Vega Review & GIVEAWAY!

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

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).

Photo via BrendanBrazier.com.

Photo via BrendanBrazier.com.

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.

Photo via MyVega.com.

Photo via MyVega.com.

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.

Photo via MyVega.com.

Photo via MyVega.com.

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.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

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.

Liquid Gold Dressing 2.0 | Reflections on Two Decades

Thanks to all who entered my latest giveaway for two pints of ice cream and an ice cream sandwich from the socially responsible, vegan company Three Little Birds! Congrats to the winner: Katherine Earnshaw.

Unfortunately, due to the class readings calling my name and the Vegucated screening I’m hosting on campus tonight with the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) (complete with a vegan ice cream sundae bar), I’ll need to keep this post a bit abbreviated. However, as yesterday marked the beginning of my twentieth year on this earth, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly reflect upon where I’ve found myself after two decades of living and learning, particularly over the past year.

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Since September 14, 2013, I’ve successfully completed my second year as a Geography major at Vassar College. I’ve led VARC through a year of campus animal rights activism, helping to grow our humble organization such that we now enjoy a team of seven executive board members. I’ve increased my blog readership substantially and developed a concrete idea of what exactly I want to accomplish with my small space of the interwebs. I’ve returned to a place near to my heart – Florence, Italy – for the first time in three years. I’ve interned with the multimedia hub of animal activism known as Our Hen House (and now officially work for them as their Media Coordinator), falling head over heels in love with Brooklyn in the process. I’ve fostered a number of fulfilling relationships with some truly wondrous individuals who have taught me important lessons about the world, being a decent human being, and myself.

Most notably, in my opinion, I’ve gained some clarity as to where I want to focus my activist energies. After becoming increasingly disillusioned with the animal rights movement thanks to fellow activists and a growing consciousness regarding the multiplicity of human oppressions in our world that much of AR perpetuates, I took the summer to immerse myself in progressive media and literature on movement organizing, critical race theory, feminism, and social critique in general. I sought to develop a fuller understanding of what I feel called to offer to the world at this point in my life, and think that I’m now well on the path toward that understanding.

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Staunchly committed to animal liberation, I want to continue my activism in that struggle (always grappling with the social privilege that allows me to do this work rather than having to fight for respect and well-being based upon my very identity). But just as I see the urgency in shifting societal paradigms in regards to our conceptions and consequent treatment of non-human animals, I see another urgency in ensuring that the AR movement does not uphold forms of human oppression in the process. Collective liberation involves all marginalized groups – whether human or non – and forgetting about or co-opting one of these groups in the name of furthering any particular struggle maintains the very social ills we strive to combat. Working as a critical voice within AR feels right, accessible, and valuable to me right now, and I what I’m calling my “Big Ol’ Project” has begun to formulate in my activist psyche. It’s this project (sorry I can’t say more on it yet!) that I hope will serve as a driving force through to next September 14 and beyond.

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Speaking of driving life forces, I’ve taken one recipe with me throughout high school and into college, from Madison to Poughkeepsie to Washington D.C. to Brooklyn, treasuring it on a near daily basis through all of life’s travails. I published the original iteration of the Liquid Gold Dressing I adapted from Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina’s Becoming Vegan over three years ago now, and have tweaked it to suit my needs and taste preferences many a time since. The recipe below constitutes the version of LGD I’ve been loving most recently, and its improvement in depth of flavor hasn’t at all subtracted from the substantial nourishment it has dependably provided over the years (can you say over the recommended daily supply of omega-3 fatty acids and 40 percent of the RDA of Vitamin B12 in just two tablespoons of the stuff?). Here’s to another year of this life-defining salad dressing.

Liquid Gold Dressing 2.0

Makes 2 cups.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flax oil
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 cup water
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
6 tbsp tamari
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric

Combine all ingredients in a large jar. Shake well before using.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Saffron Cantaloupe Butter | The Importance of Calling Each Other Out

***I want to make it perfectly clear to my readers that individuals’ names previously listed in this post were included in error. I was writing from limited information, and inadvertently confused individual names in this post. I apologize for any confusion or harm that this has caused. In the future, before posting about sensitive issues, I will make sure to fact-check more thoroughly. If readers ever catch an error in my writing–whether mundane or otherwise–I would hugely appreciate it if you brought those errors to my attention, as I operate without a team of fact-checkers behind me. If you have any questions or concerns about this incident, please feel free to contact me using my blog’s Contact page.


Before launching into today’s post and recipe, I’d like to congratulate Renee McEneany, the winner of my giveaway for a copy of the Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats cookbook!

In late August, I had the pleasure of attending the New York City premiere of the hugely important new documentary Cowspiracy, which investigates why the vast majority of major environmental organizations fail to acknowledge animal agriculture despite the plethora of information that suggests that the industry constitutes the top contributor to global climate change. Active members of NYC’s vegan scene comprised most of the audience, and all seemed to share an air of understanding and camaraderie that occurs when like-minded folk congregate. The audience laughed, groaned, and cried at largely the same moments throughout the film, united under the cause of animal activism.

One interview in the film features a woman from the Animal Agriculture Alliance – a common enemy, if you will, for the audience. First focusing on her face, the camera then pans out for a wide shot…at which point the entire theater began to titter. “Of course she’s fat! She sits around eating animal products all day! Tee hee! Fat people are morally inferior!” I suddenly experienced a very strong urge to flee from my seat and far away from that AMC.

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 Fat-shaming abounds throughout the animal rights movement, evinced in cartoons and advertisements that focus on vegan diets as tools of weight loss, thus equating thinness with health. Though I could devote an entire post any beyond to this topic, I want to instead use it as a jumping-off point for exploring another issue: calling each other out(For thoughtful, critical discussions of fat-shaming within the animal rights movement, check out The Thinking Vegan and Choosing Raw).

Speaking out against the multiple forms of human oppression that exist within the animal rights movement – such as ableism in the form of fat-shaming – won’t make anyone comfortable, and certainly won’t win anyone friends among the higher-ups of mainstream animal advocacy organizations. But I would sincerely like to see a greater willingness among animal rights activists to critique problematic behavior within our own movement. Developing such a willingness first involves educating oneself about intra-movement oppressions like racism, sexism, ableism, and classism, reminding oneself not to become defensive while doing so. From there, that willingness to engage in constructive critique requires an understanding that building social consciousness is an uncomfortable process, since it demands a questioning of default behaviors and beliefs, and that even if speaking out means adversary feelings now, it has the powerful potential to translate into a more equitable movement in the future.

