Sunday, April 1, 2012

March of the Hot Vegan Army - Day #32 - Lisa Simpson

Lisa Simpson

Know her from: This globally conscious, Buddhist, saxophone-playing feminist is best known for her television appearances on The Simpsons, a long-running (alternate) reality tv show. She may look young, but Lisa is an old pro in the entertainment business. She has been on television since 1987, when she first appeared on The Tracey Ullman Show. Lisa has also appeared in a movie about the life and times of her family called The Simpsons Movie.

Why she's vegetarian: Back when Lisa was 8, she went with her family to a petting zoo, in which she was able to interact with a number of adorable lambs. When the family returned home later that night, Lisa's mother Marge served lamb chops for dinner. Lisa looked at the meat on her plate, but could not eat it. She had made the connection that the meat came from an animal just like the little lambs she had met earlier that day. In fact, she decided she could no longer eat any animal. But Lisa did not get a lot of support for her vegetarianism from her family initially. She remembers her father telling her that "You don't win friends with salad," as he prepared to throw a BB(B)Q in the family backyard later that week. But Lisa decided to prepare some gazpacho for the BBQ just the same, so that there would be a vegetarian alternative at the party. Not only did no one eat the gazpacho, but all of the attendees of the party basically laughed in her face. However, Lisa's principles were so strong, and her annoyance so great, that she grabbed the roast pig from the BBQ, and took off with it on the family riding mower. Long story short, the pig ended up flying through the airspace of Lisa's hometown of Springfield. After a fight with her father later the next day, Lisa ran away from home.

Luckily, Lisa ran away to the right place, and was served a tofu dog at the local Kwik-E-Mart by the vegan attendant of the shop, Apu. Apu also introduced Lisa to Paul and Linda McCartney, who were gardening at that time at the end of a secret passageway behind the mart's non-alcoholic beer section. Paul, Linda, and Apu convinced Lisa that her feelings about animal rights were justified, but that her methods of influencing others need not be so extreme. Lisa left the store hoping to apologize to her family, and she ran into her father, who was out looking for her. The two apologized to each other, and Lisa's dad gave her a "veggie-back" ride (instead of a piggy-back ride) home.

Why she's awesome: Lisa has long been known to stand up for her political and social beliefs, both in and out of school. She is dedicated to her family, and is incredibly smart and driven. She also plays a mean jazz saxophone. I might also point out that, since she was 8 back in 1987, that makes Lisa 33 years old, and she still looks 8! The wonders of a vegetarian diet will never cease...

Lisa has been credited by PETA as being one of the earliest and most prominent vegetarians on television. Her switch to vegetarianism even resulted in a Genesis Award. Lisa's appearances on television have created innumerable memorable moments in the public consciousness, and her legacy will, I am sure, endure for a very long time.

So Lisa, since I'm not sure how easy it is for you to get out of Springfield without an adult (since you don't have a driver's license yet), I'm going to make you the Springfield correspondent for the Hot Vegan Army. My boyfriend reminded me that pointing you out as "hot" while you are in school might be a tad inappropriate, but I reminded him that you are really 33 years old, and that you've been on television basically 25 years now! So, welcome to the Hot Vegan Army Lisa.

Oh, and by the way, April Fools everyone! I know it's not March anymore, but I guess I was a little reluctant to stop the March of the Hot Vegan Army, since I've been enjoying it so much...

But, don't worry, I'll still be posting lots of vegetarian/vegan recipes and photos on this blog coming up. And, if you liked the Hot Vegan Army posts this month, please let me know. Just comment on any of your favorite posts, and I'll do my best to respond ASAP. I'd love to hear from you!

And, though March 2012 is over, the hot vegans will continue to move forward with their cause. If you are interested in becoming a Hot Vegan or Vegetarian, I'd suggest you start by checking out PETA's website. You can even order a FREE vegetarian starter kit here. If you would like to start off slowly and try one day of vegetarian meals per week, you can get free Meatless Monday recipes from the Humane Society here.

I will definitely be posting lots of recipes and recommendations from my favorite vegan and vegetarian recipe books on the blog, and have done so in the past, so please feel free to check my older posts, and look for my newer ones coming soon. Also the web has a bounty of free vegan and vegetarian recipes for any taste, and I urge you to do some productive Googling if you are thinking about incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet.

