Changes on the Blog | Vote for the Blog’s New Name! | Last Vega Review

***Please scroll down to the middle of this post to vote for what you think the blog’s new name should be!***

Happy almost 2015, all! 2014 has certainly provided a whirlwind of a year, both personally and socio-politically (but aren’t they all intertwined, anyway?). I feel like I’ve experienced more personal growth since this past August than I ever have before in the same span of time, while I’ve heard many express the sentiment (and I do agree) that it feels like a pivotal moment in a broader social context.

Considering all of these much-needed shifts, I feel that now is the right time to change up my little corner of the blogosphere a bit. Farmers Market Vegan has drastically shifted directions since its launch in 2011: from a food-focused advocacy platform for vegan consumerism, to a much more politically minded and socially progressive (or, at least, trying to be…) collection of thought pieces that focus on challenging the oppressions perpetuated in the vegan/animal rights movements (still with some food because, hey, girl’s gotta eat).

The blog’s name, however, has remained the same. Yet I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with “Farmers Market Vegan” due to what I see as its tendency to center veganism at the heart of my politics and emphasize the mindset of “ethical buying practices” (which really don’t exist under capitalism and aren’t the point of veganism). Instead, I’d like a blog name that more accurately reflects how I conceptualize my politics today: as a never-ending practice of radical humility grounded in seeking an always imperfect understanding of interlocking oppressions including – for relevance to this conversation – speciesism, of which I see vegan consumption (distinct from vegan consumerism) as a necessary extension.

And I want your help! I want to know what resonates with you, what sort of name might help you to feel more comfortable interacting with the blog (especially engaging in dialogue by commenting, etc.), and so on. So I’ve crafted this funky little poll below in which I’d love for you to participate. I’ve suggested a couple ideas that I’ve brainstormed, but please don’t hesitate to suggest a completely different one. I’m planning on re-launching the blog under a new name in late January, so please get in your votes by then! A million thanks to you all in advance.

I don’t really know yet what this blog re-conceptualization will mean for the product reviews and giveaways I’ve featured on the blog in the past, and also what it will mean for my role as an Our Hen House employee (we feature a substantial number of product reviews, many of which I’ve done, and highlight vegan food quite often; this is not at all to say that I’m not still very committed to the organization). On the one hand, I most certainly want to de-center the consumerism that has overshadowed the anti-speciesism at the heart of vegan politics. On the other hand, I really like being able to offer free items of potential joy (i.e., cookbooks) and sustenance (i.e., ice creamto readers who might otherwise not be able or willing to shell out the cash for them. Not that these items are necessary in any way, of course, but hey, fruity tea tastes really damn good even if it ain’t doing the whole “abolish capitalism” mission any favors. I would love to hear your thoughts on this dilemma.

For now, I’ve already promised to publish two reviews and one giveaway on my blog in the next month. I don’t want to rescind the offer, but perhaps I’ll “even them out,” so to speak, with an upcoming post reflecting on the privileges and whiteness I’ve experienced in my time as a blogger. The first review, well, you’re about to read it!

Remember my review of the Vega line of products back in September? Well, those generous folks just kept sending me stuff, this time in the form of an array of samples of the new Vega One formula. The product that first popularized the Vega brand, Vega One is an animal-free protein powder packed with protein (duh), fiber, antioxidants, omega-3’s, probiotics, and greens available in a variety of fun flavors, like french vanilla, chocolate, berry, and vanilla chai.

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Recently, though, the Vega team developed a new Vega One formula that contains 33 percent more protein, two times more greens, and the same vegan/whole-foods/gluten-free/soy-free profile as the original Vega One. A fan of the taste, consistency, and nutritional capacities of Vega before, I certainly didn’t think that Vega needed to change up its products at all…but I’m also not one to refuse another helping or seven of kale. I suppose that my inability to detect much of a difference in the taste or texture of the new Vega One speaks to the impressive capabilities of the Vega team to maintain the integrity of their products even while adding/changing around the ingredients.

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Just like the original Vega One, the new formula adds a pleasing full-bodied texture and sweet flavor to my morning smoothies, and actually tastes good when simply mixed with water or non-dairy milks for a quick protein shake (which I cannot say of many other supplement powders). The french vanilla flavor did taste a bit too sweet for my preferences when blended into a smoothie with bananas, berries, and kale, but I didn’t find it overwhelming when used as a powder/milk blend. The vanilla chai, though, worked phenomenally in a smoothie, imparting a lovely and unique flavor profile that I imagine would provide a wonderful base for more thematic smoothies (gingerbread or eggnog, anyone?). Shameless plug, but I also think that the vanilla chai would taste great in my Creamy Apple Spice Green Smoothie and Persimmon Green Smoothie, while the chocolate would lend itself well to my Blueberry Basil Smoothie.

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If you’re looking to add a plant-based protein kick to your diet in more applications than just smoothies, though, the Vega website offers recipes for Vega One-enriched brownies, overnight oatmeal, dessert puddings and more.

So yay Vega tastes good, boo capitalism is bad, and thank you for reading my contradictory existential crisis of a post. Please remember to vote in the poll above!

In solidarity, Ali.

Persimmon Green Smoothie {Creamy to the Max} | Things to Think About When Buying Bananas (and Everything Else)

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Hi, all! Just a short post today, as the start of the second half of the fall semester has brought with it an increased workload.

