Vega Review & GIVEAWAY!

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In the past decade, the vegan community has borne more top-level athletes than the world ever expected of we sickly, malnourished, and deprived plant-eaters. From bodybuilders to fighters to endurance athletes to runners, competitive athletes fueled by animal-free diets have demonstrated not just the viability, but the power of plants(Of course, many non-Western, largely plant-based cultures have demonstrated this for years, but for the most part we haven’t been willing to look).

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Photo via

I first encountered the world of vegan athleticism after picking up a copy of Thrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health by Brendan Brazier, Canadian vegan ultramarathoner and creator of the award-winning line of whole-food nutritional products known as Vega. After developing an increasing concern for how individual food choices affect the lives of human workers, non-human animals, and the planet, Brendan became determined to create a conscious diet that would also enable top performance in his endeavors as a professional Ironman triathlete. With a focus on nutrient density, alkaline-forming foods, and nutrient-to-resource ratio, Brendan succeeded in developing just the diet that would maximize his athletic performance and minimize his environmental impact: one based on whole plant foods.

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Photo via

Three years after the publication of Thrive Foods, Brendan’s line of Vega products has aided countless nutritionally and athletically minded folks in their health- and performance-related endeavors, receiving numerous accolades along the way. Brendan launched Vega with his plant-powered protein powder – based in pea protein, seeds, brown rice protein, chlorella, and maca – now known as Vega One and available in french vanilla, chocolate, berry, vanilla chai, and natural flavors. Since that first protein powder, Vega has expanded its meticulously formulated line to include meal and snack bars, sacha inchi seeds, chlorella, maca, and an antioxidant oil blend – all completely vegan, nourishing, and selected for peak athletic performance and environmental sustainability.

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Photo via

The Vega team generously provided me with three products from their line: the Vega One Nutritional Shake in French Vanilla flavor, the Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend, and the Maca Chocolate bars (recommended by the Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List!).

Imparting a warm sweetness and full-bodied mouthfeel to my morning smoothies, the Vega One Nutritional Shake contributed to a fantastic pre-workout meal without the chalkiness from which many other protein powders suffer. With 15 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, three servings of leafy green vegetables, and tons of antioxidants, omega-3’s, and probiotics, Vega One can provide a comprehensive answer for the oft-asked question, “Where do vegans get their nutrition?”

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The Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend starred in the latest rendition of my famous Liquid Gold Salad Dressing (which in turn stars in my Everyday Salad!), lending it a vibrant green hue thanks to the blend’s inclusion of hemp seed oil. Also featuring flax seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, coconut seed oil, green tea seed oil, pomegranate seed oil, black cumin seed oil, black raspberry seed oil, blueberry seed oil, and cranberry seed oil, the blend boasts a balanced two-to-one ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, in accordance with widely accepted nutritional recommendations.

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For dessert, I sampled Vega’s 70% dark chocolate bars, infused with the unique malty flavor of maca – a Peruvian root touted for its ability to improve energy, stamina, fertility, and libido. While I cannot definitively say if I experienced an increase in any of these characteristics, I can say that I wholeheartedly enjoyed the silky smooth texture and complex flavor of the bars (slavery-free!).

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While expensive and not-widely-available “superfoods” like maca, chlorella, and sacha inchi seeds do not play necessary roles in a diet for quality athletic performance – indeed, insisting they did would prove quite elitist – at the heart of Brendan and Vega’s work lies a passion for the health and environmental benefits of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds: foods available to many more people (though still not enough). Showcasing this passion, the Vega team offers a bounty of free, nourishing, performance-minded, vegan recipes and meal plans on their website.

In my increasingly privileged position as an established blogger, these foods have become very available to me thanks to vegan companies attuned to the benefits of collaborating with prominent online presences. As such, the availability of products has increased for blog readers, as well, showcased by the constant flurry of giveaways on the blogosphere.

And you, dear readers, have the opportunity to experience Vega’s products: one of you will win a prize pack of surprise goods from the Vega line. Simply click on the links at the top or bottom of this post to enter the giveaway for your chance to win! And of course, don’t forget to connect with Vega on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, September 28, and I will announce the winner on the following day.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with free product samples. All opinions are completely my own.

