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How To Be Vegan By Elizabeth Castoria

I’ve been vegan for nearly nine years now. I remember when I first went vegan, there wasn’t as much awareness about veganism as there is now. There certainly weren’t super famous vegan celebs gracing every magazine, and we vegans had to pave our own path in many ways. Though it was harder when I was a teen, I should note I can’t really compare my relatively cushy early years as a vegan (after all, soy dogs were available at my local non-foodie supermarket!) to the 70s vegetarians who had to make their own soy milk and veggie burgers from scratch.

Thanks to the explosion of ethical food and lifestyle companies and increased awareness thanks to many tireless activists, making compassionate food and lifestyle choices is now easier than ever. Still, it isn’t something you pick up right away, unfortunately, given how non-vegan our world is. Typically, going vegan takes myriad hours of internet sleuthing, talks with friends/coaches, obsessive package reading syndrome, falling back on trial and error, etc. I think more people would go vegan if it were naturalized into our culture (aka the norm), but the next best thing to growing up vegan or living in a vegan world is getting How To Be Vegan by Elizabeth Castoria.

How To Be Vegan is the essential modern day guidebook for anyone who wants to go partly or all vegan. I would have paid good money to get this when I was a teenager stumbling into veganism.

Here’s why Castoria’s book is a game-changer: Without dogma, she lays out the exact action steps necessary to becoming vegan, from stocking your pantry, to traveling as a vegan, to dealing with non-vegan family members, to dating–it’s literally all here. You can even use this book to plan your ethical vegan wedding! Castoria comes from a magazine editorial background, and there’s enough eye-catching infographics and features in here to satisfy anyone with a taste for design. The sleek designs are just another example of the extremely thoughtful approach Castoria took while crafting this book.

There’s 50 recipes in here (I can’t wait to try the Portobello and Cremini Stroganoff) and lots of really useful tips for being vegan during international travel in many countries. I am now craving Piadina, toasty flatbread street food from Italy, Bibimbap, a Korean dish containing blends of rice with steamed, sautéed and pickled vegetables tossed with rice wine sauce, and Dosa, crispy lentil-based pancake from India. Of course, many of these foods are available throughout the United States, but it’s tempting to plan trips abroad just to try the dishes Castoria describes.

Elizabeth Castoria

In addition to the “how” theme that runs throughout, this book answers the “whys” as well, offering just the right amount of detail to whet readers’ appetites to learn more about the cruelty behind animal product consumption but not too much to cause overwhelm leading to stagnation.

I absolutely plan to share this book with non-vegan friends who have been curious about how to make it happen but have never taken the plunge.

Buy How To Be Vegan here.

 

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Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. With Courtney Pool and Queer Vegan Food.

A couple weeks ago, Courtney and I took a short but lovely trip to Colorado Springs. Only an hour and a half’s drive from our hometown, Boulder, it seemed only fitting we’d celebrate our birthdays with a visit to the oft-talked about destination. It was my first time, and Court’s first time since she was a kid, and we were both super impressed by the fantastic company (we got to see the lovely JL and Dave!) and the absolutely gorgeous scenery. This place is so beautiful!

Here are some pictures from our trip of the scenery, company, and delicious vegan food:

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Courtney at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Courtney at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Courtney at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. On Queer Vegan Food

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Courtney at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Featured on Queer Vegan Food

The beautiful colors dazzle in Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Courtney at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, so beautiful! on Queer vegan Food

Another breathtaking view: Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

In addition to celebrating our birthdays, Courtney and I were treated to a delightful meal with JL Fields and Dave Burgess! JL and Dave took us out to one of their favorites spots in the ‘Springs, Adam’s Mountain Cafe! We actually ate at the restaurant during one of its last days in its old location. JL reports on her blog that the new location on 26 Manitou Avenue is even more fabulous!

We spent the evening laughing, enjoying delicious plant cuisine, and soaking in good ‘Springs vibes.

Dinner at Adam's Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs with Courtney!

Dinner at Adam’s Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs with Courtney!

Chocolate tarte At Adam's Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs with JL Goes Vegan, Courtney Pool and Dave Burgess (not pictured)

Chocolate tarte At Adam’s Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs with JL Goes Vegan, Courtney Pool and Dave Burgess (not pictured)

Senegalese Tofu At Adam's Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs! With JL Goes Vegan!

Senegalese Tofu At Adam’s Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs .

Chocolate tarte At Adam's Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs with JL Goes Vegan!

