Digestive Woes of Eating Disorders and Why I’m Not Gluten-Free Anymore

Hello again, dear readers! After a much-needed month-ish-long break from the blogosphere, I’m thrilled to return to the good ol’ blog, especially because, boy oh boy, do I have some exciting posts, reviews, and giveaways lined up for all of you. For the next two weeks, my posts will come to you from Florence, Italy—a city near and dear to my heart, where I’ve visited my aunt every other year since the age of three. This year, I’m fortunate enough to spend my college’s spring break there with one of my very good friends and my parents. Rest assured, I’ll be providing you, dear readers, with plenty of reports of Florentine vegan eats and adventures, intertwined with two super fabulous giveaways. Moral of the story: keep a close eye on Farmers Market Vegan for the month of March! (And beyond, of course).

The post to break my blogging hiatus, however, does not concern Italy or free vegan products. Rather, it continues the conversations proliferated by National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week 2014. Though the event concluded a couple Saturdays ago, I feel it hugely important to make an ongoing discussion of this highly stigmatized topic.

As so often happens, the inimitable Gena of Choosing Raw planted the idea seedlings for this post. Two weeks ago Gena featured three highly thoughtful posts in light of NEDA Week 2014—a mention in the first of which particularly caught my attention. In her post “Five Reasons to Embrace Recovery,” Gena lists the fact that recovery can save your life (a notion I touch upon in my narrative on Our Hen House regarding my recovery through veganism). In addition to the immediate physical symptoms of eating disorders, Gena notes the significant long-term health tolls EDs can take on one’s body. For me, the most notable of these are digestive disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

If you’ve followed Farmers Market Vegan for a substantial amount of time, you’ll know that I’ve battled digestive stress for about three years now, very much in conjunction with my ED recovery. I chalked up frequent abdominal cramping, gas, and less-than-happy trips to the restroom to my assumed consumption of insufficiently washed produce, spoiled leftovers, and certain hard-to-digest foods. To mitigate these supposed culprits of digestive woe, I incorporated any and all foods touted as digestives into my diet—fermented foods; spices like ginger, fennel, peppermint, and their teas; etc. I joined in the recent widespread condemnation of gluten. I supplemented with digestive enzymes and probiotics. I developed a short series of yoga postures known to facilitate digestion. Nothing significantly improved my symptoms.

This past December, I finally decided that something beyond food choice and sanitization proved responsible for my ongoing digestive troubles. Indeed, a visit to my internal medicine doctor provided me with a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)—a functional disorder of the large intestine that affects bowel contraction, resulting in cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and other fun symptoms. Every case of IBS is highly individualized, meaning that there exists no one medication or treatment for the disorder. Luckily, IBS does not affect long-term health or cause other health complications, but can significantly impact daily quality of life (and oh boy, does it). While it’s difficult to know that I’ll have to deal with IBS symptoms for the rest of my life, I’m super happy to give a name to my digestive woes, rather than to worry at every meal about how my stomach will feel afterwards, or to hypothesize about other more severe health complications that might cause my symptoms.

Interestingly, a number of women I know who have a history of disordered eating also now suffer from IBS which, according to recent research, proves a common correlation. Out of 73 ED patients involved in a 2010 study, 97% suffered from at least one functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGID) (a category that includes IBS). Another study prior to this one found that, out of 89 respondents, 87.6% had an onset of their ED prior to IBS symptoms, 6.7% had an onset of IBS prior to their ED, and 5.6% had an onset of their EDs and IBS the same time. Additionally, the latter study noted that those who suffer from EDs and IBS tend to share certain personality traits—perfectionism, negative self-evaluation, self-blame, chronic stress— and early developmental factors—childhood trauma, physical and sexual abuse. They also overwhelmingly tend to be women.

I find it the fact that there exists such a correlation between EDs and IBS fascinating—and completely logical. On a rather obvious level, disordered eating behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, and restriction all but guarantee digestive complications. Less conspicuous, though, are the psychological similarities between both disorders: EDs and IBS prompt a “hyper-vigilance to internal sensations” and eating behaviors, as noted in research by Perkins et al. As I mentioned above, I first attributed my digestive complications to certain foods I consumed, demonizing gluten, peanut butter, and other foods known to cause digestive troubles. Such a habit reminds me of Steven Bratman’s definition of orthorexia as “a tendency to assume that every single physical symptom is a direct result of something we’ve eaten,” and thus signals to me a severe hindrance in my recovery largely inspired by digestive ailments. Developing a similar mindset towards food as that which plagued me during the most intense periods of my ED, I became essentially scared of certain foods due to my perception of their responsibility for my digestive troubles. To me, it comes as no surprise that many other women have experienced this phenomenon, especially considering the common advice given by internal medicine practitioners to keep a food journal to help identify “trigger foods,” or those that tend to cause an individual digestive upset.

Thankfully, with a clear plan of how to deal with my IBS came the much more relaxed mindset toward food that I had worked to cultivate throughout my recovery. Since I consume such a wholesome diet, it seems nonsensical to me (and medical practitioners to whom I’ve spoken) that treating my IBS would necessitate a dietary shift, or a naming of “trigger foods.” Instead, I’ve started taking a prescription-strength probiotic as well as a teaspoon of psyllium husk (a portion of an Indian plant that is essentially all soluble fiber) stirred into my morning smoothie everyday. These remedies have worked marvelously since I began employing them, and have considerably aided me in shunning the “food is enemy, food makes your gut unhappy” voice inside my head.

