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Greetings from snowy Boulder, CO. My first winter in Boulder has been quite an adventure so far. I learned only after moving here that February, March and April are some of the snowiest months of the year. While the temps have been vacillating a lot recently (60s one day, 9 degrees a few days later!), I got a chance to finally explore the Colorado powder at Copper Mountain. In anticipation of skiing, I unpacked my ski gear from childhood and donated everything that was made of leather, and picked up some gently used cruelty-free alternatives (a helmet without leather, leather-free gloves, wool-free neck warmer.

I’m by no means an experienced skier, but I had a really great time enjoying the beautiful scenery! I can see why people trek from all over the world to enjoy the slopes in Colorado.

Queer Vegan Food skiing at Copper Mountain in Colorado

Skiing at Copper Mountain in Colorado.

Recently, two amazing companies, Tolerant Foods and Explore Asian, sent me samples of their amazing gluten-free vegan pastas. At the risk of sounding incredibly ignorant, I had no idea that it was even possible to turn red lentils, black beans, soybeans and mung beans into pasta! These pastas list the respective beans as the only ingredients, which is a marvel of science if you think about it. This is definitely not your average brown rice or quinoa/corn pasta–each of the pastas I tried (Mung bean, black bean, and red lentil, so far) are rich in flavor and have enjoyable al dente textures.

Gluten-free, organic black bean, soybean and mung bean pastas from Explore Asian.

Gluten-free, organic black bean, soybean and mung bean pastas from Explore Asian.

Tolerant Foods red lentil rotini is gluten-free and vegan.

Tolerant Foods red lentil rotini is gluten-free and vegan.

So far, I’ve tried the black bean penne and red lentil rotini from Tolerant Foods (both so, so good!) as well as the mung bean fettucini from Explore Asian (so unique and satisfying!).

Beyond Meat also generously sent me samples of their latest gluten-free vegan product, Beef-Free Crumbles! I think this may be my favorite Beyond Meat creation yet. Other faux beef products are laden with processed soy and/or processed wheat. I love that Beyond Meat Beef-Free Crumbles, which comes in regular “beefy” and “feisty” flavors, contains pea protein and no weird added fillers.

Beyond Beef crumbles are vegan and gluten-free and really delicious.

Beyond Meat Beef-Free Crumbles are vegan and gluten-free and really delicious.

An easy, yummy recipe: Beyond Meat Beyond Beef crumbles, parsley, tomato sauce, black bean pasta from Tolerant Foods!

An easy, yummy recipe: Beyond Meat Beef-Free Crumbles, parsley, tomato sauce, black bean pasta from Tolerant Foods!

When I served Beyond Meat Beef-Free  Crumbles and Tolerant Foods’ black bean pasta to guests, the crowd went wild! Granted, they were a vegan, mostly gluten-free crowd, but still, these products are big winners in my book. I’d absolutely serve them again to my friends and loved ones, and enjoy them myself. The only real issue when eating foods like this with hella beans and protein is that you may feel absolutely invincible. Here’s to bean and pea protein power!

Stay warm! xo

Beyond Meat Chicken Alfredo on Queer Vegan Food by Sarah E Brown

When Beyond Meat, the delicious, pea protein-based meat substitute company, offered to send samples of their products for me to create a recipe, I hella obliged. I absolutely love using it in salads, wraps, and recipes like the one I’m sharing today. While I tend to avoid meat substitutes due to their being overly processed and sort of strange on principle, I really like how Beyond Meat is made from simple ingredients, is gluten- and GMO-free. Beyond Meat is available in various health food stores and can be purchased in prepared items at a chain called Tropical Smoothie. If you’d prefer to make Beyond Meat at home,  here’s a recipe using Beyond Meat Lightly Seasoned Chicken-Free Strips that really hits the spot.

Gluten Free Vegan Beyond Meat Chicken Alfredo (Serves 2)

Ingredients:

1 cup Beyond Meat Lightly Seasoned Chicken-Free Strips

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper (optional)

1/4 cup chopped golden beets (optional)

1/2 cup cashews

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 Tbs chickpea miso (or another miso)

1 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup water

3 cloves garlic

1 tbs sesame seeds

Instructions:

Blend all ingredients except Beyond Meat, golden beets and red bell pepper in a Vitamix or food processor until fully blended. Cook blended mixture on stove at medium heat, and add in Beyond Meat strips, red bell pepper and golden beets (if using) for 10-12 minutes on medium high heat. Serve with quinoa pasta or fresh greens.

