Sunday, November 28, 2010

Whoever said "You'd better not pout" anyway?

Many of us are familiar with the earthy crunchy (even unwashed) vegan and vegetarian stereotypes. But the truth is, we pretty much all live in the real world. And many of us still get a kick out of "worldly" things. Just because we might chow down on tempeh and kale, it doesn't mean that we won't flip through an issue of Vogue now and again.

While some of us may be makeup wearers and some of us not, chances are if we had the choice, we'd prefer there to be more cruelty-free products on the market, right? Good news for all of us then: Turns out that we
don't have to banish ourselves to a lipstick-free existence if we don't want to.

I pretty much love this online store for a number of reasons. Firstly, the makeup is free of animal ingredients and by-products, and none of it is tested on animals. It totally takes the guesswork out of reading all of those crazy chemical names on the back of your tube of lipstick. And trust me, PETA wouldn't affiliate themselves with just any cosmetic company...not without some serious animal-friendly standards.

Also, MAJOR bonus: da da da da! - most of the cosmetics cost $1 to $5 apiece! Not even the drugstore can beat that for animal-free goodies!! Additionally, e.l.f. posts sales and promotions all the time. Free shipping, free gifts, half off, and on and on. Totally worth it on all counts in my opinion. It literally is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

So check 'em out today. And the only reason you'll pout at your holiday parties will be because you're totally in love with your new lip gloss and you just caught your reflection in an ornament.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I'm here! I'm here!

I do apologize for all of my tardiness and unexcused absences...but I swear I had a good reason, honest!

For the past month, I have been off having my semi-vegan way with the world all over the place. I have had the good fortune to have met 3 successful and inspiring vegans, including at least a couple of virtual rock stars of the vegan universe. I am totally going to gush hopelessly about all of them, so I think this will have to be the first of 3 installments...

The whole big hero-worship-inducing mess all started about a month ago. I had already bought the book Thrive a little earlier this year, having discovered it during one of my frequent forays on I started reading it and I found it to be very enlightening regarding the effects that certain foods can have on the body. Some of you may be familiar with the book's author, Brendan Brazier, as a notable vegan athlete. In fact, he is not just an athlete, he is actually a career tri-athlete. I will have to admit to you that, like much of the world, I have not often thought of the words "vegan" and "athlete" as belonging together. I just don't picture Arnold Schwarzenegger pumping a bunch of iron and then heading home to refuel with a package of veggie dogs. But you know, when there's a will, there's a way.

Thrive has a lot of reasonable and valuable information to offer, and clearly Brendan Brazier has done his homework. Being me, I tend to take everything I read with a grain of salt, but I didn't see a lot of sensationalist information in this book. I tend to get nervous when I read about all kinds of obscure superfoods I've never heard of, and only rarely does some new "out there" nutritional supplement make it into my regular rotation. A notable exception of course is spirulina, which I posted about fairly early on here.

But anyway, I am straying from the point. The results seem to speak for themselves. Brendan Brazier succeeds as an athlete, and, even more notably, as a vegan athlete. It is such a HUGE challenge to navigate the physically taxing demands of the Ironman triathlon, even under "normal" circumstances. And honestly, from my point of view, veganism is a thinking man's game. It takes some effort to plan nutritionally-rounded meals for people with average activity levels, nevermind for people who have just biked over 100 miles and think to themselves, "You know what would be awesome right now is a marathon. Let's DO this..."

So when I found out that Mr. Brazier himself would be giving a talk and doing a book signing at my local Whole Foods store, I was totally all about it. I mean, why not go see and be inspired by someone who has accomplished something that most people would have thought impossible?

So I went, I saw, I got my book signed. I also stood there awkwardly in the book signing line and I asked this successful author and owner of the extremely popular Vega nutritional foods line if he was from Canada. Yes, he is from Canada. And he is also very nice when talking with awkward hero-worshipping semi-vegans who meet him in supermarkets.

So to the Hot Vegan Army with you Brendan Brazier! And I'll see you in the bulk dry goods aisle....

P.S. He IS that tall.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

VIP Status

I must admit, I have been struggling a bit lately with my veganism. I'm sure that many of you who have made the transition to a more cruelty-free lifestyle have felt the same way at some point. There are just SO many hidden animal-derived ingredients to know about. And not just in food. LOTS of everyday products contain these substances.

It can just be so overwhelming...

And some habits really are hard to break. As I've been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for the past 13 years, some eggs and dairy products have still been sneaking their way into my diet lately as I transition to veganism.

And I have been feeling really guilty about it...

But I realized something.

Sometimes, an all or nothing attitude can really defeat your progress. While I did go vegetarian basically overnight (or "cold turkey" as I have often ironically joked), veganism is a whole other animal...(Yes I am full of puns).