With this foregoing, I’ve re-embraced the foods that I perceived to upset my digestion. Most notably, I’ve begun eating gluten again, and with vigor. Both my body and soul have responded with amazing positivity towards bread, sandwiches, and other glutinous foods—my goodness, does it feel good to bite into the chewy-crunchy-creamy layers of a chickpea salad sandwich again! Though dubious at first that a reintroduction of gluten would not cause me digestive upset, it makes sense to me now, especially considering the fact that “dietary variety also helps to help bolster digestive strength,” a fact that Gena has witnessed first-hand from working with a GI doctor. So, dear readers, you can expect to see some glutinous recipes appearing on the blog from now on (though I’ll be sure to include gluten-free substitutions for those of you who suffer from actual gluten/wheat intolerances).

I think that the connection between eating disorders and digestive complications both emphasizes the long-term health detriments of EDs, and suggests a more understanding approach to treating digestive disorders. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and/or if you’ve had similar experiences.

And with that, I’ve got a plane to catch! My next post will reach you from Florence, Italy.

Until next time, Ali.

Mushroom-Chestnut Soup

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I’ve wanted to make a soup with chestnuts in it for the past three months. November failed in chestnut soup-making because who can expect the miniature grocery store just off of campus to stock chestnuts? December fared no better because clearly everyone else wanted to make chestnut soup, too, and thus yanked all of the bags of fresh chestnuts off of the shelves at the Whole Foods in Madison, WI (where I spent winter break) before I could get to them. January didn’t do so hot because chestnuts had just gone out of season and had therefore gotten expensive and I felt guilty spending $10 of my parents’ money on a jar of chestnuts when they’re already paying inordinate sums for my college tuition and soon my unfulfilled desire for chestnut soup resulted in me crying into my mother’s bosom, thanking her profusely for supporting my education and fully acknowledging my family’s privilege in being able to do so and…well, by then I had forgotten about chestnut soup.

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So I finally found inexpensive jarred chestnuts at, who knew, the miniature grocery store just off of campus. And I ate the subsequent soup without experiencing the need to sign my soul to my parents. A lengthy and emotional journey, all for soup with chestnuts, but I dare say that this soup certainly merits its preceding turmoil. Creamy, rich, unctuous, and full of comforting spices, this soup will warm you inside and out during the continuously arctic temperatures. Enjoy.

Mushroom-Chestnut Soup—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat

Serves 3-4.

Ingredients:

5 cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms
3 tbsp melted coconut oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 can coconut milk
2-3 cups mushroom broth
1 cup roasted chestnuts, jarred or fresh
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Toss the sliced mushrooms with 2 tbsp of the oil. Spread out in an even layer on a baking sheet and roasted for 20-30 minutes, or until the mushrooms have taken on a golden-brown hue and released some of their juices.

While the mushrooms roast, heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes, or until translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the spices and sauté for another minute. Add the coconut milk, mushroom broth, and chestnuts. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the mushrooms have finished roasting, at least 15 minutes.

When the mushrooms have finished roasting, add them and their juices to the soup pot. Let the mushrooms simmer in the broth for another 5-10 minutes, then puree, either with an immersion blender or (very carefully) in a standing blender. Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Serve hot.

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Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Review & GIVEAWAY! of The Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk & Cookbook

This giveaway has closed. Congratulations to Amanda Thomas!

I’m elated, dear readers, to host Farmers Market Vegan’s second giveaway—an exciting one, indeed. One lucky reader will receive a copy of The Vegg Cookbook: Egg-Free Cooking Uncaged, as well as two packets of The Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk. Click the above link or the link at the bottom of the post to enter to win these top-notch prizes. The giveaway will close at 12:00 a.m. EST on Tuesday, January 21, and I will announce the winners later than day.

Photo credit to Vegan Cuts.

Photo credit to Vegan Cuts.

I first encountered The Vegg this past summer while interning with the animal advocacy non-profit Compassion Over Killing, who provided much support and promotion for the 2012 launch of the vegan egg yolk. (The below opinions of The Vegg, however, are completely my own and not in any way influenced by my work with COK). While I sold many a packet of The Vegg to enthusiastic patrons of the events at which COK tabled this summer, I didn’t have the chance to experiment with it myself until Vegg developer Rocky Shepheard contacted me about reviewing his cookbook on the ol’ blog. Needless to say, I responded with an earnest “yes,” and here I am today, writing this post, regaling the wonders of The Vegg, right now at this very moment…you get the picture.

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Longtime vegan and animal rights activist Rocky Shepheard began tinkering with a recipe for a vegan egg yolk in 2010 after reading an April Fool’s Day article about a commercially available vegan fried egg. Two years later, Rocky had transformed a joke into a reality and introduced The Vegg onto the market, giving the over 280 million egg-laying hens in the U.S.—most of whom spend their lives intensively confined inside barren wire cages—something to cluck about. With the appearance, texture, taste, and even smell of a chicken’s egg, The Vegg provides a cruelty-free replacement in any traditionally egg-based recipe—French toast, omelets, hollandaise, crème brulee, breaded and fried foods, you name it. While The Vegg cannot provide the functional properties of eggs in baking, it can enhance any sweet (or savory!) treat with a rich, surprisingly accurate eggy flavor. Hesitant at first to try The Vegg based upon my assumption that it contained questionable ingredients, I happily discovered that The Vegg comprises of nothing more than fortified nutritional yeast (get yer B12 here, kids!), seaweed-derived sodium alginate, and black salt (which imbues The Vegg with its characteristic eggy aroma and flavor). An egg yolk free of cholesterol, gluten, soy, GMOs, and animal suffering? Yes, please.

