Zucchini from Cape Cod

I’ve been continuing to write biweekly on a blog for my local paper’s website, a column that was started by JL of JL Goes Vegan before her move to Colorado.  So for today, I’m going to link to to my post over there about zucchini.

How does this relate to my theme?

My zucchini is from Cape Cod, of course!  Straight from my mother’s garden.  I made up these zucchini fritters over the weekend.  So make sure you check out both the post and the recipe!

They're tasty, if not a bit soggy.  Don't make my mistake squeeze out more water than you think you need to!

They’re tasty, if not a bit soggy. Don’t make my mistake squeeze out more water than you think you need to!

And stay tuned tomorrow, to hear more about my trip to Cape Cod!

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Whole Foods in Hyannis, MA

The last time I visited the Cape, in the works was a Whole Foods– the first on the Cape. I’ve been watching my Cape friends’ Facebook pages with excitement as everyone geared up for the opening this past spring!

Growing up on the Cape, you get used to doing a lot of shopping “off-Cape.” Every end of August while I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, there was at least one day where you took a trip off-Cape to go clothes shopping for the new school year, for more variety and cheaper prices. Such trips would often include a stop to a really cool restaurant that we didn’t have on Cape, like uh, Olive Garden. At least I wasn’t looking forward to a trip to McDonalds, like friends from Martha’s Vineyard, right?

Fast forward a number of years and we got our own Olive Garden; chain stores take over, ending the need for off Cape back to school shopping; and the Cape starts to look like the rest of suburbia. Except there’s light gray (mostly fake) clapboard on all of our buildings.

But vegan food shopping was one of those things that I still frequently did off-Cape. I worked part of the time off-Cape, and I did live on the dreaded “other side of the bridge” in Buzzards Bay my last three years on the Cape, so that made those trips not so bad. It still would have been nice to do all my shopping on the Cape without breaking the bank, though.

Yeah, you’re laughing that I’m suggesting that I’m about to suggest shopping at a Whole Foods on the Cape would help one not break the bank, but when it comes to vegan convenience foods, it’s true. And some of the prices on the Cape are better than they are here in NY, so there’s that. Plus Whole Foods has vegan products that are exclusive to their store.

In my last few years on the Cape we did get a Trader Joe’s, and there are a few independently owned or small chain natural foods stores, but different stores are better for different things. You want cheap tofu or tempeh? You can’t beat Trader Joe’s. You want to buy beans and spices in bulk for cheap? You might do a little better at the small store. You want to buy Daiya? Whole Foods is your man. I mean, store for the best price, most of the time.

For your eating-in or take out needs, Whole Foods in Hyannis also has a smoothie bar with a number of vegan offerings, a prepared foods section with vegan hot dogs and a vegan pizza (with a cashew sauce instead of Daiya, no less), in addition to the salad bar.

This is one of the smallest Whole Foods stores that I’ve ever seen, if not the smallest. It’s housed in a building that was originally a Border’s Books, if that gives you an idea of the size. Despite that, they seem to be really focusing on what they can bring to the Cape that’s different than their competitors. Sure, they have nice produce, but the produce department is pretty small. I was surprised that some of their packages greens are coming from New York- not exactly local. Go to a farmer’s market for those. Not a ton of supplements- you want those, go to one of the smaller stores like Cape Cod Natural Foods. But if you want Earth Balance Mac & Cheese? This is where you belong!

No, it's not on sale- the sign was on the wrong shelf.  But I didn't even see this stuff at my White Plains store earlier in August, so I was very excited to see it here!

No, it’s not on sale- the sign was on the wrong shelf. But I didn’t even see this stuff at my White Plains store earlier in August, so I was very excited to see it here!

This stuff?  A full dollar cheaper at the regular price in Hyannis than in Westchester.

This stuff? A full dollar cheaper at the regular price in Hyannis than in Westchester.

Need fake meats?  You won't find Beyond Meat anywhere else on the Cape!

Need fake meats? You won’t find Beyond Meat anywhere else on the Cape!

Lots of vegan cheese.  I unfortunately couldn't find any Kite Hill, but they're stocked with all the major brands.

Lots of vegan cheese. I unfortunately couldn’t find any Kite Hill, but they’re stocked with all the major brands.

Hail Merry and Cafe Indigo!

Hail Merry and Cafe Indigo!

I haven't seen the Whoopie Pies in Westchester, so that's pretty cool!

I haven’t seen the Whoopie Pies in Westchester, so that’s pretty cool!

And blueberry muffins, in case you want to pick some up for the morning!

And blueberry muffins, in case you want to pick some up for the morning!

Not pictured: Tofurkey pockets I bought here because I can’t find them in Westchester. How do you like that?

Personally, I love that there’s now a Whole Foods on the Cape. I don’t want it to displace the smaller natural foods stores throughout the Cape, but I hope that WF and the smaller stores can coexist. Because that would be awesome.

I guess all this talk of travel to Cape Cod is a little trip down memory lane, too. Hope you’re enjoying!

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Earthly Delights in Osterville, MA

I lived on Cape Cod when I first went vegetarian and then vegan.

It was not easy.

Vegetarian was not so bad, as I expect it’s not so bad pretty much anywhere.  It’s not that hard to find a veggie burger when you don’t have to worry about eggs and dairy; you can eat out almost anywhere (steak houses and seafood restaurants being the biggest challenges).  It’s nice to be able to find somewhere that caters to vegetarians, though, and this was one of those places.  I started going to Earthly Delights probably in 2005 or so, before I was vegan.

In the year or two before I made the leap from vegetarian to vegan, I tried many times to make the change, and kept failing.  It was too hard to eat out on Cape Cod as a vegan off-season.  Finally, a few months before I was making the move from Cape Cod to New Haven, I made the transition for good, and haven’t looked back.

Earthly Delights was pretty much the only place I could go out to eat on the Cape, at least in the Mid/Upper Cape areas.  I sure appreciated it!

Since I moved away, Earthly Delights has consistently been on my go-to list whenever I’ve visited in the last few years.  It’s right near my mom’s, the food is easily to take to-go, and it’s consistently good.  I typically get either the Tempeh Reuben or the Fakin’ Bacon Tempeh sandwiches.

tempeh reuben

Not the prettiest sandwich, but very tasty!

I love tempeh.  I think they also used to use Follow Your Heart cheese, but they must have switched to Daiya.  Both are good choices!

I love tempeh. I think they also used to use Follow Your Heart cheese, but they must have switched to Daiya. Both are good choices!

Besides being not too far from my mom’s, Osterville is one of those places you should be checking out when you visit the Cape.  It has an adorable main street area, and the ride to and fro is rife with ocean views and tree lined roads.

Earthly Delights is not an exclusively vegan or vegetarian restaurant. They do serve meat, and their focus is on organic foods. They are also quite close to the Cape Cod Natural Foods store in Centerville, so you might want to combine a trip if you’re heading over from another part of the Cape!

As much as I love Earthly Delights, there are now more options on Cape Cod for vegan eats, and I’m really excited about them and to share with you.

But I do love you, Earthly Delights.  I really do. You will stay on my must visit list!

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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!

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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.

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More on Tofu

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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!

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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?

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

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

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

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Ready to roll!

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And cut!

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Fritter filling- pear and lavender.

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

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

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Fritters, getting all cut up.

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

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Icing some of the donuts.

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

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We got to play with fire.

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Piling up more of them!

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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?

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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!

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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?

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.
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