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.

Ranch Potato Salad | Enjoying Food, Enjoying Life

Before I get into today’s post, I’d like to point you toward Episode 234 of the Our Hen House podcast, where you can hear all about the top five most fabulous vegan eats that I enjoyed during my two-week trip to Italy back in March. The rampant vegan-friendliness of Italian cuisine might surprise you!

I also want to thank you all for the outpouring of positive feedback on my recent post on vegan privilege. Thank you all for your kind words and willingness to engage in a tough yet hugely important issue.

If you checked out the latest installment of my Vegan Chews & Progressive News series (#NewsandChews), you most likely noticed the tantalizing plate of food featured in the “Best Recipe I Made This Week” section. Along with a pile of buffalo tempeh and a sweet wilted kale salad, the featured dinner included a mound of young, multicolored potatoes dotted with verdant sweet peas and coated in the ubiquitous childhood favorite veggie dip: ranch dressing. Though, probably unlike the mayo-based ranch of your youth (definitely of mine), the making of this particular dressing did not contribute to the dumping of live chickens into trash pits, the gassing or grinding up of male chicks, or the forced molting of hens (but those are all just “standard industry practices,” right? No biggie?).

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While my switching from egg-based ranch dressing to a vegan, oil-based version in part represents a desire to foster a kinder world, my new-found enthusiasm for vegan mayo represents an act of kindness to myself. Back in the darkest days of my eating disorder, I abided by all sorts of  self-imposed, nonsensical food restrictions based on nutrition pseudo-science: no peanut butter because it’s susceptible to mold, only minute amounts of tofu and tempeh because processed soy causes breast cancer (actually the opposite), no maple syrup or agave nectar because even minimally refined sweeteners are the devil’s handiwork, etc. Policing my every bite of food for its “purity” of health, eating became an act of stress (that my food was optimally “healthy”) and self-punishment (if it wasn’t or if I ate “too much” of it). Because my disorder consumed my identity, this stress and self-punishment permeated the vast majority of my everyday life.

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Fast forward through a ton of psychological healing involving the refocusing of my attention off of food and onto a cause larger than myself (read: animal rights), as well as the cultivation of self-respect through a now approaching six-year yoga practice, I found myself able not only to enjoy the singular act of eating, but to enjoy the continuous act of life.

Life! That once-unhappy phenomenon through which I struggled throughout high school in irritable, depressive, static fashion became an interactive cornucopia of opportunity, action, and joy. My utmost goal transformed from achieving optimal “health” through “pure,” absolutely unprocessed diet, and to bettering the world by fighting against multiple societal oppression while finding pleasure in the everyday.

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Okay, so what does this have to do with vegan mayo? Well, my now-beloved Vegenaise once existed among my extensive list of forbidden ingredients (it was a processed product that contained soy protein, for pete’s sake!!!!). Though it may appear inconsequential to the unknowing witness, my ability to consume and absolutely revel in enjoyment of the foods on my past taboo list—including maple syrup, vegan cheese like Daiya, vegan meat products like Field Roast, and non-dairy ice cream like DF Mavens—constitutes an enormous positive leap in my psychological health and relationship with food.

Back to that Ranch Potato Salad. Bursting with freshness from a hearty dose of herbs and tanginess from that much-adored vegan mayo, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be able to enjoy this perfect-for-summer salad without even the slightest twinge of self-hate. Here’s to enjoying food, and enjoying life.

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Ranch Potato Salad

Serves 4.

Ranch Dressing Ingredients (loosely adapted from Betty Goes Vegan):

3/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (Organic Vegenaise and Just Mayo are my favorites)
8 oz (half a package) silken tofu
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp tahini
2 tsp nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp tamari
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp freshly group black pepper

Salad Ingredients:

Sea salt for the boiling water
1 lb fingerling potatoes (I used a mix of yellow, red, and blue)
2 cups green peas, fresh or frozen

Scrub the potatoes and place them in a large pot. Fill the pot about 3/4 of the way full, sprinkle a generous amount of salt into the water, cover, and bring to a boil. Keep the water at a rolling boil for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and can be pierced easily with a fork. Add the peas and boil for another minute. Drain and let cool until you can comfortably handle the potatoes.