Since we as ethical vegans have already undergone the process of questioning default behaviors and beliefs by living a vegan lifestyle to the extent possible in our very non-vegan world, it seems to me that we find ourselves in a more experienced position than most to apply that same level of self-reflexivity to our positions of privilege as a largely white, economically well-off, fit-focused movement with men in most leadership positions.

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Though I see this intra-movement critique happening in regards to our tactics of animal activism – such as the infamous liberation vs. welfare debate or the recent backlash against HSUS’ sponsorship of a meat-eating festival – I see much less critical engagement with the marginalization of women, people of color, and differently abled folks involved in the vegan movement. For example, few individuals or groups speak out against the sexual abuse perpetrated by males in movement positions of power, even though such abuse unfortunately proves a common occurrence (please see the redaction at the top of this post). *** Similarly, only a handful of folks voice the problems of asserting that “being vegan is so easy!” and “you can get vegan food anywhere nowadays!,” pointing out the lack of understanding of racialized food access that these statements suggest.

Individuals and organizations like pattrice jones at VINE Sanctuary, A. Breeze Harper at The Sistah Vegan Project, lauren Ornelas at the Food Empowerment Project, Corey Lee Wrenn and Cheryl Abbate at Vegan Feminist Network, and more that you can find on my Resource page have done fantastic work in critically engaging the animal rights movement in dialogue about the oppressions our movement currently perpetuates. I want to see more of this. We need to see more of this, otherwise our goal of animal liberation will fail miserably as we continue to demean the marginalized groups that comprise integral aspects of our struggle, and as non-vegans continue to correctly view the mainstream animal rights movement as racist, sexist, classist, and ableist.

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So let’s talk, write, and engage more with each other about the fat-shaming that happens in AR, the sexual abuse that happens in AR, the white supremacy that happens in AR. Because we can’t combat those problems without recognizing them.

There also comes a point when one must recognize that a cantaloupe is too ripe to eat fresh. One can either deny the cantaloupe’s over-ripeness and suffer through forkfuls of mealy melon, or critically engage with that cantaloupe to turn it into something beautiful. The recipe you’ll find below is that something beautiful. Because saffron is cost-prohibitive for many of us (I only had some on-hand from a gift I received), you can most certainly substitute cardamom or even cinnamon for the saffron. Your tastebuds won’t know the difference, though the hue of your final butter won’t prove as vibrant (OH NO!!!).

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Saffron Cantaloupe Butter

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups cubed very ripe cantaloupe

1/3 cup brown rice syrup

Juice of 1 orange

1/2 tsp saffron (or cardamom)

Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium-large, non-reactive saucepan. Let the mixture macerate for 1-2 hours, allowing the juices to release.

After the cantaloupe has macerated, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and boil for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, keeping an eye on the mixture to ensure that it doesn’t boil over.

Blend the mixture until smooth either with an immersion blender or by carefully transferring to a standing blender. Return the puree to the saucepan, set it over medium heat, and allow to simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until it becomes very thick.

The butter will keep well in an airtight container in a refrigerator, or you could multiply the size of this recipe and use proper canning procedures for long-term storage.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {7-25-14}

Before I dive into today’s post, I’d like to say a huge congratulations to the winner of my Salad Samurai cookbook giveaway: Lydia Greenfield! Thanks to all who entered, and be sure to look out for my next giveaway of the summer.

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

For this eighth edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (#NewsandChews), revel in hearty and brightly flavored rice paper rolls, oh-so-chewy cashew cookies, the epitome of a summery dinner, stories on climate change and the sure demise of capitalism, accurate coverage (unique among the skewed U.S. mainstream media) of the current situation in Gaza, and an intersectional analysis of the infamous Bill and Lou saga.

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory
Photo via Minimalist Baker.

Photo via Minimalist Baker.

 I tend to believe that a dish as simple and difficult to ruin as rice paper rolls don’t merit a recipe, but this one from Minimalist Baker proves unique and mouthwatering enough to make me eat my words (and hopefully one of those rolls…). Though the crispy tofu in particular drew me to the recipe, I can hardly argue with a tangy almond butter dipping sauce or a generous helping of fresh mint and cilantro to offset the recipe’s richness. Recreating this recipe (which I intend to do next week) also provides me with another use for my favorite brown rice paper wrappers.
Sweet
Chewy Cashew Cookies
via Lunchbox Bunch
Photo via Kathy Patalsky.

Photo via Kathy Patalsky.

I’m a gigantic fan of baking with nut flours, due to the rich mouthfeel and tender texture that they impart in scones, muffins, and cookies alike. Not only do these cookies from Kathy Patalsky feature the sweet, ivory-hued flour ground from cashews, they also employ my all-time favorite sweetener: maple syrup. Though making the entire recipe calls for a substantial amount of pretty expensive ingredients, halving the recipe renders the certain joy of these cookies much more accessible.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Zucchini Noodles & Kale in Tomato-Basil Sauce with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Portobello-Walnut Balls
adapted from This Rawsome Vegan Life

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This fabulously summery recipe inspired by Emily at Rawsome Vegan Life provides a fresh, complexly flavored, and texturally contrasted take on spaghetti and meat(less) balls that knocked the tiny socks off of my tastebuds. I tweaked Emily’s original recipe a bit by baking the portobello-walnut balls and roasted the tomatoes instead of dehydrating, and adding shredded kale to the zucchini noodles for a kick of green leafies. Even so, Emily’s flavor-combining genius shone through. With succulent and juicy cherry tomatoes, toothsome zucchini noodles coated in a creamy sauce, and meltingly tender portobello balls with a hint of sweetness from the dates, this dish offered me an ideal mid-summer meal.

Must-Read News Article

I’d like to feature four articles this week, grouped into two categories:

The first set of stories centers on climate change, with one from The Nation offering advice from a longtime climate activist on advocacy strategies that I see as helpful to activists of all stripes, and the second from Mother Jones revealing that the most frequent instances of climate denial occur in anglophone countries with strong neoliberal regimes.

Photo via Al Jazeera.

Photo via Al Jazeera.

Speaking of everyone’s favorite topic of neoliberal capitalism, the second set of stories offer hopeful views on the future of our economic system. The first story from Al Jazeera suggests that Millennials view capitalism with a heavy does of skepticism, while the second story from Truthout features an interview with sociologist William I. Robinson on the crisis of capitalism. Combined, the two stories provide me with optimism that our up-and-coming generation are poised to finish off the dying remains of capitalism and foster a new, more equitable and just economic system.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Today’s podcast/video recommendation comes as a two-parter, focusing on the increasingly dire state of Gaza thanks to an appalling abuse of power from Israel and its allies (most notably the U.S.). Though Israel proponents continue to insist that the country has a right to defend itself from Hamas’ unsophisticated rockets, they refuse to acknowledge the history of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the enormous disparity in economic, military, and political power that has resulted.

