Friday, November 29, 2013

Poplar Spring's Thanksgiving WITH the Turkeys 2013

Whenever I am in town for Thanksgiving, I look forward to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary's Thanksgiving WITH the Turkeys. It is a potluck that is held at their animal sanctuary with all proceeds benefiting the sanctuary.

My friend, Jasmine, and I got started making our healthy kale and sweet potato dish early in the morning, then packed it up and headed out around 11 a.m.

By the time we arrived, there were already like a hundred people there with many more to come. We dropped off our dish on the table and took a short walk around the sanctuary. Our first stop was the bird area. Inside this area, you could just feel the freedom and happiness emanating from these birds. There were beautiful chickens and roosters of all breeds including a fluffy Japanese chicken. You know this is cute.

Also inside was an amazing turkey named "Perry" who had been dropped off and left in a crate in front of the sanctuary just last Thanksgiving. Obviously spared from slaughter, they happily took him under their wings, pun intended.

Next, we ran into some free ranging goats who were good friends and continued to travel around the sanctuary together.

Before we knew it, it was time for the annual feeding of the turkeys. And I mean they feed the turkeys! They put out some tables with a tablecloth and load it with treats, then let the birds go to town. It is so cool to watch the turkeys and chickens have their feast and is by far the thing I most enjoy about this event.

Finally, it was time for the human animals to eat. We waited in long lines, but finally got our choice of hundreds of dishes that had been brought by the attendees. So many dishes, so little time. I might have eaten a bit too much. I especially enjoyed our kale and sweet potato dish along with a variety of stuffings and green bean casserole.

For dessert, we may have been a bit gluttonous, but whatever. There were so many pies, cakes, and cookies. Oh, my.

It's funny, in the end, one of my favorite things was just a simple freshly made carrot juice that someone brought with them.

Afterwards, we continued to meet the animals. We stopped by the pond where the ducks and geese hang out.

Then, we headed to the pig/hog area. There was a sleepy pig in a blanket (haha!) and a bunch of friendly and rambunctious pigs.

We also got to meet the rest of the goats. I just wanted to squeeze this little guy, but he wouldn't let me.

What a wonderful day!  I love that we have such a wonderful place so close to us. Thanks, Poplar Spring, for all that you do.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

VSDC 39th Life-Affirming Thanksgiving Celebration

I hope you are having a wonderful Thanksgiving. I just got back from the 39th Annual Life-Affirming Thanksgiving Celebration put on by the Vegetarian Society of DC. This is a huge event that draws 300+ people each year.

It began with some mingling and appetizers consisting of vegetable crudites with artichoke hummus, Moroccan carrot dip, and roasted red pepper and walnut spread.

Then, Saurabh, the President of VSDC, gave a warm welcome while acknowledging the injustices that invariably come with Thanksgiving each year. He thanked everyone for spending their Thanksgiving at the event and then the soup course commenced.

For the buffet, there was quite a spread including my favorite wild mushroom ravioli with tomato and fennel broth. There was polenta, sausage, and mushroom stuffing; red quinoa pilaf with kale and corn; and seitan roast stuffed with shiitake mushrooms and leeks.

I really enjoyed the vegetable dishes the most including the spicy collard greens with sun-dried tomatoes and the green bean casserole.

Elizabeth Kucinich, the Policy Director for the Center for Food Safety and wife of Dennis Kucinich, was the speaker for the event. She was very professional and very well-composed throughout her speech as she talked about GMOs and why we should avoid them. She mentioned that there are two kinds of GMOs: pesticide producing and herbicide resistant. The plants that are pesticide producing are actually genetically engineered to produce pesticides to fight off pests and that is what you are eating when you consume those products. The herbicide resistant are engineered so that when herbicides are sprayed on the plants, they don't die and then you consume not only the GMO products, but also the pesticides. It was pretty interesting.

Finally, little pumpkin pies with whipped cream were served and they were scrumptious.

The event ended with raffle and door prizes along with an acoustic guitar performance by Stephen Svoboda.

I had a great time with my friends enjoying good food and wine. It made me thankful to be part of this incredible vegan community in DC.  Thank you to all of the volunteers who worked tirelessly planning for this event. Your efforts are greatly appreciated!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I love oats. Oatmeal and fruit cobbler are some of my favorite ways to use oats. But who'd think of putting oats in their drinks? Oatworks would. Oatworks are new drinks made with fruit juices and purees along with oat soluble fiber.  I got really excited about their drinks when I saw them at a food show and asked them to send me samples. After thinking more about them, however, I'm feeling lukewarm.

