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VLife

348 7th Ave (29th&30th) New York City, NY 10001
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New York City is known for it’s large selection of vegan restaurants. Even if you aren’t eating at an exclusively vegan place, many tend to have a vegan option. The only downside is that New York City, particularly Manhattan, can be very expensive. Sure you could go to Chipotle, but that wouldn’t be an exclusively New York or vegan experience. When Jon and I went into New York to celebrate Alexa’s birthday we wanted a cheap place to eat since we know we would be spending more than normal on drinks and karaoke. VLife filled that gap.

Oh boy are you guys ready for some great photos?! Well too bad. These were taken with my cellphone because I didn’t want to lug around an expensive camera while at a bar (we went to Ginger Man, which has a killer vegan black bean soup) I already get nervous with my wallet and cellphone! Sadly, it was night time so you aren’t getting the greatest shot of the entrance, and we were a little intoxicated by the time we stopped in so I didn’t have the will power to stop and take a good photo before eating.  That being said, enjoy the review.

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Just like my review of Beyond Sushi, this is another hole in the wall sort of place (if you notice I do these a lot, as we tend to eat out mostly when out and about). There were a decent amount of seating, but the lighting and environment wasn’t the greatest. You can at least give them some points for trying. The walls are white with bright green circles, so it isn’t the worst. It seemed that there were a lot of take out orders with people picking up, and delivery people picking up orders (which BTW, looks like they use a third party service, not sure which one though.)

If you aren’t aware of the location of the place, it is on Manhattan island close to Penn Station. So if you are going to Madison Square Garden or just getting off/to the train this is a quick place to go. Other areas you will be walking distance of (like 10-15 min walk) would be K-town, Bryant Park, New York Public Library, Garment District, Empire State Building, and Times Square. If I was instructing a vegan who is heading into New York via bus or train arrive in Penn Station, I might suggest heading here first to grab a bite, then heading up north on the island to Central Park, Saint Patricks Cathedral, Rockefeller Center and all that fancy shit- but then again I don’t know what tourists do in NYC.

burger

We were pretty hungry when we headed in, so we ordered fast. Jon got the Bodacious Burger, which is a soy based burger. The patty was pretty good, and super juicy which I don’t get often in a vegan burger. The burger came with a side dressing/sauce to spread on the bun. But the burger was juicy enough on it’s own that we saved the sauce for the fries, which is ordered separately from the burger. We picked their cajun french fries (which doesn’t seem to be on their online menu) with their mild chipotle chili sauce. The fries were very yummy, and my husband LOVED the sauce. Personally I found it a bit too sweet, but still a fun way to switch it up from ketchup.

poboy

I just came back from my trip from Florida (and had so many salads) where my Aunt made everyone authentic po’ boys. Naturally I couldn’t eat the shrimp, so when I saw it on the menu, I figured I had to get it. It was a little disappointing. This is my first time having fake shrimp, and they were actually close to the real thing. Sadly there were some problems with the authenticity of a po’ boy. The shrimp was simply too big (they probably should of just chopped the faux shrimp) and the batter seemed to have a hard time sticking on the shrimp. I guess I shouldn’t of expected so much from a regional food. But if you look past that, the sandwich was pretty good.

What I like about this place is the price point and location. This is a great lunch stop for most NYC tourists. The prices are cheap for the city, leaving Jon with a $7 burger, and me with a $9 sandwich, and fries that were an undetermined amount (it could of been $2 to add to my sandwich, or around $4 as a side, I don’t have the bill with me right now.) The Happy Cow got a lot of mixed reviews on their site and I can see why. I would probably give the place a 3 out of 5 stars, but might come back for more. Most everything is mock meats on the menu which can rub people the wrong way, but I rarely cook with them so they are usually a treat for me. 


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When I first went vegan I did it mostly for health related reasons. In the middle of it all I started to get sucked into the raw lifestyle. I slowly branched away from it, but I am still always interested in eating more raw food. I decided to try and eat more raw lunches and decided to use some of the recipes from Ani’s Raw Food Asia cookbook. I love Ani’s simple and easy recipes, making it quick and easy to prep a lunch.

Photos

The pictures are pretty true to what the food looks like, which I really like. Nothing drives me more bonkers than seeing a photo that will never match my recipe. Ani’s food does look inspiring to make, but there aren’t that many photos of the food themselves. The photos in the book are actually more about the sights and people that are in Asia. There are photos of Ani preparing recipes, and posing at markets. I would say this is annoying in a cookbook, but honestly, I like it. I find it relaxing and I like flipping through the book to just look at the photos. And let’s be real, do I need a photo for all these salads? Answer- no.

