Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Great Pumpkin

I know Halloween is over, and everyone always seems to skip Thanksgiving all together (What's up with that?!) so I have to blog about my pumpkin obsession while the window is still open.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending Thanksgiving WITH the Turkeys at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Maryland. It was great fun! The animals are always the best part of course. Something to make the day even more eventful was the Vegan Potluck. Everyone brings a dinner/ dessert dish to serve about 8 people. Naturally my team and I contributed as well, and I thought I'd pass the recipe along. Here's where the pumpkin comes in: Be excited.

Vegan Mini Pumpkin Bundt Cakes with Pumpkin Cream Cheese

What You'll Need:

...for the actual mini cakes:
1 Box Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread Mix
1/2 cup of Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup of Unsweetened Apple Sauce 
* Did you know: 1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce is the equivalent of 1 egg in a baking recipe?! GREAT to know for friends with egg allergies, and well vegans (duh). 
1/2 cup of water
Cooking Spray/ Margarine

...for the cream cheese:
1/2 cup of Canned Pumpkin
8 oz (1 package) Toffuti Cream Cheese 
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 cup of Sugar

...for yourself (duh):
1 large mixing bowl
1 small mixing bowl
1 whisk 
1 mini bunt cooking tray
1 icing gun (Ok not really, but I do recommend this if you want to pretend you are on Top Chef)
1 friend (No worries. If you don't have this, the recipe is fairly easy and the end results may help you get one)

1. Preheat Oven to 400 Degrees
2. Combine Water, Applesauce, and Vegetable Oil in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add Pumpkin Bread Mix (The whole damn thing)
4. Whisk all ingredients together until you get a nice consistency. Not too thin - should stay on the thicker side.
5. "Grease" (aka finger the bunt tray with earth balance) or "lightly coat" the tray with a cooking spray
6. Fill the tray with the batter about 2/3 full *Caution: These things rise faster than tweens at a Justin Bieber concert. 
7. Put the tray in the oven and bake for 18 minutes. They might need a little longer because every oven is different, but this is the time that worked for us. 
8. Let Cool (10-12 minutes worked for this)
9. Remove from tray and proceed to decorate (YESSSS) 

While the minis are baking, you can make the cream cheese. I actually googled a recipe for pumpkin cream cheese and went according to that based on what I had available at the time. 
1. Empty package of Tofutti Cream Cheese into a small mixing bowl
2. Empty Canned Pumpkin into a small mixing bowl. *I used Trader Joe's organic canned pumpkin. (Not like you care, because there's probably 80 million types of canned pumpkin at your local grocery store this time of year. However, for the purpose of sounding like I know what I'm doing, I decided to tell you what I used in the example of all the people on Food Network)
3. Whisk Cream Cheese & Pumpkin together. It should be really thick and have a very "fluffy/airy" look to it. 
4. Add in cinnamon and continue to mix. The recipe I went by actually called for Pumpkin Pie Spice, but I didn't have that so I improvised. 
5. Continue to mix and add in sugar to taste. Maybe you're like me and you don't really care for sugar. Maybe you have a bit of a sweet tooth. Either way you may need a friend to help you gauge this ;) (Thanks for your help, K!)
6. Have your significant other assemble your new icing gun so you can make cool designs when the minis are done.

Benefits of this recipe include that it is cholesterol and butterfat free. The minis are not a total diet kill. The recipe is virtually low in sugar and fat altogether. It's also packed with awesome pumpkin and fall flavors. Plus, The Great Pumpkin hold's a lot of its own benefits too including potassium, vitamins C & E, fiber, and more! Most importantly, my boyfriend and I had a great time making them. Cooking and baking offer a nice change of pace for activities to enjoy together as I'm learning :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Are You Thankful For?

Aside from lattes, shopping sprees, Sam Adams, and the love of my life, I'm gonna go with freaking cute animals on this one.

Ah, a vegan that loves animals. I know you're all surprised. Anyway, another thing to be thankful for is free yummy food! Ok, seriously the words free + this economy + food = you are definitely interested. Don't front ;) If I've peaked your interest in the slightest then you should come to...


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Veganatte does Chipotle

So I'm thinking it would be fun to post a "fast food" option once a week. I'm not going to lie, you won't find me posting anything from Burger King, McDonalds, or anything that might have fallen off of a Rutger's Grease Truck. I'll admit that I'm not the healthiest person alive or anything (Oh, Beer, how I love thee..), but I'm certainly not sending myself on a fast track to fatness either.

Anyway, my point is that while there are some days that I do like to fix myself a little something, other days I'd much rather veg out ::drum roll:: no pun intended and pick up something instead. In a perfect world (which in my version includes sparkly blinking signs so you'll never get lost anywhere and free coffee for all) this will accomplish a few things:

1. Let people know that being a vegetarian doesn't have to mean being difficult or starving
2. Vegetarians can eat at "normal" places
3. Our omnivorous friends may want to add more veggies to their diet. Even if it's just one meatless meal in a blue moon.

