The Top 10 Vegan-Friendly Eateries in The World.

In my life, throughout my travels and time periods lived in foreign countries and in the USA, I have found hidden gems as well as better-known and/or popular vegan restaurants, food carts, etc.  I would like to share these establishments with fellow and prospective vegans, as well as anyone who might be interested in broadening their culinary/dietary/foodie horizons.  One stand-out restaurant is mentioned per category.

Latin

Gracias Madre – San Francisco, CA

gracias-madre-instagram

Photo credit: Yelp

100% vegan, local and organic. Committed to their love for food, the earth and the divine feminine, as well as consciousness-raising on the planet. The brainchild of Cafe Gratitude.

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Throwback to the 90′s – Vegan Style

River Phoenix

RIP River Phoenix

I’ve been vegan since 2005. Even though I was a late bloomer to some extent (I ate meat occasionally until 2003, and dairy and eggs every so often between that year and 2005), vegan products always fascinated me as a child growing up in the 90′s. I would often go to Costco with one of my parents (who always ate relatively well as semi-vegetarians for health purposes) to shop for things like granola bars, whole grain bread, and yogurt in large quantities.

So, due to my over-active imagination, I viewed myself as the James Bond of Costco, escaping for mere minutes to secretly investigate the frozen food section without anyone noticing (aside from my younger brother, who stalked me in those aisles to find out exactly what I was doing). I was a vegan wannabe spy, looking at the labels of packaged foods that basically no one in Sonoma County had heard of at the time, such as rice-based “ice cream”, soy-based “hamburger”, and god forbid things that were vegan in and of themselves rather than an imitation of some SAD (Standard American Diet) staple or novelty.

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Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

While it’s obvious Autumn has ended (so pumpkin pie isn’t exactly en vogue), I was brainstorming what could be a nutritious, vitamin-rich, low-carb breakfast recipe– and decided that pumpkin spice pancakes were the way to go. Per 1/2 cup serving, pumpkin contains 1g sodium, 2g fiber, 1g sugar..yet only 6g carbs — at only 25 calories.
pumpkin spice vegan pancakes
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Anti-Valentine’s Day: Let’s Celebrate

I’m not stoked about Valentine’s Day this year. Not because I’m single and bitter, but because it’s one of those Hallmark holidays that creates unnecessary anxiety. Plus, there’s usually way too much sugar involved…so it can’t be healthy on a physical level either. The solution? A festive Anti-Valentine’s Day party with a healthy menu that contains no added sugar, celebrated with friends or family, or a significant other if you have one. So let’s get started.

The Basics, aka Necessary Components for an Anti-Valentine’s Menu:

1. Bitter

Think bitter lettuce i.e. radicchio, endive, escarole, and chicory. Also, lettuces/greens that are considered weeds i.e. dandelion and other wild greens. If serving cocktails, you can’t go wrong with the stiff and bitter Old Fashioned– further reading: this article by Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark of the Cooking Channel food-travel series Tripping Out with Alie & Georgia.

2. Sour

Lemon is a must to accompany at least one dish.

3. Broken Heart

Artichoke hearts or heart of palm (broken or chopped, slivered, sliced, crushed, etc).

4. Skewered

This component is versatile; it can work in a dessert, entree or appetizer. For dessert, try strawberries or other red fruits that look like hearts, skewered on a stick… or with chocolate fondue. For an appetizer or entrée, vegan cheese fondue or veggie kabobs.

5. Blackened or Charred

For an entrée, try portabella mushroom steaks or blackened jerk seitan. I know seitan isn’t paleo, but it’s low carb…and in the context of hating on consumerism and stereotypical ideas about love– I couldn’t resist mentioning a word that bears such a close resemblance to “Satan”.

6. Bleeding

Blood oranges. Sangria (from the Spanish word sangre, which literally means blood). Blood-red heirloom tomatoes.

Having envisioned what would be the necessary components of a anti-valentine’s menu, I searched the web for stand-out vegan recipes that fit the criteria.

Anti-Valentine’s Day Menu

Starter

Burnt Sage and Blackberry Sangria (with bourbon) by Elana of Stir and Strain
burnt-sage-blackberry-sangria

Salad

Bitter Heart of Palm and Blood Orange Salad by Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef
bitter-heart-of-palm-blood-orange-salad

Entree

Charred Portabello Mushrooms with Lemon Cauliflower Rice by Eleanor Ozich of Petite Kitchen
charred-portabello-entree

Dessert

Grilled and Skewered Strawberry Hearts by Valentina of Cooking on the Weekends. These kebabs resemble hearts, skewered. What’s more anti-romantic than that?
Grilled Strawberry Basil Kabobs

Anti-Valentine’s Day: Entertainment

watch

Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.
Scenes From a Marriage, 1973 Swedish TV series written and directed by Ingmar Bergman.

Read

Anti-Valentine’s Day Coffee Table Quotes by Jennise and Jillian Conley.
Instead of Getting Sad on Valentine’s Day, Try Not Giving a F*** by Madeleine Davies for Jezebel.
The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Love Stories by Simon Rich.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler.
Crap Dates: Disastrous Encounters from Single Life by Rhodri Marsden.

