Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 30: Vegan Halloween Party Recap

This post might seem a little all over the place. I’m tired and excited and I’m still recovering a bit from how awesome my birthday ended up being. This evening I went to a Halloween hot yoga class dressed as Wonder Woman. It was SO fun. I was so impressed with the soundtrack. It was choreographed to our yoga practice! I’m a little yoga high as well.

Anyways, today I’m here to share another Halloween event I went to. It was an all vegan Halloween Party hosted by the nonprofit group Rhode Island Vegan Awareness (RIVA).

halloween 17 RIVA

Of course, I went dressed as a unicorn:

halloween 17 unicorn costume

Since I know most of you are here for Vegan Month of Food, I figure I’ll talk about the food first. When we arrived, the tables had a smattering of delicious vegan gummy candy from Surf Sweets all over them and some chips and hummus. We had dinner soon after, and there was a gluten-free option that I had. It was pasta, pizza, and salad and they gave us a lot of it! There was the option for seconds too, but I was pretty full. Towards the end of the night, they passed out 2 packages of Justin’s Peanut Butter cups to each guest. It was awesome! I had been refraining from buying them the week before because I had heard a rumor we were getting them at the party.

The event was planned as a fundraiser for a vegan billboard that will be put up in Providence. This party was able to fund it and I’m excited to see it.

RIVA’s president is also named Laura. Together we make two vegan Lauras. She went as Belle from Beauty and the Beast alongside…well…her partner the Beast. Haha. Here’s a picture of the two vegan Lauras together. “The Beast” took our photo! Thanks!

halloween 17 belle and unicorn

RIVA did a great job organizing and running the party! Not only did we have food, but there was a cover band, vegan vendors, dancing, a trivia and costume contest, and raffles. I also got an astrology reading done in honor of my birthday. She gave me some great advice based on my chart and shared lots of stuff about me that helped confirm some life stuff I’ve been considering taking action on. I am going to keep it cryptic for now, but maybe I will talk about it sometime in the future. I was really glad I got to see and talk to her.

Oh! There was also a really awesome spoken word performance by my new friend, who I happened to carpool with after Laura had asked if someone could help with a ride for them. The piece was about how annoying it is to be asked, “where do you get your protein?” Even though most of us vegans often complain about hearing that question, the performance was still really inventive, funny, and well put together.

Oh! and there was a couple that dressed as B-12 and won the best vegan themed Halloween costume! I got such a kick out of it! If you go to RIVA’s facebook page and look at the pictures of the event, you might see them, amongst some other really awesome costumes! RIVA’s Facebook.

Anyways, I’m super tired from all this activity lately. I really hope I am able to post my last Vegan MoFo 2017 post tomorrow about the vegan Trunk or Treat event, but if I get home too late it might be a challenge. If I don’t make it in time, I will post November 1st, even though it won’t be the same.

Happy Halloween everyone! And Happy MoFo if I don’t post tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

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Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 23, Week 4: Entertaining

And we’re back, folks! It’s Laura, here.

It was nice to have a quick posting break over the weekend.

Boston VegFest was actually a real bummer this year. There wasn’t really anything new or exciting, and it was more crowded than ever. I mean, it was so crowded that you literally had to push your way through people to move. And, most of the time it was really hard to even see what any of the vendors were selling or the nonprofit groups were sharing. I ended up getting so frustrated. My favorite food to get at Vegfest is from Belmont Vegetarian, but even that was slightly disappointing because they didn’t have as much selection as they did last year for their dishes. I think they had half of what they usually offer. It was still really good though. I didn’t take any pictures, sadly.

Luckily, the day was redeemed by going to the Museum of Fine Arts after. They had an amazing Haruki Murakami exhibit. He’s been one of my favorite modern artists since high school.

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See? Instant mood brightener.

Anyways, on to MoFo business, now that I am back from the break.

Today is simply an introduction to the week.

This week’s theme is entertaining. It’s going to be a bit of a mix of entertaining things for me.

