Times are a’changin for me, and my old traditions may be taking a tasty turn for the better. I must admit, I cannot recall a single vegan dish from Thanksgivings passed, nor growing up could I imagine such a holiday without a giant turkey carcass center table. In fact, it wouldn’t BE Thanksgiving without the roasted bird, buttered corn, and stuffing with gravy. But this year I decided to spend it with my girlfriend and her family, most of who are vegetarian, if not already vegan. That being said, I really had no idea what dishes would be served up this time around. Images of a large and cleverly shaped tofurkey crossed my mind as I crossed the border to New Jersey on the train that afternoon, but I reminded myself that there would be no amateur hour this holiday – the people I were to hang and eat with had been plant-based for a lot longer than myself, and it was time to glean some creativity. Unfortunately, it turned out to be my very efforts that sent me off to a painful and festively gluttonous state of regret.
My progression of demise began immediately after entering the kitchen. Anybody who’s cooked with me knows two things: I love preparation, and I love snacking. To me, munching while cooking is just what happens, an unspoken part of the process. So you can imagine how delighted I was to find a counter’s worth of fresh veggies waiting patiently to be chopped. Looking around I saw no tofurkey, but instead a huge pot of sweet potato and cabbage stew on the stove, brussel sprouts with fresh rosemary roasting in the oven, and finger foods galore resting a little too peacefully on the table. Uh oh. Is that roasted red pepper hummus and broccoli? Don’t threaten me with a good time.
As family started arriving so did more food: dehydrated cheesy kale chips, chocolate chip cookies, cacoa-stuffed dates, garbanzo bean and sprout salad, gluten free flat bread with raspberry chutney – all a direct attack on my lack of control. Don’t these people know I have a disorder?! Okay, I can do this. I will not embarrass myself in front of this new family.
So after three cookies, a handful of dates, and an entire stock of celery with a small tub of hummus, I surveyed the room and its happenings. Time for cocktails. Spiced Pumpkin Nog to be more exact. I got the recipe from www.manifestvegan.com and just added some brandy, twas a success. Maybe it was after the second, maybe the third, when it hit me – my stomach had reached its maximum carrying capacity, and the table was just being set.
I was able to quell my pain through about half of the meal, until I dropped my napkin and couldn’t retrieve. I knew right then that the third cookie was a mistake. But somehow I made it through the sweet potato stew, sweet quinoa pilaf, brussel sprouts, and a sizeable amount of salad without too much difficulty albeit slowly. I even had a slice of flaxseed cranberry cake while keeping up with conversation. But all things must come to an end and I had reached mine. Critical mass. After finishing the cake I realized it was time to lie down, and soon. I had to excuse myself from the table and head downstairs where I could get some serious pillow time and try and smooth out the pain in my belly before anything gross and unfortunate happens. Silly me. Every year it’s like this. And no, it’s not any easier with vegan food than slaughtered. Tryptophan needn’t show up.
Have I learned my lesson? Will next year be any different? I doubt it, but I must remind myself how fortunate I am for sharing this day with family while feasting on dangerously delicious food, and how thankful we should be for all holidays in the past and to come. I realized this year that Thanksgiving isn’t about turkey. It’s about togetherness and embracing health. I think I’m finally figuring that out. Now, if I can only get out of bed..
I recently backpacked my way through Europe for two months, traversing the countryside via railway and city by foot, equipped with a couple days worth of clothes, Ipod, and some good reads to help warm the soul. I had a rough itinerary mapped out and enough Euro in my pocket to to get me to the next place, but I was alone, and new to international travel. I had no idea what to anticipate. And, I had only been vegan for a month.
Andy Warhol. The Tate Modern Museum, London
Upon arriving to London early morning I exchanged some money and headed to city center with one thing in mind – breakfast. A couple misadventures on tube later and I found myself downtown at a pretty standard cafe that advertised delicious looking porridge and hot tea. I was a happy boy. Or so I thought..
“Can I get that without milk?” I asked, and the guy gave me a look of perplexity, shrugged, and said “we can’t serve it without milk, it’s made that way.” It was directly at that moment I realized this trip would prove to be a bit more challenging than previously thought to be. And, it was.
Sub-par double decker cuisine, London
Whether it be cheeseless pizza in Italy, cheap baguettes in France, or the ubiquitously gross hummus in England(I still wonder why?), I always made something work. The nice thing about most countries in Europe is that the foods in grocery stores have very large and informative nutritional labels. This makes things easy, if you can read them! Upon a good finding I would usually stuff my bag until I couldn’t bear the weight any longer. Ah, the delights of packing light!
A few items that one could usually find around Europe: fresh veggies and fruits(varies depending on country, only pick in season and always wash), assorted nuts, muesli(or granola), dry cereal, fresh bread(especially in Paris mmmm), and dark chocolate(a must in Switzerland). Not once did I see peanut butter, which made me thoroughly irritated, and don’t even bother looking for cheese alternatives(i.e. nutritional yeast, Daiya, etc).
