Sunday, June 28, 2009

Frugal Seasonal Weekend Joys...

Scoring a vegan cherry pie, normally $12.99, for half the price at Old Hook Farm.

A tofu scramble for brunch at my parent's house, enjoyed outdoors on a sunny day. I don't remotely miss scrambled eggs. Just saute some diced onion in olive or canola oil, add your favorite veggies, diced tofu, and grated vegan cheese if you have it on hand. Season with turmeric, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Served here with Litelife Gimme Lean Sausage and toast with apricot jam.

Organic pink lemonade from Trader Joe's, $2.99. Perfect for any summertime BBQ. Their organic mango lemonade pairs particularly well with grilled vegetable fajitas.

This lemonade matches the cute H&M dress I picked up at C.A.T.S. Resale Shop for just $4. I soundly reject the notion stapled into so many women's heads that you are "treating yourself" to something special just because you are spending a large sum of money. You can look completely fabulous for next to nothing.

Other second life items pictured: a gold Mossimo dress, $14, purple beaded necklace, $7, both from C.A.T.S. Resale Shop; green flowery strapless dress, $12, from C.A.T.S. and yellow Gap cardigan, $10, from Fabulous Finds; blue cotton dress, $0 (from a clothing swap); and the H&M dress with my grandmother's broach.

These items didn't come with a glossy ad campaign of a model shopping for veggies at her local CSA, nor are they "organic." But they were given a new life to a very grateful owner, are totally vegan, completely wallet-friendly, and quite adorable.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My Recent Trip to Greece and Mexico...

...well, okay, maybe Uncle Nick's and Salsa y Salsa in New York City. But I felt like my taste buds traveled!

At Uncle Nick's, I shared the Melitzanosalata (eggplant dip), $5.95, with warm grilled pita bread to start. I felt like I may have detected feta cheese in here (but not sure), even though the waiter said it was non-dairy. Maybe it was roasted garlic? Make your own at home.

Vegetable kebob with rice, $12.95. The appetizer was so filling that I brought half of this and some dip and pita home in my reusable containers. Not only is it more eco-friendly (no disposables and no food waste), it allows for easy transport to bring to the office the next day. At the sight of my leftovers, many of my co-workers were filled with Uncle Nick's-envy!

Visit Uncle Nick's, 382 Eighth Ave. (at W 29th St.), New York City

I bring my lunch almost always, mainly to save money, but my co-workers and I needed a break from eating in our cramped office kitchen and cubicles, so we hit festive Salsa y Salsa.

A non-alcoholic pomegranate margarita, $6. A beverage and a dessert in one!

Ensalada De Jicama Y Naranja with mango, watercress, avocado, toasted pumpkin seeds, pineapple and lemon-line cilantro dressing, $8.95. I held the manchego cheese, but forgot about the dressing! So this may have dairy. Honestly, I don't lose sleep over exposure to trivial amounts of dairy like this when it's unintentional. I do the best I can.

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

That said, all the above was delicious. Dining out can give you ideas on recreating the feasts at home for much cheaper. With summer grilling season here, those kebobs would be great over lemon rice served with some homemade peach iced tea.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summertime and Simple Pleasures at the Farmers' Market

Hope you cruelty-free dads had a Happy Father's Day. While I spent yesterday with, who else, dad, the prior Sunday morning, I stopped by Tenafly, NJ's Cafe Angelique.

On their outdoor patio, I enjoyed a vegan strawberry peach muffin and a soy cappuccino.

Afterwards, I hit the Tenafly Farmers' Market, which is open every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. from now until November 21st. visited the market as well, and Second Helpings provided this list of other northern New Jersey farmers' markets.

I spotted this organic produce vendor, along with an organic bread vendor.

I love the delightful marriage of strawberries and...

...rhubarb. Veganize strawberry rhubarb pie, or check out this recipe for rhubarb bread.

One vendor had samples of sugar snap peas. Sauteed in olive oil, with some fresh mint and a touch of salt. So simple, and so good!