When I became a vegetarian all those years ago, I really had no idea what I was doing. I was just an opinionated teenager who you could not talk out of anything. I so abhorred (and still do) the thought that any animal might suffer in order for me to eat, that I really didn't plan or transition at all. I just cut meat out of my life and never looked back. Now, while I wholeheartedly believe it is one of the best decisions I've ever made, vegetarianism took a toll on me at first. I paid very little heed to nutritional requirements, and, quite frequently, ate tortilla chips and salsa for dinner. And you know that can't have been good....

In fact, it wasn't long before I started noticing that my hair was frequently breaking off in the middle, and that I had a lot more flyaways than I used to. In fact, my "molting" became so noticeable that my mother dragged me to the nutritionist. The nutritionist told me that my "shedding" was due to a lack of protein. So, I started eating yogurt, milk, and cheese like crazy to make up for the lack of meat in my diet. And it worked. My hair became as strong as it used to be, and I didn't have to worry about leaving telltale signs wherever I sat (like a cat). However, in my protein crusade, I did end up gaining a noticeable amount of weight. It probably was not until I went off to college and started exercising regularly that I was able to get myself into balance, and to know what foods to eat to keep me healthy and happy.

Veganism has been a whole other story. Life is busier now. I work long hours, take classes, attempt to find time to work out, have social engagements with family and friends, and I have hobbies that I love...But all of those things don't leave very much time to cater to the delicate transition I now find myself engaged in. So the move to veganism has been going very slowly. Like molasses uphill on a cold day (as my father is fond of saying).

But then again, beating myself up about this is not doing anyone any good. Not everyone can transition into vegetarianism or veganism within the span of an afternoon. It's a learning process. And, not only are these powerful and potentially jarring lifestyle changes, but they directly affect one's health. Becoming a full-fledged vegan or vegetarian without consulting a doctor or a nutritionist, or at LEAST without becoming educated about your nutritional needs, can be harmful to you. (©ABC)

Now the last thing I want to do is talk anyone out of becoming a vegan or vegetarian. As I said, vegetarianism is one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, and I don't regret it for a second. Vegetarianism has enriched my life in so many unexpected ways. I'll never go back to eating meat...........unless I'm stranded on a desert island or something like in Lost. Then we'll talk......

But if you are considering making these lifestyle changes, please honor your health and well-being in equal measure to that of the animals you hope to save. It will not help anyone if you make yourself so sick and nutritionally-deprived that you have to give up the entire endeavor to restore your health.

Remember, a plane doesn't just land. It hovers a little, slows down, and bounces a few times before it settles on the runway. I never want any of you to think that you are a lost cause if you "cheat" or "mess up," or eat something by accident that you didn't know was in your food, etc, while you are transitioning into a new lifestyle. There is NO SHAME - none - in making a really good decision s-l-o-w-l-y.

If you currently find yourself "in between gigs," as it were, then you are what I like to call a "VIP." A "Vegetarian (or a Vegan) In Progress." VIPs are special, and they all deserve pats on the back for choosing a more compassionate way of life.

So the next time you find yourself the victim of negative inner dialog, remember that you are a VIP, and that you only deserve the best.

Good luck to you all, and see you on the red carpet!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's a hell of a town, Toronto is...

This past week, my boyfriend and I had the most excellent fortune of spending time in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada. We only had a few days to explore the place, but it seemed to us to be the stuff of dreams. A bustling yet remarkably clean city by day, Toronto transforms into a glittering metropolis at night. In fact, it looked to me like a comic book illustration of Gotham City - but better.

And, hands down, you have to love a city in which EVERY hot dog cart you come across offers veggie dogs. And not even wimpy flavorless ones either. The one above was roasted over an honest-to-goodness open grill, with real flames and everything! Plus, I had my choice of a veritable smorgasbord of condiments - including crushed potato chips! And let me tell you, the potato chips really bring something to the party...

And the Canadian reputation for politeness seems to me to be quite well-founded. Pedestrians actually hurry across the street when they cross in front of your car...and they even wave thank you for letting them pass! And, what's more, many Toronto-an businesses - like the very kind hot dog vendor I snapped a picture of above - accepted U.S. dollars from us. This was extra nice because the USD is actually only worth about $.96 Canadian these days...So if our hot dog vendor is still outside the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel or thereabouts, go tell him hi from his friends from Rhode Island! And try a veggie dog with potato chips!

I was a little sad that we didn't get to try out more of the vegetarian restaurants we passed while driving around. There was one called Kale that looked really interesting. I found a review here that wasn't an unqualified endorsement, but certainly indicated that the place wasn't bad. The pictures on the link certainly look like you'd be able to replenish your nutrient level pretty well there after a long day of roaming the city streets. And the buffet-style service makes the eatery fairly economical to boot.

