Sunday, May 31, 2009

Here We Go Again...

More trash, different park. The latest scene: the Hackensack Riverkeeper clean-up of a local park in River Edge, NJ.

There's never a shortage of bottled water, a massive public health nuisance. The next time you go outside, see how long it takes you to spot a discarded water bottle. They are everywhere.

I know many people who insist on bottled water, believing it is healthier than tap water. Many of these same people eat at fast food restaurants regularly (not questioning how their food is produced...much scarier than tap water) and some even smoke. Seems the priorities are a bit off, don't you?

Please boycott this reckless product, and invest in a reusable bottle that you can fill with filtered water. Own a Brita? Click here to learn how to recycle your filter.

The next clean-up is Saturday, June 20, in Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus.

Friday, May 29, 2009

No, It's Not Pancho's...

It's Salsa y Salsa, a campy, festive Mexican restaurant in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood.

There's outdoor seating, or sit in their cheerful dining room.

A virgin cactus pear margarita, $5.95. Order the version with alcohol, and it's $9.50.

Guacamole with homemade chips, $8.95.

Vegetable fajitas (just hold the cheese and sour cream to veganize), $14.50.

Visit Salsa y Salsa, 206 Seventh Ave. (at 22nd St.), New York City.

Step back in time when visiting nearby The Family Jewels Vintage Clothing shop (130 W 23rd St. near Sixth Ave.) Read more. It's a bit pricey, but fun for a browse, and a great reminder that second-hand can meet every style need, from your local bargain thrift store, to vintage stores and higher end consignments shops. Why buy new?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vegan Cupcakes and Activism

Remember that scene in Chocolat when Juliette Binoche's dinner party guests (even the dog) are all devouring their meal in a moment of unbridled food ecstasy? That was me at vegan cupcakery Sweet Avenue Bake Shop on Sunday.

Flavors vary daily. Lemon Raspberry (lemon cake, lemon frosting and raspberry preserves), and Mocha Madness (chocolate cake with mocha frosting), both $3.

To go: Lemon Raspberry, Peanut Butter Chip, Lavender Lemon, all $3, and Sexy Sadie (Red Velvet), $2.50. Yes, I shared.

While there, I dropped off some Farm Sanctuary literature.

Lit dropping is a super easy form of advocacy. Animals rights groups don't have the budget of the multi-national food giants and big agribusiness, so it's up to us to help spread their message of compassion to the masses. My friends at Farm Sanctuary's ACT (Advocacy Campaign Team) hooked me up with this literature. Consider dropping literature from them or your favorite animal rights groups. PETA also offers a great selection, including a monthly leafleting pack and literature in languages such as Spanish, French and Japanese. Cruelty in any language is unacceptable.

Visit Sweet Avenue Bake Shop, 153 Park Ave., Rutherford, NJ. Closed Mondays. Flashback to my first visit there.

Mark your calendars: Cupcakefest, a day of cupcakes and music, will be held on Saturday, June 13th, in Lincoln Park in Rutherford. Bring your donations of pet food, litter, and toys for the Liberty Humane Society in Jersey City, NJ.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Memorial Day...

no, it's not about this. It's about this.

"We've been poisoned by these fairy tales," Don Henley sings in the End of the Innocence. That's so true of the way animals our viewed (vs. how they are actually treated), and by so many other pure things that have been corrupted in our world.

Here's to simpler times.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Teany...At Last

Vegetarian cafe Teany has been on my "must visit" list for some time. It was worth the wait. Prices are $12 desserts like you'll find at more upscale (translation: more expensive) Candle 79.

There are 98 varieties of tea on the menu! But with temperatures around 90 degrees, I went with the refreshing and unique lavender lemonade, $3.50. I'm getting into the habit of saying "No straw, please" when ordering a beverage, which garners confused looks from waiters everywhere. He put one in anyway. If I see an opportunity to cut out waste, even the most minimal, why not try?

