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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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Today, two circumstances conspired that drove me to devise and create this delicious new recipe for Easy Black Eyed Peas Miso-Hemp Dip.  The first: I randomly decided to soak black eyed peas last night (I soak all kinds of things on a whim!) and thus needed to make a batch of homemade black eyed peas today; the second: I was running low on homemade hummus (I use Choosing Raw’s hummus method), my other go-to dip.

This dip, my first ever using black eyed peas as the bean of choice, relies on the nutty flavor of hemp seeds and tang of miso, lemon juice and lots of garlic. I think it’s the best dip I’ve ever made! I’ll definitely be making it again soon, and serving it to guests whom I know to be garlic lovers, too. I used homemade black eyed peas, but the canned variety would work fine too, of course. Feel free to double the batch.

Black eyed peas miso-hemp dip on Queer Vegan Food.

Easy Black Eyed Peas Miso-Hemp Dip

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups black eyed peas

1 Tbs mellow white miso (chickpea miso would also be great in this)

1/4 cup hemp seeds

1 Tbs lemon juice

1/8 cup sesame seeds

1 Tbs olive oil

1 pinch sea salt

1 tsp cumin powder

4 cloves raw garlic (less if you’re not a crazy garlic lover)

3 Tbs water

Freshly ground black pepper for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

Food process or Vitamix all ingredients. Serve chilled. Very satisfying with chips (served here with organic blue corn chips), raw veggies, or as a shmear on a sandwich or wrap.

Let me know if you try this dip :) Thanks for reading!

P.S. While you’re on a bean dip kick like I am, try this awesome-looking North-meets-South bean dip from the wonderful JL Goes Vegan!

 

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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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Mayim's Vegan TableThere comes a time in every blogger’s life when she connects so deeply with a cookbook that she feels, while making the food described in it, that she and the author are inextricably linked. Food recipes can connect us across geography and time, and in the case of Mayim’s Vegan TableMore than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to YoursI felt super connected to the author, wherever she is, being a fabulous neuroscience PhD, television star, and all-around gorgeous vegan genius. Every recipe she included in here seemed as though aimed at me to love it, though I’m sure that’s how most feel. Brussels sprouts chips? Kugel? Taco salad? I also miss making a lot of my favorite Jewish foods like Matzo Ball soup, challah, sufganiyot, rugelach, kugel, and more. This cookbook is totally a resource for those of us who love vegan food that tastes like a Bubbie made it!

The beginning of the book includes some helpful tips on vegan food prep, some basics and some in-depth tutorials like meal planning for picky kid eaters and sections on the science and environmental arguments behind a healthful vegan diet. To be honest, a lot of that stuff didn’t appeal as much to me (I just wanted to make the delish recipes!), but I think for new and/or aspiring vegans, it’d be a big help! I’m glad she took the time to share her values and appeal to parents who may need more help to get junior to eat her broccoli.

I’ve made several of Mayim’s recipes, and here are some of my favorites so far:

Quinoa with Herbs and Veggies

Quinoa with Herbs and Veggies

Vegan challah! I actually used Mayim's Turtle Bread recipe and just substituted gluten-free flour.

Vegan challah! I actually used Mayim’s Turtle Bread recipe and just substituted gluten-free flour.

Taco Salad! Mmm

Taco Salad! Mmm

Brussels sprouts chips: easy to make (if slightly time consuming) and oh-so-good!

Brussels sprouts chips: easy to make (if time consuming) and oh-so-good! I added nutritional yeast.

These recipes for the photos above are each very easy to make, designed for busy parents and/or those who love delicious food but don’t have time to create crazy-elaborate dishes. I highly recommend picking up a copy, and not only because Mayim is so cool! Here’s a link to another great review of Mayim’s Vegan Table by my friend Jenny Bradley on Vegansaurus.

Buy Mayim’s Vegan Table online and at bookstores nationwide.

 

 

 

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Vassar Quarterly Spring/Summer issue Volume 110 on Queer Vegan Food

The spring/summer issue of The Vassar Quarterly features vegetarian perspectives.

Last summer, I wrote a long post about my alma mater’s disappointing “Eat” issue of the alumni/ae quarterly. I was pretty sad to see that my college’s long feature on how we eat featured none of the amazing work current students, staff, professors and alums do in the world of ethical, compassionate eating.