In solidarity, Ali.

Single-Serving Fruity Hazelnut Muesli

Before getting into today’s recipe, I’d like to direct you, dear readers, to my latest piece on Our Hen House, entitled “How Political Science Helped Me to Understand the Vegan/Animal Rights Movement and Become a Better Activist.” Drawing upon political theories regarding modern social movements, the piece offers a take on the current state of the vegan/animal rights movement and what directions the movement might be wise to take. I’d love it if you checked the piece out and offered your thoughts. Now, on to breakfast!


On most mornings of my spring break extravaganza in Florence, Italy (which you can read all about in these three posts!), I enjoyed a scrumptious bowl of muesli and fresh fruit, accompanied by a side of savory steamed & spiced greens. For those of you unfamiliar with the dish, muesli comprises a popular European breakfast of rolled oats, dried fruit, seeds, and nuts soaked in milk, yogurt, and/or fruit juice, which originated in the Swiss Alps and became popularized by a Swiss physician who prescribed primarily plant-based diets for his patients. Finding myself without a blender to make my usual green smoothies while in Italy, I bopped around the natural foods market near my parents’ apartment in search of another nourishing breakfast. Amongst the shelf of granola, I discovered a bag of muesli from an organic German company known as Rapunzel and, smitten by the hazelnuts in the ingredient list (because hazelnuts are obviously the most perfect nut in all of existence), opted to experiment with this traditionally Swiss breakfast.


The basic preparation of muesli involves soaking the dry ingredients in a flavorful liquid for at least ten minutes and up to overnight, making it an incredibly easy breakfast to assemble in the evening and enjoy on mornings on which you find yourself pressed for time. My favorite version involves a dry mixture replete with toasted hazelnuts, rolled grains, flax, and raisins soaked in unsweetened soy milk and plain soy yogurt, with bite-sized pieces of fresh fruit mixed in after soaking. Hearty, toothsome, sweet, fresh, and flavorful, this muesli provides an oh-so-satisfying and hugely wholesome breakfast. So prepare yourself some muesli, practice your yodeling, and get ready for some Swiss tastiness.


Single-Serving Fruity Hazelnut Muesli—Can be SF, OF, LS, LF.

Serves 1.

1/3 cup rolled oats (or a mixture of rolled grains, such as barley flakes, rye flakes, quinoa flakes, etc.)
1-2 tbsp hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
1 tsp flaxseed meal
1-2 tbsp raisins (or other bite-sized dried fruit)
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 cup non-dairy yogurt (can substitute another 1/2 cup of milk if needed or desired)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen & thawed mixed berries OR 1 medium apple, grated

The night before you’d like to enjoy your muesli, combine the oats through milk in a large cereal bowl. Allow to sit, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, stir in the berries or grated apple. At this point, you can enjoy as is or heat up the muesli in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.


Until next time, Ali.

Creamy Apple (or Pear) Spice Green Smoothie

Every Thursday, Ferry House picks up a half-bushel of local apples and pears from the always-friendly folks at Wilklow Orchards from Vassar’s on-campus farmers market. Our 21 house members easily devour this generous box-full of autumnal fruit within five to six days, employing the crisp, jewel-toned apples and juicy, champagne-fleshed pears as on-the-go snacks or, in my case, in my ubiquitous morning green smoothies.


While frozen berries had played an integral role in my smoothies since the summer, lately I’ve found myself gravitating toward smoothies that incorporate the grounding fruits of the cooling weather, both because they produce a less chilled smoothie than do frozen berries (a quite positive aspect considering that I prefer not to shiver when eating my breakfast), and because they serve as optimal bases for warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Employing Ferry’s apples and pears in my smoothie rotation also greatly reduces the personal money I spend each week on specialty foods such as flax oil and kombucha, since frozen berries tend to cost a pretty penny.


The recipe below yields a gorgeously creamy, attractively hued smoothie with a flavor nicely balanced between sweet and spicy, mostly thanks to the bite of fresh ginger. Served in a glass or as a Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl, this smoothie will assuredly prompt your tastebuds to sing the praises of the fall season. Ooh, a smoothie-themed musical? Hello, Broadway…

Creamy Apple (or Pear) Spice Green Smoothie—Can be Raw, Soy Free, and Nut Free; Oil Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat

Makes one 16-oz smoothie.