Set-up

Unlike most modern cookbooks, Ani’s organization is a little all over the place. This might be a smart move. It isn’t often do that people sit down and read all of a cookbook. So Ani takes advantage of how people read a cookbook, by flipping through recipes, and gives information and facts throughout the recipes. Most of her tips are mostly about keeping up health, mentally, physically, and living an eco-friendly life. Before doing this review, I’ve read most of the note she has written, which I normally don’t do.

What does drive me nuts about this style is that certain recipes are scattered all over. I would of liked to have the sauces and pastes all grouped together rather than all over the place. If I just want to make that sauce, it is easier to find in a chapter devoted to sauces, rather than tucked away under the “rice” section. It isn’t a huge problem though. Otherwise, like any other cookbook there is an introduction, recipes divided up by types, suggested menus, then some more closing remarks about living a healthy life. 

Writing

Ani’s writing is always easy, but sometimes a little too dumbed down. It is a little frustrating to read some poorly worded information, that ends up being false. I might know what Ani is trying to say, but it the wording makes the information easily misinterpreted. For example she talks about buckwheat and writes “buckwheat is a seed, not a wheat, so it’s gluten-free.” Yes buckwheat is gluten-free, and yes, it isn’t related to wheat. But “not a wheat”? That is just horrible english, and makes the definition of grains even more confusing for most people.

On the flip side there is also some great information that is very much true. I have to agree with many of suggestions she makes for living a generally healthier life. So I wouldn’t say that everything is false, but when it comes for nutritional and food specifics know that she is simplifying the information a lot.

Overview

In general I like Ani’s super easy raw style of food. This book is probably better than her other books for starting out with a raw diet since most of the food doesn’t use a dehydrator. The dishes are pretty veggie heavy which is what I am looking for in a raw recipe. I do wish she offered up more recommendations for substitutes for recipes that use a dehydrator. She does recommend using the oven but it would of been nice is she suggested other substitutes like using a rice paper wrap instead of her dehydrated coconut wraps.

What I do like about the cookbook is that it isn’t very judgmental, particularly at the end chapter. Ani shares her experience with raw food over the years, and admits that she doesn’t eat raw all the time. Nor is she totally a vegan anymore, but is more so a pescatarian (or maybe a flexi-pesca-tarian? Basically fish is only a small fraction of her diet.) It takes a lot guts for a person to admit when their health isn’t 100% when their whole profession is built on it.

The authenticity of the recipes are a little up in the air. Ani doesn’t claim that these recipes are authentic, clearly since some of the originals involve cooking. Some of the Korean namul and kimchis are probably rather close to being authentic since she has Korean roots, and says in her book she visits family in South Korea. I think it bothers me when Ani tries to call a recipe after an specific dish, and it just isn’t even close. For example the samosas were delicious, but didn’t use potatoes, nor did it have a wrap around it. The only recipe that really made me annoyed was the “black rice pudding” which was a recipe for chia pudding. Neither are anything alike, and it really should of just been left out of the cookbook in my opinion.

Overall, I think I would recommend this book to anyone who is trying to eat more raw foods. There are some light dishes that are quick to make. I don’t think there was a recipe I wouldn’t make again (except the ‘rice,’ but that isn’t exclusively something Ani has made up, just give me normal rice please.) Sure there are some modifications people might have to make if they don’t have a dehydrator, but if you have a blender and food processor, you will be able to make most of these recipes.

If you are interested in individual reviews of recipes just click to expand the review.

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The other day I was at Whole Foods looking for some Eggnog, they were all out. I was a little crabby because that was pretty much why I went there. So I handle it the way I always do, grab a fancy as fuck drink. I love liquids, something about slurping up a liquid really makes my tummy happy. I also am a sucker for trying out new flavors and companies. I happen to notice a matcha latte, grabbed it and went to the register.

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It has been awhile since I’ve had a matcha latte since it is something I kind-of have to make at home. There aren’t many vegan matcha latte, which then prompted me to flip to read the ingredients- NOT VEGAN. I do that often when I am hungry, as it happened with Califia’s Protein Drinks (which are now vegan). Luckily it was only honey in the matcha latte, which isn’t the worst considering I still have some mixed feeling about honey consumption (I try to avoid it, but my husband doesn’t so it kind-of sneaks into my diet from time to time.) I am pretty bummed since tea drinks love using honey, and it has been proven that it doesn’t have any special effect on your blood sugar levels short term.