Have bananas brainwashed you to believe that only they can yield a richly creamy smoothie? Live under the banana hegemony no longer, folks, for a vastly under-appreciated winter fruit has arrived to dismantle the banana’s power hold: the persimmon. Numerous species of persimmon exist– native to China, southeast Europe, the eastern United States, Mexico, the Philippines, and beyond – but the two most commonly found in U.S. grocery stores include the fuyu (flat, doughnut-shaped) and the hachiya (taller, heart-shaped). For optimal taste and texture, I like to eat my persimmons when they’ve achieved the feel of a ripe avocado; at this stage, persimmons will also produce the silkiest smoothie, one that can easily rival any banana-based concoction. (For more on persimmons, be sure to listen to the upcoming episode of the Our Hen House podcast this Saturday, November 8, on which I’ll give a review of four of my favorite winter produce items for which to keep an eye out!)

Good thing, too, that banana alternatives exist, considering the harsh implications of contemporary industrial banana production on child workers, global trade, women farmers, and the environment (not to mention the racist and colonialist stereotypes long employed to market bananas in the U.S.). For a wealth of information on such implications, I’d like to highlight and direct you all toward the latest addition to the Food Empowerment Project‘s “Food Choices” resource page:Peeling Back the Truth on Bananas.”

Of course, in encouraging folks to purchase responsibly sourced bananas, I in no way mean to shame anyone for their food choices (especially those in difficult financial situations who recognize bananas as a cheap source of ample nutrients and may not be able to find or afford the types of bananas recommended by the FEP), nor to suggest that we can ever hope to eat in a completely ethically sound manner (we are all enmeshed in complicated power relations, after all). I do, however, hope that considering one’s food choices will serve as either a catalyst or complement to first thinking about then acting to transform the multiple structures of oppression that we all help to perpetuate in one way or another, simply by virtue of our socialization in a white supremacist, heteropatriarchal, capitalist society.

If bananas from Equal Exchange, Earth University, or Grow Bananas (those recommended by the FEP) are accessible to you, by all means use them in this smoothie for a double dose of creaminess. If not, substitute additional persimmons and reduce the amount of non-dairy milk to 1/2 cup.

Persimmon Green Smoothie

Serves 1.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup diced ripe persimmon (hachiya and fuyu are both fine)
1/2 cup frozen banana slices
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
2 large leaves kale, chopped
1 cup non-dairy milk
Ground cinnamon to garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients – in the order specified – in a high-speed blender. Puree until very smooth, stirring the mixture as necessary. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vega Review & GIVEAWAY!

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

In the past decade, the vegan community has borne more top-level athletes than the world ever expected of we sickly, malnourished, and deprived plant-eaters. From bodybuilders to fighters to endurance athletes to runners, competitive athletes fueled by animal-free diets have demonstrated not just the viability, but the power of plants(Of course, many non-Western, largely plant-based cultures have demonstrated this for years, but for the most part we haven’t been willing to look).

Photo via BrendanBrazier.com.

Photo via BrendanBrazier.com.

I first encountered the world of vegan athleticism after picking up a copy of Thrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health by Brendan Brazier, Canadian vegan ultramarathoner and creator of the award-winning line of whole-food nutritional products known as Vega. After developing an increasing concern for how individual food choices affect the lives of human workers, non-human animals, and the planet, Brendan became determined to create a conscious diet that would also enable top performance in his endeavors as a professional Ironman triathlete. With a focus on nutrient density, alkaline-forming foods, and nutrient-to-resource ratio, Brendan succeeded in developing just the diet that would maximize his athletic performance and minimize his environmental impact: one based on whole plant foods.

Photo via MyVega.com.

Photo via MyVega.com.

Three years after the publication of Thrive Foods, Brendan’s line of Vega products has aided countless nutritionally and athletically minded folks in their health- and performance-related endeavors, receiving numerous accolades along the way. Brendan launched Vega with his plant-powered protein powder – based in pea protein, seeds, brown rice protein, chlorella, and maca – now known as Vega One and available in french vanilla, chocolate, berry, vanilla chai, and natural flavors. Since that first protein powder, Vega has expanded its meticulously formulated line to include meal and snack bars, sacha inchi seeds, chlorella, maca, and an antioxidant oil blend – all completely vegan, nourishing, and selected for peak athletic performance and environmental sustainability.

Photo via MyVega.com.

Photo via MyVega.com.

The Vega team generously provided me with three products from their line: the Vega One Nutritional Shake in French Vanilla flavor, the Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend, and the Maca Chocolate bars (recommended by the Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List!).

Imparting a warm sweetness and full-bodied mouthfeel to my morning smoothies, the Vega One Nutritional Shake contributed to a fantastic pre-workout meal without the chalkiness from which many other protein powders suffer. With 15 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, three servings of leafy green vegetables, and tons of antioxidants, omega-3’s, and probiotics, Vega One can provide a comprehensive answer for the oft-asked question, “Where do vegans get their nutrition?”

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The Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend starred in the latest rendition of my famous Liquid Gold Salad Dressing (which in turn stars in my Everyday Salad!), lending it a vibrant green hue thanks to the blend’s inclusion of hemp seed oil. Also featuring flax seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, coconut seed oil, green tea seed oil, pomegranate seed oil, black cumin seed oil, black raspberry seed oil, blueberry seed oil, and cranberry seed oil, the blend boasts a balanced two-to-one ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, in accordance with widely accepted nutritional recommendations.