1 large banana, frozen and sliced
1 medium-small apple or ripe pear, diced
1-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1 scoop of vegan protein powder (optional; I love Ultimate Meal and Garden of Life)
1 large handful of kale
1 cup non-dairy milk (Edensoy for Ali, forever and always)

Place all ingredients in a blender in the order listed above. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. To make this smoothie into my infamous Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl, serve the smoothie in a bowl topped with 1/2 cup granola and a tablespoon of nut butter.


Recipe submitted to Wellness Weekend and Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Until next time, Ali.

Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl

Confession: I harbor a deep-seated adoration of green smoothies. Granted, I may or may not have inadvertently revealed this infatuation in my recent guest post on Green Thickies, or in my detailed instruction guide on How to Make the Perfect Green Smoothie, or in the 37 various green smoothies highlighted on my What I Ate Wednesday Smoothie Compilation. Regardless of how ostentatiously I promote my love affair with green smoothies, or of how many consecutive mornings I’ve reveled in green smoothie goodness for breakfast (please don’t force me to count), the fact remains that nothing provides me more morningtime contentment than diving spoon-first into a brightly hued, creamy, refreshing green smoothie.

One of my favorite smoothies: my creamy Blueberry-Basil Smoothie. Perfect for turning into a Green Smoothie-Granola Bowl!

One of my favorite smoothies: my creamy Blueberry-Basil Smoothie. Perfect for turning into a Green Smoothie-Granola Bowl!

Providing the ideal vehicle for incorporating more wildly nutrient-dense leafy greens into one’s diet, green smoothies can also fulfill one’s daily fruit quota, as well as offer ample amounts of protein depending upon if one chooses to add vegan protein powder, various nut butters, chia and/or hemp seeds, etc. However, while one can easily cram tons of nutrients and energy into one blended concoction, I find that doing so masks the pure and simple flavors of the fruit integral to smoothies—an especial tragedy if the aforementioned fruit consists of summer’s bounty of peaches, berries, plums, and the like. In order to provide for easy identification and full enjoyment of each fruit incorporated in my daily smoothies, I only add six uncomplicated ingredients into the blender each morning: a banana, 1/2 cup each of two different “feature” fruits, a scoop of protein powder (completely optional), a generous two handfuls of chopped kale, and 1 cup of the best soymilk known to humankind. This basic smoothie template ensures a delightfully thick, creamy smoothie bursting with the pronounced flavor of both feature fruits.

I topped this mauve-hued smoothie of banana, blackberry, and cantaloupe with a delicious maple-spice granola and almond butter.

I topped this mauve-hued smoothie of banana, blackberry, cantaloupe, and kale with a delicious maple-spice granola and almond butter.

While scrumptious and nourishing on its own, this unpretentious smoothie tends not to adequately satiate my hunger or provide enough calories to support my quite active lifestyle. To add nutrient and caloric density, as well as a satisfyingly toothsome contrast to the smoothie’s creaminess, I always top my smoothies with a heaping half-cupful of homemade granola and a spoonful of nut butter. These simple (yet oh so tasty) additions transform a healthy morning snack into a nutrient-packed A.M. meal, a humble green smoothie into the ultimate breakfast: the Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl.

As I previously alluded, the proper Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl requires three components:
1.) The green smoothie.
2.) The granola.
3.) The nut butter.

These three components allow for infinite variations depending upon taste preferences, caloric needs, and seasonal fruit availability. Lately, I’ve blended cantaloupe, blackberries, peaches, and plums into my smoothies; I’ve made numerous adaptations of this fabulous recipe for my granola (using maple syrup instead of honey, of course); and I’ve rotated between peanut and almond butter for my morning nut butter spoonful. I’ve also hugely enjoyed adding handfuls of herbs into my smoothies—fresh thyme, basil, and cilantro all nicely brighten any smoothie. Obviously, your Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl will most likely vary immensely from mine—this only showcases the customizable beauty of such a breakfast!

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If you’ve ever experimented with green smoothies for breakfast but found that they didn’t sufficiently quell your hunger, I’d highly recommend offering green smoothies a second chance in the form of a Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl. Your tastebuds and tummy will thank you.

