A Turkey-less Thanksgiving

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imagesCAWKS2J1It’s one thing for a twenty-something college student to preach the wonders and true ease of eating a vegetarian Thanksgiving, but it is another for the ever-so hilarious, mega-celebrity, Ellen DeGeneres to preach along with me.

And, she’s right. It really isn’t that hard.

Not only do you feel awesome about having a cruelty-free yum fest, but the turkeys will finally have something to be thankful for.

In celebration of the day of giving, I have supplied one of my all-time favorite vegan Thanksgiving desserts (I’m a dessert person, sue me).

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie with Graham Cracker Crust

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cookie Crust

  • 2 cups vegan graham cracker cookies— you can either buy at the store or get adventurous and make them yourself
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 5 1/2 Tbs. vegan butter, melted

For the Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

  • 3 Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. ground cloves

For the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie

  • 8 oz. vegan cream cheese, softened- any brand will do
  • 1-15 oz. can pumpkin
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup vegan whipped cream

PREPARATION:

For the crust

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the cookies into a resealable bag. Take a rolling pin over the bag until you have small crumbles. Put the crumbles into a bowl, add the sugar and the melted butter and mix well.
  2. Cover the bottom of a pie plate with a small spoonful of vegan butter. Add a layer of crumbles that covers the entire plate. Press them firmly into the plate with the back of a serving spoon. Bake for 10 minutes until crust is golden brown. Take out of oven and let cool completely (don’t get anxious here, people).

For the Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend and Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie

  1. Combine all ingredients except the whipped cream. Beat with the mixer for 1-2 minutes or until smooth. Gently fold in the whipped cream with a spoon. Spoon the mixture into the pie shell and smooth  out.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, I prefer to let it set overnight to give it a firm texture.

Now, let your taste buds sing!

If you’re looking for a last-minute, complete list of all things vegan Thanksgiving, give this a look.

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How Fresh is your Food?

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imageThere are days I wake up and really crave a juicy Big Mac from McDonald’s. Then there are days like today, where I want to do anything but.

A picture on Reddit recently went viral after a McDonald’s employee sent a picture of a frozen McRib to his friend. Let’s just say…well, I won’t even say it, just look at the thing!

While it might look disgusting, it is chalk full of nutritional value. A whopping 500 calories, 26 grams of fat, 980 milligrams of sodium, and 11 grams of sugar, is all yours for the taking; YUMMMM!

To save yourself from whatever could possibly be found in that white brick of shi…stuff, I figured you might want some better alternatives when you’re eating fast-food.

  1. Burger King is the only fast-food chain (that I know of) that has veggie-burgers available. They’re obviously not as healthy as a fresh garden salad, but they’re vegetarian-friendly and way better looking than the McRib.
  2. Chiptole has always had a veggie burrito option, but recently has selected Baltimore as a taste-testing city for their new tofu burrito, “Sofrita”. The tofu is tossed in chipotle sauce and chili peppers, so it definitely gives you that kick you want from Mexican food.
  3. Taco Bell recently switched over to lard-free refried beans, making almost any item on the menu vegetarian friendly (if you ask to hold the meat, of course). If you order a bean burrito “Fresco Style” they substitute the cheese for pico de gallo, making the meal vegan.
  4. Subway is still considered fast food in my book, but probably one of the more healthier options. Their Veggie Delight sub on roasted garlic bread and sweet onion sauce is 100% vegan approved.

Again, fast food isn’t the preferred option when dining out, but it is quick (and really, who can resist?). Even if you aren’t a vegetarian, these fast food options sure do look and sound better than that lovely, frozen hunk of a cinder block.

These obviously aren’t the only veggie-friendly choices, but they are some of my favorites. Let me know about any of your guilty pleasures!

BWI Ranked 4th Healthiest Airport

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1349811545_bwi-marshall-airportAs we quickly approach the beginning of the holiday season, traveling is at the top of many of our checklists. Whether you’re flying to Grandma’s in Florida or catching a train to your Great Aunt Eunice’s in New York, you’re bound to travel somewhere in the next few months.

For most people that wouldn’t be an issue, but when you’re traveling in a world that isn’t the most accommodating to vegan or vegetarian diets, it can become a bit challenging.

If you choose to travel via train, I can’t help you very much. I’ve only been on a train once and it was a frightening experience to say the least (long story). But, I do happen to be an avid flyer.

BWI was recently ranked the fourth healthiest airport for dining. That is a huge upgrade from their previously held  position of 10th place.

But while the airport might be healthier than your average McDonald’s, does that mean it’s a vegetarian’s paradise?

Well, it can be. If you know what to look for.

Personally, I like to keep my meals a little more exciting than a salad with dressing (I know, call me a daredevil). But it can be a bit daunting to find those options in a sea of NSA Security, moving luggage and screaming children.