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For dessert, I sampled Vega’s 70% dark chocolate bars, infused with the unique malty flavor of maca – a Peruvian root touted for its ability to improve energy, stamina, fertility, and libido. While I cannot definitively say if I experienced an increase in any of these characteristics, I can say that I wholeheartedly enjoyed the silky smooth texture and complex flavor of the bars (slavery-free!).

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While expensive and not-widely-available “superfoods” like maca, chlorella, and sacha inchi seeds do not play necessary roles in a diet for quality athletic performance – indeed, insisting they did would prove quite elitist – at the heart of Brendan and Vega’s work lies a passion for the health and environmental benefits of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds: foods available to many more people (though still not enough). Showcasing this passion, the Vega team offers a bounty of free, nourishing, performance-minded, vegan recipes and meal plans on their website.

In my increasingly privileged position as an established blogger, these foods have become very available to me thanks to vegan companies attuned to the benefits of collaborating with prominent online presences. As such, the availability of products has increased for blog readers, as well, showcased by the constant flurry of giveaways on the blogosphere.

And you, dear readers, have the opportunity to experience Vega’s products: one of you will win a prize pack of surprise goods from the Vega line. Simply click on the links at the top or bottom of this post to enter the giveaway for your chance to win! And of course, don’t forget to connect with Vega on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, September 28, and I will announce the winner on the following day.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with free product samples. All opinions are completely my own.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {8-1-14}

Don’t forget to enter my latest giveaway for your chance to win 4 pints of DF Mavens’ vegan ice cream! Remember, this giveaway is only open to residents of New York City and its five boroughs.

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Welcome to the ninth installment of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (#NewsandChews) here on Farmers Market Vegan! This one will have your mouth watering with intensely flavorful summer dishes that feature heirloom tomatoes and zucchini, along with a dreamy milkshake that offers an homage to the most perfect sweetener on the planet. Then, get ready to have your activist energies inspired with the urge to make the environmental and animal rights movements more inclusive, to combat government surveillance, and to continue the radical energies of a past uprising in my very own hometown.

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory
Photo via Alexandra's Kitchen.

Photo via Alexandra’s Kitchen.

Whenever summer rolls around, I rekindle my amorous relationship with zucchini, whose watery texture and insipid flavor during the colder months yields to the succulent smoothness of the warm-weather squash. This verdant side dish from Alexandra’s Kitchen features my preferred preparation of zucchini – caramelized and meltingly tender – alongside a couple of flavors I’ve been craving lately (say hello to my BFFs mint and capers!). This will certainly make an appearance on my dinner table within the coming weeks.

Sweet
Photo via VegaLife.

Photo via VegaLife.

All 21 members of my vegan living cooperative know supremely well of my unwavering devotion to maple syrup – the first substance that comes to my mind when asked, “if you had to sit in a bathtub filled with one thing…” (I’d happily drink myself out of that situation, thank you very much). I’ve also had such a taste for a nice, thick milkshake of late, so this concoction from the folks at Vega fulfills two of my deepest culinary passions of the moment. Plus, what doesn’t experience tremendous improvement from a sprinkling of coconut bacon? Nothing, that’s what.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Grilled Shiitakes and Green Goddess over Heirloom Tomatoes
via the Vedge Restaurant Cookbook

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I’ve spoken before on the ol’ blog of the wonders of Vedge Restaurant in Philadelphia and its cookbook, and I’m thrilled to once again lend it ample appreciation. This summery dish from culinary genius Rich Landau features thick, juicy slices of heirloom tomato topped with meatily textured and charred shiitake mushrooms, all doused in drizzled with an herby Green Goddess-style dressing of my one true love vegan mayo, plenty of herbs, and capers. Licking the plate is mandatory.

Must-Read News Article

New Report Expounds on Old Problem: Lack of Diversity in Green Groups” and “Think People of Color Don’t Care About the Environment? Think Again
via Brentin Mock at Grist

Photo via Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Photo via Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.

In both of these stories, Brentin Mock highlights the problematic lack of inclusion of people of color within the mainstream environmental movement. As he notes, this exclusion proves particularly ironic considering that environmental racism causes communities of color to experience much more intensely the consequences of climate change. For example, Mock cites in the article “a recent study from the University of Minnesota [which] found that black and brown Americans are more often trapped in neighborhoods laden with nitrogen dioxide than their white fellow Americans.”

Of course, people of color don’t currently make up a notable portion of the environmental movement not because they don’t care about the state of our planet, but because of systemic inequalities that, for example, bar people of color from securing jobs in the environmental sector. Additionally, because of the mainstream environmental movement’s overwhelming whiteness, it may not feel like a welcome community for many people of color.

I certainly see this phenomenon present, too, in the animal rights movementa predominantly white movement with racist, classist, sexist, and ableist tendencies. In order to work toward collective liberation for all, regardless of species, race, class, gender, etc., we must confront the oppressions present in the social movements in which we are most involved.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Jeremy Scahill: Leaked U.S. Terrorist Watchlist Rulebook Reveals ‘Global Stop and Frisk Program‘”
via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

This Democracy Now! segment features progressive journalists extraordinaire Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept, a recently launched platform dedicated to reporting on the documents provided by NSA whisteblower Edward Snowden and producing “fearless, adversarial journalism across a wide range of issues.” The Intercept’s most recent report focuses on a leaked copy of the secret government guidebook that outlines the characteristics used to classify an individual or group as a “terrorist” target. Democracy Now! lists some of these categorization guidelines:

Both “known” and “suspected” suspects are tracked, and terrorism is so broadly defined that it includes people accused of damaging property belonging to the government or financial institutions. Other factors that can justify inclusion on the watchlist include postings on social media or having a relative already deemed a terrorist.