Meanwhile, combine all of the dressing ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and blend until very smooth.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice each potato in half (or in quarters, if larger) and place in a large bowl. Add the peas, then add about 1 cup of the ranch dressing, or enough to coat the potatoes and peas to your liking (you may not use all of the dressing. Oh no! Leftover tangy, creamy deliciousness! Whatever will you do?). Stir the mixture until the potatoes and peas are evenly coated with the dressing. Serve warm.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {7-4-14}

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.

Happy 4th of July! While the news highlighted in this fifth edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News may not contribute to your patriotism, July 4th still provides a fabulous excuse to fire up the grill for some summer veggies and dig into a pint of non-dairy ice cream. Let’s get to it!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Strawberry Sweet Rolls with Lemon-Caramel Glaze
via Yup, It’s Vegan

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Photo via Yup, It’s Vegan.

Though the end of strawberry season is upon us in Brooklyn (hellooo, cherries!), Shannon offers up a chewy, yeasty, doughy, succulent, mouthwatering recipe to make creative use (not that eating them unadorned isn’t a fabulous use) of any late-season strawberries you might be lucky enough to snag. I expect that these whole-grain, refined sugar-free sweet rolls would provide both a comforting breakfast and a lovely warm-weather dessert, perfect for enjoying on the patio just before sunset.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Ranch Potato Salad, Buffalo Tempeh with Homemade Sauce, and Sweet Kale Salad
via Betty Goes Vegan, Post Punk Kitchen, Emeril Lagasse, and Chef Mickiyah

dinner

The “recipe” highlight of this week is actually a full meal made up of three components. The first: a Ranch Potato Salad with sweet green peas and a vegan ranch dressing adapted from the vegan-Betty Crocker remix cookbook Betty Goes Vegan. The second: crispy sauteed tempeh simmered in homemade buffalo sauce, inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipe with a DIY twist. The third: a warm salad of wilted kale in a succulent sauce of Dijon mustard and coconut sugar with a sprinkling of juicy raisins, courtesy of Chef Mickiyah of Woodland’s Vegan Bistro (remember my rave review of this DC vegan hot spot last summer?). Hearty, boldly flavored, and nourishing, this dinner would have impressed any July 4th-celebrating non-vegan.

Must-Read News Article

This past week brought an onslaught of landmark court decisions, both inside and outside of the U.S.

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Photo via Grist.

Via Grist: In Canada, the Supreme Court ruled that any First Nation land that was never formally ceded to the Canadian government cannot be developed without consent of those First Nations that have a claim to it. In addition to challenging the Northern Gateway oil pipeline that would run from Alberta to China, the ruling recognizes the rights of the First Nations whose land the U.S. and Canada colonized long ago, and who have endured heaps of discrimination ever since. Way to go, Canadian Supreme Court.

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Photo via Slate.

Back home in the U.S., however, the Supreme Court produced decisions much less worth celebrating. Via Slate, Truthout, and Mother Jones: Not only did the Court strike down a Massachusetts law mandating a 35-foot buffer zone that anti-abortion protesters couldn’t enter to heckle patients outside of abortion clinics, it also declared that the government couldn’t require closely held businesses to provide their employees with health insurance that covers types of birth control that offend the owner’s religious beliefs. Both decisions severely infringe upon women’s health and reproductive rights, essentially indicating that corporations constitute “people” more so than do women. A much more sarcastic “way to go” to you, SCOTUS.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

BEST OF: Melissa Gira Grant on sex work, savior complexes, and a vegan dominatrix
via Citizen Radio

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Photo via Citizen Radio.