Photo via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

I’d first like to point you toward an episode of the Radio Dispatch podcast, in which John and Molly call out the U.S. media’s “spectacular failure” in covering Israel’s attacks on Gaza (I mean, NBC misled viewers to believe that the scenes of Gazan destruction they showed took place in Israel, for goodness’ sake).

Thankfully, progressive news outlets like Democracy Now! have provided far more truthful (read: unsullied by a desire to conform to the U.S. government’s status quo) coverage of the current situation in Gaza. Indeed, Democracy Now! has devoted most of its air time over the past week to highlighting the voices of those on the ground in Gaza and those for justice in Palestine, including correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, the executive director of a Gaza hospital shelled by Israel, an NBC veteran reporter pulled from Gaza after accurately reporting on the situation, members of Jewish Voices for Peace arrested for protesting an organization that raises money for the Israel Defense Forces, and MSNBC’s sole Palestinian voice Rula Jebreal who faces persecution for publicly criticizing her own network’s coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. These clips from Democracy Now! clearly demonstrate the horrifyingly skewed coverage by U.S. mainstream media of the current Gaza situation.

Book Recommendation

The Oxen at the Intersection: A Collison
by pattrice jones

Photo via Lantern Books.

Photo via Lantern Books.

I’ve long supported the work of pattrice jones, the fierce intersectional activist and co-founder of VINE Sanctuary, and cannot recommend more highly her most recent book. Part retelling of the Bill and Lou saga; part analysis of its historical, sexist, racist, and ableist components; and part suggestions of what animal advocates can learn from the controversy, pattrice with characteristic fearlessness provides a work of huge value to anyone involved or interested in intersectional activism. A short and accessible read, this book took me all of two days to finish, and I found myself enthralled in every moment. An absolutely fascinating read.

In solidarity, Ali.

Salad Samurai Cookbook Review & GIVEAWAY!

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

Welcome to yet another summer giveaway here on Farmers Market Vegan! This one particularly thrills me because it involves a category of items of which, despite my striving to avoid conforming to a harmfully consumerist society, I can’t seem to keep my eager hands off: cookbooks. But seriously, folks, I read these things like novels, and I’m not going to embarrass myself by admitting how many reside on my bookshelf.

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Excitingly, one of the latest additions to my shameful collection is Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don’t Have to Be Vegan to Love (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2014) by Terry Hope Romero. That’s right – this vegan cookbook author extraordinaire has graced the culinary world with yet another masterpiece, which joins the ranks of Terry’s other celebrated works like VeganomiconVegan Eats WorldVegan Latina, and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Photo via Terry's Facebook.

Photo via Terry’s Facebook.

I don’t exaggerate in the slightest when calling Salad Samurai a masterpiece. With a super sleek design and strikingly lit photos by acclaimed vegan photographer Vanessa K. Rees, this book begs readers to recreate the salads that all but explode out of their photos. Another design aspect that I wholeheartedly appreciate involves the notes that accompany almost every recipe – deemed “The Spin” and “Samurai Stylings” – through which Terry “talks” to readers about preparing or shopping for uncommon ingredients, serving tips, recipe variations, and more.

While Salad Samurai expectedly features a wide variety of flavor-packed, meal-sized salads – expertly organized by season – the book also includes recipe sections for unique dressings; salad “toppers” like spiced nuts, croutons, tofu, tempeh, and seitan; and breakfast “salads” like smoothies, granola, and overnight oats. With this multiplicity of options for salad mixing-and-matching, Terry effectively debunks the myth that salads constitute “rabbit food,” doomed to sad dieting regimens and restricted eating habits. In addition to this impressive recipe array, Salad Samurai also includes a helpful guide to pressing tofu and tips for make-ahead meals for those of us who find ourselves in a rush around mealtime.

Since none of the three recipes I’m sharing with you today call for Terry’s special brand of chia seed dressings, I’d like to make a special note of this genius salad dressing method. While I’m a staunch advocate of oil-full diets (as is The Vegan RD!), Terry introduces the practice of upping the nutrient density of salad dressings without sacrificing that lip-smackingly thick texture that oil lends by substituting chia seeds for a portion of the oil. Not only do the unique gelling properties of chia seeds give the dressings body, they also add important omega-3 fatty acids. Nourishing and delicious.

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My version of the Grilled Kale Salad with Spicy Lentils

Onto the recipes! Beginning with a salad from the “Spring Salads” section of Salad Samurai, I tried out the Grilled Kale Salad with Spicy Lentils. The salad features crisp, smoky kale and caramelized scallions marinated with coconut milk and lime juice, layered on top of a texturally fascinating mixture of smooth lentils, juicy tomatoes, and crunchy almonds, with just enough red onion to provide  a sweet sharpness. Offering an impressive multiplicity of flavors that all complimented one another, this recipes yielded a colorful salad that works well with either grilled or broiled (for those of us without grills; hooray for apartment living!) kale.

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Book photo of Smokehouse Chickpeas n’ Greens Salad

Continuing my recipe experimentation by moving onto the “Summer Salads” section, I recreated perhaps the most prized salad from my reviewing duties: the Smokehouse Chickpeas n’ Greens Salad. Somehow managing to strike a balance between rich and deeply flavored yet light and bright, this salad features some of my absolute favorite ingredients, including liquid smoke, maple syrup, smoked paprika, and avocado. The salad calls for pan-roasting the chickpeas for a supremely crispy texture before coating them in a simple homemade barbecue sauce and sprinkling them with nutritional yeast. Those snack-worthy morsels get piled on top of a generous helping of greens, red onion, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and avocado, all tossed in a smoky-sweet paprika dressing that I would happily drink.

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My version of the Smokehouse Chickpeas n’ Greens Salad

Finally, I returned to the Spring salads for a taste of the Asparagus Pad Thai Salad – a super fresh-tasting take on traditional heavy pad thai that features “noodles” of asparagus created by taking a vegetables peeler to the stalks. Coupled with toothsome rice noodles, marinated & baked tofu bursting with flavor from a marinade of fresh lemongrass, tons of fresh herbs, a caramelized shallot-lime dressing, and toasted peanuts, the asparagus noodles form a salad that truly showcases Terry’s ability to expertly combine flavors and textures.