Tuesday I’m going to be posting about unicorn-themed finger foods, Wednesday I’ll be posting only on Instagram and will keep it a surprise (or maybe I will also post the photo here with a bit of text…who knows),  Thursday will be a unicorn-friendly showstopping dessert pizza, and Friday will be a kid’s food post with an elaborate unicorn bento box.

The weekend through Tuesday will be gearing up for the ultimate in entertaining since it’s my birthday Sunday and Halloween on Tuesday. Most of this will still probably be unicorn themed a bit since I’m going as a unicorn for Halloween and doing some really fun Halloween stuff this year, like going to an all-vegan Halloween party on Saturday and participating in an all-vegan trunk or treat event on Tuesday which I plan to infuse with unicorns at every point.

I decided after making all the cakes and sweets I’ve made for this MoFo that I don’t want cake for my birthday which may be disappointing to some, but I’ll try to figure something out instead.  Maybe a trip to Like No Udder, Rhode Island’s (where I live) own vegan ice cream shop, is in order if I can fit it in.

Excited to share what I have in store for the last week of Vegan MoFo! I heard a rumor that we may lose power due to a storm tomorrow, so if I’m not around tomorrow as promised, that may be why. I promise I will catch up in my own way if so.

 

 

 

Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 4: Hidden Cruelties in our food

Laura here:

Hey there everybody, thanks so much for your awesome comments and likes so far! Fluffy and I really appreciate the support.

Today Fluffy and I want to talk about hidden cruelties in vegan food. Fluffy has asked me to speak on this today. The topic is very important to them, but they feel I am more experienced with explaining about it. As a humane education graduate student, I am used to doing a lot of research, especially about the life cycle of products and their impact on the environment, animals, and humans.

It’s not the most pleasant topic but I hope you will consider it and learn some new research skills and explore some new issues that require your compassion and empathy. As vegans, to be fully compassionate it is important that we consider supporting companies that are not just vegan, but also have good human rights track records for their workers at all levels of production and are better for the environment that we animals all share and need to not decline any further. Doing so makes for a better world where the goals are fairness, equality, freedom, sustainability, a restored planet, and beyond. We all want that, right? I’ll be talking more specifically about why human rights are an important issue for vegans tomorrow.

It’s ultimately up to you what companies, products, foods, etc you choose to buy. But I do urge you to think about what led you to first become vegan. Many of us had to open our eyes and face the realities of some immense cruelties that we maybe had never considered before. We opted out, we wanted to no longer contribute to such immense suffering. Now, we need to extend that compassion, keep learning, keep growing, keep researching the same way we did when we went vegan.

It can be really challenging to research a lot of the hidden cruelties behind our foods and their packaging. They wouldn’t be considered hidden otherwise.

Some tips for uncovering some of these cruelties in foods, ingredients, and packaging:

  • Look to the company themselves. Write to them and ask questions. Sometimes if you suggest they may be violating human rights or accuse them of something super serious, they won’t write back, so be polite and very specific. They will be honest otherwise. If you’re inquiring if a product is completely vegan down to something really specific like sugar sourcing, or whatever, be clear as to what that means. They don’t always know what it means, especially smaller companies that may not label their products as vegan but the products may actually be vegan anyways.
  • Main ingredients such as fruits and vegetables that are grown around the world are often easy (yet maybe a little overwhelming) to research their footprint and how they affect animals, human workers, and the environment in order to grow. Looking up their typical country of origin, growing season, water usage, transportation (how many miles do they travel to get to you? How do they keep them fresh if it’s a long distance? How much gas is involved in their transport?) will be a good start. Then once you get some of the answers to those questions you can begin to look into other factors. How are the workers treated who grow them, pick them, package them, ship them? Are there any current boycotts or labor actions such as strikes on behalf of the workers that you can find? What are the animal issues involved with their production (especially treatment of insects and other animals that risk the crop’s viability and what they do with other animals in the local environment that interact with the crop or the land used for growing it)? Is the land, water, air being destroyed in some way from the production of it? Etc.
  • To learn more about the effect plastic packaging is having on animals, humans, and our planet, I recommend starting with the film A Plastic Ocean. This is currently available on Netflix.
  • To learn more about the bottled water industry and the harm it’s doing, check out the film Tapped. It’s not on Netflix but may be available streaming elsewhere. This article provides an overview of some of the topics covered in the film.
  • To learn more about the human rights abuses involved in chocolate, coffee, bananas, and more, get familiar with the Food Empowerment Project.
  • There are lots of other issues and food products to be aware of that we often consume as vegans. Palm oil is a big issue as well, but to be honest I rely on other people’s research and try to reduce my use of products with palm oil in them as much as I possibly can. It feels a little too overwhelmingly upsetting to expose myself to the research on it myself. Which brings me to my next few points.