So thank you to all of you for reading, and I hope that the rest of the April Fools pranks pulled on you today will be just as benign as this one. Happy April Fools' Day all!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

March of the Hot Vegan Army - Day #31 - Chloe Coscarelli

Chloe Coscarelli:

Know her from: She might look like more of a model than a baker, but believe it or not, this fresh-faced and gorgeous young lady got her big culinary break on the Food Network. That big break came when she competed in - and won! - Food Network's Cupcake Wars in 2010. As the only vegan chef of the 4 contestants on the show, many considered the odds heavily stacked against her. But Chloe came out on top, winning the $10,000 prize, and the chance to provide 1000 of her cupcakes for a swanky party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel hosted by Ok! Magazine. She has worked professionally at the Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco, Counter Organic Vegetarian Bistro in NYC, and Herbivore Restaurant, in Berkeley, California. She has done guest spots on The Today Show, The Big Morning Buzz on VH1, and CBS's The Talk. She also published her very first cookbook Chloe's Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way, out this month. I suspect that things will only go up for her from here.

Why she's vegan: Chloe said she became a vegetarian in about the 7th grade (which is totally when I did, I love her already!!!). She says that, at that time, she made the connection between her pet dogs and the animals that wound up on her plate. Why love one and eat the other? This question has been coming up more and more lately, and there is even a book about it called Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. But, back to the topic at hand...Chloe credits the success of her vegetarian diet largely to the support of her family. Chloe's mother went to great lengths to make sure Chloe, still a child at the onset of her vegetarianism, had access to tasty, healthy foods, and a good selection of special eats on holidays like Thanksgiving. Chloe's family actually decided to make the switch to vegetarianism themselves when Chloe was in high school. At that time, Chloe decided to take that extra step to veganism, again because of her love for animals. Now, every holiday at the Coscarelli household is 100% vegan! Chloe says that vegan food never leaves her feeling exhausted or heavy after a meal the way that animal products did though.

Why she's awesome: I am basically amazed by this girl, because she had already graduated from UC Berkeley and the Natural Gourmet Institute, and appeared on Cupcake Wars before the age of 23! She says she signed up for the Food Network showdown on a whim when she saw an ad on Twitter. Pretty bold! No guts, no glory though I suppose! (Although, it should be noted, there was nothing even resembling guts in her cupcakes...). Coscarelli is now a published author, and has worked in some nationally (if not internationally) renowned restaurants. Her cookbook also showed up at #1 on VegNews Magazine's (basically my favorite vegetarian magazine ever!) 10 Must-Buy Vegan Cookbooks for 2012. Chloe is getting rave reviews for her recipes from vegans and non-vegans alike though, and she is really reaching her goal of proving just how interesting and varied vegan food can be. And additionally, Chloe is also sort of a poster girl for complete vegan health. In order to keep active, she does yoga, dance, and Exhale's Core Fusion. And she has some beautiful skin too!

So Chloe, you and all of your enthusiasm and ambition will fit right in in the Hot Vegan Army. And since you've already seen action in the Cupcake Wars of 2010, I think you'll have to be our Army's version of Napoleon. You're pint-sized, and you seem set to take over the world. So welcome to the Hot Vegan Army!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

March of the Hot Vegan Army - Day #30 - Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming

Know him from: This Scottish star of stage, screen, and film first came to greater prominence in the U.S. as a Broadway phenom in the show Cabaret. He has also appeared in a number of movies and tv shows since then. His recent role on tv's The Good Wife has earned him a series of Emmy and SAG award nominations. Some of his other tv credits include Sex and the City, The L-Word, Frasier, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Robot Chicken. His movies include Emma, Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, James Bond flick GoldenEye, Spy Kids, Circle of Friends, Nicholas Nickleby, Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, a role as Nightcrawler in X2: X-Men United, voice work in Garfield and The Smurfs, and a movie Cumming co-wrote called The Anniversary Party. Alan also launched a line a fragrances with a cheeky nod to his last name, called "Cumming."

Why he's vegan: Cumming has been a vegetarian since 2010, due partially to his dislike for meat, but also for reasons of health. He says that the hormones and additives in meat, and the potential toxicity of fish, have convinced him to avoid these products. But he has publicly credited Mike Tyson's switch to a vegan diet as his instigation for going "whole hog" to completely animal-free foods starting in January.

Why he's awesome: One of my first introductions to Cumming was through his appearances on Late-Night with Conan O'Brien, back when Conan was filming in NYC. I always loved to hear that Cumming was going to be a featured guest because he was just so laugh-out-loud hysterical. He is raunchy, rude and gratuitous, and still manages to have this childlike fun and innocence about him - even when he is saying something barely airable on television. For sure, neither Conan nor I could ever keep a straight face. Seriously, if Alan Cumming is ever being interviewed on something, take some time and watch it. He's a riot, and he seems to be saying everything completely off the cuff.