Esther The Wonder Pig's Dads

I recently interviewed the beautiful gay dads of Esther the Wonder Pig on Vegansaurus! Pretty fun!

Thanks to her dads Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter, tens of thousands of fans get to peek into the surprising and always adorable daily doings of Esther The Wonder Pig, the clever, undeniably photogenic 400-pound pig! It’s truly a delight each day to browse Steve and Derek’s witty status updates and glamorous pics of Esther living her genius, safe, and cozy life in Toronto with her loving dads and dog siblings!

I interviewed Esther’s loving dads about life with Esther, how she came into their lives, and their future plans to continue spreading awareness about pigs as pets, not food.

Click here to read my interview with Esther The Wonder Pig’s Dads on Vegansaurus!

Today’s guest post is from my friend Hana Low, a tireless vegan activist, radical nurse-to-be, and force for change for human- and non-human animals. I’m grateful to Hana for submitting this amazing guest blog on whether vegans should get the flu vaccine. While I’m definitely glad that I got my flu shot–this is a particularly rough flu season, even for healthy, young people–flu vaccines are definitely a complicated topic from a vegan perspective, as they are not currently totally vegan.

As vaccines can be a sensitive topic on the internet among vegans and non-vegans, I’m posting this with the disclaimer that, overall, I very much believe in them, and spend a great deal of my time working to improve vaccination rates nationwide. As always, only respectful comments will be allowed. Any comments including personal attacks on either myself or Hana will not be admitted. I’m also not interested in generating a major debate about whether vaccines in general are awesome. There’s (unfortunately, in my opinion) plenty of other places to engage in those discussions elsewhere on the internet.

With that being said, I invite you to enjoy Hana’s thought-provoking post and invite you to share your questions and comments at the end.

Flu vaccine on Queer Vegan Food

Guest Post By Hana Low: Vegan Musings On Egg-Based Vaccines

Last week, Queer Vegan Food’s Facebook page posted, “Got a flu shot. Yay medicine. Just wish vaccines were all vegan…,” which expresses my complicated feelings about the ubiquitous use of animal products in this messed up world. Animal exploitation is so commonplace that animal (by) products are used in the production of everything from bicycle tires to glue. I agree with what Erik Marcus writes in The Vegan Guidethat we must do what we can to reduce harm (including harm to humans) wherever possible, and not obsess about attaining some impossible level of veganness in a flawed world.  (Better to spend the energy feeding and educating nonvegans, I say.)

I had to get a flu shot for nursing school, and no vegan version was available to me. Because viruses like the flu need host cells to replicate, both the nasal flu mist and the shot are typically produced in chicken embryos, and have been for decades. This is a problem: for the chickens who would need to produce hundreds of millions of eggs for the vaccine doses, for people with severe egg allergies, for public health professionals concerned about vaccine shortages in the case of avian flu, for immunocompromised patients, and for the environment.

Clearly, we must develop egg-free and animal free alternatives. Some options being developed replicate the viruses inside plants (!) or in vitro animal systems. The Picky Veganin a great post about her decision whether to get the flu vaccine as a vegan, writes that in vitro animal cell systems are still not vegan, but I would happily take a flu shot developed in vitro, because it would not have required the continued use and harm of a sentient being. I do think that the ideal, if scientifically possible and medically adequate, would be growing the vaccine in plant-based systems or consensually obtained human cells sustained on animal-free cell culture media.

The use of eggs in our flu shots is disturbing, and some folks have cited veganism as a “religious belief” that should exempt them from occupational requirements. Though my veganism guides my thinking and decision-making every day, I felt okay about getting the shot because the purpose was to protect vulnerable patients (though in my community-based dream nursing job, I wouldn’t need to get the shot anyway.) Some may disagree with me, but I interpret a refusal to get the vaccine for work as violating vegan principles of causing least harm, because by being unvaccinated health care workers could expose patients to infection and indirectly kill them.

The Picky Vegan mentioned taking a flu treatment, the antiviral Tamiflu, which, because it contains gelatin, is not vegan. However, if the difference between staying miserably, dangerously ill and getting well informs someone’s choice to take a medication, I would still affirm them identifying as vegan. As a public health type, I support preventing illness rather than treating it, even though vaccines aren’t 100% effective. Other vegans may forgo the vaccine and risk the non-vegan meds, rather than definitely take a non-vegan vaccine, which is their choice, though hopefully medical/scientific development will alleviate this problem.