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Released the year following the launch of The Vegg, The Vegg Cookbook features nearly 70 vegan recipes from Rocky, Sandy Defino, and food-blogging fans of The Vegg that highlight the versatility of the vegan egg yolk. Divided into three sections—Morning Medleys, The Main Dish, and Sweet Satisfaction—the cookbook features such tantalizing recipes as The World’s Best (and Most Realistic) Vegan Fried Egg, Tangerine French Toast, Vegg Tempura, Artichoke-Tomato Quiche, Mom’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Banana Cream Meringue Pie, and more. For my foray into the world of The Vegg Cookbook, I chose to sample one recipe from each section of the book.

One important requirement for successful use of The Vegg in all recipes, however, involves blending the powdered vegan egg yolk with either water or plant-based milk (depending on your recipe) in a mini blender or food processor, since blending by hand will yield less-than-smooth results. I own a mini food processor that works quite nicely for The Vegg, though I’m sure a spice grinder would also do the trick. During the blending, you’ll begin to freak out about the eggy aroma emanating from your blending apparatus. Upon my first blending endeavor, I sprinted into the living room to fetch my father, forcing him to stick his nose into my mini food processor. He agreed as to the accuracy of the smell…though perhaps without my same level of enthusiasm.

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Photo credit to Veganoo.

I first tried out the Crème Brulee, submitted by none other than Erin Wysocarski of the fabulous vegan blog Olives for Dinner. The recipe involves combining a blended Vegg-water mixture with coconut milk, sugar (I used maple sugar), and vanilla, then simmering the mixture with agar powder to impart a gel-like consistency. While my use of maple sugar didn’t produce the satisfying crackly crust akin to crème brulees, the finished dessert otherwise proved immensely successful. Creamy, eggy, and just sweet enough with an oh-so decadent mouthfeel, the crème brulees had my parents raving for days after licking their ramekins clean.

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Venturing into the cookbook’s savory territory, I whipped up the Vietnamese Pancakes with Veggies & Herbs, courtesy of Nancy Montuori Stein of Ordinary Vegan. The thin, crepe-like pancakes contain rice flour, a blended Vegg, turmeric, and coconut milk, providing a bright yellow, satisfyingly squishy wrapper for the brightly flavored shredded veggies and herbs inside. Topped with a spicy-sweet dipping sauce, this recipe yielded a gorgeously hued dinner with a flavor-packed punch, though the egginess of The Vegg didn’t come through in the pancakes as much as I would have liked.

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My Vegg Cookbook review endeavors ended with a version of the Scrambled Tofu from Helen Rossiter of Lots of Nice Things. The original recipe seemed to me as a template of sorts, containing only a blended Vegg, tofu, and scallions sautéed together. To spice up the dish, I borrowed the seasonings from Janet’s Dillicious Tofu Scramble and added shredded brussels sprouts and shiitake mushrooms to the mix, serving the scramble alongside a pile of roasted potatoes. I’m uncertain if I added a touch too much turmeric or if I failed to adequately cook the blended Vegg into the dish, but something seemed off both flavor- and texture-wise in the finished dish. Probably due to my mistake, the shortcomings of the tofu scramble should in no way dissuade you from the merits of this cookbook (but should perhaps dissuade you from using a heavy hand with turmeric…).

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With half of a packet of The Vegg still left after my experiments, I’m excited to try out some more recipes from the cookbook. However, I’m even more excited for you to familiarize yourself with The Vegg and its cookbook! For your chance to do so, be sure to click on the link either below or at the top of the post and enter the giveaway by 12:00 a.m. EST on Tuesday, January 21. Happy Vegg-ing!

***NOTE: This giveaway is open only to U.S. residents.***

This post is submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays and Wellness Weekend.

This giveaway has closed. Congratulations to Amanda Thomas!

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.

The Myth of Development & the Harms of Consumerism | Brussels Sprouts & Sunchokes in Green Curry Sauce

On this day—the fourth day after Christmas, the 30th day after Black Friday, the 106th day after my birthday, the whatever-th day after everyday on which we in our culture expect to spend money or receive gifts—I find myself once again pondering consumerism. As a Geography major, I often encounter the notion of “development-as-progress” in my studies at Vassar. By development, of course, I don’t mean the implementation of running water or basic social services—these sorts of developments almost certainly serve as markers of societal progress. No, the development that I’m talking about, the kind that keeps me up at night, regards economic growth as essential for prosperity, and thus encourages us to consume (natural resources, money, animal products, land) more than we ever have before. It subjugates the earth by regarding our life-sustaining planet at a commodity. It contributes to ever-intensifying class disparities between Western and non-Western cultures by deeming earth-friendly indigenous modes of production as “inefficient” and “unproductive,” insisting upon the necessity of technologically mediated modes of production for “progress.”

