Archive for the Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle Category

Gardening 2014

Posted in Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , on May 27, 2014 by Verge

Well, me and Monika got around to getting our yard together.  Sometimes we get to it early, and sometimes later than usual, but this year I think we made out pretty damn good.  Planted the veggies two weeks ago, and got flowers (most of them, but still some work to do) and mulch (three yards moved by hand) into the yard before Memorial Day.  I call that a success.  It’s always tough, and I can’t exactly say that I find inherent pleasure in moving mulch, digging holes, and general yard cleanup any more than I enjoy cleaning a toilet bowl.  But I do love the feeling of accomplishment when a dirty job get done, and you can relax, sit down and enjoy it.

Here are some of the pics, in random order.  Expect progress reports.

The Difference Between Vegetarian and Vegan

Posted in Recipes, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , , on August 27, 2013 by Verge

Monika and I buy a lot of groceries.  The reason for this is two fold, I suppose.  Firstly, we struggle to find healthy, vegan options when we dine out, although I can recommend some great places to eat if that’s what you’re looking for.  Secondly, we honestly truly enjoy cooking at home.

When you prepare most of your own meals, at home, you need a lot of raw ingredients.  Other than having ridiculously cheap toilet paper, kitty litter and contact lens solution, BJ’s and Costco also have great deals on raw ingredients.  A short list of them includes:  walnuts, pine nuts, raw sugar, peanut butter, tea, canned beans, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, olives, pickles, cashews, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, canned any vegetables, flour, sugar, olive oil, cereal, rice, etc.

Now, I have appreciated these “big box” clubs carrying vegetarian and vegan and low-sodium options.  I’ve even gone as far as sending them letters telling them that every new vegetarian product has indeed been seen, recognized, appreciate and purchased.  And, I truly do appreciate their buyers looking for newer options for those with “dietary needs.”  I do believe in supply and demand, and I do politely demand what I wish a store would supply.  That’s just common sense, even when you’re dealing with a huge company.  Honestly, sometimes they listen to customer feedback.

In any case, asking for vegetarian is a pretty darn big dietary restriction, I suppose, although we don’t really feel like it’s a restriction but more of a liberation, to be honest.  However, I will admit that taking the next step to becoming a vegan is most definitely restrictive.  It’s downright aggravating, in fact.  I just can’t understand why so many companies, with good intentions and good hearts, still insist on adding just a tad of milk or casein or gelatin or egg or butter or fat or any number of other things that can be substituted to their products!!

That is all besides the fact that thousands if not millions of products could easily already be vegetarian but are not.  Honestly, most products add salt and animal fat for flavoring in the US, and it’s absolutely ridiculous.  I understand why chicken soup has chicken broth, and clam chowder has clams in it, but why the hell does vegetable soup has a multitude of animal products in it??  Especially when there are absolutely, positively the same tasting, but vegetarian,  products to flavor soup on the market!???

Here are a few examples from some stores that we shop with that show how difficult it is to find enough products to truly be a vegan.  Obviously some of these can’t be made any other way, but I’m putting them out there just to illustrate how frustrating it can be sometimes to find good food that has no animal products, which is why Monika and I do most of our cooking at home.

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Morning Star Farms is a great company that make many delicious products. And, I still enjoy most of them. These breakfast sausage patties are really quite tasty, have a great texture, can be fried, toasted, baked or microwaved and make great little English Muffin sandwiches. Made from organic soy products, they are low in fat compared to the real thing.  Unfortunately, they are also NOT VEGAN. They contain egg whites and milk.

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These are one of several vegetarian “burgers” (which kind of sounds like it’s hamburgers made out of vegetarians). The have great flavor, hold together rather well when frying or even grilling, and don’t look like some of the mush some companies put out and call veggie patties. You can actually see the real vegetables in the burgers. You may recognize these as the burgers they use as Burger King Veggie Burger.  The main ingredient is hydrated wheat gluten, but unfortunately also contains egg whites, and calcium caseinate derived from milk. NOT VEGAN

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Morning Star Meal Starters Crumbles are a great substitute fro ground beef. The main ingredient is a flavored TVP (textured vegetable protein). For tacos, burritos, and chilli, this products is a great vegetarian substitute. Unfortunately it as also NOT VEGAN as it contains skim milk and egg whites.