BUT the drink itself was amazing. If you are a “plant based” vegan and will still eat honey, I would recommend this drink. There are tons of flavors going on, and the coconut wasn’t overpowering. I loved how much you could taste of the plants in it, and reminded me of the matcha spirulina shakes I have for breakfast. Well, that wasn’t too far off since there is spirulina in the drink as well.

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Since it was so good I went to the Rebbl website to see if all their drinks had honey. Turns out that they only put honey in their matcha latte and turmeric golden-milk. I noticed they had some maca drinks which I haven’t had any maca in a while, and boy do I love it. I am haven’t had it in a while since of the insane prices that happened last year. So I was irresponsible and ran back to the store after work and grabbed whatever they had- maca mocha.

mocha

Let me say this is super amazing. I think I will be poor because I want to drink this all day. There is no coffee or cocoa (or not much cocoa) in the drink, which I think gives it such a great flavor. They use chicory root, which is known in the USA in the south to be mixed with coffee during rations. Carob has a reputation of being crappy fake chocolate, but I like its richer flavor, especially with savory flavors.

I am really liking these drinks and the company seems pretty awesome as well. They seem to trying and make sure all food is fair trade, and they donate 2% of the sales to Not For Sale. I hope I will be able to try their maca cold brew, reishi chocolate, and ashwagandha chai. I am bummed about the use of honey in their matcha latte and turmeric golden-milk since I liked the matcha, and the turmeric drink looks pretty tasty. I really hope they change the recipe at some point, but for now I’ll stick with that maca mocha.

*NOTE* After writing the rough draft I went to Whole Foods AGAIN and found the reishi chocolate. It was awesome as well, and pretty much satisfied any chocolate milk cravings. The drink was super decadent and would probably taste great if it was gently heated to make a hot chocolate. Although it was super awesome, it was a dynamic in flavor as the matcha or maca mocha drinks.


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With the Christmas season here, there is a good chance you are making cookies. And I thought it would be a good time to try out a bunch of recipes from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. It is a classic vegan cookbook that covers the topic of… well… cookies. It goes a little further covering bar cookies, brownies, and biscotti. Some of the cookies I made for christmas, and some I’ve made in the past for daily eating.

Photos

There are lots of photos in this book, I would say about half of the cookies have a photo. All are well lit and beautifully photographed. All the cookie photos are places on brightly colored backgrounds, making the photos very kid friendly (which let’s face it, we all remember the joys of cookies as kids.) There are enough photos to spark the reader in making new cookies, but I do have a problem. There are a few cookies that are nicely clipped to have white backgrounds and randomly show up in recipes. For example the Mexican Snickerdoodles show up in the recipe for Chocolate Marmalade Sandwich Cookies. At first I found this confusing, until I noticed the same cookies photo appearing over and over again.

Set-up

The book starts with some cookie basics which truthfully I skipped. I started to read it, but it can be painfully boring to the seasoned vegan baker. BUT it is filled with important information to a new baker. For example, I think my husband could read it and feel more confident about the different flours out there. There is even a section that have various troubleshooting situations. So if your cookie doesn’t turn out right, you can fix it.

They divide the cookies up by drop cookies, wholesome cookies, bar cookies, fancy cookies, and roll and cut cookies. When flipping through, it is easy to go from one section to another without ever noticing. I think this is true for all of their baking books. I am not really sure if I care too much about having “sections” or not. 

Writing

The book has the usual fun writing styles of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. They really make you feel comfortable with baking, and make veganism seem less exclusive. They also make you smile for the “fancier” cookies, they aren’t that hard, you got this. The directions are easy and to the point, making it easy to tell if I need a stand up/hand mixer or just a big wooden spoon.

Overview

I love this cookbook. All these cookies have been winners, though I wish or rather could see this book being much bigger. Compared to the vegan pie in the sky and the cupcake take over the world, I feel like there are SO many types of cookies that I wish this book could be just a little bit bigger. There seem to be a large amount of drop cookies that used oatmeal. There also aren’t many of the classic Christmas cookies that you might find with Christmas tree decorations, or other classic cookies I grew up with. I know they can’t cover ALL cookies ever made, but I feel like there are so many that aren’t easily interchangeable like how a cupcake can be paired with different frosting to make a new flavor.

But everyone loves the cookies I’ve been making, and there are so many new inventive flavors. Carrot cake cookies? Grapefruit? Tahini lime? And out of all the cookbooks there are the least amount of “weird” vegan ingredients. Meaning I would feel pretty comfortable giving these recipes to an omni baker, who wouldn’t have to go out and buy new ingredients.