The funny thing is that Cumming has played many very serious roles in his career, and he attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. He has even done Shakespeare. But he definitely is not the sort of actor to put on any "airs" about the roles he takes. The guy's got a definite and irrepressible sense of humor and liveliness, and it just kind of makes me happy to hear or see him in the media. I think of him as one of those people who are young at heart, which is always a good way to be. I mean, heck, he tweeted "Get ye back, seitan!" when he decided to become vegan. I can tell you, most vegans will always appreciate a seitan joke...

So Mr. Cumming, willkommen to the Hot Vegan Army. I think you will have absolutely no trouble keeping us all from being too serious and not having fun. Veganism is certainly not about repressing anything or being deprived, and I think you'll remind us all to follow our bliss as well as our consciences. We all hope you won't be "going" anytime soon. :-)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March of the Hot Vegan Army - Day #29 - Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain

Know her from:
Jessica was nominated for an Oscar in the celebrated film The Help. In this film, Chastain played the busty Marilyn Monroe-esque Celia Foote, who was learning how to cook for her husband, and trying her best to make friends in town. Chastain also appeared in 4 other movies last year: Tree of Life (co-starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn), Wilde Salome (in which she was hand-picked by co-star Al Pacino), Texas Killing Fields, Coriolanus, and Take Shelter. Additionally, she's made appearances in numerous other films and tv shows, such as The Debt with Helen Mirren (in which Jessica played the younger Mirren), and the shows Journeyman, Law and Order, Veronica Mars, and E.R.

Why she's vegan: Chastain's mother is a vegan chef (score!) and I'm sure that certainly contributed to Chastain's eating habits. But Chastain has been a vegan for about 6 years, and a vegetarian for about 16 years. She says that her reason for eating/living this way is because she doesn't want to "torture anything," ( or do something that contributes to cruelty in the world. And Jessica is true to her beliefs no matter what. Anyone who's seen The Help may remember a scene in which Chastain's character learns to make good old-fashioned southern fried chicken. However, what Chastain actually chowed down on in the scene was a tofu dog wrapped in Tofurkey, battered and deep fried. I gotta be honest, that sounds pretty tasty to me. Chastain also cooked a meal of vegan soul food for costar and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer in her apartment in Mississippi. I'm not sure what Chastain cooked, but I bet it was delicious. I have a feeling her mom taught her well!

Funny vegan story though, Jessica had to gain 15 pounds to play the curvaceous Celia Foote, which was a bit of a challenge for the healthy and fit Chastain. Our fair Jessica is not only a healthy vegan, but she is a fan of yoga, both things that make it tough to gain weight quickly. The story is it took daily doses of microwaved soy ice cream (which Chastain drank as a beverage...eeewww!) to put on that extra 15. But Chastain quickly went back to her healthy lifestyle after filming though, and dropped the excess pounds pretty darn quick.

Why she's awesome: Fun fact, Jessica attended college at Juilliard, largely owing to a scholarship she received from famous alumnus Robin Williams (who, coincidentally, has become a raw food vegan lately to prevent himself from having another heart attack). Another fun fact, Chastain has 2 rescue dogs, including an adorable 3-legged dog. You can see the latter dog here. This California native - true to the Southern charm she exudes in her role in The Help - says it's important to her that everyone she meets in this world feels valued by her. As a lifestyle, I think that's pretty awesome...She also says she works really hard to maintain friendships with people she works with, no matter where her whirlwind lifestyle takes her. Chastain seems down to earth, and way more concerned with taking jobs she's proud of, and that she can learn from, than in following a strategic career plan. She loves her life and work, and seems full of enthusiasm and gratitude. She even says failure is not a big fear for her because "when you fail, you learn more." (

So Ms. Chastain, I heartily welcome you to the Hot Vegan Army. I can truly say I appreciate you as a person, and I look forward to even more impressive performances in the future. And give those cute little dogs of yours some extra pats for the rest of the army, wouldja?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March of the Hot Vegan Army - Day #28 - Mac Danzig

Mac Danzig

Know him from: Danzig is an UFC fighter and mixed martial artist. According to Muscle Works Magazine, Danzig has held the following titles during his career: MMA national amateur MMA champion, Gladiator Challenge lightweight champion, IFC lightweight champion, 5 time King of the Cage world lightweight champion, and The Ultimate Fighter season six winner. Now, I'll admit, pacifist as I am, I'm not really into blood sports. But one of the points of my March posts is to prove that you can be anyone you want to be and still be a vegan. Even if that person you want to be happens to be in a ring pounding the, let's say Jujubees, out of another consenting adult...