I love that there is oat soluble fiber in each bottle which improves heart health by lowering bad cholesterol. They also say that the viscous gel formed by oat beta glucan entraps nutrients and slows down digestion, avoiding sugar “highs” and ensuring longer-lasting energy.

The flavors are pretty tasty too. The Pomegranate Blueberry was my favorite. The flavors are smooth and free of gritty oat texture because they are just made with the oat fiber. What I don't like is that the juices are from concentrate or purees and there are preservatives. For example, the ingredients in this bottle consist of: reverse osmosis water, apple juice from concentrate, pear juice from concentrate, raspberry puree, blueberry puree, pomegranate juice from concentrate, oat soluble fiber, guar gum, natural flavor, fruit and vegetable juice for color, xantham gum.  Natural flavor could mean anything. Why do they need both guar gum and xantham gum?

So my excitement was quickly slipping as I thought more about the ingredients.

The same is true of the Strawberry Banana. This one was a bit too sweet for me anyway.

And the Peach Mango too. All of the ingredients were quite similar.

They advertise that they are gluten free, vegan, non-GMO, and Kosher, which is great. But, why aren't they organic as well. It is so hard to find a good smoothie that is organic. Who wants to drink pesticides?

I guess this review is taking a negative turn at this point. All in all, I like the idea of supplementing a fruit smoothie with oats, but why not use natural cold-pressed fruit juices without many preservatives or flavorings and make it all organic as well? I know it is expensive, but that is what will make a healthy drink. This one is only halfway there. To try them for yourself, order them here.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Freshii, Chicago

While shopping on the Magnificent Mile, which is oh-so-magnificent, I stopped by Freshii for a wrap. Freshii is an international chain of fast casual cafes serving salads, salads, burritos, wraps, rice bowls, breakfast and soups.

I got really excited when I saw that there was a wrap called "Vegan Wrap."  So as I was about to order it, I noticed it comes in a honey wheat tortilla. So, I asked the woman behind the counter about that and she admitted that was true and that it wasn't really vegan. Apparently there are vegan tortillas available in some locations, but not this one. Okay, well then you should call it the Vegetable Wrap with a note that a vegan option is available only in some locations.  That is very misleading.

Then, I noticed a poster advertising the "Green Wrap." This was a wrap using collard green leaves. It looked great, but again the poster was misleading. At the top of it it stated "vegan, gluten-free, low-carb wrap option that supports digestion, immunity, and detoxification. " Underneath are the Thai Green Wrap and the Buffalo Green Wrap. So, I asked if the buffalo chicken was vegan chicken and they said it wasn't. So the heading on the poster was only referring to one of the two burritos. Um, you need to get a new marketing company.

So, I finally ordered the vegan green wrap. Unfortunately, they didn't wrap it very well so it immediately fell apart while the girl next to me ate a perfectly wrapped one that stayed together. Oh, well. That said, I enjoyed the wrap. It was filled with rice noodles, greens, tofu, carrots, cilantro, bean sprouts, and cucumbers and came with a peanut sauce. It was pretty tasty.

I also ordered a Made blackberry lemonade -- made in Illinois. So good.

So for $12, it was an okay meal. I'd order it again. But, I hope they fix their signage soon so vegans don't accidentally eat the non-vegan wrap labeled "vegan." That's pretty inexcusable.

835 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 202-9009

Freshii on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 25, 2013

Harissa Stir Fry with Kohlrabi

Knowing that my seasonal farmer's market would be shutting down in a few weeks, I headed over to see what might be available during this cold spurt. I was delighted for find a lot of delicious vegetables and purchased bok choy, carrots, and kohlrabi. I've never cooked with kohlrabi before, but I had tried it recently at Kapnos and really liked it. It is from the cabbage family and has a taste and texture somewhat similar to jicama.  I decided to try this vegetable mix in the Saffron Road Harissa simmer sauce I just received.

In the end, I think it turned out okay. The vegetable mix was definitely a winner, but the kohlrabi and bok choy seemed to take the win as their flavor outshined that of the Harissa sauce. Harissa is a red chili sauce from North Africa that is made from piri piri, a red pepper from the Sahara. It has a delightful scent and enough spices and herbs to fill a bazaar. As a sauce, I think it has great flavor, but perhaps should be paired with more neutral ingredients such as the Gardein beefless tips. Anyway, here is what I made.