Below are all the cookies I made from the book- which is a lot. They are so good, and I recommend buying this book for any vegan who needs to make cookies from time to time.

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Hi everyone! I decided to go back to the old set up for my Sunday Readings. At least for today since I don’t have too many different articles. I guess maybe it is because I have been more focused on Thanksgiving than news? Or maybe I’ve been trying to think about Christmas, which is hard coming up with stuff I want. Weird right? I guess maybe it is because I know there is a bunch of stuff I want that I can’t get (like a puppy) Anyways, I hope everyone likes these reads!

How Humans Saved Gourds

Apparently humans are the only reason why the gourd exists today. It is interesting to hear about the evolution of fruits and how they try to be eaten to spread their seeds. It is also nice to hear that humans saved something for once rather than killing them.

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

Big in Israel: Vegan Soldiers

This is a quick little article about how Israel is handling the growing vegan community. It is a shame there is no programs like this for American soldiers but this article shows that society can adapt to the growing vegan demands. So saying it just isn’t how people do things is proving to be false.

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Your Gut Bacteria May Be Controlling Your Appetite

I love reading articles that further prove there is more to weight than diet and exercise. This one is talking about how what we crave might be controlled by the bacteria in our stomachs. This is probably a good theory since it might explain why people crave different foods once they change what their diet looks like.

Teachings Grown-ups How To Eat

I have a lot of beef with the “child obesity” debate. I know someone close with a child who they are trying make loose weight, which rubs me the wrong way. One of the major reasons is because they don’t change everyone’s diet, they just restrict their child’s. The article points out that we need to be more flexible about what we eat, and we are lucky, we are ominous, it is part of our nature to switch up what we eat. 

highways

Highways Destroyed America’s Cities

This article made me think about when I lived in Philadelphia and how roads shaped where I would go with friends. I remember hating some walks to movie theaters because it meant walking under highways, and certain areas were pretty much dead zones because of the roads. 


brownie

Naturally Sweet Desserts

Philadelphia/Cherry Hill Area
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I love it when I randomly find new local businesses, which is why I kind-of like the new “Hatchery” in Whole Foods. They bring smaller businesses out into the front for people to see. Truthfully, I love the idea of farmer markets, but I never go to them. Why? Well, I don’t like getting out and about after work hours and I am usually tied up on Saturdays with my CSA. So I think the Hatchery is able to hit a wider range of people, or catch the attention of people who are waiting in line (which was myself today).

I was looking for Follow Your Heart Ranch Dressing, I didn’t find it. A little bummed I went to pay for the few items I had and saw the word “vegan” at the hatchery stand. Oh yeah? What’s going on here? A small bakery was set up with some cupcakes, brownies, and little pies. Naturally Sweet Desserts is a small bakery that is starting up. You can find them at various events, farmer markets, and they have a delivery service.

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So what is special about HER business? Well, it reminds me a little of Sweet Freedom, lots of natural ingredients and not too sweet, but Naturally Sweet isn’t as “free” of allergens as Sweet Freedom. For example, I ended up getting the PB brownie which has peanuts and wheat. But the ingredients list is fairly short- whole wheat flour, cocoa, peanut butter, avocado, hemp milk, turbinado sugar, coconut yogurt, applesauce, spices, and flax seed.

How was it? Super fudgy and yummy. I personally love a fudgey brownie. It is also super filling. I could only eat half of a brownie at first. My only complaint is that it had a little bit of a bite. I am thinking maybe she had a little too much ginger in the mix? But if I walked by her stand in a market I would totally grab something again. I paid $4 for this brownie, and seeing the ingredients list, I have no problem with that. If you want an even better deal you can buy a dozen from her website for $29.50, saving you $18.50.

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The downside is that this is a small business that is starting up. So you can’t just walk into a store and buy one brownie. As mentioned she has been going to farmer markets, and looks like delivering to a few other sources (like a CSA). You can go to their website to see which events they will be at, and their facebook page as well. But when talking to the owner today, I saw that she was mostly planning on doing a delivery service for at least the winter season (I don’t know if she will be going to farmer markets again in the summer). You can go to their website and send an email (on the contacts page) and ask about their delivery service, and she will add you to her mailing list. She will send out emails each week for people to reply with orders.

It sounded like she was making deliveries in the Philadelphia and Cherry Hill area, so email her to get specifics. I personally don’t eat sweets that much and will make baked goods for myself when need be. I hope the best to Naturally Sweet Desserts, and like a said, if they ever open a permeant location or start doing farmer markets again, I will be there.


farmer-cow

I originally started this post back in the day- maybe over a year ago? Recently I was asked by someone outside of the United States what a CSA was, and I think it might be a good idea to talk about it. I find CSAs a great movement in agriculture, and connects farmers to the consumers much more directly. And this is the time of the year you might want to start looking around for CSA programs. Why? They usually have caps and they are in such demand many have waiting lists. So let’s start with out first question…

What’s a CSA?