So here's what I opted for at Chipotle last night when I went to dinner with my omnivorous love:

"Veganatte Burrito Bowl"
*ahem: please do not harass Chipotle and ask for a Veganatte Burrito Bowl. I'm only promoting my blog and stroking my ego. Hey, it could happen, right?
Black Beans
Peppers & Onions
Lettuce & Tomato
HOT Salsa

These usually come with rice, but I opted out and got more beans in exchange. Also, if you'd prefer, you can still add cheese/sour cream. I'll be lenient in suggesting that, but I'm not about to endorse the flesh no matter how much of an environmentally friendly establishment we're talking about here. Another noteworthy option* At some locations, Chipotle even offers a "garden blend" option which is a blend of vegetables and gardein protein. Stay tuned for a future gardein<3 blog feature by your's truly.  It's not a long list of ingredients, but I can assure you I was pretty damn full afterwards. Also, I suppose now is a good time for me to warn you - I may steer clear of fat, cholesterol, grease, etc..but I do tend to cross the line with a sodium affair or two. It's nothing a quick potassium recharge and a tall glass of water can't fix though.

So there you have it! My very first official weekly fast food option. Yeah, I'll work on the name.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Miso Hungry but I Don't Wanna Fork Around

After a few weeks of blogger's hiatus, I'm ready to bounce back. I've been home for a few weeks now, and started a new internship with yet another animal-friendly organization. As always, for confidentiality and don't wanna blow up my spot-ality they shall remain nameless. I'm considering writing a book on veganism and relationships in the future, but for now, I'll stick to whatever inspires me. If anyone's got any suggestions (or blog bitching), feel free to send it my way...

This post's inspiration happens to be last night's dinner (which partially became today's lunch..) I'm talking about SUSHI! Why do I love it so much? Maybe it's the convenient bite size morsels, maybe it's the fact that I'm too lazy to fork around my entire plate some days, or maybe it's just my secret salt-loving vice of a personality...Whatever it is, I love sushi.

Sushi was one of the things that kept me super hesitant to go vegan. I'll say it loud and proud: I was a spicy tuna addict. I found california rolls undeniable (..daisy dukes bikinis on top - Sorry couldn't resist). And yes, sometimes I do still crave these tastes but for sushi lovers out there it's important you know you can still be vegan and eat sushi! Some favorite options of mine have become:

Avocado cucumber rolls
Sweet Potato Rolls* I know what you're thinking: Puh-Lease! It's a potato in rice - It's obviously not for the carb-o-phobics out there, but seriously give it a try!
Asparagus Rolls
Miso Soup
Green Salad

The best part is you can usually get a pretty good bang for your buck! The worst part is, if you're like me you will probably get two pairs of chopsticks with your order, because people will assume it is for more than one person. Oh well. So[y] delicious, more for me :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Top Three MO-FOs You're Dying to Know

...Or what I call the  "Most Often Frequented Objections" to going Veg.

Ok. So for all of you "been there done that" veggie guys and gals, this is probably not the post for you. BUT for those of you in blog land still trying to break yourselves in to vegetarianism, this will most definitely be helpful to you. Even if you're just trying to implement some more animal-friendly components into your diet, no fears! I'm here for you and I strongly believe that environmentalism, veganism, and animal advocacy are not all-or-nothing type deals. Every little bit helps. So here's a giant helping of Veggie 101. The best part, is that you no longer have to dread asking these:

1. Where do you get your protein?
I can't even count how many times I've been asked this question. However, it's typically important so for once and for all let me ease your minds. There are tons of protein options for vegetarians that can be found in both a natural or altered (but still plant-based) state. So we'll start with the "oldies but goodies": Beans (which will give you protein AND fiber. Garbanzos and favas are my faves!), Peanut Butter, Soy Milk (Calcium fortified is best!), and Whole Wheat/ Whole Grains. Now for the "crazy vegeterian stuff" that you've always wanted to know about, but were too-timid to try without a review: Quinoa, Tempeh, Soy, and Seitan. If you're particularly concerned about being satiated, look no further. Quinoa is from the grain family. Not only does it boast the most protein out of any grain, but it also is the ONLY grain to have a complete amino-acid complex. Seitan, Tempeh, and Soy are all the kind of stuff that go into creating "mock meats" that your vega-licous friends have probably raved about. I personally do not prefer them, but they are a fun treat every once and a while to mix things up.

[FYI: I'm not a freaking cartoonist, people. This image was taken from] ;)

2. No Milk? What about calcium?
First of all consider this - We (and when I say we I mean "human-animals") are the only ones that drink another species' milk. It's actually kinda gross. I'm just sayin'. Plus, cows (the most popular exploited dairy animal) have three stomachs to aid in their digestion. We have one. In short, milk: It's-really-not- good-for-you-at-all-but-you-think-it-is-because-the altered-product-in-the-supermarket-has-been tampered-processed-and-produced-to-make-you-think-it's-just-for-you. I know, I know, not as catchy as the whole "got milk" campaign. I'll work on it. As for calcium, it can easily be found in dark leafy greens like kale or even broccoli. You can also pretty much get anything calcium fortified these days.

