfunction. Until now, I’ve taken that research with a grain of salt, pushing it out of my mind. When I had the aforementioned blood test done, my doctor also performed a full metabolic panel because I’d come to her with symptoms that she said resembled hypothyroidism–depression, fatigue, weight gain, weakness, and muscle and joint pain, to name a few. When she examined my thyroid, she did not feel anything abnormal–it wasn’t enlarged and she could not feel any nodules. My metabolic panel came back just fine. I have to keep in mind, though, that this was when I was a vegetarian, not a vegan. Since adopting a vegan diet, I have drastically increased my consumption of soy. I eat tofu at least twice a week. I eat tempeh at least once a week. I put 2 tablespoons of Silk soy creamer in my coffee every morning. This doesn’t sound out of line to me, but several sources I’ve looked at state that “high soy consumption” is considered consuming soy three or more times a week. I certainly fit the bill.

One source writes:

Daniel Doerge and Daniel Sheehan, two scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spoke out against claims of the supposed benefits of soy. In a February 1999 letter to the FDA they wrote:

“There is abundant evidence that the isoflavones in soy demonstrate toxicity in oestrogen sensitive tissues and in the thyroid. Eating as little as 30 grammes of soy per day can result in hypothyroidism, with symptoms of lethargy, constipation, weight gain and fatigue.”

I’m weary of what the FDA presents to us as truth, and this study is 13 years old, after all. Given my recent difficulties with losing weight and chronic fatigue, however, I have to wonder if there’s any truth to this claim. There’s no way of knowing unless I march back to my doctor and have my thyroid checked out once again. It’s a scary thought that my healthy diet could be damaging my body, but I also have to question whether my “frequent” consumption of tofu, tempeh and soy creamer is all that different from the consumption of soy of the typical processed-foods, meat-eating diet. Soy is an ingredient in many processed foods. It finds its way into everything. I’m not sure how much different my soy consumption really is stacked up against an unhealthy processed diet, but it certainly provides me with some food for thought. Soy consumption has been said to mimic, or even exacerbate, an increase in estrogen in the human body, and this seems to be the root of the problem, if I’ve examined the issue correctly.

I’m not sure if the damage that soy might do to the body can be reversed by avoiding, or limiting, soy consumption, or if its a permanent damage that cannot be undone. I’d love to hear your thoughts from your experiences or your own research. I aim to eat as healthfully as possible. I don’t want it to come down to a doctor’s visit where my doctor warns me that my vegan diet is doing more harm than good. I wouldn’t believe that if I heard it. In fact, I might find it time to find a new doctor if that’s what she had to say.

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why vegan? why not.

About a week ago, I read a really thought-provoking post by Turning Veganese about the difficulties associated with fully commiting to a vegan lifestyle. What resonated most with me is what Melissa writes about how difficult it can be when dining out, or really in all social situations in general. I’ve digested the post for the past few days and have been thinking really hard about my own struggles with this new life. It isn’t always easy, and not for the reasons you might expect: I don’t find myself craving cheese or eggs, which really were the entire reason I overstayed my welcome in vegetarian purgatory for so long. Nothing was better than mozzarella sticks or nachos–but I started to realize that what I was craving was more the junkfood than the cheese. I was just plain unhealthy, and my hallmark reason for adopting my new diet was, first and foremost, for my health.

I haven’t really looked back since. I’ve been incredibly happy and I’ve been slowly but surely finding my place in the kitchen. To be honest, I don’t have much of a social life these days so I hadn’t really struggled too much in that department. I found out a little late that most Thai curries contain shrimp paste and even Pad Thai without the eggs contains fish sauce. These are hurdles I crossed and now I know better–and can veganize these dishes from the safety of my own kitchen. I educated myself about casein and whey, which really tick me off because most vegetable-based margarines are not safe for vegans to eat. Who’s idea was that? The more I learn, the more infuriated I become with food manufacturers. I know the knowledge I carry with me now is only the tip of the iceberg: I’m too queasy to dig much further. I cannot watch Earthlings.