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But considering that this “development” has manifested in resource depletion, climate change, social division, mass extinction of species, factory farming, and more, do we really want to “progress” in this manner? Do we really want to invest ourselves in a lifestyle that, by valuing the pursuit of wealth and possessions as an end unto itself, “is associated with lower levels of well-being, lower life satisfaction and happiness, more symptoms of depression and anxiety, more physical problems such as headaches, and a variety of mental disorders”? (Macy & Johnstone 46). The time has come to realize that our consumptive habits enact profoundly negative consequences upon the earth and all of its inhabitants, rather than asserting it as an unquestioned “American way of life,” as did President Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer in May 2001 (Macy & Johnstone 13). In the words of feminist environmental activist Vandana Shiva, we must “redefine[e] [...] growth and productivity as categories linked to the production, not the destruction, of life [through an] ecological and a feminist project which legitimizes the way of knowing and being that create wealth by enhancing life and diversity, and which delegitimizes the knowledge and practice of a culture of death as the basis for capital accumulation” (12).

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By necessitating that I carefully choose the food I consume, veganism has familiarized me with the practice of analyzing my own consumption and that of our broader culture. This awakened consciousness about consumptive patterns has prompted me and others—such as my housemates in the vegan co-op in which I live at Vassar—to buy food in bulk so as to reduce packaging, to reuse plastic bags for vegetable storage, to drink only out of reusable water bottles, to purchase used items rather than buy new ones, to donate used items, to not flush after every trip to the bathroom, etc. These practices may seem like insignificant behaviors in the face of an enormously destructive Western system of consumption—and we also engage in harmful practices such as using computers, etc.—but they are indicative of the growing popularity of modes of intentional living that re-envision “development” and “progress” as symbiotic earth-human relationships similar to that described by Shiva above.

Of course, veganism does not automatically lead to a sense of urgency in combatting general capitalism and consumption. Indeed, innovative vegan companies have recently taken the market by storm—offering humane versions of meat, cheese, and eggs, yes, but also playing within our problematically capitalistic system. Towards these companies, I find myself in a state of ambivalence. On the one hand, I worry that they embolden our consumerist culture by adding new products to the market and encouraging customers to “buy into” veganism. On the other hand, I wonder if these companies provide a business model in harmony with the aforementioned modes of intentional living, in that they offer animal- and environmentally-friendly alternatives to astronomically destructive industries. Clearly, I’ve still got some thinkin’ to do, but I’d love to hear your thoughts, as well.

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A new endeavor that gives me hope in the face of all this mythological development, consumerism, and ambivalence comes in the form of a self-sustaining vegan eco-village based on a gift economy, named Eotopia. Conceptualized in large part by Raphael Fellmer and Nieves Palmer—a German couple who has thrived living completely without money for over a year now—Eotopia defines four main objectives of the project: creating a sustainable village through permaculture, reuse and recycling, self-sufficiency, and a vegan diet; forming a functional gift-economy; providing a system of free education; and cultivating a community of love, trust, and personal change. Eotopia currently lies in the beginning stages, seeking both community members and a viable piece of land on which to construct the community, but has laid out a timeline that expects to achieve 50-100% self-sufficiency by late 2015. Ideally, I would love to participate in such a community in my future life, but that will have to wait at least another two years until I wave goodbye to Vassar.

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To provide some levity on this weighty, thought-provoking topic, I give you, dear readers, a plate-lickingly scrumptious recipe that puts the “reuse” part of intentional living in action by employing the sweetened condensed coconut milk leftover from making my famous holiday “butter” pecan rum balls. Enjoy.

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Brussels Sprouts & Sunchokes in Green Curry Sauce—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium.

Serves 2-3.

Ingredients:

3/4 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1/2 lb sunchokes (aka jerusalem artichokes), scrubbed and cut into small chunks
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight (be careful not to shake during or after refrigeration)
5 tbsp green curry paste (about 3/4 of a jar of Thai Kitchen brand)
1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss the brussels sprouts and sunchokes with the melted coconut oil. Roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, open the can of refrigerated coconut milk, taking care not to shake it. Scoop only the top layer of coconut cream into a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, saving the coconut water at the bottom of the can for a later use (great for smoothies!). Add the curry paste and the maple syrup (if using) to the saucepan with the coconut cream, and gently stir the ingredients together as they melt. Allow the sauce to simmer while the veggies roast.

Once the veggies are tender and nicely browned, add them to the saucepan. Stir together and allow to simmer gently until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10-15 minutes. Serve.

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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.

Shiva, Vandana. Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. London: Zed Books, 1989. Print.

I’M BACK!…With Za’atar Eggplant Rounds on Chickpea-Cauliflower Puree

Nearly three weeks ago, I alerted you, dear readers, to my hiatus from the blogosphere (as well as to my Thanksgiving shenanigans in NYC), necessary to turn in quality final semester assignments on time. I’m thrilled to say that four essays, a group project, a book review, and a flight from New York to Wisconsin later, and I’m back to blogging business! Since experimenting in the kitchen comprises one of my favorite activities to which to devote time while home in Madison, and since I published my last official recipe—yikes!—over a month ago as part of the Virtual Vegan Potluck, what better way to rekindle my relationship with the ol’ blog than with a new recipe?

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This Middle Eastern-inspired recipe grew out of two dishes that have long lived on my 41-page “Recipes to Try” Word document: this Cauliflower Puree with Roasted Chickpeas from Love and Lemons, and this Grilled Eggplant with Herbed Quinoa from The Sprouted Kitchen. Taking the puree from the former dish, I increased the chickpea-to-cauliflower ratio while substituting the rosemary for za’atar so as to match the flavoring of the eggplant in the latter dish, which I broiled instead of grilled (curse my lack of a grill pan). To the hybridized version of the two dishes I added a fresh, simple salad to brighten the dish. Colorful, succulent, smooth, crisp, and oh-so well seasoned, this dish harbors enough textural contrast and complementing flavors to inspire tingling on anyone’s palate.