In "A Pig in Provence," Georgeanne Brennan talks about the pleasure of eating radishes with butter and salt. I'll have to try this, but with Earth Balance.

While Brennan is far from being a vegetarian, I did appreciate the themes she talked about in the her book: seasonal eating, appreciation for food, and being connected to the land, people, and our past through food.

She writes that in Provence they "Prepare not just good food, but food that lives on in memory, refueling the spirit each time it is eaten. In listening to people recount their food memories around a table, I’ve seen their eyes glow and their body language soften with the telling of the taste, smell, and texture of a beloved dish, and heard the smack of lips in reply."

Americans seem to so often associate food with guilt. How many times have we heard someone say, "I shouldn't have eaten that" right after they've eaten?

While I haven't checked it out yet, Port Authority Bus Terminal commuters can now shop at a year-round greenmarket, open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m, for fruits, vegetables, and other goods from Katchkie Farms in Kinderhook, NY, and Prospect Hill Orchard in Milton, NY. Learn more. The Daily News gave a spy report of the greenmarket. Read it here.

Happy Summer.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Clothing Swaps: "Green Before Green Was Popular"

Friday was payday in my office, which means the usual: even in a recession, many of my co-workers immediately think about all the things they are going to 'treat' themselves to at the mall. Even before the check arrived, it was already spent.

Meanwhile, on alleged eco-minded web sites, there doesn't seem to be any calls for living a more modest lifestyle and less consumption. Praises are sung for anything labeled 'vegan,' 'organic' or 'sustainable,' with little questioning of issues like air miles, labor practices, and the fact that their production is still taking a toll on the Earth. They seem determined to shop their way to a better planet.

Frankly, I think the vegan wool is being pulled over our eyes.

While shopping at a garage sale or thrift store or participating in a clothing swap doesn't have slick marketing lingo to it, it really is the best option whenever possible for the animals, the planet, and our wallets. Why buy new, when there are already so many already-produced items on the market?

With that, I share with you this inspiring piece on NBC News about the growing popularity of clothing swaps. While the focus was mainly on people being economically resourceful, this is also environmentally resourceful.

"It's green before green was popular," one clothing swap organizer wisely observed.

Organize a swap of your own. It's easy. Flashback to the swap I helped organize at work. My friends and co-workers are looking forward to putting together our next swap in July, and hope to give a new life to unwanted clothes, accessories (bags, sunglasses, jewelry, etc.) and beauty products. Best yet, no credit card bill will arrive for our finds.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Visit to Zen Palate

On a drizzly, cool night, which felt more like October than June, I stopped by New York City's Zen Palate in the Theatre District. They have two dining options: a more upscale dining room in the back, with its own menu, or sit up front in their more low-key, modest dining room and order off of their cafe menu. I chose the latter, and am happy I did. There's only a handful of tables for two, or you can eat at the counter. Dine outside when (or should I say if) we ever see the sun again.

If I had a tail, it would wag when I hear the word "crepes." So I had to order the Rose Petals (soy crepes with wolfberry seeds and veggies in a sweet rice ginger sauce) with two spring rolls and brown and red rice, $10.50. Very tasty, although I didn't notice much of ginger flavor.

I sampled a bite of the Tex-Mex Moo Shu (kidney beans, barley and soy protein in spinach tortilla) served with guacamole, carrot peanut cole slaw, spring rolls and a salad, $10.50. Descent, nothing to write home about. I think I preferred my vegetarian chili served over brown rice (both organic and from Trader Joe's) which I paired with an organic avocado for that day's lunch.

Banana Bliss pie for dessert, $5.25. Not 'bliss', but a comforting vegan version of banana pudding pie. Make your own at home.

This vegetarian eatery does have some eggs and dairy on the menu, but items are clearly marked if contain them.

Service was prompt and friendly, and prices are reasonable. Glad I tried it once, but not dreaming of my next visit there, so it's on to other culinary adventures for me.