Chocolate tarte At Adam’s Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs.

On the last day of our trip, we hiked Garden of the Gods a second time and explored downtown and I got a yummy gluten-free chocolate chip birthday cupcake at Coquette’s Bistro and Bakery in downtown Colorado Springs. I also got a soup and salad at Poor Richard’s across the street.

Gluten free chocolate vegan cupcake from Coquette's Bistro and Bakery in Colorado Springs!

Gluten free chocolate vegan cupcake from Coquette’s Bistro and Bakery in Colorado Springs!

Poor Richard's Soup and Salad

Poor Richard’s Soup and Salad

After the trip, I returned to a package of Chocolita raw vegan chocolate to try! It was the best thing ever to come home to! Chocolita is the purest raw vegan chocolate available, made from only the best, organic, fair trade, low-glycemic wildcrafted ingredients. My favorite flavor was the raw white chocolate Blueberry Lotus flavor. It blew me away; I’ve never had such a pure, vegan white chocolate before! Some of the flavor notes in Chocolita include: wild flowers, heirloom beans and more. Truly epicurean! If you love fancy vegan chocolate that’s low glycemic and delicious, I highly recommend consulting this list of where to buy Chocolita at a store near you or you can order Chocolita online.

Chocolita raw vegan chocolate is fantastic.

Chocolita raw vegan chocolate is truly fantastic.

I love the delicate artwork that adorns each Chocolita bar.

I love the delicate artwork that adorns each Chocolita bar.

Thanks for reading! :)

 

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This week, to celebrate our April birthdays, Courtney and I traveled to Colorado to enjoy a little vacation. Even though it snowed most of the time we were there, I was excited to see Colorado for the first time and connect with friends, vegan noms and activities located in the Rocky Mountain area. Here are the places we ended up visiting in Denver and Boulder, Colorado:

Boulder, Colorado

Dushanbe Tea House

1770 13th St. Boulder, CO

The tea menu and the gorgeous decor are the real reasons to visit Dushanbe Tea House, which is a local treasure. They also have several vegan options on their menu, which can be enjoyed alongside a freshly brewed tea or infusion.

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The Thai Panang Curry (with tofu option) dish at Dushanbe Tea house.

The Thai Panang Curry (with tofu option) dish at Dushanbe Tea house was delightful–it had a great spicy kick.

Drinking a delicate green tea at Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder, Colorado.

Drinking a delicate green tea at Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder, Colorado.

Interior view of Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder, Colorado.

Interior view of Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder, Colorado.

Alfalfa’s Market

1651 Broadway  Boulder, CO 80302

Alfalfa’s has tons of great vegan items, including fresh produce and local vegan treats and snacks. Boulder is a hub for many organic food companies, including BoBo’s, Goodbelly, and many more. It was a great place for us to stock up on snacks, organic toiletries and breakfast items to keep in our hotel fridge. I recommend checking it out over or at least in addition to Whole Foods if you’re in the area and need groceries or green juice–they sell that too.

Alfalfa's vegan-friendly market in Boulder

Alfalfa’s vegan-friendly market in Boulder

Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant

2010 16th Street
Boulder, Colorado 80302

The Asian Mizuna Salad  at Leaf Vegetarian

The Asian Mizuna Salad at Leaf Vegetarian.

The Asian Mizuna Salad  at Leaf Vegetarian. Made with wakame seaweed, mizuna, jicama, carrots, snap peas, bamboo shoots, sesame sweet chili vinaigrette.

The vegan soup of the day at Leaf Vegetarian. Made with squash and a delicate broth.

The vegan soup of the day at Leaf Vegetarian. Made with squash and a delicate broth.

The Kitchen Next Door

1035 Pearl St.
Boulder, CO 80302

When dining with a non-vegan friend, we found plenty to enjoy at The Kitchen Next Door, including homemade kale chips, beet-infused salads and a wonderful homemade hummus. Great choice if on Pearl Street, if you love craft beers, or if you’re dining with non-vegans. There’s also free music on many nights.

Menu selection from The Kitchen Next Door

Menu selection from The Kitchen Next Door. Loved the kale chips!

Here are some more pictures from our wintry explorations in Boulder:

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Courtney Pool and Queer Vegan Food, hanging out by the river in Boulder, CO

Boulder, CO in the snow

Boulder, CO in the snow

Boulder, CO in the snow

Boulder, CO in the snow

Denver, Colorado

Nooch Vegan Market

3360 Larimer St., Denver

What’s not to love about Nooch Vegan Market? Located in a cool part of Denver, there’s aisles of vegan treats and staples to enjoy, plus clothing, dog treats, household products, super-friendly staff. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in town.