Take care of yourself and don’t get overwhelmed by researching everything all at once. If you feel your favorite food might be problematic in some way, don’t start by researching that one. You cannot be perfect and it does get overwhelming when you realize how many products have major problems with them.

Find a way to practice self-care when you uncover upsetting things, and take action when you can by boycotting the product, writing to the company to tell them you’d like to see them change, educate others about the problem and direct them to alternative products, etc

If you’re worried about a product you use and have heard many people’s rationale for avoiding it, and you feel like it might too much to expose yourself to the gory details, it’s probably a good idea to stop using the product. This is the same guilt and denial mechanism that prevents some people from adopting a vegan lifestyle.

I’ll say it again: remember you can’t be perfect. Sometimes we need to make trade-offs and analyze and use our critical thinking skills, remember our core values, and try our best to do the most good, least harm (from a book by the president of the Institute for Humane Education, Zoe Weil, which I highly recommend). It’s important to research and make fully informed decisions, but losing our sanity over it is also ineffective and harmful and prevents us from making a positive change in ourselves, the world, and for others.

Compassion fatigue is a serious issue as well. Here are some articles that provide some good tips and stuff about it.

https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/blog/self-care-vegan-activist

http://www.ourhenhouse.org/2013/05/how-an-activist-headed-toward-burnout-can-change-course-four-ways-to-cope-with-compassion-fatigue/

And this podcast sounds amazing. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I will. I like the link mainly for its awesome resources:

http://veganwarriorprincessesattack.com/137-burnout-compassion-fatigue-vicarious-trauma-vegan-activism-steven-dawson-lcsw/

Anyways, tomorrow will be the last serious post before I get back to some more super fun, unicorny stuff!

 

Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 2: Eating Treats Without Guilt

Hi, it’s Fluffy here!

I want to talk to you today about something two concepts that never need to go together: food & guilt. Sadly, people often DO put them together.

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To avoid my salty unicorn tears from flowing, here is my take on the matter:

Vegan food, after all, is about eating with compassion and making a conscious effort to reduce suffering through our food choices. So, as long as you are doing the best you can to achieve this goal, there really is no need for guilt! (If you’re not vegan and are experiencing feelings of guilt because you’re becoming aware of the suffering that occurs from your food choices, there are plenty of supportive vegans who would love to help you make the transition! For example, my pal Laura, the owner of this blog, is a Vegan Outreach Mentor and also has her own site, veg-edu-ables.com that you might want to check out.)

I see a lot of people associate guilt and shame with supposed “bad” vegan foods as opposed to “healthy” vegan foods. There is no such thing as “good” and/or “bad” food. Vegan food is vegan food. Want to eat a delicious sugary vegan donut? Go ahead! Enjoy it. Savor each melt-in-your-mouth morsel. Think to yourself, well, that was magical! I deserved that experience! I am happy I ate that. Want to eat a salad? As long as you don’t feel with every bite that you live a joyless, hopeless, sad and tasteless existence, that’s okay too!

When we shame or guilt trip ourselves or others for eating certain foods it creates unhealthy problems with food, or our bodies, minds, and spirits. As long as you are eating a balanced diet that does not consist of around the clock cookies and nothing but cookies and turning into a cookie monster, you’ll be okay. In fact, you’ll enjoy life a little bit more when you allow yourself to have fun, enjoy, and savor all the delicious vegan treats that are exploding onto the shelves of grocery stores, in vegan bakeries, restaurants, cookbooks, blogs, Instagrams, and beyond. I know I do!

Tomorrow we’ll be talking about shame and guilt as it relates to people’s bodies, which goes together with this topic.

**If you feel like you have a real problem with guilt and food, or feel like you may have some seriously disordered eating habits, I encourage you to find a vegan-friendly registered dietician and/or a psychologist who specializes in disordered eating. It won’t be easy but you can recover. Fluffy loves you and wants to see you healthy, happy, and successful.

 

 

 

Vegan MoFo (Month of Food) Day 1 Introduction

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Hey everyone! I haven’t been posting much here lately but I’m going to be writing (hopefully) every day in October to participate in Vegan MoFo. I first started doing MoFo in 2014, and I skipped it last year, but this year I am back at it because I have a cool new project and life stuff I want to talk about.

Plus October is my birth month (my birthday is on the 29th), and in the previous years, I have done MoFo it has been in September. What a better way to celebrate my birthday than to do what I love best? Talking about vegan food!

So what is this cool new project? Well, for my Master’s thesis in Humane Education I’m going to be writing a Vegan Unicorn Party cooking and craft book. Humane Education is a field that seeks to help others learn about the environment, human rights, animals, cultural structures, and how to effect change in the world. You can learn more about the kinds of things I seek to practice from my grad program’s blog here.

So how do unicorns and humane education go together?

That’s where Fluffy the Vegan Unicorn Comes in!

Fat Unicorn

Fluffy the Vegan Unicorn is a body positive, gender non-conforming (they use they/their/them pronouns) treat loving unicorn who believes that vegan food should be fun!

Having fun with food is great for kids of all ages, even children at heart who happen to be adults. In fact, it is Fluffy’s hope that their food can bring joy to all, even the most grumpy, un-childlike adults. Fluffy believes that is healthy for all adults to have a childlike sense of wonder about food and other beautiful things, like the magic of nature.

 

The first week of Vegan MoFo is devoted to Changing Vegan Perceptions. This week Fluffy will help me share a lot of their attitude toward vegan food philosophy. There may not always be recipes or pictures of food every time, but hopefully, you will learn some new things about vegan food, be encouraged to play, treat yo’ self, and enjoy more. Maybe Fluffy will even change your perceptions of vegan food.

This is the rundown for the rest of the week, so you know what to expect:

Monday, October 2, Eating Treats Without Guilt

Tuesday, October 3, Body Positivity for Vegans

Wednesday, October 4, Researching Hidden Cruelties in our Food

Thursday, October 5, Who says vegans don’t care about human rights?

Friday, October 6, *keeping with the MoFo daily theme for this one* Vegan Cheese is Real Cheese with a surprisingly cheezy unicorn recipe

Saturday, October 7, Fluffy’s Vegan Dessert Food Pyramid

Sunday, October 8, You Can Make Friends With Salad *Vegan MoFo day theme* After reading about all this dessert stuff, don’t forget to eat your vegetables!

Then in the following week, you’ll be getting a behind the scenes look at some of the things I’m doing for the book, some of Fluffy’s favorite staples and tools, and rainbowy frosting tips. The third week will be mostly keeping in line with the daily themes for the ingredient challenges, with a unicorn twist. And the final week of MoFo will be all about entertaining, Halloween, unicorns, and their overlaps.

You can also follow my posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I also have an additional Instagram devoted to Fluffy Approved recipes and other unicorn things, that you can follow @unicorns.eat.vegan 

So get excited and I cannot wait to look at and read what my other vegan blogger friends are doing for MoFo this week and beyond!

 

 

 

 

Why I’m going to avoid artificial colors from now on. (Update 8/31/17)

 

I have been hearing all sorts of bad things about artificial and synthetic food colors for a long time. I had heard that they were tested on animals at some point, that they’re harmful to our health, that they’re not environmentally friendly, and that they are unnecessary. Yet, I kept seeing products labeled as vegan that had them in them and I assumed I could eat them despite what I believed were rumors. They are in, after all, in some of my favorite mainstream candies that are widely accepted as being accidentally vegan.

Realizing that many people avoid synthetic food colors for the reasons I listed above, I set out to begin to find some alternatives when I cook for other people and for the cookbook I am writing. I was not thinking I would decide to avoid them for the most part until I began to research them more as I was writing this.

However, I discovered some facts that upset me and convinced me otherwise:

Synthetic colors can be present in almost any product in the market, from food and drinks to toothpaste, chewing gum, medications, cosmetics, and even tattoos. They are typically made in a laboratory from petroleum products (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10) or Coal (FDA, 2007). The petroleum and coal industries are destructive to our environment, and produce products and byproducts that are not exactly considered food!

To identify an artificial food coloring in your foods’ ingredients lists, you must look for the prefixes FD&C, D&C, or Ext. D&C, followed by the name of a color, and a number. Sometimes the artificial color may be listed just as the color and number. These labels mean that these colors have been “certified” by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been approved by them to be safe for use in food (FDA, 2007). Today, there are nine dyes that are approved to be used in food, and these are (minus the prefixes): Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

However, the FDA does not require certain colorants derived from plants, animals, or minerals, though some are still considered artificial colorants and need to be regulated differently (FDA, 2007). This list includes some unappetizing options for colorings such as carmine and cochineal extract (which are produced using beetles and therefore not vegan), canthaxanthin, Sodium copper chlorophyllin, Toasted partially defatted cooked cottonseed flour, ferrous gluconate and ferrous lactate, synthetic iron oxide, mica, etc. The same list includes ingredients we vegans are more familiar with, such as beets, turmeric, vegetable and fruit juices, spirulina, saffron, paprika, carrot oil, and annatto (FDA, 2015). For more information on these lists you can check them out here.

In order to certify a synthetic colorant’s safety, they are tested on animals. The FDA requires that there are tests on at least two different species of rodents (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). That alone may be a reason to avoid these dyes. However, if it does not sway you for whatever reason, know that even scientists are critical of the ways in which animal testing is used and applied in research. In order to test the carcinogenicity of these colorful products effectively, scientists believe that more animals needed to be tested, that the tests need to be performed on pregnant animals and their fetuses, and have a longer duration than the two years they are conducted for at present (Potera, 2010). Personally, I would rather avoid or even encourage a ban these questionably safe products than advocate for more extensive animal testing.

Scientists, medical doctors, nutrition experts, and even psychologists, teachers, parents, and other concerned folks also take issue with some of the research findings of some dyes when the FDA has not. For example,  Potera states, “Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 contain free benzidene, a human and animal carcinogen permitted in low, presumably safe levels” (2010). However, benzidene has also been found to be bound to the chemical structure of the dyes at a greater level than the free benzidene. The tests the FDA does do not consider or identify bound contaminants, only free ones (Potera, 2010). Yellow 5 (also called tartrazine), can cause allergic reactions that can be severe in some people. Tartrazine is now required to be listed by name on food labels, but that isn’t the only concern with this colorant. In a majority of the test-tube and animal experiments for it, this yellow colored dye was shown to damage DNA, which may indicate that it is a carcinogen. Unfortunately, the studies that showed the data was not considered by the FDA (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). Furthermore, it has been suggested by researchers that artificial food colorings can increase hyperactivity in children diagnosed with ADHD, as well as children without the diagnosis (Arnold, Lofthouse, & Hurt, 2012).

Some food dyes used today are even banned for use in cosmetics and topical drugs but not food. Red 3 has been banned from these applications by the FDA. It has been shown in animal testing to cause thyroid cancer. Today, five million pounds of Red 3 are present in the food supply (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

It is, as always, up to you to decide what you will tolerate ethically and put into your body. Personally, now that I know that these products are harmful to my health, animals, and the environment, I am going to try to do away with synthetic food colorings as much as I possibly can. I will use natural colors instead.

References

Arnold, L. E., Lofthouse, N., & Hurt, E. (2012). Artificial food colors and attention deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: Conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics, 9(3), 599-609. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-012-0133-x

Jacobson, M. F., & Kobylewski, S. (2010, September). Color Us Worried. Nutrition Action Health Letter, 37(7), 10-11. Retrieved from Nursing & Allied Health Database.

Potera, C. (2010). Diet and nutrition: The artificial food dye blues. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(10). https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp/118-a428

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2007, December 10). How safe are color additives? Retrieved August 30, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048951.htm

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2015, May). Summary of color additives for use in the United States in foods, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/ColorAdditives/ColorAdditiveInventories/ucm115641.htm#table1A

***

For the purposes of the cookbook I am writing, unfortunately, I had bought a bunch of sprinkles that were labeled vegan that used the artificial colors before I did this research. I feel guilty letting them go to waste and so I plan to use them. However, I feel the need to point out that there are naturally colored vegan sprinkles available. Let’s Do Organic… brand makes a fairly easy to find variety. India Tree makes some too, but not all of them are vegan. You will need to look out for ingredients such as confectioner’s glaze or beeswax (made from insects) before buying. Additionally, there is an Etsy store called Naked Sprinkles that makes a beautiful range of vegan and naturally colored sprinkles that  I’m really excited to support in the future!

Since my cookbook is all about creating fun, rainbowy, unicorn-inspired foods, I felt it especially necessary to provide options for creating these beautiful colors without the cruelty, environmental destruction, and health risks involved.

If you are short on time or these are not cost effective for you or difficult to find, there are pre-made natural colors that you can buy as well. India Tree, Color Garden, and Color Kitchen, all make natural and vegan food coloring that you can buy in stores or online.

The following are my alternatives to artificial dyes, using natural ingredients. I recommend that you mix each color in a small glass jar and keep chilled in the fridge until needed to color all sorts of foods, such as smoothies, cakes, donuts, frostings, cookies, etc. Always shake the jar before using as separation will occur. I will be using these dyes I created in many of the recipes in the book I am writing.

*Though I have not included it in the official recipes, you can make orange colored dye by mixing the beet color with the turmeric color until you get a satisfactory shade of orange. It may be easier to mix into the food item you are making rather than in a jar, as the colors appear darker than they will in the food you are mixing them into.

Vegan Friendly Natural Food Dye Recipes

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Red

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional, you could use cornstarch or arrowroot if you do not have it)
  • ¾ tsp beet powder

Yellow

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric

Green

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp spirulina powder

Blue

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ½ tsp butterfly pea tea powder

Purple

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ¼ tsp butterfly pea tea powder
  • ¼ tsp beet powder

IMG_3695Here is a picture of some cookie dough I colored using red, purple, yellow, and green dye I made.

 

New Project! Magic Rainbow Unicorn Party

Hey!

As some readers may or may not know, for the past year I have been studying at the Institute for Humane Education, working towards an M.A. in humane education. Humane education seeks to empower and educate people who can be “solutionaries,” or, people who find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, which often involve human rights, environmental ethics, and animal protection issues. I went into this program to become a better vegan mentor and educator, as well as learn more about human rights.

I am always looking for ways to encourage people to make healthier, sustainable, and less harmful product choices. Of particular concern to me are labor issues, cruelty towards animals, the amount of waste and pollution that is created from any particular product, etc. That being said, our quests to find these types of products and making our own food and other handmade activities should still be FUN!

Fat Unicorn

Not only that but learning about how to be more ethical and healthier consumers does not have to be boring or painful and upsetting. Being equipped with information and resources presented in a non-threatening way can make a big difference for people and their habits.

So, for my master’s thesis, I am working on writing a cookbook/eco-friendly craft/kid’s party book, with a magical unicorn rainbow theme.

Inside the book will be a cute chubby unicorn sharing facts and resources most likely, among other helpful tidbits.

The reason for her chubbiness is simple,  vegans come in all shapes and sizes, and the size of a person, big or small, should not dictate what kind of a role model they are in the vegan movement. So, this unicorn pays tribute to that concept.

Likewise, what people choose to eat, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, is their choice! If they want to eat sugary cookies, or ice cream, or whatever else, they have that right, whether they do it every day or once in a while for a treat. If you are opposed to treating yourself with food, this probably isn’t for you. (Although there will be foods that are more health-oriented as well).

In the next few days, I’ll be sharing with you the details of the first project I tackled for this project. Making your own natural vegan food dyes!

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In the meantime, check out my new Instagram account associated with the project, @unicorns.eat.vegan.

Have fun this weekend!

xoxo Laura

Buffalo Soy Curls Recipe and a review of Daiya’s Blue Cheese dressing

Whew, this summer has been so busy! So much happening in my life right now.

Girls Rock camp starts on Monday and I am super excited to help feed people there.

Today I was in the grocery and came across Daiya’s new salad dressings. I was intrigued by the blue cheese one. I never really liked blue cheese, and I hated chunky versions of the dressing. I only liked it if it was smooth. But I decided to purchase it on a whim, and then suddenly had the great idea to make something buffalo style to accompany it.

I came up with a recipe for buffalo soy curls.

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The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag Butler Soy Curls
  • Water to cover soy curls
  • 1/4 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 bottle Frank’s Red Hot sauce

Directions:

  1. Soak soy curls in a bowl covered with water for 10 minutes.
  2. Turn oven to broil.
  3. Drain soy curls.
  4. Place flour, nutritional yeast, garlic and onion powders, and pepper in a ziplock bag.
  5. Toss soy curls into ziplock bag.
  6. Spray a wide-rim baking sheet sprayed with cooking oil.
  7. Dump out soy curls out of bag and spray the tops of the soy curls with oil.
  8. Place in the broiler for about  5 minutes (watch them carefully, every oven broils slightly different, you may require more or less time).
  9. Toss, flip, or stir soy curls around a bit. Place back in the broiler for 2 minutes.
  10. When the soy curls are starting to get crisp and slightly brown, take out of the broiler and pour the hot sauce on top.
  11. Broil for another minute, then take out of the oven.
  12. Serve with celery and vegan blue cheese.

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REVIEW OF THE DAIYA BLUE CHEESE DRESSING:

Despite my reservations, I was quite impressed. It’s been ages since I’ve had the real thing, but once I tasted it I had to re-check the ingredients to make sure Daiya hadn’t pulled a fast one on me. It’s very convincing and there’s no chunkiness. Woohoo! It’s perfect for taming buffalo stuff.

Hope your summer is going well too!

Adventures in Ethiopian Cooking

Over the holidays, I got a vegan Ethiopian cookbook, Teff Love, by Kittee Berns, for a present.

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I have loved Ethiopian cuisine since I lived in the Boston area, where I used to go to a restaurant in Cambridge, MA called Addi’s Red Sea. It is a very vegan friendly cuisine. Vegnews recently shared a story that has more about Ethiopian culture and their food and why it’s so vegan-friendly. Check it out here.

At first I only had the time and energy to try the Ethiopian style tofu scramble recipe. I’m pretty sure I could eat that almost every day for the rest of my life and not get sick of it. What really makes it is the berbere spice, the signature spice mix for the cuisine…although I’m a baby when it comes to spice and so I reduce it by quite a bit.

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You can get it in the international section of Whole Foods, among other places, I am sure.

One of the best parts of the food is the Injera, the spongy, crepe-like sourdough bread that you eat everything with. It can be used instead of utensils. It’s naturally gluten free (made from teff flour–which inspired the name of Bern’s cookbook). However, it takes up to a week to fully make, which is a bit complicated…but worth it if you can figure it out. If you are pressed for time though, the book has a teff crepe recipe which is really awesome as well.

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Another great aspect of Ethiopian food is that it makes a lot of food, and it lends itself to making multiple dishes and feeding lots of people.

For example, the first time I made it, I gave some to my friend who had just had a baby as part of a meal train.

Here’s a picture she took of her plate:

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And here is one of my favorite pictures of my own plate (one of many):

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Also, my dad happens to work with someone from Ethiopia, who ended up giving me a huge jar of Teff flour! It was very exciting as it’s like hitting the teff jackpot!

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After making a large batch of food for myself and my friend and her family, I made a dish by itself. It is called ye’zelbo gomen be’karot, which is kale with carrots, onions and mild spices. It’s seriously the best kale dish I’ve ever eaten, and that is saying a lot (I love kale) and my whole family loves it.

Speaking of which: yesterday (Wednesday April 7), after spending the weekend in my kitchen making a big feast for Monday, only to have snow (!!!) cancel the class, I served the small college program, College Unbound, who helped me get my bachelor’s degree, the feast as well! I kept raving about the kale dish to everyone, and one student said she doesn’t like kale, but I got her to try it anyways, and she really liked it! Her cousin who was also there, was claiming she might need to contact the local news channel because I had her trying foods she’d never tried before, and she’s usually so picky…which was a big compliment for myself and the author of the cookbook! Here are a few pictures of some of the other students posing with their plates:

Also, the majority of the students had never had Ethiopian food before when we asked. Most people who tried it were not put off by the fact that there wasn’t meat in the dishes, which can happen sometimes when I am feeding large groups (or at least they didn’t say it to my face! haha). I had one person comment to me that the split peas in mild sauce (called ye’ater kik alicha in the book) had a meatlike texture. My friend Domingo, who is pictured in the first picture above, was excited also that I made the vegan Ethiopian style mac and cheesie, because he’s lactose intolerant.

It was a really positive experience for myself and all involved. Especially because I could effortlessly share my love of another culture’s food and share that vegan food doesn’t have to be bland, boring, or leave you craving protein (in fact, the red lentils in spicy sauce, in a dish called ye’misser wot, have 15g of protein per serving, according to Teff Love!). I hope to do it again soon.

And I can’t recommend the cookbook Teff Love, enough!

Gluten Free and Vegan Boneless Spare-no-ribs

I recently bought four bags of Butler soy curls from Veganessentials.com because they are my favorite gluten free vegan meat substitute. I use this recipe I love for Sweet and Sour Soy Curls, and while I was making it, I realized that soy curls are the perfect shape, size, and texture for trying to replicate Chinese boneless spare ribs. It’s mostly a coincidence that I happen to have perfected the recipe and am posting it on Chinese New Year, although once I realized the coincidence it pushed me to post this faster than I normally would.

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Today starts the year of the Red Monkey according to Chinese astrology. I was born under the year of the rat. When I looked up my Chinese horoscope for the new year for fun, it said I might have a good year, with some luck in career stuff, education, and romance. I hope so!

Gluten Free and Vegan Boneless Spare-no-ribs

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Butler Soy Curls
  • Enough water to cover dry soy curls in a bowl
  • ¼ cup mirin wine

Marinade:

  • 1 tbsp gluten free hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp cherry jam or preserves
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp five spice powder
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp potato starch
  • 1 tsp egg replacer powder without water added
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil

Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp cherry jam or preserves
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup gluten free soy sauce, tamari, or liquid aminos
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water

Directions:

  1. Reconstitute the soy curls in the liquid for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Drain and squeeze as much liquid out as possible. You can use a clean dish towel to help with this process. Place in a ziplock type bag or bowl.
  3. Prepare the marinade in a food processor or whisk vigorously until smooth.
  4. Pour into the ziplock bag or bowl with the soy curls.
  5. Shake or stir the soy curls so that they are fully coated with the marinade. Allow to marinate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
  6. Before frying the ribs, make the sauce. Stir all ingredients in a small saucepan together and heat over medium heat until warm.
  7. Add in the cornstarch and water and continuously whisk until it thickens and bubbles.
  8. Set aside.
  9. Toss 2 tbsp cornstarch, potato starch, and powdered egg replacer into the bag/bowl and again coat the marinated soy curls.
  10. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Allow it to get hot. Place the soy curls into the pan (they should sizzle if the oil is hot enough), and stir until coated and brown. The coconut oil should have fully absorbed. Don’t stir too long or they might start to stick together too much.
  11. Turn the heat to low and stir in the sauce.
  12. Serve and enjoy!

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What the sauce looks like when done.

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Dig in!

I hope you enjoy this recipe! 😀