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5 Ingredient Tofu Ricotta

vegan tofu ricotta

Lately I’ve been trying to avoid soy products entirely. However, sometimes faux-cheese cravings are hard to avoid– especially when wheat and other forms of gluten, corn, oil, and nuts are out of the question (I’m trying an elimination diet, and soy has always been the lesser of dietary evils throughout my life). Next week I will experiment with eliminating seeds if soy proves to be a problem. Whatever your situation in terms of dietary preferences or allergies, I want to share this recipe for a low fat, low carb, oil-free vegan alternative for ricotta cheese… because it is so close to the “real thing” it made me pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
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Heirloom Tomato Fettuccine with Cilantro-Pesto Cheez

vegan heirloom tomato fettuccine

My relationship with pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, linguini, etc.) is interesting. My dad was obsessed with pasta. Pesto pasta, that is– always accompanied by sliced black olives. I remember feeling guilty for eating a few of them whole before slicing and bringing them to the table. My dad’s love for pasta was unwavering and unabashed. Whatever the circumstance– from a potluck or wedding reception to my birthday party or brown bag lunch in the summers for day camp– most every time it was a reused plastic yogurt container filled with pesto pasta, with a smaller reused plastic container of carrots and celery, and an apple from the tree in the backyard. While I got a lot of flack from my classmates for the lack of sugar… no “fruit by the foot”, Go-gurt, jello pudding or snack paks in there…the only packaged “sweet” I ever got was a Nutrigrain bar (remember those?). Anyway, both my parents were very committed to eating right…but it was never as if they decided to “go on a diet” or “cleanse” from years of bad eating or lack of exercise. Continue reading

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Product Review: Vegan Crab Cakes by Sophie’s Kitchen

vegan crab cakeMarketed as “the new vegan seafood”, the brand Sophie’s Kitchen recently debuted their line of GMO-free faux-fish products– most of which are gluten free and soy free, which differentiates them from the majority of vegan “fish” products on the market today. Considering the fact that most recipes for vegan “fish” sticks and fillets, “crab” cakes and other “seafood” products are made with tofu, tempeh, wheat gluten, or textured vegetable protein aka TVP (also soy), Sophie’s products caught my eye and impressed me as a potential game-changer. Sophie’s Kitchen is named after the owners’ young daughter, who enjoys the taste of seafood but is allergic to most varieties. While it is unclear whether the owners are vegan, they donate 5% of profits to causes that promote the protection of marine life. *The company is also based in Sebastapol, CA. Having grown up in Sonoma County, I was further intrigued and couldn’t resist the $4.99 purchase. Continue reading

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Thai Corn Soup with Kale

thai corn kale soup

This Thai Corn Soup with Kale is low fat. Low Sodium. Sugar Free. Gluten Free. Nonetheless it is flavorful and satisfying, and reminiscent of traditional Thai soups. While canned coconut milk is a “key ingredient” in soups and curries served at Thai restaurants in the USA, I just can’t stomach the 30+ grams of fat per serving or 40 grams of sugar.  I am excited about this recipe because it manages to emulate the “traditional” quality I would expect at a Thai restaurant– without the fat / sugar / sodium overload. The tofu makes this a hearty, substantial meal despite the absence of animal protein. Continue reading

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SUGAR COOKIE: From the Pilgrims to the New Frontier

heart healthy sugar cookies

The famous and celebrated sugar cookie is hardly a new innovation. A simple go-to baked good that required few ingredients, in North America it became especially popular in the 1930s as the quintessential cookie to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve along with a glass of milk. Its history dates back much further however– according to historians the concept originated in Germany and was brought to Pennsylvania by German settlers in the 1700s. Now referred to as the “Nazareth Cookie”, this rich, crumbly, cane sugar-sweetened cookie was a surefire hit with other settlers and it spread across the nation to ultimately become as deeply rooted in American culture as meatloaf and green bean casserole. And unlike pineapple upside-down cake or Jello salad, it didn’t fall by the wayside after the 1970s. Continue reading

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Skinny Lad Na

Vegan Lad Na
Lad na is a Lao-Chinese noodle dish, made popular as a street food in Laos, Thailand. Also spelled Lard na, lard nar and lard nah, it is traditionally prepared with stir-fried wide rice noodles and protein (chicken, beef or tofu), as well as enoki mushrooms aka straw mushrooms, broccoli, black bean garlic sauce and/or oyster sauce. A friend of mine suggested we try making a vegan version, and after a few minutes of research we decided it would be easy to make it vegan and low carb. First off, after looking online at photos of traditional Lad Na, I realized that wide rice noodles (the type that most recipes call for) resemble the Shiritaki noodles I’ve been using as a replacement for flat egg noodles in pad thai– like in this recipe. Secondly, the best vegetarian replacement for oyster sauce is mushroom stir fry sauce, most of the ingredients for which are already present in black bean garlic sauce. Next, I swapped an equivalent amount of stevia for sugar, and then reduced the fat content by adding a tsp of sesame oil to pre-boiled Shirataki noodles for flavor only– as opposed to frying the noodles in a wok with cottonseed oil. Lastly, sodium free vegetarian broth served as a simple replacement for the traditional beef broth. Continue reading

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