This guidebook constitutes just one of a plethora of evidence pointing to the creation of a state of complete government surveillance in the U.S.

Book Recommendation

Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street
by John Nichols

Photo via Amazon.com.

Photo via Amazon.com.

The other day after stocking up on vegan macarons and Cinnamon Snail doughnuts at the Vegan ShopUp, I hopped a short distance over to Bluestockings, a radical and collectively owned bookstore and activist center (read: my heaven). Not looking for any book in particular, I stumbled upon this book by John Nichols, which caught my eye with its Wisconsin-shaped fist – a symbol I know well from my days as a high school junior in Madison during the ongoing protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights, and the subsequent occupation of the state capitol. As a youngin’ who lacked a meaningful understanding of class issues and social movements, high-school me didn’t fully understand the pivotal importance of the goings-on of my hometown. This book in part helped me to realize the enormity of all of those marches we students took from our school to the capitol building, those nights spent in sleeping bags on the marble floor of that state building, and the visits of movement leaders like Amy Goodman and Jesse Jacskon to what I thought was my humble city. Now, as I look back on the events of early 2011 in Madison, I’m hugely proud to hail from such a hub of progressivism, and yearn to return to my original community to contribute to the radical energy that helped to shape my current commitment to activism. On Wisconsin!

In solidarity, Ali.

Creamy Apple (or Pear) Spice Green Smoothie

Every Thursday, Ferry House picks up a half-bushel of local apples and pears from the always-friendly folks at Wilklow Orchards from Vassar’s on-campus farmers market. Our 21 house members easily devour this generous box-full of autumnal fruit within five to six days, employing the crisp, jewel-toned apples and juicy, champagne-fleshed pears as on-the-go snacks or, in my case, in my ubiquitous morning green smoothies.

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While frozen berries had played an integral role in my smoothies since the summer, lately I’ve found myself gravitating toward smoothies that incorporate the grounding fruits of the cooling weather, both because they produce a less chilled smoothie than do frozen berries (a quite positive aspect considering that I prefer not to shiver when eating my breakfast), and because they serve as optimal bases for warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Employing Ferry’s apples and pears in my smoothie rotation also greatly reduces the personal money I spend each week on specialty foods such as flax oil and kombucha, since frozen berries tend to cost a pretty penny.

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The recipe below yields a gorgeously creamy, attractively hued smoothie with a flavor nicely balanced between sweet and spicy, mostly thanks to the bite of fresh ginger. Served in a glass or as a Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl, this smoothie will assuredly prompt your tastebuds to sing the praises of the fall season. Ooh, a smoothie-themed musical? Hello, Broadway…

Creamy Apple (or Pear) Spice Green Smoothie—Can be Raw, Soy Free, and Nut Free; Oil Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat

Makes one 16-oz smoothie.

Ingredients:

1 large banana, frozen and sliced
1 medium-small apple or ripe pear, diced
1-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1 scoop of vegan protein powder (optional; I love Ultimate Meal and Garden of Life)
1 large handful of kale
1 cup non-dairy milk (Edensoy for Ali, forever and always)

Place all ingredients in a blender in the order listed above. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. To make this smoothie into my infamous Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl, serve the smoothie in a bowl topped with 1/2 cup granola and a tablespoon of nut butter.

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Recipe submitted to Wellness Weekend and Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Until next time, Ali.

Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl

Confession: I harbor a deep-seated adoration of green smoothies. Granted, I may or may not have inadvertently revealed this infatuation in my recent guest post on Green Thickies, or in my detailed instruction guide on How to Make the Perfect Green Smoothie, or in the 37 various green smoothies highlighted on my What I Ate Wednesday Smoothie Compilation. Regardless of how ostentatiously I promote my love affair with green smoothies, or of how many consecutive mornings I’ve reveled in green smoothie goodness for breakfast (please don’t force me to count), the fact remains that nothing provides me more morningtime contentment than diving spoon-first into a brightly hued, creamy, refreshing green smoothie.

One of my favorite smoothies: my creamy Blueberry-Basil Smoothie. Perfect for turning into a Green Smoothie-Granola Bowl!

One of my favorite smoothies: my creamy Blueberry-Basil Smoothie. Perfect for turning into a Green Smoothie-Granola Bowl!

Providing the ideal vehicle for incorporating more wildly nutrient-dense leafy greens into one’s diet, green smoothies can also fulfill one’s daily fruit quota, as well as offer ample amounts of protein depending upon if one chooses to add vegan protein powder, various nut butters, chia and/or hemp seeds, etc. However, while one can easily cram tons of nutrients and energy into one blended concoction, I find that doing so masks the pure and simple flavors of the fruit integral to smoothies—an especial tragedy if the aforementioned fruit consists of summer’s bounty of peaches, berries, plums, and the like. In order to provide for easy identification and full enjoyment of each fruit incorporated in my daily smoothies, I only add six uncomplicated ingredients into the blender each morning: a banana, 1/2 cup each of two different “feature” fruits, a scoop of protein powder (completely optional), a generous two handfuls of chopped kale, and 1 cup of the best soymilk known to humankind. This basic smoothie template ensures a delightfully thick, creamy smoothie bursting with the pronounced flavor of both feature fruits.

I topped this mauve-hued smoothie of banana, blackberry, and cantaloupe with a delicious maple-spice granola and almond butter.

I topped this mauve-hued smoothie of banana, blackberry, cantaloupe, and kale with a delicious maple-spice granola and almond butter.