The topic of sex workers and their rights proves hotly debated, even in feminist circles, as many well-meaning folks attempt to control the actions of women who find themselves in precarious situations and choose to engage in sex work in order to get by. In this “Best Of” episode of Citizen Radio, Melissa Gira Grant—author of Playing the Whore, which is definitely next on my reading list—explains the politics behind the issue of sex workers with elegance, clarity, and wit. A must-listen.

For more information on sex workers’ rights, check out this recent article on Truthout, entitled “Cutting Off Sex Work Advertising Sites Disrupts Communities, Not Trafficking.”

Book Recommendation

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap
by Matt Taibbi

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Photo via NPR.

While anyone who hasn’t lived under a slab of tofu for the past few decades has clearly seen the staggering wealth gap into which capitalism has sent our country spiraling, Matt Taibbi highlights the concrete impacts that this gap has upon the bodies of the poor and the criminal justice system. Switching between narrating startling stories of corporate/Wall Street money laundering and the clear discrimination in policing against people of color, Taibbi demonstrates the stark contrast between the treatment of the rich and poor in arrests, trials, and punishments. For example. on the one hand, the police arrest an impoverished Black man for “obstructing traffic” by standing in front of the door of his own home, while “too-big-to-fail” companies like HSBC receive no more than a slap on the wrist for major corporate fraud. A book to make your blood boil and your cynical laughter to ring.

In solidarity, Ali.

Seaweed & Edamame Salad | Thoughts on Vegan Privilege

Before introducing today’s recipe, I’m thrilled to announce the three winners of my most recent giveaway for two free pints of Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss vegan ice cream. Congratulations to Becca FergusonRosie Riccio DeRensis, and Megan Digeon! Enjoy the creamy, decadent, coconutty goodness.

I got myself into a Facebook skirmish the other day. I don’t often do so, nor do I know that I can even call this incident a “skirmish,” so much as an instance of me replying to a post I found problematic, and never hearing back from the poster or commentators. The post in question—entitled “Dear White Vegans: This is Your Collection Agency Calling“—elicited enthusiastic responses from two individuals who referred to themselves as “former white, privileged vegans.”

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I responded as such:

“I agree with many of the sentiments expressed in this article. The current vegan movement contains an onslaught of classist, racist, sexist, and ableist elements. Equating the mass slaughter of animals with genocide and slavery co-opts the unknowable suffering of marginalized peoples in an effort to further another movement.

However, I feel that the arguments expressed in this article are a bit ad-hominem. Yes, the way veganism at large is being executed right now is hugely problematic. But at its core, veganism, for me, is simply an extension of an effort to combat the multiplicities of oppression in this world. The exploitation of people of color, women, members of the LGBT community, non-human animals, etc. are not the same, but they share a similar component: an unequal relationship between oppressor and oppressed. I would argue that if this relationship exists anywhere, the possibility for a liberated society becomes greatly hindered.

Consider the powerful activists in history who were also vegan: Cesar Chavez, Thich Nhat Hanh, Coretta Scott King, Angela Davis, and so on. They recognized that while different instances of oppression are not at all the same and each need to be understood in their own right, they are also intimately connected by their being perpetuated by a capitalistic, patriarchal, colonial mindset. To fight against these marginalizing power relations, I feel that we must engage in a multiplicity of social struggles in order to empower habitually silenced groups. And I would argue that these struggles should include non-human animals.”

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In essence, I don’t want to throw out the idea of veganism simply because its current execution involves a multiplicity of problematic aspects. Instead, since I’m currently privileged enough to enjoy access to a bounty of plant-based foods, an income to obtain such foods, and a social circle that won’t disown my non-mainstream lifestyle, I’ve passionately added animal exploitation to the list of oppressions I’m actively seeking to combat by leading a vegan lifestyle.

