Vegan/Vegetarianism


There is nothing more comforting than Shepherd’s Pie during those cold Fall days. We thought the twist of sweet potato would add the extra autumn twist. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this recipe works as a side dish or the main course for your meatless feast. The best part about this recipe is it’s gluten free! It is perfect for a main Thanksgiving dish to serve to your gluten-free guests!  It’s hard to please every palate at your holiday feast, but trust us, you can’t go wrong with this one!

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

2 Med-Large Sweet Potatoes
1/2 lb of Lentils, cooked and drained
1/2 Cup Vegetable Broth
1/2 Cup Soy milk
1 Onion
1 Carrot
1 Stalk of Celery
1 Glove of Garlic
1/2 tsp Sage
1/2 tsp Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste

Earth Balance to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop the potatoes, onion, carrots, and celery and set aside. In a pot boil the sweet potatoes until soft enough to mash. In another pot boil the carrots and celery for a few minutes until a little soft, about 6 minutes. Strain both and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the lentils, vegetable broth, boiled carrots and celery, garlic, and spices. Lay out this mixture in a casserole dish. In another mixing bowl, mash the sweet potatoes with soy milk, Earth Balance, salt and pepper. Layer the mashed sweet potatoes over the lentil mixture. Place in oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are a little dry on top.

So you are skipping the turkey this Thanksgiving. To most Americans this seems almost sacrilegious to serve Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. Likening the bird to the first Thanksgiving, however, many people including vegetarians, vegans, health conscious folks, and just people looking for a change opt out of meat for the holiday. So if you are looking to lose the meat, try out a few of our suggestions below. If you want a rating of them, check out this comparison on Slate.  Have a happy meatless Thanksgiving!

Tofurkey: Aww the Tofurkey, it’s very name fills the air with the scent of Thanksgiving.  It has been a staple of vegetarian Thanksgivings for over a decade.  It is fairly inexpensive, around $9.99 and comes with stuffing and gravy. The brand does an excellent job of tasting turkey-esque and definitely completes your holiday meal. The Slate comparison gave it a 19 out of 25 rating.

Field Roast Celebration Roast: Although the Field Roast,  looks much more like a holiday ham, it definitely will fit in on the Thanksgiving table.  It’s texture and spices have a turkey taste, but the stuffing is a little more mushy than the Tofurkey. You can’t beat the sweet potatoes and apples in the stuffing. Slate gave this centerpiece a rating of 12 out of 25.

Gardein Stuffed Turk’y:  Gardein, although new on the market, has made a huge splash. They have come out with all sorts of delicious meatless options including crispy “chicken” and beefless tips. Their biggest contribution is their Stuffed Turk’y. Even though, these are a lot smaller than the above roasts, they win out in flavor. This is hands down one of your best options for fake meat. Slate gave it a winning 22 out of 25!

Homemade: Instead of buying your main dish this year, consider making your roast from scratch. We posted a great recipe last week on homemade gluten roast. It’s very easy and will make your whole feast a more homemade feel and taste. You can also try these recipes for ideas.

 

It’s almost Thanksgiving and as you are compiling your shopping list, why not skip the processed Tofurkey this year. We have a great recipe to create your own “turkey” roast in time for the holidays.  It will give your meal a real homemade feel, not that we don’t love Tofurkey, but making a roast from scratch is always so satisfying. This recipe is a tried and true friend’s family recipe that has been dished out at Vegan Thanksgiving for many years!

Homemade Vegan Roast

Gluten:
3 Cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Flour
3 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
1 3/4 Cup Water
1 Cup Soy Sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acids
1 tsp Garlic Powder
2 Carrots
3 Red Potatoes
1 Medium Onion

Breading:

1 Cup Bread Crumbs
1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast
2 Tbsp Bragg’s Amino Acid
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/4 tsp Black Pepper

In a mixing bowl combine all dry spices and ingredients for the breading and set aside. In a large saucepan, boil water, soy sauce, and garlic. While the water is boiling, combine Gluten flour and regular flour. Add in 1 3/4 cup water slowly, while kneading the dough. Slice dough into strips and drop each slice into the boiling water/soy sauce. After a minute each slice will float to the top. Let them float for a few minutes and then lift out of the water and set aside.