Quiche is one of the items I miss most since making the switch to veganism from lacto-ovo vegetarianism. Their version, $9, had mushrooms, zucchini and olives, served with tomato cream sausage sauce and side salad with creamy herb dressing. Delicious. This would make a terrific addition to any summer picnic.

The triple chocolate cake, $5, for dessert. So decadent!

There are some benches outside where many were enjoying sangria or mimosas, both $8.

I would definitely come back. Service was a bit slow (there was only one waiter), but it was encouraging to see a completely full vegetarian restaurant when the economy is still suffering. A bit disappointing it's not strictly vegan (dairy is on the menu).

Images of rescued farm animals from Catskill Animal Sanctuary adorned the restroom walls.

I did notice Scott toilet paper in the restroom. Didn't they get the Greenpeace Guide on Recycled Paper Products, or hear about their campaign against Kimberly Clark? What, you don't notice the toilet paper when you dine out?

Visit teany cafe, 90 Rivington Street, NYC. Their web site warns it's cash-only.

Check out teany's cookbook at your library or a second hand version.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Is it possible to be in love with a restaurant?

If they have outdoor dining, non-dairy options like soy cheese and tofu sour cream, and reasonable prices, I say sí! Well, it would be perfect if it was organic.

A virgin mango margarita, $4.50, and sangria, $6.

Sweet fried plantains with cinnamon sugar, $6.50, to start. Like an appetizer and dessert combined into one.

Vegetable fajitas, $14.50. Definitely enough to share. Luckily, my dining companion, my mom, loves vegan food. Who would want to pollute this meal with chicken or beef?

Request non-dairy, and you'll get tofu sour cream, brown rice and a whole wheat tortilla. Although I do prefer Spanish rice with my Mexican. Craving sour cream for your at-home Mexican dinners? Try Tofutti sour cream.

The visit before this, I had the California tostados (pinto beans, shredded lettuce, tomato, avocado), with tofu sour cream, $7.75.

Visit Pancho's Burritos at 214 Main St., New Milford, NJ

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Secret Life of Animal Slaves

"Curiosity filled the breasts of these with some strange ecstasy.
Curiosity killed the best of these by robbing their lives of dignity.
Still they moved on and on." - Hateful Hate, by 10,000 Maniacs

In case you missed it, here is the fluff piece The Today Show ran on the Ringling Bros. Circus and the current lawsuit against them. While PETA's Dan Mathews, whistleblower Tom Rider, and the ASPCA got some air time, Natalie Morales was clearly swooned by Ringling head Ken Feld and his secret charm: Barack, a baby elephant born on the eve of the inauguration "It's the first elephant the Democrats can love," Feld declares.

Watch for yourself

It's not enough that people think that animals are put on the planet for a cheap, nutrition poor food source, but they must also amuse us for a few hours. In both cases, animals are given the the most unnatural life conceivable, and most people seem to think that's just fine.

I attended a protest last year when the Ringling Bros. came to the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ. Circus goers were able to "connect" with these animals up close. Why are there no bullhooks in front of the circus goers?

A lifetime sentence of imprisonment for no crime committed.

Learn more about the federal lawsuit against Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Read PETA's blog entry, and visit their site to learn more, including ways to get active.

In the New York City area, the group HEART for Animals is a vocal friend of these animals when Ringling comes to town, and its leader, Claudia, organized the demonstration I attended.

So Hateful Hate continues:
"Curiosity spilled the blood of these for their spotted skins and ivory.
Curiosity filled the heads of these madmen with the lies of destiny.
Curiosity spilled the blood of these, then blotted their lives from history.
Curiosity filled the heads of these, one man claimed all that he could see.
Curiosity still entices these madmen with a lusting and a greed.
Their legacy, legacy, legacy..."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

April in Paris? I Wish...May in New York

A day in the life of a New York City commuter can frighteningly start to resemble Bill Murray's in Groundhog Day. I sit on the same seat on the bus. I grab my free copy of amNewYork from the same person handing it out. But my "Phil Connors" moment really arrives when I pass the same red-headed, bearded man walking in the opposite direction as I near my office almost the exact same time each day. Spooky!