3. Is it possible to be a vegan athlete?
You bet. Not only will a vegetable based diet make you feel better, but your body will run better overall. Fruits and veggies contain a large percentage of water, which helps aid in the body's ability for digestion and fluid movement. (Skeptics should review a little Yoga info on the benefits of going veg to help your practice) As for all the "meat heads" out there, if you're worried about "getting big" a.k.a. gaining muscle mass for those who are not guido-lingo inclined, you may convert to lettuce heads after all. Just check out NFL player, Tony Gonzalez or Vegan bodybuilder Kenneth Williams. If they can do it, you can too.

Phew:: I'm glad that's over. Now that we've had THE TALK, we can all go our cruelty-free and fabulous ways.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hot Hot Heat

So, we already know that "Hot Hot Heat" is a great band (and if you don't, you should definitely check out their stuff). BUT what you didn't know, is that HotHotHeat is also a great kind of Yoga. Most know this as "Bikram Yoga", which is when a series of asanas [yoga for newbies translation: poses] are done in a heated room (usually about 100 degrees or a little higher I believe). I have always wanted to experience this kind of yoga, but never really took initiative on it back at home in Jersey. However, since I've got some time on my hands over here, I made it a point to do some exploring.

What I found on my mini-adventure is a place called Hot House Yoga, a few blocks off of Colley Ave in Norfolk. I took my first class yesterday for a full 90 minutes. It was intense, super-sweaty, and exactly what I needed. I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to up the anti in their daily yoga practice, or to my fellow hardcore gym rats back at home who may have shied away from Yoga because they insist on sweating up a storm.

I can tell you that personally, I felt immediate benefits during and after my practice. The hot temperature might be a little overwhelming at first, but I found that it really helped me stretch that extra mile. Afterwards, I found I was able to breathe deep and the air felt super clean (This is an automatic plus if you have asthma like me!).

You also get a little yoga 101 with a lesson on chakras. For example - I bet you didn't know that the chakras closest to your core resonate your relationships with family and others. Talk about a new reason to do an extra set of crunches during your next workout. Plus, the candle light and background music create a nice added ambiance and that's not even the best part. The BEST part, is that if you're a resident, you can get a week free for $10. Lucky for me, I am conveniently a resident of Norfolk for about 6 more days so it's pretty much perfect. I'm telling you, at the end of one class you will feel happy, relieved, and ridiculously disgustinglywonderful (Note to Self: bring a change of clothes).

In other news, I have about a week left here in Norfolk. Have I told you how in love I am with this town? I actually feel I might run into Lorelei and Rory Gilmore one of these days.

Til next time,

Monday, September 6, 2010

Virginia is for Lovers


And so my adventure has begun! Yesterday at about 6AM, my boyfriend and I hit the road. By 9AM we were already in Delaware. It's funny how you can just drive such a short amount of time and end up somewhere completely different from home.

I'm not supposed to report to the office until tomorrow, but it seems that my mission was destined to start a little early. As we arrived in the state of Virginia, we passed TONS of Tyson and Perdue factory farms. I might not have realized this, since we were constantly surrounded with green fields and blue skies for miles. However, there was a certain thing that could not be ignored - the outstanding smell. I'd like to tell you all that it was due to the fertilizer, but that's just not the truth. The reality of the situation is that the smell was most likely due to the horrific amount of rotting carcasses. (PS: that's what meat really is - a rotting carcass. The meat which is so nicely pre-packaged in stores does not fall off of a "hamburger tree" just in case anyone has been misinformed). Anyway, the smell was so bad that it permeated our vehicle (which had been fragranced from a serious car wash less than 24 hours beforehand). Eventually we got over the smell in between farms and decided to stop for lunch.

There wasn't much to choose from, so we ended up at the Sage Diner. To my surprise, among a strew of non-vegetarian entrees; there was actually a veggie burger on the menu. Now, for those of you who don't know me, I am a small girl with a pretty ravenous appetite. After a couple hours I was very anxious and excited for this veggie burger. However a matter of seconds after taking our order, our server returned to inform me that they were "out" of veggie burgers.

Now, I know there are those who will say that I am looking for something, but I don't think it's any coincidence that an area that was surrounded by meat-producing places mysteriously had no veggie burgers or vegetarian options. So - here's some food for thought:

You don't have to be vegetarian/vegan, but others have a right to be. And doesn't that mean that everyone should have a right to at least one meal option at every restaurant? When I tell you there was not one vegan option on the menu, i am honestly not lying. As soon as I'm in the area again, I'll definitely be stopping by to see if they are "out" again.

Thankfully, today I was able to make up for this by having a great lunch here in Norfolk. I think the best part about it, was the fact that for the first time in a year and a half my boyfriend and I were able to eat in the same establishment without any trouble. That alone is worth a million bucks! They had a full vegan menu in addition to a regular menu and it was a serious burger joint! I'm just saying.
Vegan Fajitas aka social justice on MY plate! Mmmmmm