Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Favorite Vegan Things of 2008

I've been thinking about all of the wonderful things that I've experienced in 2008. I've traveled to some pretty amazing places and I've eaten some delicious vegan food! Here is a list of my favorite vegan things of the year, in no particular order:
  • Vegan blogs. Although I knew of their existence for a while, this is the year I really started reading them (and writing one!). It's so fun to see all of the inspiring food pics and to read about everyone's vegan experiences, whether they're product or restaurant reviews or travel accounts.

  • Kauai. This trip inspired me to start my blog. Though I've traveled to many cities and countries around the world, I've only recently started to vacation to tropical places. My worst fear was to get stuck on a boring island with nothing to eat. This was so not the case with Kauai, a vegan paradise!

  • Chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon. So easy, so good.

  • SCUBA diving. I'm not officially certified yet, but I will be soon. Breathing under water is scary and awesome. I'm hooked!

  • Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World took over my kitchen in 2008.

  • Humpback whales, sea turtles, and monk seals. It was an unforgettable experience hanging out with them!

I'm sure there's a billion more things I could add to the list, but I'm going to stick with this. Happy New Year's Eve everyone!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Cookies

I think I make more cookies in December than I do the whole year! Here are a few of my favorites:Frosted sugar cookies: I used this iced sugar cookie recipe that I found on Cooking at the Pacific Outpost. For the royal icing, I found that I couldn't use the Vegan With a Vengeance recipe because I din't have soy milk powder. Instead, I used this recipe for vegan royal icing (I found it on Vegan Nutritionista) which I believe is originally from The Joy of Vegan Baking (I really need to get that book already!). This cookie was labor-intensive. That said, it was pretty fun frosting them. Vegan With a Vengeance's sparkled ginger cookies are super delicious and very December-y. This was my favorite cookie to make and eat. It was easy and very winter appropriate. I love the combination of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and molasses. I found that if I left them in the oven for 10 minutes, they stayed soft on the inside, and if I left them in for 12 minutes, they were perfectly crispy.OK, so these Big Gigantoid Crunchy Peanut Butter-Oatmeal cookies from Vegan With a Vengeance don't exactly scream, "happy holidays!", but they are one of my all time favorite cookies ever. They're relatively easy to make and so addictively good. Plus, when you use peanut butter, oatmeal, and substitute whole wheat pastry flour, they kind of seem healthy. Almost.

Next year I'd like to try to make peppermint bark, snickerdoodles, and sugar cookies that look more like these:

These beautiful vegan peppermint cookies are are from Vegetarian Times. For now, I'm cookied out!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fair Trade and Green Holiday Gift Ideas

Global Goods Partners is a non-profit group dedicated to helping women-led small businesses in marginalized areas around the world. The Global Goods Partners website lets you directly support these women and their families by offering handmade items made of sustainable and eco-concious materials. These items, everything from stuffed animals to bracelets, are made by women in poverty-stricken communities in Africa, Asia, and South America. These change purses (above) are made of sustainable palm fiber by a group of women in a poor and underdeveloped region of Columbia. At $22, they would make a unique, eco-friendly gift that supports social justice. And they're cute!

These change purses are also made of recycled material: Thai-Burmese dresses! At $8.50 each, profits from these cute little purses go toward helping refugee women become business, community, and government leaders.

Artisans from Cambodia make these $18 recycled paper coasters. Profits from the sale of these coasters go toward Friends International, a group that helps support health care, counseling, education, and vocational training to Cambodian street children.
These bracelets are made from wood that is native to southern India. The colors come from natural vegetable dyes. They're only $4 each!
These felt Christmas stockings are made by women in Nepal. They are hand woven and dyed. Profits go towards supporting women-led households in poor regions near Katmandu.
These $6 ornaments made by South African children out of cans and wire found on the ground.
The Global Goods Partners website is very easy to navigate, the prices are reasonable, and the rewards are abundant. Each item description also comes with a description of the people who made the item, and where your money goes once you've purchased it. I love this program!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Earth and Animal Friendly Vegan Boots

It is freezing out here. My cheap vegan boots from last year are falling apart, not to mention they provide little in the way of insulation against the bitter cold. It's time for new boots! I've found many promising vegan options, and I thought I'd share them in case you're looking for vegan boots too.

I found these at Zappos, which has free shipping and a nice return policy. They are Earth shoes, made with microfiber and faux shearling. They look cozy and sturdy, are Vegan Society certified, and are at the top of my price range ($138.95).
Over at Ragazzi Vegan, everything seems to be $68.00. Out of the many vegan options, I'm considering these:
I like that these can be folded over, scrunched, or worn up.

These are water-resistant faux suede, which I love (since wet boots=misery!):
These look similar to the grey sweater boot from Ragazzi, but they're $50 from Alternative Outfitters:
Love 'em or hate 'em, these Ugg style boots sure keep your feet warm ($48 from Alternative Outfitters):

These boots, $44.50 from Alloy, come in many colors:I love these shoes by Simple, offered at $110 on Moo Shoes. Not only are they vegan and super cute, they're made with hemp, organic cotton, bamboo, coconut, and recycled car tires:

Over at, they offer free overnight shipping and free returns. It's amazing how fast they send out their shoes! I found another sweater-style boot at $49.95:

Here's another one from, also at $49.95:
Vegetarian Shoes and Bags had these cozy options at $54.99:

and more sweater boots, these are $49.99:

Over on Planet Shoes, I found these Earth shoes that are Vegan Society certified at $114.00:

I love these from
Over at, I found these for $39.99:
These canvas boots won't keep you that warm or dry, but they're so cute ($88 from Urban Outfitters):

There are so many vegan options out there, it seems like every year there's more and more. It's funny to think back to when I was first vegan, I used to freeze all winter in my Converse low tops. Thank goodness for vegan boots!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pumpkin Yumminess and Sugar Cookies

One of my favorite things about November is the abundance of all things pumpkin. I finally tried the recipe for The Best Pumpkin Muffins from Vegan With a Vengeance, adding some chopped walnuts. They really do live up to their name!