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Although each CSA is run differently, the idea is simple, get the buyer to interact more with the farmers. The consumer invests money into the farm, and earns a “share.” This means you get a certain percentage of the produce. That it. Basically you are a shareholder of a business, but instead of capital gains, you get the physical produce. The idea is popular in the United States and Canada, although they might just have different names outside of North America. Most CSAs revolve around produce but have included meats, cheeses, and other products. Some have branched out to more unconventional ideas. I ran into an Alpaca CSA where shareholders would get divided up yarn, and there was a start up for a wine CSA, but due to liquor laws it was quickly shut down.

But each CSA will have different set ups. Some will have various pick up stations and will have pre-made boxes. This is a popular thing to do since it will give farmers a chance to offer their CSA to a wider range of people. Pick up stations can be in any store, I’ve seen some in bakeries and yoga studios. Some have shareholders more actively involved with the farming process and will help with the farming duties. My personal CSA has it’s members pick up their share at the farm. I get to the farm where they have a large board listing all the veggies I can get. There is a large table where we can “pick and choose” the vegetables we want, usually filling up a large bag with whatever combo we want. Then we have some things we go and pick ourselves, usually berries, tomatoes, beans, and peas. I am lucky to directly pick which veggies I want, but in CSAs that have pre-made boxes usually have request forms where you can write what you would like to see in your box.

Will I be dealing with one farm or more?

Due the popularity of CSAs many farms have joined forces to form one CSA. This is common with CSAs that might have several pick up locations. This gives farmers the chance to be an expert with a specific crop but give the consumer a large selection. So you might have a CSA with 4 different farmers, each one maybe growing 4 to 5 different types of fruits and vegetables. This tends to happen more with food that grow on trees, like peaches, apples, and avocados.

Even if you are dealing with CSA that is one central farm, they might sell food from other local farms. For example my CSA gives shareholders options to buy more food outside of their share. So there are meats from small farmers, apples from a local orchard, homemade foods (like pot pies and veggie burgers), breads, and cheeses.

What’s the advantage?

As a buyer a CSA gives you the advantage for fresher and cheaper produce than a supermarket. Although I love supporting farmer markets, they aren’t always full of fruit and vegetables, especially smaller ones (I find they usually sell cooked foods and finished goods). If you sign up for a good CSA, you should see the farmers. This gives you a chance to ask about farming advice for your small garden, what will be good next week, what to do with this weeks produce, and whatever else you might be wondering.

From an economic standpoint, farmer or farmers who own the CSA have a set source of income. They don’t need to worry about growing a certain amount of product, or worrying about not selling all of it. They are able to get a set amount of money for the year, and can budget accordingly. This also means better job security for the workers as well. They are also cutting out the middle man. Most farms grow produce and sell it to a company which then packages and sells the produce to a supermarket, which sells it to you. So the money you spend goes more directly towards the farmers.

And it is great for the environment. Not all CSAs are certified organic since it can be an expensive and time consuming process to get the certification. But that doesn’t mean the farm will use pesticides and chemicals. Most CSAs work as one farm, growing various fruits and vegetables. This gives a lot more variety, so if one year if there is a blight, you might not get many tomatoes but you will get plenty of kale. Also by having people who live close pick up their produce, you cut out a lot of gas used for transportation. Now you don’t need a truck to ship your berries across the country.

So then what’s the disadvantage?

As I mention before that CSAs will grow many different vegetables, letting the weather decide to a certain degree which ones will die and flourish. This forces you to take what you can get. This can get you to be creative and find new foods to eat. This is exciting. It also can mean you are still spending money in the supermarket for things you want. For example, the few years my CSA to perfect the growing process of onions and garlic, so I was buying those for awhile at the supermarket (and still do from time to time).

You might get too much. And you might think that isn’t a problem. I use to think that way. I thought, oh how could I ever have too much food? During farming season, I spend 3 minutes with my fridge door open just trying to find ketchup. Depending on the season things are better than others. Spring is brutal as the produce just takes up lots of space. Most greens cook down to make only one meal, but will fill up your vegetable drawer fast. Some weekends I feel like I am simply cooking just to get things out of the way- like when I made kimchi just to make room in the fridge for kale and collard greens.

