Vegan MoFo 2014: All About Travel!

I wasn’t going to participate in VeganMoFo this year, because I just don’t have a lot of time. I haven’t been able to really follow through in the last few years, and that makes me sad. I know that there are lots of bloggers out there who are doing an amazing job for VeganMoFo every year, and I just haven’t. I haven’t been a very consistent blogger here, though I have been regularly contributing to my column over at loud.com.

It looks like I didn’t quite get in on time to be officially included, but I’m here and ready to blog for VeganMoFo! I will be aiming for 20 posts.

So, recently, I have been working. A lot.

The plus side to all the working is that I am starting to have enough extra income that I can meet my goals and have some fun- part of which includes traveling!

I found out recently at my primary job that I have to start using up my vacation because of some policy changes. I also need more CEU/CME credits over the next year, so it works out to be doing what will hopefully be a lot of travel over the next year.

I have done some travel in the last year or two that I never even bothered to write up for the blog, and that’s just a shame! So for VeganMoFo this year, I will be sharing some of my past travels, recent travels, ongoing travels, travel inspired cooking and travel preparation tips… and I think I’ve got myself a theme for VeganMoFo this year!

That’s not to say that I might not break the theme at all to participate in any challenges that come up or other ways of being in the now, but I’m hoping to bring a little life back into this blog this VeganMoFo.

To kick things off, I just wanted to share something from my most recent travels- a trip to Cape Cod last week. I don’t often think of the Cape as travel, as it’s home for me- where I grew up and lived for the first 30 years of my life (less college), but since now when I go back I do it with NY plates on my car, travel it really is.

My mom made me vegan brownies!

My mom made me vegan brownies!

I left late in the evening for about a 1AM arrival at my mom’s house, meaning I got home long after everyone else was asleep. This was okay (but turned out not to be a great way to avoid traffic), made even better by the fact that I walked into the kitchen and there was a pan of brownies waiting for me!

Stay tuned over the next few days for some Cape Cod vegan highlights!

And of course, happy VeganMoFo 2014!

VeganMoFo2014

I love it when you follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vegan and the Flu Shot: Update

I am noticing that my flu shot post from last year has gotten really popular recently. We are in midst of flu season, so I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising!

In case you are curious about my situation- I didn’t get a flu shot again this year. As a child, I had been diagnosed with an egg allergy, so I had been avoiding on those grounds. Last year a new egg-free (but not vegan) flu shot became available- except this year, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Not through my employer (I work in healthcare), my primary care doctor, local flu clinics or even the allergist.

Which brings me to the allergy- because of some other sinus problems I’ve been having, I saw an allergist at my primary care’s suggestion. Turns out, I’m no longer allergic to eggs (actually, I have very little in the way of allergies, so I’m still working on the sinus issue). Ergo, I can have the regular flu shot.

Flu Vaccine Technologies

How the regular flu shot is made. Picture from the FDA, used under a US Government Works license.

This brought me to a dilemma: now that I have the option, what do I actually do?

For this year, I decided that because it’s already well into flu season and it takes a bit of time to build immunity after getting the shot, the benefits would not be as clear cut for this flu season. Mind you, flu season typically goes until April, so this is still a decision that individuals can make in January or February.

Interestingly, in New York, where I live and work, a law went into effect this year for health care providers, basically requiring anyone who works in a hospital, nursing home, or most other state-regulated facilities are required to have the flu shot. In the event of a religious/philosophical or medical reason for not getting the shot, the health care provider must wear a mask at all times while on duty where patients might be, except while eating.

This regulation covers an awful lot of health care providers, but for now, doesn’t apply to me. Again, I don’t have to address the issue, but that could always change.

So what should you know about the flu this year?

For more information on the 2013-2014 flu season, check out the CDC’s page.

For now, I’m taking it year by year. I know when next fall rolls around I’ll have another decision to make- and I’m not so sure yet.

Posted in Health | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

More on Tofu

IMG_3679

Jerk Tofu. Looks good, doesn’t it?

Over on my I Eat Plants column today, I’ve written more about the wonders of tofu, and shared a recipe for Jerk Tofu, one of my favorite ways to eat it.

A while back I wrote about tofu here. It’s a long, long guide, but well worth the read!

Posted in Food | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Vegan Donut Workshop at ICE

Oooh, another cooking class!