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My version of the Asparagus Pad Thai Salad

So as not to leave you with your mouth hanging wide open from all of this tantalizing talk, the publishers of Salad Samurai have graciously offered to let me share with you the full recipe for the Asparagus Pad Thai Salad! Enjoy, and be sure to enter the giveaway to win a copy of Salad Samurai by following the links at the top and bottom of this post.

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Book photo of the Asparagus Pad Thai Salad

Asparagus Pad Thai Salad

Serves 2.

Pad Thai Salad Ingredients:

4 oz pad thai rice noodles
1/2 lb asparagus
1 cup mung bean sprouts, washed and dried
1 cup lightly packed fresh Thai or sweet basil leaves, chiffonaded
1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
1 batch Lemongrass Tofu (recipe below)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely ground
Lime wedges and Sriracha, for serving

Toasted Shallot Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup minced shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp coconut sugar or organic brown sugar, plus more for serving
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
1 tbsp soy sauce, plus more for serving

Boil the rice noodles according to package directions and cook only until al dente (1 or 2 minutes less than directed). Drain, rinse with cold water, and cover with cold water until ready to use.

Wash and trim the tough stem ends from the asparagus. Trim the heads from the asparagus and set aside. Use a Y-shaped peeler to shred the asparagus stalks into long ribbons and slice into thin strips the remaining pieces that are too awkward to shred. Transfer the asparagus ribbons to a mixing bowl and add the mung bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, and scallions.

In a skillet over medium heat, fry the shallots, garlic, ginger, and oil until the shallots are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the asparagus tips, saute 1 minute, remove from the heat, and cool for 2 minutes. Transfer the asparagus tip mixture to the bowl with the ribbons. Drain the rice noodles and add the the asparagus salad.

Whisk together the lime juice, sugar, tamarind, and soy sauce and pour over the salad. Toss to coat everything with the dressing. Mound the salad in serving bowls and garnish with strips of Lemongrass Tofu (below) and sprinkle with peanuts. Devour, but graciously offer wedges of lime, Sriracha, a small dish of coconut sugar, and soy sauce for dining companions to season their own dish to taste.

For zucchini noodle pad thai: Replace the rice noodles with homemade zucchini or yellow summer squash for an even lighter dish. You’ll need a little more than 1/2 pound of squash. Use the Y-shaped peeler to create long, thin strands similar to the asparagus “noodles” for the above salad. Proceed as directed.

Plan ahead like a samurai: Prepare the Lemongrass Tofu (below) a day in advance and heat up just before serving.

Lemongrass Tofu

Serves 2 as a salad topping.

Ingredients:

1 pound extra-firm tofu or super-firm tofu (no pressing necessary for the latter)
2 tbsp maple syrup
4 tsp tamari
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped fresh or prepared lemongrass
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp peanut oil or olive oil

If using extra-firm tofu, press the tofu first. Slice the tofu into thin 1/4-inch strips. Preheat the oven to 400°F and coat the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9-inch ceramic or glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine the maple syrup, tamari, lemongrass, garlic, and oil in the baking dish and whisk together. Arrange the tofu slices in the marinade and set aside while the oven is preheating, about 15 minutes. Occasionally stir around the tofu strips.

Bake the tofu for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the strips over. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the strips are golden and the marinade is absorbed. Serve warm or chilled. Store chilled and consume within 2 days for best flavor.

From Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Thursday, July 25, and I will announce the winner on the following day.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with a free copy of the cookbook. All opinions are completely my own.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {6-27-14}

If you haven’t yet already, don’t miss your chance to win two free pints of amazingly decadent, creamy, rich, and delicious vegan ice cream from Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss on my latest giveaway!

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

This week’s News & Chews (fourth edition!) features the wonders of summery finger foods and artful salads, a roundup of the need-to-know news stories of the past week, a video highlighting the racial politics of a resurfaced court case from the 1980s, and a book that must grace the shelves of anyone even remotely involved in movement organizing.

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Peach & Avocado Summer Rolls with Almond Butter Dipping Sauce
from Anya Kassoff’s new “The Vibrant Table,” via Katie at the Kitchen Door

Photo via Katie at the Kitchen Door.

Photo via Katie at the Kitchen Door.

This recipe, from the new cookbook “The Vibrant Table” by Golubka’s own Anya Kassoff, positively bursts with the goodness of summer produce, including juicy peaches, buttery avocados, and bright basil. Accentuated with the crunch of pistachios, the richness of hazelnut oil, and the unctuousness of a lip-smackingly tantalizing almond butter dipping sauce, these summer rolls all but beg to grace my dinner plate.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Salad Niçoise Bento Box
via Terry Hope Romero’s new “Salad Samurai

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 Lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of culinary genius Terry Hope Romero’s new cookbook (look out for a review & giveaway in mid-July!), I spent the last week reveling in fresh, creative, and hearty salads from the mastermind of the co-author of the vegan Bible “Veganomicon.” I don’t want to give away too much about this gorgeous Niçoise salad pictured above, but I will mention its innovative inclusion of coconut “bacon,” avocado “egg,”  and chickpea “tuna” salad. I’m in love.

Must-Read News Article

This past week saw such a proliferation of important news stories (both uplifting and gut-wrenching) that instead of featuring a single article on this week’s edition of News & Chews, I’d like to feature a “round-up” of sorts.
First, the bad news. From Daily Kos, 40 percent of Detroit residents who cannot afford to pay their water bills due to crippling unemployment and other poverty-related factors risk having their water supply cut off. In response, the Detroit People’s Water Board has petitioned the UN to make clear to the U.S. government that it has violated the human right to water. And in further draconian governmental news, from Al Jazeera, an Egyptian court has sentenced two Al Jazeera journalists to seven years in prison and another to ten years, on charges including aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and reporting false news. This ruling has the powerful potential to have a chilling effect on journalists, and represents a serious blow to journalistic freedom.
Luckily, we still have access to multiple outlets for independent journalism, many of which this week featured a number of hopeful stories. From Truthout, the Presbyterian Church, USA sets an exciting precedent in upsetting the power imbalance between Israel and occupied Palestine by divesting from three corporations that have been continually involved in the Israeli population of the West Ban. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, from BuzzFlash, a federal court struck down a municipal ordinance that made it a crime to use a car for overnight shelter, representing a victory against the city’s anti-homeless agenda that seeks to decrease visibility of the issue rather than securing homes for the homeless. Finally, Gerardo Cerdas, coordinator of the transnational social movement Grito de los Excluidos, shares his uplifting views of the future of social movements at Truthout. I would highly recommend this article to anyone interested or involved in movement organizing, especially those who (like myself) have become (more than a bit) jaded.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

NYC’s $40M Central Park 5 Settlement Resolves Wrongful Jailing Fueled by Race-Baiting, Police Abuse
via Democracy Now!