Beginners Tips

  1. Get a salad spinner. Seriously. You’ll need it. I can not stress how dirty your food will be from the farm. I will wash my greens 3 or 4 times just to get all the dirt out. I was a little ticked when my husband put a salad spinner on our registry as they take up a lot of space and our kitchen is small. But it is has proved to be a must have kitchen item.
  2. Prep all your food when you get home. It might be tempting to toss you bag in the fridge and call it a day. But organizing and prepping your food will ensure it will last longer. Make sure your produce are in bags, except for berries, apples, etc. If your CSA doesn’t provide produce bags, I’ve found that reusing old plastic shopping bags work great. Otherwise your produce will wilt before the end of the week and nobody wants to eat that.
  3. Dry off your lettuce. This kind-of falls into the “prep your food first” tip, but it is slightly different. Aside from berries, lettuce is the next most perishable produce from farms. They always seem to be wet from farmers trying to clean them, or from morning dew. So after three days the lettuce is a little slimy. So I’ve made practice to chop, wash, and dry lettuce as soon as I can so it stays fresher, longer. Plus, letting lettuce greens sit a day or two after chopping actually INCREASES it’s nutritional value.
  4. Sign up for pinterest and buy a BIG book on veggies. You will find lots of new vegetables at your CSA. For example, kolhrabi might not be all that well known to you. Even veggies that you know of, you might want more ideas to toss around, like using radish for something other than salads. So I find pinterest a big help. Also getting a dictionary of vegetables is helpful. I like using Vegetable Love as a guide on how to cook certain vegetables, and get ideas on what I can do with them (note it isn’t a vegan or vegetarian cookbook).
  5. SPIDERS! CATERPILLARS! AND MAGGOTS OH MY! Put your produce in the fridge, especially fruits. I remember being in grade school and having teachers say how people use to think food with transform into maggots, and think “wow people sure were dumb.” Until you pick some berries and leave them on the counter overnight. You swear you picked the untainted berries, but then you get a text from your husband asking if you saw any maggots in the berries. I am constantly finding caterpillars in my kale, and then I feel bad for killing them in my fridge. It happens. You’ll get use to it.
  6. Learn to pickle and can your food. You WILL get too much food than you can eat in a week. Even if you have lots of kids, you still might struggle to use ALL of your produce. Especially if you get a lot of a specific item. You might need to make jam, pick some peppers, freeze beans, and make tomato sauce. Learning how to make these items will help preserve some food for the winter, and prevent waste.

Picking Tips

Not many CSAs have you pick fields. But if they do, you can get some first dibs on produce. The best part of these is towards the end of the season there are lots of “finder keepers” days, or free for alls because the plants are producing so much fruit.

  1. Go to the far ends of the rows. Pretty much go where no one else is. It sounds silly, but I am shocked by how most people stick to the very openings. Going to the opposite ends usually ensure you get virtually untouched plants. I also will try and pick rows where it is hard to get to, whether it is lots of weeds or falling branches. People just pass right over them, giving you a chance to go nuts.
  2. Dress appropriately. I like wearing knee high socks during the summer, the height of picking season. Weeds grow and they tend to be prickly. Wearing socks will protect you. Other tips? Wear a big hat or sunglasses, wear boots if it rained recently, and don’t dress up.
  3. Get ready to squat and go on your tippy toes.  Most people look at eye level, and therefore miss a lot of low produce. Squat down and look around, you might find a bunch of produce on a seemingly empty plant. If there is a tree or vine, look at the top, as some people won’t bother if it isn’t easy to pick. Kids can be great since they are naturally small and the some produce is naturally at their sight lines. But they are usually not so productive, so you know, disadvantages.
  4. Get there early. The early big catches the worm, right? Well the same it true at your CSA, people are looking to make their trip faster, so the earlier you get there the less picked over the plants will be.
  5. As for tips. Each plant has their own way to check for ripeness. It might take some trial and error to find the perfect fruit, but you will get the handle on it. But if you are totally clueless, ask some of the farmers, they will be happy to get suggestions. You can even ask some of the members of your CSA, they might steer you away from a specific area or show you examples of what they picked.

Is a CSA right for you?

Although I love my CSA, and think all places should base their farms off of theirs, I am aware it isn’t for everyone. Cooking seasonally takes awhile to learn. It is hard to write about since each area has different produce and different food comes in season at different times. Some things seems a no brainer to eat, like salad during the summer? Right? Well lettuce is actually a spring crop! There are varieties that grow during the summer, but you can’t assume your CSA will try growing them.