If anyone has had the pleasure of visiting any great vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Toronto, please tell us about them here! And if anyone is interested in seeing a bit of the highlight reel from our trip, please go ahead and scroll through the post.

Have a great rest of the week guys!

Not even joking when I say that we caught a beautiful sunset every single night in Canada

Canadian money is quite pretty. It kind of reminds me of euros. But stereotypes aside, there were definitely pictures of children playing hockey on the $5's... Also, fun fact from my boyfriend: The Canadian $1 coin is actually called a "loonie" because it has a picture of a loon on it. How could you not get a kick out of having waterfowl on your currency?

It appears that the Canadian government likes to reassure you that you will not be stuck in traffic. How nice is that? I even like the way they phrase it...

Some beautiful green space near the waterfront. There were lots of kids and couples taking pleasant afternoon strolls that day.

The elusive and totally bad-a** black squirrel, native to the area.

The CN Tower is supposedly the world's tallest tower. And it sure feels like it when you are standing/sitting/whimpering on the see-through glass floor on the observation deck at the top...The tower above is shown here at a much more manageable size

I totally took this picture. I will gloat forever about that. The CN Tower observation deck simply cannot be beat at sunset.

I assure you that this terribly-taken picture doesn't nearly do Toronto justice. I hope it at least gives you an idea. If you can ever see this place first-hand at night, it's breathtaking.

And awesome large-scale art and architecture are everywhere in Toronto. Totally a cool youthful-feeling city.

We just stumbled across what appeared to be the Canadian Walk of Fame as we headed back to the car. I just couldn't resist snapping shots of famous PETA-spokeperson Pamela Anderson's star. She's soon to be added to the Hot Vegan Army, don't worry!

And William Shatner...Not a vegetarian, but still... And yup, I just boldly went there... :-)

A strangely ominous sign advertising the Toronto Zoo membership program.

And even as we said a fond farewell to the fair city of Toronto, it gave us one final gorgeous sunset to remember it by. We'll miss you Toronto! Hope to see you again soon!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Okie dhokla

I am going to go ahead and admit right off that this recipe is not 100% vegan. But, then again, neither am I...yet. I'm working up to it slowly. But while I can't say this item is vegan, I can say that this somewhat flying-saucerish food item still happens to be freaking delicious.

The semi unusual-looking item above is called Sooji dhokla. "Sooji" (SOO-jee) means semolina, which is the primary ingredient of this delicious savory cake. Dhokla (which I have only heard pronounced as if it rhymes with "okra") is a dish that hails from the Gujarat region of India. I was first introduced to it by a dear friend of mine from college. Her mother is a phenomenal cook, and we were often lucky to be treated to this wonderful spicy dish after my friend returned to school after a weekend at home. It does travel rather well, and it's really warm and satisfying.

Sooji dhokla is a steamed cake made primarily from semolina, yogurt, the black mustard seeds you see sprinkled liberally over the top in the picture, chilis, and a bit of cilantro. My friend's mom I think tends to measure by sight when she makes it, but I am not, alas, nearly as skilled as she is. So, to make this on my own, I needed a recipe. Luckily, I found one at a DELIGHTFUL website called You can find the recipe I used here. What I absolutely love about this website (beyond the AWESOME name that is) are all of the video tutorials for how to make just about every recipe on the website. The 2 phenomenal women who run the site show you, in detail, how to prepare the recipes. It's like learning from friends. In fact, these women are so likable that you may find yourself watching the videos for recipes you don't even plan to make. Believe me, I know from experience :-)

But, to see my posting of the recipe, and to hear a bit about the slight trials and tribulations of preparing it, please continue reading below. I will warn you, it does require a bit of special equipment, and a bit of patience. It's definitely not a quick weeknight meal option. But it is delicious, and will keep for a week in the fridge. I made mine and ate it every night for a week (Sooooo good!)

Thanks all, and happy cooking!

Sooji Dhokla

I highly recommend watching the video at the link above before doing this. It will really give you some good tips and a better understanding of how this works.

For the cake

2 cups sooji, or semolina (I bought this at an Indian grocery store, but a supermarket with a good international foods section might have it too)
2 Tbsp oil
1/4 tsp carom seeds (also called Ajwain); If you can't find these at your local market, and you do not have an Indian food store in the area, I'd recommend substituting whole cumin seeds
1 tsp grated ginger (I skipped this and added a few shakes of ground ginger)
1 finely chopped green chili (or to taste); If you don't have one, I'd recommend trying some driedred chili flakes
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 cup water
1 cup well mixed plain yogurt
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ENO brand fruit salt (this powder is also best purchased at the Indian grocery or online; You likely won't use it up that quickly, so you probably won't need to order it often; It is made, from what I understand, of a combo of sodium bicarbonate and citric acid powder; it is often used in India as an antacid, and to prevent bloating, but it is involved in a chemical reaction that has to take place for the dhokla to come together properly; I am not 100% sure if substitutions would work as well)
Cooking oil (spray type if desired)