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One last note before I relieve you of recipe suspense: I have failed to find za’atar seasoning in any of my local grocery stores, including Whole Foods and my beloved Willy Street Co-op. Thus, I finally took matter into my own hands and mixed together my own. It took up all of three minutes of my time and probably saved me about $5.00. You can find the recipe I used at the bottom of this post.

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Za’atar Eggplant Rounds on Chickpea-Cauliflower PureeSoy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium

Serves 1-2.

Ingredients:

1/2 small head of cauliflower (about 1 1/2 cups), broken into small florets
2 tbsp melted coconut oil, divided
1/2 small clove garlic, smashed
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 tbsp za’tar (see end of post for homemade za’atar spice mix)
1/2 tbsp lemon juice

1 medium eggplant, sliced into rounds
Sea salt for sprinkling
Melted coconut oil for brushing

Large handful of arugula
1/4-1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice

Za’atar for sprinkling

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the eggplant rounds into a colander, sprinkle liberally with sea salt, and toss to coat. Allow the salt to wick away the eggplant’s bitterness while you prepare the rest of the recipe. (Don’t worry; you’re going to wash the salt off later so all of that sodium won’t make its way into the final product).

Place the cauliflower florets in a medium bowl and toss them with 1 tbsp of the melted coconut oil. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until soft and browned in a couple of places. Once the cauliflower has finished roasting, set the oven to broil and place one oven rack on the top rung.

Let the cauliflower cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor along with the remaining 1 tbsp of coconut oil, garlic, chickpeas, za’atar, and lemon juice. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Set aside.

Rinse the eggplant slices well to remove the salt. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of each eggplant slice with melted coconut oil, and place the slices on the same baking pan you used to roast the cauliflower. Broil the eggplant for 7-10 minutes on each side, or until golden-brown and very soft.

While you wait for the eggplant to broil, make the salad. Toss the arugula, cilantro, olive oil, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Set aside.

To plate, smear a layer of the puree on the bottom of a plate. Place the salad on top, then arrange the eggplant on top of the salad. Finish with a generous sprinkling of za’atar. Serve.

Homemade Za’atar Spice Mix

Makes about 1/3 cup.

Ingredients:

2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp marjoram
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp sumac or lemon zest

Directions:

In a small pan, toast the sesame seeds over medium-high heat until golden-brown and fragrant. Careful—they burn very easily if you don’t watch them closely.

Combine the toasted sesame seeds with the rest of the spices in a small bowl and use as desired.

Leftover za’atar can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Recipe submitted to Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Virtual Vegan Potluck 2013: Mixed Root Vegetable Gnocchi in Sage-Pistachio Pesto

That’s right, dear readers—the time has come once again for the fourth biannual congregation of members of the plant-based blogosphere, known as Virtual Vegan Potluck. Organized by four talented vegan bloggers, Virtual Vegan Potluck connects vegan bloggers worldwide in an online extravaganza of animal-free recipe-sharing and food-gawking. Each participating blogger signs up to post a recipe for an appetizer, a beverage, a bread, a salad, a side dish, a soup, a main dish, or a dessert at exactly the same time on exactly the same day, simulating a real-life potluck for our beloved online vegan community. With 146 bloggers participating, this round of VVP will surely produce some impressive noms.

My first foray into the Potluck took place last May with the creation of a stunning (if I do say so myself) salad of pomegranate-infused brown rice, roasted butternut squash and cauliflower, toasted hazelnuts, and arugula. This time around, I’ve ventured into the realm of Main Dishes, drawing upon an abundant arsenal of autumnal edibles for inspiration. Indeed, why wait to enjoy root vegetables, sage, and maple syrup at three separate meals when you can combine them all into one?

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I first conceptualized this dish after learning of the “featured ingredient” of this month’s Virtual Vegan Potluck: beets. Immediately recalling the hugely successful beet gnocchi with meyer lemon pesto with which I experimented this summer, I sought to again imbue the soft, pillowy pasta with the sweet, earthy flavor of beets. “But wait!” I thought. “How can I possibly call myself a seasonal cook if I don’t highlight butternut squash…or parsnips…or celeriac in this dish?” Thus, due to my undiscriminating love toward all of my cold-weather vegetable children, I envisioned a vibrant dish of magenta, creamy white, and deep orange gnocchi.

Also wanting to incorporate a sauce, I opted to create a pesto-fied version of my all-time favorite hummus: the deeply flavored, warming, grounding, and quite timely Rosemary Pistachio Hummus. Unfortunately, on the night that I actually cooked this dish, one of my Ferry housemates had commandeered all of the rosemary off of the potted rosemary bush in our dining room, relegating me to using the sage from the farmers market (woe is me). Needless to say, the sage provided a gorgeous substitute for the rosemary, maintaining the pesto’s presentation of a savory autumnal herb.

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Imbued with the subtly sweet flavors of six different root vegetables and coated in a rich, maple-y pesto, this gnocchi is sophisticated comfort food at its finest.

A note on the flour: I’ve made gnocchi with brown rice flour, chickpea flour, and spelt flour in the past. All have produced pretty darn tasty results, though the brown rice performed the best with its light texture and neutral flavor. The chickpea flour yielded light gnocchi but maintained its strong, beany flavor; the spelt flour let the veggie’s flavor shine but created a rather dense gnocchi. Feel free to experiment with your flours, though!