Submitted to Healthy Vegan Friday and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Vote for my Apricot-Lavender Granola in the #YUinPRINT Recipe Contest!

I’m absolutely thrilled, honored, humbled, and speechless that my Apricot-Lavender Granola is a finalist in Yum Universe’s #YUinPRINT recipe contest! Heather Crosby, the lovely and talented blogger behind YU, is currently writing a cookbook and wants to include her readers in her exciting endeavor. The lucky reader who submits the winning recipe will have her or his recipe published in the book alongside Heather’s genius recipes—and this lucky reader could just be yours truly!

Now I need your help, dear readers, in helping me fulfill this incredible opportunity. All you have to do is visit this link, leave a comment (you can vote once a day until the voting ends on August 13), and contribute to making me the happiest little blogger in the world.

Again, please visit this link to vote for my Apricot-Lavender Granola in the #YUinPrint recipe contest!

Oodles of thanks to you all!

Until next time, Ali.

If I Were to Open My Own Vegan Restaurant…

At not more than seven years of age, I typed up a rainbow-hued list of menu items (including “French toast sticks” and “peanut butter sandwich”), stuck it inside a three-ring binder, and scrawled “Seiter’s Place” in Sharpie across the front. At age thirteen, the pique of my Food Network fandom, I received (facetious, I’m sure) confirmation from my mother that I could attend culinary school as long as I earned my undergraduate degree first. After going vegan in my sophomore year of high school, I jokingly entertained requests from friends that I serve as their personal chef and health coach. In other words, I’ve long viewed the culinary arts as a legitimate and desirable career option to pursue.

Fully intending to devote the remainder of my professional and personal life toward bettering the lives of animals, promoting veganism, and fostering a more equitable worldwide society, I envision before me a sea of career paths: nonprofit management; grassroots activism; magazine, book, and blog authorship; restaurant work; the list continues. I’m steadfastly certain, however, that my primary livelihood will include two aspects: writing and cooking.

Thus, at some point in my life (perhaps after writing my first book on the links between plant-based diets and egalitarian societies, or after launching a nonprofit devoted to dismantling corporate seed-patenting and winning back the rights of farmers in the non-Western world to grow their own food…or whatever), I would wholeheartedly love to open a vegan café/community bookstore that hosts social justice-related speakers, book and discussion groups, yoga workshops, and various other educational outreach events—kind of a Busboys-and-Poets-esque type thing. Engaging in such a project would allow me to combine my passions of social justice activism, the written word, and culinary creativity in a meaningful manner, with the potential to reach, educate, and inspire a generous amount of individuals.

I’ll iron out all of the details later, but for now, I’d like to provide you with a working menu for the seasonally inspired Farmers’ Market Vegan Café.

Breakfast and Brunch (available all day)

Trio of Granolas with Accompanying Milks
Apricot-lavender granola with lavender-vanilla almond milk, berry-lemongrass granola with coconut-cashew milk, sweet corn-thyme granola with maple soymilk
*Raw trio available upon request

Waffle-nanza Platter
Gluten-free sweet potato waffles, maple tempeh bacon, and coconut-braised kale

Fruity Waffle o’ the Day
Changes depending upon fruit seasonality, always served with coconut mascarpone and infused maple syrup

Raw Spirulina-Banana Crepes
Filled with cashew whipped cream and fresh fruit coulis

Seasonal Vegetable Tofu Scramble
Seasonal veggies and greens scrambled with tofu in a curried peanut sauce.