**A stock pot with lid (preferably one that comes with a removable tray with tiny holes that can be used as a steamer)

**A cheesecloth and some sort of steamer tray with a rigid structure and small holes; bamboo steamers could work

For the brush-on infused oil

2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds (I used black mustard seeds)
2 tsp sesame seeds (I skipped this too; Didn't have them, and besides, I don't think I ever saw my friend's mom use them...)
Slit, seeded green chilis to taste (optional)
Finely chopped cilantro (the ladies at recommended 10 sprigs; I'd recommend using 4-5 Tbsp of the fresh stuff; It's definitely better than the dried variety; Unfortunately though, I didn't have any fresh cilantro in the house when I made the version pictured above; The dried stuff will do, but it's not nearly as good; 2-3Tbsp of the dry stuff - or to taste- should work in a pinch).
Onion pickle, coriander chutney, or condiment of choice (optional but recommended strongly)

First, make the cake. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir the semolina, carom (or cumin) seeds, and the oil until smooth. You do not want to see any lumps left. In another bowl, mix the yogurt, chili if desired, the salt, the turmeric, and ginger. Next, pour the yogurt mixture into the semolina mixture and stir to incorporate. To this, add your water to make sort of a batter. Let this batter sit on your counter for 15-20 mins.

And now a note**: There is actually a certain contraption you can buy (definitely in India, and maybe online) that is made for the specific purpose of steaming dhokla. I, of course, do not possess such a contraption, though it will assuredly be on my list of required souvenirs if I ever visit India. I used a pasta pot (one of the ones with a built in steamer tray that fits inside) and cheesecloth. You might be able to get away with just the cheesecloth and a steamer basket (probably the bamboo kind), but the cheesecloth is definitely essential. I warn you, however, the cheesecloth will likely get horribly messed up when you make dhokla, so you may want to be conservative with how much you use.

Now, put an inch to an inch and a half of water in a stock pot, and bring it to a boil. Spray or brush your steamer basket (and maybe even your cheesecloth) with oil to prevent the semolina cake from sticking as it cooks. It will still taste as good if it sticks, but it won't be nearly as pretty, or solid.

Once the water is boiling, you must spring into action like a jungle cat. Things will move very quickly from here. Line your steamer basket carefully with a double layer of the prepared cheesecloth(making sure to cover both bottom and sides), and place the steamer (cover off) into the pot. You are making sort of a double boiler situation here, except that the top of the double boiler needs to have holes for the steam to get in. But, as with a double boiler, make sure your steamer is suspended at least a few inches above the boiling water. The bottom of the steamer must never be in direct contact with the water.

Now here's the tricky part. Mix the fruit salt into your prepared batter and stir fairly quickly and well. The batter will start to foam due to the chemical reaction of the fruit salt. Pour the batter carefully and quickly into your cheesecloth-lined steamer. This is why your steamer must have tiny holes, and not large ones. If your steamer has large holes, the batter will probably go right through.

Now, smooth the top of the batter gently with a spatula, cover the pot with its lid, and steam the dhokla at medium heat for 15 mins. Then turn off the heat, carefully remove the steamer from the pot, and let it cool, preferably on a wire rack to let air flow underneath.

While you wait, make the infused oil.

Heat your oil to medium heat in a sauté pan or nonstick skillet. Add the mustard seeds. They should start to pop open in a few minutes, so you may want to put a splatter screen over the pan as it cooks. At the very least, please be careful and do not watch the seeds too closely as you fry them. If you are using sesame seeds, add them next and cook for a few minutes. They will pop and jump a bit also. If you want to use green chilis here, do so at this point and let cook for 30 seconds to a minute, then switch off the stove.

Once the steamed dhokla is cool enough to handle, remove it from the steamer basket, unwrap slowly and carefully from the cheesecloth, and flip onto a plate to serve. Brush your infused oil (including the seeds) over the top. This is what gives the dhokla its spice. Chop and/or sprinkle your cilantro on top just before serving.

Now cut in slices and serve to your soon-to-be-devoted-fan club. Onion pickle or coriander (cilantro) chutney are excellent condiments to serve with dhokla. You can find these at the indian grocery, or at good health food stores or supermarkets. For extra credit, you could make your own.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A tropical your mouth.

I made these Coconut Mango Pancakes the other day, and I am in love. I would happily eat these every weekend. The recipe originally came from this website, and I hope the author doesn't mind me reprinting it here. The recipe came from the blog, "A Little Yumminess," which is a great food blog. Definitely not all vegetarian, but really fun to read, and very family oriented.