Nooch Vegan Market in Denver, CONooch Vegan Market in Denver, CO Nooch Vegan Market in Denver, CO IMG_2777 IMG_2778 IMG_2779 IMG_2780IMG_2782

City, O City

206 E. 13th Avenue Denver

City, O City offers tons of vegan options, though it’s not a fully vegan establishment. I got the baby kale salad and tried their homemade kombucha and onion rings. Everything was great! I forgot to snap pics but if you go, definitely check out their on-tap kombucha and some of the great vegan offerings.

City, O City in Denver, Colorado

City, O City in Denver, Colorado

Thanks for checking out my blog post on some vegan adventures in Boulder and Denver. There are more vegan-friendly places to check out than the ones we visited, so please share them in the comments if you know of them or link to beloved blogs/companies if you’d like to share your favorites!

 

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I just returned from a superb trip to Los Angeles. I absolutely love my friends and family in LA. My wonderful older brother Asher and I are both vegan and get along smashingly (incidentally, he’s @Smasherbrown on Twitter!) and had an amazing time seeing friends, making delicious vegan smoothies, juices, soups, bean dishes, steamed greens, and doing other fun sibling stuff–even cleaning the backyard to indie music at full blast is fun with my brother–seriously.

While in LA I actually only ate at two restaurants–three times = a charm at Sage Organic Vegan Bistro, an Echo Park favorite located on Sunset Blvd. just a few blocks from my brother’s beautiful home, and the second was Xoia Vietnamese restaurant, also on Sunset Blvd a few blocks from Sage, which I went to with my college friend and his lovely partner.

At Xoia, my friends and I shared mushroom/tofu spring rolls to start and as a main I got the Vegetarian Mi Quang, which included wide rice noodles served with tofu, shiitake, enoki and beech mushrooms, lettuce, bean sprouts, sprinkles of crushed peanuts, banana blossom, fresh mints, and sesame crackers in a shiitake broth. Everything was so delicious, I would definitely return!

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Vegetarian Mi Quang at Xoia.

Though I went to Sage three times this trip,  each time I veered in different menu directions. The first visit was a catchup lunch with my fabulous friend Puki. I ordered the “street tacos” and for dessert we shared the raw chocolate espresso cake. It was pretty amazing. In the picture I’ve featured it shows the street tacos served with rice and beans, but I opted to have mine with salad (not pictured).

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Street tacos at Sage. Photo Credit.

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Raw espresso chocolate cake from Sage. Puki took this photo!

The next time I went to Sage was brunch with my brother and some of our mutual friends; my college friend and his partner, Kelsey, and Ivory! I ordered gluten-free vegan waffles and an almond mylk latte. The third time I went was with Mark Hawthorne and lauren Ornelas, who generously took me and my brother out to lunch! I had the kale salad and the chocolate superfood ice cream (amazing) and it was seriously so sweet of Mark and lauren to drive out to Echo Park and to treat us to such a decadent, ethical, organic lunch. Truly lovely.

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The lively Farmers’ Market in downtown LA. I also visited the Sherman Oaks Farmers’ Market this trip.

Other gastronomic highlights of the trip included smoothie making with my bro–we got really into using various protein powders, chia, berries, local fruits and greens and even young thai coconuts! My bro has a Vitamix so it was super convenient to make them each morning–including on the way to BodyPump classes which I attended at a local gym downtown–I’m trying to build these little plant-based muscles! Asher and I also held a little vegan taco dinner party at Pollution Studios, the film studio he runs and co-owns! Some of our friends came down to the studio to help us cook and eat and I want to give special props to the wonderful June Zandona, a sweetheart vegan Los Angeles based director and cinematographer who spearheaded the thumbprint cookie-making.

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Homemade gluten-free vegan thumbprint cookies made in the Pollution Studios kitchen!

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Asher’s pineapple salsa and mulled wine, made at Pollution Studios.