Equally important, however, is that in such a privileged position, I must also engage in actively combating the problematic aspects of the vegan movement, in part by constantly reminding myself that the privilege enabling my vegan lifestyle exists among the phenomena that I actively seek to combat. The actions I’m taking against such privilege don’t involve giving up veganism, since that would actively enforce another very real oppression. Instead, the actions involve supporting admirable organizations like Food Not Bombs and the Food Empowerment Project that work to make nourishing vegan options accessible to marginalized communities; working to free myself of the capitalistic mindset of nonstop accumulation of material goods; working not to reinforce my various privileges in my daily interpersonal relations; and educating myself about the histories and current manifestations of various oppressions by devouring anti-racist, feminist, anarchist, etc. literature and following progressive news sources.

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These efforts don’t stop my occupation of a privileged position, of course. I’m still able to take myself out for expensive dinners at upscale restaurants in Manhattan; I’m still able to host giveaways on the ol’ blog for free products while the vivacious homeless man, who hangs out most days on the bench in front of my apartment building, asks for donations; I’m still able to shell out $12.99 for a 6-oz bag of arame seaweed at Whole Foods.

But these privileges don’t exist because I’m vegan, and they’ll still exist even if I were to throw up my hands and give up veganism tomorrow (which I absolutely will not). They exist because I’m a white, straight, cisgender individual with an upper-middle-class background. And veganism is only the first way in which I hope to engage in a challenge to the capitalist, patriarchal, colonial, speciesist, etc. society that makes it super easy to thrive with such identity factors.

Now, before I recommence all this challenging, please excuse me while I enjoy the following salad that I made with a $12.99-bag of arame seaweed that I bought at Whole Foods after being inspired to make such a salad by a dish I enjoyed at a not-inexpensive restaurant in perhaps the most well-off neighborhood in Brooklyn. Don’t we all love a good contradiction?

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Seaweed & Edamame SaladNut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Serves 2-4 as a side dish.

Ingredients:

3 oz arame or hiziki seaweed (or a blend of the two)
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp finely sliced scallions
2 tbsp sesame seeds (both white & black are fine)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Place the seaweed in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let the seaweed soak for 15-60 minutes, or until it has expanded significantly. Drain.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shelled edamame and boil for 4-6 minutes. Drain.

When the seaweed has finished soaking, heat the coconut oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for a minute, then add the drained seaweed and saute for about 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated from the seaweed. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the toasted sesame oil, raise the heat to medium-high, and saute until most of the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat and relocate the seaweed mixture to a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the toasted sesame oil. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

Until next time, Ali.

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.

Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss Ice Cream Review & GIVEAWAY!

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

Welcome to Round 2 of summer giveaways on Farmers Market Vegan! This time, I’m thrilled to offer you perhaps the tastiest, creamiest, richest, most decadent non-dairy ice cream on the market (I’m really not exaggerating here)Luna and Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss.

All Coconut Bliss Flavors

After Coconut Bliss founders Luna and Larry Kaplowitz embarked upon a dairy-free diet out of concern for their health and the ecological impact of dairy production, they had trouble finding a tasty non-dairy ice cream free of questionable ingredients. With soy- and rice-based ice creams proving gastronomically unsatisfying, Luna and Larry turned to coconut milk and– hand-crank ice cream machine in hand – began hosting weekly tasting parties for friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else interested in the wonders of coconut, agave-sweetened ice cream. Once two local shop owners requested that Luna and Larry start selling the ice cream in their stores, Coconut Bliss became an official business venture and expanded from a home hand-crank operation into a manufacturing facility in Eugene, Oregon. Today, you can find Luna and Larry’s top-quality ice cream in stores across the U.S. and Canada.

Luna and Larry at the Thai coconut farm that produces milk for Coconut Bliss.

Luna and Larry at the Thai coconut farm that produces milk for Coconut Bliss.

With this expansion, Luna and Larry made few compromises in terms of environmental and ethical sustainability. At least 95% of all Coconut Bliss ingredients are certified organic, including the coconut milk and agave, both of which are sourced from family-owned farms in Thailand and Mexico respectively with which Luna and Larry have connected in person. Additionally, all of the cacao used in Coconut Bliss comes from a fair-trade certified workers’ cooperative in the Dominican Republic, a production setup that minimizes the incidence of child slavery (read more about slavery in the chocolate industry here). Luna and Larry also offer substantial support to the local Eugene community by sponsoring events and donating to a number of nonprofits, and are currently seeking to donate a percentage of their sales the communities and animal shelters in the area of Thailand where the coconut milk they use is produced.