Cut the carrots, onion, and potato in large chunks. Boil these until soft and set aside. In a small sauce bowl add the Bragg’s Amino acid and a little vegetable oil. Warm up a skillet on medium high and add the rest of the vegetable oil. Dip each strip in the amino acid and roll in the dry breading boil. Fry each strip until crispy on both sides (about 5 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. In a casserole dish, cover the bottom with a little oil or margarine. Layer the strips similar to lasagna and surround them with the boiled veggies. For an added treat, separate gluten strips with stuffing. Cook for fifteen/twenty minutes. Serve with all the fixin’s: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

Since I am still working and volunteering deep in the Gulf of Mexico, this we are featuring a vegan Gumbo recipe. Gumbo is a traditional dish that has French and Louisiana routes. You can find it anywhere you go and every local has a different  secret ingredient or method to share. They also really love the spice down here! We’ve figured out it is either spicy or sweet down here, nothing is bland. So enjoy some good ol’ fashioned Cajun Gumbo from bayou country!

Vegan Cajun Gumbo 

3 Quarts of Vegetable Stock
1 Cup Cooked Rice
3 Cups Cubed Firm Tofu
1 Cup Chopped Tomatoes
1 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Organic Flour
1 Cup Chopped Onions
1 Cup Chopped Celery
1 Cup Chopped Red Bell Pepper
1/4 Cup Chopped Garlic
3 Cups Cooked Red Kidney Beans
2 Cups Sliced Okra
1 tsp Chopped Fresh Thyme
1 tsp Chopped Fresh Basil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Louisiana Hot Sauce

Cook rice and set aside. In a 5 quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat and add flour to make the rue. Using a wire whisk, stir constantly until dark brown. Do not overcook, as it will turn black. Add olive oil onions, celery, bell pepper, okra, and tofu. Saute until the vegetables are a little wilted and the tofu is golden brown.  Ladle in vegetable stock, one scop at a tim. Add the beans and boil for 30 minutes. Add tomatoes, thyme, basil, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Add rice and serve with hot sauce.

The weather has changed. It’s as simple as that!  Touches of red, orange, and yellow light the leaves and there is a crisp to the air. Fall has arrived and the coolness begins, the craving of comfort food begins.  Along with a chill to the air and comfort food, Fall ushers in a plethora of delicious fruits and veggies. Perhaps one of the most nutritious and traditional of all Fall vegetables is the sweet potato. It is ranked highest on the list of healthy veggies and is incredibly versatile.  So to bring in the Fall, try our delectable recipe for Creamy Sweet Potato Soup.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

  • 4-5 Large Organic Sweet Potatoes, peeled
  • 1 Can of Organic Chickpeas
  • 1 Medium Organic Onion
  • 2 Organic Carrots, sliced
  • 5 Cloves of Organic Garlic, minced
  • 1 Can of Organic Coconut Milk
  • 6 Cups of Organic Vegetable Juice
  • 3 Tbsp of Organic Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tbsp Organic Olive Oil
  • 1/3 tsp Curry Powder
  • 1/3 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Salt

Peel and cube the sweet potatoes and place in warm water. Set aside. Chop the onion, garlic, and carrots. In large pot cook the onions and garlic with olive oil for about 5 minutes, do not let them brown.  Add in the vegetable broth,  potatoes, and chickpeas. Add all the spices and bring to a boil. Let the soup simmer for about 30-45 minutes. At this point stir in the coconut milk and maple syrup. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Stir before serving, at this point the sweet potatoes should have a mushed and the soup blended.