What comes with this frustration with the food manufacturing industry is a parallel frustration with the hospitality industry. It bothers me that the restaurants decent enough to list one vegetarian menu option rarely make that vegetarian option a vegan option. I politely neglect to get too fired up about cross-contamination because when dining out at a non-vegan establishment, that’s a risk you take. You’re not able to babysit the kitchen staff. And that’s why I cook as much of my own food as I can. I’ve taken to packing my own lunches and I’m picky about the places I will dine out at. I don’t like to be difficult and I’m quite shy about my needs. I don’t feel that they’re as justified as, say, an allergy, so I try not to make a big stink about anything. I’ve been forced to abandon my favorite mom-and-pop restaurants for this reason: they don’t offer the perk of being able to perform extensive online research that chains offer. I can google Cheesecake Factory Vegan Options and a ton of search results are at my finger tips. I can’t do the same for my neighborhood Mexican joint. It’s frustrating and disheartening and quite frankly, it hurts. I’ve never been much of a fan of chain restaurants, but living where I do in the suburbs, there are very few places where I can safely order a vegan meal. Even in San Francisco, with the plethora of vegan options, we found it difficult to find something after a certain hour in the neighborhood we were staying. It’s a difficult and challenging task we’re charged with as vegans: constantly planning and researching. It’s rewarding because I have the satisfaction of knowing that I’m eating cleanly and cruelty-free, but easy it is not.

I have been lax at times. I order the same dish I’ve always ordered at my favorite Chinese restaurant, not knowing whether or not it contains oyster sauce and frankly, too afraid to ask. I eat french fries when I crave something fried. I have eaten honey BBQ sauce in the recent past and I have eaten the veggie delite sub at Subway, knowing that the breads are mostly not vegan. I still have a bag of bleached sugar that I use when baking because I refuse to waste it. I have ordered pastas at restaurants and asked for “no cheese,” not knowing whether or not the server wrote down my request or the kitchen remembered to accommodate it. As a vegetarian, I always joked that chickenstock finds it’s way into everything. Now the enemy is dairy and dairy by-products. Even the foods I buy warn that they are manufactured in the a facility that also uses eggs and dairy. I am not 100% perfect and it’s hard to be 100% perfect.

The difference between me as a vegan versus me as a vegetarian is that, as a vegetarian, I always figured I’d eventually falter and fall back into meat-eating ways if I grew tired of the struggle. I’m proud to report that I feel no such fear in regard to my vegan self. I do not ever want this healthy, clean lifestyle to disappear. It will be an uphill battle and I think the best thing I, or anyone, can do is to keep absorbing the literature and research. The health facts alone point to why this lifestyle reigns supreme. Many people begin their vegan journey for the animals first. For me, it was my health first, but the more I learn, the more it becomes about the animals–and I think that’s what keeps me here.

People ask me why I decided to go this route and my answer now is: why not? I have zero reasons and a million reasons all at once. I couldn’t possibly turn it into a concise or coherent sentence. I know that I’m happy now with my choice and I don’t see a reason to have to defend it. And I’ll try not to be too hard on myself for not always being perfect. I suggest you all do the same.

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I left my heart in San Francisco

My 7 day trip to San Francisco felt like a time warp. I’m back to the good ole flat Midwest but it seems like I’ve been gone but a day. The vacation wasn’t nearly long enough and unfortunately, a few things we’d planned got cut from the itinerary due to inclement weather, a city that doesn’t open any of its doors until 9 am, and the unforeseen fatigue of climbing SF’s (in)famous hilly terrain. I certainly didn’t plan on coming home with blistered feet. I’m sad to say there are several restaurants we didn’t make it to and sights we didn’t see–but I guess that means we’ll just have to return…one day.

I wasn’t able to photograph every vegan meal I enjoyed, but here is the highlight reel. It was easy to come by vegan food when you knew where you were going, but unfortunately it was slim pickings near our hotel in Union Square. We took the BART to the Mission almost daily just to eat. The Mission was the land of tofu scramble, vegan french toast, soyrizo burritos, fried seitan, and more–oh! so much more.

Have you ever gone on a vacation and felt pure relief when you arrive home because you don’t have to eat out anymore? Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat out, and the vegan options were plentiful, and the food was delicious–but something about it just wasn’t my home cooking. Pre-vegan me¬†hated¬†cooking so this feeling is brand new to me. The seitan was too fried and the scramble wasn’t seasoned just right. Delicious, but I’m glad I can once again take control of my meals. All I want to do is go to the grocery store and pick up my essentials and get cooking!

Berkeley Vegan Pizza from ZPizza. This was one of the two nights that we ordered delivery because we were exhausted and it was late. Unfortunately, it seems that San Francisco restaurants do not stay open late so it wasn’t easy to order delivery past 9 pm. I found this very odd because we were in the center of downtown. It was nothing like NYC or even Chicago. I suppose that’s all part of the laid back California lifestyle.

While we’re on the topic of vegan pizza and delivery, we also ordered from Patxi’s Pizza. This was every bit as delicious as it looks. I don’t think even my own city could design such a delicious vegan Chicago-style deep dish pizza. I don’t think even I could! It’s now on my list of meals to tackle. We both really enjoyed this.