So I added a few little tweaks to the original recipe (noted with asterisks**), but it really is a fantastic recipe as originally written also.

Coconut Mango Pancakes

1 cup coconut milk
1.5 cups mango puree; You can get this at: 1) Indian grocery store, 2) International aisle of local supermarket, or 3) blend chopped ripe mangos in your blender or food processor
2 whole eggs (You can use Ener-G Egg Replacer or another egg substitute here too to veganize the recipe)**
1.5 cups white/all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
A neutral oil or Earth Balance for cooking the pancakes**

Beat (or prepare) the eggs, then whisk in the coconut milk, mango puree, and vanilla until a smooth mixture is formed. Carefully whisk in the flour and baking powder a little at a time, just until mixed. Do not overbeat.

Melt your Earth Balance or place your oil in a skillet or saucepan over medium heat. I like to use a ladle to transfer about 1 pancake's worth of batter into the pan at a time. You can also use the back of the ladle to thin out the pancake batter in the pan, so you don't have an overly thick pancake that doesn't cook in the middle. When the pancake starts to look dry/stable in the middle, flip the pancake over and cook the other side. It is better to err on the low temperature side when cooking pancakes. They may take longer to cook, but at least you won't burn them.

Serve with maple syrup, fresh fruit, nuts, etc or with the syrup below.

**Also, I have tried freezing these pancakes, to very satisfactory results. If you cook all of your pancakes the day you make your batter, you can allow them to cool, and then store them in your freezer with wax paper in between each pancake layer. Then you should be good to go on a morning that you don't feel like cooking, but want to eat well just the same. You can either reheat the pancakes in the microwave, or on a fairly low temperature in a skillet (or in the oven) if you wish. I would consider making the below syrup from scratch to serve with them though. It's really fast, very easy to make, and I think it kicks things up a notch.

Coconut syrup**
I once had some amazing coconut/macadamia/tropical fruit french toast while on a family vacation, and what made the meal extraordinary was the coconut syrup. This is my imitation of that ultradelicious condiment.
1 Tbsp-1oz of agave syrup
3-4 tsp of the coconut milk leftover from making the pancakes; I had some leftover in the can that I wasn't sure what to do with, and this seemed a good choice...

Mix the ingredients simply with a spoon. The above will make about enough for one serving. Please multiply depending on your number of diners

I would also recommend melting some additional Earth Balance over the top of the pancakes as shown. The extra butteriness is delightful. I also crushed up a few walnuts to add over the top of the pancakes for crunch. Just about any toasted or untoasted nut would be excellent here if you don't like or can't eat walnuts. I would imagine roasted pecans would be amazing. Or macadamia nuts to keep with the tropical theme of course.

Anyway, please enjoy and happy eating!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Crazy Delicious Indian Red Lentil Dal and Parathas

I love Indian food like crazy. Anyone who has ever eaten anywhere near me most likely knows this to be true. And, the lovely thing is, I actually have choices to make when I go to restaurants where Indian food is served.

Many of you vegetarians out there (and I am sure ALL of the vegans out there) have experienced the moment while dining out with friends, when you realize that there is essentially one thing on the menu that you can eat. And it is not even particularly appetizing. Your food choice has already been made for you, and by someone who has no idea that vegetarian food can actually taste good. Sad.

BUT, there is hope guys. If you have never been to an Indian restaurant, and you even "kind-of" like spicy food, you are in for a treat. Even if you are not a major spice aficionado, chances are your local restaurant will tone down the burn factor for you if you ask. I highly recommend seeking out an Indian restaurant in your area, so that you may experience the joy of getting to pore over a menu for a few extra minutes.

I have tried many times to recreate the amazingness of Indian restaurant food on my own, with varying degrees of success. But, I am very happy to report that the following recipe is not only easy to prepare, it is totally delicious. It actually tastes like something I would order from a restaurant. And it's vegan!! Prepare yourselves for awesome guys.

Keep reading below to find the full recipes for Red Lentil Dal and Homemade Parathas. Thanks all!

Red Lentil Dal (or "Dhal") with homemade Parathas (bread)

Start by making the paratha dough:

1.5 cups whole wheat flour (I used chapati flour from my favorite Indian food shop)
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup water
1 tsp salt (give or take)
1/4 cup oil (I used canola, but "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" recommends grapeseed or corn oil, or 1/2 a stick of melted butter if you are not vegan)

Pulse flours and salt in a food processor to mix (about 30 seconds). I am sure you can do this by hand in a bowl, but it will be much more laborious. Turn the processor back on, and add 3/4 cup of water to flour mixture, until it forms a slightly sticky ball. (Mark Bittman recommends adding water a Tbsp at a time if mixture is too dry, flour a Tbsp at a time if the mixture is too sticky.) Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap. If you want to use it right away, leave it on the counter for 20 mins. Bittman also notes that you can leave the dough in the fridge for about 24 hours, or in the freezer for a week if you're planning your weekly meals ahead of time. This is one of the many reasons that I love Mark Bittman.

