Sorry about the lapse in posts this past week; I have been traveling, first to Hawaii and then on to Taiwan to meet up with my mom and spend some time visiting my 2nd cousin Greg and his wife Chao.

While traveling is always exciting, a long trip like this means spending a lot of time in the airport. I spent two back-to-back days going from New York to Salt Lake City to Honolulu, spending the night on my uncles couch and then getting up early the next morning to fly from Honolulu to Narita to (finally!) Taipei. I basically gave up on finding vegan eats in the airport years ago, and so I always pack tons of snacks when I travel, stuffing my carry-on with so much fruit and nuts it probably looks like I am smuggling an army of pygmy marmosets up under my skirt. However, I was really impressed with the vegan options in the airports I stopped of at last week. I am not sure when traveling became so vegan friendly (probably since Oprah trendified it..) but I suppose can start to reconsider my fruit hoarding style of jet setting.

Ugh, I could totally go for a stack of vegan pancakes right now..

I departed from JFK and, aside from the usual smoothie shops, they actually had an entire stand dedicated to vegan options. Selections included fresh fruit and veggies, premade tofu sandwiches, salads with chickpeas, vegan pad thai and a plethora of snacks and bars. Of course, many of the premade food was sky-high with sodium and had enough calories to get me through both lunch and dinner (thank you, New York, for making it illegal not to list calorie content on all edibles) but at least there are options!

When I landed in Utah I had a few hours to walk around the airport and stretch my legs. Out of curiosity, I stopped to read a menu outside a pub-style eatery and was shocked to read nearly a dozen vegan options, all nicely labeled with a little orange V. The selection included tofu scrambles for breakfast, made-from-scratch veggie burgers served on wheat buns of on top of a salad, and a house-made hummus served with fresh-cut veggies. Way to go, Utah! Of course, in my excitement I forgot to take not of what the restaurant is called! Whoops. I promise to check it out on the return trip so I can share the name here.

I had to run to catch my connecting flight in Narita, so no opportunity to check out the food. However, China Air has a nice vegan meal option if you made sure to call ahead. I am still enjoying my travels (hoorah for three weeks off!) but promise to post more soon on vegan eating in Taiwan!

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This super easy and delicious dinner is something my mom made for me growing up all the time. While her versions weren’t vegan, they were a great and healthy way to use up the leftovers from the previous week. You simply layer grains, veggies, beans, salsa, guacamole and anything else you want between layers of tortillas (I like whole grain) for a mexican fiesta you can impress your friends with. Throw in left-over stir fry, cooked grains, or veggies that are about to go bad. Add vegan sour cream, nutritional yeast, hot peppers or anything else you want. Try drizzling the creation with a batch of Veganomicon‘s Cheezy Sauce. Bake it in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes until all the flavors have merged together and everything is heated through. When it comes out, slice it into pieces (like cake) and serve alongside a simple salad. To keep it looking pretty, create your layers in a spring-form pan. Not worried about presentation? Stacking it on a cookie sheet works as a messy alternative.

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I don’t mean to shock anybody here, but it’s pretty easy to be an unhealthy vegan.

but, it says Veggie on it!

Need proof? Most french-fries are vegan. Frozen vegan goodies like Amy’s Kitchen can have outrageously high sodium counts. Some vegans eat peanut-butter all day long ( I call these the Skippy Vegans). Boxed vegan junk food (like Good Health Veggie Stix) are still nothing more than junk, albeit animal-friendly junk. Plus, if you don’t make a conscious effort to get all your essential vitamins, you could end up eating kale all day long and still be intensely unhealthy, with dangerously low body fat (these vegans need to eat more peanut-butter), brittle nails, thinning hair and bad skin.

So, for starter-kit vegans or even long time kale-crunchers who aren’t feeling their best, here are some tips:

If you’re just starting out, write what you eat. It might seem a little OCD (okay, anal) but it will allow you to look back on what you ate that day/week and thing “gee, I didn’t get enough protein,” or “holy soy! I need to cut back on the tofu,” or “more greens, please.” Eventually this will become second nature, but for now, make a little log.

Watch your  fat. Things like nuts, avocados and coconut milk are delicious and high in  healthy (HDL) fats, and this is great. However, they also contain some saturated fats (LDL) (especially coconuts) and if you decide to eat them everyday all day your body will not thank you. Take a look at serving sizes — if that cherished can of coconut milk says that 1/4 cup has 50% of your saturated fat and you have been dumping a cup into your morning smoothie everyday, you may want to re-evaluate the situation.

image by sugarshakes

Greens, greens, greens! If you’re not on a b-12 supplement than you should be eating buckets of greens daily. Some easy ways to do so are enjoying a green smoothie in the morning, some sautéed greens with most meals (it’s impressive how an entire bag of spinach cooks down to a few scrumptious mouthfuls) and of course, raw salads as often as you can. Go buy a salad bowl as big as your head and stuff it  with cruciferous tidbits.

Be a protein machine! Make sure to include things like beans, peas, high-protein veggies (broccoli, asparagus, greens) and whole grains into your diet daily. Nuts and seeds are great too, but remember to mind the fat.

Now, once you’ve made sure you’re giving your body what it needs, please do indulge. A life without chocolate cake and waffles is no life at all….

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In all of its faux-cheesy glory...

