Category Archives: Reviews

mountlaurel

b.good

26 Centerton Rd, Mount Laurel, NJ 08054
500 Rte 73 S, The Promenade at Sagemore, Medford NJ 08053
More locations in MA, NH, NY, CT, ME, NC, RI, Canada & Switzerland
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I don’t normally like giving updates on restaurants since I know they can change so much. Especially in this case- a chain. New places are going to open, often. But I kind-of felt like I needed an update. One I’ve tried so much more on the menu, and two I really like how this place tries to keep things local. Plus the new location is rather close to where I live, so I find it really nice.

Let’s start with their new locations. If you follow this blog because you like seeing restaurants in the NJ/Philadelphia area, there are two new locations to pay attention to. One is in/near the King of Prussia mall. I never go here, so I know nothing about this location. They have another location in Mount Laurel, which is right across from the new Virtua Health and Wellness Center. I like this since I swear most places surrounding hospitals are fast food joints. They also have started to expand to North Jersey and the NYC area. If you follow this blog for fun and aren’t even in the United States- good news! B.good is expanding out to Canada and Switzerland. Not sure how big the franchise will actually get in those areas though.

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What’s vegan? The options are pretty large. Salads, grain bowls, burgers, smoothies, and acai bowls. The grain bowls are their upgrade to the quinoa bowls, as reviewed in the older post. Pretty much you can get any of their bowls with quinoa or their super grains mix, which I thought was a little over cooked, but still tasty. If you aren’t quite full from their salad or grain bowl, you can add grilled tofu, chicken, or a hard boiled egg. What I like is that their tofu is supplied by Philadelphia brand Nature Soy, and is the same price as the chicken.

We tried their online ordering service, and it was pretty awesome. It is very easy to customize your food, we were able to order the Adopted Luke and Buffalo veganized. The food was ready when I got there, and if you want you can schedule when to pick up your food. The local New Jersey locations also does catering, which is great if your company needs some food for business meeting.

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The owners of b.good have expanded into the juice making market. They are debuting their fresh pressed juice under the name 4 Petal Fresh Pressed Juices. There aren’t any grand plans for the juice franchise yet. Their website was a pain to find, and very outdated. The Mount Laurel location had both juices and “agua frescas.” Though the juice is more expensive than what I would spend, they aren’t anymore than other slow press juices on the market.

As always I recommend checking out the website before going to the chain. Why? Each location can vary, since you know, it is suppose to be all local. The location near you might vary differently with the ingredients in the sauces. But below is a quick review of the food that my husband and I have tried to give a quick little sampler of what you can get

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  • ACAI BERRY SMOOTHIE – This was so-so. The smoothie was pretty icey and didn’t seem blended up all the way. The flavor didn’t come through all the way, which is a bummer.
  • LUCY BLUE – On the other hand this smoothie was full of flavor. It still didn’t get blended up enough, but I did see the guy blend it 1 1/2 cycles to try and get the dates all blended up. But I really liked it, just wished he left the second cycle run all the way
  • REAL FRIES – These were really thick fries. They brag on the bag that the fries have less fat than normal french fries, which can be great for some people.
  • SWEET POTATO FRIES – These were super tasty. Sadly we had them to go so they got a little soft and floppy but I think would of been perfect if we ate them there
  • CRISPY VEGGIES – That’s the description and I was envisioning various veggies cut into long strips and fried. Nope. Just steamed veggies.
  • SPICY AVOCADO & LIME QUINOA BOWL – I reviewed this my first visit and really loved it. You have to ask for no cheese to make it vegan. But the sauce was super yummy, and it tasted great with the quinoa (though it was the only option at the time)
  • TOASTED ALMOND & GINGER SUPER GRAIN BOWL – Another bowl with a great tasting sauce. The whole thing was massive and super filling (I think even more than when I got the Spicy Avocado Bowl.) I tried the super grains instead of the quinoa and some of the grains felt over cooked. I think I would stick with the quinoa.
  • WEST-SIDE VEGGIE BURGER – Wasn’t a fan of the patty, but my husband loved it. Very “chunky” with vegetables and not too many umami flavors. This burger you have to ask no cheese, but it works out well with the spicy sauce and guac.
  • ADOPTED LUKE VEGGIE BURGER – I think my husband and I agree this is our favorite burger. Since the burger lacks umami flavors, the onions make up for it. Ask for no cheese to make it vegan.
  • BUFFALO VEGGIE BURGER – I love everything “buffalo” flavored. Sadly, they either nixed the sauce or didn’t put enough! I had this burger to go, so I was home to added my own sauce. The veggies were nice on the burger, though I wish they cut the celery thinner. Ask for no dairy/cheese.

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Seed to Sprout

410 Main Street, Avon by the Sea NJ 07717
560 A River Road, Fair Haven NJ 07704
*Note: the Fair Haven location is in the ACME shopping center and isn’t visible from River Road*
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Finally, I have been able to visit Seed to Sprout. This place has been on my radar for awhile. Back in the day, I had the cool vegan places to visit, while Alexa had slimmer pickings. I remember scoping Happy Cow to try and find new vegan and vegetarian restaurants to eat at near Alexa. Seed to Sprout was one of these places. Then as time went on, their popularity grew. They aren’t massive by all means, but still they are growing. Terry Hope Romero has mentioned them in her Protein Ninja Book, they opened a second location in my hometown, and they are now selling some of their food at local Whole Foods. 