Coming of age in the early 2000s, I have a strong image of Bill Clinton engrained in my mind: Arkansas-dwelling, saxophone-playing, and, most importantly for the purposes of this article, barbecue-eating. We’ve all seen the infamous McDonald’s SNL skit spoofing Clinton’s questionable dietary choices. But, through it all, his cheeseburger habits were almost endearing; Clinton was a relatable president, and the fact that he would occasionally chow down on meaty, cheesy, fatty, and greasy dishes was a flaw not worth dwelling on for most American people. In fact, it made him “just like us,” a man of the people.

But that notion shifted last year when Clinton’s physician informed him that something had to change: his health was on the line. The doctor suggested a vegan diet for the 65-year old former president, who very publicly underwent a quadruple bypass surgery in 2004.

“We now have 25 years of evidence,” Clinton said in a 2010 interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, referring to how a plant-based diet is known to help lower cholesterol. “I’ll become part of this experiment. I’ll see if I can become one of those that can have a self-clearing mechanism.”

Clinton is a prominent example of a dietary and lifestyle movement whose advantages are proving monumental for many. The Vegetarian Resource Group states that about 3% of American adults are vegetarian, and 1% consider themselves vegan while abstaining from meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, eggs, and honey.

But, while tremendously vast, the health benefits of this diet are frequently overshadowed by the activism – often extreme – depicted in the mainstream media. The ethical issues surrounding a meat-free lifestyle are of incalculable importance; not only does the diet save the brutal deaths of countless animals, but it also helps to protect the environment from dangerous toxins and chemicals released during the slaughter and transportation processes of meat production.

But what makes Clinton’s transition to a vegan diet so important to the public awareness is the fact that he is not pelting fur coats with paint or even protesting in the streets. Not to say that activism isn’t a part of the vegan lifestyle, but it’s not the only part; the bitter reality is that animal activism still leaves a nasty taste in the mouths of many. Clinton’s decision to go veg demonstrates the equally important counterpart of activism: health.

The evidence of the benefits of this diet has gone from minimal to overwhelming. Studies now show that vegans maintain a healthier weight than those on more traditional low-fat diets. Additionally, soy proteins can help to inhibit tumor growth, lower blood cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of blood clots, and diminish bone loss. The subsequent results are lower risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and osteoporosis.

Clinton’s goal was to lose weight in time for his daughter Chelsea’s wedding last July.

“I lost 24 pounds,” Clinton said. “I wanted to lose a little weight, but I never dreamed this would happen.”

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if the vegan diet could be somehow separated from its stereotypes. I wonder if the health benefits of a plant-based diet could ever reach the mainstream. I wonder when a meat-free diet will be considered obesity and poor health’s biggest enemy.

There are a lot of variables surrounding veganism and its future, but one thing’s for sure: I am beyond ecstatic to see Bill Clinton, a man of the American people, drinking almond milk and eating lettuce wraps.

-Jessica Nicholson

Vegan Seafood? What the heck is that?!  Well, beyond being an oxymoron, vegan seafood is popping up all over the place. For years you could find wheat gluten spiced with seaweed formed into a lump and titled “vegetarian fish” at many a restaurant. But a new company challenges the idea of vegetarian seafood, Sophie’s Kitchen.  According to their website, they began their company due to seafood allergies that plagued they founder’s daughter, Sophie and the environmental impact of the seafood industry. Together they created an interesting new substitute for those who love seafood, but don’t partake: whether they be vegan, environmentally aware, or deathly allergic. 

They offer an amazing range including vegan shrimp, prawns, fish cutlets, squid, and calamari. All the products are based with the Elephant Yam Root, which has been used in Asia for centuries. High in fiber the Elephant Yam Root, or Konjac, gives the “seafood” a low calorie count and plenty of flavor.  So how do these products taste, you ask? We just had to find out for ourselves.

We honestly couldn’t decide which one to try, but finally decided on the Fried Calamari.  The calamari is already breaded and just needs a pop in the oven or deep fryer!  We promptly returned home and followed the instructions on the box. Between the two of us, one has been vegan for over a decade and never tried calamari, where the other is a vegan sophomore and at one point in time loved regular calamari.  Needless to say, we both definitely enjoyed the vegan calamari. Surprisingly, it tasted pretty close to the real thing: chewy and a little fishy. Not sure if we would eat it all the time, but it would make a great appetizer on special occassions!