While scrumptious and nourishing on its own, this unpretentious smoothie tends not to adequately satiate my hunger or provide enough calories to support my quite active lifestyle. To add nutrient and caloric density, as well as a satisfyingly toothsome contrast to the smoothie’s creaminess, I always top my smoothies with a heaping half-cupful of homemade granola and a spoonful of nut butter. These simple (yet oh so tasty) additions transform a healthy morning snack into a nutrient-packed A.M. meal, a humble green smoothie into the ultimate breakfast: the Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl.

As I previously alluded, the proper Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl requires three components:
1.) The green smoothie.
2.) The granola.
3.) The nut butter.

These three components allow for infinite variations depending upon taste preferences, caloric needs, and seasonal fruit availability. Lately, I’ve blended cantaloupe, blackberries, peaches, and plums into my smoothies; I’ve made numerous adaptations of this fabulous recipe for my granola (using maple syrup instead of honey, of course); and I’ve rotated between peanut and almond butter for my morning nut butter spoonful. I’ve also hugely enjoyed adding handfuls of herbs into my smoothies—fresh thyme, basil, and cilantro all nicely brighten any smoothie. Obviously, your Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl will most likely vary immensely from mine—this only showcases the customizable beauty of such a breakfast!

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If you’ve ever experimented with green smoothies for breakfast but found that they didn’t sufficiently quell your hunger, I’d highly recommend offering green smoothies a second chance in the form of a Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl. Your tastebuds and tummy will thank you.

Submitted to Healthy Vegan Friday and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Guest Post on Green Thickies: How to Green Smoothie On-the-Go

Another day, another guest post. Though I only recently had the honor of featuring my banana soft-serve know-how on Becky’s “Not Your Ordinary Recipes” blog, Katherine of Green Thickies has shared my undying—even while traveling—devotion to green smoothies on her lovely site. My guest post for Green Thickies provides tips for enjoying green smoothies while on-the-go, ensuring you optimally healthy breakfasts even while out of the comforts of your own kitchen, as well as a winning, superfood-packed recipe for an Apricot-Goji Smoothie with Maca. Head on over to Green Thickies to check out the post and recipe!

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I’d also like to mention that the lovely Kylie and Laura of TeenVGN have featured my Pomegranate-Infused Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Cauliflower, Hazelnuts, and Arugula as their June Recipe of the Month! You can see the recipe on the TeenVGN site here.

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Until next time, Ali.

 

A Night of Academic Discussion and Vegan Deliciousness

A number of readers have expressed interest in hearing more about the general happenings as well as the fantastic food of Ferry House, the egalitarian vegetarian/vegan co-op in which I reside at Vassar along with 20 of the kindest, most insightful individuals I’ve ever met. To fulfill such readers’ wishes, I thought it fitting to recount on the ol’ blog a recent Ferry event: Professor Dinner. Every semester, the members of Ferry invite one or more of their favorite professors to enjoy a convivial vegan potluck dinner in the Ferry living and dining rooms, as well as to engage in stimulating conversations with the academics they most admire. Rife with a cornucopia of plant-based yummies and enough throught-provoking interactions to blow the roof off of Ferry, this semester’s Professor Dinner proved wildly successful and highly enjoyable. Pictured below is the vast array of dishes on the Professor Dinner buffet table, contributed by Ferry members and professors alike.

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Mixed berry smoothies served in an assortment of mix-and-match glassware.

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Gluten-free spicy tempeh empanadas with sweet potatoes, swiss chard, raisins, and pepitas. Made by yours’ truly and inspired by the recipe to which this picture links.

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Shepherd’s Pie with mixed veggies, veggie meat crumbles, and mashed potato topping.

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Fruit salad–a rare and coveted occurrence in Ferry since fruit proves too expensive to fit into our weekly shopping budget. For Professor Dinner, though, we go all out!

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Salad with dark-leaf lettuce, carrots, snap peas, and cherry tomatoes served with a take on my famous Liquid Gold Dressing.

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Whole wheat linguine tossed with peanut sauce and roasted tofu, carrots, and broccoli, with a smaller portion of gluten-free peanut noodles next to it.

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Millet pilaf with almonds and raisins.

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Peanut butter bread.

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GUACAMOLE! Also a highly prized dish in Ferry since avocados cost a pretty penny.

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My plate of Professor Dinner scrumptiousness.

To my immense disappointment, the professor I invited to the potluck—fellow vegan, animal rights advocate, Joyce-lover, and blogger—had to cancel at the last minute, but luckily, my dear friend and fellow VARC member Alan had invited another like-minded professor to dinner—Jill Schneiderman from the Earth Science department. Professor Schneiderman shared a troubling story with Alan and I that detailed a social experiment she performed informally on a group of students she planned to take on a week-long venture to the deserts of the American Southwest. In preparation for the trip, Professor Schneiderman had to collect the eating preferences of the participating students so that the desert facility where they would stay could adequately cater to their needs. As a pondrous vegetarian and scientific researcher, Professor Schneiderman decided to tell her students that the facility provided vegetarian meals by default, and that individuals who wanted to eat meat had to request it specially. She then passed around a sheet on which students could denote whether or not they felt it necessary to eat meat on the trip, and to make the facility provide dining options that included meat. To Professor Schneiderman’s surprise, nearly all of the students checked the “Wants to Eat Meat on Trip” box, and displayed their indignance that the facility would dare not serve meat unless specifically asked. The situation reminded me of Melanie Joy’s book—Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cowswhich discusses how society regards the eating of animals as “normal” and the abstention from eating sentient beings as “deviant.”