After the post ran, I could not have imagined a better response: other Vassar students, faculty, and alums felt similarly disappointed, and the editor of the magazine wrote to me saying that she would be very interested in remedying the omission of vegan/vegetarian perspectives from representatives of the college. From there, the brilliant students of VARC and other on-campus groups worked with the editor to create a beautiful feature for the current issue (spring/summer, vol. 110) that highlights some of the amazing work being done by Vassarians in the field of animal activism! You can read it online in full here.

vassarsarahcloseup

The issue features alumni/ae Pulin ModiSusan Prolman, yours truly, Nicky Quinn and student activists Allen Darer, Alessandra Seiter, Kaden Maguire, and Rocky Schwartz.

Wonderful activist Rocky Schwartz at Animal Place in Vassar's feature on vegetarianism at Vassar and beyond.

Wonderful activist Rocky Schwartz at Animal Place in a feature on vegetarianism at Vassar and beyond.

The piece features some great quotations about vegetarianism, reported by writer Sara Sezun:

On the scale of factory farming:

“According to the Humane Society, of the approximately 11 billion livestock animals killed annually in the United States, 86 percent are chickens and turkeys raised on factory farms.” (p. 20)

On meat eating’s impact on the environment:

“Animal agriculture produces 18 to 50 percent of greenhouse gases.” – James McWilliams. (p. 20).

On the “humane meat” myth:

“Free-range animals face similar fates (as those raised on factory farms). Farmers who raise them cannot allow their herds to become too large, because overgrazing would ruin their pastures. Therefore, “excess” calves, for example, may be sold to feedlots to be raised under conventional circumstances.” (p. 20)

Alan Darer, a current Vassar student whose work inspires me constantly, eloquently posted on his Facebook page about the Quarterly issue and his and other students’ activism around it:

“Alessandra and I were on the phone with (editor) Liz to see how we could move forward. She was very kind, receptive, admitted that they had made a mistake by omitting a vegetarian/vegan perspective and was eager to correct this. She suggested that they publish two letters to the editor critiquing this omission in the Fall Issue and then publish a full feature article on VARC in the Winter Issue.

What’s my takeaway? As animal advocates, our number one job is to be a voice for animals as best as we can and create opportunities to help share their stories. By staying solutions-oriented, we were able to work with Liz to share the plight of farmed animals and VARC’s amazing work with the alumni of Vassar College.” – Alan Darer

vassarsecondspread

After this issue went live, I heard from friends and family who were inspired by the info and statistics included, all of which help bring awareness to the growing movement of veganism and compassionate eating into the mainstream. I’m also delighted that some of my recipes are featured on the college’s website!

I have never been prouder to be a Vassar alum, and am so grateful for the network of animal activism on campus and beyond! Congrats to all involved in making this issue happen, and to the animals whose lives will be saved thanks to the efforts of those featured.

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Hampton Creek Foods Just Mayo, Eat The Dough and Chipotle Mayo. Photo via Vegansaurus!/Megan Adamson-Jackes.

Hampton Creek Foods Just Mayo, Eat The Dough and Chipotle Mayo. Photo via Vegansaurus!

I’m told that back in the day, we plant eaters had to make our own veggie burgers and milk our own nut milks. Now, if we want to make our own veggie burgers and strain soaked almonds through our nut milk bags, so be it–but we have choices. These choices allow us to be lazy vegans if we want to, but they also allow for people with tons of expertise (aka food scientists or professional chefs) to develop and refine ingredient combinations that the average vegan just doesn’t have time for.

Of course I think it’s wonderful to enjoy a whole foods, plant-based diet, but I think it’s a huge step in the right direction that we vegans can be lazy if we so choose, and are able to pick up packaged vegan foods as easily as omnivores. In the past, vegans wanting legit-tasting, cruelty-free mayo had to enjoy Veganaise (which isn’t bad, but isn’t great either) or make their own from scratch. Now, we have Just Mayo by Hampton Creek Foods, which offers a superior-tasting vegan mayonnaise that really behaves like it should–thick, creamy, slightly tangy and easily spreadable. Hampton Creek Foods’ team of very talented food chefs and scientists were no doubt involved in its creation! Learn more about the development process on Our Hen House’s podcast featuring Hampton Creek Foods CEO Josh Tetrick.

Silver Hills Bakery gluten-free vegan bread and Just Mayo: A perfect sandwich combination.

Silver Hills Bakery gluten-free vegan bread and Just Mayo: A perfect sandwich combination.