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Those of us born in the 1990s may have missed the infamous case of the Central Park jogger, in which the NYC court system convicted five black and Latino men of raping a female jogger in Central Park, only to be found innocent decades later after the real rapist came forward and confessed. The five convicted men having already served sentences of up to 13 years, the City of New York has finally reportedly agreed to pay $40 million to the wrongfully convicted men. The most notable aspect of this story involves the racial profiling activities of the NYPD, through which young men of color were targeted as significant dangers to society. Additionally, as professor of sociology Natalie Byfield notes, “the significance of a settlement, to me, is important because it starts to undo what became a historic lie. And I say it in this way because the case itself was the launching pad for a transformation of the juvenile justice system.” So many complexities to this story, and an important case to remember in terms of the racial politics of the U.S.

Book Recommendation

Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy
by Chris Crass

Photo via Racial Justice Allies.

Photo via Racial Justice Allies.

Written by longtime anarchist movement organizer (including with the awesome vegan organization Food Not BombsChris Crass, this book contains an invaluable assortment of reflections upon the history of anti-capitalist organizing in an attempt to learn from past mistakes and advance current movement efforts. From his background as an feminist-informed anti-racist educator of white people, Crass practices self-reflexivity with grace and provides important critiques of the un-discussed privileges and inequalities in past movement efforts. I sincerely hope that this book becomes widely read among activists everywhere.

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {6-20-14}

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Enjoy the sweet raw treats, a unique take on a ubiquitous dip, a local tempeh purveyor, three organizations promoting the accessibility of holistic healthcare, a podcast episode on transgender rights, and feminist modernist literature on the third installment of Vegan Chews & Progressive News!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

The vegan blogosphere offered much too many tantalizing recipes in this past week, so I’ve allowed myself to cheat a bit and feature two of my favorite newly published recipes, one sweet and one savory, on this round of News & Chews. Somehow, I don’t think that you, dear readers, will mind.

Sweet
Raw Hazelnut Brownies with Pistachio Cream Topping
via The Vegan Woman

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Photo via The Vegan Woman.

These gorgeously earth-toned brownies manage to combine my two favorite nuts on earth (the holy hazelnut and the pristine pistachio) in a decadent, nourishing raw dessert that features both silky smooth and crunchy textures. Intriguingly, the brownie base even packs a secret veggie punch—the frequent salad star that this dessert employs backstage will certainly surprise you. An important note: don’t forget to use Food Empowerment Project-approved cocoa powder or, better yet, carob powder in order to avoid supporting the exploitative chocolate trade.

Savory
5-Minute Microwave Hummus
via Minimalist Baker

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Photo via Minimalist Baker.

While I’m sure that the vast majority of you have consumed your fair share of hummus over the course of your lifetime, I find myself consistently transfixed by recipes that claim to yield the “best hummus ever” due to a unique preparation method. For example, I’ve seen directions to peel each individual chickpea before blending, and to puree the hummus in the blender rather than the food processor (the latter instruction actually did result in some of the creamiest, dreamiest hummus I’d tasted in a great while). This particular hummus, promised as “the best” by a blog that I find to be a quite reputable source, suggests microwaving the chickpeas in their cooking or canning liquid together with whole cloves of garlic before pureeing the mixture with a generous helping of tahini. Well folks, I’m preliminarily convinced, and I look forward to experimenting with this new hummus method.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Chipotle Citrus Tempeh & Broccoli with Barry’s Brooklyn Tempeh
adapted from Vegan Richa

Photo via Vegan Richa.

Photo via Vegan Richa.

This hearty one-dish meal has caught my eye nearly every time I’ve scrolled through my extensive “Recipes to Try” Word document, and the fresh broccoli at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket last Saturday finally spurred me to make it. A pleasing harmony between sweet and spicy, the sauce packs a flavor punch with freshly squeezed orange juice and chipotles in adobo. Even better, the sauce employs a starch (I used arrowroot) to achieve a sticky texture that coats the broccoli and tempeh in glossy goodness.

While the complexity and viscosity of the sauce verily impressed me, the highlight of this dish doesn’t even make an appearance in the original recipe. Indeed, Barry’s tempeh (local to Brooklyn) outshined all of the ingredients and the sum of their parts; I found myself forking around the broccoli for all of the crispy-fried cubes of naturally sweet, chewy Azuki Bean & Brown Rice Tempeh (one of four unorthodox flavors of Barry’s). If you’re lucky enough to live in the NY area, I’d highly recommend that you get your tempeh-loving paws on some Barry’s.

 Must-Read News Article

by Liz Pleasant, via Truthout
Photo via the Healing Clinic Collective.

Photo via the Healing Clinic Collective.

I recently featured the amazing work of activist and yogi Becky Thompson on the ol’ blog, and the initiatives highlighted in this article over at Truthout certainly align with Becky’s important mission of making yoga and other forms of powerful holistic healing accessible to all, regardless of race or class. The article features the commendable groups the Healing Clinic Collective (an Oakland-based organization that hosts events with free holistic healthcare, and offers discounted rates for future appointments), the Third-Root Community Health Center (a Brooklyn-based project that provides holistic health services at a sliding-scale rate, and reaches out to low-income communities), and the Samarya Center (a Seattle-based group that uses the profits from its yoga studio to bring physical therapy to impoverished communities). In my view, these sorts of collective, accessibility-generating endeavors form the base of a robust movement against our destructive and unequal capitalist system. Check out these organizations for some real hope.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Janet Mock on transgender rights, Mychal Denzel Smith on war, Tupac, and Ninja Turtles
via Citizen Radio

Citizen Radio hosts Jamie Kilstein & Allison Kilkenny with Janet Mock. Photo via Citizen Radio.

Citizen Radio hosts Jamie Kilstein & Allison Kilkenny with Janet Mock. Photo via Citizen Radio.

When it comes to discussing and acting upon social issues, so often transgender equality gets excluded and ignored, even by so-called LGBT organizations (where’s consideration for the “T,” people?!?). This exclusion becomes particularly troublesome when considering the fact that individuals of trans experience—especially those who are also women of color—deal with intense physical and systemic violence on a daily basis.