Visit Zen Palate, 663 Ninth Ave. (at 46th St), or check out their Financial District location at 104 John Street.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cupcakefest: Music, Doggies and Free Cupcakes!

A little rain didn't deter animal lovers from enjoying the festivities at Sweet Avenue Bake Shop's Cupcakefest 2009 in Rutherford, NJ.

Why? To benefit four-legged friends like Chico.

Chico is up for adoption from the Liberty Humane Society, who was collecting monetary donations and supplies. I brought along some cat litter from Trader Joe's. Did you know June is Adopt-a-Shelter Cat Month?

Free mini-cupcakes!!! I only ate one of these. Okay, two.

Flavors very daily at the vegan cupcakery's shop. I was there on Saturday. In order of deliciousness: Little Cutie, Strawberry Fields, and Carrot Cake, all $3.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Veg Dining in Woodstock and Phoenicia

After two hours on the road, sitting outside at Brios in Phoenicia was so relaxing. There are only a few options in town for dining. There was Mexican cuisine on the opposite side of the restaurant, also with outdoor seating.

A side salad, $2.50. Isn't it amazing how small salads are more than enough for two?

A personal size vegetarian pizza (hold the cheese), $7.99, paired with a lemonade.

There's only one vegetarian game in town in Woodstock: the Garden Cafe. A pleasant outdoor seating area is open after 11:30.

Breakfast enchilada (tofu scramble, refried beans, soy cheddar and salsa in a whole wheat tortilla), $8.50. One of my favorite cuisines, Mexican, combined with the most important meal of the day? Love it! Guacamole for breakfast just seems

Cinnamon French toast with a warm strawberry peach compote, $6. Order this! I had it with an iced coffee and...

...a side of vegan sausage patties, $4. While I was there, a couple sat down, but walked out after the waitress explained what vegan was. Sad. And boy did they miss out!

I pass by hot dogs stands in New York City regularly, but I can never indulge since there are no humane options. At the Woodstock fleamarket, I could!

A veggie hot dog with mustard, ketchup and relish, $2.50.

Back to the Garden Cafe for dinner. I so wanted to sit outside, but it started to rain. asparagus and cashew tart, $8, to start. This was by far the best of the four courses. This could even be a great entree if they made it bigger and paired it with a simple green salad.

Tuscan arugula and white bean salad, with roasted garlic dressing and croutons, $9. Good, easy to recreate at home for much cheaper.

Pan fried rice and vegetables with leek sauce, walnut mushroom gratin with horseradish sauce, tempeh with caramelized onions and sautéed greens, $20. The rice was the best, but overall, eh. I wouldn't order this again.

I shared the prior three dishes, and barely had room for dessert, but couldn't resist. Strawberry shortcake, $7. This was definitely a "splurge" dinner. But how often am I in Woodstock?

Back in Phoenicia, Sweet Sue's had quite a few tofu dishes on their lunch menu. For breakfast, options are simple: toast with jam, home fries, fruit cup, and granola with fruit (just request soy milk instead of yogurt). They also have vegetarian bacon and sausage on the menu, which the waitress (who happened to be vegetarian) said was vegan, but I googled the brand, Worthington, and it looks like it does have animal by-products. Still a small sign of some progress that vegetarian bacon is on the menu at all, and I always make sure the servers know how great it would be to have more vegan options.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend in Woodstock

Signs you are dire need of a weekend in the country when you work in New York City: you start devising schemes like writing to Mayor Bloomberg to act at once to impose $1,000 fines to people who are walking and texting on their Blackberry (annoyingly slowing the pace of foot traffic); your blood boils when people don't walk up the left side of the escalator at the bus terminal or Penn Station; and you start thinking about your weekend plans on Monday morning.

Check all three for me. Luckily, Woodstock, NY, is an easy two hour drive from where I live in northern New Jersey. One of the main attractions is the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays from April through October from 11-4 for $7/person (free for members).

Here are some of the friendly faces I encountered. Nothing about these sweet souls says 'dinner.'

