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 

Valentine’s Day is the day we use to express our love and devotion to our special someone. Unfortunately, the celebration of love has been dubbed a “Hallmark” holiday, thus resulting in plenty of waste. There are, of course, numerous ways to show your sweetheart how much you care, while being easy on the Earth. We have put together an ethical gift guide from the beginning of your date to the end and beyond!

1) The Pre-Date: When you show up on the doorstep of your love or meet them in a fancy restaurant, you want to be prepared with an “opening gift.” Traditionally, this includes flowers, cards, and chocolates. Luckily, there is a way to come prepared with all three and still be ethical. For flowers, look for Fair Trade roses and organic mixed bouquets. You can find these flowers at Whole Foods, local co-ops, and online at sites such as Organic Style. Chocolates also come Fair Trade, organic, and vegan. There are a lot of specialty ethical chocolates and truffles such as Sjaack’s, Equal Exchange, and  Coco-Zen. The most green way to give cards, is not to give them at all. But if you really want to write a love note to your special one, try making a card yourself out of recycled material or old photos, write a song, or send an e-card.

2) The Drinks: For most romantic evenings, wine and cocktails are a must. When you are choosing your wine this year, be sure to stick to organic wines. With the lack of sulfites, these wines will not only impress your green sweetie, but leave your head loving you in the morning. Organic wineries such as Frey, are carried at many natural foods stores, Whole Foods, and even at certain bars and restaurants. Etica is also the first Fair Trade wine and will also impress a socially conscious sweetheart. If cocktails are more your thing, there are now plenty of organic and Fair Trade spirits on the market. We have a great backlog of Organic and Fair Trade Cocktail Recipes.

3) The Food: If you are staying in for the night, make a great meal with organic and local food. You will also want to hold off on the meats. We also have a ton of vegan recipes for all courses of a meal. But not everyone stays in for the holiday and luckily eco-friendly and vegan restaurants are all the rage these days. Make sure you take your date to an ethical eatery. If you are looking for organic or eco-friendly try the Green Restaurant Guide and for vegan restaurants look to Happy Cow.

4) The Big Gift: Sometimes you want to pull all the stops out on Valentine’s Day. If you want to give a big gift, such as jewelry, you have plenty of eco options. For something cute and simple, check out these great recycled gift options on World of Good and fair trade jewels on Global Exchange. If you really want to do something BIG, go for eco-friendly diamonds or recycled gold necklaces.

5) The Bedroom: If all goes as planned, your night might end up with a Do Not Disturb sign hanging from your handle. For some eco-fun in the bedroom try giving your significant other some organic lingerie and undies. You will want to decorate with organic and soy candles. And in case things get a little more intense for the celebration you can find some fun toys at Earth Erotics. Oo la la…

6) The Weekend: It is possible that you want to give your guy or gal more than just a night of love to celebrate your relationship. How about taking them to an eco-friendly hotel or resort. For some listings, check out the Green Hotel Association. There are also really cute and quaint vegetarian and vegan bed & breakfasts throughout the country. Just be sure you get there through alternative transportation such as bike, rail, or bus!

Native Foods, Palm Springs Photo by jeckmanThe sunny city of Los Angeles is thriving with great vegan eats from classy 5 star restaurants, to vegan drive thrus, and hip trendy spots, but for our restaurant pick we have chosen LA’s Native Foods. Native Foods is actually a small chain of 5 restaurants spread all over the LA area including Costa Mesa, Aliso Viejo, Los Angeles, Palm Desert, and Palm Springs. I’ve only had the chance to visit the LA spot in Westwood. Each location has a little different menu, which means next time I’m in the area I will be checking out a few more locations!

native foods Photo by cpandarThis relaxed restaurant overs the full gamete of California style food, only with a vegan twist. This means they offer a wide variety of dishes from around the world and plenty of fresh ingredients! I couldn’t help but smile as I entered the restaurant to a friendly sign that said “Einstein was a vegetarian. Think about it!” That sort of veggie love, warms my vegan heart! But really the restaurant atmosphere is a chilled out cafe far different from many LA hot spots. And that is perfectly fine with me, as I like to feel at home when I am eating a tasty meal.

kids' plate Photo by chinagrrl

Dippity-Do-Dog-Combo with Save the chicken Nuggets at Native Foods

Westwood’s menu has the typical set up with Starters, Salads, Cold Sandwiches, Hot Entrees, Pizza and Desserts. I was happy to notice there was a kid’s menu. This is something I have never seen at a vegan restaurant before. They title their kid’s section “Green Kids Rule!” and provide children’s favorites such as Dippity-Do-Dog-Combo (soy dog chunks or chicken nuggets and brown rice) and ChimpanZee “Cheese” Pizza (cheese pizza with bananas on the side). If you have veggie kids this is a great place to bring them. Or if you have children you would like to introduce to vegan foods, this is a place where they would enjoy the meals and it wouldn’t seem too “weird” to them. Next time I’ll bring along my nephew to do a children’s taste test!