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Next up, Morning Star Chipolte Black Bean Burgers. These are quite delicious, although a little hard to keep together on the grill. I usually bake these in the toaster over to make them nice and crisp. These are used by many restaurants, including TGI Fridays, as their house bean burger. We’re always happy to find major chain restaurants serving any vegetarian options, but again dining out as a vegan is sometimes impossible. These are also NOT VEGAN as they contain egg whites and calcium caseinate.

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Okay, this finally brings us to the last Morning Star product that my local BJs sells, the Grillers Vegan. This product actually is VEGAN, and says so right in its name. And, considering it doesn’t have any of the egg white “binder” included, they hold together and grill up quite well. They stay juicy and are very versatile. I even use them to crumble up and put in my veggie chilli and have used them in tacos before as well. I highly recommend them as a vegan substitute for a burger.

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BJ’s, form time to time, carry other brands of Veggie Burgers, I guess to see how they sell. These came from Harvesland.We tried these and actually, they weren’t too bad. Again, you could really see the veggies that made them up. What you couldn’t actually see was the egg whites that make the NOT VEGAN.

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These Crispy Tenders made by one of our favorite companies, Gardein, starting showing up about two years ago and quickly became a staple in our house. They bake up beautifully crispy. It’s what I ended up using in this recipe, and we would also just eat them like nuggets with some bbq or ketchup. They are really a quite diverse product and we still buy them when we can. Unfortuantely, BJs stopped carrying them a while back, which was a shame because not only did they come in an extra large package that was a great value, this product is TOTALLY VEGAN.

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I’ve been shopping at BJs for years, and I had some perennial favorites that had to go when we went vegan completely. This one barely needs any further explanation since Cheddar Cheese is right in it’s name. I always liked boiling a frying up some of these with some onion late night and having some with a little oil. Oh well…NOT VEGAN.

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And these ready to go Eggplant Parms from Michael Angelo’s were awesome to pop in the oven for a full, delicious meal. It’s a shame because not only were they delicious, the company made a product with very little ingredients, and no fillers, additives, or preservatives. The ingredients always tasted fresh and of great quality, including the three varieties of cheeses that they contained, making the NOT VEGAN and off limits.

Next time I stop by Whole Foods, I’ll snap some pictures and update a second page of examples, which will be available here.

You’re Vegan!?!…What do you eat?

Posted in Daily Pictures, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , , on July 5, 2012 by Verge

Yeah, the vegetarian thing is one thing.  People always ask vegetarians what they eat, especially for protein.  Never seemed to have a problem with that.  Americans seem to be protein obsessed.  Vegetarianism isn’t so extreme.  Plenty of animals in our world are vegetarian.  Sure, I guess I’m still an omnivore because I’m capable of eating plants and animals.  It’s just not really necessary for the human animal to consume large amounts of protein mostly because when I’m hungry, I open my fridge instead of running a few miles across the plains to hunt down some prey to feed my family to survive.

Veganism is pretty tough, though.  It’s hard to find a lot of things you’d consider safe that don’t also contain some form of animal product:  milk, casein, gelatin, butter, fat, chicken lard and flavoring, beef flavoring, whey, etc.  Milk and it’s products can be some pretty nasty stuff.  Adults aren’t even really supposed to drink milk at all if you simply look at the animal kingdom.  Let alone the milk and dairy products on the shelves at your store, which are loaded with hormones, steroids, antibiotics and all kinds of garbage.  Not only are a staggeringly huge percentage of people lactose intolerant to some degree, milk can actually cause osteoporosis.  There are other ways of getting calcium and vitamin D, and milk might be one of the worst.

If you go for a raw diet, then it’s pretty straight forward.  Nuts, fruits and veggies, legumes.  But, Monika and I like to have some good old American-type food, too.  For the 4th of July, we’d still like to have hamburgers and hot-dogs, baked beans, chips and dips, and the like.

Here’s what a vegan can buy at Whole Foods for $192.78.  None of this food contains any animal products, though I will admit, some of them are a bit over-processed, and not as healthy as one would ideally like in a perfect world.

Whole Foods can be expensive, but you can’t be their variety. You still have to search for the vegan stuff, and reading labels carefully has been a habit of ours for years, but certain brands you can pretty much trust. A lot of Whole Foods 365 Brand products carry small icons to tell you whether or not the products are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. I really wish this was a national standard. That, along with non-GMO, Organic, Kosher and Local labels. It’ll never happen until this country demands it. Don’t see that happening any time soon.