While rather disheartening that such a phenomenon would occur on a college campus as progressive and liberal-minded as that of Vassar, the fact that at least a handful of incredibly passionate students and faculty members understand the ethical implications of eating animals and work to spread this awareness throughout campus make me proud to attend Vassar. Additionally, since many of these individuals live in Ferry or often interact with Ferry members, I feel so lucky and honored to reside in a house surrounded by like-minded individuals, which provides me with the strength to interact with those who may not share my viewpoints on veganism and animal rights in a compassionate manner. All hail, Ferry House!

Until next time, Ali.

What I Ate Wednesday #64

Breakfast: A green smoothie of 1 cup frozen mango, 3 deglet noor dates, 1 scoop Amazing Grass Green Superfoods powder, 2 tbsp chia seeds, 4 large leaves lacinato kale, and 1 cup homemade almond milk, all topped with a homemade granola of apples, buckwheat groats, cooked brown rice, walnuts, goji berries, blueberries, hemp seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, maple syrup, and coconut oil.

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I crafted this particular granola on the first morning of my stay in my parents’ NYC apartment over Vassar’s spring break, implementing the limited supply of items in their pantry as well as the various superfood ingredients that had traveled with me. Thus, instead of abiding by my usual template for fresh fruit-sweetened granola by pureeing up a mixture of fresh & dried fruit with various spices and coconut oil in which to coat nuts and grains, I shredded an apple and mixed it with about 2 tbsp each of maple syrup and olive oil to provide adequate moisture for the rest of the granola. Quite crunchy, nicely spiced, and bejeweled with bursts of juicy blueberries, this makeshift granola turned out surprisingly well for a creation comprised of odds and ends.

Breakfast Checklist: Protein—chia seeds, almond milk, walnuts, hemp seeds. Whole Grain—buckwheat, brown rice. Fruit—mango, dates, apples, goji berries, blueberries. Leafy Green—kale. Superfoods—Amazing Grass powder, chia seeds, hemp seeds, goji berries.

Morning Tea: Mayan Secret Green Tea from local NYC store Spices and Tease.

Though the aroma of this tea (which includes sencha green, mate, rooibos, and darjeeling teas mixed with lemongrass and bits of carrot, pineapple, and papaya) promised a complex fruity flavor, the amalgamation of various teas created a harshness that vastly overpowered any hope of a pleasingly refreshing tang. Perhaps I’ll simply have to play around with the steeping time and amount of tea used for each cup, but my experiences with this tea thus far have proved rather unfortunate.

Lunch: A sandwich of BBQ Tempeh strips, celery-apple-carrot slaw coated in Luscious Lemon Dressing from the Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen, and avocado slices between two experimental cornbread fritters. I served the sandwich alongside a salad of mixed greens, alfalfa sprouts, mixed bean sprouts, sprouted almonds, and dulse flakes, tossed with Liquid Gold Dressing and topped with Green Raw Slaw from Bao’s. For dessert, I enjoyed a raw truffle made with sprouted sunflower seeds, sprouted almonds, dates, and maca powder, inspired by this recipe.

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The impetus for this sandwich began with my discovery of a waffle iron hidden in the back of a cabinet in the NYC apartment currently subletted by my parents. Inspired to craft a savory waffle in part by this recipe of Kristy’s, I contemplated a southern-flavored checkered quickbread to complement the Barbequed Tempeh Sandwich Filling that I had made earlier that day from a new cookbook of mine—the James Beard award winning Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley, who apparently served as the executive chef at NYC vegan staple restaurant Angelica Kitchen for nine years. Unfortunately, the lack of gluten-free flours in my parents’ sparse pantry rendered me scrounging for waffle base options. In a bout of vegan MacGyver-ness, I combined 1/2 cup white cornmeal (already in the pantry), 1/4 cup roasted buckwheat grouts finely ground in the food processor, and 1/4 cup almond pulp leftover from the milk I had made that morning to comprise the full cup of flour required for four waffles. After mixing the flours with nooch, baking powder, baking soda, paprika, cumin, oregano, tomato paste, maple syrup, liquid smoke, almond milk, and coconut oil, I excitedly heated up the waffle iron, oiled it, spooned the batter in to yield a satisfying sizzle, closed the iron, waited for the light to signal the waffle’s completion, opened the iron, and…experienced utter failure. The batter had all but completely stuck to the iron, probably due to both an inadequate oiling of the iron and an overly thick batter lacking in a starch of any sort. Sigh. I managed to salvage the remaning batter by pan-frying it into thick pancakes, but still reeled from crushed waffle-based dreams. Curse you waffle iron! I shall prevail eventually.

Meal Checklist: Protein—tempeh, sprouted almonds, sprouted sunflower seeds, almond meal, tahini. Whole Grain—cornmeal, buckwheat flour. Vegetables/Fruit—celery, apple, carrot, avocado, alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts, dulse flakes, ginger, pears, dates. Leafy Greens—mixed greens, kale, collard greens, dandelion greens, radish greens.

Afternoon Beverage: Choice Organic White Peony tea.

A bottle of Carpe Diem’s Kombucha in Quince flavor.

With an off-putting taste of artificial sweetener (certainly not one of the actual ingredients, though) and an inadequate amount of carbonation, this particular brand of kombucha failed to fully satisfy my mid-afternoon beverage needs. Try as I might to find a brand of local kombucha (other than the Madison-based NessAlla, of course) of as high a caliber as GT’s, I’ve not yet honed in on one. The search continues!