I first found my good friend, Jamba Juice. Jamba is great if you want to feel full but not bloated to the point of no return. Vegans will appreciate their oatmeal with soymilk option that is super delicious and rather large.

When I’m in the mood for some south-of-the-border goodness, I turn to California Tortilla. Unbeknownst to many, they have a cleverly coined “No-Meato Burrito”, which, as you can guess, contains no meat. Although it is not originally vegan, cutting out some of the add-ons can easily make it veggie-friendly.

Us Marylanders also enjoy our quality diner food. Luckily, veggie lovers aren’t left out at the Silver Diner. The diner serves a portobello mushroom stir fry with tofu that is to die for. I’m not exaggerating.

If you happen to get stuck in an airport terminal, I can only hope that they make an awfully long movie about your ordeal, starring a Golden Globe winner who does lovely voice-overs for animated movies and that you can find one of these great veggie-friendly eats.

Beyond Meat makes its mark

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I had an awful experience my first year as a vegetarian. It was scarring, really. I’m not exaggerating.

No one had explained to me that, while tofurkey sounded like a great solution for vegetarians on Thanksgiving, it was not. In fact, it is the opposite. So, I unfortunately spoiled my entire holiday by preparing the most disgusting piece of fake meat I have ever come across.

Luckily, for those who have yet to find a satisfying fix to their turkey-less Thanksgivings, a new, better solution has been developed.

Behold, the closest thing to meat in the history of fake-meat.

Beyond Meat, a California-based company that manufactures vegan “chicken-free” strips, has developed what some are calling the “next big innovation” in meat alternatives.

The plant-based substitute was so good that Bill Gates not only wrote about its bright future in the food science industry, but he even invested in the company.

I obviously am no stranger to a wide variety of meat substitutes (after all, where else would I get my protein?), so I decided to do a little further investigation into this supposed “Golden Child” of vegan meat.

Before doing so, I would like to formally and unbiasedly state that Maryland produces the brightest and most innovative minds in the country (it must be something in the very well-taken care of water shed in our backyards).

Ethan Brown, founder and chief executive of Beyond Meat, just happens to be a Maryland native. A 41 -year-old vegan, Brown says that his lifestyle choice was partially influenced after growing up on his father’s dairy farm in Western Maryland.

Brown even attended the University of Maryland where he received a Master of Public Policy degree.

Thankfully, Brown graciously sent his products to a multitude of stores in and around his “mother-land”.

Almost any Whole Foods you walk in to will sell Beyond Meat’s products, including the ones in Mt. Washington and the Inner Harbor. Smaller stores and restaurants including  Great Sage, Tropical Smoothie CafeThe Judges Bench and Roots Market also support the innovative vegan meats.

Try their products out at one of these local places to support the mission and cause.

Meatless Mondays Turns 10

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8326110454_6668310d6f_oThe world celebrated Meatless Mondays’ 10 year anniversary early last week. The worldwide campaign has gained enormous amounts of recognition and support in over 30 countries, and heck, it even has its own website (cause that’s when you know you’ve made it). That made me think, how far reaching of an affect does Meatless Mondays have on the Baltimore area in particular?

Well, a lot. My fellow Baltimoreans, we can rejoice in the progressive and pro-veggie stance that our lovely city is taking every Monday. The campaign spans across restaurants, hospitals, public school systems and colleges. Who knew?

There are four restaurants in Maryland that support Meatless Mondays (all of which just happen to be in Baltimore). The Woodberry Kitchen, Slainte Irish Pub (don’t worry, they still serve beer), Chazz, and Aldo’s are all giving our city the veggie boost it needs each and every Monday.

Johns Hopkins Medical Center also adopted the campaign as part of their push for healthier diets for patients. They even went a step further when Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published a study about the benefits of swapping mushrooms for red meat.

On top of all this veggie goodness, schools have taken the plunge in supporting the healthy and humane campaign. Give a big round of applause for Baltimore City Public Schools for being one of the only public school systems in Maryland to support Meatless Mondays.

A New York Times article quoted Baltimore’s district food and service director as saying “…meatless Monday has turned out to be the most popular day of the week.”

As if all of this is not enough, higher education in Baltimore has taken a step towards a more green diet. Both Gonzaga University and Johns Hopkins University have included the campaign across their campus. In the greater Baltimore and Washington D.C. area, colleges such as The University of Maryland, Montgomery College, American University, and McDaniel have become pro-Meatless Monday.

In order to keep Meatless Monday a strong and viable option for restaurants and institutions to consider, awareness and support is needed. Supporting the local restaurants that are already apart of Meatless Monday’s mission as well as urging local eats to join in on the veggie-goodness, is vital in the campaign’s continued success.

What will you do to help Meatless Monday thrive?