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Alexa is a pretty big fan of this place since they have a location across from her work (their Fair Haven location), giving her a vegan and healthy option on the go. Seed to Sprout is a vegan restaurant that models around the trendy healthy vegan movement. The foods are very light and veggie heavy. The store made me think of P.S. & Co in Philadelphia and Heart Beet Kitchen in Haddon Township. There are some raw options, salads, bowls, and grilled sandwiches. They also have a large selection of desserts to choose from, and prepackaged meals to grab to take home or to the office. And like any “healthy” restaurant there are lots of liquid options- fresh juices, kombucha, hot drinks, smoothies and shots.

The restaurant keeps expanding their options. They do a Friday Pizza Night serving both traditional pizza and raw ones. Note that the regular pizza you order by 12 inch pie, raw pizza you order by the slice (at a steep $7/8 per slice.) They have two featured pizzas each week, so you can always switch it up. They also do brunch Saturday and Sunday, where you can try their banana bacon pancakes that Terry Hope Romero talks about in her book. They also offer catering services for parties, and it seems their cakes are popular item.

So what did WE get?

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Jen: Well I got the cashew collard wrap because I figured I could use the veggies (but didn’t want a massive salad.) Even though I always see collard wraps and think about how small they look, this was rather filling. I can only assume it has most of it’s calories are from the cashew pate. What I like about this wrap is that it is super healthy but eat to grab on the go. It won’t get soggy, but still something I wouldn’t make at home. Instead of getting a smoothie I got their Live Soda Kombucha, because I love that stuff. They had my favorite flavor- root beer.

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Alexa: I ordered the Mexican Omelet breakfast sandwich! I love the millet & flax bread as well as Seed to Sprout’s tofu scramble. The scramble is always packed with flavor and the Mexican omelet version had added coconut bacon and fresh chopped tomato. It was delicious and the perfect amount of food for a light meal during the summer. It’s been so hot out that the idea of eating anything more than this has made me feel like forgoing food altogether. 

asksalexaAlexa’s note: I normally enjoy getting the salads from Seed to Sprout as they are HUGE and for a pretty decent price. While they normally range around $11-$12, I find that I usually have enough salad to split between two meals whereas every other place in Fair Haven has way smaller salads for about $9-$10.

While it is right across the street from work and only about a 10 minute drive from my house I try not to eat here too often because it is a bit pricey. I understand I am getting good food that is environmentally conscious and animal friendly but it’s a bit much on my wallet if I venture in more than once a week.

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asksalexaAlexa’s note: I did get to go and have breakfast with my friend and fellow vegan from out of town and I tried their daily special breakfast sandwich as well as one of their kombucha mojitos.

I have been craving this kombucha drink pretty much all summer but stayed away from it because it’s $5. I figured that since I was on a lovely breakfast date I would break and give it a try. My only gripe is that it isn’t in a bigger glass because it is SO refreshing and delicious (and definitely non-alcoholic). The breakfast special I got was a fig melt which included spinach, figs, cashew cheese and caramelized onions. I got this specifically because I’ve never had anything like it and I’m always intrigued by the endless options in vegan dishes. It did not disappoint!

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The biggest competition with Seed to Sprout is Good Karma. Sure Good Karma has some hippie-granola crunching decor, but both places offer an all vegan menu, raw food, gluten free options, and brunch. As Alexa mentioned, Seed to Sprout can be a little pricey, especially when compared to the portions to Good Karma. It is worth noting that Seed to Sprout is all organic, Good Karma is not (probably the cause for price differences.) Overall Good Karma is more stick to your ribs good, but Seed to Sprout has the best carry out options out there. 

Do yourself a favor- go to Seed to Sprout and grab their salad or raw burrito to go. Maybe add in a baked good or drink. Then drive out to Sandy Hook. It’ll be bliss- eating something tasty on the beach.


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Greenplate

202 route 130 N unit 5A, Cinnaminson, NJ 08077
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So Greenplate has been on my radar ever since I saw a flyer for it in one of those coupon books. It said vegan selections, and it is rare that a place that offers vegan food would have discounts and coupons- even when they are brand new. But the restaurant is a little out of my way, so I always skipped it. But one Monday I was running errands and thought- why not check it out? It was only an 8 minute drive away. Sadly, I think this is the one time I have a bad review of a restaurant on this site.

Let me start with the good things about this place. The store was VERY clean and pretty easy to get to. I kind-of like how it is in a strip mall since it comes off as more approachable for some people. The store has a tablet ordering system similar to Honeygrow. I love this type of system because it makes it easy to know what you are ordering, or there isn’t any miscommunication with the staff, which I remember happening often when working in the restaurant industry. Plus it is easy to see what you are being charged extra for.

The staff was really helpful. I ordered a smoothie and asked for no honey, not noticing they were pre-mixed in a slushie machine (which is becoming more and more popular for healthy fast food places.) Someone came up to me and pointed out they couldn’t take it out, and refunded me the money. They knew what was in everything.

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Now for the bad stuff- the food. The food was super underwhelming. I am excited there is a place that has vegan options. Any of the stir fry or salad dishes you could sub the chicken with tofu or tempeh. Annoyingly the tofu was an extra 50 cents, which seems odd that soy beans would be expensive than organic chicken. The tempeh was a dollar extra, which seems about right knowing the current price for tempeh in the states. 

