Friday, May 25, 2012

Traveling while Vegan: Back to Cali, back to home

Return to California - Reflections

To wrap up the travel edition of my vegan blog I am posting a picture of the most unvegan thing ever….

This is the selection of pastries, pies, and baked goods at Martha’s Bakery, an adorable little bakery down the street from Josie’s apartment in Astoria. They have no vegan baked goods, I asked. Josie and I did, however, enjoy a nice coffee date and chat session at Martha’s in their outdoor cafĂ© seating and it was a lovely experience. 

I am feeling quite reflective of my trip, and also of the last year of my life, as I sit on the airplane back to California. One year ago I graduated from Manhattanville, and it is coming up on my one-year anniversary of living in California, as well as my five-year anniversary of dating Patrick. The dark view below, out the window of my plane, with the shining lights looking up at me, just makes me think about how much I have grown and learned in the past year and how much I just wish to live a simple, healthy, positive life, spreading light and positivity and love to every single person that I meet. And also that I am really not that far from those I love and care about all over the world… Distances can be traveled, and every person that I love and care about lives with me every day right in my heart. So take some time to slow down, and sit and have some coffee and a chat with your best friend, and thank them for being there for you, and tell them you love them.

Happy Living!

PS - Here is the last thing I ate on my vegan travel adventure. Veggie pizza, no cheese, from Wolfgang Puck Express at JFK airport. I also got a Clif Bar with chocolate chips, no dairy though! It was delicious like a candy bar. Omnomnom. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Traveling while Vegan: Inspiring others toward Veganism

Apparently my vegan blog has reached more people that I initially realized. I started mainly writing it as a way for me to keep track of myself, for accountability, and to show my family how easy it is and to let people know what I can eat. But I have since had so many people tell me they have read my entire blog and have learned a lot.

The best story I have of inspiring others is my brother James and his girlfriend Meredith. They had both read my blog, and after a failed shopping trip they decided to go vegan. Meredith said that how I said veganism works for me because of the strict set of rules really struck a chord with her. I told them to watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and they did and they enjoyed it.

I also got them a book to inspire this start – Food Rules. I am jealous because there is now a second edition to Food Rules, which is illustrated and has a few new rules! I wrote a little inspirational, motivation, supportive blurb in the front of the book for them. One of the "Rules" is to shop mainly the perimeters of the supermarket, as illustrated in this picture...

When I went to South Orange, NJ and visited them for the first time on this trip the first thing we did was take everything out of their cabinets and separate the vegan and non-vegan items they already have, and them reorganized their cabinets accordingly. Bottom stuff=Vegan, stuff on shelf=not vegan!

Then we went grocery shopping. I helped them start to learn how to make smart decisions to shop vegan on a budget. I told them staples to buy such as lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, peanut butter, apples, bananas, and other things. I also learned on this whole trip just how lucky I am to buy my fruits and veggies in California because of how incredibly much cheaper they are here. For example, apples on the east coast might cost $1.79 a pound, and here in Cali we get them for like $0.59-$.069 a pound! It's because everything is grown here :)

Then we went home and I cooked them one of the most simple, filling, and satisfying meals I have learned to cook since going vegan…. Tacos filled with refried beans, lettuce, and salsa, with sides of rice and corn, all with lime squeezed on top. 

I cooked because Meredith was sick. Otherwise, she is a fabulous cook. The next night when I wasn’t there she made fajitas that could kick my taco’s butt. They are learning the beauty of leftovers, and they said they ate on the leftovers from this first vegan meal for two days.

My brother introduced me to a favorite power breakfast wrap that he used to get at App State in Boone, NC. It is a burrito-sized wrap, spread Peanut Butter in a line down the center, top with thin-sliced banana, raisins, and a small drizzle of honey. Wrap it up like a burrito. We made ours the night before and then I had a great protein filled go-get-em breakfast to quickly grab and take out the door with me to catch the train.


When I returned to visit James and Meredith again for the last night of my trip I wanted to show them a fabulous vegan dinner. We went out to an Ethiopian restaurant within walking distance of their apartment in South Orange, NJ called Lalibela.

I had never had Ethiopian food. It was like traveling out of South Orange, and the US, for an evening. Our waitress was amazing in explaining Ethiopian dishes and traditions and culture to us. She brought us a free appetizer! 

In Ethiopian dining you do not use any silverware. You scoop everything up with the bread-like dough thing. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it is delicious. For your dinner you pick three numbers from the menu and pick one as your main dish and the other two as your sides. So James, Meredith, and I each got three different numbers, and then they serve them to you all on one giant communal tray.