Needless to say it was a winner in our book! Although the concept is, well, nothing short of strange, the execution is great. Plus you can’t beat the price! A box will only run you about $3.99-%5.99 depending on the store. Since our foray into vegan calamari, we have also tried the Vegan Fish Filets while on recent camping trip. We have to say those were mind blowingly delectable! Not a fan of fish before going vegan, these were even better than the real thing. We shared our treats with omnivore family members and the concesus was the same: they thought it tasted real (although some agreed it was more like chicken than fish)!

We highly recommend you try these delicious, unique oxymorons! Honestly, we can’t wait to try the prawns and shrimp. They are available at Whole Foods and natural health food stores around the country. Dig in and let us know what you think!

You hear a loud growl, as your walking down the street in a strange town. At first you are startled, then embarrassed, as you realize that growl was your stomach! The hunger is taking over, but wait.  You are our of town and don’t know where to eat. Because you are vegan, you can not just pop in anywhere and find something healthy or satisfying.  No worries, you pull your smartphone out of your pocket and you are set!

It’s true, we all rely on them, especially when traveling. Just as the early commercials said “there’s an app for that,” and by that we mean everything. Using your smartphone has become all the more convenient if you are a vegan.  Before the advent of constant internet connection, traveling was a huge headache. We can remember times rolling into town far later than grocery stores were open and we were left with iceberg salads and maybe a few soggy french fries. But alas, the vegan world has changed and now everything vegan is right at your fingertips.

For your vegan eating and shopping pleasure we present to you, the Best Vegan Smartphone Apps:

1) Happy Cow: Since we began this blog with restaurant talk, we’ll start our list with our favorite vegan friendly restaurant finder. Happy Cow, a beloved worldwide vegetarian restaurant database, just recently launched their mobile app. It is an easy, streamlined app to find vegan and vegan friendly restaurants all over the world. This is definitely a must for travel across country!

2) Vegan Xpress: Another great app for traveling or late night needs. The mobile app provides a list of menu items safe for vegans to indulge in from major restaurant chains and fast food joints. Gone are the days of picking at your iceberg salad and soggy french fries, with this handy app, you’ll be able to quickly find something tasty at any restaurant.

3) Veggie Passport: One last travel handy app and we promise we’ll move on! This handy app allows you to look up how to say “vegan” and order meals in several different languages. This is ideal when traveling abroad or attempting to communicate with foreign friends! Trust us, we won’t leave home without it on our next overseas adventure!

4) Everyday Vegan: As most of us are, this recipe app is filled with delicious vegan recipes compiled from the Everyday Vegan book! It is on the pricey end of the app world ($6.99), still less expensive with the book and the quality of the recipes are well worth the one time payment.

5) Vegan Recipe Finder: Another great recipe app, with a little cheaper price, but still packs a punch! The app even comes with a meal planner and shopping list (which is perfect for on the go). The other great feature about this app is the pictures. Recipes are so much more appealing with a mouth-watering recipe attached.

6) Cruelty-Free: Because being vegan does not only mean eating from non-animal sources, but it also means abstaining from all cruelty-free items. In walks the Cruelty-Free app, which provides an easy, in depth list of all items officially vegan approved, including toiletries, cleaners, and clothing. Never leave home without this app again! The best part: it’s free!

7) Be Nice to Bunnies: In case Cruelty-Free just isn’t enough info for you, check out PETA’s Be Nice to Bunnies app. Much like the one above, it provides information on many products and whether they are cruelty-free or should be avoided. It also allows you to search by company or product.

8) Vegan Cupcakes: Part of the Vegan with a Vengeance and Post Punk chain, this app based on the book Vegan Cupcakes will Take OVer the World, provides Droid users with over 75 cupcake recipes and delicious frosting to pair them with! Best part, it’s a lot easier to carry to the store than the book.