The trip had many other highlights, including gluten free vegan challah making, frequent scenic hikes in Elysian Park, decaf almond mylk lattes at Fix, trips to Erewhon, dancing at Pollution, watching the Avatar cartoon series (it’s a really beautiful and inspiring show with a vegan protagonist!) and beating Zelda: Skyward Sword with my brother, celebrating Christmas with movies and vegan Chinese food (it was pretty good and definitely satisfied our craving for tradition), going to Shabbat at LGBTQ-friendly synagogue Kol Ami while managing to get in some work and writing at the same time. I’m back in Philly now; there’s snow on the ground and I just made the best Spinach Ginger Beet Energy Juice! Here’s the recipe:

Spinach Ginger Beet Energy Juice (Serves 2)

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Ingredients:

1 large beet

1/2 large ginger knob

1 medium cucumber

2 cups spinach

1 small apple

Instructions:

Juice it in a juicer or use my technique to make the juice in a blender. Enjoy immediately.

I’m gearing up for 2013 with my beloved and feeling super grateful for all of the blessings–especially those of family and friends–in my life. Happy 2013!

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Last week Courtney and I took a little vacation to Montréal, Canada! After a scenic half-day of travel (we decided to go Eco-friendly and take the train), we arrived at our hostel Auberge Bishop near the Guy Concordia metro. The hostel was a lovely place to stay, and our private, warm room was just a few blocks from Beaux-Arts, downtown sights, and raw vegan restaurant Crudessence and vegan restaurant The Green Panther. It was great to map out our travel plans and warm our bones at Auberge Bishop after excursions in the city, and if you’re ever visiting Montréal, I’d recommend booking there in a heartbeat.

Old City, Montréal.

Our sightseeing tour was a whirlwind in the best sense. We visited Beaux-Arts museum, Old City and Place-d’Armes, Jardin Botanique (the Japanese gardens were still lovely this late in the season), Basilique Notre Dame, St. Joseph’s Oratory, Mont Royal, LGBTQ-friendly cafe Le Cagibi,  a farmers’ market and a cafe near Laurier metro, shopping and people/dog watching on Saint-Laurent and more.

Overlooking the Bota Spa on the Saint Lawrence River in Montréal.

View of the grounds of St. Joseph’s Oratory

Traveling to Montréal in late fall meant much shorter lines and fewer crowds everywhere we went, which was a big boon. Though many attractions in Montréal get into full swing in summer, we were happy as clams bundling up and traipsing around the beautiful city in the cooler season.

Basilique Notre Dame

Jardin botanique.

A splendid cow we met near Beaux-Arts museum.

In addition to our sightseeing, we also visited some lovely vegan restaurants in the city:

Mushroom soup and the daily salad at The Green Panther.

Spirulina macarons from Crudessence.

“The Living Salad” With Wakame and Sprouts at Aux Vivres.

Polenta fries, beans, guacamole and salad on the brunch menu at Aux Vivres.

Coffee and soy milk at Aux Vivres.

Drinking green juice outside Aux Vivres

In addition to these wonderful vegan restaurants, we also ended our trip with dinner at O.Noir.

O. Noir is a restaurant unlike any I’d been to before: The dining experience takes place in the dark! The entire waitstaff at the restaurant is legally blind, while the front of the restaurant staff and chefs are sighted. After ordering our special vegan meals in the light area and storing belongings in a locked cubby, Courtney and I made a train by putting our hands on the left shoulder of our waiter and each other and ventured into the darkness.

The waiters at O.Noir are legally blind.

What ensured was unlike any fine dining I have ever experienced. While we ordered all-vegan options, we had no idea what those dishes would be. When the appetizer came, we were told it was marinated mushrooms. Reader, I wish I had photos because I’m sure they were as beautiful as they tasted, but alas, no flash photography was allowed and the dish’s appearance is a mystery even to me since I enjoyed it in the pitch dark. While I mostly used my fork, I will admit I did poke around a bit with the tip of my finger to get a better sense of what I was enjoying. The main course, which the waiter informed was a polenta dish with roasted veggies, was also truly wonderful. Not being able to see the food, just listening to Courtney’s voice and the live music in the dining room, was truly a unique experience. I put a lot of trust into the staff to see that the meal was vegan, and I also longed to appreciate the look of the food. I realized that a lot of my gastronomic pleasure comes in admiring the aesthetics of the food, and that without sight I had to fully rely on just what my mouth and sniffer were telling me. After the main course, we sipped mint tea and reveled in the magic of our trip.

I highly recommend booking a reservation at O.Noir if you’re near one of their locations, or even blindfolding yourself and/or a friend and trying to eat your meal in the dark sometime!

Thanks for reading about my trip to Montréal! Courtney also wrote a fantastic blog post about our trip, which you can read by clicking here.

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