"Save the Chicken" Wings

"Save the Chicken" Wings

But on to the delicious adult sized meals. Perhaps my favorite thing about Native Foods is what they name their fake chicken: “Save the Chicken.” In the Snacks section, you will find the best incarnation of their “chicken”. This is what they call the “Save the Chicken” Wings with “Ranch” on the side. Oh dear, this appetizer is to die for! In fact, I once had a friend drive 8 hours to bring me this very appetizer. Even a little soggy this is the best fake chicken I have ever had! You will find many people talking about this dish, as I believe it may be a favorite among all vegans.  Other great starters include Chili “Cheese” Fries, Native Nachos, Get ‘Yo Greens, and Bindi Bites(veggie samosas). I haven’t had the chance to try them all, on account of my love affair with the “Save the Chicken” wings, but I promise I will branch out next time I am in LA.

Portobello & Sausage Burger

Portobello & Sausage Burger

They also offer a great variety of fresh salads if you shy away from fried foods (although you can get a Chinese “Save the Chicken” Salad). If you are looking for California Cuisine, I suggest your try the OC Raw Chopper, a salad which screams California with avocados, almonds, and sprouts. Also, they offer some pretty tasty vegan pizza. They don’t have a ton of variety as far as pizzas go, but they offer it on an organic wheat crust. I like their pizzas and salads but must say their sandwiches are the way to go. I really enjoyed their Philly Peppersteak Sandwich, but have heard excellent recommendations about their Portobello & Sausage Burger, Chicken Run Ranch Burger, and Ceasar’s Wrap.

Tijuana Tacos

Tijuana Tacos

A trip to California wouldn’t be complete without a bit of Mexican flare! The Tijuana Tacos and Baja Surf Tacos are worth checking out. This fresh take on California Mexican is quite delicious and even includes soy taco meat in the Tijuana and crispy battered tempeh in the Baja choice, a take on California Baja Fish tacos.  They also, offer a variety of hot entrees served in a bowl including Mad Cowboy (BBQ style), Greek Gyro, and the Hollywood Bowl (includes tofu spears). Another bowl worth trying out is the Soul Bowl with includes red beans, jasmine rice, grilled veggies, BBQ “save the chicken” spears, cornbread, and all drizzled in “ranch” dressing!!

Chocolate Tofu Love Pie

Chocolate Tofu Love Pie

Of course a meal isn’t complete without dessert. And with dessert, Native Foods definitely delivers. You can get any typical American dessert from Native Carrot Cake to Sam’s Native Cheesecake. But they also have their own unique creations like the Key Lime Parfait and the Elephant Chocolate Cake (comes drizzled in cinnamon peanut butter sauce). My favorite dessert is the Chocolate Tofu Love Pie made with Fair Trade chocolate and vanilla and completed by an almond crust. Its a great way to end a California Meal.

Next time you are in the Los Angeles area, make sure you get your self to one of the 5 Native Foods locations, it’s definitely worth the trip.  There is no other great California style vegan restaurant, at least not at this caliber. And if LA is a little too far for you, check out their Native Foods Cookbooks and try some great recipes at home.

Happy Valentine's Day Photo By LallHave a vegan sweetheart this year? Make sure your Valentine’s Day is vegan proof ! On top of the typical flowers, you can wow the vegan in your life by making a few great choices! We have quickly put together some great Valentine’s Gift Ideas for your vegan sweetie. Single this Valentine’s Day? Don’t let it get to you! Why not treat yourself to any of the  suggestions below and indulge in your freedom?!

1) Vegan Chocolates and Sweets: You can never go wrong with great and delicious chocolate. There are many companies that make vegan chocolate, however in the spirit of the holiday, why not go all out? You don’t have to stick to the regular chocolate bar. There are tons of great heart shaped boxed candies filled with vegan chocolates including strawberry cream, coffee flavored, and and even vegan truffles! Check out the gift boxes from Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe, Pangea (they’re having a sale), Vegan Essentials, and Rose City. If your lover isn’t into to chocolate, consider getting them a vegan cookie basket instead. There are gift sets at the above sites, as well as at Vegan Karma, This Chick Bakes, and Allison’s Gourmet.