Herbivore, you slayed me with your delicious 100% vegan menu. We went to Herbivore for breakfast not once, not twice, but three times (a lady). We went to both locations–one in the Mission and one a block from Alamo Square. Pictured above is the combo breakfast–vegan french toast, vegan scramble, and potatoes–followed by the tempeh “BLT.” Both were absolutely scrumptious.

Vegan breakfast burrito from Sunrise Restaurant. This was my first (but not last!) soyrizo burrito. It was fabulous and hit the spot. This was not a fully vegan restaurant, so the boyfriend was able to order eggs. My coffee came with regular cream. I didn’t inquire about whether or not they had soy milk because I sincerely doubted it, so I drank my coffee black. It was strong, just how I like it.

Since we’re on the topic of burritos, let’s talk about Papalote. We went to the Mission location and this was, by far, the most delicious burrito I have ever had. It, too, was a soyrizo burrito, and their beans and rice are 100% vegan, as is their DELICIOUS salsa. It looked too creamy to be vegan but it was. Om nom nom. I almost died and went to heaven when I ate this burrito. The restaurant was small and reminded me a little bit of Chipotle, so I was shocked at how good and authentic it was. I would go back to SF just to eat at Papalote. No joke.

Our hotel was just a block from Chinatown, so of course we had to eat some delicious authentic Chinese. The SF Chinatown has the second largest Chinese population outside of China. We stumbled upon this restaurant by pure chance. On our way home from our Yosemite tour, I saw the sign–Loving Hut, 100% vegan. We decided to check it out after our Anchor Brewing Company tour. It turns out that this is a chain with several locations, so this might not be the last time I meet 100% vegan Chinese food! Pictured above is Thai “fishless” curry, spring rolls, and a vegan thai iced tea. I won’t lie to you, we were not sober when we ate here, so I can’t remember much about the food. The boyfriend really claims to have enjoyed his vegan burger, though:

The aforementioned brewery. Every beer brewed by Anchor is vegan, and you get to taste 7 following the brewery tour. The brewery is located near the Mission/Potrero Hill. It’s a hike to get to but totally worth it. I enjoyed every single beer. The tour reservations fill up fast and they’re currently booked through July, so if you ever make it to SF, make sure to book your tour well in advance.

This, my friends, was what I was the most excited for. This tiny little restaurant, called Dante’s Weird Fish, serves fried seitan with vegan buffalo sauce, vegan chipotle sauce, and vegan ranch. It was super fried but really hit the spot. It’s very small and we heard they get really busy at lunch and dinner time, so we made sure to stop in around 3 pm for a late lunch one day. It was fabulous. We also devoured a serving of vegan cheesecake, which I was too busy nomming to photograph. So. freakin’. good.

Other notable vegan eats: Ike’s Place, where I ordered the “meatless mike” and asked for it to be made vegan. They have a vegetarian menu and you can order any of the sandwiches vegan (with daiya cheese/vegan mayo/etc.). We waited in a long line out the door in unheard of 80 degree SF weather and then had to find a park to eat our sandwiches. We had to climb two extremely steep hills to get to Buena Vista Park. By that time, we were starving, tired, sweaty, and my sandwich didn’t look nearly as appetizing as it really was–so no photo for that.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you ever find yourself walking through the entire length of Golden Gate Park all the way to Ocean Beach, you can order a vegan veggie dog at the hot dog vendors. You’ll pay a ridiculous sum of $5, but if you’re extra nice, they might just cook it in clean water for you. You can also order veggie dogs at the Coliseum in Oakland, where we attended about half of an A’s game. Attending a baseball game at that stadium was very weird. I’ve never been to a Chicago ballgame that wasn’t totally sold out, but this place was so empty. Do they even have fans? (We would’ve seen a Giants game instead had they been in town this past week.)

It’s not easy to find vegan fare in Fisherman’s Wharf. Allegedly you can order a vegan potato at Hot Spud but I didn’t try. You can, however, get a free biscoff cookie at the Biscoff stand with any coffee purchase. The lack of vegan food was made up for by the sea lions, I s’pose.

The food court at Yosemite, however, does have vegan options–their menu tells you exactly what is vegan and exactly what is gluten-free. I was happy for that. After a day of hiking to the Sequoias and driving to all the vantage points, I was dying for some filling vegan food. I was able to get some tortilla soup and a vegan hummus plate with fresh veggies and pitas before the four hour bus ride home. Yum!

The city was beautiful and I certainly ate my way through it. Now it’s back to the grind.

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pasta so easy it hurts!

We’re leaving for vacation on Saturday so I’m trying to use the food in the house and not make too many grocery purchases before we go. I hate wasting food and I also realized how much mula we’ll be spending in San Francisco, so I’ve had to get a little creative in the kitchen with the little bit that I have on hand. This means pasta–because pasta is cheap, fast, easy, and you don’t need much to make it pretty delicious.