While you wait, start making your Dal. I adapted this recipe slightly from the original, due to my own tastes, and what was available in my house.

Red Lentil Dhal

1Tbsp oil (I used canola)
1 Tbsp cumin seeds (I bought them at an Indian food shop, but they are often available whole, not ground, in the supermarket. Hint: They are often on the international foods aisle if they are not on the spice aisle)
2 tsp mustard seeds (I also purchased these at my Indian food shop, but your supermarket or specialty food store will likely have these as well)
1-2 large cloves of garlic, minced (book recommends 1.5 Tbsp minced garlic)
1-2 tsp ground ginger (book recommends 1.5 Tbsp minced fresh ginger; I = too lazy for this)
2 small to medium sized onions, diced
1/2 to 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes (book recommends 1 seeded/minced jalepeño here, but I didn't have that)
6 cups water or vegetable stock (I used vegetable stock because, why not add more nutrition and rich flavor whenever you can? You're a conscientious eater and you deserve it)
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed (I got these in bulk at the local Wholefoods, but I would think the supermarket would have them, either next to the dried beans, or in the International foods aisle)
2 tsp curry powder (I like this because you don't have to look for a million spices to fill your cabinet; Though having those other spices can come in handy if you love Indian food)
Sea salt to taste (I am not a salt person, but I added at least a teaspoon to this recipe; add to suit yourself and your audience)
Ground black pepper to taste
Cilantro for garnish (book recommends fresh, minced cilantro, but I am sure some sprinkles of the dried stuff would be fine. Frankly, I forgot to add it at all)

I would recommend chopping and measuring everything before you start cooking. It will make your life easier.

Start heating the oil in a large pot (it must accommodate at least 7-8 cups of volume plus room for stirring). Use a medium high heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds to the oil and stir them around, coating the seeds in oil. Let cook for a few minutes, stirring consistently to make sure they do not burn. Some popping sounds may occur as the seeds cook. Please careful not to burn them, or to burn yourself by looking too closely at the cooking process. Sometimes these seeds jump as they pop open.

Add your onion, garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes (or jalepeño), and cook down a bit, stirring often. I think you are aiming to get the onions translucent, but not caramelized.

Now add your veggie stock or water to the pot. Then add the lentils. This may look like a LOT of fluid for the lentils, but they will absorb most of it as they cook. If you want more of a refried bean consistency to the final product, you could probably leave out a half to a full cup of liquid, but I wouldn't recommend it. Cook the lentils, uncovered, for 20 mins or more, stirring periodically. I cooked them for about 30 mins total, to cook off a little more of the liquid. Add your curry powder and sea salt, cook for 5 mins, and turn off the heat. Add the cilantro right before serving.

And now back to the parathas. Try to prepare these while the lentils are cooking for 20-30 mins. If you like, you can also start cooking rice at this point too (see farther below).

Now that your dough has rested, divide it into 8 or so pieces. The recipe can make 8-12 parathas, but i like mine larger, so 8 was fine for me. I'd recommend covering the pieces you're not using with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap while you're not working on them. They do dry out rather quickly.

Roll each piece of dough into a ball, place on a floured surface, and roll into a 4 inch or larger circle with a rolling pin. Brush the top lightly with your oil of choice or butter (using Earth Balance will keep it vegan). Now roll the circle up "like a cigar" (according to Mr. Bittman). Then coil the cigar into a spiral like you were making a cinnamon bun. Place all of your coils onto a plate. I didn't really have any trouble with them sticking to each other, so go ahead and pack them closely to keep the coils tight.

When you are ready to cook your parathas, take one of your coiled dough pieces and flatten it. Roll it out into a thin pancake, as you did before. Brush a nonstick pan or griddle with oil or butter/margarine, and cook your parathas. About 3-5 mins per side will do it. Before you flip the paratha for the first time, make sure to brush the top with oil or margarine. Once browned on both sides, flip the paratha out onto a plate that has been covered with a napkin or paper toweling. Cook as many breads as you like, or as many as you anticipate eating with this meal. I left some of the coils covered on a plate in the fridge for a few days, and made them anew with my leftover dal every time I wanted fresh bread. It helps if you can let the coils come to room temperature again before flattening them, but it won't ruin them if you are starving like I was and you can't wait. Pre-made parathas reheat in the microwave also, but they taste much better if you make them to order with your meal.

Now, you can eat the dhal (or dal) alone with the bread, or serve with rice as I did here.