Harissa Stir Fry with Kohlrabi
Serves 2-3

  • 1 cup brown rice 
  • Olive oil
  • 1 kohlrabi, chopped into matchsticks
  • 5 small carrots, thickly sliced
  • 2 bok choy, chopped
  • Saffron Road Harissa Simmer Sauce

Bring 2 cups of water and 1 cup of brown rice to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

Saute carrots and kohlrabi over medium-high heat in olive oil until slightly brown, about 7 minutes. Add bok choy and saute for another 3 minutes. Add harissa sauce and simmer on low for 10 minutes.

Serve vegetables in harissa sauce over brown rice.

Full Disclosure: Although the sauce was provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Urban Vegan, Chicago

Someone had suggested that I check out Urban Vegan in Chicago so I thought I'd give them a try. Located between Bucktown and Lincoln Park, I found the tiny little Thai restaurant nestled in the industrial area.

On this Saturday afternoon, there was only one other couple dining inside so I had my pick of the tables. A casual restaurant, the walls were painted with flowers while the tables and chairs were a red cherry wood. This particular location had been open for about a year while their original location in Lake View had been open for two years.

As soon as I sat down, the server brought some water out as I perused the menu. It was an extensive menu of vegan offerings and I knew it would be hard to choose just one dish, but I really wasn't hungry enough to eat separate appetizers and an entree. I decided to go with the lunch combination, which includes a lunch-sized entree, rice, spring roll, and salad for just $9.95.

To start off, they offered a complimentary miso soup with tofu and kombu.

After that, my meal was served all on one plate. There was a simple salad of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber with a nice, creamy dressing.  The spring rolls were suprisingly unoily, which was great as I usually find that they are coated in oil, but these were not at all.

For my entree, I ordered the Spicy Eggplant, which was prepared with onion, garlic, bell pepper, and sweet basil sauteed in chili paste. For my protein, I ordered the pepper steak. It was served with a hearty purple rice and I thought it was quite good for the price point.

So, if you are looking for a laidback, casual restaurant at which to have a nice vegan Thai lunch, this is your spot.  It surely didn't blow me away, but was good enough that I think I'd come back again. And for $10, you really can't go wrong.

Urban Vegan
1550 W Fullerton Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 472-8208

Urban Vegan Lincoln Park on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Silver Hills Bakery - Bagels

When I was young, I used to look forward to trips to the bagel bakery where I could get fresh bagels hot out of the oven. Oh, how I loved fresh bagels. Once I went vegan, I would eat them fresh without anything on them, enjoying the different flavors. Then at some point, it seemed like everyone stopped eating bagels. Word on the street was that they were filled with bad carbs and were 400 calories each. So, I too, stopped eating them.

Fast forward to today and I find it amazing how far we've come. I received samples of Silver Hills Bakery's bagels that are going to redefine the healthy in bagels. Instead of enriched bleached flour, these bagels use organic whole sprouted wheat and vital wheat gluten (all non-GMO). Why sprouted? Because sprouting unlocks the whole grain nutrition found inside the grain's protective shell. When a grain is sprouted, it believes it's being planted so it begins to grow and its stored nutrients are made readily available as its enzymes activate and enzyme inhibitors are broken down. As far as nutrition goes, each bagel is 240 - 250 calories, no cholesterol, 10 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein.

The first one I tried was the Rappleberry bagels. No, there is no such thing as rappleberry, but there is such a thing as a delicious bagel filled with apples, raisins, and cranberries, hence the name "rappleberry!" These bagels taste incredibly fresh and healthy, made with all natural ingredients and sweetened with organic cane sugar. I spread a strawberry rhubarb jam on top for a perfect breakfast. And with only 1.5 grams of fat per bagel, there is no guilt.

Next up, the Squirrelly bagel. This one is the same as their Squirrelly bread made with raisin nectar, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. Again as a sprouted wheat bagel, it tasted uber healthy. I spread some smoked apple butter on this one, but it also worked great as a sandwich bagel as well.

Lastly, I tried the Herb's Garlic bagel. This one made my whole kitchen smell like herbs! It is loaded with a focaccia mix of onion, garlic powder, basil, and oregano along with organic garlic puree. I put my spicy eggless salad on it for a deliciously garlicky finish for my bagel sandwich. It was just the right amount and mix of herbs and garlic.

Does this mean that all bagels are good for you? Heck no! I am almost embarrassed to say that Einstein bagels were my favorite bagels when I was young. I just looked up the ingredients in an Einstein chopped garlic bagel and my jaw dropped. Check this out:  Plain bagel [enriched bleached flour (wheat flour, malt barley flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup, wheat gluten, salt, yeast, molasses, malt barley flour, soy oil, ascorbic acid, enzyme, L. Cysteine (an amino acid)], Garlic flakes, Sesame seeds, Cornmeal. 
It is complete with high fructose corn syrup, GMO soy oil and cornmeal, and all kinds of crap. So don't just go for any bagel. The Silver Hills sprouted wheat bagels are the way to go!