Coconut Bliss at the Beloved Sacred Music Festival in Tidewater, Oregon.

Coconut Bliss at the Beloved Sacred Music Festival in Tidewater, Oregon.

You’ll notice that I mentioned that Luna and Larry made few compromises in expanding Coconut Bliss. One compromise that they did make, however, I feel the need to mention. As explained in detail in this blog post from Larry, in 2011 Coconut Bliss became majority owned by Lochmead Dairy (and that don’t mean a vegan dairy, folks). As Larry explains, with skyrocketing demand, he and Luna began searching for a co-packer that could make Coconut Bliss for them, and supposedly could not find a vegan co-packer large enough to suit their needs. The couple then turned to Lochmead, who apparently used to manufacture Turtle Mountain’s So Delicious and Purely Decadent lines, and thus have 20+ years of experience manufacturing vegan ice cream in a separate facility from their dairy products.

While I understand the reasoning behind this decision, I’m disappointed that our current society necessitates that many vegan products need engage at least somewhat with animal agriculture in order to reach a wide audience (Tom’s toothpaste, anyone? How about Nancy’s soy yogurt?). I grappled extensively – consulting a number of trusted animal rights activists – with whether or not I should carry out this review, on the grounds that I would be providing publicity for a dairy company by extension. However, I ultimately decided that the unfortunate fact that we live in an imperfect world, in which “pure” veganism proves impossible, should not keep me from promoting what I truly believe is the most impressive widely available vegan ice cream on the market – one that I would venture to say has the power to change non-vegan hearts and minds.

Additionally, I thought that this giveaway might provide a great opportunity to reach out to Lochmead Dairy informing them of how enthusiastically I adore the quality of their vegan ice cream, and asking them to continue to expand their vegan options. I’ve already sent an email of this vein to Lochmead, and would wholeheartedly encourage you all to do the same!

So folks, let’s talk about the ice cream. It’s good. Like, mind-bogglingly good. Like, “OMG am I really tasting this right now this can’t be real” good. Creamy, rich, silky smooth, decadent…I could go on.

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For this review, I had the opportunity to sample two flavors of Coconut Bliss: Mocha Maca Crunch and Cherry Amaretto (though, I’ve tried the Lunaberry Swirl in the past and it remains my favorite). A gorgeous balance of maca maltiness and rich coffee flavor, the Mocha Maca Crunch offered a rather sophisticated ice cream, though its “wild side” shone through the crunchy cacao nibs that studded each spoonful. The Cherry Amaretto hugely appealed to my adoration of the flavor of almond extract, and offered ginormous chunks of icy-juicy cherries throughout the ice cream. I served both of these flavors to a room full of non-vegans, all of whom had nothing but “ooh,” “ahh,” “oh, man,” “this is really just coconut milk?,” and other laudatory remarks to make of the Coconut Bliss quality.

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Other than enjoying Coconut Bliss straight out of the container and sharing it with those not yet enlightened to the world of vegan ice cream, I also experimented with incorporating Coconut Bliss into a widely loved childhood dessert: ice cream sandwiches. Check out the recipe below, which pairs the Mocha Maca Crunch with chocolate’s frequent sidekick hazelnut, and couples the Cherry Amaretto with cherry’s good friend carob.