To break the monotony, I treated myself to breakfast instead of eating at home while perusing The New York Times online edition and checking various environmental and animal rights action centers (PETA's Action Center has new opportunities for armchair activism almost daily).

I'm always looking to recreate a bit of Paris in New York: tartine with strawberry preserves and a soy cafe au lait, $6.50, at Macaron Cafe. Extra points scored for the Counter Culture Coffee that is brewed here.

Seating is limited in this charming (but small) French cafe. On the morning most are on the go, so I was lucky enough to get a seat by the door. There's a similar seating area in the back.

If you come at lunch, expect long lines with many Frenchies. But that's a good sign...the French know good food! Well, except for some food. You can veganize their vegetarian sandwich, $6.50 (avocado, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and lettuce on a baguette) by leaving off the egg and mayo and adding olive oil. Pair with a lemonade, $2.25.

Crepes (not vegan) are on the menu. The Urban Vegan takes the cruelty out of this classic French treat. Veganize simple fare such as onion soup, quiche, and pain au chocolat (which I always make when craving a chocolate croissant).

Visit Macaron Cafe, 161 West 36th Street (between Seventh and Sixth Ave.), NYC.

My latest Frenchie find: Emily Loizeau, whose music I discovered on a compilation at one of my favorite places, my local library. Although that better be faux fur on her album cover (wishful thinking). The beauty of spring is I no longer have to see any more horrid fur fashions on my walk to the office.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Future of The Earth

is in Your Shopping Cart, declares this bag. How true!

Many environmentalists refuse to think about the harmful impact on our Earth their meat and animal by-products consumption has. Did you know there is a 'dead zone' of 7,000 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana that cannot sustain most aquatic life because of severe oxygen depletion from animal manure pollution, noted Farm Sanctuary's Veg for Life? Or that it takes an estimated 4,000 gallons of water to produce a one day, animal-based food supply for an average American (vs. 300 gallons for a plant-based diet)? Learn more.

Would it really be a huge sacrifice to switch from a hamburger to a veggie burger or organic grilled veggies for their BBQs? Instead of pork beans, why not organic baked beans? Or from cow's milk to a non-dairy option? But I digress...

This weekend, I joined fellow environmentalists in taking part in Hackensacker Riverkeeper's clean-up of Staib Park in Hackensack. It was great to see so many youth groups participating. One teenage boy exclaimed, "You get to save the environment and have fun." Where were boys like him when I was in high school?

Trash from Route 4 businesses such as Wendy's and Fuddruckers trickles down to the woods, and often to the river, including cups, ketchup packets, and straws.

As is everywhere in our world, cigarette butts littered the ground. Note to smokers: the streets are not your ashtray. Cigarette butts can take 10 to 15 years to break down in the environment, and in the process, leach toxic chemicals into the water and soil as they corrode into tiny plastic powder, according to EcoWorldy. One tree is sacrificed for every 300 cigarettes produced, noted

After just an hour and a half, volunteers collected all this. An AC, several tires, and an old lawn mower were in the mix.

Afterwards, I hit the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop, where I picked up a set of silverware for $10 for our office kitchen. For every reusable fork, spoon or knife people take, that's one less in the landfill wasting away for thousands of years. I've even started bringing my own silverware when I know disposable will be around, as well as takeout containers for leftovers when dining out, and highly recommend this. Don't feel a trendsetter!

At the C.A.T.S. store, I socialized with my friend Dottie, who suffers from eye ailments. Instead of doing the responsible thing, her owners tossed her into the woods to fend for herself. Much like their trash, many people seem to think their pets are disposable too. Read about her story.