Rice: I made basmati rice (also from the Indian food shop) by boiling 2 cups of water (and a Tbsp of oil/butter/vegan margarine) for every cup of rice. I added the rice when the water and oil/butter came to a boil. Then I stirred the mixture, covered the rice, and cooked the rice for 20-25 minutes over low low heat. You can then fluff with a fork and serve.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Please check out the books that the recipes came from too. The links are provided above. Now I am starving and must go eat. Thanks all!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The World is your oyster, even if you don't eat oysters...

I truly love when I find other people that share my interests. I mean, who doesn't, right?

Tonight I found out about a really cool website that gives you short lists of vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants and food shops, not only in every one of the 50 U.S. states, but ALL OVER THE WORLD! The site is just a little over 10 years old, and has over 10,000 listings!

So everyone check out!

Now this site may not be the only one of its kind, but I can offer it a particular vote of confidence based on experience. I looked up the restaurants listed for my state, the great state of Rhode Island, and I have been to at least 6 of the 10 restaurants/food shops on the list. The good news is that I would absolutely recommend those places to veg(etari)ans who were here and wanted to eat well. I mean, the list is by no means comprehensive - how could it be? - but it's a fine start.

The potential drawback of this site is that all you can see for free is the name of the restaurant and its general location (city/town). In order to access the full information available on the site, such as full restaurant profiles, restaurant recipes, and customer reviews, you must purchase an account. An account costs a not unreasonable $4.95 per year. And if you do any traveling within the year, that $5 may beyond pay for itself in saved starvation/aggravation. Plus, it could be really fun making the vegetarian restaurant circuit part of your travels.

Additionally, offers the option of the Vegdining card, which one could purchase to get worldwide discounts at participating veggie-friendly restaurants from Russia to Costa Rica. And you can earn rewards points for using the card too. Not really sure what these points add up to, but suggests that we could contact the site directly for further information about these cards.

But the main point is get out there and get eating. And if you've had a good experience with a restaurant you've found on, please let us know here.

Happy eating everyone!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Chaaaaaarge! Meet the first members of the Hot Vegan Army

I thought it only fitting that the first 2 members of the Hot Vegan Army here on Worldly Vegetarian should be the winners of PETA's yearly "Sexiest Vegetarian Alive" contest. And this year's winners would certainly make anyone want to swear off hamburgers for life :-)

Congratulations to House's Olivia Wilde and The Biggest Loser's Bob Harper!

Olivia Wilde: You may know this sweeping beauty from tv's House, in which she plays an opinionated (and of course gorgeous) doctor with Huntington's disease. And God bless her, this knockout is a no-joke vegan, and really vocal about it. Just check out her personal website, Wilde Things. Here, she shares vegan recipes and anecdotes, as well as book recommendations and reviews. To boot, Ms. Wilde is also an activist for humans. She belongs to the ACLU, she's a board member in Artists for Peace and Justice, and she promotes several smaller human rights efforts on other pages of her website. I also remember seeing an interview with her online once, in which she said that she wished she could go back and tell her childhood self to be more confident. It was not that there were lots of things she wasn't good at, but just things she hadn't learned yet. I think we could all stand to have that attitude, and not treat ourselves so harshly sometimes. So don't hate her because she's beautiful. Love her because she is caring and makes some darn good points.

Bob Harper: You know, I've been watching the Biggest Loser for years, and not until this whole Sexiest Vegetarian alive thing did I even know Bob was a vegan. And, judging by what I have seen on Biggest Loser, and by what you can see above, vegans sure are healthy, haha. No flies on this guy for sure. He's got energy to spare. I even have some of the Biggest Loser workout videos, and this guy puts you through your paces. Additionally, as far as reality tv goes, I'd much rather see people making positive decisions that take them to a happier, healthier place in their lives, than to watch a whole bunch of immature "pretty people" backstab and gossip about each other all day.

In addition to his work with homo sapiens, Bob is of course an animal lover. He is an advocate against puppy mills, and owns an adopted dog named Karl. Bob is also the national spokesperson for this year's fundraising walk for Farm Sanctuary, a wonderful organization that I am just starting to learn about. According to

Farm Sanctuary is an American animal protection organization, founded in 1986 as an advocate for farm animals. It promotes laws and policies that support animal welfare, animal protection, and vegetarianism/veganism by rescue, education and advocacy. Farm Sanctuary houses over 800 cows, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, pigs, sheep, rabbits, and goats at a 175-acre (0.71 km2) animal sanctuary in Watkins Glenn, New York. They house over 400 farm animals at a 300-acre (1.2 km2) sanctuary in Orland, California which, unlike the New York shelter, also houses burros.

So Bob, I salute you for the inspiration you give to people, and the example you provide for the ethical treatment of animals. Cheers Mr. Harper.

And cheers to the first members of our Hot Vegan Army! And there will be many more to come :-)

The Hot Vegan Army: suit up.