I ordered the Dragon Ginger noodles. You had the option for brown rice, wheat noodles, or gluten free noodles. I got the wheat noodles, which tasted like linguini pasta- which doesn’t work in a stir fry. The sauce was really thin, and sank to the bottom of the bowl. The veggies were pretty cheap, but at least fresh. It was just some green bell pepper, red onion, and shaved carrot. The tofu was NOT worth the extra 50 cents. It was raw, which being pregnant isn’t the greatest as it should be fully heated to kill any bacteria. Nor was it pressed or seared or had anything done to help with flavor. I don’t think the staff knows how to cook tofu properly, which made me extra happy that I didn’t bother getting the tempeh which probably was very bitter. 

I really want to like this place because I like how they are trying to encourage a vegan diet. But overall the place has a similar format and goals as other restaurants with much better food and personality like Honeygrow or b.good. If I was trying out vegan food and I got this dish I would of been really disappointed. I would probably assume tofu sucked, and there was something lacking from vegan food.

Even though everything was great- fast service, spotless kitchen, helpful staff, I can’t find myself coming back based on the food. If the food isn’t good, why would I come? I can easily make this dish at home, and it seemed pretty overpriced for what I got.


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Cookman Creamery

711 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712
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I’ve been dreaming about coming here. I am a little more inclined to visit Alexa and the “shore” during the off seasons- Fall, Winter, and Spring. I don’t like summer, and I don’t like traffic. But I do like Alexa and I do love food (Alexa’s Note: I’m so pleased to see that as much as Jen may “like” me she “LOVES” food. I’m feelin’ it.), so it is very frustrating when places are closed for the off season. This is one of those places. I’ve been wanting to check it out, but during the colder season the store doesn’t have as many hours.

Cookman Creamery isn’t 100% vegan. They carry regular old ice cream and vegan ice cream. And not just vanilla and chocolate, like good flavors. As you can see from the photo above, they have many flavors, and when we went there was a little more than usual. Heck they even have vegan soft serve in vanilla OR cookies and cream. Is this a vegan’s dream ice cream shop or what?

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Our favorites? Well, Alexa got the Twisted Tree ice cream, which used ginger cookies from another local vegetarian/vegan cafe and restaurant Twisted Tree. We also tried the pistachio ice cream, which was yummy and super natural tasting. I am sure some people have had the problem where the pistachio flavor becomes so intense that it doesn’t quite taste, well, like pistachios. Alexa and I really loved the Blue Lavender ice cream, but I recently made purple basil ice cream, so I passed on it. I went for the balsamic strawberry ice cream (another favorite of Alexa’s). The balsamic flavor is very subtle, which I personally like a lot. 

Their website says their ice cream base is coconut cream, which makes them super creamy and rich. Truthfully that is what I want in my ice cream when eating out. I don’t think I picked up on ANY coconut flavors in the ones we ate. But I am sure other ice creams like the Almond Joy and Pina Colada they will play up the coconut flavor. My only complaint, is that the vegan ice cream is a whole dollar extra compared to the normal ice cream. A little bit of a bummer, but still worth the price I think.

asksalexaAlexa Here! I also love this place and luckily have been able to visit it somewhat regularly this season as opposed to last summer when I too dreamed of the establishment. Something I noted on when I went for the first time was all of the different flavors, like Jen mentioned. I expected some cookie-based flavors, but never thought of seeing something like the Blue Lavender or Strawberry Balsamic. I’m always adventurous when trying ice cream but honestly a little naive when it comes to the massive amount of (good) flavors there could possibly be. I also think Cookman Creamery tries to switch out different flavors depending on the week – I know that at one point they had a vegan matcha flavor but I haven’t come across it when I’ve visited so far and it honestly makes me cry inside. That being said, everything I’ve had so far is amazing. 

Jen also mentioned the coconut cream base for all of their vegan flavors, and I think this is a huge benefit for their ice cream versus something you’d buy in a store. While the new vegan Ben & Jerry’s is very good they’re all almond milk based and you can definitely tell. As someone who is a connoisseur of vegan – and sometimes – non-vegan ice cream I can usually tell when it’s not a milk or cream based flavor, but with Cookman Creamery you wouldn’t even notice. I only say this because I could even convince someone who is a non-vegan to try some of these and they wouldn’t even have an excuse not to! 

I think my only gripe about Cookman is that the prices are a bit high. I understand when you’re using vegan and ‘organic’ products that it’ll hike the cost up a bit more, but I almost can’t justify buying one of the pints of vegan ice cream from them because the pints run around $8.50, whereas I can go and buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or *insert vegan ice cream that can be found in Whole Foods/Wegman’s* for $3-$4 less. However, if that’s my only complaint then I would still consider it an amazing experience! The staff are all really nice and are very knowledgeable of the product, I recommend making the trip if you are in Asbury!


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Dizengoff

1625 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
website | PA: facebook | PA: instagram | NYC: instagram | PA: twitter | NYC: twitter

There has been a growing movement in Philly that it is a vegan friendly city. The funny thing about that statement is that there aren’t THAT many 100% vegan restaurants. Or rather, I am quick to point out there is a polar divide between culinary styles. You have high end places like Charlie Was a Sinner, V Street, Vedge, and Bar Bonbon (high end tapas bars), but then you have more punk/take out style restaurants like Dottie’s Donuts, Blackbird Pizzeria, Grindcore House, Govindas, HipCityVeg, and the like. And if the cuisine isn’t very American, you tend to get more a fast food places that are owned by Asian owners like Su Xing House, Lee How Fook, Veggie Lovers, New Harmony, and Vegan Tree.