August is just around the corner. For serious summer enthusiasts, this change in the calendar can be a bit of a let down. But it’s still one whole month! Here’s one way to make the final weeks of summer last longer: travel.

I don’t mean the staycation, one-state-over, bus or train kind of travel; I’m talking about really getting out there and immersing yourself in a totally new environment. Visit that one country you’ve been dying to see for years. (Yup, turn off your air-conditioning now to save those extra pennies.)

Travelling on a vegan diet can be scary… From language barriers to cultural ones, it’s hard to find the balance between sticking true to your morals and not offending your host country. Here are some helpful sites and sources to bring your best vegan self across the world.

Guides and Info:

Veggie Passport: First things first: download this app from Lior Weinstein to help your express your dietary restrictions in 33 languages. The 99 cents spent on the Veggie Passport could save you a lot of discomfort (and hunger) later on.

Happy Cow:  Many savvy vegans and vegetarians are familiar with the Happy Cow site which offers everything veg from recipes to forums to no-no food lists for the meat-free. But if you didn’t know about Happy Cow’s restaurant feature,
now is the time to get familiar with it. The website helps you track down vegetarian restaurants all across the globe; they even recommend reading for you while you’re there. Wait – it get’s better! While you’re busy looking up “I don’t eat meat” in Bulgarian on your iPhone, a friend can be searching the Happy Cow Mobile App on their Droid to find the best vegetarian restaurant in downtown Sofia (that’s the extent of my Bulgarian knowledge). Ah, technology.

Vegan Around the World Network:  If you’re a vegan staying right on your couch, I still urge you to join the VATW network. It’s a pretty small site with just over 1,000 members, but there’s plenty of valuable information scattered around the website. Check out the Vegan Travel Questions and Ideas  to find some helpful information for your trip.

Vegan Travel Blogs:  Here’s a list (courtesy of Circle Our Earth) of various vegan travel blogs across the web.
Some of the pictures on these blogs are reason enough to visit (see: The Healthy Voyager), but the content is what will make you stay. No better way to get tips about travelling vegan than from those who have already done it before!

How to Travel the World as a Vegan:  This book by Maria Giurcan is the ultimate international vegan travel guide, best for those planning a multiple-country trip. Available electronically only, the book starts you from square one (vegan luggage) all the way to Asia and beyond. Giurcan introduces her book by mentioning her initial fear of flying: clearly she’s overcome that by travelling to almost every country on planet Earth.

Travel Recommendations:

Veggie Tours: Withtrips running just over a week located in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, the Veggie Tours trips are ideal for a traveler looking for a bit of structure. With organized trips and free days, these trips take you into the hearts of these beautiful countries. Aside from shuttling you to marketplaces and touring you through ruins and trails, the Veggie Tours group offers vegetarian meals every day. You can ditch the Veggie Passport if you opt into one of these programs.

Vegan Caribbean Cruise: The thought that it may be less humid on the Caribbean ocean than it is in downtown Boston right now may be blurring my logic a bit, but this trip seems perfect. The catch is that the ship doesn’t leave from Florida until March, but my guess is that I would be equally happy to get out of the city then as I am now. This Holistic Holiday at Sea trip is all-inclusive, offering everything from lectures to Pilates classes to cooking courses and more. And of course entirely vegan cuisine offerings. The boat stops in at ports in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Nassau, Bahamas…Sign me up.

La Maison du Vert (Normandy, France):  Set on 2.5 acres of organic gardens in the small town of Ticheville, La Maison du Vert is housed in a 1903 bakery of red bricks. The inn only has three bedrooms, but their fourth option is pretty spectacular: La Petite Maison Blanche is a little cottage in the backyard of the hotel that fits up to 6 people. A beautiful place for a vegetarian retreat – and probably the only location in France with an organic, vegan wine list!