Onto the yumminess…

Mixed Root Vegetable Gnocchi in Sage-Pistachio Pesto—Soy Free, Low Sodium.

Makes a whole lotta gnocchi.

For the pesto:
2 shallots, minced
10 leaves of fresh sage, minced
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tbsp tahini
1 cup shelled pistachios
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Olive oil to thin, as needed

For the gnocchi:
1/2 of a butternut squash, seeded
2 large beets, peeled
1 medium sweet potato, peeled
1 medium celeriac, peeled
1 large parsnip, peeled
1 medium turnip, peeled
4-6 cups brown rice flour, divided, plus more for dusting

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Wrap the beets, sweet potato, celeriac, parsnip, and turnip each individually in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Place the butternut squash, face-down, on the baking sheet, as well. Roast all of the veggies for 45-60 minutes until you can pierce through them with a fork. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, make the pesto. Heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the shallots and sage. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the sauté to a food processor along with the rest of the pesto ingredients, except for the olive oil. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides as necessary. As the motor is running, drizzle in olive oil to achieve the desired consistency.

Set a large pot of salted water to boil.

Once the veggies have cooled, puree each of them separately in a food processor (or mash them separately with a potato masher) and place the purees into separate bowls. Make sure that you process the beets last so as not to stain the other veggie purees with a magenta hue. Combine the purees of celeriac, turnip, and parsnip. You’ll have four bowls of puree in front of you: one deep orange (butternut squash), one light orange (sweet potato), one magenta (beet), and one white (celeriac, turnip, and parsnip). Combine each of the purees with 1 cup of brown rice flour, adding more to each bowl to achieve an ever-so-slightly sticky consistency (the butternut squash and sweet potato purees will require less than the others).

Dust a work surface with additional flour. Divide each dough into two portions and roll them into snakes about 1/2-inch in width. Cut each snake into 10-20 gnocchi and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Once the pot of water is boiling, drop the gnocchi—ten at a time and only with gnocchi of like color—into the pot. Cook until the gnocchi floats to the top, about 30 seconds. Remove the gnocchi from the water and place in a colander sitting over a bowl to allow the water to drain.

Combine all of the gnocchi in a large bowl (at this point, the boiling will have sealed their color, so it’s safe to combine them). Add the pesto and stir well to coat. Serve warm.

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Check out Deerly Beloved Bakery’s recipe for Beet Pasta!

Don’t miss Veggie Girl’s recipe for Stuffed Squash!

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

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan Delish Giveaway & Recipe for No-Bake Apple Pie

Vegan Delish sized for blog use

Get excited, folks, for I’m about to announce Farmers Market Vegan’s first ever giveaway! That’s right, dear readers, three of you lucky ducks have the chance to win a quite fabulous prize: a free download code for the iPhone/iPod recipe app Vegan Delish. Scroll to the bottom of this post to enter.

easy recipes Vegan Delish screenshot

Launched by the talented blogger, recipe developer, and graduate in public health nutrition Carrie Forest of Carrie on Vegan, Vegan Delish offers over 140 nourishing, mouthwatering recipes—all of which are vegan, gluten-free, made with minimal oil, salt, and added sugars, and accompanied by high-definition photos. New and veteran vegans, vegetarians, and those seeking to explore a plant-based diet will enjoy Vegan Delish not only for healthy and easy recipes, but also for a digital shopping list; social media sharing, recipe scaling, and kitchen timer functions; and recipe ratings and reviews—all without any ads. From Vegan Delish’s multiplicity of well-tested recipes and features, it comes as no surprise that the App Store lists it as one of the top 25 Paid Food & Drink Apps.

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To further enthuse you about this fabulous app and giveaway, check out a sampling of recipes featured on Vegan Delish:

–Mock Tuna Salad
–Buckwheat Pancakes with Maple Cashew Cream
–Cauliflower Pizza Crust
–Vegetable Quinoa Salad
–Avocado Chocolate Pudding
–Brown Rice & Lentil Salad
–Veggie Sushi Rolls
–Red Lentil Dal
–Almond Date Balls

As if Carrie had not already adequately showcased her generosity by offering up three free download codes for Vegan Delish, she also offered for me to share a recipe from the app—one for No-Bake Apple Pie—right here, right now.

No-Bake Apple Pie

Published with permission from Vegan Delish.

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (divided)
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup orange juice
6 Fuji apples
1 1/2 cups medjool dates, pitted
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons cinnamon (divided)
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats

Instructions:

1. Core the apples and cut them into bite-sized pieces.

2. Combine the apples, orange juice, raisins, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of the vanilla extract into a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until apples are softened. Stir in nutritional yeast and set aside to cool.

3. Place almonds, walnuts, and oats in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the remaining cinnamon and vanilla extract. Turn the food processor on and add the dates through the feeding tube one at a time. Process until mixture is well combined.

4. Pour the contents of the food processor into the pie dish and use your hands to spread evenly into the dish. Place the crust in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.

5. When you are ready to assemble the pie, pour the apple mixture into the pie crust and serve cold or at room temperature.

Bakeless Apple Pie 2 Bakeless Apple Pie 1

Let’s face it: how could you not enter this giveaway? Simply click on the link below and you could be one of three winners, whom I will announce on Monday, November 11.