Delicious falafel, Budapest
Another healthy tip: don’t get frustrated or beat yourself up if your gastronomic ventures prove to be unsuccessful while hunger pangs are knockin on your stomach walls. Be resourceful! I always found myself asking locals about veggie restaurants around town, or if this/that contains dairy or meat. You’d be surprised how helpful, even if not very helpful, people can be.
Dairy free gelato, Venice
Traveling abroad is exciting. It will be challenging as a vegan, but have an open mind and you’ll make it to the next country. Just don’t forget your rail pass.
Twas a rainy day here in NYC, and I was hankering for a warm snack. And, since it’s the holiday season I figured what better time than to combine two of my favorites – pumpkin and apple.
If you haven’t made fresh applesauce before I recommend heading to the store right now, grabbing a bag of the finest Paula Reds or Goldens or whatever the fancy, and firing up the stove. Nothing compares to the hot, homemade version, and when you throw pumpkin in the mix things get all sexy.
4 cups desired apples, chopped and cored
½ cup water
½ cup pumpkin
1ts pumpkin spice
Bring the water and apples to a simmer and cover for 25-30 minutes or until softened.
Drain the water and transfer the apples to a food processor. Blend until smooth.
Add the pumpkin and spices and blend till thoroughly mixed.
Classic flapjacks. What was once sweet, syrupy, and served for breakfast has now been flipped and rehashed into a savory treat that not only rivals its original but satisfies the tum anytime of the day. I’ve ripped apart and put together this recipe many times, and feel that this version takes the cake.
These pancakes are so incredibly easy to whip up. I recommend using a food processor for the prep work – it will make life A LOT easier, trust me. They are also really versatile. Serve them hot right off the grill, or cold the next day – I’ve even used the leftovers as veggie patties for burgers. Feel free to experiment too. Mine just happen to be gluten free because almond flour and garbanzo bean flour make for a delicious, nutty flavor underneath.
1 ¾ cup garbanzo bean flour
¼ cup almond flour
2 zucchini, peeled
4 carrots, peeled
2 cups broccoli
½ red onion
1 tbs curry
1 tbs turmeric
½ tbs salt
Finely dice the zucchini, carrots, onion, and broccoli. A food processor will make this step a breeze.
In a large bowl, stir the flours together then add veggies and spices. Once thoroughly mixed you should have a sticky batter-like substance – if too dry add a splash of water.
Add a desired amount to a lightly oiled pan on medium heat, cooking for 4-5 minutes on each side or until a scant brown.
I wish I could claim to have produced such gold , but alas I must give credit where credit is due. Allyson at Manifest Vegan supplied the recipe, I added the chocolate sauce on top. This bread is not only 100% dairy free but gluten free too, and it tastes ridiculously amazing.
So, as you may or may not know, August 1st marked my 6 months of veganism. It has been a roller coaster of a time, full of not only good food, great conversation, and enlightenment, but also heated arguments, familial confusion, and great backlash from peers and people of the like. It started off as a one-month challenge and, honestly, has remained a challenge. But I think that is precisely why it feels so good to have made it this far. I never imagined I’d keep this lifestyle up, but there’s really something to be said about how good I feel, mentally and physically. Since abstaining from all animal products, I’ve dropped 20lbs, increased muscle mass, increased stamina and speed(average a 7:30 mile now), smell better, have smoother and clearer skin and thicker hair(unfortunately), staved off three potential colds, improved focus and mental prowess, and boy, do I have massive amounts of energy. Why give it up?
I always get asked: “do you ever miss cheese?” and “where do you get your protein from?” I don’t want to dig too deep into these, so I’ll be as succinct as possible. The thing is, I get plenty of protein while most Americans get too much. My sources are derived from leafy greens, nuts, and legumes, not animals and their milk. This means the chances of me getting obese is greatly diminished.. along with high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, colon cancer, prostate cancer, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. Not a bad deal. And as far as cheese goes, well once you do just a little bit of research and discover what it really is, it’s not that hard to give up. Plus, I enjoy not feeling “heavy” and full of gas. So do all the people around me.
Now, I don’t want to come off as “preachy” or intrusive, because that’s exactly why I hated vegans for so long, and still do sometimes. I’m merely a success story and love encouraging others who are interested in being vegan, vegetarian, or just healthier. It’s the greatest decision I’ve ever made and I feel beyond accomplished for keeping it up this long. Who knows how I’ll feel in another six months, or a year, or five, but for now times are good. And that’s why I feel generous enough to pass along my favorite recipe thus far. If these cookies don’t peak your interest in animal-free options, then I’m a schmuck. Enjoy.
Prepare to astound. These cookies will fix all of your problems. I guarantee it.
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup cane sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup Ghirardelli semi-sweet pellets
¾ cup canola oil
½ cup vanilla almond or rice milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Himalayan salt
Preheat oven to 350°
Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl
In a separate smaller bowl combine the oil, milk, peanut butter, and vanilla until smooth
Once thoroughly mixed, pour the wet ingredients with the dry and work into a dough, if consistency is too dry add a splash of water. Roll into 2” cookies and top with chocolate pellets, bake for approximately 17-20 minutes or until golden brown.