Green Lodge (West Cork, Ireland): Located not too far from the small town of Bantry but removed enough for privacy, the Green Lodge has fully stocked apartments available for families, couples, or singles. With a stunning ten acres of land surrounding the hotel, it’s hard to imagine being pulled by any attraction other than the land. With seasonal organic vegetables and daily homebaked organic bread, the Green Lodge is a must-visit for those visiting South West Ireland.

South East Asia Hotel (Singapore, Singapore): The South East Asia Hotel in downtown Singapore houses the Kwan Im Vegetarian Restaurant with an impressive and varied menu of Asian vegetarian cuisine. But it certainly won’t be the only place you dine if you decide to stay at the South East Asia Hotel – Singapore’s cultural diversity lends itself to a passion for food and a love of diversity that manifests itself in the wonderful restaurants and cafés across the city. An ideal trip for a vegan traveler with a love for pan-Asian cuisine and culture.

Waterfall Villa (Dominical, Costa Rica): Undoubtedly romantic, the three Waterfall Villas are located in the beautiful Baru Tropical Rainforest with balconies jutting through the foliage and hanging above (private) waterfalls. The best part may be that the hotel specializes in vegan, vegetarian, and raw cuisine. They also offer yoga classes that are usually complementary. But we had you at “Waterfall Villa,” right?

Samhitakasha Cob House (Muizenberg, South Africa): Ever wanted to visit Cape Town? Here’s your chance to do it – in the greenest way possible. A quick peek at the Cob House’s “Ethics” page will show you that this hotel is one of a kind.
Biodegradable, organic, and sustainable are the big principles of the Cob House, and their importance can be seen in the very structure of the hotel: the building is made out of mud and straw. A stunning location backed by wonderful principles makes the Cob House a perfect getaway.

Los Gatos (Casinos, Spain):  Are you a cat lover (like I am)? This is the place for you, although you probably surmised as much when you looked at the name of this bed and breakfast. Located 50 kms from Valencia, this inn overlooks the mountains and serves vegetarian, organic fare. Wondering about the cats? The staff owns quite a few who roam freely around the building. The best part of this place (besides its extraordinary pricing)? The art lessons provided by the innkeeper, artist Joost Gerritsen. So if you like drawing cats…

Of course this is just a start. There are hundreds of vegan and vegetarian hotels across the world, and plenty of great resources to track down the right one for you. Your vegan diet shouldn’t inhibit you from travelling – it should be all the more reason to get out there and find new cuisine! Enjoy those last days of summer, and plan your final August trip today.

-Jessica Nicholson 

We are mid way through July, thus in the full swing of summer. While recently house-sitting, we noticed the peach trees outside were in full bloom, with ripe peaches falling to the ground everywhere. We gathered up all the peaches and we must have had twenty, juicy, perfectly refreshing summer peaches in our hands. We couldn’t figure out what to do, when it dawned on us, let’s make peach cobbler! Because the heat is so oppressive this summer, we thought we’d try out some raw peach cobbler and skip turning on the oven, which would only make the house warmer. Peaches are a summer staple and this cobbler is quick, easy, and requires no cooking!

Raw Peach Cobbler

8 Med-Large Peaches, Unpeeled

1 Cup Raw Pecans or favorite nut
1 Cup Dates, Pitted
3 Tbsp Organic Agave or other Sweetner
1 tsp Organic Cinnamon
1 tsp Organic Coconut Oil

Pinch of Salt

Slice the peaches up into halves and set aside. Combine all but two tablespoons of agave, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, coconut oil and salt with the peaches into a food processor or blender. Blend a little but not too much, the peaches should be chunky.  Pour the mixture into a casserole dish and set in the fridge.  In a food processor or blender, add the dates, pecans, and remaining cinnamon and agave. Blend until mashed up, but not liquid. Sprinkle the nut mix over the peaches. Serve as is or cool for a refreshing taste. If you like your cobbler warm, set out in the sun for an hour before serving.  The cobbler will taste better the longer it sits, allowing the flavors to blend. For an added treat serve with vegan whipped cream or ice cream!

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