Say what? In case you’re not a super-trendy lover of vegetables who likes to talk in hip vegan slang (hah!) I’m about to break into a rant about my love for nutritional yeast. Hey, wait a minute – stop scrolling down to find that picture of the Olsen twins wearing pasties and bear with me here!! Like many weird vegan ingredients, nutritional yeast kind of freaked me out for a while and I stayed away from it for my first month or two of veganism. That is until I went to visit my mama in Hawaii and she talked me into it. (Just like she talked me into doing lots of things, like visiting a nude beach and drinking Kava.)

High in protein and  b-complex vitamins (some brands are fortified with b12), and low in fat and sodium, nutritional yeast pretty much gets super-hero status in my hat of vegan magic. Since it has a salty flavor, it is versatile and does wonderful things when added to recipes. Paired alongside fresh basil, it takes my vegan pesto from “oh..” to “Oh!” My mom sprinkles nooch on popcorn with spirulina–another nutritional bad-ass– for a super-fibery, super-green, B12alicious movie treat. At Health in a Hurry, we put it in our Chickpea of the Sea, a faux-tuna concoction that is completely over-the-moon. (I can’t tell you that recipe though, cause then I would have to kill you, and as a general rule of thumb vegans are usually pretty non-violent.) I also like putting nooch in my  tofu scrambles, and although I have never made it I have a friend who swears she uses it to make a vegan mac-n-cheese that will fool anybody.  I am considering buying the Nutritional Yeast Cookbook, but until I stop finding the majority of my spending money between couch cushions, I will continue doing what I do now: going to Barnes N Nobles and sitting for three hours straight copying recipes from books I want to own but am too poor to buy. One day I will get there!

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This past week was my spring break, but because I am so financially challenged (broke) these days I didn’t go on any big trip like most college seniors. Sigh. Don’t feel too bad for me though, I am heading to Bermuda right after graduation. Anyways, one thing I did over break was hole up at my boyfriends and do a ton of vegan cooking.  I tried a recipe from Veganomicon that everyone orbiting around the vegan sphere has been talking about; chickpea cutlets. I was a bit skeptical but went out to find the key ingredient, vital wheat gluten, at a local health food store and got down to business, cooking the recipe with Ben for his parents.

We decided to serve the cutlets exactly the way the book suggested-with roasted asparagus and mustard sauce. We got a bit overwhelmed in the kitchen trying to make sure everything was ready at the same time and I think we made his mom a bit nervous (she is very protective about her kitchen). The end result was pretty good- the cutlets definitely had a meaty texture and the spices gave it a chickeny flavor. I wasn’t such a fan of the mustard sauce but I believe that was just personal taste, as Ben and his dad ate it right up.

Later on during break I went to visit my vegan buddy Hannah, whose boyfriend has decided to try being  a vegetarian and is having some serious chicken withdrawals. We decided to make him some chickpea cutlets, emulating his favorite italian dish, chicken parmesan. I liked the cutlets much better this way- first we prepared them in a pan the way recipe directs. Next,while the pasta was boiling, we baked them in the oven with tomato sauce and vegan cheese. Yum!

While I was excited about the chickeny feel of these recipes, never had there been a time in my life where I was more relieved to not eat chicken. Ben lives in Bridgewater, VA, the home of at least two different Perdue factories. I love the quiet little town of Bridgewater,with its peaceful community, old victorian houses and great farmers markets, but the smell (which gets worse in the summer) coming from the factories is really repulsive. A cross between road-kill and manure. Once this past week Ben and I got stuck driving directly behind a Perdue truck and I could see hundreds of fluffy white chickens shoved four stories high in the back of the truck. Pretty much ruined my day..

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Here in VA, we have been getting tons of snow. Public schools have been closed for a solid two weeks. Friends of mine who are student teaching have cabin fever. However, my good old private college has been open, so I’ve had plenty to do. So much to do that, I find myself sitting around creating up lists of what I would love to do if the next day were a snow day. Here is my list..

1. Cook. Being snowed in is a great excuse to dig through your cabinets and get creative, because the only thing worse than driving in a snow storm is being in a grocery-store during a storm, where everyone is scurrying around like the world is about to end creating lines all the way through the frozen food section. Nothing beats making a huge soup with every random perishable you can find, and then creating a funky name for it and forcing it on all your room-mates. “Here, try a bowl of my Chickpea  Dishwater Delight!” ( Chickpeas, every frozen vegetable in my freezer, some sort of grain, curry, cumin and corriander). Vegan dumpster cookies are also a great way to pass the time inside, and everyone loves a huge pile of pancakes.

2. Clean. It makes you feel accomplished, it makes everything smell better, and you will probably need it after making vegan dumpster cookies, because your kitchen will be a mess.

3. Have sex. Inclement weather is a great excuse to stay in bed all day long. Grab a buddy or take it solo. Get creative with it. In my Sex, or Something Like It column in the school paper, I have a Boner Jams section full of songs that are good to get down to. If they don’t actually put you in the mood they will at least make a funny situation to tell all your friends about later. Here are a few of my all-time favorites, but feel free to scour your iTunes and make a list of your own.

  • Nine Inch Nails- “Closer.” Especially good if you’re feeling angry.
  • Will I Am- “Big & Chunky.”Actually this song, which from the soundtrack of Madagascar II, just makes me laugh. It’s great.
  • Girl Talk- the entire Feed The Animals album is phenomenal.
  • Kings of Leon- “I want you.” If Anthony Caleb Followill’s brooding vocals don’t do it for you, then I give up.
  • Beethoven’s 5th. What? I’m classy…

4. Play around on Youtube and any other website that supports procrastination. Sometimes you will stumble upon videos from people you wish you could be friends with.

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