Seasonal Smoothies
Changes depending upon fruit seasonality, favorites include blueberry-basil and peach-raspberry-ginger
*Add a topping of your choice of granolas for an extra charge
*Add kale to any smoothie at no extra charge

Fresh Bakery Selection
Includes muffins, sweet breads, fruity crumble bars, and granola bars
*Raw options available; all baked goods are free of refined sugar and flour, and are sweetened with either dates or local maple syrup


House-Made Bread Basket
Served with a selection of seasonal hummus and pesto

Cheese & Cracker Plate
A selection of house-made nut cheeses served with seasonal crackers
*Raw crackers available upon request

Herbed Garden Gazpacho
Topped with roasted chickpea “croutons”
Add a side of house-made bread for an extra charge

Toasty Kale & Coconut Summer Rolls
With lemongrass tofu and sweet almond or peanut dipping sauce

Raw Nori Rolls
With seasonal veggies, sprouts, coconut meat, and sweet almond or cashew dipping sauce


*Add seared tofu or tempeh to any salad for an extra charge

Big ol’ Farmers’ Market Salad
Mixed greens, alfalfa sprouts, seasonal veggies, chickpeas, and quinoa or brown rice, all tossed in house-made Liquid Gold Dressing

Tangy Kale Salad
Kale, seasonal veggies, raisins, and sunflower seeds tossed in maple-mustard dressing

Spinach & Wild Rice Salad
With almonds and tarragon-mustard dressing

Purple Potato and Haricot Vert Salad
With red onions and miso-mustard dressing

Fall Medley Salad
Brown rice with pomegranate-infused roasted butternut squash and cauliflower, toasted hazelnuts, and baby arugula


All non-raw sandwiches served on house-baked bread (gluten-free available) with your choice of side salad, baked sweet potato fries, or house-made root veggie chips (raw or baked)

Roasted Brussels Sprout Grilled Cheese

Caprese Sandwich
House-made vegan mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and basil

“Chickpea of the Sea” Sandwich or Lettuce Wrap
A delectable mash of chickpeas, avocado, and dulse flakes

Raw Garden Vegetable Sandwich
Scallion cashew cream cheese, marinated mushrooms, and butter lettuce, served with house-made raw root veggie chips


Fig & Hazelnut Pizza
With caramelized onions and basil sauce on a raw buckwheat crust

Socca o’ the Day
Seasonally rotating French-style chickpea pancake

Bowl o’ the Day
Seasonal veggies, steamed or sautéed leafy green, whole grain, baked tempeh or tofu, and dressing

Miso-Maple Roasted Eggplant & Kale Tacos
With lentils, gingered cashew cream, and mango salsa


On-Tap House-Brewed Kombucha
Seasonal flavors

Green Juice o’ the Day
Seasonal flavors

Hot Tea
Selection of organic & fair-trade brews

Herb-Infused Iced Tea
Seasonal flavors


Raw Cheesecake o’ the Day
Changes depending upon fruit seasonality

Chocolatey Pudding
Carob, avocado, and banana pureed into a smooth pudding

Trio of Seasonal Ice Creams
*Raw selection available

Raw Cookie Dough “Blizzard”
Banana “soft-serve” with raw cookie dough bites and seasonal fruit swirl

Until next time, Ali.

DC Restaurant Exploration: Le Pain Quotidien

Though I haven’t featured a restaurant review on the ol’ blog for nearly a month, rest assured, dear readers, that I’ve engaged in some serious DC restaurant-perusing since recounting to you my enjoyable experience at Busboys and Poets. If you recall my list of veg-friendly DC eateries, perhaps the featured restaurant of this post, Le Pain Quotidien, won’t surprise you. Though not a part of my aforementioned list before I arrived in DC, Le Pain Quotidien became a desirable meal destination after I discovered its adorably rustic storefront while first exploring the neighborhood I’ve called home for nearly six weeks now.

Image courtesy of

As a young Belgian chef who had worked at a number of highly esteemed restaurants, Alain Coumont fruitlessly sought the perfect bread to feature at his own establishment. Dissatisfied with the quality of bread available in Belgium, Alain decided to open a bakery rather than a restaurant as he had originally intended. The city of Brussels soon became ardent fans of Alain’s sourdough-style levain bread, inspiring the young chef to expand his bakery menu to include pastries, tartines, and simple salads. Today, Alain’s bakery-café has exploded with success, boasting over 185 locations in 17 countries, yet maintains its original integrity by offering simple, high-quality, organic, and wholesome food, as well as by supporting local charities in NYC and LA. Unfortunately, they also proudly sponsor an annual sheep-shearing festival in upstate NY, which I’m sure the sheep involved in the event would not appreciate. Perhaps if I had adequately researched the destinations of LPQ’s finances (as well as their ridiculously high prices, which I’ll cover later) before patronizing one of the DC locations, I would have chosen to enjoy dinner elsewhere.