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What makes Philadelphia shine is that almost all independently owned restaurants have lots of vegan options. So many, that I know I would never be able to feature all the restaurants that I have been to that I think are worth mentioning (although, maybe I should try?!) Khyber? My husband loved it. Was some dosas? Go to Philadelphia Chutney Company. Gym Rat? There are options at Fuel. Yes, vegan food seems pretty normal in the city of Philadelphia. So if you have a stubborn friend who doesn’t want an all vegan menu, you can pretty much select anything in the city and get something very good.

Dizengoff falls into this category. Not vegan, but super trendy and very vegan friendly. I first heard about the place from photographer Ted Nghiem (who’s photos are much better than mine) And when meeting up with my friend Chrissy, she wanted to try the place out.

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Dizengoff features seasonal food in a middle eastern style. Naturally hummus and pitas are on the menu year round, but aside from that the menu has never been the same each time I have been. When I first went, Chrissy and I pretty much got the two vegan options (out of 4-5 options) which was a fava bean hummus and a hummus topped with beets. It was hard to choose which was better. The fava bean dip was amazing, but the it was nice to scoop chunks of beets from the second dish.

The second time coming I went with my husband. We were originally planning on eating at The Philadelphia Chutney Company, but we got there too early. We noticed Dizengoff was opened and thought it would be a good place to eat. We got Spicy Cauliflower dish, which was a bowl of hummus with tender cauliflower covered in a spicy sauce. The meal was really filling, and we both filled up by just sharing the plate. All of their hummus dishes comes with a side of pickles, a cucumber salad, and a pita. You can buy an extra pita for $1, which I recommend especially when sharing.

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Things to know about the place? Well, the store in Philadelphia is VERY small. It is a hole in the wall and finding a spot to eat might be hard depending on the time you come. They do take out and you can eat in Rittenhouse Square. Just keep in mind that if you take out and eat in the park that you can’t grab a beer to go. No drinking booze in public in Philly. They have a second location in New York City, thstaffough I have never been. I can only assume it is equally as small.

Don’t be afraid to ask which dishes are vegan, since the menu is so small the staff is well aware of what is vegan, vegetarian, or not. I love how small the menu is, because it sometimes forces you to take a chance. I don’t think I would of ever picked out that fava bean dish if there was a huge selection to choose from. And the food is fresh and top quality.

 


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One of the first concerns I had when going pregnant is how my veganism would fit into it. I’ve heard of many healthy pregnancies with vegan women, or various advice for families that are vegans. But when saying telling family that I was pregnant most asked if the whole vegan thing was healthy or not. So I did some research and tried to find some books to help. Answer? Pretty much I had nothing to worry about.

What to Expect: Eating Well When You’re Expecting
Written by Heidi Murkoff
This was a book I found at my local library book sale. For a buck, why the hell not? I clearly knew it wouldn’t be vegan but I figured I could apply the information towards a vegan diet. The book was longer than it really needed to be, and it seemed like there was a lot of repeat information. Don’t eat too much, but more importantly don’t eat too little. The author stresses the role of calcium, which is important but she recommends a dairy overload. I was a little pissed by all her dairy suggestions (aside from my personal opinion that dairy is more cruel than meat) is that she completely ignores the fact that most plant based milks contains just as much calcium as cows milk, many contain more. In her defense that wasn’t the case 10 years ago (which I specifically remember.)

What I found more confusing was her system of tracking nutrition. She stressed the following nutrients: calcium, protein, iron, betacarotene, vitamin d, vitamin b12, and vitamin-c. So to keep track she suggests tracking the servings of food for several different categories: 3 protein, 4 calcium, 3 vitamin c, 3-4 green leafy and yellow fruits/vegetables, 1-2 other vegetables, 6+ whole grains and legumes, iron rich foods (no specified servings), 4 fat/high fat foods. Confused already? I get what the author is doing, dividing fruits and veggies up by how nutritionally dense they are. Plus many of these servings will overlap, for example 1 cup cooked collard greens falls under green leafy veggies, vitamin c, and calcium. Many of the whole grains and legumes also count as half a protein serving. The book gives examples or serving sizes for qualifying foods but since the vegan foods tend to overlap it is kind-of hard to keep track of it all. I personally find it easier to just track the calories on Cronometer, but I know that isn’t always a possibility for people.

Then there are other tips, like how to eat healthy in unhealthy situations, which many vegans already know since they have to know how to eat in non-vegan situations. There is a chapter of foods to avoid, which again mostly doesn’t involve vegans since 90% of the off limit foods are cheese and meats of some sort. 

So what are the good parts of the book? Well it was very reassuring to see that healthy eating when pregnant is pretty much the same as eating healthy in general. Yes there are some larger requirements such as iron and calcium. The book also goes over information about eating after giving birth, giving really interesting information about breastfeeding. I was surprised to find out that you need more calories to breastfeed than when you are pregnant! 

This is a book I have no plans to keep. It is going to be donated right back to the library. It isn’t totally useless. The book does some reassuring that a vegan/vegetarian diet is obtainable, which is good. But I don’t like how it recommends 3 servings of protein when most of the whole grains are half a serving, so in theory getting 6 whole grain servings would fill the 3 protein serving requirements. Okay it doesn’t work out perfectly that way but I get a little annoyed when the author stresses that we get too much protein in our diet, then puts it down as a requirement in her book. Most people are probably not going to count the whole grains as half a serving and cut down on the meat.