It was perfect for sharing and trying everything! I could not tell you what each thing was or which number it was, but it was all amazing. And James and Meredith definitely went home with some more awesome leftovers. After dinner I was craving something sweet. I had been looking up vegan ice cream (there’s a place in Brooklyn with it, but I didn’t go. Next time.) Our waitress brought us the dessert selections and informed us they are both vegan. 

She said they are so good she usually doesn’t even tell people they are vegan, and you can’t even tell. We split the two cakes between the four of us. 

Their friend Laura came with us, but she got salmon. That’s okay we’ll still be her friend. The service at Lalibela is the best restaurant service I think I have ever received. The food was authentic and delicious and clearly made with love and respect for their culture. Not only were we fulfilled and satisfied with our meal, but we made a friend in our waitress, learned about Ethiopian traditions, and had our very own little escape vacation in one meal. James actually said he felt like he had left South Orange for that little bit and traveled to an exciting place! Ten billion gold stars for Lalibela!!!

So with all of these building blocks I have now set James and Meredith out on their own in this crazy vegan life. Also, in true pay-it-forward, ripple-effect fashion, one of Meredith’s friend is now inspired by all of this and is also going vegan! Meredith also started her very own vegan blog and is getting great support for that already with lots of readers! Go read here blog here!

Pass it on! Tag, you’re it!

Happy Eating!

Traveling while Vegan: NYC Restaurant Reviews

Reviews of 3 New York City Vegan Friendly Restaurants!

Restaurant #1:
During my first time in Manhattan on this trip I went to see my friend Trent’s show that he assistant directed entitled “Unnamed Broadway Musical: The Musical” at the EFA Project Space. I arrived in Manhattan about an hour before the show and as I was walking down the street I walked past this restaurant that looked very green and inviting. It is called Maoz Vegetarian

I decided if I didn’t eat before the show I would be hungry during and after it, so I popped inside to take a look. This place served falafel hummus pita pocket sandwiches (among other things such as salads and smoothies). I ordered one pita for around $5, and then they have a full salad bar that you can top your pita with.

The funny thing is, they give you your pita pocket filled with falafel in this tiny cup thing, and so if you tried to put any toppings on it, it would be a mess. So I asked for a little plate for my toppings and they gave it to me, so I actually ended up getting so much food, basically a side salad. The broccoli was amazing.

I definitely recommend this place for its affordability, quantity of food you get for the price, and taste! Also, while eating here I had that awesome traveling experience of meeting a total stranger and talking and sharing a meal with them. I met a nice woman who was a little older than me and we talked about growing your own food. Also she said she decided she can only eat something if she can kill it herself, so she told me this story of how she went out and killed a chicken. Since she could do it, she does eat chicken. She does not eat cows. They are beautiful. Just look into those eyes…..

Maoz Vegetarian is located in Manhattan, NYC, near Times Square and the Theatre District.

Restaurant #2:
One day Josie and I took the subway from her apartment in Astoria to the first stop in Manhattan, around 59th street, to do some shopping. First of all, we are both definitely not as young as we used to be, as we both got tired and hungry from all the walking and shopping pretty quickly. We decided we couldn’t make it all the way back to Astoria for lunch, so again just by walking down the street and noticing some place that looked really green and inviting we stumbled upon Toasties

Josie had heard of it before. They had sandwiches, pitas, wraps, soups, salad bar, and comfort food entrees. We both got sandwiches. I got the veggie pita pocket, and it had avocados! And lots of other delicious veggies. I also splurged for a naked juice, as I have missed juicing in my own juicer during this trip. I got the “green machine” flavor, which on the bottle says “looks weird, tastes great.” It really does taste better than the green juices I make at home, and it gave me that nutrition boost I needed! The only bad thing about getting the Naked juice is now I want to start drinking it more, which means buying it, which means spending money. Oh well, it can be a treat. My pita was delicious.

I definitely recommend this place. It cost more than Maoz Vegetarian. My sandwich was around $8, and Naked juice is expensive. But it was high quality and very filling. Totally worth not having to trek back to Astoria for lunch.

Restaurant #3:
As far as my experience with restaurants in NYC on this trip, my last review is for 67 Burger in Brooklyn. Josie and I met up with Trent for dinner, and Josie had heard good things about this place from co-workers at Irondale Theatre, so we decided to try it out. They have a very simple menu, which I liked. Basically you pick what kind of burger you want – regular burger, turkey burger, chicken, or veggie burger. Then you pick what stlye you want from a variety of spices, toppings, cheeses, etc. I asked the lady working there is the veggie burger is vegan and she told me yes, and that she is also vegan. She was fabulous because she recommended the whole-wheat toast for my bread and she told me to get mixed greens instead of just lettuce. All of her decisions were superb. I got it Cajun style, which is just bunch of delicious spices. I also got fries… my vegan weakness. They were excellent. 