Oblivious to these two downsides to LPQ, Katie, my fellow intern at Compassion Over Killing, and I ventured to the European-style eatery after a long, rewarding day of leafleting. After seating ourselves at a pleasantly unpolished wooden table and gushing over the fresh simplicity of the menu, impressively vegan-friendly for a European chain restaurant, Katie and I paged through Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook that lay upon one of the long communal tables on which LPQ prides itself.

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Our waitress delivered our dinner selections in a quite timely manner, which I will eternally appreciate considering the alarming volume of my stomach rumblings on this particular evening. Katie and I both began our meals with a salad of impeccably fresh mesclun, surprisingly flavorful tomatoes, crisp cucumber and radish slices, and a small wedge of juicy cantaloupe in an intensely herby vinaigrette.     le pain quotidienSoon after scarfing down our salads, Katie and I each received another colorful plate featuring our respective entrees. Katie opted for the six-vegetable vegan quiche—an almost mosaic-like layering of various vibrant veggies in a gluten-free buckwheat crust and topped with a grilled artichoke heart. While the savory tart packed a delightful punch of flavor, I can’t imagine that the miniscule slice on Katie’s plate adequately filled her hungry tummy. For $12.75, Katie should have received easily triple the amount of quiche than she actually did.

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For my entrée, I chose to partake in one of LPQ’s seasonal specials—a springtime platter of sweet pea hummus, beet tartare, peppery arugula dressed lightly with olive oil, fluffy quinoa, thinly shaved ribbons of carrot and zucchini, and French lentils, all served alongside two slices of LPQ’s famed levain bread. Every component of the dish tasted wonderfully fresh and burst with flavorful simplicity, while the moist sourdough bread provided the perfect vehicle on which to enjoy the spreads featured on the plate. I again, however, must complain about the amount of food I received in relation to the amount I paid for it. Relatively scant portions of each of the dish’s components cost me $13, whereas the infinitely more filling Tempeh Panini and side salad that I enjoyed at Busboys and Poets set me back only $9.

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Though already frustrated at LPQ’s arguably unfair prices, I awarded priority to my still unresolved hunger over my miserliness and ordered two desserts to split with Katie. Surprisingly, LPQ offers a couple of dairy-and-egg-free pastries alongside their more traditional European baked goods, including an apple cannelé, a hazelnut flute, and a cupcake-sized carrot cake. Katie and I opted to sample the carrot cake—a dense yet moist cylinder of not-overly-saccharine cake flecked with brightly orange shreds of carrots and plump raisins, lightly frosted and sprinkled with sunflower seeds.

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Only a scoop of ice cream could have improved the carrot cake, though the creaminess of our second dessert certainly provided adequate contrast to the dense cake. Though listed with the other breakfast items, the “crunola” parfait provided a quite delightful conclusion to our meal. A sweetly tart mash of magenta-hued raspberries layered atop a raw granola of buckwheat, almonds, and raisins begged for Katie and I to mix it into the thick blend of bananas and coconut milk swimming at the bottom of the parfait glass. I quite enjoyed that LPQ didn’t fully puree the bananas and coconut milk together, maintaining a couple lovely chunks of banana in the dessert.

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All in all, I happily savored LPQ’s fresh, light, and simple fare, but don’t plan on returning to the eatery in the near future due to its stingy portion sizes and astronomically high prices; indeed, I spent nearly $30 on a meal that just barely filled my growling belly. Lesson learned: don’t trust the Europeans (JUST KIDDING!).

Next up on my DC restaurant exploration list: Founding Farmers.

Until next time, Ali.

Guest Post on Green Thickies: How to Green Smoothie On-the-Go

Another day, another guest post. Though I only recently had the honor of featuring my banana soft-serve know-how on Becky’s “Not Your Ordinary Recipes” blog, Katherine of Green Thickies has shared my undying—even while traveling—devotion to green smoothies on her lovely site. My guest post for Green Thickies provides tips for enjoying green smoothies while on-the-go, ensuring you optimally healthy breakfasts even while out of the comforts of your own kitchen, as well as a winning, superfood-packed recipe for an Apricot-Goji Smoothie with Maca. Head on over to Green Thickies to check out the post and recipe!