I’m embarrassed at how long it took me to blog this one.

I recently not-so-recently took another class at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) with chef Adam Sobel of The Cinnamon Snail. Last time was Decadent Vegan Breakfasts; this time was Vegan Donuts!

If you’ve read about other NYC area cooking classes I’ve taken, you may know that I’m not big on baking, or “dessert” type classes. It’s not that I don’t like to bake, it’s more that I want to avoid making sugary stuff at home. I’m guessing that donut making is not going to become a regular part of my kitchen repertoire, so I think I’m safe! But learning how to make donuts was incredibly cool.

I don’t know that I got enough out of this class to start making my own donuts- they’re a lot of work, and I haven’t made any yet. I did buy myself a mini donut dropper because I had aspirations of making my own apple cider donuts (which we did not make in class), but apple cider season has passed and I have yet to do so. Maybe next year. :-)

Rather than expound on the experience of making donuts, I bring you my photo essay. Doesn’t the class look fun?

Untitled

I believe that this is the liquid component for the basic cut-out donut recipe.

Untitled

I only included this picture so you can see what a ginormous stand mixer that is!

Untitled

The basic donut dough resting before it’s time to use.

Untitled

Ready to roll!

Untitled

And cut!

Untitled

Fritter filling- pear and lavender.

Untitled

The oil, getting ready for frying. You did know that donuts are not health food, right?

Untitled

We did a lot of moving from one recipe to another- this is a drop donut dough- looks more like a batter.

Untitled

Fritters, getting all cut up.

Untitled

The donut dropper- this is what you use when you want all the edges round.

Untitled

Icing some of the donuts.

Untitled

Starting to pile up the donuts. That’s not all of them!

Untitled

We got to play with fire.

Untitled

Piling up more of them!

Untitled

The famous Creme Brûlée Donuts!

I had a great time in this class. If you get the chance to take it, do it! You will not be disappointed with how many donuts you will walk away with- just don’t forget to invite a friend over to help you eat them later!

Disclaimer: links in this post to Amazon are affiliate links, meaning that I make a small commission if you buy something through the link. Very, very small. Just so you know, okay?

Posted in Food | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bareburger in Hartsdale, NY

There’s a new burger joint in my ‘hood, and it serves not 1, but three different vegan burgers. Yeah, you heard me. Head on over to my I Eat Plants column from today and check it out!

Vegan Black Bean Burger and Fries

Vegan Black Bean Burger with Fries!

Posted in Restaurants | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Foodswings Closing!

Sadly, Brooklyn-based vegan restaurant Foodswings will be closing soon, though an exact date hasn’t been set. They’re being priced out by the rent, as Williamsburg gets trendier and trendier (I shouldn’t say much, I probably wouldn’t go to Williamsburg if it weren’t so trendy).

I actually went there a couple of times last year in conjunction with trips to Vaute Couture, just a short walk down the street. I had tried some of their food once before at one of the Veg Fests. It’s not health food by any means, but it was good food. And all vegan. Did I mention vegan?

IMG_1918

Faux chicken (Gardein, I think) covered with faux ham, covered with faux cheese (Daiya) served with fries. Like I said, not health food.

IMG_1877

I’d rate this one a little healthier- veggie burger with Buffalo sauce. I’m betting there’s something vegan blue-cheese like in there somewhere, too.

I must confess, I didn’t love their food, but I loved that they existed (I didn’t dislike it, it was just a little heavy-handed for me. There were probably better choices, but my brain tells me to order really unhealthy stuff even when I don’t want to. True story). I hope that they will be able to find another location!

Posted in Food, Restaurants | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Vegan on Thanksgiving?

green beans

What Thanksgiving really needs.

It seems that a good number of Americans pretty well hate vegans on Thanksgiving. It’s like our very existence somehow threatens their ability to enjoy Thanksgiving like the Pilgrims did, with a ginormous Butterball turkey. (Have you ever seen a real wild turkey? They’re scrawny little things. They probably weren’t served at that Thanksgiving in the Plimouth Colony, either).

Earlier this week on Slate.com (preface: Slate thinks vegan stories make for good click-bait), Dear Prudence printed a letter from a grandmother. Her 17-year-old granddaughter, who lives on the other side of the country, is a vegan. She and her mom and family are coming to grandma’s for Thanksgiving. Grandma’s other daughter lives locally, and usually brings her family over.