I experimented with adding nutritional yeast to a quick “buttered” noodles recipe last night. It was so yummy that I replicated the pasta again tonight, this time adding broccoli (I was low on veggies the night before and the pasta was really missing something without the veg component!)

Vegan Buttered Noodles with Nooch
Serves 2-3

Whole wheat shells ( about 1/3 of a standard box of pasta)
1-2 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
salt to taste
1 crown broccoli (or whatever veggies you feel like adding–zucchini comes to mind as a great alternative)

Prepare pasta per box instructions. I steamed my broccoli in the microwave while the pasta was cooking but you could stirfry your veggies with a bit of oil just as well. After straining pasta, add broccoli, earth balance and stir until melty. Add seasonings, stir, and voila!

This meal takes literally no time and requires no preparation whatsoever. It’s so simple, so easy, so cheap, and so good. My boyfriend, who previously thought that nutritional yeast smelled not unlike feet, thought this was fantastic…and I did too!

shnoodles, minus the broccoli. without the veggies, it looks a little like a fancier version of mac ‘n cheese

shnoodles WITH broccoli. ah…much better

What’s your go-to pasta recipe?

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fancy oatmeal

How do I love thee, oatmeal? Let me count the ways.

Oatmeal is a staple in my diet. It’s a great place to hide ground flaxseed to ensure that us non-animal-product-eating peeps get the necessary omega fatty acids. Not only that, oats are pretty cheap (especially when bought in the bulk section of your local grocery store), they’re a great source of fiber (the serving I ate today provided 1/5 of my daily fiber intake–and that wasn’t even counting all the fixins I added to it!), and as such, oatmeal is also quite filling. Most importantly, the serving options are endless! You can dress it up or dress it down. I love a solid oatmeal with a pinch of brown sugar during the week, but when I’m feeling adventurous and I have a few more calories to spare on the weekend, it’s great to dress it up with whatever I have on hand. Oatmeal has no prejudices: it gladly mingles with granola, nuts, fruit, almond/soy/whatever nondairy milk pleases you most. The opportunities are endless.

I have rekindled my love for oatmeal due to a few rushed mornings this week. I didn’t have anything on hand to bring with me for breakfast so I stopped down at my office cafeteria to pick up some oatmeal. I don’t often visit the office cafeteria because a) the vegan options are limited and b) it’s a $$$$ drain. 95% of the time, I bring my breakfasts and lunches from home. The office cafeteria, funny enough, was the first time I ever tasted steel cut oats (this was a few months ago). Steel cut oats have become my oatmeal variety of choice ever since. My two oatmeal mornings during the week left me really craving what I’m going to fondly refer to as fancy oatmeal this morning. This variation was simply divine.

Fancy Oatmeal

Whatcha need:

1 3/4 cups water
1/3 + 2 tbsp steel cut oats (I have Quaker on hand but once I run out, I plan on experimenting with other brands)
1 banana
1 tsp earth balance
1 tsp virgin coconut oil (you can skip this part, this was really just for fun as I haven’t found a reason to use my coconut oil yet)
1 splash vanilla extract
1/4 cup walnut pieces (or nuts of you’re choosing)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
a few teaspoons brown sugar
shredded coconut to taste

Get your water boiling on the stove and then add oats. The measurements I provided were straight from the Quaker label–if you’re using a different brand, your measurements may vary. After you add the oats, it’ll take about 25 minutes on the stove top for the oatmeal to cook. Stir occasionally.

In the meantime, slice your banana into small pieces. Toss with a tsp or two of brown sugar. Melt earth balance (and optional, coconut oil) in a frying pan and add bananas. Fry for 3-5 minutes until bananas have caramelized. **as mentioned, I don’t really know if this is an appropriate use of coconut oil, but I have yet to use it in the kitchen and I wanted to experiment. It certainly didn’t hurt matters and it added a little bit of a coconutty taste to the bananas. Plus, it smells like the tropics and that is a fabulous smell in the kitchen of a midwestern apartment-dweller.

When the oatmeal and bananas are done, add the rest of your fixins: flaxseed, brown sugar, shredded coconut, walnuts, vanilla, and finally, bananas. Had I any fresh nondairy milk on hand, I’d have added a splash to the finished product. This is especially nice if you overcook the oatmeal because it adds a little moisture. This oatmeal has a wonderful medley of flavors that can totally stand on its own two feet without the addition of milk, though.

you might want to engage in some light morning stretching before digging in

Enjoy, and reap the rewards of its energy-inducing properties immediately. Happy Saturday!

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