The next clean-up is Saturday, May 30, in Kenneth B. George Park, River Edge.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sicily is Local? I Wish...

Locally grown asparagus, Old Hook Farm, Emerson, NJ. I can't wait to make cream of asparagus soup with this.

Is olive oil produced in Sicily considered local if it has a Brooklyn address? The Whole Foods Market in Paramus, NJ, seems to think so, according to Second Helpings.

Beware of dubious marketing as the local movement strengthens. Most of the food industry banks on the fact that the consumer does not question much, and they usually don't.

"So their minds are soft and lazy," Natalie Merchant reminds us in the 10,000 Maniacs song, "Candy Everybody Wants."

I cherish my weekly visits to Old Hook Farm. While mega-stores like the new 63,000 sq. ft. Whole Foods and a Fairway Market are taking over in nearby Paramus, I prefer supporting my local, organic farmer.

Many people grumble about not being able to find more money to spend on organics, yet a lot of these same people who I encounter regularly come up with funds in a flash for the highest end cable package, Netflix on top of that, every new gadget that comes out, gas guzzling cars and more. No wonder there's no money left! But why is what goes in your body such an afterthought?

I am an advocate of frugality and a staunch opponent of the idea of living beyond your means. Americans have been duped into believing everything is a necessity, but clean drinking water and air, fertile soil, and animal welfare have not made the priority list.

I'm rejecting the idea of acquiring so much 'stuff.' I love the Gardenburger philosophy, "We believe in healthy eating and great-tasting foods, gardens, respect for all living things, moms and dads, independence, veggies, education, healthy kids, a good earth, and happy people."

There are two million farms in the USA, and about 80% of those are small farms, according to Local Harvest. Find a local farm near you.

Not ready to give up your Mexican avocados? Don't fret. I try and eat locally what can be grown locally. I do believe you have to support farmers in other nations. But I don't support buying an apple from New Zealand when I can buy one from New Jersey, and I love the idea of seasonal eating. Remember when watermelon was just a summertime treat?

Hit your local library for a vegan cookbook, or take to the web. I found recipe ideas for beets with mustard dressing, to accompany carrot ginger soup or creamy broccoli soup. Perfect with a crusty loaf of bread.

"Glazed apathetic leash."
10,000 Maniacs - Candy Everybody Wants

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Some Green Fashion: Don't Believe the Hype

Recently, while getting a frugal $15 hair cut at Supercuts, where PETA-approved brand Paul Mitchell is available, I flipped through a copy of Marie Claire. There was a fashion spread about an alleged eco-minded model, and her attempt to pair spring jackets with organic and sustainable shirts, jeans and shoes. One of the jackets was a $4500 leather Ralph Lauren piece. Not eco-friendly! Learn more about the detrimental impact on our Earth leather has. She was also carrying a disposable coffee cup with a plastic lid, that will languish away in the landfill. You can read the whole ridiculous article here.

In the midst of a recession, most people don't have money for $400 Stella McCartney tops, nor should we promote the idea of spending that much ever. The hype behind green fashion is getting out of hand. In that spirit, I organized a clothing swap at work to promote the idea of giving your unwanted clothes a second life, and instead of purchasing something new, picking a used option instead.

In addition to spring/summer clothing, we added beauty products, jewelry, scarves and other accessories to the mix.

I scored an adorable blue cotton sundress, an Old Navy red clutch, and a striped cotton H&M top.

Most of the unclaimed items are bound for the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop. Cruelty-free treats included Trader Joe's maple cookies and sparkling pomegranate juice, and homemade sweet tea. Served, of course, on reusable dishes (the pink daisy plate is from C.A.T.S. Resale). Brightened up by flowers borrowed from the reception desk.