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Mocha Maca Crunch Ice Cream Sandwiches with Hazelnut Cookies & Cherry Amaretto Ice Cream Sandwiches with Carob Cookies—Soy Free, Low Sodium

Makes 3 sandwiches.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut oil
3 tbsp maple syrup
5 tbsp buckwheat flour
2 tbsp plant-based milk
2/3 cup rolled oats
Pinch of sea salt

1 tbsp carob powder
1 tsp hazelnut extract

1/4-1/2 cup Coconut Bliss Mocha Maca Crunch Ice Cream
1/4-1/2 cup Coconut Bliss Cherry Amaretto Ice Cream

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place two small mixing bowls on the counter in front of you. Combine 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, 3 tbsp buckwheat flour, 1 tbsp milk, 1/3 cup rolled oats, a pinch of sea salt, and 1 tsp hazelnut extract in the bowl on the left: this is your hazelnut cookie batter. In the bowl on the right, combine the remaining 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tbsp buckwheat flour, 1 tbsp milk, 1/3 cup rolled oats, pinch of sea salt, and 1 tbsp carob powder: this is your carob cookie batter.

Drop the batters by the heaping spoonfuls onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread each cookie out with your fingers to create a thin disk. Each batter should yield 3 cookies. Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool completely; they will crisp up as they cool.

You’ll use 1/4 cup ice cream for each sandwich, but you’ll have to use 1/2 cup total of one of the ice cream flavors since you have 3 cookies to fill. The Mocha Maca Crunch ice cream will go in between the hazelnut cookies, while the Cherry Amaretto ice cream will go in between the carob cookies. However, one scoop of one of the flavors of ice cream will go in between one of each cookie. Spoon one flavor of ice cream into a round-ish 1/4 cup measure, then overturn on top of one of the cookies to yield a dome-shaped heap of ice cream. Place another cookie of the same flavor on top of the ice cream and gently smush the ice cream down with the top cookie to create a sandwich. Immediately eat or place in the freezer to save for later. About5-10 minutes before you’d like to enjoy a sandwich, remove one from the freezer to allow to soften slightly.

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Three of you who enter the giveaway will win two product coupons for free Coconut Bliss! So what are you waiting for? Enter the giveaway via the links at the top and bottom of this post.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, June 29, and I will announce the three winners on the following day.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

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

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.

Brooklyn Restaurant Exploration: Dao Palate + Announcements!

Before I get into today’s post, I’d like to point you toward the latest episode of the Our Hen House podcast, which features highlights from recent interviews on the OHH TV show. In between interviews, you’ll hear the voice of yours’ truly introducing each of the interviewees. Check it out! 

Mariann & Jasmin on the OHH TV show.

I’d also like to announce the two winner’s of the Tastymakes raw, sprouted, vegan, organic, and gluten-free snack box giveaway. Congratulations to Samantha Matons and Theresa Norris! Enjoy your tasty, nourishing treats.

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I’ve hesitated to make this announcement until now, mostly because I’ve found myself in partial disbelief that such an ideal series of opportunities has unfolded before me in the past couple of months, and wanted to make absolutely certain of their reality before I went about publicizing them on the ol’ blog. Now, midway into June, I believe that I can confidently assert that, yes, these dream-worthy experiences legitimately constitute the actuality of my summer.

Without further ado, I’m more than thrilled to announce that this summer, I’m living in Brooklyn, NY, interning with the multimedia hub of animal advocacy Our Hen House, and working part-time for both the vegan publishing house Lantern Books and the public policy action tank on the environment and animal agriculture Brighter Green. Needless to say, I’m honored and humbled to offer my time and energies to these change-making organizations, and I highly encourage you to pop around their websites and get to know their important work.

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In addition to working for three impressive groups, I also feel incredibly privileged to live in one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the country, and as such intend to partake in my fair share of restaurant-hopping. To recount my experiences with Brooklyn’s vegan scene, I’m excited to launch a temporary blog series similar to the DC Restaurant Exploration of last summer. But this time, FMV’s taking on Brooklyn.