We should absolutely develop human-based and in vitro alternatives to vivisection, which is better for animals but also for human health and safety. I think it’s up for individual people to decide where they fall in terms of medicines and vaccinations. We shouldn’t police one another’s choices because we don’t know one another’s medical needs and life experiences. As vegans, there are some good reasons for and against the flu vaccine. Some may decide their priority is preserving their and others’ heath, whereas other people may decide they aren’t at an occupational or health risk and go without. They should consult their healthcare providers and make that decision on their own consciences. I believe we all should do the best we can to reduce harm to all living beings, have grace for one another, and ride on!

[Editor's note: For more great perspectives on the vegan vaccine debate, I recommend Choosing Raw's post, Vaccinated and Vaccinated, Revisited, The Picky Vegan's Vegan and the Flu Shot. Also, if you're looking for a free and secure way to track and manage your vaccine information, I recommend using the app BeImmunized.]

hana for cavp

Hana Low is a queer and genderqueer ethical vegan of color living in Denver, CO. Shortly after becoming vegan they became interested in feminist-vegetarian politics and the connections between veganism and other struggles of liberation. They believe that veganism should not only sustain non-human animals and the environment, but also the human workers who produce our food, and that embracing the rich variety of plant-based foods on our planet is integral to building a sustainable future and healing one another from generations of unhealthy eating. Hana supports anti-violence work in the human realm as a board member and volunteer for the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, which works to end violence against and within LGBTQ communities in Colorado. A nursing student at the University of Colorado, they aim to bring intersectional analysis and radical gender/sexuality inclusion into often conservative medical practice. After graduating, Hana hopes to support first-time families in child development as a nurse home visitor for the Nurse-Family Partnership. And, because happy folks make for healthier communities, they also enjoy making art (musical, visual, and verbal), dancin’ the night away, sharing delicious food in good company, and two-wheeled transport. Follow Hana on Twitter

Garlicky Cream Of Broccoli Soup by Queer Vegan Food

One of the things I have yet to get used to in Boulder is the mercurial weather. Yesterday, I hiked Bear Peak trail in South Boulder in a t-shirt in 61-degree weather. Today, it’s a chilly 18 degrees and snow is piling up. I decided to take advantage of the sudden cold spell by making a warm, blended garlicky cream of broccoli soup. The stars of this soup are definitely brazil nuts and chia seeds. The brazil nuts add a depth of flavor and creaminess, and the chia seeds add a bulk and smoothness to the texture. The soup turned out wonderfully, and I recommend enjoying it with some bread or crackers and perhaps a fresh side salad.

Ingredients:

4 cups broccoli, steamed

3 cloves garlic

1/4 cup Brazil nuts

2 Tbs sesame seeds

1 cup almond milk

1 tsp wheat-free tamari (or coconut aminos, Braggs, or soy sauce)

1 Tbs chickpea miso (or another type of miso)

1 Tbs chia seeds

1 tbs balsamic vinegar or lemon juice

1 cup water

1 dash paprika (optional, for garnish)

Instructions:

Steam broccoli and garlic in water until soft. Drain and allow to cool, then blend in Vitamix or another high-powered blender. After blended, transfer to a pot and cook on the stove on warm on low to medium heat and serve with paprika garnish (optional). Serve warm.

Beautiful Bear Peak trail in South Boulder.

Beautiful Bear Peak trail in South Boulder.

Colorado's winters include wide variations in temperature in short periods of time.

Colorado’s winters include wide variations in temperature in short periods of time.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think if you make this soup. xo

Gay Marriage on Queer Vegan Food

At time of publishing of this blog post, there are currently 17 states in the United States that allow gay marriage (this is not including Utah, which recently allowed gay marriage for a very short window of time). In the movement for “marriage equality,” we have seen states allowing gay marriage, then having it taken away, only to have it restored later (California). We’ve also seen states that allow gay marriage, get it taken away, and have those unions validated but possibly will have no future marriages in the foreseeable future (Utah). Lastly, we’ve had states allowing gay marriage and having it indefinitely–thanks in part to the strikedown of The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). If you’re keeping up (as we LGBTQ folks and our allies try to), whenever a state allows gay marriage, history (herstory!) has shown it may or may not stick.