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The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book
Written by Reed Mangels
Type in vegan and pregnancy in Amazon and this book pops up. I checked my library and they carried it, so naturally I checked it out. Sadly it was largely not helpful for me, a vegan who is pretty well educated in diet. The book largely focuses on diet breaking down most of the chapters by important vitamin, minerals, and macros that pregnant women should focus on, which are things most vegans learn about- protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iron. The only new information is pretty much zinc and iodine, which most vegans don’t think twice about.

Otherwise the author goes through the basics about pregnancy, but doesn’t go into the specifics of how it relates to pregnancy. In fact she doesn’t explain many things. There is a birth plan checklist in the back, and some questions are left unexplained. Do hospitals make you get enemas? What are they shaving?! I am still not really sure if these are optional “hippie-dippie” options or just something all hospitals do. I am going with optional since I haven’t read them ANYWHERE on ANY blog or book, and I’ve read people talking about pooping, puking, and peeing during childbirth/post birth. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That being said this book isn’t garbage. I think it is great for anyone who is looking to go vegan in the middle of pregnancy, or just started to make the transition before conceiving. It will be reassuring to parents that you read the book and your child won’t be iron deficient. As for a veteran vegan, there is no information about what types of treatments or drugs that aren’t vegan, which was what I was really hoping for.

There are some recipes in the back, which again is great for brand new vegans. The recipes are really simple and pretty tasty, but nothing amazing. I think I really liked her recipe for baked beans, but sadly involve a lot of baking (hello hot hot summer.) She also had an interesting recipe for cereal bars, which had a little more sugar than I would like, but that is a different complaint for a different day. Glad I didn’t have to buy this book and was able to just get it from the library.

Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide
Written by Sayward Rebhal
This is my dream book. Google vegan and pregnancy, this is the second book to come up on Amazon. I read the reviews and hesitated to buy it, it didn’t seem to have lots of information. This was very wrong of me. Yes, the book is very short, and very small (physically, it easily fits in a purse.) Sayward is treating you like an adult who probably picked up a few other books about baby making. She touches nutrition very lightly, which I like personally since as my review of What to Expect says, your diet when pregnant is pretty much the same before hand. 

Sayward hits the main vegan questions- what drugs can I take to deal with some of the pregnancy side effects? Oh she is listing BRANDS! Thank god! No joke, I read her blurb about heartburn, and saw her comment on tums, left the house, bought a container. She touches the topics of what treatments are vegan, and gives tips that she and other vegan parents had done. She talks about pregnancy, birthing, breastfeeding, and raising children. 

Downfalls? Well, the book isn’t very long, which is both nice and flawed. Yes, it made it an easy book to tell my husband to read through for any question family members might have. But I would recommend taking this book with another more clinical/thorough pregnancy book like What to Expect When Expecting. And since the book is so small it can easily get outdated. Those name brand vegan drugs could add non-vegan ingredients to them. And I know one bit of outdated information was on vitamin D. Since the book was written before the discovery of vitamin D3 that can be synthesized in a vegan form with lichen, Sayward says that all D3 isn’t vegan, and says the brand Garden of Life prenatal vitamins aren’t vegan. Since the book is so short, I doubt it will be updated with this new information.


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I have always been a big fan of Indian cuisine. I loved how it was very vegetable heavy and you had lots of different options for meals without meat. But as I went vegan I soon discovered how many of those vegetarian dishes were full of dairy. So I was happy when I found the food blog Vegan Richa. Not only did she have some authentic Indian dishes, all vegan, she also had some fun Western/fusion dishes. So when Richa Hingle said she was releasing a cookbook all about Indian food, I knew I had to get it.

Photos

I love the photos that are in this book. It is pretty important to me to have photos of food that are not traditionally made in your area *cough* Vegan Eats World *cough* The Asian Vegan Kitchen *cough* If you are buying this cookbook you probably know a little about Indian food, but not a lot. And Richa’s photos does help paint a picture of what to expect with textures, serving, etc. 

And I can’t stress enough how much this book needs lots of photos. The names of the recipes aren’t too appealing. Richa describes the dish for what it is, but let’s face it, how many different lentils can she use to keep your attention in the dal section? The photos gives a visual that stimulates the reader to pick it and make it. 

Set-up

Nothing too unique about how this book is set up. But here is something I really liked about it. Richa explains why she made the book in the very beginning. Many times I would find this a little pointless with a vegan cookbook as it comes off preachy after awhile. But I think it is important because her book is about a specific type of cooking- Indian food. Some people might pick this book up without seeing it is vegan, so the introduction can be inspiring to someone.

Otherwise it is the same ol’ same ol’ deal. There is a large section about all the different foods you will need, explaining all the Indian specific ingredients, then moving to vegan specific foods. She divides up the recipes in a way that makes it easy to plan a traditional Indian dinner. Then she has the index in the back, which is very easy to use if you are looking for specific ingredients (something I like a lot!)

Writing

Richa isn’t the best writer out there. But as a trade off she is short and to the point. She writes directions that are easy to follow. She also describes various indian staples in a quick no fuss manor. My only disappointment is that since she is so quick to describe things she glosses over the ingredients descriptions in the beginning a little too fast for my taste. But she makes up for it in the recipes, and gives a lot of details of different ways to make a recipe, where they are from, and how it may vary from region to region.