Well, vegan granddaughter expressed to grandma that she wasn’t comfortable being around when meat is being consumed. She also said that she would leave while the turkey was being prepared. We have no context for how the conversation came about. What we do know, is that to make granddaughter feel comfortable, the grandmother decided to host a vegetarian Thanksgiving. Now the local-living daughter and family refuse to come.

Grandma’s question was about how to handle the local-living daughter, not the vegan granddaughter.

Yet Prudie and about 95% (percentage made up) of her commentors came down on the granddaughter for dictating what would be served at Thanksgiving. Prudence did at least admonish local-living daughter too, but the sentiment of nearly everyone is that the granddaughter is a brat and needs to get over herself.

If you’re a vegan, are you perfectly comfortable being around when meat is being consumed?

I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong, I do it all the time. I tune it out for the most part, and it makes for some good-natured joking among friends and close family. But no, I’m not “comfortable” around it.

A lot of people in the comments section seem to think that since vegan granddaughter won’t be around when the meat is being prepared, she won’t be around at dinner if meat is being consumed, because that’s “logical.” I don’t think that’s a logical assumption at all- it feels way worse to me to watch the meat go in the oven, see all the grease and nastiness that goes along with a dead body, etc. I’m a nurse, I can handle it- but I see her point. I personally won’t help clean up after the turkey when I’m at my mom’s, because the grease alone completely skeeves me out. I do eat dinner with everyone else- I just only eat vegan things. More on that later.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a letter on Dear Abby or Annie’s Mailbox (sorry, can’t find a link for that one), where someone wrote in because their brother’s wife is a vegetarian, and the brother and wife are hosting Thanksgiving. It will be an all-vegetarian Thanksgiving. The writer wanted to bring a turkey, and was told no- there would be no meat served, end of story (I should say that the wife’s response included some unkind words citing religion, but that’s not what the question was about). The writer was extremely upset at the idea of a Thanksgiving without turkey, and was threatening not to go.

Don’t go.

People have a right to celebrate Thanksgiving in their own homes however they see fit, so long as they aren’t hurting anyone. If grandma wants to try out her granddaughter’s way of eating, that’s her right. If sister-in-law keeps a vegetarian household, that’s her right. It don’t make vegans and vegetarians wrong.

What I was the most floored with about the grandma question was how it was assumed the granddaughter was a brat, simply because she’s A) vegan, B) a teenager, and C) it came up that she was uncomfortable about the meat. Maybe she and grandma have a really close relationship, and it came up in a totally non-threatening, non-bratty way, like this imaginary phone call:

GM: Hey honey, I’m looking forward to having you here for Thanksgiving, and I love our time together making dinner. I’m going to make sure I buy some soy milk so you can have mashed potatoes, too. Are you going to make me an apple pie this year?

VGD: I am totally going to make you an apple pie this year! But about the time in the kitchen… I know I’ve been vegan for a few years now, but it’s really starting to hit me now how much it bothers me to see meat being prepared and to see people eat it. So I’d like to make my pie on Wednesday night, and go to the football game with my cousins while you’re making the turkey. I’ll be back in plenty of time for dinner. I’ll set the table before I go, too!

{Big Pause}

GM: I didn’t really think something like that would bother you. The truth is, I hate turkey. I hate making it, too. Would you work with me in the kitchen if we left out the turkey, and made everything vegetarian or vegan? I only get to see you once a year, and I love our time together.

You might think that sounds a little over dramatic, but that sort of thing does happen. Vegan activist Jasmin Singer’s grandmother even went vegetarian after learning about the cruel conditions in the animal agriculture industry. Some people would rather have their loved ones be comfortable than eat meat.

Untitled

Mmm… pie.

I don’t request that my mom stop serving turkey (or other meat). When we spend holidays together, we make all or almost all of the sides vegan (Earth Balance, soy milk and vegetable broth are your friends here). I usually bring a dessert, as my mom does use pie crusts with lard. My mom usually even buys me a Tofurky. So, I can eat almost everything on the table, and my mom doesn’t ask me to help her make the turkey. And let’s be honest, I’m usually still asleep when the turkey goes in the oven anyway. Or if it’s meat with a shorter cook time, that might be when I go take a shower. There are ways to get out of the kitchen that don’t say “I don’t want to help with anything” or “I don’t want to spend time with you.”