In this interview with powerhouse activist and author of Redefining Realness, Janet Mock discusses these issues and more with the hilarious duo of progressive radio Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny. The most striking moment in the interview for me came when Janet touched upon “safe spaces,” the notion that we can carve out spaces within communities, groups, organizations, etc. in which individuals of all backgrounds and experiences can feel safe expressing their viewpoints without fear of marginalization. Of safe spaces, Janet offers these important thoughts:

“These spaces, even though they’re supposed to be welcoming, safe spaces, they still are infected by the ills that all other spaces are —racism and misogyny and elitism and classism, academia jargon and all of this stuff. These spaces aren’t immune. If you come into these spaces knowing that, then your job is to come in and make it a better space.”

We can’t just assume that because we define a space as “safe,” that oppression can’t happen within that space. With this in mind, we must work to consciously and meaningfully honor the voices of those most often marginalized.

Book Recommendation

To the Lighthouse
by Virginia Woolf

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This week, I found myself with a work of fiction in hand—one authored by one of the greatest modernist writers of the 20th century. Though I usually prefer to examine social issues directly through critical non-fiction, sometimes I find it refreshing to engage with the profound ideas that concern our modern world (in this case, feminism and gender inequality) through a filter of gorgeously crafted sentences and expertly developed characters. Enter Virginia Woolf, whose To the Lighthouse provides an ideal novel into which to disappear while still confronting the important issues of our (and Woolf’s!) time.

Until next time, Ali.

Tempeh Pita Pockets with Tzatziki

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One of my favorite aspects of living in a 21-person vegan cooperative household involves the high-quality leftovers that my housemates will bring home after they’ve helped to host a catered campus event. In the past, I’ve arrived home to discover samosas and dipping sauces from the nearby Indian restaurant, fried plantains and beans and rice from the Caribbean restaurant down the street, polenta rounds and marinated baked tofu from the Latin American fusion restaurant across the road—all sitting in our refrigerator, free for gastronomic merriment.

Most recently, one of my housemates gifted us with a tray of hummus and whole-wheat pita bread from the nearby Middle Eastern restaurant. Seeking to stuff that pita with more than the standard hummus, I looked through the extensive, mouthwatering Sandwich section of the ever-inspiring Millennium Cookbook, only to come across the ideal recipe with which to experiment: Seitan Gyros.

Millennium’s recipe features homemade herbed seitan medallions stuffed into homemade flatbread and topped with a tofu, mint, and cilantro raita, a tomato relish, and a handful of shredded lettuce. Due to my packed student schedule, the premade pita bread at my fingertips, and the absence of seitan-making ingredients in the house, the recipe required a bit of tweaking to suit my needs. Subbing tempeh baked in a brightly flavored marinade for the seitan, a cucumber variation of the raita (aka, tzatziki) that uses soy yogurt, simply sliced tomatoes for the relish, and the generously donated whole-wheat restaurant pita, I created a less time-intensive spin on Millennium’s original recipe.

Be warned: you will need multiple napkins to fully enjoy this sandwich. But honestly, what sandwich worth eating doesn’t result in a little mess?

Tempeh Pita Pockets with Tzatziki—Oil Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat

Makes 2 pockets, serving 1-2 people.

Tempeh Ingredients:

6 six-inch strips of tempeh (about 4 oz)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp agave or maple syrup
1/4 cup veggie broth or water

Tzatziki Ingredients:

1/4 cup soy yogurt
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup grated cucumber (about 1 small cucumber)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pocket Ingredients:

1 whole wheat pita, cut in half and toasted (use good-quality storebought or one of these recipes)
1/2 of a large tomato, sliced
Handful of mixed greens
1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Prepare the tempeh: Place a steamer basket in a pot of water and set to boil. Place the tempeh strips in the basket, cover, and steam for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small baking dish, whisk together the garlic through veggie broth or water. Once the tempeh has finished steaming, place the strips in the marinade, and place the baking dish in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

Prepare the tzatziki: While the tempeh bakes, in a medium-sized bowl, combine all of the tzatziki ingredients. Set aside.

Assemble the pockets: Open one of the pita halves and spoon some tzatziki into it. Layer the mixed greens on one side, three strips of tempeh on the other side, and one or two tomato slices in the middle. Spoon some additional tzatziki over the top, and finish off with a couple small slices of red onion.

Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan in Florence, Part 3

Don’t miss your chance to win a jar of body butter and a tube of lip butter from the all-natural and vegan cosmetic company Ellovi! Enter Farmers Market Vegan’s latest giveaway by Wednesday, April 2.

Well, dear readers, my adventures in Florence, Italy have come to a close, but I still have one more round of vegan Italian cuisine to share with you all. The last few days of my trip included day trips to the nearby towns of Siena and Fiesole, both of which boast magnificent churches and stunning views of the Italian countryside; a dinner party with my parents, aunt, uncle, and cousin; and a theater jaunt to see the previously on-Broadway show Stomp. And of course…tons of tasty vegan noms. Here are a couple culinary highlights from my final days in Florence:

Il Vegetariano

Via delle Ruote 30r, Florence, Italy 50129

My travel companion Gabe shows off the front of Il Vegetariano.

My travel companion Gabe shows off the front of Il Vegetariano.

I first discovered this 30-some-year-old staple of Florence’s vegetarian scene three years ago when I spent the summer with my aunt, and eagerly returned to introduce this popular, all-organic eatery to my travel companion Gabe. Luckily, from that summer I gleaned the experiential know-how about how Il Vegetariano works, so that I could lead Gabe along in the process. You see, Il Vegetariano’s set-up differs from that of a traditional sit-down restaurant, functioning in a more cafeteria-style manner. Upon entering the restaurant, the diner proceeds past the two dining rooms to greet the kind bespectacled man behind the ordering counter, seated beside a colorful blackboard that lists the daily-rotating menu of small plates, salad bar, entrees, and desserts. The diner puts their order in at the counter, pays, picks up a tray, and stands in the line in front of the salad bar/dessert counter to wait for another kind balding man to grab a freshly made plate from the kitchen, and/or to choose from an array of raw and cooked vegetables to enjoy in a salad. Finally, the diner can choose a seat in one of two mahogany-clad dining rooms with exposed brick walls, or on a covered patio just behind the restaurant.

Dessert case, salad bar, ordering station, and pick-up counter at Il Vegetariano.

Dessert case, salad bar, ordering station, and pick-up counter at Il Vegetariano.

During our visit, Gabe and I opted to enjoy the warm weather and took a seat on the patio. Peckish after meandering around the city all morning, we dove into our bowls of immensely savory brown rice pilaf with roasted artichokes, cauliflower, and parsley. Herbaceous and full-bodied, the pilaf’s flavor showcased just how complex simple vegetables and grains can taste. Of course, considering that Il Vegetariano describes their wide dessert selection as their specialty, Gabe and I simply had to sample a slice of a crumbly tart jam-packed with succulent pears and apricots. Certainly no complaints there, especially when my entire meal cost less than 10 euro.