As for grammar, I think I only spotted one or two spelling errors. Nothing huge, and hopefully was fixed in the next pressing. The grammatically errors were minor and didn’t make the things confusing on what the ingredients or recipe needed. I think there was one case where a spice wasn’t listed in the steps. But Richa is so organized with the ingredients, ALWAYS listing them in order of use and grouping them by steps, that it was easy to figure out when to use the missing ingredient, which I think is much more important.

Overview

I can not stress how much I love this book. I got my copy for Christmas, and accidentally had two people get it for me. My Mother took the extra one and found out that she loved the book too. I can only hope that she gives lentils another try because I am falling in love with the potentials of dals. They are so cheap and are very versatile.

What I also love about this book is that there is a lot of ingredient overlap. Many cookbooks that focus on a specific cuisine or cooking style can sometimes fall into the trap of requiring ingredients that are only used in one or two different ingredients. I have many of these ingredients in my cupboard, granted I have a well stocked pantry. And if I don’t have it, I have found a few other recipes that use that lentil that I had to buy, or whatever spice I had to buy.

I love this book and I think it is one of my new favorites. I will probably use it as much as Isa Does It since it uses a wide variety of foods and they are simple to make. None of the dishes are particularly hard, and usually don’t take long to make. Some take a little longer to make, but usually has a lot of down time. I recommend this to anyone for weeknight dinners, and anyone who loves Indian food and wants to make some at home.

Recipes

This cookbook I tried my best to pick at least one recipe from each section of the book to show all the variety that is available. If there was a recipe available online legally, I left a link for people to try it out before buying the book.

Continue reading


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Home Grown Cafe

126 East Main Street, Newark, DE 19711
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When my parents first moved to Delaware one of the first things I did was scope out restaurants in the area that I could visit (and review). It turns out that downtown Newark has a lot of vegan friendly options, Chipotle, Bahn Mi Boy, Honeygrow, Brew Ha Ha (carried Dottie’s Donuts), and Home Grown Cafe. In fact after looking at the menu, I almost immediately wanted to eat at Home Grown Cafe.

They have a VERY vegan friendly menu, in fact you can almost get anything off of their menu. How? They have a bunch of different options and you have the choice of “protein.” They have different price points, most expensive beef, mid range are fish and shrimp, a little cheaper are options like chicken, pork, lamb, and burger. The cheapest? The vegan options my friends! *insert shocked face emoji* And you don’t get stuck with whimpy veggies, you get a choice of portobello mushrooms, falafels, veggie burger, seitan, or tofu. To make it even easier, there are *’s indicating vegetarian options and **’s indicating vegan or vegan modified options. 

When I went with my Mother is ordered their deep fried cauliflower with their Korean gochujang sauce. There were the two little stars so I mentioned I was vegan so to not include the sauce. The waiter made a note on our menu and assured that they could make the sauce vegan. I didn’t touch it since I like my food spicy but my Mother thought it was pretty tasty. As for the cauliflower? It was pretty amazing. I loved how they were too mushy and perfectly fried. I wish they did a better job coating the cauliflower with sauce. If I got it again I would ask that they make sure everything is well coated, and I probably would order the double order of both the Korean style AND buffalo wing style.

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The main dish? I got their bibimbap, which I totally regret. I should of known better to order something so distinctly Korean from a restaurant that serves so many different things. The seitan was amazing, and so was the sauce. But there wasn’t enough sauce for my taste, and the rice was long grain. I know that the restaurant probably makes only one kind-of rice for all their dishes, but something about getting that type of rice in a bibimbap seems wrong. 

I would love to come back and try one of their other meals to redeem them from the bibimbap. But it might be a long time till I go again. Overall I like this place as they try and serve bar food but have everything be fresh. My only complaint is the lack of sauce, that was being used. This is a place I probably would go with another vegan since there are so many options to choose from. Finger foods, appetizers, salads, sandwiches, main courses, the works. There are  lots drinks available, and there are occasionally live performances as well!


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What I am Currently Reading

A Bride’s Story, Vol. 1 – I saw this on a list of top comics of 2016 and thought I would check it out from the library. Aside from that I have no idea what to expect from it.

The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology – This was a birthday gift from my Mother, yup, leave it to her to buy me a medical textbook (she is a neonatal nurse practitioner). I have already learned a lot of new things, and put some of my AP Biology terminology to use.

Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America – True crime guys! Actually I am not HUGE in true crime novels, but I do get intrigued by them. This is a book I heard from the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class and thought I HAD to read it.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting – I picked up a copy from my library’s book sale, and at the time it was the most up-to-date copy. Now a new version came out. I am sure most of the information is the same with some new changes (maybe a section on Zika, and other technological updates)

What I’ve Read

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Author Barbara Ehrenreich tries to live on a minimum wage paycheck for an entire year. She tries to live in three different places Key West, Portland Maine, and Minneapolis with different types of jobs (waitressing, cleaning, and retail.) She has struggles in each place, but each job and location has their own set of unique problems. Because her book isn’t about people who are making their small paychecks work, it is in many ways flawed. Ehrenreich is very clear that she has a certain set of standards for her way of living like having her own place (as to not blow her cover) and to have her own car (because writing about traveling by bus would be boring.) I think this is reasonable as many middle class Americans wouldn’t consider these things a luxury (unless you live in a very densely populated area like a city.)