Dinner: A Middle Eastern feast, shared with my parents in their temporary NYC apartment, of Cookie & Kate’s Crispy Baked Falafel with Creamy Tahini and Dill Dressing, sandwiched between Cara’s Gluten-Free Pita Bread along with mixed greens and cherry tomatoes, accompanied by a side of cauliflower and carrots roasted with cumin, paprika, and coconut oil.

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My changes to Kate’s original falafel recipe include substituting canned chickpeas for dried (I worried about the digestibility of merely soaked rather than fully cooked beans), adding 1/2 cup sprouted almonds and 1 tbsp GF flour blend to the mixture, and omitting the salt. Though Kate warns against implementing canned beans in the recipe, I found that adding the almonds and flour ensured adequate binding of the falafel, even when using the more moist canned chickpeas. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and not at all dry or mealy like many of the falafel recipes with which I’ve experimented in the past, the falafel verily impressed my parents (and fulfilled my mother’s three-day-long craving for falafel), who helped me to scarf down the entire batch of herby chickpea fritters. My only critique of the recipe pertains to the Creamy Tahini and Dill Dressing; the lemon tasted a bit too harsh, in my opinion. However, that minor flaw certainly did not prevent me from slathering the dressing all over my falafel sandwich.

As for the pita bread, I utilized the gluten-free flour blend from Bob’s Red Mill instead of Cara’s homemade blend, replaced the sugar with maple syrup, substituted 1 tbsp flaxseed meal for the xanthan gum, and decreased the salt to 1/4 tsp. I had rather excited myself about the prospect of perfectly crisp, toasty, homemade pita pockets, and therefore became thoroughly disappointed when the pitas would not puff up or slice open as promised (reasons for this fault include the omission of xanthan gum, not allowing the water bath to adequately heat up in the oven, or over-working the dough). Regardless of cooking complications, the pitas still tasted delicious, acting as sliced of bread between which to sandwich the falafel and fixings, rather than as pockets in which to stuff the ingredients.

Meal Checklist: Protein—chickpeas, sprouted almonds, tahini, chickpea flour, fava bean flour. Whole Grain—sorghum flour. Vegetables—onion, garlic, tomatoes, cauliflower, carrots. Leafy Greens—mixed green, parsley, cilantro, dill.

After-Dinner Beverage: Traditional Medicinals’ Organic Eater’s Digest tea.

Comment Provoking Questions: How do you adapt your cooking to kitchens not as well-stocked as to which you’re accustomed? Do you own a waffle iron? Have you had luck with it? What is your favorite brand of kombucha other than GT’s? Have you made pita bread yourself before?

Happy WIAW!

Until next time, Ali.

Austin Extravaganza, Day 2: Juiceland, Nomad Dosa, & Counter Culture

You can find the first post of my Austin Extravaganza series here.

The first full day of my long-anticipated spring break jaunt to Austin, TX began with a green smoothie sprinkled with my new favorite granola, both of which I picked up at the flagship Whole Foods market the night before. After waiting for Ashley—my best friend of eleven years who provided the main reason for my visit to the southern U.S.—to awake from her slumber, I suggested that we kick off our action-packed day with a journey to Barton Springs. A man-made pool incorporated into a channel of Barton Creek, Barton Springs serves as a popular venue for nature enthusiasts who prefer to swim in fresh spring water, as opposed to chemically treated pools, surrounded by chirping birds and lush foliage. The area proved absolutely gorgeous and rife with wildlife, including lizards and a regal blue jay of whom I managed to snap a photo.

During our lengthy stroll to Barton Springs, I began to feel a bit peckish and enthusiastically welcomed the sight of Juiceland, a juice and smoothie bar with four locations around Austin that specializes in cleanses and liquid nutrition. Their extensive menu boasts three categories of juices (milder “fresh & easy” juices; fruity agua frescas; and “next-level” juices packed with veggies, greens, and spices), four categories of smoothies (basic fruit smoothies; sweet green smoothies; protein smoothies—many of which implement whey protein, unfortunately—; decadent dessert smoothies; and “next-level” smoothies, one of which even includes durian fruit, wowza!), superfood “cocktails,” herbal tonics, energizing shots, and a selection of premade to-go salads and raw desserts. The tiny liquiteria also sold a wide array of locally prepared kombucha, fresh young thai coconuts, raw chocolates, and vegan fruit-and-nut bars, including those crafted by Caleb and Chris of the Bearded Brothers—an organic snackfood company specializing in generously sized raw, gluten-free, and vegan energy bars. Ashley and I would later have the pleasure of sampling their tantalizing snack bars at the Wheatsville Co-op, but for the time being, we would simply stare longingly at mouthwatering flavors like Bodacious Blueberry Vanilla, Fabulous Ginger Peach, and Mighty Maca Chocolate. Yum. Wanting to satiate myself until lunch without ruining my appetite, I opted for a light snack of a wheatgrass shot and a couple sips of Ashley’s “Hydrator” smoothie of watermelon juice, peaches, and lemon.

Premade juices, oodles of kombucha, and fresh coconuts for sippin’.

Ahh, the sound of a wheatgrass juicer motor.