This was the best veggie burger I have now had to date, beating the Amtrak vegan bbq burger I had on the way to NY on this trip. I definitely recommend 67 Burger to anyone, and it is a great place for vegan lovers and carnivores to dine together! I cannot remember how much my burger cost. Maybe around $7-$8. Definitely worth it, and definitely worth a great night catching up with great friends on the one year anniversary of our graduation from college together.

Happy Travels, Happy Eating!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Traveling while Vegan: NC to NY Updates!

Today's blog post is mainly going to be a photo blog, because I have been doing so much traveling and taking so many wonderful pictures of so many wonderful meals! 

Travel update: Today is Thursday May 17, 2012. It is 8:48pm. I am sitting in my best friend Josie's apartment in Astoria, NY. I took a train from 2:30am to about 1:45pm on Wednesday May 16, 2012 from Salisbury, NC to Penn Station, NYC. I went straight from Penn to Irondale theatre in Brooklyn, hung out at the theatre, ate dinner, saw the show, came to Astoria. This morning we went wedding dress shopping in Manhattan for Josie's sister Lizzie. (She said YES to the Dress!) Then we had a fabulous lunch. Then I came back to Josie's apartment to relax and blog and such while Josie works her show again tonight.

But now back to NC for pictures......

My first meal at home in NC... yum....

Delicious salad Mommom made: Lettuce, Walnuts, Strawberries, and a Raspberry Vinaigrette.

Dinner at the Salty Caper in downtown Salisbury, NC with my Salisbury School of Ballet girls! The Salty Caper's dough IS vegan! So I got the veggie pizza, no cheese of course, with tons of veggies and topped with a comedic load of spinach. The Salty Caper is a pretty great restaurant and I actually ended up going twice during my visit, the second time I just got a salad. 

My plate at my Mom's backyard graduation cookout party! Vegetarian baked beans, which Mommom got especially for me, and for her baked beans she adds cinnamon and mustard (I think that's what she said. Yum!), fruit salad, potatoes, and a whole wheat pita with lettuce, tomato, onion, and ketchup (totally In-N-Out style). And wine of course.

My brother and I enjoy hanging out in kitchens together. So this one night in Salisbury I decided I wanted to make chocolate chip cookies. Ingredients:

We had Bakers Unsweetened baking chocolate, which is vegan, but the problem was unsweetened chocolate tastes horrible. So I made a double broiler - one larger pot of boiling water with a smaller pot with the chocolate in it so the chocolate melts but doesn't burn. I looked it up online and it basically said for semi-sweet chocolate do one tablespoon of sugar for however many unsweetened chocolate squares you have. So I did four chocolate squares and 4 tablespoons of sugar. Let the chocolate mostly melt all the way before adding the sugar so the sugar doesn't carmelize.

Once the chocolate was mixed with the sugar I spread it thin on a plate, and cut the slit down the middle to make it easier to break apart later. I put it in the freezer for maybe 10 minutes, checking for when it was hardened.

Meanwhile I mixed my wet and dry ingredients. I just google searched for an easy vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe. The recipe called for "cinnamon to taste" and I ended up putting in a lot of cinnamon and you could definitely taste it prominently in the cookies, so be wary of that if you don't love cinnamon.

So once the chocolate came out of the freezer hardened, James and I had fun mashing it up into chunks.

Dough. Yum.

Going into the oven. They didn't flatten out as much as regular chocolate chip cookies usually do, so for the second batch I pre-flattened them a little more.

(Soy)Milk and cookies. Something I do not indulge in often enough in this crazy vegan life. But that is what HOME is for :)

Ta-Da! They were a smash hit! Best when enjoyed hot and melty!

Moving on from the cookies...
My meal at Mykonos Greek Grill in Salisbury. Falafel, greek salad, fries, hummus, pita, and a Greek beer. So much foooooooood.

This was my meal at the new Cuban restaurant in Salisbury called Mambo grill. Black beans, rice, plantains, aaaaaaaaand.... I cannot remember what the other item was! A delicious vegetable in olive oil and garlic! Not potatoes though......

On the Amtrak train to New York they had a VEGAN burger. Yes, the menu didn't say Veggie burger but it actually said VEGAN burger. I was excited to try it because James and Meredith had been saying Amtrak has the best burgers. This actually was the best veggie burger I have ever had.

Delicious Amtrak Vegan burger, and only $5, better than I was expecting train food to cost!

My first meal in New York, at an adorable French restaurant in Brooklyn, right before going to see the show Josie's theatre company, Irondale, is doing. Falafel and pita and hummus and cous cous. Thank you Josie's mom and dad! It was delicious... and more wine. My trip seems to be consisting of much wine.