I thought the book was really insightful, and very convincing for people who don’t want to raise minimum wage. I think since Ehrenreich doesn’t take in consideration things like disability, family, etc she can make the argument that best case scenario, you can’t live off of minimum wage. She also talks about the fact that many of the businesses that she works for do take advantage of their workers or break laws that protect worker rights.

I don’t like how so many people criticize the book for not being progressive enough. I never like that argument because you can’t cover everything. As a white woman, it would of been inappropriate for Ehrenreich to talk about the extra struggles people of color face with low wages. On top of that, sometimes you need to pick and choose your battles. If Ehrenreich tried to talk about every single issue with the USA’s system she could easily overwhelm the reader.

The scary thing about this book is that it is written over 14 years ago, the current minimum wage wasn’t too far off from what Ehrenreich was receiving. In fact at the time the jobs she worked were usually more than minimum wage at the time. The price of housing and food has only gone up, so things can only be worse for most working class Americans. To me the answer is clear, though most people don’t like it. If a company can’t pay it’s workers more, than maybe we should be paying more for certain products? Probably people who are middle class or higher shouldn’t buy so much stuff? Or maybe that business shouldn’t stay open? The problem is that major corporations that can pay their workers more, it just means the people who work higher up are earning less.

The downside is that I read the older copy and there is updated version on the market. I am sure the newer version talks about points that I mentioned- the cost of living is only going up. I am sure things like Obamacare is also mentioned. I left an Amazon link to the newer edition because I am sure it can only enrich the reading experience.

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Princess Knight, Vol. 2
This is the second installment to the Princess Knight manga that I read A YEAR AGO! Where does the time go? For the previous book I talked about how I could see modern parrallels with the main character Prince Sapphire with people who identify as transgender. This most likely not the intention of the author, Osamu Tezuka. There is actually more written about how the character Prince Sapphire is the first “gender neutral” character in Japanese mangas. So what is the basic plot line? The Queen gives birth to a girl and the King, scared for his lineage, decides to raise his baby Sapphire as a boy and hide the sex of the baby from the kingdom. As a result, in heaven Sapphire gets both a boy and girl heart, and an angel is sent to Earth to remove her boy heart to become a proper girl. The story is complicated by the fact that Sapphire’s true sex is discovered and get’s overthrown, and Sapphire falls in love with Prince Charming. 

My criticism about the series was that there were some gender stereotyping. Sure there was the roles of which genders play, but there was the constant reminder that females are physically weaker than males. So how the did the second installment hold up? Well, in the second book Sapphire’s boy heart is completely removed but is still able to be strong. This I enjoyed. But since she has more or less made that transition as a girl, the story becomes more focused on getting Sapphire and the Prince together.

Well, there is an interesting storyline where an evil queen keeps trying to steal Sapphire’s girl heart for her daughter, who isn’t “feminine enough.” What I liked about the daughter character was that she mischievous and spunky, but never wanted Sapphire’s girl heart. In the end she helps the leading couple, and is shown in a positive light, giving approval that girls don’t need to be quite and reserved. Sadly, she dies because of a weird “connection” to her mother, which does conflict with my previous statement.

Overall I liked the series, though it is a little dated because of the changed roles of women over the years. And I think I mentioned before that it is a little weird reading as a westerner. Tezuka clearly is emulating western fairytales, but seems to jumble Grim’s fairytales, with Disney movies, with Greek/Roman mythology. If you can get past these items, this will be an enjoyable read.

The Vegetarian
The Vegetarian is a book that instantly grabbed my attention. I am a long time fan of South Korean storytelling, as it is usually steeped in metaphors. Then pile on a message about vegetarianism/veganism? Yes please! SADLY… it really has nothing to do with veganism, but everything to do with feminism. So not a total loss right?

The story was originally written as three different novellas, following the life of Yeong-hye once she becomes a vegetarian (or more specifically a vegan.) The first novella is written from the point of view of Yeong-hye’s husband, who is a boring man who has little ambitions. He just wants to work a normal salary job and get married to an average woman to blend in with the rest of society. But one day Yeong-hye decides to not eat meat, which in Korean society raises a lot of questions since food is so largely a group activity (which I’ve written about before on the blog.) To try and get Yeong-hye to stop her individuality he rats her out her family, resulting in a mental downward spiral for Yeong-hye.

The second novella follows Yeong-hye’s brother-in-law who apparently has grown a crush on her. He becomes obsessed over Yeong-hye’s body and obsesses over an art project based on Yeong-hye’s naked body. This chapter is a little odd, Yeong-hye gets a chance to understand herself. She is free from the societal obligations of being a wife, and takes a chance of artistically expressing herself through her brother-in-law’s project. But her brother-in-law doesn’t have her interests in mind. He is acting selfishly for his own gains, ignoring everyone around him, Yeong-hye, his wife, and his son. Because of his selfish disregard to everyone, Yeong-hye suffers. Everyone assumes that Yeong-hye is the crazy one for going against so many societal rules.

The last novella is when Yeong-hye is committed to a mental institution. The world has given up on her, she is simply too weird for everyone. Her sister In-hye still visits often, but probably because she sees the same struggles that Yeong-hye deals with in herself. In-hye has been betrayed by her husband, forcing her to be a single mother in Korea, a huge social outcast. Everyone in the immediate family ignores Yeong-hye, and In-hye openly criticizes her family, which results in her being kicked out of the family.