My first stop: Dao Palate. A favorite of my Brooklyn-native buddy and his entire non-vegan family, this 100% vegan pan-asian café delights eaters of all persuasions with its wide selection of colorful and unique appetizers, market-fresh local vegetables, hearty entrees that feature some of the tastiest plant-based meat I’ve encountered, and dense, rich cheesecakes. Dao Palate serves up all of these goodies and more in a gorgeous dining room paneled in mahogany wood accentuated with jade green decor and lit naturally through floor-to-ceiling windows. Additionally, I hugely appreciate their speedy service and reasonable prices, which prove impressively proportionate to the amount of food each dish provides (about $5 for an appetizer, $13 for an entree, $9 for a noodle or rice dish, $6 for dessert).

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Dao Palate dining room; photo via Dao Palate.

Ranging from tempura to dumplings to scallion pancakes to avocado tartar to BBQ seitan ribs, Dao Palate’s appetizers prove perfect for sharing with the table. Rather unfortunately named “soy protein” on the menu, the anything-but-unfortunate entrees—which include mango soy protein, General Tso’s soy protein, orange seitan, and smoked teriyaki seitan—feature the most toothsome, substantially textured, and tender vegan meat I’ve ever tasted. And dessert? Look no further than the cheesecakes. Though not quite as impeccable as the cheesecake available at Hangawi, Dao’ Palates thick and creamy creations are available in chocolate, pumpkin, and raspberry white chocolate.

From left to right: Avocado Tartar, Mango Soy Protein, Spinach Shumai; photos via Dao Palate.

From left to right: Avocado Tartar, Mango Soy Protein, Spinach Shumai; photos via Dao Palate.

In addition to nibbles of my dining companions’ dishes, I’ve had the chance to sample two of Dao Palate’s entrees and one dessert.

The first—the bibimbap, served in an always entertaining sizzling stone rice bowl—offered a stunning amalgamation of different tastes and textures, including such components as a brown rice base, a refreshing mango salsa, spicy and crunchy kimchi, a salad of hijiki seaweed and edamame, silky smooth steamed spinach, pleasingly chewy tofu sauteed in teriyaki sauce, and slices of avocado, all tossed in a spicy miso sauce. Full of surprising flavors, this dish could keep any diner happy on multiple visits to Dao Palate.

Bibimbap.

Bibimbap.

Indeed, I almost ordered the bibimbap again during my second excursion to the restaurant, but persuaded myself to try a new dish instead. In the mood for noodles, I opted for the stir-fried soba with julienned vegetables and browned tofu. While I duly appreciated the uniform size and shape of the vegetables and tofu (Dao Palate clearly pays close attention to presentation), as well as the tangy stickiness of the sauce, after a couple of bites the dish became a bit monotonous. The dish certainly didn’t taste bad, but I don’t think that I’d order it again, as it simply ceased to interest me after I had eaten only half of the plate.

Stir-Fried Soba Noodles with Vegetables and Tofu

Stir-Fried Soba Noodles with Vegetables and Tofu

After my less-than-optimal soba experience, I gave Dao Palate a chance to redeem itself with its raspberry white chocolate cheesecake—a dense slice of crumbly crust, oh-so creamy New York-style cheesecake, and tart raspberry jam, topped with swirls of whipped cream. Though the rich texture and characteristically cheesecake-y crust didn’t disappoint, the layer of raspberry and the whipped cream proved much too saccharinely sweet for my palate. I would definitely order a Dao Palate cheesecake again, but perhaps I would opt for the pumpkin flavor instead, in the hopes that it would harbor a more subtle sweetness.

Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

I wholeheartedly plan on returning to Dao Palate in order to get me one of their tantalizing soy protein dishes all for myself, and would certainly recommend this restaurant to anyone upon whom I wish an artfully prepared, hearty, and uniquely flavored meal.

Until next time, Ali.

TastyMakes Raw Organic Snacks Review & GIVEAWAY!

Sorry, this giveaway has closed!

Get ready, dear readers, for a summer of exciting giveaways on Farmers Market Vegan! I have quite a few of these super fun product raffles up my sleeve for the next three months, so I do hope that you’ll keep a close eye on the ol’ blog amidst all of your warm-weather frolicking.

