Boston Veggie


Meatless Mondays
December 2, 2009, 8:16 pm
Filed under: Vegan tips

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has launched a campaign called Meatless Mondays, to “help reduce meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

According to their website, “Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.”

You can argue with me, but you certainly can’t argue with the experts. Try a Meatless Monday yourself, not because I told you to, but because one of the most prestigious medical schools in the country is telling you to. Read all about Mealtess Mondays here.



If a vegan comes to dinner
December 2, 2009, 7:28 pm
Filed under: Vegan tips

I cannot even imagine or hope to write an article better than the one I read here about omnivores having vegans over for dinner. It is really refreshing to see an omnivore who understands the vegan’s plight in omniverous situations. There are always people making jokes about how we eat (which, if you ever took Manners 101 you know you should never comment on something someone else is eating), frequently a misunderstanding about what we eat (many don’t know what exactly being vegeterian or vegan is and therefore mistakenly include dairy, eggs, or even chicken stock in recipes) and if there is a dish on the table that is vegan, most other diners will not even go near that entree.

The author writes:

“Here’s a clue: the vegans or vegetarians coming to your house for Thanksgiving aren’t expecting much; they’ve been burned too many times before.

This is what awaits them: the carving of a dead bird in their presence; side dishes mistakenly made with chicken broth or dairy products, which they can’t eat; and jokes about their diet.”

She continues:

“If you do serve vegan dishes or use meat substitutes, don’t inform everyone at the table because the meat eaters will likely turn up their noses… Share the information with the vegans or vegetarians but what the rest don’t know won’t hurt them.”

Read more of her suggestions on having a Veggie over for dinner here.



Surviving Thanksgiving
November 25, 2009, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Vegan tips

Another vegan blogger wrote tips about how to survive Thanksgiving Amongst Carnivores. I totally agree with all of her suggestions, and you can read them here.



Let’s talk substitutes
September 29, 2009, 1:36 am
Filed under: Vegan tips

Let’s talk substitutes

In my own cooking, I don’t usually like to use a lot of fake cheeses and meats. I prefer to cook with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. However, inevitably, if you are going to choose a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, you will encounter substitutes. Lucky for you, I have already done a lot of the leg work over the past two years to weed out the best from the worst. I am not going to list the worst ones here because I don’t want to bash any brands. In fact, you might like some of the brands I don’t, but I do know you’ll probably like the brands I do.

Also, I am going to start posting some recipes that do have the fake stuff, so I want you to know what brand I’m talking about and where you can get it. P.S. forgive my photography. I went into Whole Foods and just started taking pictures, so the lighting wasn’t ideal.

Take a look at all of the meat substitutes that are available at the relatively tiny Whole Foods I have on Westland Avenue in Boston:

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Now take a look at all of the dairy substitutes available:

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When I first went vegan, I was so excited to try all of the fake stuff that I just went to Whole Foods and stocked up on everything out there. When I got home, I was horrified. The cheese didn’t taste like cheese; the cream cheese I got was horrible; and don’t even get me started on the meat. That was when I decided I wasn’t going to base my vegan diet on the substitutes.

However, after a long enough time had passed, I gave the fake stuff another shot. And low and behold I came to love certain vegan substitutes.

I showed you just how many dairy substitutes there are available, but here are the ones I like:

Butter. Butter is a main ingredient in SO many things. Whether it be in pastries or sauces or even just on a piece of toast, butter is crucial. Even on that first visit when I rejected most of the substitutes, these fake butters are even BETTER than real, and have ZERO CHOLESTORAL OR TRANS FAT. Earth Balance is the brand that my Whole Foods carries, and it comes in four varieties:

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I’m not 100% sure what the difference between ^^^ those two is, but

substitutes 003 (2) is whipped and

substitutes 004 (2) this one is soy free!

Some people are concerned about soy. Soy is a good source of protein, but may also increase estrogen levels that may lead to feminine cancers. Not enough study has been done on the subject to determine either way (my mantra is that if it grows from the ground, how bad can it be?), but if you are concerned about soy, this is a good butter substitute for you!

Cheese. Oooh glorious cheese. For the most part, I find it easy to avoid cheese. I don’t always need Parmesan on my spaghetti, I don’t need cheese on my enchilada, but when I do want cheese, this is how I do it.

In the vegan community, the ability for a cheese to melt is quite the bragging right. That’s why for things like tofu scrambles and casseroles I use Vegan Gourmet Cheese Alternatives.

The cheddar is my favorite:
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But it does come in many varieties like Monterey jack, mozzarella and nacho!
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For times when I don’t really need the cheese to melt SO much, I use Vegan brand cheeses. This cheese doesn’t look like it has melted in the traditional way, but when you taste it after cooking, it is sooo creamy and good. NOTE: DO NOT EAT ANY VEGAN CHEESES RAW. YOU WILL NOT LIKE IT. THEY ARE DELICIOUS WHEN COOKED, BUT NOT SO MUCH RAW.