Can you find a new home for your unwanted items? Consider doing a swap of your own (many are already asking me when the next one will be). Donating items to your local thrift store, holding a garage sale, or freecycle are all great options as well. Mass consumption is not good for our wallets or the planet.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Eco Good Life at Green Fest 09

Old friends, such as the Hackensack Riverkeeper and C.A.T.S., and new, took part in the Pascack Sustainability Group's first ever Green Fest.

Fortunately, many youth groups were involved. I became a vegetarian and environmentalist at just 14, so I'm living proof of how changes early on can stay with you a lifetime. Certainly, the parents in suburbia aren't doing a good job (um, driving gas-guzzling SUVs that pollute everyone's air and burn their kids college money down the tank.)

The Pascack Hills High School Environmental Club handed out free CFL bulbs. Learn more about CFL and mercury-free LED lighting.

Tips about greening your lunch box were supplied by Green Sky Industries, including choosing food with natural packaging (i.e., oranges) or less packing to throw away, and packing in-season, locally grown produce. The only thing missing? Going vegetarian, of course.

I was never a Girl Scout, but I would have rocked it as an Earth Scout if they were around in my youth. Ages 6-18 can join.

The Earth Scouts had two displays, including turning trash into art, and this one, on using reusable materials for gift wrapping, such as a kitchen towel, or an apron to wrap a cookbook. How about The Best of Vegan Cooking, from Priscilla Feral and the Friends of Animals? Or a used vegan cookbook from The Strand or your local second-hand bookshop?

The GFWC Paskack Junior Women's Club handed out Scotch Pine seedlings. The average American consumes more than 700 pounds of paper a year! Learn more about the paper industry, global warming and the environment, and some great tips on reducing your consumption, from

Buyer beware of all this hyped up "green" fashion marketing (i.e., organic, sustainable, etc.) Personally, I feel it's just a way to make us feel better about our mass consumerism. If you're serious about being an eco-fashionista, A) be content with having less, and B) second hand (thrift shops, garage sales, clothing swaps, etc.) is the way to go.

My favorite store, the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop in Westwood, held a fashion show to demonstrate how stylish you can look in clothes that have been given a second life. These ladies look pretty fabulous to me.

Love the green runway! also provided a round-up. Check out the red dress and necklace.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ask and You Shall (Sometimes) Receive

No it wasn't my birthday. A vanilla vegan birthday cake, Whole Foods Market (Chelsea NYC), $26.99 for a 9-inch, and $18.99 for a 6-inch.

We can hand out literature, show graphic videos, and site the UN Report on Livestock's Long Shadow all day long, but at the end of the day, most people still wrongly associate veganism with a life of deprivation. No pizza, no ice cream, no cookies, and just endless nights of steamed broccoli for dinner.

You have to show people you can have your (vegan) cake, eat it too, and it is even better than the non-vegan alternative for our health, the animals, and the Earth.

We share a birthday cake at work once a month. I asked on a whim if they could also provide a small vegan cake. The answer was not only yes, the cake was a hit. Many were eager to try what a "vegan cake" tasted like, some expecting the worst. The verdict: Many said they preferred it and will eat the vegan cake from now on. Score one for the cows and chickens!

Product introductions are a great, and underrated, form of vegan advocacy. My coworkers now see you can still have pizza (just hold the cheese and add healthy veggies), milk (make that soy) and a tasty topping (tofu spread) for our beloved Friday bagels.

Victory is not always guaranteed. I asked the person organizing an annual pancake breakfast I attend if they could offer vegetarian sausages. The first word out of her mouth, which came quite immediately: "No." I actually got a look as if I had three heads. "I didn't even know they existed," she said. I even offered to purchase them myself, but after some thought, she said she would try and get them. The day of the pancake breakfast, the only veg options were canned fruit cocktail, orange juice and coffee/tea. Not a vegetarian sausage in sight. How disappointing! Next year, I'll just buy my own. By the way, pancakes are so easy to veganize. Check out this recipe from

I wish I had a piece of that vegan cake now...

What new vegan product can you introduce your co-workers, friends or family to?