And tonight, my first meal that I made in Josie's apartment, after picking up some groceries down the street from her place at a store called Trade Fair. or Fair Trade. or Trade Fare. I don't remember. Rice and black beans and tacos and lime....

aka cute little mini tacos because I used tortilla chips. It was a great dinner.

My food home for the next week, Josie's kitchen. 

Well those are all the food updates for now! More to come as I spend a week in New York! 

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Traveling while Vegan: East Coast Edition

Wednesday May 9, 2012

7:55am Pacific time, 10:55am Eastern time

-Flying LAX to CLT-

As I write this blog post I am looking out the window of an airplane at the Rocky Mountains below. I love the window seat because it just blows my mind being so high in the air and seeing the landscape below. When we took off I was thinking, I’m not a pilot, but I’m pretty sure we are going the wrong way, as we flew west away from the California coast line over the pacific ocean for about the first five minutes after take off. Don’t worry, we turned around, and I am now en route to Charlotte, NC. From now on the time posted on my blog will be in Eastern time.

I will be in Salisbury, NC from today, Wednesday May 9th until next Wednesday May 16th. On May 16th I will board Amtrak in Salisbury at 2:30am and head for Penn station in NYC, where I will be visiting for a week from May 16th until Wednesday May 23rd. I am flying home for the first time in a year, since I moved out to California last June. My mom is graduating from Catawba College! I am so proud of her.

But since this blog is about being vegan, of course, I am going to write about traveling while vegan, and also about eating vegan at home with my family, hopefully letting them see how easy it is, and maybe I’ll even find cool vegan spots in NYC and report back!

33,000 feet (pilot just announced)

Vegan options for in-flight food… that is, if you want to spend a billion dollars to buy overpriced peanuts on an airplane. But hey, we’ve got 4 and a half hours, why not take a look at the options, just for fun J

I am on US Airways.
For a vegan snack on board:
-Blue Diamond Almonds – Roasted Salted - $5 (definitely vegan)
-Blueberry Pomegranate Trail Mix Crunch - $4 (possibly vegan)
-Late July Organic Sea Salt Chips & Zesty Tomato Salsa - $4 (possibly vegan)

They also have snack boxes, but you wouldn’t want to spend your money on them as they come with mostly cheese and meat stuff.

For meals:
-There are no breakfast options for vegans
-For lunch or dinner they have a Mandarin chicken salad for $8 that possibly you could ask for without the chicken. Who knows, I didn’t try.
Also, such a California thing, avocados... I am taking 6 avocados and 1 lime home to NC so Mommom can make awesome guacamole for mom's graduation party! Yummmmm!!

So they just came around with the food to buy and the nice Italian man beside me wanted a cheese and fruit platter ($8), but he didn’t have exact change or a card to buy it, so I used my card and bought it for him, and he gave me the three one dollar bills that he had. It was then that I learned that he is Italian and doesn’t speak much English. So of course I get excited and say “Io mi ciamo Gina!” Which of course is like all I can remember how to say. But I did remember “Grazie” and “Prego” and I told him I know “Forza Italia” and “Basta Basta” which made him laugh. He did offer me some fruit when I told him “vegetarian” but I didn’t want any. I really wanted to know how to say “random act of kindness” in Italian. He asked where I’m from and of course I’m wearing my Salisbury, NC shirt like a dork, so I told him Salisbury and I said “mi familia” He told me my Italian is better than his English. I don’t know about that. But it’s stories like that which make me love to travel.

I got a free orange juice.

Well, time to zone out. See you on the East coast!

-Happy Travels! Happy eating!


Wednesday May 9, 2012


I am about to go to bed. I am safe and sound in NC in my mom's wonderful new house with my wonderful golden retrievers. I just wanted to add that the nice Italian man gave me the rest of the $5 for his cheese and fruit platter once we got off the plane. So nice. 

On the drive home from the airport we stopped and got late lunch/early dinner at Carabbas. This is what I got, the Tag Pic Pac (whatever the heck that means) with whole grain spaghetti (the only vegan pasta noodles there, which was fine, it was great!)

An awesome pasta dish and a salad with olive oil and raspberry vinaigrette. 

So, my first meal in NC as a vegan was epic and amazing. Score one for NC. My family is already really enjoying learning about me being vegan and the awesome benefits of being vegan and how awesome it is. We did a quick grocery trip tonight just for a few things. We got soy milk, cereal (yummy looking new cinnamon cheerios), hummus, triscuits, whole wheat pita pockets, oreos, trail mix, apples, bananas.... and other stuff. Tomorrow morning we are going grocery shopping to get stuff for my mom's backyard graduation party bar-b-que! We are going to investigate veggie burgers, but I don't think we'll end up getting any. I'd rather eat In-n-Out style and just put my lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and ketchup on a bun! Lots more stuff to come! 

See you tomorrow, happy sleeping!