The first of these giveaways comes from the generous folks over at Tastymakes—a fabulous new snack company that specializes in raw, sprouted, organic, and ethically sourced savory crackers, sweet “barbites,” and crunchy granola clusters. Compelled to share the benefits of a raw, vegan diet with others after healing from a bike injury through alkaline eating, Tastymakes co-founder Melissa Lacitignola has joined with her husband and a professional raw foods chef to make her dream a reality. As if that story weren’t inspiring enough, TastyMakes also donates 5% of all its profits to anti-hunger organizations. Can you say “socially responsible company”?

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Not only do the folks at Tastymakes offer top-quality raw snacks, they also run a snack box subscription program through which customers can receive various amounts of crackers, barbites, and granolas each month. Arriving like clockwork every month with free shipping, these TastyBoxes ensure a pantry consistently stocked with energizing, nourishing snacks.

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Melissa and her team were kind enough to send me a couple product samples: one bag each of their Salt & Vinegar Crackers, Garden Herb Crackers, and Vanilla Nut BarBites. All of the snacks boasted a short list of hugely wholesome ingredients as well as an enormous punch of flavor.

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The Salt & Vinegar Crackers (the ingredients in which include apple cider vinegar, sprouted golden flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and sea salt) sported a supremely crunchy texture that dissolved pleasingly on the tongue as a hit of flavor spread through the entire mouth. These crackers will make you guffaw in disdain of those outdated salt & vinegar potato chips, whose muted flavor could never hope to stand up to that of these intensely savory crackers.

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The Garden Herb Crackers (the ingredients of which include sprouted golden flaxseed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, rosemary, thyme, sea salt, onions, and garlic) held a firmer texture than did the Salt & Vinegar Crackers, providing more heft for optimal dippability. Indeed, I enjoyed these fresh-tasting crackers spread with a pea puree and fresh almond milk ricotta from Kite Hill—not bad for a rough-and-tumble dinner, if I do say so myself.

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The Vanilla Nut Bar Bites (the ingredients of which include dates, walnuts, cashews, sprouted Spanish almonds, vanilla extract, flaxseed meal, and sea salt) offered a super intense vanilla flavor, coupled with a texture perfectly balanced between chewy and crunchy. I also found that these bites provided ample versatility, able to function not only as an ideal energy-packed snack, but as a premade crust for raw desserts! Check out the recipe below to see what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

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Mini Lemon-Ginger Cheesecake Cups—Raw, Soy Free, Low Sodium

Makes 8 mini cups.

Ingredients:

16 TastyMakes Vanilla Nut Bar Bites
1 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 2 hours and drained
1/2 cup coconut oil (use this lemon-ginger flavored coconut oil for more of a kick!)
1/3 cup coconut or agave nectar (or maple syrup, if you’re not concerned about the cakes being fully raw)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger

Cut a sheet of plastic wrap about double the size of your 8-piece mini muffin tin. Spread the sheet over the tin and press the plastic wrap into each of the 8 cups to line them.

Take two Vanilla Nut Bar Bites and mush them together into one larger bite. Press the new bite into the bottom of one of the 8 cups. Repeat with the remaining 14 Vanilla Nut Bar Bites.

In the bowl of a food processor or the carafe of a high-speed blender, combine the soaked and drained cashews, coconut oil, coconut nectar or maple syrup, lemon juice, and ginger. Puree until very smooth. Fill each of the Nut Bar Bite-lined mini muffin cups to the brim with the cashew puree. Stick the entire mini muffin tray into the freezer and allow the cheesecake cups to set for about an hour. Remove each of the cups from the freezer about 5-10 minutes before you’d like to enjoy them.

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If that tantalizing recipe isn’t enough to get you ecstatic about this giveaway, I don’t know what will. Those of you that are ecstatic, though, have the chance to win your very own TastyBox! Simply click the links at the top or bottom of this post to enter the giveaway. Good luck!

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, June 15, and I will ann0unce the two winners on the following day.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed!

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

Until next time, Ali.

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.