Of course, We’re huge fans of the bulk foods section. Great deals on loose ingredients. Lentils, TVP, Nutritional Yeast, Beans, Rices, Teas, Grains.

This is the processed stuff. So, if you’ve ever wondered what a Vegan eats, this is it. At least, this Vegan.  All those containers in the front are vegan yogurt, and on the left is some bulk lentils and wild rice.  Tofurky and Field Roast sausages and meat loaf.  Sprouted whole grain bagels…

Oh yeah, and some veggies thrown into the mix. Celery, peppers, broccoli, carrots, snap peas, cauliflower, onions and organic spring mix and spinach.  We still get a weekly box from Suburban Organics, and now that it’s Summer, we switched over to all fruit. Most of the veggies, like tomatoes and peppers and zucchini, we grow ourselves this time of year…

Vegan burgers, re-fried beans, chicken strips, burgers…

waffles, tofu, more burgers, sauerkraut…

hot-dogs, shredded cheeses, breakfast sausages…

vegan sour cream, cream cheese, lunch meat, sliced cheese, meatballs, waffles, Parmesan cheese, ribs…

Yeah, that’s not all of it, just what we shopped for on the 4th.  We have a ton of other things we eat, and I guess I can post pictures of our panty to prove it.  Plenty of pastas (whole wheat of course), potato products, anti-pastas, breads, crackers, and all kinds of other meat substitutes.  But, when people ask us what we eat because we’re vegans, I usually say, “the same stuff you do, just vegan versions.”  July 4th isn’t the same without burgers, hot-dogs, corn and all the other American foods that we all love.

Robyn O’Brien @ TEDx in Austin

Posted in Cinema Reviews, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , , , , on May 8, 2012 by Verge

Please take a look at this video.  It’s only 18 minutes long, and explains what’s wrong with the food industry in this country today.  I know I’ve posted movies before.  Some of you might not want to see slaughter houses, or sit through 90 minutes of slanted documentaries.

I can understand why.  But this one is very different.

Robyn O’Brien was just like every ordinary American eater and mother.  She wasn’t a health food nut, or a vegan, or an organic non-GM eater, and never thought there was a problem with food in America.  Then something terrible happened which lead her down a path of discovery about the truth of modern food in America.

I highly encourage all of you, but especially the skeptics who think genetically-modified is fine, organic is expensive and un-needed, and kids with allergies are the result of paranoid parents, to watch this video with an open mind.  It doesn’t come from PETA, but instead, someone just like you.

Please visit her webpage to learn more.

The Tenth of August, Two Thousand and Eleven

Posted in Daily Pictures, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , on August 11, 2011 by Verge

another day in the cold depths of our vaults

was in the area, so I stopped by Iron Hill to see what was going on for lunch

I found this!

we needed to harvest a ton of things from our garden because of our week off in Cape May

this is just the tomatoes and a cantalope. and seriously, not even all the tomatoes. mostly the ones that were really ripe or had already fallen on the ground after I re-staked them up.

some of our pepper crop

I wish we grew this, too, but this is mostly suburban organics. one day perhaps I'll be in some place warm enough to grow my own fruits./ I guess I could grow apples and peaches and blueberries...but I only have so much backyard right now

Night at the Ballpark

Posted in Good Times, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , , , , on June 12, 2010 by Verge

Monika and I managed to score a pair of tickets to the Phillies game on Thursday.  Anyone who knows me can tell that I don’t really watch baseball.  I find it pretty boring and too slow for my taste.  Going to a live baseball game, on the other hand, is really exciting and I thoroughly enjoy the experience because it’s just that…an experience.

Of course, we couldn’t go to an authentic ball game without a little tailgating.  We wanted to go simple, though, because taking home a bunch of empty bottles of beer in the car afterward is out of the question, and leaving it in the parking lot is just not our style.  We hit up my favorite local liquor store and decided on two forties, white trash style.

We arrived in the third because there was ridiculous traffic and we still had to have a sip of beer in the lots.  Though I don’t go very often, I really do love the new park.  It is so much nicer than seeing a ball game at the Vet.  I’m really glad they chose, in the end, not to share a stadium with the Eagles.

smaller is better in the baseball world

Our seats were pretty damn fine for free

We enjoyed a beer inside the venue, but eventually we got bored (there were only two runs the entire game) and got hungry.  Philly has the best food for a pair of vegetarians in the entire country.  First, we tracked down the vegan hot dogs.  We found them without too much hunting, right along side of the regular hot dogs, but with a special “vegan” sticker stuck to the quintessential tin foil wrapped hot dogs.   Surprisingly, there was plenty to grab and they were freshly reheated.