I use the mozzarella for pizza and lasagna. I prefer it over the Vegan Gourmet Cheese for those purposes.
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I prefer this brand’s American cheese for grilled cheeses as well, but I melt the cheese in the microwave first before throwing it on the grill.

Vegan brand also makes a great Parmesan cheese.
vegan parm

Milk is the least of your vegan worries. Soy milk has come into the mainstream in recent years and you can get a soy latte at many cafes these days. However, there are a zillion milk substitutes that aren’t as main stream. Hemp milk, almond milk, rice milk, are all great alternatives as well.

I like vanilla soy or almond milk in my cereal, but I prefer non-flavored soy milk in my mashed potatoes. I’m not a huge fan of hemp or rice milk, but definitely give almond and soy milks a go.

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Tofutti Sour cream and tofutti cream cheese are amazzzzinggg. I used the tofutti sour cream in my enchilada recipe and I’ve used the cream cheese for bagels AND homemade jalapeño poppers.

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Store bought vegan ice cream is not very successful, especially with the limited varieties I have at my Whole Foods. Purely Decadent is the only brand they have, and it’s okay but Soy Dream is my favorite and they don’t have it at my Whole Foods :-/.

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But Trader Joe’s Brand ice creams are delicious. My favorite is the cherry chocolate chip. This is a brand that you could *trick* the non-vegans into eating and they’d be none-the-wiser.

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Tofutti cuties are like little ice cream sandwiches that come in vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip and peanut butter. I like them from time to time, but it is really easy to overdose and get sick of them. Also, I wouldn’t recommend giving them to your non-vegan friends.

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Soyatoo brand whipped creams are delicious. Great substitutes for the real thing!

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Did you know that Whole Foods makes vegan chocolate and carrot cakes?

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This cake is vegan. Unfortunately, they didn’t have one of the carrot cakes in the window at the time, but they are BETTER than normal carrot cakes. I swear. We served the carrot cake to many an omnivore at my friend’s birthday party and everyone raved, not knowing they were eating veganly! Muah haha!

Did you know Boston Cookies are vegan?  Bet you’ve had one and not even known they were good for you!

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SIDENOTE: Did you know OREO’S are vegan?! And so are some brands of Pillsbury icing?! I’m not saying that makes them good for you, we all know Oreo’s are the devil… but interesting nonetheless!

Let’s face it. Mayonnaise is totally disgusting and horrible for you. It is nothing but raw eggs and hydrogenated oil. But not veganaise! Veganaise is better than the real thing by leaps and bounds. I used it to make potato salad but lied to my family that my cousin made it, and they scarfed it down. Again, people are just so scared of the word “vegan” they don’t understand that it just means “THIS WON’T CAUSE A HEART ATTACK.” So I do have to trick the public from time to time.

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Now to the meat.Veggie burgers, like soy milk, have started coming into the mainstream. However, I don’t like the veggie burgers that try to act like meat. They are heavily soy based with a lot of weird ingredients in them. I prefer veggie burgers that don’t necessarily mimic meat, but rather are just packed with veggies.

The Dr. Praeger’s brand California Veggie burgers contain carrots, onions, string beans, oat bran, soybeans, zucchini, peas, broccoli, corn, spinach, canola oil, red peppers, arrowroot, corn starch, garlic, salt, parsley and black pepper. NO FAKE STUFF, and just tons of vegetables.For that reason, they are my veggie burger of choice.

veg burg

In general, I don’t really like vegan meats, but there are four meat substitutes I love.

Smart Bacon is amazing. I LOVE bacon. Just add a tomato, lettuce, and a little veganaise to two pieces of whole wheat bread and you’ve got yourself a vegan BLT!

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Smart brand also makes Smart Ground meat. I would never recommend eating this stuff plain, but I used it in lasagna and it was amazing. I had to double check that I wasn’t eating real meat, that’s how good it is.

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Morning star riblets. OH. MY. GOD. MORNING STAR RIBLETS. I never really liked barbecue flavored things growing up until I could never eat them, so now I love riblets and barbecue chips. Morning Star Riblets are to die for. Literally, I’d die for them. In a few years time, you are going to hear of the “Church of Morning Star Riblets” founded by the Boston Veggie. MMMMMMMMM.

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I also like these vegan chicken nuggets. I don’t usually have them in the house, but every so often even a Veggie wants some junk food!

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As you can see, the world of vegan substitutes is more extensive than you would have thought. I do have to warn you, STAY AWAY FROM BOXED MACARONI AND CHEESES. I gave up my search for the Holy Grail of vegan mac’n’cheese long ago, and I want to spare you the same heartache I had to go through time and time again. Unfortunately, good vegan mac and cheese does not exist, especially not from a box. I am in the process of trying to find a good one through various experiments and online recipes, but have been unsuccessful up until now. I WILL FIND ONE THOUGH, I swear.