Brown rice pilaf with roasted artichokes and cauliflower.

Brown rice pilaf with roasted artichokes and cauliflower.

Pear-Apricot Crumble Tart

Pear-Apricot Crumble Tart

Gelateria Perche No!

Via dei Tavolini 19r, Florence, Italy 50122

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Gabe once again serves as my restaurant model.

Venturing out for gelato after enjoying lunch at home became a favorite ritual of mine and Gabe’s during the latter portion of our stay in Florence. While we most often headed to Festival del Gelato due to its close proximity to our apartment, Gabe and I opted on one occasion to sample another of Florence’s famous gelaterias, founded in 1939 and known as Perche No! (aka “why not!”). Upon first entering the small shop, I noticed and hugely appreciated that the gelateria had separated its non-dairy gelatos into a separate cooler, making ordering much simpler for myself and others who avoid dairy. On the day that we visited, Perche No!’s non-dairy flavors included banana, dark chocolate, pear, soy-based hazelnut, soy-based vanilla, strawberry, lemon, and raspberry. Funnily enough, Gabe and I both chose the soy hazelnut and raspberry to satisfy our daily gelato quota. While both gelatos held the exact flavor essence of their respective fruit and nut bases, the soy hazelnut proved less creamy than the rice-based hazelnut that we often enjoyed at Festival (strange, considering that rice milk tends to hold a much thinner texture than soy milk!). Regardless, Perche No! boasts some darn tasty gelato.

The "senza latte" (without milk) case at Perche No!

The “senza latte” (without milk) case at Perche No!

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Miso di Riso

Borgo degli Albizi 54r, Florence, Italy, 50122

miso di riso

A couple of weeks before arriving in Florence, my mother emailed me to express her excitement that she had discovered a newly opened vegetarian restaurant called Miso di Riso (translated to rice miso) along the main pedestrian street in her neighborhood. As such, I made it a point to accompany my mother to lunch at the eatery during one of my final days in Florence. Brightly lit, filled with verdant potted plants, and boasting a plethora of vibrantly colored décor, Miso di Riso provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere in which to enjoy some macrobiotic-inspired vegan noms.

After ordering, my mother and I check out the dessert case to find such tantalizing creations as two mixed berry tarts, as well one with a semolina crust and chocolate ganache filling. While we opted to head to Festival del Gelato for dessert after our meal, Miso di Riso’s bakery selection definitely impressed me.

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Soon after we had sufficiently ogled at the dessert case, my mother and I received our plates. I chose to sample a savory tart of cauliflower and seaweed with a remarkably flavorful crust, accompanied by a meltingly tender pile of curried cabbage and a lightly dressed salad of gorgeous greens and shaved carrots. As for my mother, she opted for the tofu burger, complete with vegan mayonnaise and coupled with a colorful sauté of mixed vegetables, as well as a salad similar to mine. While both my mother and I “mm”-ed with delight at the features of our plate (the tart and burger) as well as at the impeccably fresh salads, the vegetable side dishes left us unimpressed—though tasty, they struck us as dishes easily made by any home cook. This new restaurant has a great base (and space!) on which to build, but it definitely requires improvement.

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Le Fate

Borgo Allegri 9r, Florence, Italy 50122

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About seven minutes before my mother, Gabe, and I planned to leave to see Stomp, my mother decided to call the restaurant at which we wanted to have dinner, only to find that they had no open tables for the night. Scrambling to find another eatery for the evening, we soon recalled another newly opened vegetarian restaurant that we had passed by on one of our evening passeggiare (walks), called Le Fate (translated to “the fairies”). With moments to spare, we secured a reservation and ran out the door to the theater.

That scramble for another restaurant resulted in one of the best gastronomic decisions of my trip, as the meal that my family and I enjoyed at Le Fate will live on in the Seiter family memory for years to come. True to its name, Le Fate boasts a rather enchanting dining room and a mystical menu: the four appetizers find inspiration in the four elements (earth, water, wind, and fire), while each of the entrees corresponds to one of the twelve astrological signs. Upon noticing the struggles of our English-speaking family to decipher the Italian menu, our charismatic waiter called the chef out of the kitchen to explain in detail every dish—VIP treatment, eh?

As a pre-meal amuse bouche, we each received a small crostini of house-made whole-grain bread spread with what I took to be an artichoke pate, served upon a leaf of soft and lemony sorrel. For an appetizer, the table opted to share a platter of house-made vegan cheeses and fruit compotes. Though I couldn’t discern the exact flavors of each of the cheeses, I could tell by the textures that two of them certainly featured agar-agar seaweed as a binder, while the other two seemed to be aged nut spread-type cheeses. Unfortunately, the latter two lacked the creaminess integral to satisfying cheese, though their flavors proved intensely complex. I have absolutely no complaints about the sweet and expertly spiced compotes, however.

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While I found the vegan cheeses a tad lacking, there was absolutely nothing subpar about any of our entrees. Indeed, every bite (both of my own dish and stolen from the plates of others) offered a new flavor and mouthfeel, providing for a hugely interesting and astronomically delicious meal.

The only diner of our party to order the dish that corresponded to their actual astrological sign, I chose the Vergine (Virgo) plate as soon as I heard the chef say “dates,” “fennel,” and “homemade basil tofu.” The bowl of homemade noodles coated in a creamy, succulent sauce of dates and caramelized fennel that I enjoyed that night still enters my dreams. Providing textural contrast to the silky pasta were leaves of bitter radicchio spread with house-made basil tofu and topped with orange segments and toasted hazelnuts. An inspired dish.

My mother opted for the Gemelli (Gemini) plate, which featured a bowl of fluffy-on-the-inside-crusty-on-the-outside biscuits in three savory varieties, accompanied by a number of spread and toppings: a mild golden chutney of onions and apples, a rainbow-colored salad of minced peppers, a fluffy and cloud-white vegan mayonnaise, oil-marinated heirloom white beans, and quenelles of smooth hummus. Um, wow.

Finally, both Gabe and my father chose the Capricorno (Capricorn) plate: creamy black lentil soup topped with a puree of white root vegetables, served alongside perfectly round balls of falafel with carrot-tamarind spread, and rounded out by a salad of mixed greens and ripe berries. Need I say more?

Though we all found ourselves too full to enjoy dessert, we did end the meal quite enjoyably by speaking with the bubbly owner of the restaurant—a longtime vegan and astronomer who gave us each our horoscopes before leaving. Le Fate’s inviting atmosphere, it’s enormously hospitable waitstaff, and its inspired and tantalizing culinary creations have earned a top spot on my list of most memorable travel restaurants, and I can hardly wait to return during my next trip to Italy (crossing my fingers that it’s soon!).