Albie, who has found refuge here after escaping death at a Brooklyn slaughterhouse, was featured in The New York Times.

Who doesn't love the guilty pleasure of an afternoon nap on a lazy Sunday?

These goats are as enthusiastic about their food as I am!

Woodstock, or is it New Orleans? Tuba Skinny entertained the crowd at the Woodstock fleamarket Sunday afternoon.

In warmer months, catch the Woodstock Drum Circle for peace in the town's center (right in front of vegan Garden Cafe).

Anyone can pick up a drum and join in. Or, just people-watch.

I stayed at the Cobblestone Motel in the sleepy hamlet of Phoencia. A very clean, comfortable room for just $76 a night. This was just steps away from the motel...

The Phoenicia Belle is also in town, and looks quite charming.

On the drive home, I passed a sign advertising a $599 leather sofa, as well as one for a Father's Day pig roast, and two large milk trucks roared by, and I thought what a long road we have to go.

Definitely worth checking out on the way home is the Museum at Bethel Woods, the story of Woodstock and the sixties. Where is that activist spirit now?

"It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come" - Sam Cooke

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Following Up With Friends Tarra and Bella

CBS News ran this inspiring follow-up on the story of Tarra and Bella, an elephant and a stray dog that warmed hearts everywhere, including my own.

Sure enough, Disney came calling pitching a movie idea with a live action trained elephant and dog. The sanctuary founders said no.

"Animals, elephants especially, aren't on this planet just to serve us. They honestly believe that some animals are here for the same reasons we are, to love and care for others," Steve Hartman notes of the sanctuary founders beliefs. I believe that's true of all animals, in fact.

"They don't need to use them to have value. They have value just being who they are," says Elephant Sanctuary co-founder Scott Blais.

Watch the full video here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Traveling...Sometimes Without Even Leaving Your Chair

How I often daydream of abandoning cubicle life and traveling for a year. But then, I remember the inconvenient fact that I am not independently wealthy, and back on my bus to New York City I go.

So I settle for one major trip a year (and by major, I mean two weeks), a few weekend getaways, and I travel in other ways. Here are some of my favorite alternatives:

Through literature...

"Each season's food is anticipated: wild mushrooms in fall, wild asparagus in spring, melons and peaches in summer, and roots and truffles in winter," Georgeanne Brennan observes of culinary life in "A Pig in Provence." There's something to be said for not having access to something year-round. Americans seem to have too many choices, and everything at their disposal, leading to a complete lack of appreciation. In Provence, she write, the "growing of food is part of life still marked by the seasons, a life that keeps people connected to the land and to each other." I'll take this view of food versus the dysfunctional American attitude any day.

Through music...

There's something about the music of the Gipsy Kings (coming to Montclair June 11th!) that makes my soul smile.

Gipsy Kings - Roots

Can't make it to see them? Check out their DVD: "Gipsy Kings: Live at Kenwood House in London." I requested a copy from my local library for free. You pay for your library through your taxes, so take advantage. It's also eco-friendly since it's communal sharing.

Through film...

When I rented Vicky Christina Barcelona from the library, I felt like I was transported to Spain, and Avenue Montaigne brings me into the world of upper class Paris. Peruse your library's collection and don't skip the foreign options. See where their tales may take you.

And of course, through food...

A grilled vegetable pita and Greek fries (lemon, oregano, and pepper) at a local Greek festival in Tenafly, NJ.

Veganize Greek classics: Greek Salad, Moussaka, and Spanakopita. Don't forget the Baklava.

Love these children's costumes and dancing, and the display of embracing their heritage.

Consider visiting a restaurant you wouldn't normally try and seeing what they can veganize. ran an article on the challenges vegetarians face when dining out. Read it here. While I do like to patronize vegetarian establishments as much as I can, it's vital to increase demand for veg options in mainstream restaurants.

There's a Colombian bakery in Bergenfield I eye every morning on my bus on my way to my cubicle, and hope to soon try it. Where can you be transported to through food or the arts?