Why he's vegan: Despite the fact that Danzig makes a living fighting human beings, he refuses to contribute to animal suffering. He believes that animals should not be subjected to cruel and inhumane practices because they don't have a choice in the matter. As he sees it, people do have a choice. Danzig says that one of the most profound moments he remembers in his childhood was the day he saw a truck full of pigs headed for the slaughterhouse. Danzig was 13 years old at this time. He remembers making eye contact with one of the pigs in the truck, an intelligent creature destined for a cruel end, and it made him really sad. But Danzig grew up in a family without much money to go around, so they ate what they could get their hands on. Danzig cut dairy products out of his diet back in 1999 though, due to a series of debilitating chronic sinus problems he traced to his dairy intake. While his situation is not typical, dairy allergies are no joke.

Mac tried veganism for a year in his early 20s, but he believed what others told him when he started training in mixed martial arts in 2000, that animal protein is necessary for success in sports training. However, with support from MMA trainer Mark Mahler, Danzig learned he could train for the sport he loves without taxing his conscience. Danzig became vegan in 2004, and has upheld this diet and lifestyle ever since.

Why he's awesome: It seems hard to believe, but Danzig's last job before he started fighting was working in an animal sanctuary in Pennsylvania called Ooh-Mah-Nee Farm. It is at this farm that he first met a committed group of passionate vegans, and began his first foray into this lifestyle. I think this is awesome because it is a unique story, and because Danzig has followed his dreams and his heart both inside and outside of the Octagon. As atypical as the combination might be, Danzig loves fighting professionally, and is passionate about animal welfare. Also, did I mention Mac's a pretty accomplished photographer? Check out his website above. And, while I typically prefer non-violent means of exercise, just look at the guy. His abs have abs.

To get that intense physique, Danzig says that he chows down on brown rice, tempeh, quinoa, legumes like beans and lentils, portobello mushrooms, veggies (particularly leafy greens like collard greens, spinach, and kale), fruit, nuts and seeds, alternative milks, Brendan Brazier's Vega Protein Powder, and a supplement called Ultimate Meal. When he's not in training, Mac hits the thai food, soy ice cream, seitan, and other imitation meats pretty hard. But the less processed food he puts in his body the better when he's training.

Another great thing about Mac Danzig is that he proves veganism and testosterone do mix. I don't think anyone could call this guy a wuss just for being a vegan and live to tell about it. Although, Danzig urges vegetarians not to try to change people by force. Non-vegetarians aren't "evil," he said in a PETA article, they may just not know the information that convinced vegetarians to try the lifestyle. Danzig urges vegetarians to take the opportunity to discuss animal issues in a non-confrontational way when someone asks a question. Danzig also says, if you're passionate, get involved, either politically, or through volunteering. You can help your cause, he says, and life's too short to put it off. Now that is a pretty manly thing to say if you ask me.

So Mac, I think you'll be in charge of Hot Vegan Army Boot Camp. You seem to know how to defend yourself pretty well, and how to train hard to meet rigorous physical goals. I'm also pretty sure you have that certain air of authority. If you yell at me to drop and give you 20, I'm sure gonna do it...

Welcome to the Army Mac. Keep kickin' it new school. We're right behind you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March of the Hot Vegan Army - Day #27 - Emily Deschanel

Emily Deschanel

Know her from: This statuesque beauty is primarily known for her role in the tv series Bones, a popular crime scene investigation show now in its 7th season! Emily also appeared in several well-known films, such as Cold Mountain, Glory Road, and It Could Happen to You. In the last movie in that list, Emily's feature film debut, Emily played a paint-throwing fur activist. So even some of her screen roles reflect some of her animal-loving values. I'd also like to note that Emily appeared in a few episodes of the tv show Providence back in 2002, a show so near and dear to my Rhode Island heart :-)

Why she's vegan: Emily has been vegan for 19, almost 20 years now, to which I can only say "Wow!" and "Go Emily!" She says that she went vegetarian, and then vegan, back in high school after watching Diet for a New America (a film - and accompanying book - which discuss the implications of dietary choices on health and global concerns). Emily even remained vegan throughout her pregnancy and the birth of her first child last September. Emily has been an advocate of animal rights (and vegan health) for years, working with the Humane Society, Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, and Farm Sanctuary, recently signing on to promote national walks for farm animals. The lifestyle also seems to agree with her too, judging by her notably beautiful clear skin and healthy physique. She says she sticks with her lifestyle, however, not for beauty, but because she doesn't want to contribute to animal suffering. She says that "looking good" wouldn't be enough of a motivation for her on its own.