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. If I have one Thanksgiving tradition, it is making the pumpkin pie from Lorna Sass' Complete Vegetarian Kitchen. It's so easy and so good. It's basically tofu, pumpkin, and spices. It actually feels a little healthy, though the taste is totally decadent.
Now it's time to say goodbye to pumpkin, and hello to holiday cookies. I made my first batch of sugar cookies this year following this recipe that I read about on Vegan Crunk. Following Bianca's suggestion, I used whole wheat pastry flour. The final result was the perfect sugar cookie-buttery and sweet, but not too sweet.
I found the dough to be a little wet for a rolling pin and a cookie cutter, so the next time I make them I'm going to add more flour. These cookies would be perfect with frosting on top. I have had some bad luck in the past making sugar cookies, so this recipe makes me really happy! I might have a decent set of cookies to give out for the holidays this year!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Avocado Pesto and a Voodoo Queen

Only in New Orleans can you fill up on a brilliant avocado pesto tofu sandwich, wash it down with a sweetly tart watermelon limeade, and minutes later walk through a tombstone city whose most visited resident is a Voodoo Queen.
The Garden District is an area of the city that is punctuated by its late 1800's mansions, gorgeous architecture, ornate iron railings, and a generally Anne Rice vibe. It is home to Surrey's, an organic breakfast and lunch place on Magazine Street.

Surrey's is located in a residential neighborhood, and the inside looks like the renovated porch of an old, big house. Its walls were decorated with huge canvases painted with Louisiana bayous. In addition to non-vegan breakfast stuff (eggs and pancakes), Surrey's offered a tofu breakfast platter (a ginger stir fry); fresh squeezed, organic, and (mostly) local juices; Cajun-style hash browns; and an excellent avocado pesto tofu sandwich on sourdough bread.

The coffee was great and they had soy milk as well. The watermelon limeade was ridiculously, divinely refreshing. The service was excellent, very eager to point out vegan options and very sweet, constantly filling up our quickly emptying coffee mugs. If we had more time in New Orleans, we'd definitely go back. If we lived there, this would be one of our regular lunch places.

There is a huge Whole Foods in The Garden District, which has possibly the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. If we had more time, we'd have walked around this area a bit more. There are lots of little shops along Magazine Street, sort of the main drag in The Garden District. This is also the area to find one of New Orleans' cities of the dead, the cemeteries populated with above ground tombs. The water table lies four feet under ground, making in ground burials impossible.

Though brightly lit by daylight, I was hesitant to go into the cemetery. It wasn't vampire or ghost stories that frightened me, it was the maze like layout with uneven and broken tombs that could concievably provide excellent hiding spots for muggers and thieves that had me hesitant. I was jumpy the whole time we were there, which sort of makes sense, I guess. It would be a little weird if I was really comfortable in a place like this.
Though completely paranoid, my curiosity was totally piqued, and I was way too intrigued to just turn around and leave. We kept walking further in, turning at this tomb, walking to another. We saw black adorned mourners, and that oddly made me feel more comfortable since empty didn't feel right at all. Some of the tombs were crumbling, maybe due to vandalism, maybe due to weather, maybe due to vampires rising (maybe I shouldn't have re-read Interview with a Vampire while I was on the plane!). Eventually, we made enough turns to start heading toward the narrow entrance way in which we came in, and a huge tour group gathered there which almost made me feel silly to be wary in the first place. The crowd assembled around the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau's tomb, the most visited tomb in New Orleans. It is said that that an offering and an X drawn on her tomb will make your wish come true. I didn't try it, but it looks like a lot of other people did!

I found the intriguing thing about New Orleans in general, sort of perpetually in the background, is a combination of beauty and decay. It's tenacious and a little dangerous. There's a great quote about New Orleans in Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire:

"Hurricanes, floods, ...and the damp of the Louisana climiate itself worked tirelessly on every hewn plank or stone facade, so that New Orleans seemed at all times like a dream in the imagination of her striving populace, a dream held intact at every second by a tenacious, though unconcious, collective will."

I liked that description, and I could definitely feel that as we drove back to the French Quarter.
Moon Wok, a chinese restaurant on Dauphine Street in The French Quarter, offers a quick, inexpensive vegan meal. Vegan spring rolls were a nice appetizer. I was expecting tiny deep fried rolls. These were large, filled with greens and tofu and wrapped in rice paper. The main course was a tofu/veggie stir fry. Not the best I've ever had, but it certainly hit the spot.We splurged on a ghost tour, and I'm glad we did. We walked around the French Quarter at night with a guide that told us details about the history of the city that we probably wouldn't have come across otherwise.
Our last night there brought us to Sukho Thai, a fantastic Thai place in the Marigny, right by The French Quarter. This was by far the best dinner we had in New Orleans. We had the vegetable spring roll appetizer, filled with tofu, glass noodles, and veggies. The plum sauce complemented the spring rolls perfectly. Pad thai without egg and garlic tofu ended our stay in this city well. Completely satiated, we spent our last hours walking around the French Quarter, exactly where we started.