2) Vegan Restaurants: On top of the flowers and chocolates, most couples spend their Valentine’s night with a nice dinner out. There are plenty of romantic vegan restaurants to choose from. In fact we have done many restaurant reviews in cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, New York and DC. But also check Moo Cow for a listing of vegan restaurants near you. And don’t forget to make reservations, as that night is busy busy! We suggest chosing somewhere with a romantic atmosphere, like San Francisco’s Millenium or New York’s Candle Cafe.

3) A Vegan’s Night In-Wine and Candles: Instead of heading out for dinner, what’s more romantic than a candle lite dinner with wine? Well, why not do it vegan style?! Fix a great vegan meal, there are thousands of delicious recipes out there, including some of our own.  Get you and your honey a great bottle of vegan wine from companies such as Frey or Organic Wine Company. Check out this great Vegan Wine Guide, you can search by variety, color, country, and company. Don’t forget the candles to set the mood! Soy based candles are carried at many health food stores including Whole Foods and most local co-ops. You can buy soy candles online at the websites mentioned on vegan chocolates.

4) Vegan Romantic Getaways: Maybe you want to do a little more than one night of romance. There are plenty of great weekend getaways that a vegan can enjoy. There are a few fantastic all vegan bed and breakfasts spread throughout the country including The Ginger Cat in New York, The Shady Hallow Inn in Massachusetts, The White Pig in Virginia and The Jewel Box in California. These are just a couple, there are several throughout the US, find the closest one to you!  If you can’t locate an all vegan b and b in your area, try calling or emailing any bed and breakfast in your desired area! Most places are family owned and willing to accommodate any diet, as long as you plan ahead.

5) Vegan Late Night: And no matter if you are staying in, going out, or leaving for a long weekend: remember to end your night safely. Give your lover a vamped up VDay by giving them a pack of all vegan condoms and vegan/organic lubricant. Even if you don’t give them as a gift, bring them along for a fun way to end the night! We are sure your vegan lover will be impressed with you choice of vegan lubricant and condoms! Now hang that DO NOT DISTURB sign and enjoy the night!

Have any vegans on your list and aren’t sure what to get them? We have compiled some quick hints and suggestions for great vegan holiday gifts! Whether your shopping for a new vegan or a seasoned veteran, here are some great ideas for this holiday season!

There are awesome online vegan stores that carry tons of vegan products ranging from food to clothing. Some great ones worth checking out are  Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe, Vegan Karma, Sidecar for Pigs Peace, Moo Shoes, Pangea and Vegan Essentials. That is a great place to start when choosing gifts for a vegan loved one!And if you aren’t quite sure what they would love, a gift certificate to any of these stores would be wonderful!

We put together a short list of great ideas to give vegans come this holiday:

1)Vegan Treats: The true and fastest way to a vegan’s heart is through their stomach! You can easily put together a basket of vegan products such as cookies, candies, or fake jerky. You could even include some vegan wines. If you make a trip to your local food co-op or natural food store there are plenty of great snacks to fill a basket with. Also, you can find pre-made vegan goodie baskets at many of the websites listed above. If you prefer to make your own goodies, we suggest you bake or cook a delicious vegan treat. There are many easy and fun recipes you could make! Check out some of our own vegan recipes.

2) Vegan Cookbooks: As we mentioned above, vegans LOVE food! And they really love new recipes they can try out for home or for entertainment. A few great books that we suggest are Vegan Planet, Vegan Vittles, and How It All Vegan . There are tons of other great vegan cookbooks out there as well! And who knows?? Maybe they will thank you by cooking YOU some scrumptious vegan goodies!

3) Basket of Vegan Beauty Products: When someone says the word vegan, most people think of food. But there are so many other products that could contain animal products, including bath and beauty items.  Another great gift idea is to put together a basket of bath and beauty items like lotions, bath salts, make-up, and even shampoos! You can most likely find these products at your local food co-op, natural food store, and any of the sites listed above! Make sure to read the label and look for items that say “Does not contain animal products,” “Not tested on animals” or “Certified Vegan.” There are a number of brands that are known to be vegan, check out this guide to help you know which ones are okay. Also, you can find pre-made baskets at most of the vegan stores above or check out Vegan Pimp and Garuda International.

4) Gift Certificate to a Vegan Restaurant: Another great and quick gift guide is to buy a gift certificate to a local vegan restaurant! Again, any vegan would love to enjoy a free meal! You can buy one for your loved one’s favorite restaurant or maybe a new one they haven’t tried yet. Find your local vegan and vegetarian restaurants at Happy Cow!

03215) Donate in Their Name: You can always make a contribution to an animal rights organization such as Vegan Outreach Farm Sanctuary,Pigs Peace Sanctuary, PETA, or Action for Animals for them. You could also adopt a rescued farm animal or an endangered species in their name. And finally you could give them a subscription to a vegan magazine such as VegNews or Vegan Magazine.

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