***NOTE: This giveaway is only open to U.S. residents. The codes will only work on iPhones and iPads.***

This giveaway has closed. Congrats to Eric, Anna, and Erika!

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.

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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.

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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.

Ingredients:

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.

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Recipe submitted to Wellness Weekend and Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Until next time, Ali.

Review of M.O.B. Vegan Restaurant in Brooklyn

Well folks, I’ve failed you yet again—in the midst of my studies, my role as co-president of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC), and my galavanting across southeastern New York, I’ve not made the time to scribe a post to quench your thirst for social justice-infused food prose. However, the aforementioned galavanting has provided me with ample blogging material, as it included a jaunt to my beloved spiritual hometown of New York City. Accompanied by my dear Ferry housemate and native Brooklynite Gabe, I wholeheartedly enjoyed two days of urban frolicking, chock full of yoga, vegan eats, philosophical subway conversations, and the discovery of a revolutionary eatery known as M.O.B.

The day after catching a train from Vassar to NYC and catching up with Gabe’s generous, welcoming family, my Brooklyn buddy and I enjoyed green smoothie-granola breakfast bowls à la Ali before heading to an invigorating class at the activism-imbued yoga studio of Jivamukti. If you’d like a taste of the Jivamukti style, I’d highly recommend downloading a couple of podcasts from top-notch instructor Jessica Stickler. An artful yet unpretentious round of sandwiches and donuts from the Cinnamon Snail food truck nourished our yoga-ed bodies, and I basked in the superbly vegan-positive atmosphere that so contributes to my love of The City.

Tempeh crusted in blue cornmeal & hemp seeds, tomatillo salsa verde, beer-simmered onions, arugula, and chipotle mayo on grilled spelt bread. Oh yes.

Tempeh crusted in blue cornmeal & hemp seeds, tomatillo salsa verde, beer-simmered onions, arugula, and chipotle mayo on grilled spelt bread. Oh yes.

Gabe, meanwhile, savors a pistachio-cardamom donut. Even more yes.

Gabe, meanwhile, savors a pistachio-cardamom donut. Even more yes.

After tea, showers, and lazy reading, Gabe and I had worked up another appetite. Accordingly, I employed my mental arsenal of vegan restaurants of NYC to invoke one near Gabe’s Brooklyn home, and happened upon M.O.B. First popping up on my restaurant radar at The Seed Experience 2013, M.O.B.’s newly launched Brooklyn location received positive reviews from a handful of my fellow NYC vegan venturers, though it has not yet exploded onto the main veg restaurant scene alongside the Candles and Blossoms. However, M.O.B.’s outstanding food quality, creativity, and whimsy undoubtedly deserve a coveted spot in the New York Vegan Restaurant Hall of Fame.

Boasting an acronymic name for “Maimonides of Brooklyn,” M.O.B. buries its roots in the ancient Jewish philosophy of reflection, commitment, and knowing “The Other,” as well as in the following’s emphasis on the healthful combinations of vegetables, fruits, and spices—sounds to me like the basis for a vegan ideology! The brainchild of French-born Cycil Aouizerate, M.O.B. originated in Paris, but drew primary inspiration from Brooklyn’s hip hop scene. Aouizerate sought for M.O.B. to unite all people, regardless of beliefs and lifestyles, over nourishing, compassionate, and scrumptious food. Both of M.O.B.’s locations function as celebrations of Brooklyn’s dynamism, featuring “avant-garde pizzas” in the shape of the Brooklyn Bridge’s arches as the restaurant’s namesake dish, as well as Brooklyn-themed comic books offered to guests along with the menu. M.O.B.’s playfulness extends beyond its comic books: one of the walls of the main dining room sports a plethora of plastic vegetables nailed to wooden plaques bearing such eulogies as, “R.I.P. Mister Tomato—Died for Sauce,” as a satire of the taxidermied heads of hunted animals.

M.O.B.'s complimentary Brooklyn-themed comic book.

M.O.B.’s complimentary Brooklyn-themed comic book.

The comic book not only provides guests with a story of a Brooklyn superhero, but also a board game...

The comic book not only provides guests with a story of a Brooklyn superhero, but also a board game…

...and a poem prompt.

…and a poem prompt.

Not only does M.O.B. offer humor, spunk, and free reading material, it also boasts a well-crafted menu of artfully composed, soul-satisfying vegan dishes. Two Michelin-star chefs and an acclaimed raw food connoisseur united to create a legitimately groundbreaking menu of wholesome, plant-based comfort foods, with specialties of meatless saucissons, sweet potato buns and rolls, corn soup, and (of course) the namesake M.O.B. flatbreads. Since the menu nor the restaurant’s décor nowhere explicitly denotes the restaurant’s complete vegan-ness, unsuspecting (and non-vegan) diners expect the traditional animal-based versions of mac & cheese, burgers, and hot dogs, and become subsequently wowed by the wonderful world of vegan food. I became convinced of the efficacy of this strategy when, on both of my visits to the eatery (one a week after the first), curious patrons hesitated outside of the restaurant’s front door and enthusiastically entered with my slight prodding of, “Oh, this place is great, you’ll love it!”—no mention of veganism involved (the servers would take care of that later).

Even I, aware that M.O.B. was a vegan establishment, felt compelled to double-check with my server that nothing on the Mob Dog Deluxe contained animal foods (better safe than sorry!). With her blessing, I eagerly ordered the loaded hot dog. In between munches of complimentary paper-thin kale chips, Gabe and I talked life, love, and literature before gawking over the colorful plates soon presented to us.