Why she's awesome: Emily is not only the star of her series Bones, she is also its producer, and has been since the 3rd season of the show. Her brainy character on the series is obviously not such a departure from reality it seems. She says she does try to have some episodes in the series focus on animal welfare, but she tries not to be too excessive about it. She has gotten costar David Boreanaz, who initially made fun of her veganism, to commit to Meatless Mondays, however.

Emily seems incredibly honest and down to earth, and says that beauty, for her, is being comfortable with yourself and who you are, "warts and all" as they say. Emily says she gets more confident and more comfortable every year, and that her long-time friends from when she was growing up have really kept her grounded. I admire her because she seems to know what she wants in life, and not accept anything less. I think that that is a great way to view your life and its challenges, no matter what they are.

So Emily, due to your skills of keen observation, I think you'll have to be the first one to the scene when crimes have been committed within the Hot Vegan Army. Someone's kale chips and hummus are bound to go missing in an unexplained fashion one of these days, even if they are labeled clearly in the refrigerator. I know you'll be able to get to the bottom of it...unless you were the one who got to the bottom of the bowl of hummus....though I am pretty sure you're too principled for that.

Welcome to the Hot Vegan Army, Emily. And congrats on the new addition to your family!

Monday, March 26, 2012

March of the Hot Vegan Army - Day #26 - George Laraques

Georges Laraque

Know him from:
Georges is a recently-retired* hockey player from the noble northern nation of Canada (a country I love almost as much as my own). During his active career, he played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Phoenix Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, and, most recently, the Montreal Canadiens. Since his retirement, Georges has been actively involved with Canada's Green Party, of which Laraque is now a deputy leader. Georges also hosts a sports radio show based out of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. OMG I just read how he owns Crudessence, a vegan raw food restaurant with 2 locations in Montreal. I totally went there this past fall. Georges you are my hero...

Why he's vegan: Laraque became a vegan back in 2009 because he does not believe in treating animals as commodities. After this animal lover saw the film Earthlings, he could not, in good conscience, eat animals, wear animals, or pay to see them in circuses or zoos. Georges also cares about the environment, and notes that the environmental toll of animal agriculture is incredibly high. Georges is an athlete though, and thus also cares very much about his nutrition and physical health, so he contacted a nutritionist to help him ensure that his nutritional requirements were being met with his very active lifestyle. Seriously, you have to be on your game if you're either body-checking someone into the wall in an ice rink, or getting checked yourself. So, "check yourself before you wreck yourself" is kind of a rule with Georges Laraque. I can respect that.

Why he's awesome: Georges says that he's not on a mission to "veganize" everyone, but rather to help people to educate themselves about what they buy, and about what they are putting in their bodies. He notes on his website that if you can get through Earthlings and still eat meat, then that is your choice, but he still thinks that people should see what their dollars contribute to with open eyes. Georges states on his website that, when you make a strong stand, there will always be people who react negatively. Georges' stance on the slaughter of seals in Canada's yearly seal hunt (many of the seals are killed at age 3 mos. or less), and his affiliation with PETA, will not make him friends everywhere he goes. And also, when you connect yourself with any political party, there will obviously be people who disagree with you. I appreciate that Laraque is willing to put his opinions out there, come what may. And honestly, with his fight record in professional hockey, I wouldn't want to mess with him...

I know I'm not making too much of a "Laraque Leap" here, but Georges isn't just another pretty face. He is a businessman (see his restaurant holdings above!), a published author, and philanthropist. Georges was born to Haitian parents, and has been active in the recovery effort in Haiti after 2010's devastating earthquake. If that weren't enough, Georges also reads. He took part in the "Canada Reads" literary competition last year. He also practices yoga. I'm pretty sure that growing up in Montreal with Haitian-born parents, he probably also speaks French. Go ahead y'all. Swoon away.

So, Mr. Laraque, given that you eat organic food, market your own special juicer, and that you own Crudessence restaurant (p.s. loved the raw avocado key lime pie!), I am going to ask that you head up the raw nutritional division of the Hot Vegan Army. I think I just also really want to hear people all around the Hot Vegan Army barracks shouting "Can you smell what Laraque isn't cooking?" :-)

Welcome to the Hot Vegan Army man. Glad to have you.

*Please note: Laraque retired due to herniated disks in his back - not because of his veganism. I mean, it is hockey after do kind of get slammed around a lot...The end.