The condiments center at the Park is pretty nice, too.  It was relatively clean, all the ketchup and mustard dispensers were full and not disgusting, and you have a choice to grab packets as well.  Also, they have these fresh cut onions dispenser that you crank with a handle and out plops bits of coarsely cut fresh white onions.  Pretty neat, actually.  I had two vegan dogs with onions and ketchup and they were every bit as delicious as I remember a hot dog being when I was a kid at he ball game with my dad.

we stopped back in our seats to watch the Phillies not winning

After we’d had enough, we went to look for the vegetarian cheese steaks that I knew were in here somewhere.  I knew it might take us all night going to every kiosk to find it, so I asked a pleasantly helpful cashier where I might find one, and she knew.  We headed to the first level concourse where Campo’s is located.  The lines weren’t too long at all, and I ordered one veggie american wit.

my mouth was watering...twice!

We grabbed another eyefuls of views of the game and ball park before heading back to the car to enjoy our victory sandwich.

the field after sunset, under the lights

...

there plenty to see even if you're just a casual baseball fan

Me and Monika are not sports nuts.  Well, that is to say, we are not huge fans of watching other people engage in sports, though we do like to play games ourselves.  But, if the opportunity affords you, I would highly recommend an outing to see the Phillies sometime.  Baseball still is our national past time and a fantastic summer ritual.  And, contrary to public perception (which is often true), Philly’s fans aren’t really some crude form of humans.  They just want to have a good time, see their team win, and hang out with other fans…as long as they’re dressed in red (or orange, or green).

Paper Gifts

Posted in Good Times, Reflections, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , , on May 21, 2010 by Verge

So, May 17th was the first anniversary of my marriage to Monika.  This year, our actual anniversary fell on Monday, which isn’t the best of days to celebrate or go out to dinner.  Instead, we decided to revisit the beautiful place we got married for our anniversary dinner, the Valley Green Inn.

The VGI has great vegan and vegetarian food, but you wouldn’t exactly know it at first glance.  They don’t really have regular vegetarian choices on their menu.  However, I knew that they had tons of choices, so I emailed them to ask if it was possible if they could prepare us something special.

With better restaurants, this is a must.  As an email exchange I had with one of the managers of VGI confirmed, chef’s often enjoy the opportunity to cook something new.  Specifically, he said that their head chef was going to go to the local market to buy items that were fresh and in season for our dinner.

We arrived in the Wissahickon Valley around 530 for our 6 PM reservation.  It was a mild night and the park was teeming, so we hiked in from the upper lot.  When we checked in at the hostess desk, she wished us a happy anniversary, and we got to sit outside on the porch just 50 feet away from where we were married last year.

Of course, we order a bottle of Champagne.  The waitress handed us menus, but then quickly realized we were “the vegetarians.”  I told her we were eating whatever the cook wanted to serve us and that’s exactly how it went down.  We started with two fresh salads, and our entree was a mix of vegetables and sauces, all of which were teeming with flavor and quite satisfying.  I also had a martini and Monika stuck to the champagne.

We almost never order dessert.  Most of the time, it’s too full of fat, and neither of us like cake at all.  But, we decided we should try some and ordered a sorbet  with fruit “leather.”  When it arrived, the chef had carefulyl written in chocolate, on the rim of the plate, “Happy 1st Anniversary.”  Really, above and beyond our expectations by far.

I really didn’t care what the meal cost.  I had told the chef originally that I would be happy to pay whatever price he thought was fair for the off-the-menu entrees he was serving us.  Well, I have no idea what that price might have been.  Our entrees weren’t on the bill at all.

The waitress informed us that our entire meal, drinks and all, was on the house.  I can’t explain how floored we were at the level of graciousness The Valley Green Inn showed in helping us make our first anniversary dinner a special one.  The waitress got a pretty damn nice tip from us.

Then, we took some pictures at the exact spot we were married.  I really can’t believe it’s been a year already.  As time goes on, there may never again be such a collection of wonderful people at one of our parties.  I hope, at least, a party of two will return here every year for the rest of our lives.

Oh, and the title of this blog…that refers to the type gift one is to give your wife on your first anniversary.  So, this is what she got from me this year.

a beautiful writing journal...

...our first blotter art piece; it is the start of a new collection...

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