Although Silver Hills Bakery bagels can not be found in the DC area yet, they are in stores across the nation and they hope to be available here in March of 2014. They can be ordered directly from Silver Hills -- more info here. Oh, and did I mention that all of their breads and bagels are vegan and non-GMO?! Yep, it doesn't get much better than this. I can't wait to see them in stores soon.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, DC #5

Sticky Fingers is not known for their food. They are known for being a great vegan bakery. That said, they have a new savory menu this year with an emphasis on some healthier items. I started taking a class in Columbia Heights and figured I'd stop by on several occasions to give their food menu a try.

So, I started with one of their old staples -- the Grilled Daiya for $7. I remembered this as being good and I think it has only gotten better. Perfectly grilled, this sandwich is loaded with Daiya cheese and I added tempeh bacon too. It was really good.

On the next visit, I had the Power Salad for $8.25. This is an entree sized salad loaded with kale, quinoa, avocado, cucumbers, carrots, and sundried tomato Beyond Meat. It is served with hummus and a ginger sesame aioli. I think it is the sundried tomato Beyond Meat and aioli that really make this dish. The ailoi is super creamy and is great with that spicy Beyond Meat and when all mixed together, it is delicious. I think this is my favorite meal at Sticky.

For my last visit, I ordered the Texas Burger for $9.50. I always said I'd never pay nearly ten dollars for a Gardein burger I can buy at Giant across the street, but I decided to try it anyway. I was pretty impressed. Yes, you can get this burger anywhere, but your burger probably won't taste this good. It is on this hearty Lyon bun that you can only get at Sticky Fingers that is perfectly toasted and topped with lettuce, tomato, melted Daiya shreds, tempeh bacon, and ranch dressing. It was really good. I think it is the Daiya shreds, delicious bread, and creamy ranch that made all the difference. Whatever it was, it was good, and I'd order it again.

I also love that they offer a lot of healthy drinks. You can get Gouter's tonics, organic juices, and Fentiman's drinks there. They've got a great selection.

I might have also had a red velvet cupcake too. I'm not telling.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how much the savory menu has improved. This is a great lunch and dinner option especially if you are on the go because they bring the food out fairly quickly. And I love how fresh it all tastes. Just don't forget to grab a chocolate cupcake too!

Previous reviews
August 5, 2013
March 5, 2013
Jan. 31, 2012 
Nov. 16, 2011

Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats
1370 Park Road NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 299-9700

Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 18, 2013

Alive & Radiant - Veggie Krunch

Alive & Radiant, founded by Peggy Ann Horowytz, better known as Blessing, makes raw, organic, gluten-free, healthy snacks. After falling in love with their kale chips, I thought I'd give their new Veggie Krunch a try.  Veggie Krunch is a raw, dehydrated snack made with just veggies, fruits, nuts, and spices so they are super healthy.

First I tried the Arugula Cabbage. Made with just cabbage, arugula, sesame seeds, lemon juice, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, Himalayan salt, apple cider vinegar, caraway seeds, and dill, there ain't nothin' but good-for-you ingredients in this snack. The name didn't really sound that appetizing. I mean who reaches for arugula and cabbage when they want a snack?  But, these really grew on me. The sesame, dill, and garlic gave it a great flavor. They really just tasted like kale chips made with arugula and cabbage instead.

Next up was the Sweet Onion. Again, not exactly what I think about when I want a snack. Surprisingly, this one was my favorite. Made with layers upon layers of onions dehydrated flat and seasoned with tamari, smoked salt, and cumin, they really won me over.

Lastly, I tried the Teriyaki Greens. I wasn't a big fan of this one. I just didn't like the overwhelming coconut taste as it was really overbearing. Made with collard greens, kale, coconut, sesame seeds, tamari, carrots, coconut palm sugar, chia seeds, apple cider vinegar, ginger, lemon juice, and garlic, again it is all good stuff. I'm just not a huge fan of the overbearing coconut flavor.

What I really liked about these snacks was all the nutritional information on the back. Each bag shows why the ingredients inside are healthy and which vitamins they naturally contain. It makes you feel good about snacking. These would also make great toppings for salads or soups. I could imagine putting the dried sweet onions in a variety of dishes.

Each two-ounce bag sells for $5.99 on Amazon here.  I'd be willing to bet that if you decide to try these veggies, you will look more Alive & Radiant.  How's that for cheesy?!

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.