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I’d also like to mention that the lovely Kylie and Laura of TeenVGN have featured my Pomegranate-Infused Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Cauliflower, Hazelnuts, and Arugula as their June Recipe of the Month! You can see the recipe on the TeenVGN site here.

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Until next time, Ali.


Rhubarb-Cardamom Coffee Cake Muffins with Gooey Caramel Topping

With the end of the spring season comes the final stalks of ruby-hued rhubarb—a vegetable I absolutely adore for its distinct tartness, its ability to marry well with a host of other ingredients, and its status as a truly seasonal food (you’d have a quite difficult time attempting to track down a bundle of the red beauties during the summer, fall, and winter months, even in supermarkets that import produce from all over the place). Rhubarb originated around 2700 BCE, when medicinally minded Chinese fold prized the plant for its purgative qualities. Marco Polo earns the glory of having popularized rhubarb in Europe in the 17th century, while an anonymous gardener in Maine first planted the veggie in America about a century later. While the stalks of rhubarb boast generous amounts of vitamin C and calcium, the leaves contain a high concentration of oxalates, which can cause a quite unfortunate bodily reaction analogous to heavy metal poisoning. The moral of the story? Don’t toss rhubarb leaves into your morning green smoothie.

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Far from blending up rhubarb with a frozen banana and soy milk for breakfast, I instead opted to craft what turned out as my most successful baked good recipe to date. The notion of baking up a deliciously moist coffee cake has festered in my psyche for quite some time now, and I finally decided to transform the poor entrapped idea into a delectable reality, rendered even more mouthwatering by the addition of a caramelized rhubarb compote and a bubbly, golden, maca-infused topping. For this recipe, I drew inspiration from both Laura’s Vanilla Stewed Rhubarb and The Urban Vegan’s Rhubarb-Maca Coffee Cake. Implementing a variation on Laura’s recipe as an integral layer in a de-glutenized, de-sugarified, and de-palm-oiled (all Earth Balance butters contain the wholly unethical ingredient) version of The Urban Vegan’s original cake. The fusion of these two recipes resulted in an impeccably moist cake base topped with a mahogany-hued, sweetly tart mess of rhubarb mingling with a sticky, truly caramel-like mixture—a nourishing yet decadent-tasting muffin perfect to swoon over at any time of day (I’ve already had one as part of my breakfast, lunch, and dinner today). Basically, if you haven’t already picked up on the take-away message of this banter, I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to venture into the nearest kitchen (I don’t even care if it’s your own) and whip up a batch of these muffins immediately. Hey, who knew rhubarb could inspire such gastronomic enlightenment?

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Rhubarb-Cardamom Coffee Cake Muffins with Gooey Caramel Topping—Can be Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat

Makes 8 muffins.

Ingredients for the Rhubarb Compote:

4 stalks of rhubarb, diced
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup coconut nectar or maple syrup
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients for the Cake:

1/3 cup GF oat flour (make your own by pulsing GF oats in a spice grinder)
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup arrowroot powder
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp maca powder
6 tbsp date paste (about 5 medjool dates pureed with 1/2 cup water)
1 tbsp coconut nectar or maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup plant-based milk

Ingredients for the Gooey Caramel Topping:

2 tbsp GF oat flour
1 tbsp GF oats
2 tbsp coconut nectar or maple syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tbsp maca powder
1/4 tsp cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil eight tins of a muffin pan.

In a small saucepan, combine all of the rhubarb compote ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 7-10 minutes, or until the rhubarb has broken down and almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and set aside.

For the cake, in a medium-sized bowl combine the oat flour through maca powder. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the date paste through milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well-combined. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the gooey caramel topping. Set aside.

Fill each of the muffin tins about halfway with the cake batter. Spoon a dollop of the rhubarb compote on top, then finish off the muffins with a sprinkling of the gooey caramel topping. Bake the muffins for 20 minutes and allow to cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes before stuffing into your face all at once enjoying.