You also need to enjoy cooking and be willing to try new things. As mentioned above, you might need to pickle things to preserve them. I started pickling peas since we would get more than what we could eat in a week. I’ve also made my own tomato sauce and bbq sauce since there were so many tomatoes from the farm one year. It might be a lot of work but it lets you have it a little easier during the winter when you can just defrost some tomato sauce for a recipe.

Nervous? Find someone to split a share with! Some people at my CSA will alternate weeks between two people. This can give you a chance to get use to eating seasonally. We have gotten so use to buying whatever we want whenever we need it, that it is can be a hard pill to swallow to be told what to take. This can mean breaking traditions and creating new ones.

So what about you guys? Are you part of a CSA? Do you have any tips or info that I left out?


Sadly when I got back from my trip to Frederick, I caught a stomach bug. I am not sure where I got it from. I think MAYBE eating leftover food that might of been sitting in my car too long, or maybe I just drank way too much during the wedding. Who knows. Needless to say my Aunt Flo is visiting too so you know, that makes everything so much more disgusting. Oh but wait! I am done talking about gross stuff! I swear!

Okay scratch that whole first paragraph, and lets just say I need more calories and probiotics (I lost 6lbs of water weight at the height of the sickness) so I bought a whole bunch of live culture yogurts at my supermarket. I know there are more out there, but these are what were available. I think it is worth noting I am not a huge yogurt fan. I think part of the bias is that cups (everything is number 5 plastics, which is hard to recycle) and the prices. None of these yogurts were less than $1 a piece, making it is a pricey snack food. But this review is also to give you a chance to compare some prices, nutritional info, and descriptions on one page.

I also want to note that since I did this review when I wasn’t feeling good, I am just using stock images from the manufacturer websites. So sorry for the lack of creativity. Whomp whomp.

coco-yogurt-raspberry

So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk Yogurt

Calories per cup: 130-150
Sugar: Plain 8g, Flavors 16-24g
Size: 5.3/16 oz
Protein: 0-2g
Price: $2.09 (Wegman’s)

This yogurt was on par with Kite Hill with it’s creamy and smooth textures. It is also awesome because it does come in larger 16oz containers for baking and cooking. They also have a huge range of a yogurt flavors to choose from. Downsides? LOTS OF SUGAR! Sure there is an unsweetened version that has only 1 gram of sugar in it, but how many of you will be eating plain unsweetened yogurt? Not many. I happened to eat the one with the most sugar, raspberry. It was pretty good, but a little too sweet for my preference.

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Silk Soy Yogurt

Calories per cup: 140
Sugar: 14-17g
Size: 5.3 oz
Protein: 6g
Price: $1.69 (Wegman’s)

I find it a little funny that Silk is introducing their “new” yogurt, since I remember it being around for awhile. Clearly it is a new recipe which I think is better than what I remembered. The old being slightly chalky (maybe, it has been a few years). I tried to strawberry which somehow has the lowest sugar content (who knew) and it was tasty. It has small chunks of strawberries. My biggest issue is the unique packaging, which is a pain to find space for in a full fridge. It also has a little more preservatives in it than the other brands. Flavors are a little limited and they don’t come in any bigger sizes at the moment making it hard to buy in bulk.

carousel-peach-yogurt

Kite Hill Almond Yogurt

Calories per cup: 160-200
Sugar: Plain 5g, Flavors 15g
Size: 5.3 oz
Protein: 6g
Price: $2 (I think)
Availability: Whole Foods

I think I can say this is my favorite yogurt from the bunch. This yogurt is insanely rich and smooth, and thought it could sit by itself as a dessert, rather than a breakfast food. I think the company upped their almond to water ratio to give a large amount of protein (most almond milk yogurts have about 1-2g protein) and such smooth rich texture. I would have to say comparing prices, I would say this is the winner. At first I thought $2 was a lot but not when compared to what I paid for the other yogurts, it isn’t much more. A big plus is that there is a PLAIN yogurt! This is sometimes hard to find, and is good for cooking/baking. This probably has the smallest selection of flavors to choose from and only comes in the small cups right now. That stinks but I don’t think I would eat them in any other context out of a small snack, so I am not worried about buying this yogurt in bulk.