I haven’t hosted many Thanksgivings myself, and those where I have my guests have been vegans and vegetarians, so that’s not been an issue- but should I ever start hosting for friends or family members who might expect meat… well, I keep a veg household. Like the sister-in-law above, I would say no to anyone who wants to bring a turkey.

If that makes me a brat, I’ve stopped caring.

IMG_2999

Thanksgiving needs cranberries.

So here are my rules for the holidays.

  • The host decides what the cuisine is, and has total veto power over anything being brought in.
  • If there are true air-borne food allergies, only a complete jerk would insist that the offending allergen be made part of a meal.
  • When it comes to special accommodations, please understand there is a difference between ethical/religious beliefs and preferences. For example, it is my ethical belief that eating meat is wrong, so I will not do it for myself. It is my preference that others follow suit, but I don’t get to “dictate” that unless I’m the host. Also, low-fat, low-carb, paleo, low-GI- these are preferences. Unless…
  • If there is someone with diet-related illness (such as diabetes), it would be a very nice gesture on any host’s part if they offered a few dishes said guest can have.
  • The host probably can’t accommodate everyone if everyone has a different preference/allergy/ethical belief, but there are somethings that can work for everyone, or almost everyone.
  • Guests needing special dietary accommodations should offer to bring something (actually, all guests should offer to bring something), but should let it drop if the host says no, especially if it’s contrary to the host’s ethical/religious beliefs or is an allergen that could trigger a fatal reaction.
  • Karma. Remember it.
Posted in Food | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Cheating Today

Not on veganism!

Cheating on Vegan MoFo. I’m just linking you over to my post on Small Bites about Bhog Indian in Pleasantville, NY.

IMG_3373

I also mentioned this the other day.

Happy MoFo!

veganmofo2013

I love it when you follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!

Posted in Food | Leave a comment

How would you feel?

I just read this article from Slate today. I’m sure it’s blowing up their page hits today and that’s why they ran it, because I have a hard time believing that they are this ignorant.

If you don’t feel like giving them a page hit, here’s the bottom line: omnivore makes dinner (risotto) for vegetarian guests, and uses chicken stock. The stock was originally an accident, but then he decides not to tell his guests because it would be rude of them not to eat what he’s serving, and basically veg*n people need to get over themselves and be polite.

Pot, meet kettle.

My basic comment there was if any of my friends ever did that to me, I would consider that a serious breech of trust. Not realize that you used chicken stock until after we’ve eaten? That’s an accident and there should be no hard feelings. Intentionally use chicken stock and lie to me about it? Why should I believe anything else you ever say if you feel it’s not a big deal to lie to me about that?

If I were in that situation and they came clean with me, it’s true, I would not eat the meal. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still enjoy the company.

veganmofo2013

I love it when you follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!

Posted in Food, Media | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Lucky Buddha in Thornwood, NY

My department at work likes to go to a restaurant at the winter holidays every year. Before I started a few years back, they typically went to Applebee’s. When I heard that’s where they were going my first Christmas there, I really, really, really didn’t want to go. I explained to one of the people organizing that there really wasn’t much there I could eat, and fortunately, there were a couple of other people not thrilled with the idea, based on Applebee’s just not being very good.

So I had to come up with somewhere that everyone would agree on.

Nearby, we had Indian and Thai that I could eat. Not everyone is into those types of foods, though, so I had to come up with something else.

There was a hibachi place just down the street. Everyone likes food entertainment, so Lucky Buddha it was.

I’m not writing them a love letter over their food- it’s not my favorite place, but it is somewhere where pretty much everyone can get something. When we go as a large group for the holidays or other celebrations we usually sit at the hibachi grill (I just engage in conversation and don’t pay much mind to the food), and when with smaller groups, there’s plenty of regular tables. They can sub tofu into many of the meat-based dishes, even though they’re not on the menu, but this has been my recent standby:

IMG_3311

Avocado/cucumber roll and mini vegetable spring rolls.

It’s a-okay. I prefer my sushi without seaweed, but I’m learning to tolerate it!

veganmofo2013

I love it when you follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!

Posted in Food, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment