Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year Dinner

The quality is poor but hey, this video was made with a free camera. And I sound like Britney Spears at the end. Happy New Year!

Cookbooks utilized in the video:
Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
This Crazy Vegan Life by Christina Pirello

Friday, December 5, 2008

How to Avoid My Failed Holiday Dinner

I’ve left it to other, more competent food bloggers to post about their fabulous Thanksgiving menus. Let me offer something different by being just slightly bitter. And learn from my mistakes.

1. Do not try more than one or two new recipes. Last Thanksgiving was my first one as a vegetarian and since I was eating with Brian’s family early in the day before heading off to my family’s house, I didn’t cook. I just ate tons of macaroni and cheese. The following day, Brian and I roasted a Tofurky, which was just fine but didn’t knock our socks off. This year I wanted it to be special so I searched for recipes high and low and changed my mind a dozen times. I settled on roasted seitan with cornbread stuffing. I’ve made seitan before and I’ve made cornbread before but never in this way. The stuffing was great, but not stuffing-like. It just tasted like mashed cornbread with onions and celery. No matter how much sage I added, I couldn’t get it to taste like Thanksgiving. Other cornbread stuffing recipes use half cornbread, half regular bread. I think my mistake was going fully cornbread.

The roasted seitan fell flat flavorwise and I didn’t help matters by overcooking it. The good thing about it being nearly burnt was that it created a nice crispy skin. Also, they weren’t pretty like on Vegan Yum Yum. In fact, they looked like very large turds. It was certainly good enough for Brian and me to eat but the one nonvegan brave enough to try it threw it out behind my back. Ouch.

Basically, I made too many new things. Things that may have turned out great had I made them once or twice before under less time-constrained situations.

2. When making vegan foods for a crowd of nonvegans, utilize reliable vegan sources. This means, don’t veganize a coconut cashew chocolate tart from Bon Appetit. Sure, it will be tasty because you can’t go wrong with coconut, chocolate, and 2 sticks of Earth Balance. But soy creamer may not be the best substitute for half and half so the tart will congeal to the pan rather than form a tart you can easily cut into.

3. Don’t rely solely on the Internet for recipes. The internet has a wealth of information but you get what you pay for. Anyone can post a recipe that you can print out for free. That doesn’t mean it’s been tested for accuracy and quality and edited for clarity. Cookbook recipes are thoroughly tested and combed through many times over by experienced and knowledgeable editors. I’ve had mostly positive results with Veganomicon, You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan, Eat Drink and Be Vegan, and The Joy of Vegan Baking.

4. Spend more time planning how you’ll cook rather than on what you’ll cook. Cooking during the holidays and for a large group is more about time management than culinary prowess. My family has not grasped this concept, which is why we eat at 8:30 PM and starve (and drink alcohol) for hours before dinner.

5. Get over yourself. Having family and friends over is about seeing them; it’s not about reenacting a restaurant on opening night. Besides, Brian was really the only other person I had to impress and he will eat almost anything I make. He thought the seitan roast was good enough and good enough is fine for the holidays.

6. When in doubt, ditch your family and make reservations. After checking out Blossom’s Thanksgiving menu, this option seems to be the most appealing. So, next weekend Brian is taking me there to celebrate my birthday (December 25. Yes, that day) And how am I spending my actual Christmas/birthday? I’m going to spend the day with just Brian, cooking food in my own organized and timely fashion, eating vegan rugelach from The Joy of Vegan Baking and easy chocolate croissants from Nigella Express (they are vegan if you use Pepperidge Farm puff pastry!), going out to see Marley and Me, and just relaxing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas (a Nigella one) Has Come Early

Yay! It seems a new Nigella Lawson cookbook, Nigella Christmas, is out (or coming soon; it's not shipping from the US Amazon just yet). Wasn't it just yesterday when I trekked into New York City to attend her book signing for Nigella Express at the Whole Foods on Houston and Bowery? I'm so glad she has a new book out so soon.

I could become a strict fruitarian (ain't never gonna happen) and I would still buy her books. There is a vegetarian Christmas feast included and, though I'm sure it will be loaded with cheese, what's great about Nigella's books is that her "unofficially" vegan recipes (meaning she doesn't write, "This. Is. Vegetarian." She just cooks some vegetables and stuff) are plentiful and really good. And unlike other famous foodies, she doesn't seem to disdain vegetarians and vegans.

I first read the vegetarian chapter of Feast with a shudder. She wrote something to the effect that her worst nightmare would be to wake up a vegetarian. I felt the same at the time. Who knew?

Anyways, I must get this book!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Links to Help Make Your Thanksgiving Delicious & Meaningful

I have a package of silken tofu that's just a day past its use-by date. I bought it a few months back to make chocolate avocado cupcakes with. I never got around to making them but I do not want that box to go to waste so this weekend's plan is to make pumpkin pie with the tofu and freeze the pie for Thanksgiving, which is somehow less than two weeks away.

My search for a recipe brought me to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary's listing of Thanksgiving recipes, which includes amazing-sounding creations like, Sage and Pumpkin Seed Encrusted Seitan with Roasted Garlic-Pumpkin Sauce, Autumn Millet Bake by Mark Bittman, Praline Sweet Potato Casserole, Wild Stuffed Roasted Squash, and many more dishes. features a Thanksgiving menu compiled by cookbook author, Robin Robertson, which I already printed out a few weeks back and plan on referring to come Feast Day.

Taking part in Farm Sanctuary's Adopt-a-Turkey project is a great day to extend some care to an animal while embarking on a new Thanksgiving tradition.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Serves One: Baby Bok Choy with Fried Onions

I try my best to eat more greens but don't often venture further from kale and spinach. I like them just fine but, in an effort to expand my repertoire, I picked up some baby bok choy at Philadelphia’s Essene yesterday. I love the bok choy they have at their buffet and gobbled up a whole mess of them on Sunday afternoon. I referred to Veganomicon’s recipe for Baby Bok Choy with Crispsy Shallots and Sesame Seeds for cooking times and seasoning hints but mostly improvised with the ingredients I had on hand. Baby bok choy is simple and fast to cook and has a milder flavor than such greens as chard. Serve hot or cold over a bed of brown rice, quinoa, or udon noodles.

just under 1 lb. baby bok choy (I had about 10 ounces, or 3 baby bok choys)
1 tsp. canola oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 tbsp. tamari
1 tbsp. mirin
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. canned fried onions, optional

1. Submerge bok choy in a bowl of cold water to rinse. Cut off about ½ inch of white stem bottom.
2. Place canola oil and garlic in a large sauté pan over medium heat and cook for about 1 minute, being careful that garlic does not brown or burn (remove from heat and lower it if it does).
3. Add bok choy to pan and stir well to coat with oil. Add tamari and mirin and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until leaves wilt.
4. Add sesame oil, stir well, and cook for an additional minute. Cover pan and let steam for an additional minute. Remove pan from heat and top with onions. Serves 1, greedily or two, nicely.
Picture humbly borrowed from kristin::thekitchensink's flickr stream (where there are many more gorgeous and delicious pictures).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


This is a time where I feel history happening right as I live. It is an incredible feeling. I will never forget it.

Picture by superspade.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Kind of Pumpkin

The cooling temperatures and nearly pitch darkness as I leave work after 6 PM are all signs that it is definitely fall. There are lots of recipes for autumn produce like pumpkins. I'm more of a pumpkin pie than pumpkin stew girl myself but here's one pumpkin recipe I can definitely get behind.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vegans of Color Postings

While I haven't been posting here, I've posted at Vegans of Color. Check it out:

Cattle, Mavericks, and McCain and why that campaign ain't got a thing to do with real mavericks.

Black Dog Syndrome on the plight black dogs (and cats) face in shelters.

I've cooked up a storm lately, baking yummy apple cobbler (from The Joy of Vegan Baking) and toothsome tofu nuggets (from You Won't Believe It's Vegan, my new favorite cookbook), maple roasted yams and garlicky kale. But I'm too much of a hungry hoarder to ever take pictures. Plus, my camera sucks.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Random Fridays: It's Cold (Wrap Yourself In Anything But Wool)

* Jezebel's list of 75 Books Every Woman Should Read is oh so awesome. Today would be a great day to curl up with one of the books because it is rainy and gray where I am. My favorite book on the list? I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. You can listen to a reading of the short story "The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson (the short story collection of the same name was listed first by Jezebel) on this episode of Vegetarian Food for Thought.

* The latest episode of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Vegetarian Food for Thought, "The Shearing of Sheep," is one of my favorites. If you don't know how wool is produced and the many other ways in which sheep are used the world over, this is a great place to start.

* Since this seems to be a very literary post today, I'd like to recommend another favorite episode, a reading of the short story "A Mother's Tale." I cried when I first heard it.

* The last few times I walked into Book Trader in Philadelphia, I kept looking at Three Black Skirts by Anna Johnson. It's one of those hot-pink books marketed towards women that tells you how to do everything (as Brian said while he read it over my shoulder, "Who sits down to write a book telling people how to do every single thing in the world?" But he was riveted and we're going to fix his running toilet because of it). The tone, however, was cheekier and smarter than your average chick lit self-help selection. I never bought it, though, because I have too many books. Just last week, I came across a copy of it at my library, borrowed it, and devoured the book in a weekend. It was uplifiting, informative, funny, sweet and told me why cotton-blend cardigans are best, how to hang a heavy picture (nail it to the stud), fix a running toilet, and host an unfussy dinner party. I read about why Eloise, Moomintroll, and Horton are better than Prozac. She loves yoga and you know I'm all about that lately. It just generally comforted me during a weekend when I was still feeling raw and shaky from the loss of Luckie and the end of a friendship.

* I was hungry for more Anna Johnson. Luckily, a few months ago she released The Yummy Mummy Manifesto. Okay, it sounds like some horrific guide to losing 30 pounds 2 days after you've given birth and, also, I am not pregnant but I ordered it anyway because, from the looks of the reviews I've read, this is not some brainless, shaming tome. It's a fun celebration of being a creative mom. I'll need it someday.

* Why not add a final Food for Thought shout-out in honor of mothers. This one is on motherhood and animals, specifically cow mothers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Help Save Bitch

Bitch is one of the best magazines ever. I've been a reader for many years and would hate to see the newstand become bleaker than it already is (check out the latest issue of Bitch to read a critique about a Cosmo article on "5 ways to tell he's a rapist." Now do you see why we need Bitch?) One of the highlights of my trip to Portland was visiting the Bitch offices during last Thursdays on Alberta Ave. I just poked my head around and grabbed some crackers and berries but I felt giddy inside. I finally got to see where all the crackling, bright, incisive coverage is born (oh, you don't believe I went to Portland because I didn't post about it, now do you? So if no one blogs about it, it didn't happen, right? Go look at my Flickr page for pictures of food I meant to blog about)

Send a few bucks Bitch's way. Buy the latest issue and subscribe. Sky, I'm talking to you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Luckie 1994-2008

On Sunday morning and on what would have been my grandmother's 92nd birthday, Luckie died. I found him dead on the kitchen floor. I think he choked after vomiting. I wasn't with him. No one was. He died alone. I feel terrible for this. I hope he did not suffer for long and that he wasn't scared. Of course, I will never know. I just know that he isn't suffering now.

After fighting arthritis, a thyroid tumor, seizures, and the undignified maladies of old age, Luckie probably succumbed to a relatively new problem for us, a paralyzed vocal cord. This is what made him gag after drinking water and made him pant and lose 10 pounds in one month. This is what he died from. I didn't see it coming.

Even in his last weeks, as he lost weight and became a picky eater, he still followed us from room to room, still enjoyed his dinner of turkey or ground beef with rice and veggies. On his last night, he picked up a bone that had been lying on the floor untouched for at least a week. I thought he was unable to eat bones anymore but he picked it up and chewed it slowly. I was so happy to see him do something he had once enjoyed so much but had to give up. Then I became concerned that he might choke so I left him with the few small pieces he broke off and threw out the large part. He didn't try to take it from me, as he would have when he was younger (when he was younger, he never would have let me near his bone, period). He gave in and slowly chewed on the small bits before leaving them behind for his water. Maybe he knew that he was going to die and he just wanted one last bone.

I feel lost, guilty, bereft, and sad. I ache and miss him. On Wednesday, my mother and I will watch him be cremated and then we will take his ashes home. On the drive up to the pet cemetery on Sunday, we carefully wrapped Luckie up before placing him on the back of the pick-up truck. I drove in front with Brian while my mother, stepfather, and Luckie followed in the truck. We had our hazard lights on because we were driving slowly but we also inadvertently gave Luckie a final procession.

Luckie was in my life for half of my life. I haven't known an adulthood without him and with him gone, I finally feel as though my childhood is completely over. I remember a time when Luckie was my only true friend. I remember our walks in the woods, the one time when I sat crying on a rock and was lonely, except he was there. He was there when I cried, there when I giggled, was so ecstatic to walk with me and catch balls I threw, and he seemed to forgive me when I was too busy with my own life and took for granted that he would always be around.

Taking care of Luckie has been such a focus for me in the last few months that last night I felt like howling as I laid in bed and knew there was no one to check on at 2 in the morning anymore. The house is so empty. We've left his last bit of water in his bowl but many signs of him are gone. Even most of the dog hair is cleaned up. As I pulled into my driveway last night, I still looked for his head to pop up in the window.

Losing him, even in just a day, has shown me who the truly compassionate people in my life are. A yoga teacher I've only spoken to once and arranged to meet with privately today sent a kind email expressing her sympathy after I called to cancel our meeting. Johanna of Vegans of Color, who I have only met once and only know through a blog, immediately sent her sympathies. Sky, who lives across the country, called within minutes of me sending her an email about Luckie's passing. Two friends who I see or speak to just a few times a year sounded truly concerned and hurt when I spoke with them. Then another friend, who I have known for over 15 years ignored my calls, didn't listen to my sobbing message, and then feigned ignorance when I finally spoke to them and could not even muster up an, "I'm sorry," when I confronted them on their unavailability and duplicity. I am raw and angry and have felt conflicted about this friend for a very long time and now all ambivalence has come into crystal clear focus. This person is not a friend and I don't want them in my life. Losing Luckie has made many things clear: who does and doesn't love me, what my next moves will be. Everything is now apparent after being in limbo for so long.

Brian. Oh my god, what would I do without him. He was with me when I found Luckie. He cleaned up after Luckie while I paced around the house sobbing and sounding insane. He helped us take Luckie to the pet cemetery. He cried for Luckie and held me. Having Brian in my life also has made it clear to me that relationships and friendships I once mistook for love, attachment and passion were nothing more than toxic wastes of time. I'm grateful that I have Brian. I am not alone anymore and even when I sometimes feel lonely, he still loves me.

Luckie most of all always showed me pure, unfettered, unconditional love and affection. I will miss his sweetness, his intuition, his intelligence, his sense of humor and mischief, and his valiant spirit. He outlived most retrievers by two years and he left still being able to eat and walk and hobble from room to room to be with his loved ones. He still gave kisses and never became despondent even after his walks stopped and his world got so much smaller. I love and miss him so much and thank him for being one of my greatest teachers.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Today's Lunch: The Good News & The Bad News

I went out to lunch with some colleagues today at a very nice, spacious restaurant not far from my job. I wasn't able to check out the menu beforehand so I was a little worried about finding something to eat. I was, however, relieved to find that I could easily order a decent salad by requesting that mine come sans animal parts. I wasn't hungry for much more than a salad anyway.

Good news: Without any prompting, the waiter told our table that the mushroom soup contained chicken broth and cream and added, "Just want to let you know in case that's a problem for anyone." Wow. That was refreshing. The pureed garbanzo bean soup with croutons and balsamic glaze sounded promising but he said--again, without any prompting--it contained cream. How great that the waitstaff didn't just assume everyone eats animal-based broth. Also, the foccacia was delicious.

Bad news: I ordered a salad with wontons, oranges, avocado and ginger dressing without chicken. When my salad came, there was a huge hunk of chicken leg and thigh sitting next to it. Not those innocuous-seeming hunks of chicken breast that are so ubiquitous on restaurant salads--a big, old piece of chicken. Anyways, I quickly said, "Oh, no chicken," and they took it back with no problem and gave me my salad on a new plate.

I came out as a vegan to one of my co-workers when he asked if I was vegan. I hate talking about it even though I know it's part of being a "good" vegan. It's just, well, I like to eat in peace. Nothing gets my back up like people dissecting what goes into my mouth. I'd much rather blog and blab when there's no food around.

My First Post at Vegans of Color

I'm a contributor at Vegans of Color and put up my first post today. It's just a news link but please go ahead and take a look. VoC and all of the contributors always hit the nail on the head and the blog has become a daily and beloved read of mine. I'm really excited about being a part of this community.

Jivamukti Yoga and Veganism

In light of what I posted on Thursday, the Hip Tranquil Chick podcast episode I'm listening to now is perfect because it's a wonderful marriage between yoga and veganism. It's an interview with Sharon Gannon, co-creator of the Jivamukti method of yoga. This method "emphasizes vinyasa, scriptural study, devotion, prayer, music, chanting and meditation as well as animal rights, veganism, environmentalism and political activism."

I'm listening to it now and can't wait to read more about this method and go to yoga tonight. I am feeling very tightly wound and anxious today so I really need it. Last night, I had an upsetting conversation with Brian. My chest felt like it was balled up into tiny knots, which is how I normally feel, and I didn't know what to do with that feeling. Not just in that moment but with the rest of my life. Worrying into the future is always a surefire way to get nice and calm so instead I rolled out my mat while Luckie was sitting outside in the yard and did some heart openers: warrior poses, dolphin pose instead of downward dog because of my messed-up wrists (my yoga teacher says dolphin is actually harder but tell that to my dysfunctional wrists), child's pose, bridge pose, cobra and final relaxation. And it's crazy, but I did feel my chest unwind. I felt relaxed. I went to sleep without having to turn on the TV first.

For more information:
Scroll down to January 13, 2008 for the Hip Tranquil Chick shownotes on this episode
Jivamukti Yoga School

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


A few weeks ago, I had a craving for salmon teriyaki, a meal I occassionally enjoyed buying from a restaurant around my job. I didn't give into this craving but for a few moments throughout the day, I thought, "Hmmm, salmon sounds really good right now." I knew I wasn't going to eat it but I kept thinking about it.

Since then, every once in a while, the thought pops into my head, "I wonder if I'll ever eat meat again," or "Cheese. It does taste good." I don't do anything with the thoughts. I just notice them. They go away. I'm vegan now and, unless I'm at a nonvegan restaurant (like I think I may have to go to tomorrow for work and the damn place doesn't even have a web listing on a search engine, let alone a web site for me to peruse), I do not find it in the least bit difficult to be vegan. Still, 27-plus years of eating animals and their by-products can still be slightly formidable in the face of just months of vegetarianism and veganism.

In the last week or so, I've been obsessively listening to the Hip Tranquil Chick podcast and loving it. Totally getting my yoga on, journaling, really focusing on me, so much so that I did yoga poses while Brian painted inside my mother's house (I did help, too; I just took some yoga breaks!). This is in contrast to what I've been focusing on in the past year, which has mainly been Brian and veganism. At work, I usually listened to Food for Thought, Vegan Freak Radio, Animal Voices, and others. I spent a majority of my waking hours thinking about animals and food. I'm not saying getting into yoga and other subjects is making me want to eat salmon. Yoga has that whole ahimsa thing going for it, so delving into yoga only strengthens my commitment to veganism. What I am saying is, I took a little break from Hip Tranquil Chick today and listened to the latest Vegan Freak and Food for Thought episodes. I saw the picture in the upper left hand corner of this post with the shownotes for the latest Animal Voices episode on Farm Sanctuary's pig rescue and almost started crying. I knew the answer to the question, "I wonder if I'll ever eat meat again?" No. I won't eat animals again. Not as long as my eyes, ears, head, and heart are open. Since veganism is still new to me and still something I don't automatically share with people, I still need to do work to reinforce my dedication to and practice of it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Serves One: Quick Sort of Fried Rice

Since most of the cooking I do is pour moi, I will single out Mutual Menu recipes for singles as "Serves One." Some other meals for one include the Quinoa and Seitan Bowl, Quick Minestrone for the Sickly, Sun Dried Tomato and Avocado Toast, Savory Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Soothing Tortellini-Broccolini Soup, a Pomegranate Margarita (technically serves two but no one is going to stop you from drinking the entire concoction), and how to create a whole meal for yourself without making a mess by utilizing the en papillote method of cooking. My favorite cooking for one resources are Serves One by Toni Lydecker and the "One and Two" chapter of How To Eat by Nigella Lawson.

Last night after getting home from work close to eight o’clock at night, I was craving some greens and grains. I decided to cook kale and leftover brown rice in the toasted sesame oil I just bought along with my preferred soy sauce, tamari. I also had a bag of frozen peas. I think you should always have a bag of peas in your freezer. I love how toothsome, sweet, and starchy they are and the fact that I can just break off a frozen block and mix them in just about any rice dish. Screw those who look down upon frozen vegetables. Frozen ones are often more nutrient-dense than "fresh" produce anyway because they get frozen at their freshest. Feel free to use any other vegetables you have on hand—asparagus, peppers, sugar snap peas, broccoli—or toss in a handful or two of crumble tofu. I admit, this doesn't taste like the fried rice you'll get at a Chinese food takeout place but it's still tasty in its own right.

3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
5–6 big stalks of kale, washed, patted dry and roughly chopped with stems intact
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup red onion, diced
1 cup cooked brown rice
½ cup frozen peas
2–3 teaspoons tamari, or more to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat. After about a minute, add kale and garlic. Lower heat to low-medium and stir kale often until wilted down, about 10 minutes.

2. Add red onion and cook until warm and slightly translucent, or about 5 minutes, stirring often.

3. Combine rice, peas, 1 teaspoon oil, tamari, and pepper with other ingredients in pot, stir well to combine and cook until rice and peas are warmed throughout, about 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and add more tamari and pepper if you’d like. Serve immediately.

Serves one generously

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

End of Summer Links

* How to Write a Recipe Like a Professional at The Kitchn portion of Apartment Therapy is a great primer for writing clear and instructive recipes. It's a concise wrap-up of what I learned in the cookbook writing class I took with Corinne Trang last year.

* The Vegan de Guadalupe Cookzine on etsy gets my vote for best cookbook cover. Recipes I am dying to try include Guisado de Seitan and Sopa de Lentejas. Thanks to Noemi at Vegans of Color for the tip.

* Hip Tranquil Chick is my new favorite podcast. Check out episodes on macrobiotics, travel (click down to April 23 post to listen), an introduction to yoga (scroll down to January 16 post to listen), and more tips for living "on and off the mat."

* My current obsession is yoga. After years of doing yoga on DVDs at home, I finally took my first live class with my friend on Tuesday. Even though (or perhaps because) I am surprisingly sore in every muscle of my body and I modified all wrist bearing poses to accomodate my FUAs*/RSI, I am in love.

* FUA stands for Fucked-Up Arms, which is what I have named my condition.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Random Fridays: J-41 Kicks & Vegan Etsy

Straight from my favorite online spot for shoes, Alternative Outfitters. Are they not completely adorable? I wanted to purchase these before heading off to Portland and San Francisco (by the by, I do have half of my over 300 photos uploaded to Flickr and notes about what I want to post about the trip but still, no time to do the post justice. I am hoping there will be time before my next trip, whenever that is) but they were sold-out of my size. Bummer because I really could have used these well-cushioned and arch-supporting sneakers while tromping around Portland and up the hills of San Francisco. Now that I am home, though, the right size is mine. I will be rocking them until I am forced to wear socks in September or October.
If you need one more reason to procrastinate, check out the exhaustive blog, Vegan Etsy. One of my favorite team members so far is Emma's K9 Kitchen, who sells recipes for dog treats. I'm sure Luckie would go peanutty for the peanut butter carob cake. In addition to the seeming deliciousness of these treats, 100% of the proceeds to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary. Thanks to the latest Vegan Freak Radio podcast episode for the heads up.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Canine Cake & Sunday Brunch

The first recipe I made from My Sweet Vegan was the Canine Cake, of course. After Luckie's health challenges in this, his 14th year, I figured he deserved a cake. He hasn't touched commercial pet food in well over 10 years and he has certainly had his fair share of baked goods passed his way from the table to floor but he's never had an entire cake made for him.

The cake is simple and wholesome--nothing but flour, baking soda, shredded carrots, peanut butter, canola oil and applesauce. It's a cinch to make--just briefly mix all the ingredients together until you have a consistency more akin to cookie dough than cake batter, place into two small ramekins (or a small baking dish), and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Although it's not very sweet, the end result is incredibly moist and like a mildly nutty carrot cake. Add some sugar or even just serve with some jam and I'm sure even the human dessert craving will be sated. In fact, Brian stole a generous chunk from Luckie this morning. But Brian said that is only fair since Luckie has helped himself to our meals more than once.

Oh, the dog seemed to like it too.

On a recent epidsode of Animal Voices, Isa Chandra Moskowitz said that Portlanders really love their brunch, particularly biscuits and gravy. Brian and I found this to be true when we were in Portland a few weeks ago. We had tofu scramble, smoky kale, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, and a berry crumble at Sweet Pea Baking Company's weekly Sunday brunch. Sweet Pea does not need to do brunch because their marionberry muffin was the best muffin I've ever had in my entire life and the Elvis cake (bananas and peanut butter and chocolate oh my) completely silenced Brian and I as we sat in the rental car in an Oregon state park eating it instead of hiking. That's more than enough. But they do brunch too because they care and because they are vegan angels.

Inspired by their brunch, Brian and I cooked up the tofu scramble from The New Becoming Vegetarian, which features nutritional yeast. I must be earning more and more vegan stripes every day because now I like the stuff and can't wait to use it again. Instead of potatoes, I sliced up a green plantain and fried it in a small amount of canola oil before blotting and lightly salting them. Add some Amy's meatless grain and vegetable-based sausages and you are good to go.

Canine Cake photos by Brian & Joselle; Brunch photo by Brian

Friday, July 18, 2008

Random Fridays: Guess Who Is Going to School?

Congratulations, Brian, on your admittance into Drexel University’s College of Information Science and Technology! Please allow me to disagree with your modest claims that this is really no big deal. Yes, it is! Not everyone is admitted into graduate school and not everyone takes the time and effort to go through the various steps of choosing and applying to a program while working full-time, taking care of a house, and doing the whole long-distance relationship dance with their girlfriends, not to mention eating, sleeping, and showering. I know you will succeed in school, make lots of genuine connections (‘cause that’s just what you do), and go on to be a top-notch archivist. You will probably invent a new, cutting-edge archiving system that will blow Mr. Dewey out of the water. Have fun and I love you.

(Picture is of the Library of Congress, Washington DC, where the Storycorps Brian and I recorded in Grand Central Terminal last year is archived. Maybe he'll be able to find it there after he's done with school.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Feeding Philly's Veggies: Miss Rachel's Traveling Fare

While perusing uwishnu's feed today, I came across this entry on Miss Rachel's Traveling Fare, a vegetarian and vegan personal food service based in Philadelphia and owned and operated by Rachel Klein. From her MySpace page:

Miss Rachel's Traveling Fare is a personal chef, catering and consulting service in Philadelphia, Pa, offering menu-planning and delicious homestyle vegan and vegetarian cuisine...

Whether you're craving comfort food, want a few meals made for you (and delivered) to enjoy throughout the week, want to please your vegan sweetie, need healthy veg food to take in a cooler to the beach (yes! the beach!), have been on the road and are tired of Taco Bell and peanut butter straight out of the jar, or have a soiree (that's French) to host, Miss Rachel is your gal.

By the looks of the sample vegan four-course and sample gluten-free three-course menus on MySpace and the scrumptious picture of sweet and sour tofu served over coconut and lemongrass jasmine rice posted on uwishunu, Miss Rachel is definitely barking up my tree. According to Miss Rachel herself, she does most of the cooking in her kitchen now and delivers it instead of cooking in clients' homes, so the prices are a lower than what is listed in the uwishnu post.

For more information:
Miss Rachel's Traveling Fare MySpace and

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Luckie. With Bone.

luckie with bone, originally uploaded by joselle.

Luckie with a greenie-type bone in his mouth. It is unusual for him to just let it sit in his mouth but since he had a second seizure, he's on a med that makes him a little more loopy and sedate. This is why I could take this picture. Otherwise, he would never let me get this close to him during bone time.

So, yes. He's still doing okay.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Links to Discussions on Veganism and Animal Rights

I am unable to post now due to work responsibilities, Luckie's continuing health issues, and my RSI. But I have been keeping my eyes and ears open to vegan happenings on the internets and wanted to share some interesting links I've come across in the last week or so:

* "So the point i am getting at is that we need to be careful not to view ourselves, vegans, as standing upon an ethical pedestal. Just because we don’t consume animal products does not give us moral high ground. If we wish veganism as a movement to grow, then veganism must become informed by all movements for justice, compassion, and non-violence. Rather than limiting ourselves to non-humyn animal suffering, we must also critically approach ability, gender, class, race, age, size, sexuality, and other categorizations that have been used to create violent hierarchies. To do this, we must put a great deal of effort on our own persynal growth and awareness." from "Getting to the Core Principles of Veganism" by vegankid.

* A discussion on the convergence of animals, work and class on this Animal Voices interview with Jason Hribal entitled, "Animals Are Part of the Working Class."

* Vegan and animal abolitionist scholar Gary Francione on VeganFreak Radio, parts 1 and 2.

* I had the pleasure of listening to and briefly speaking with lauren Ornelas at the Let Live Conference in Portland when Brian and I were there a few weeks ago. I want to write about that experience here and on Vegans of Color but until then, The Food Empowerment Project is one lauren Ornelas' endeavors. Here's an interview with her from Satya magazine.

* On a more lighthearted note, I just ordered this adorable passport case from the tinymeat shop on etsy. I love bears (and Brian thinks I am a of those sillysecretcouplesthings) and the case pictures a bear who travels. That is so me.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Coming Soon: PDX & SFO. But First, a Picture & Poem

One of my best meals in Portland, Black Dragon Noodle Bowl from The Red and Black Cafe
Brian and I are home
Back from Portland and hillsides
But work awaits me
(so here is a teaser picture along with an unorthodox and bad haiku)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Three Days Until Portland and San Francisco

It's been quiet on the blogging front, what with Luckie having a tumor and then a seizure (by the way, he seems really great lately, very alert and always up for eating) and Brian and I heading off to Portland and San Francisco this Thursday. I've been trying to tie up loose ends at work so I come back to only 5000 emails as opposed to 10,000 of them. Brian and I have also been trying to come up with a loose itinerary for our vacation. Mainly, I've planned where we're going to eat. Brian as a veteran vegan and me as the newbie will be in vegan heaven in these two cities. It will be so nice to go to a restaurant and be able to order ANYTHING. Other than that, though, I'm leaving it up to fate. I just want to relax and get away from my ever-present to-do list: bike ride, hike, walk around, laze in bookstores, eat, not touch a computer for 10 days, and spend time with my boyfriend for more than 24 hours in a row. It will be so nice to be in the same city with him for over a week. We'll also be seeing some friends, including Sky. We'll be back with lots of pictures and restaurant reviews sometime after the fourth of July. Until then, if you have any recommendations for Portland and San Francisco--food-related or not--please leave some comments.

* San Francisco postcard found on Flickr.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Luckie has thyroid cancer. It's not an official diagnosis since he has not had a biopsy but the vet is pretty sure that is what his lemon-sized (my nurse oncologist mother says plum) tumor in his throat area is. He's 14. He's lived a good, long life. Much healthier than a lot of dogs who are 9 or 10 years old. His only elderly health problem has been bad arthritis. Otherwise, he's remained curious, happy, loving, lovable, and incredibly interested in food.

His age--or his species--doesn't make his diagnosis and the fact that I will lose him one day any less painful and scary.

He has choked once while eating food. His breathing is more labored when he exerts himself. I now worry every time he barks and coughs, wondering if the tumor is going to close off the esophagus and choke him to death.

I don't know what we'll do yet. I need to read over the information the vet will send, possibly get a second opinion, try some natural remedies in an attempt to approve his thyroid functioning and keep the tumor from getting bigger.

I've known about the tumor for well over a month after Brian found it while hugging the dog. I tried to tuck my fear away, tried to say, maybe it's always been there but I never knew. But I knew that wasn't true. When I took him to the vet on Saturday, I said it was for a regular checkup but it was really for the tumor. At first the vet couldn't find it and didn't seem too concerned by the fatty tumors she found. But then she found it and she turned very concerned very quickly. She aspirated the tumor at least 5 times. All that came out was blood, which means the tumor is being very well-fed.

We talked and I said, "Well, I don't want to do anything drastic. He's 14. Let's just keep an eye on it and make sure he's comfortable. I don't want surgery or chemo." She agreed. She still needed to look at slides and check out the cells more, although it would be hard for a lab to read with so much blood.

When I spoke to the vet yesterday, she said things like carcinoma, metastasis, four months. I lost my shit. I stopped eating. Suddenly everything I said about wanting to make him comfortable seemed stupid and, most importantly, a lie. What about chemo or surgery? I don't want to give up. She said she wouldn't try surgery if it were her but we'd need more information--xrays and biopsies--anyway. I felt nauseous. I had to leave work early not because anything was wrong with Luckie--he's fine for now. I just wanted to be with him and I didn't want a stupid reason like work to get in the way of being with him while he's still happy and relatively healthy.

If you have a companion animal, give them a big hug for me. I hope they're okay. If you don't have one, and you know you can totally care for and love one for their whole life, I can't tell you enough what a great idea that is. One of the biggest reasons I've been so open to going vegan is because of Luckie. When I thought of killing and eating him or keeping him penned up so I could take his milk (well, if he were a girl) or his fur, it seemed unthinkable, sick, and cruel. I've rarely met a creature--human or otherwise--who has such personality, who makes me so happy just looking at him cock his head when I talk to him, who is so damn sweet and funny. Companion animals can be great ambassadors for farm animals. They can break open your heart. And they will also eventually break it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Happy 1 Year Anniversary to Mutual Menu

Mutual Menu turns one year old today and so much has changed in this year. My initial idea for this blog was to document how Brian and I navigated a relationship with him being vegan and me being an omnivore. I thought it would be fun to visit restaurants that would accommodate both of our diets and then write about the experience. I would think of recipes that could work for both chicken and tofu. I’d give tips to other “mixed” couples and groups. I never planned on giving up eating meat and Brian never asked that of me. When we first met, I thought vegetarians were noble but that it would be too hard for me to be one. And vegans? Forget it. I wasn't going to live without cheese.