A journey back across town to Congress Ave landed Ashley and I smack-dab in the middle of a conglomeration of food trucks, including a health-conscious Indian one, referenced in many of my Google searches of “best food trucks Austin,” known as Nomad Dosa. The young hipsters inside Nomad Dosa’s sleek, silver caravan create all of the truck’s fare without the use of meat, wheat, gluten, soy, additives, gums, refined flours, and sugars (whew!), and implement nourishing food preparations including fermenting their soaked rice-and-lentil batter for several hours, carefully selecting spices to optimize digestion, and utilizing only olive and coconut oils in their cooking. Not only do Nomad Dosa’s gastronomic tenets jive perfectly with my own, they also mingle to produce some of the freshest, most flavorful, and most satisfying Indian cuisine I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting—completely unlike the overly greasy, muddled-tasting dishes I’ve sampled at many an Indian restaurant. Hungry and eager to dosa, Ashley and I put in our orders, paid an incredibly reasonable sum (only $9-$10 for ginormous dosa, a chutney, and a side of either rice or lentil soup), and awaited our food for a mere five minutes before hearing the sweet call of, “Ali and Ashley—your order is ready!” Ashley ordered the “Holy Cow” filling—creamy spiced potatoes, sauteed onions, roasted cashews, and green peas—on a soft dosa topped with shredded carrots served alongside a mild coconut chutney and a lentil dipping soup known as sambar, while I opted for the “Kerala Kokonut” filling—butternut squash, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, and cauliflower in a coconut curry—on a soft dosa topped with romaine lettuce and avocado, served alongside a spicy cilantro chutney and sambar. A spongy, sourdough-tasting dosa wrapped around impeccably spiced, veggie-laden stews and accompanied by a thick, bliss-inducing lentil soup? Be still my beating heart.

Ashley’s “Holy Cow” dosa.

An inside view of my “Kerala Kokonut” dosa.

After our immensely fulfilling lunch, Ashley and I meandered down Congress Ave, popping in just about every storefront along the road, including a nifty antique shop called Uncommon Objects, described by Austinites as “your eccentric uncle’s attic on steroids.” There, I fawned over the vintage mason jars, old-style cameras, and clickety-clacky typewriters while Ashley revealed a peculiar obsession with science-lab-style glass vials. We also passed an open-air adoption event hosted by Austin Pets Alive!, the city’s most prominent and almost completely volunteer-run organization devoted to achiving a 100% no-kill rate of sheltered companion animals in Austin.

Sufficiently tuckered out after our active morning and afternoon, Ashley and I rejuvenated from the balmy Austin weather in her air-conditioned apartment. However, another bout of hunger soon overcame us, and we trekked out once more to enjoy a casual yet scrumptious meal at Austin’s almost-one-year-old vegan restaurant, Counter Culture. Born from humble beginnings in July 2009 as a food truck, Counter Culture launched a wildly successful Kickstarter project in February 2012, the 195 donors of which enabled the business to relocate to a brick-and-mortar, diner-style restaurant bedecked in cheerful aquamarine-and-brown decor. On the Counter Culture menu, owner Sue Davis emphasizes nourishing, wholesome versions of comfort foods alongside playful raw dishes, while devoting her restaurant’s ethos to animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and long-term health. In utter support of Counter Culture’s mission and drooling over the tantalizing photos on their website, I quite looked forward to sampling their dinner fare. Though the Raw Bruschetta with flax crackers, cashew cheese, pesto, and tomatoes called my name, Ashley turned down my offer to split the appetizer, arguing that she’d like to save her money for dessert. Her miserliness couldn’t stop me, however, from ordering the Meltdown sandwich—a creamy garbanzo bean “tuna” salad with celery and dulse flakes, topped with melty cashew cheese and sliced tomatoes, layered between two slices of toasted gluten-free bread and accompanied by a side of the novel Pac Man salad of kale, Pac-Man-shaped carrot slices, and chia seeds in a creamy garlic dressing. If you recall my recent declaration of love for sandwiches, you can no doubt envision a starry-eyed, beaming Ali munching on the Meltdown’s hearty layers, each bursting with unique flavor (including the tomatoes! Perhaps the south enjoys quality tomatoes earlier in the year than does the midwest). After analyzing Counter Culture’s online menu, Ashley continually expressed her excitement toward ordering the Jackfruit BBQ sandwich—shredded jackfruit smothered in chipotle barbeque sauce, topped with red onions and pickles, and stuffed inside a multigrain hoagie bun, accompanied by a side of perfectly roasted sweet potatoes and beets. The meal certainly lived up to Ashley’s high expectations, causing her to exclaim how surprisingly accurately the shredded jackfruit resembled pulled pork (in texture and flavor, not oppression and exploitation, of course). For dessert, Ashley and I shared an ice cream sundae of vanilla coconut milk ice cream (supplied by local vegan ice creamery Sweet Ritual, which Ashley and I would visit in two days), silky raw cashew cream, and berries, as well as a tropical-flavored raw truffle of almonds, dried pineapple, shredded coconut, and dates. While delicious, the meal left my stomach not quite as full as I would have preferred; Counter Culture seems to keep its portions on the small side. I knew I should have partaken in that bruschetta appetizer!

Counter Culture interior.

Meltdown Sandwich with Pac-Man kale salad.

BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich with roasted sweet potatoes and beets.

Ice cream sundae.

Raw tropical truffle.

After catching a bus back to Ashley’s apartment and pajama-ing up, we planned our eating excursions for the following day, which would include lunch at Austin’s staple macrobiotic, community-based restaurant, Casa de Luz, and dinner at the gourmet raw eatery of Beets Cafe. Stay tuned for summaries of those meals in an upcoming post.

Until next time, Ali.