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Though I probably experienced one of the more perfect spring breaks of my entire life during the past two weeks, I’m happy to find myself back at school and among the community of my on-campus vegan living cooperative. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the spring on Farmers Market Vegan!

Until next time, Ali.

Actively Hoping and The Everyday Salad

A couple evenings ago, I invited an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in a long while over to my house for dinner. Given that a large portion of both of our college studies concern the social and environmental states of our world, we found much to discuss. Well into our dinner conversation regarding social and political change, my friend presented the notion of introducing “ethics overseers” onto the decision-making teams of corporations and political institutions, so as to prevent such entities from taking harmful actions in the name of material gain. Acknowledging that such overseers would undoubtedly harbor very different sets of ethics, my friend believed that their presence would at least introduce some moral guidance to normally questionable institutions. I found (still find) this idea interesting, but worry that it might serve as a band-aid solution to an underlying culture that conditions its members to prioritize the accumulation of wealth over the advancement of a just, equitable, and environmentally sustainable society. In the long term, I would much rather see the grassroots cultivation of a widespread lifestyle of social responsibility and symbiosis with the earth, rather than a bunch of philosophers raising their eyebrows and shaking their heads at the suit-and-tie folks across the mahogany table.

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I completely understand that the former development will not come to fruition for a long time, probably not in my lifetime. But I don’t want to allow the distance of such a necessary occurrence to hinder the work that I do everyday in the hopes of one day achieving it. My friend called this mindset “idealistic.” I call it imperative for maintaining my sanity. If I didn’t let the hope of a better future guide my present actions, I would have long ago devolved into a puddle of depression. I would probably not be vegan. I would probably not be writing this blog post right now. I probably would have thought, “What’s the point? The world’s never going to change.” Through both my individual actions and those taken collectively with others who believe in an improved tomorrow, I maintain hope, I find the strength to continue, I envision the world in which I yearn for future generations to live. In opposition to such active hope (a term from Joanna Macy’s book of the same name that I’ve found hugely inspiring) lies stagnancy. If one does not believe in the possibility for change, the likelihood that they will think or behave in a progressive manner significantly decreases. But surely nothing will change if everyone thought, “What’s the use?”. Change comes from united groups of driven individuals who actively hope for positive social, political, environmental, any reform.

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Professor of political science and sociology Frances Fox Piven writes in her book Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America of the effectiveness of grassroots social movements in initiating significant reforms to the American political and cultural system. First highlighting the brokenness of American democracy with its inequality-ridden and corrupt electoral system, Piven insists that “there have nevertheless been periods of egalitarian reform in American political history,” and that such periods occur when “ordinary people exercise power [...] mainly at those extraordinary moments when they rise up in anger and hope, defy the rules that ordinarily govern their daily lives, and, by doing so, disrupt the workings of the institutions in which they are enmeshed” (16, 1). Piven evinces her claims with the abolition movement’s success in bringing the issue of slavery to the forefront of political discussion, and later in instigating the enactment of national civil rights legislation; as well as with the labor movement’s success in prompting the expansion of social welfare programs in the 1930s and 1960s. Further, Piven asserts that “disruptive movements are responsible for the truly brilliant moments of reform in American history [because] [...] when the movements decline, there are few new reforms, and those won at the peak of movement power are often rolled back” (111). Consider, for example, the fact that the welfare programs launched in the 1930s languished until a new period of protest in the 1960s forced their reenactment, or the fact that as the abolition movement waned in the mid-1870s, institutionalized white supremacy reemerged with a vengeance.

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As Piven displays, we cannot remain inactive toward the urgent issues facing our society and our world, for substantial change has historically always and only come from below. While one could never describe actively hoping for change as easy or comfortable, it has proven on multiple occasions effective in the long run. Not only do sustained efforts toward a better future eventually transform hope into widespread reality, they also profoundly impact the lives of the individuals participating in such efforts. As Joanna Macy affirms, “[a] powerful mental shift takes place when we stop telling ourselves why something can’t happen,” such that we “step[...] into a state of aliveness that makes our lives profoundly satisfying” (171, 4). I personally experienced such transformations when I stopped telling myself that my worth as a person depended upon my bodily appearance and ability to closely monitor my eating habits, and discovered in veganism a passion so deeply in and outside of myself that it directed and largely continues to direct the trajectory of my life (read more about my personal story of eating disorder recovery here on Our Hen House). As I mentioned above, I would not have recovered from such a dismal state had veganism not inspired in me the hope onto which I latched.

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So I encourage you to actively hope. I encourage you to employ your own personal skills in working toward the change you’d like to see realized. I encourage you to remind yourself that change takes time, and that though you may not see immediate results, as long as you and others continue on the path of intentional and conscious being, change will happen.

In the meantime, we all need a boatful of nutrients to sustain all that active hoping and active doing in which we engage every day! Along with my morning green smoothie, the salad below appears in my meal repertoire on a daily basis, whether tossed in a bowl in the comfort of my own kitchen or shaken up in a Tupperware while I’m on-the-go. Packed with leafy greens, raw veggies, seaweed, plant-based proteins, and healthy fats, this salad serves as a powerhouse of nourishment—both physically and now, for me, mentally, as my daily salad ritual provides a grounding moment midday. Enjoy.

The Everyday Salad—Low Sodium.

Serves 1.

Ingredients:

2 large handfuls of mixed salad greens
1 handful of alfalfa sprouts
A couple sprigs of fresh herbs, chopped (dill is my favorite here)
Sprinkling of dulse seaweed flakes (about 1-2 tbsp)
About 1 cup of raw veggies, chopped (carrots, bell peppers, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc.)
1/2 cup whole grain (quinoa, brown rice, millet, etc.)
1/2 cup beans (chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, cannellini beans, etc.)
1/4 cup nuts or seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds, pepitas, walnuts, etc.) OR 1/2 an avocado, diced
4-7 tbsp Liquid Gold Dressing (I like mine dressed pretty heavily)
1 generous scoop of sauerkraut or other fermented veggies

In a large bowl, layer the salad greens through nuts/avocado. Drizzle the dressing on top, then toss well to combine. Place the sauerkraut on top. Serve.

Recipe submitted to Wellness Weekend and Recipe Wednesdays.

Until next time, Ali.

Works Cited

Macy, Joanna and Chris Johnstone. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2012. Print.

Piven, Frances Fox. Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Print.