The book made me draw a lot of parallels with the short story The Yellow Wallpaper. What caused Yeong-hye to go crazy? The strict roles created for women? Or was she starting to loose her mind when she started to avoid meat? The whole story is VERY GRAPHIC and might not be for everyone. There is a lot sexual and physical abuse, particularly in the first novella.


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Champs Diner

197 Meserole Street, Brooklyn, NY 11206
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These photos have been sitting on my computer for over a month? Oh gosh, maybe two months now. I have been crazily eyeing up Champs ever since I first heard of it. I went to Champs when visiting my sister in Brooklyn, and I got to meet her boyfriend, who actually comes to Champs often with his vegan and vegetarian friends. Although being vegan doesn’t mean you only have to eat healthy foods, when eating out it seems that the vegan option is almost always a salad. Sure restaurants are starting to give other vegan options, which pretty much means you can choose between a salad and a veggie burger. Sometimes all a vegan wants is some good old fashion greasy diner food. Well, this is the place to go.

I didn’t take any outdoor shots, the place isn’t glamourous, and it shouldn’t be. It’s a diner. It keeps the interior with traditional diner decor, note the mirrors and sparkly seats. If you aren’t familiar with diners here is a basic outline. If you are American, a diner means a specific style of restaurant that is mostly popular in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York area. Originally diners were similar to trailer homes, they were prebuilt models that could be purchased. They were long an narrow for transportation purposes, but it meant it was fairly cheap to build a completely new restaurant. Because they were prebuilt, there was a very specific style (think art deco, metallic, and kind-of looking like a trailer). As the diners became more popular they became bigger. Some places sold prebuilt models that could put together on premises in order to “expand” the restaurant. Now most surviving diners are massive monsters. If you want a comparison, here is an original styled diner compared to a later monster diner.

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So as the size of a diner has changed, the decor and food is what seems to define a diner. Stereotypically diners have checkered floors, vinyl booths, a bar area, and neon signs. But overall the decor must be humble, if it is too polished it clearly isn’t family owned. The food menus are traditionally huge, with portions to match. Depending on the location of the diner, you’ll get a different menu. If you are in the south you’ll probably get grits and biscuits, but in New Jersey you probably will find lots of Italian food. I know that is the appeal for most people is that you can go in a group and if one person wants Italian and the other wants a burger, you pretty much will please everyone… well except the vegan. Sadly most diners are not very vegan friendly unless you want french fries and a salad. Enter Champs.

Clearly Champs isn’t using a traditional diner cart, but they try and replicate the interior. They have the classic paneled mirrors, checkered floors, and funky lighting. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the decor is originally from some other diner. They have some macabre touches here and there, like I remember there being a skeleton near the cashier. Probably due to the fun interior and the great food, there was a huge wait. 

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Whenever I go to an all vegan restaurant I have such a hard time choosing. I am so use to only one to five options and then deciding if I want something light or not (ie do I want a salad or a veggie burger?) Even the non-vegans had a hard time deciding what to get. I figured I would go for food items I had never seen vegan before- the poutine fries ($9) and the cubano sandwich ($11). For anyone who isn’t familiar poutine are french fries that are covered in gravy and cheese curds. I never would of thought they would of been so addictive! I gave my sister a bite, and she deemed them authentic… or authentic enough (the cheese curds weren’t quite right, but I think we all suspected that.) The cubano is a vegan version of the cuban sandwich, which is a hot pressed sandwich with pork, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. This sandwich was yummy and the “ham” was bizarrely close to what I remembered of ham. Mostly it was the way the “meat” shredded. I was pretty full from the poutine so I took half of the sandwich home, which kind-of stunk up the train. Oops.

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What did everyone else get? My sister, Lindsay, got the Buffalo Chik’n ($11), a faux chicken sandwich that has lots of hot sauce, ranch, and veggie toppings on a roll. I took a bite and thought it was pretty good, and was pretty close to an omni-style sandwich. I’ve eaten plenty of faux buffalo wing foods and vegan versions tend to only have hot sauce flavor, which I like, but not everyone’s cup of tea. Her boyfriend ended up getting the Blue Plate Special, which was only available that day. It was a mix of mac and cheese, a fried chicken drumstick, corn, and biscuits (maybe cornbread?). Lindsay seemed to like the mac and cheese, which is saying something since she is a BIG cheese fan (note: if Lindsay is reading this, I am sure she would want me to point out it didn’t taste JUST like cheese, but we all know that) The chicken drumstick was full of seitan goodness, and even had a wooden stick in it so you could eat it just like a normal drumstick.

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Jon and I were both eyeing up the same sandwich- the Country Fried Seitan ($13), but he “claimed” it before I did. The recipe features seitan made from Blackbird, breaded, fried, and served on texas toast with bacon, cheese, ranch dressing, tomato and greens. Funny thing is that I’ve never had texas toast before going vegan, and I am in love with it. More proof that going vegan only expands your options. 

Great thing about Champs? It is fairly cheap. We got an appetizer and an entree for everyone and meal was cheaper than our lunch… and there was 4 people for dinner and 3 for lunch! Yikes! It probably helps that there isn’t any booze being served at Champs, so that kept the bill small. Also the plates are pretty big, which makes it so you only need the main meal. Even still, these are great prices if you are dining out in New York City, so if you are visiting Manhattan island, it would probably be worth the trip out to Brooklyn.