In the wake of all of this, I feel it is necessary to express some serious concerns I have about a little-talked about side effect of the hokie-pokie dance of same-sex marriage legalization and de-legalization in various states: I call it, “The Gay Marriage Speed Trap.”

While I understand that the majority of gay marriages these days are between folks who have been in love forever and have been just waiting for the law to catch up (bravo to them!), many of us in queer communities either 1) haven’t wanted marriages for various political/social reasons and/or 2) haven’t been ready (ex/ we are in new relationships and/or feel we want to wait until we are older to make this life decision).

It’s really stressful as a young gay person to have states in the United States randomly allowing gay marriage for short windows (like Utah). It puts a LOT of pressure on us young gays or gays in new relationships to get married right away–after all, it may not come back for a year, five years, or potentially ever–so there’s a weird rush to go down the aisle ASAP. I wonder, don’t we deserve the same opportunity to deliberate about marriage as our straight compatriots?

My concern is that in the rush for marriage equality, many of us need to take a step back and look at what marriage means and whether it is right for us–especially right now. For my friends and fellow LGBTQ community members who have been with partners for many, many years, and have been planning nuptials in their minds forever–swift legalizations of marriage are wonderful. I am so thrilled for them, truly. But for those of us in our twenties, or for whom marriage wouldn’t be in the cards at this time no matter our sexual orientation, sudden legalizations of gay marriage (that may or may not be temporary as in Utah) can feel like a whole lot of pressure to get married before we’re ready.

As a pure coincidence, I recently traveled to Utah to spend the holidays with my partner Courtney and her (gay-friendly) family during the short window that gay marriage happened to be legal there. I did not anticipate the barrage of messages I received from distant friends and relatives who wondered if Courtney and I were planning to get married while in town! It hadn’t even occurred to me, but it makes sense that those who are not super close in relation would potentially think we were headed to The Beehive State to get hitched.

While neither of us feel at all ready for that step in our lives, I’ll admit: I thought about it. The “lack” mentality that sudden gay marriage legalization and then de-legalization causes is a real force with which to contend. A friend of mine got married in California before Prop 8, as she worried that if she didn’t before it passed (it was about to go through), she wouldn’t get the chance for a while. She told me she felt that she wasn’t truly prepared, and that the marriage wasn’t really right–but because of the legal situation, she felt it was necessary to make that quick decision. I also have friends from Connecticut who got married as soon as it was legal, but weren’t ready, it turned out, and had a nasty time trying to get a “gay divorce.” To be fair, “non-gay” marriages happen all the time under false pretenses, but these legal marriage speed traps do feel like a uniquely queer scenario. While it’s impossibly easy to get a “straight marriage” any time of the year in any state, getting a gay marriage isn’t always such an easy feat in each state. Can you blame some of us for rushing in before we’ve really considered if we’re truly ready?

The bottom line is that it’s super unfair that we LGBTQ folks have to deal with this. We deserve to get married to those we love when we feel ready, and to know that marriage will be there for us in the future. Those who claim to be “neutral” about same-sex marriage (I’m talking straight folks who aren’t openly homophobic but aren’t pushing for marriage equality, either) need to understand the serious implications on our psyches, hearts, and lives that having limited to access to marriage creates for us, including the feeling that many of us need to “grab marriage while we can.”

While we can be excited for rapid spread of same-sex marriage to many states, my hope is we can also remember to really evaluate whether a) we think marriage is right for us at all and b) whether we want to get married right now, just because we can, and it might not come back for a while (or ever) in a given state. I greatly hope that one day, this won’t be an issue–all states will have marriage equality, and will give gays and straights the same opportunity to deliberate and choose whether marriage is what they desire. I hope that our straight allies will support us in our efforts to gain the equal opportunity as they have to choose marriage out of love, and not out of fear that it will be soon taken away. I expect and hope herstory will be in our favor on this.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this. xoxo

After eight years as a vegan, I’d come to accept that cheese substitutes would never be as yummy as the cruelty-derived animal milk pus stuff.  As various plant-based “cheese” substitutes have entered the market, they’ve each confirmed my feeling that vegan cheese could be decent, palatable, and functional (i.e. melt, spread, etc.), but certainly would never be truly gourmet. We could never compete with the so-called cheese gourmands who fill pages of magazines waxing poetic about the stuff.