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Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Ayurvedic-Spiced Pumpkin Granola

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So let’s discuss the fact that I haven’t written a new post in a week—as in seven days without offering you, dear readers, a new recipe, restaurant review, COK internship update, or philosophical musing on the ethics of eating animals. Let’s discuss the fact that between my daily 9:00-4:00 stint as a tireless non-profit worker and my almost nightly moonlighting as a yogi, my role as a blogger has unfortunately experienced a bit of neglect. Let’s discuss the fact that, far from complaining about this busyness, I’m perpetually reveling in my fortune of spending the summer spreading the message of universal compassion, practicing yoga at an activist-driven studio, sampling the best vegan cuisine DC has to offer, and experimenting with farmers’ market produce in the kitchen…but not really so much blogging.

This will change.

Employing my magical blogging powers (or a humble process known as “Writing Your Posts in Advance Over the Weekend When You Actually Have Spare Time”), I fully intend to restore Farmers Market Vegan back to its’ usual thrice-weekly posting status during my DC summer. The upcoming posts that you can expect to grace your computer screen include a review of the community gathering place/bookstore/art gallery/poetry slam venue/super vegan-friendly restaurant Busboys and Poets, a glimpse into DC’s farmers’ market scene, a recounting of the revelation I experienced from reading “Vegan for Life,” and my newly formed meaning of “Farmers Market Vegan.”

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Today, however, I’d like to introduce you to the third batch of granola I’ve concocted whilst in DC—one whose complexity and uniqueness earns a well-deserved spot alongside my other unorthodox cereal recipes, such as my Berry Lemongrass Granola with Coconut and Cashews, Chocolate Kale Granola, and Sweet Corn Thyme Granola. Discovering an absence of crunchy clustery smoothie toppings from my refrigerator this morning, I hopped on over to the pantry to find a can of pumpkin puree and a bag of dried apricots, for both of which I yet had no future plans. Recalling my beloved “Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen” cookbook that I sadly left in storage over the summer, I decided to combine these two ingredients with an amalgamation of warming spices to create a grounding granola that would balance out the hectic feelings of the past week.

According to ayurveda, since I harbor a pitta dosha (aka body type), I can easily become controlling, judgmental, impatient, and argumentative if overstimulated, as I have been since commencing my whirlwind of a summer in DC. In order to rekindle balance within my emotional and physical self, I should consume sweet, bitter, and astringent foods, all of which I implemented in this golden granola. For example, apricots, pumpkin, oats, buckwheat, cardamom, cinnamon, and walnuts all fall under the sweet category; walnuts and turmeric offer astringency; and cinnamon and turmeric provide bitterness. In addition, ayurveda highly recommends that to maintain balance, pitta types should regularly consume all of the spices that I’ve included in this granola. Basically, if I don’t feel the frenziedness fleeing from my body after eating a spoonful of this granola, I’ll immediately lose hope of all notions of ayurvedic healing…except how could I when they inspired such a nourishing, comforting, and vibrantly hued breakfast treat? A cluster of this granola reminds me of an Indian-spiced pumpkin pie. Man, Ayurveda is scrumptious.

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Ayruvedic-Spiced Pumpkin GranolaSoy Free, Oil Free, Low Sodium.

Makes about 6 cups.


10 dried apricots, chopped
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or homemade, can also used sweet potato or squash puree)
1 tbsp almond butter
Juice of 1/2 an orange
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds
1/8 tsp turmeric
4-6 tbsp water or plant-based milk
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup raw buckwheat groats
2/3 cup flaxseed meal
1/3 cup hemp seeds
1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped
1/2 cup raw walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 315°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the chopped dried apricots in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with water and microwave for 1 minute. Let sit for at least 5 minutes until soft.

In a food processor or blender, combine the soaked apricots, pumpkin puree, almond butter, orange juice, and spices. Process until well-combined, adding the water or milk as needed to achieve a smooth consistency.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, buckwheat, flaxseed meal, hemp seeds, almonds, and walnuts. Pour the pumpkin mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until well-coated.

Divide the mixture in half and spread each half out over your prepared baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes, stir the granola and rotate the pans in the oven, and bake for another 15 minutes until golden-brown and crunchy.

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Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays, Wellness Weekend, and Allergy-Free Wednesdays.

Until next time, Ali.