Whenever I find out that a celebrity or other interesting public figure is a vegetarian or vegan, I get a total thrill out of it. I don't know why, but it sort of makes me feel more justified in my life choices. I start to sense a kind of kinship with this person who has made the same decision that I made about 13 years ago, to start considering just where my food comes from, and to be conscientious with the products I buy. I have actually started to add these people to a mental list I like to refer to as the "Hot Vegan Army." And the more of us there are in the ranks, the stronger impact we have on the variety of vegetarian and vegan foods on the market.

I know that globally, we of the plant-based diets may still be in the minority. However, I also know that there are much tastier and more user-friendly animal-free foods on my supermarket shelves than there used to be when I first started cutting animal products out of my diet. So really guys, we're putting our money where our mouth is, and it's having an impact.

So to help keep us motivated on the days when we feel our commitment faltering, I present to you the Hot Vegan Army. I will periodically post about a notable vegan or vegetarian figure, and add them to the special Hot Vegan Army page tabbed at the top of the blog homepage. All suggestions are welcome if you see that I have left someone out. Everyone can use someone to look up to right?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's not ugly, it's my breakfast!

Have any of you ever tried an ugly fruit?

You may ask, "what on earth is an ugly fruit?" - but such is my point. As sad as it is to admit, PR matters a lot in the food world. I mean, if someone offers you a bite of food and says, "Here, try this. It's disgusting!" you're not exactly encouraged. Kombucha beverages seem to be selling pretty well these days, but I'm pretty sure it's because people are not saying "Try this fermented drink made from slimy mold!" but rather emphasizing the health benefits.

And yes, while the above misshapen blob does kind of look like a lumpy, semi-discolored orange, it is surprisingly refreshing. The Uglyfruit just needs a new publicist, that's all.

According to wikipedia, this homely but healthy fruit is a hybrid of grapefruit, tangerine, and orange, and it hails primarily from Jamaica. It tends to be sweeter than a grapefruit, and with fewer seeds. I myself found it to be very tasty. It was chock full of vitamin C-soaked sweetness. I think it would make a energizing change from a dull breakfast routine, especially as the weather heats up.

So God bless the company calling this fragrant side-show act of the citrus world "Unique" rather than "ugly" (Uniq fruit is one of the 2 big trade names for this hybrid). Maybe it will remind people in a subtle way that, just because you're not used to it, it doesn't mean that wonderful things don't come in imperfect-looking packages.

Any other ugli/uglyfruit fans out there? Please share your experience here.

Cheers all!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Dear God Feed Me" Vegan Nachos

You know, when I have a she-beast sized appetite, but I'm short on ambition, I reach for vegan nachos. You can pretty much have this plate of food in your hands in about 5 minutes, with almost no work, and it is very satisfying. It's also pretty easy to keep the ingredients on hand.

All you need is:

  • Tortilla chips (Santitas brand was used above; They're vegan too, with only corn, salt, and oil listed in the ingredients)
  • Daiya brand vegan shredded "cheese," (see image below)
I have had this specific brand of vegan cheese recommended to me by 3 (count-em #3!) separate vegans within a short span of time, and none of them knew each other. They were totally right. This stuff is really good. I even fed it to my omnivore father, who confirmed that you really couldn't tell it wasn't real cheese. I'd say you could probably tell if you ate it cold, but warm you hardly notice. And it's tasty food with a conscience.

The cheese comes in cheddar and mozzarella styles (shredded only, no blocks that I know of), and I bought mine at my local Whole Foods. Maybe cheddar style is better for nachos, but honestly, when you're hungry, eat whichever one you have on hand and use them interchangeably. And this "cheeze" really does melt and stretch as it proclaims. It lacks a little in the salt department (in terms of imitating the flavor of real cheese), but the tortilla chips used in this recipe will help to compensate for that. If you are really interested in daiya "cheeze" look them up on their website, Extra credit if you make their recipe here for vegan macaroni and cheese. I have not tried that recipe yet, but I am starving and could easily eat that right now...



Lay out however many tortilla chips your heart desires on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Sprinkle the daiya cheese generously over the surface of the chips. Try not to get too much of the cheese on the pan. Broil the nachos carefully between 400 and 500 degrees in your oven until the cheese starts to bubble, and the chips get some toasty brown color. This will take a few minutes, but just watch to make sure the chips don't burn.

You're done, the end. Scoop these carefully onto a plate, and serve with guacamole, salsa, refried beans, etc. Relax. Repeat.

Of COURSE you can add other ingredients to your nachos (peppers, faux taco meat, etc), but this version is a quick and dirty "OMG I am starving I might destroy Tokyo" sort of recipe.

This instructions may seem simple, but I promise this recipe will help to save you from the hunger monster...

Good luck and Godspeed. Tokyo is saved.