Until now, there just haven’t been vegan cheeses that even came within the ballpark of real gourmet cheese. Again, I’m not talking about the waxy, bland American cheese that can easily be substituted with Daiya or Teese–I’m talking about the kind of cheese sold by fancy cheese shops and counters, the kind that command a high price point and can be served with fruit for dessert. As I said–all of this was true until now. Enter: Kite Hill cheese.

Kite Hill sent me generous samples of some of their much-hyped artisan vegan cheese.

Kite Hill sent me generous samples of some of their much-hyped artisan vegan cheese.

Touted as “artisinal nut milk cheese of remarkable craftmanship,” Kite Hill has received significant hype from foodies of all stripes in the past few months. Created by vegan chef mastermind at the helm of Crossroads, Tal Ronnen, Kite Hill is truly gourmet vegan cheese that embodies the bold flavor notes and textures of animal product-derived cheese. Through expert techniques,  macadamia nut milk and almond milk are aged with enzymes to somehow becomes blocks of firm, complex, flavorful and rich real-tasting cheese.

The company sent me generous samples of their White AlderCassucio Soft Fresh, and Cassucio Truffle, Dill & Chive to try. Though I’d heard the hype, I was completely blown away.

White Alder plant-based cheese created by artisan cheese company Kite Hill.

White Alder plant-based cheese created by artisan cheese company Kite Hill.

Let’s start with the White Alder, my favorite of the cheeses. According to Kite Hill’s website, “White Alder is a soft ripened velvety cheese with a white, fluffy rind. It has a tangy mushroomy flavor profile with a rich, silky texture and pungent aromatics. This cheese is best served straight from the refrigerator and pairs well with white grapes.” The website also suggests wine pairing options for each of its cheeses–for White Alder, it recommends “A dry white wine such as a Chardonnay with fruit or citrus notes or even Champagne.”

I found the White Alder to be rich in flavor, and I loved the white rind. It reminded me of (non-vegan) Brie in texture and taste, and was delicious spread on crackers and enjoyed as a gourmet appetizer. I love the wood container it comes in–it’s obvious that from the packaging to the presentation to the flavor, this is a really lovingly crafted product.

Next, I tried Cassucio Soft Fresh cheese. I found this cheese to be the least tangy of the bunch, similar to a (non-vegan) mozzarella. According to Kite Hill’s website, “Cassucio Soft Fresh is a supple, creamy soft fresh cheese, rich and complex with sweet and balanced aromas…The lactic flavors pair well with fresh greens, so this cheese is beautiful when sliced into a salad.” I agree with Kite Hill’s assessment–while enjoyed atop bread, I could have easily seen this gracing a hearty salad or rounding out a raw vegetable dish. Kite Hill suggests pairing it with spicy, red wine–I’d love to try that combination sometime.

Lastly, I tried the Cassucio Truffle Dill and Chive. According to Kite Hill, “The Truffle, Dill & Chive Cassucio is a supple, creamy, fresh cheese with earthy, black truffle overtones. The curds are hand mixed, combined with fresh truffle oil and a mixture of herbs, and then shaped and pressed immediately before packaging to ensure ultimate freshness.” They recommend pairing it with a dry white wine.

This cheese was a crowd favorite among my vegan guest tasters, as it has its own tang and rich flavor notes. Truffle oil was all the rage a few years ago, and I’d love to see this cheese bringing it back into vogue. I think this cheese would go well with vegan Caviart at a swanky party. While my friends and I enjoyed this with beer, they really do deserve to be paired with fine wines or kombuchas–I can easily see myself orchestrating a wine and cheese party to wow even my non-vegan friends.

Kite Hill cheese paired with gluten-free and non-alcoholic beer at a recent dinner party.

Kite Hill cheese paired with gluten-free and non-alcoholic beer at a recent dinner party.

In sum, I highly recommend Kite Hill cheese for vegans who have been missing truly gourmet, artisan cheese. This is the best in class, by far. At the risk of sounding dramatic, Kite Hill has made me feel like we we vegans have truly “arrived”–we no longer have to “go without” in order to live cruelty-free and forgo dairy. We can now saunter up to the cheese aisle and say, “I’ll take few ounces of the White Alder, please,” with the same air of connoisseurship as those who stake their claim as non-vegan cheese gourmands.

Currently only available at select Whole Foods, in the future, Kite Hill will be more widely available. They also make a gourmet Ricotta and a beautiful, paprika and fennel-rinded cheese called Costanoa which look absolutely fantastic. Learn if Kite Hill cheese is available near you on their website and check out their Facebook page for updates on future availabilities.

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