I tried Hampton Creek Foods mayo on Silver Hills gluten-free vegan sandwich bread. It went so well with the avocado, tempeh and tomato fillings! I also love that Hampton Creek Foods is getting national attention. You can check out just a bit of the press they’re getting here, here and here. Oh, and did I mention Bill Gates is one of their investors? You KNOW this company is going places. Perhaps what I love the most about Hampton Creek Foods products is that their target demographic actually isn’t us vegans–it’s omnivores, and their smart marketing campaigns use verbiage that make it very easy to see a new possibility for the millions of chickens who are abused, enslaved, and lose their lives in order to create mayonnaise for someone. This is a very promising path to the future, indeed.

Hampton Creek Foods also sent their Chipotle Mayo (which was not my bag but I could see others loving it) and their “Eat The Dough” gluten-free vegan cookie dough. Absolutely awesome cookie dough, I can’t wait to grab some in stores at some point.

Connect with Hampton Creek foods on Facebook to stay updated on the latest news and to find out when they’re selling in a store near you.

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I recently had the pleasure of visiting Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary in Deer Trail, CO with my love Courtney. Approximately 1.5 hours drive from Boulder, Peaceful Prairie provides a safe, loving home to rescued farm animals. Having hit upon hard times–their main well and cisterns froze and broke in the recent cold spell–Peaceful Prairie is currently doing a fundraising campaign to get back on their feet. During the tour, we learned that they’re slowly recovering (though they definitely still need help!) and it was an honor and a privilege to get to meet some of the human volunteers who run the sanctuary, as well as some of the gorgeous non-human animals who make the sanctuary their home.

Here are some pictures of the non-human friends we had the pleasure of meeting at Peaceful Prairie:

Beautiful cows at Peaceful Prairie in Deer Trail, CO.

Beautiful cows at Peaceful Prairie in Deer Trail, CO

Courtney cuddling a cow.

Courtney cuddling a cow.

A beautiful pig. Photo by Josh Valentine.

A beautiful pig

Lovely fowl at Peaceful Prairie. Photo by Josh Valentine.

Lovely fowl at Peaceful Prairie

A banana-loving pig at Peaceful Prairie.

A banana-loving pig at Peaceful Prairie.

Justice the cow stole my heart! What a sweetie.

Justice the cow stole my heart! What a sweetie.

There I am, explaining to a goat that I am a vegan.

There I am, explaining to a goat that I am a vegan.

With Courtney at Peaceful Prairie sanctuary.

With Courtney at Peaceful Prairie sanctuary.

A lovely bovine friend at Peaceful Prairie. Photo by Josh Valentine.

A lovely bovine friend at Peaceful Prairie.

Whole Foods donates expired produce to Peaceful Prairie. The animals love it!

Whole Foods donates expired produce to Peaceful Prairie. The animals love it!

Lots of great goats at Peaceful Prairie.

Lots of great goats at Peaceful Prairie.

A goat friend at Peaceful Prairie.

A goat friend at Peaceful Prairie.

The crew at Peaceful Prairie.

Some of the crew at Peaceful Prairie.

Courtney and a new friend at Peaceful Prairie.

Courtney and a new friend at Peaceful Prairie.

During the tour, I heard the story of a lovely goat who was rescued a few weeks ago by the sanctuary. Originally “owned” by an organic, “feel-good” goat dairy farm, this goat was only a few years old but had already had 6 kids (all of whom were stolen from her) and was “spent”–meaning she could no longer produce milk that could be commodified by humans.

At the time of rescue, she had a severe eye infection and parasites that were left untreated because–now here’s what’s so important to convey–organic farms aren’t allowed to use antibiotics to treat their animals.

This is a horrible reality that must be shared with vegetarians and omnivores who purchase and consume cow or goat dairy from these so-called “feel-good” organic farms as an alternative to animal products from factory farms. There’s nothing “feel-good” about them for the animals who suffer. I am grateful this goat was rescued and to be able to pass on this crucial info.

Sanctuaries like Peaceful Prairie are a fantastic and important reminder to me of why I am vegan–seeing rescued animals always motivates to try harder and do more for the animals. Eating a vegan diet and telling others about being vegan are important steps, but there’s always so much more we can do. Interacting with the non-human animals for whom I choose this delicious, easy, and extremely rewarding lifestyle known as veganism is such a pleasure.

I look forward to returning to the sanctuary at some point in the not-too-distant future and wish Peaceful Prairie continued success with their fundraiser. You can learn more about Peaceful Prairie and donate to their fundraiser here.

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