All this talk has made me hungry. I’m going to go make some riblets. Until next time!



Let’s talk nutrition
September 23, 2009, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Vegan tips

In a previous post, I mentioned that vegans can get all the nutrition they need and than some just from the food they eat. While many of my readers are vegetarians (hey guys!), I know some of you aren’t, so I want to take a moment to explain vegan nutrition.

First of all, protein. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me “Well how do you get your protein?” I’d have paid off my college loans by now. I understand the confusion because I used to be an omnivore who believed in the holy trinity of protein, protein and no carbs, but protein is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. In fact, most Americans consume too much protein. Way too much.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that is published every five years by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, “At the 2,000-calorie level, vegetarians could choose about 1.5 ounces of nuts and 2/3 cup legumes instead of 5.5 ounces of meat, poultry, and/or fish. ½ ounce of nuts, or ¼ cup of legumes is considered equivalent to 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish.” According to the same source, if you do eat meat, you should only eat 6 ounces a day. That is about the size of a deck of cards. Now, if you eat meat, think about how much you’ve eaten today. Probably more than a deck of cards. My favorite vegetarian sources of protein come from beans, whole wheat breads and pastas, nuts, soy or almond milk, peanut butter, quinoa, and lentils. As you can see, it is effortless to get sufficient quantities of protein as a vegan.

Someone once had the nerve to say to me “Well you need to eat cholesterol and fat.” And that person was absolutely right, we need fat just like we need everything else. But we need the cholesterol and mono and polyunsaturated fat that comes from avocados and nuts, not the fat and cholesterol that comes from cheese and meat.

Now that we’ve settled the protein debauchle, there are some things vegans and vegetarians do need to be conscious of. Omega-3’s are essential to heart and overall health. They are the # 1 weapon we have in preventing heart disease; no medicine can even come close to what these fatty acids can do. Aside from preventing heart disease, flax seeds can prevent breast and prostate cancer, alleviate the symptoms of diabetes, and help overall digestion and regulation. Meat eaters get their omega-3’s from salmon and tuna. But even as omnivores, how often do you really eat salmon or tuna? Pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and milled flax seeds (brown and gold) are some of the best sources of Omega-3’s. In fact, flax seeds contain more omega-3’s than anything else on this planet. Anything. So even carnivores should consider incorporating milled flax seeds into their diet (they have to be milled because if you eat them whole, your body won’t be able to digest them). They don’t have much flavor, and just a table spoon a few times a week is enough to keep you going. I like to slip them into various meals, like oatmeal and baked goods, but you can put them in almost anything without detection.

There is one thing that vegetables can’t provide, and that is B12. It is the only thing a vegetable based diet can’t provide. If you want the quick and simple solution, take B12 supplements a few times a week. However, there are products out there fortified with B12. Milk, bread, and even some juices are fortified with B12. I used to take B12 supplements until I realized how much stuff I ate that was fortified with B12. Also, after eating meat for 20 years, it would take 4-5 years before I would even begin experiencing a Vitamin B12 deficiency.

Now to everything else. Here is a list of the various nutrients humans need to live, and ways those nutrients can be obtained:

Calcium: almonds, brazil nuts, seeds, soybeans, kale, collard greens, broccoli, kelp, and molasses.

Folic Acid: Leafy green vegetables, carrots, artichokes, fruit, cantaloupe, avocados, apricots, beans, lentils, soybeans, garbanzos, barley, and whole wheat.

Iron: nuts, pumpkin seeds, beans, lentils, whole grains, oatmeal, asparagus, molasses, broccoli, spinach, bok choy, peas, swiss chard, and green beans.

Magnesium: Nuts, seeds, sunflower seeds, green vegetables, and soybeans.

Potassium: bananas, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, tomatoes, watercress, avocados, potatoes, and whole grains.

B vitamins (other than 12): whole wheat, oatmeal, whole grains, brown rice, beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, bananas and vegetables.

Vitamin C: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, green peppers, spinach, watercress, potatoes, grapefruits, and oranges.

Vitamin D: all you need to get sufficient Vitamin D is get direct sun exposure for 10 minutes a day on your skin.

Vitamin E: whole grains, whole wheat, nuts, leafy greens and sunflower seeds.

Zinc: whole grains, pumpkin seads, seasame seeds and soy beans.

I used to carry around this list with me all day and check to make sure I’d eaten enough iron or zinc or vitamins. But eventually I realized I was meeting these quotas without even really trying. So today, I just make sure to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains and I know I’m getting everything I need without the saturated fat and cholestoral that comes with meat.