Nancy's soy image

Nancy’s Cultured Soy Yogurt

Calories per cup: 120-170
Sugar: 10-23g
Size: 6, 24, 32oz
Protein: 5g
Price: $1.69 (Wegman’s)

The sugar might come off as crazy high, but most stay in the low teen ranges. The sugar count spikes up in the mango yogurt, so I am guessing a good portion is from natural sugars. I also like how many of their flavors come in the larger containers. Like plain comes in three sizes, and more than half of the flavors can come in 24oz. Which saves money and plastic. Oh and the containers have lids! Even the small ones! I am actually washing the one I bought and probably will reuse it for crafts, like saving mixed paint. But let’s talk flavor- it is weird. I actually kind-of like it better than the other yogurts, but I am accutely aware it ain’t yogurt flavor. What Nancy’s does to the yogurt is blend of probiotics, ones that you find in normal yogurts and amazake, a fermented rice drink. The result is a gritty yogurt, that has a deeper flavor. The best way I can describe it is like comparing a fruit wine made in the West, and drinking it next to a fruit wine from East Asia. Personally I like the addition of grains, but I can see why a lot of people would hate it.

The Result?

I personally liked the Nancy’s Yogurt the best, but like I said before, I am not a yogurt fan. I liked the complex flavor, cutting down on the sugar and fruity flavoring. But I did enjoy Kite Hill a lot. When I did eat yogurt I tended to like baby yogurt the best, which seems weird, but it was because baby yogurt had full fat milk, making it richer. I think Kite Hill is more on par with that. So if you like yogurt I would suggest picking up Kite Hill over everything else.


rotidal0

Last day for Vegan MOFO, and I have mixed feelings of happiness and sadness. I am glad to call it quits for this year because I AM TIRED! And I have so much food! Our fridge just isn’t that big. I can’t really freeze most of the leftovers, so it has been a real balance between use up my produce, getting the right amount of posts, and eating up enough of the leftovers. And I’ll be a little sad to see Vegan MOFO go since it has been fun, and nice to have prompts to direct my creativity. Or just force me to write up a post. I mean I’ve been meaning to write a post about planning a trip as a vegan for awhile.

rotidal1

For the last post we make a fusion meal of roti and dal quesadillas. I feel like this is a triple ethnic whammy since I feel like quesadillas been bastardized enough by Americans, so it is kind-of a American-Bastardized Mexica meets Indian food. Sounds good to you? What I love about this meal is that it is a great way to put a twist on leftovers. In fact I got the idea from our leftovers from dinner. We had so much dal and roti leftover, and I thought what if? The results are amazing! And will vary as you choose different types of dal and different types of cheeses!

rotidal2

I first tried the recipe out with Chao Slices, the creamy original. It was pretty good, but the downside was it has a higher melting point and you need to break them up.  The second time making this I used the Daiya shredded cheddar cheese which worked out well. Both had their own benefits, but both gave a yummy creamy texture to the dryer dal. Feel free to swap out the roti for normal flour tortillas, as most people don’t have easy access to ready made roti (and may not want to make them).

Use any dal you want, as long as it is very thick. I used the dal from Vegan Eats World (the Sri Lankan Red Lentil Curry), and subbed lentils for split peas. If you don’t know a dal recipe, I always like Vegan Richa, as she has easy recipes and knows authentic Indian cuisine. Heck I even made a link for all recipes with “dal” in the description aka I used for the word dal in her search engine.

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grandma

Let’s just assume this is fake fur.

I remember loving my Grandmother’s food when I was little. I remember eating lots of junk food (the only real time I got a chance were at grandparents and friends houses) and pouring tons of gravy over my ham/turkey and mashed potatoes. But when I got older I figured out why I used so much gravy, the meat was always dry, in fact everything was dry. Heck even last Thanksgiving she dried the only thing I could eat that she made- Pillsbury crescent Rolls. I didn’t even know that was possible. So in someways it is better than I am vegan, I get to bring my own food.

But oddly my Grandmother always forget that I am vegetarian let alone vegan. She very politely says “Oh you shouldn’t cook next time, Grandma will take care of you” but it a double edged sword, risk getting a veggie lasagna filled with cheese and/or get a not so great dinner. I think at this point I stopped tell her and just bring food. The only downside of this method is that we get like 4 desserts for the end of the night, and I can only eat one (guess who is eating all that pie? ME!)

But whenever I do say I am a vegan, my Grandma talks about how my Great Grandma was vegetarian and wouldn’t eat meat. This was a surprise for all my family. They never heard about this before. And my Grandma hasn’t talked about how wearing onions on the belt was the style at the time, so I trust she is telling the truth. It is kind-of cool think that not eating meat is in my blood. And it probably was harder to abstain from meat 80-90 years ago than it is now. Of coarse, I don’t actually know much about my Great Grandmother, she passed away before I was born. Even my Grandfather passed away before I was born.

I like to think that I can pass on the tradition of being compassionate to animals to my potential children, and they will teach their kids the same.