Any restaurant that serves kale chips as appetizers instantly wins my heart.

Any restaurant that serves kale chips as appetizers instantly wins my heart.

As you know, dear readers, I don’t often find myself speechless in reply to food (if I did, my blog would certainly be lacking in content). However, the Mob Dog Deluxe—a carrot-chickpea dog studded with fennel seeds stuffed inside a sweet potato roll and topped with tangy ketchup, spicy mustard, salty Brooklyn Brine sauerkraut, and sour relish—transcended words. One bite of perfectly intermingled flavors dancing over a toothsome, seitan-like chickpea dog evoked in me a rather epiphanal response in which I stared, wide-eyed and longingly, at the dog; locked eyes with Gabe; and turned the dog toward his mouth, needing to share my mind-blogging gastronomic experience with another. The dog produced a similar response in Gabe (remember that he still eats meat occasion), though he regained his vocal capacities faster than I did in order to gasp, “That dog is not just as good as meat-based hot dogs—that dog is better. As in, given the choice between a traditional ballpark hot dog and this vegan one, I would choose the Mob Dog.” Coupled with M.O.B.’s strategy of not advertising their vegan-ness, the eatery’s genius evocation of traditionally meat-based classics harbors the potential to revolutionize the vegan restaurant scene. Indeed, the restaurant prompted me to break my streak of not patronizing eateries twice in a row, calling Gabe and I back for more M.O.B. a week after our first visit.

The Mob Dog--an other-worldly gastronomic experience.

The Mob Dog: an other-worldly gastronomic experience.

The impeccable Mob Dog necessitated my return to M.O.B. a week later in order to enjoy their other "meaty sandwich" offering of the Mob Burger Deluxe--a hearty, chewy crimini mushroom patty topped with secret sauce, Brooklyn Brine pickles, charred onions, tomatoes, smoked eggplant, and lettuce.

The impeccable Mob Dog necessitated my return to M.O.B. a week later in order to enjoy their other “meaty sandwich” offering of the Mob Burger Deluxe–a hearty, chewy crimini mushroom patty topped with smoky & tangy secret sauce, Brooklyn Brine pickles, charred onions, tomatoes, smoked eggplant, and lettuce.

While the Mob Dog & Burger appealed to me more than the M.O.B. flatbreads on both of my visits to the eatery, two of my dining compatriots ordered both M.O.B. options during my two excursions. On our first M.O.B. visit, my dearest Gabe enjoyed the Autumn Glow M.O.B.—a house-baked flatbread made with locally grown and milled organic flours shaped like the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge, spread with black bean puree, paprika-roasted sweet potatoes, grilled corn, and jalapeno sour cream. Gabe’s younger brother Isaiah opted for the Iron Man M.O.B.—a verdant flatbread topped with roasted shiitake mushrooms, sautéed kale, horseradish aioli, and parsley— on our second journey to the eatery. Both Gabe and Isaiah sang the praises of their M.O.B.’s, sweetly offering me fabulous sample bites (though not quite as fabulous as either the Mob Dog or Burger, I must say). The graffiti-style metal plates specially tailored for serving M.O.B. flatbreads further contribute to the restaurant’s playful atmosphere.

Autumn Glow M.O.B.

Autumn Glow M.O.B.

Iron Man M.O.B.

Iron Man M.O.B.

No quality vegan restaurant has ever disappointed me in terms of dessert, and M.O.B.—the increasingly impressive establishment that it is—proved no different. Just as varied, mouthwatering, and well-chosen as M.O.B.’s dinner menu, the dessert selection guarantees a succulent, revelatory conclusion to an already pivotal meal. During both of my visits to the restaurant, I had the pleasure of sampling three of M.O.B.’s four regular desserts, and one special. I first enjoyed the Mob Sundae—two scoops of DF Mavens coconut milk ice cream (a new vegan ice cream company that has burst onto the scene over the past year) in both chocolate and vanilla, topped with a chocolate hard shell, toasted hazelnuts, and citrus-mint whipped cream.

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Gabe, Isaiah, and I opted to split three desserts during our second visit, sharing a Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Compote, a Chocolate Hazelnut Torte, and a Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich (the latter, unfortunately, is unpictured).

The Lemon Cheesecake offered the closest parallel in both dense, creamy texture and rich, tangy flavor as dairy-based cheesecakes that I’ve ever encountered, even sporting the familiar golden-brown exterior of traditional cheesecakes. The blueberry compote, unfortunately, tasted like little more than thawed frozen wild blueberries, but only detracted slightly from the otherwise remarkable dessert.

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The Chocolate Hazelnut Torte harbored a similarly creamy texture, coupled with the classic, genius pairing of hazelnut and chocolate.

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Finally, the Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich provided a fun, childlike eating experience, what with its slowly melting chocolate ice cream oozing out from the soft, chewy cookies and threatening to drip all over the table at any moment.

Gabe and I first patronized M.O.B. on a bit of a whim, but I could not be more enthused with the outcome of our rather spontaneous restaurant choice. M.O.B. easily ranks among my top four vegan restaurants of all time, along with Vedge in Philadelphia, Angelica Kitchen in New York City, and Garden Café on the Green in Woodstock. I duly look forward to my family’s annual NYC Thanksgiving adventure so that I can introduce my parents to the wonders of M.O.B. Hopefully my Mob Dog cravings over the next six weeks don’t distract me too much…

Until next time, Ali.