On June 6, 2007, when I posted for the first time, I had already stopped eating land animals, much to my own surprise. At this point, I started eating more fish than I ever did as an omnivore because it made eating out at restaurants a little easier. More than that, I just wasn't ready to be a vegetarian, mainly because I didn't want my eating habits to be judged by others. As someone with a complicated relationship to food, I just didn't want my food to be even more dissected than it already was, by me or others.

Just about seven months later, I finally decided to stop eating fish. After months of listening to Vegan Freak Radio and Compassionate Cooks' Food for Thought podcasts, reading Veg News and Herbivore Magazine, collecting links to many vegan & vegetarian blogs, and visiting Catskill Animal Sanctuary with Brian, I was finally ready to be a full-fledged vegetarian. Anything less than that was completely hypocritical to me. I wasn't, however, ready to give up eggs and cheese, although I was at least open to the possibility of being vegan. I bought my cage-free, organic eggs knowing it was a meaningless label and tried to buy only rennet-free cheese but still ate whatever cheese I was given when eating out.

Last month, I was eating an egg for breakfast and the same feeling of revulsion I felt while eating roast chicken for the last time came over me again. Without fanfare, without announcing it to anyone, I gave up eating eggs and dairy. I just felt like I was ready to stop.

So, I guess I'm vegan now, though I'm reluctant to say I am. I just don't want to deal with people who don't understand why I would make a choice. I also still remember how enjoyable eating cheese and even meat can be and I worry that one day Brian will find me in a closet injecting cheddar into my veins. I feel like it would be a bigger disappointment to him, myself, and any of you reading to be a big talker and end up failing at this than it would be to just never have gone down this road at all. I'm doing, though, and it's really not nearly as hard to be vegan as I thought it would be.

I have a lot I would love to do with this blog, one being just having more time for it. I work full-time as an editor, have a long commute, and a very nasty case of repetitive strain injury in both arms, so the last thing I need to do when I’m not working is sitting in front of a computer typing. Luckily, having tendinitis/carpal tunnel/arthritis/chronic pain doesn’t interfere with eating!

I've picked some of my favorite posts from this year, starting from recent time and working my way back to earlier days. One of the biggest reasons I've been able to see the world so differently and change my behavior so drastically is because writing about my thoughts and experiences here has allowed those things to happen:

Would You Like Fries With That? Viva Las Vegans, Trenton Avenue Arts Festival, making new friends.

Guest posts by my friends, Sky Chari of Eats Well With Others and Jessie.

Everyone Is A Little Vegan on how many of the foods we already eat are naturally and perfectly vegan.

Mutable Menu I describe my reaction to passing a truck full of pigs on my drive to work.

My Food Resolutions for 2008

Guess Who Has the World's Best Boyfriend? The answer would be me. There's also a quick and simple comforting soup recipe in this post.

Seven Ways to Host a Vegetarian-Friendly Cocktail Party

What Nigella Lawson Said To Me

Baking Power! Even though Brian doesn't post often, this blog is a joint effort. Here he writes about the maple walnut cake we made. It looked like Pac Man.

The Nature of the Beast Another post by Brian on language.

Author, podcaster, cooking instructor, and activist Colleen Patrick-Goudreau sends a lively greeting my way, by way of Sky.

An ode to Summer 2007.

Devising a Mutual Menu is my all-time favorite post because it's the most personal post. It's about my grandfather.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Everyday Is Not Like Sunday: Memphis Taproom & Headhouse Square

Memphis Taproom
The recently opened bar and restaurant opened just a short walk from Brian’s house in East Kensington (or Port Fishington, according to the peeps at the Taproom). We first passed by Memphis Taproom a few months ago when they were still working hard on renovations. The friendly owners and workers told us to stop by soon and that there would be plenty of vegetarian fare and we didn’t even tell them we were vegetarians. Maybe we had a look about us?

This past Saturday evening, we came off the 25 SEPTA bus schlepping new pillows and a mattress top for Brian’s bed when we ran into Laura Semmelroth of Flat Iron Wildcats—a local feral and homeless cat trap and rescue and adoption organization—and her boyfriend. They were heading off to Memphis Taproom and told us it would be their third weekend in a row at the place. Go, food is good.

After Laura’s endorsement, we vowed to finally head over to the Taproom for Sunday brunch and boy, was it worth the wait. Our waitress could not have been nicer or more attentive. In fact, it was she who offered to take a picture of Brian and me when she saw our camera out. The menu clearly labels what items are vegetarian and vegan (all items contain meat) and will substitute tofu scramble for any egg dish. Our waitress read us the specials, which included a tofu omelet stuffed with veggies. I eyed Brian and said, “Oooh, get that. It’s not just tofu scramble! And I’ll get the barbeque seitan sandwich and we can share and have breakfast and lunch!” So we did. I also got a beer mimosa, which is just like your regular champagne mimosa except with, you guessed it, beer. It was delicious and pretty much tasted like a champagne-based mimosa to my mostly undiscriminating booze taste buds.

When our food our arrived, the plates were heaped with crisp, thick, salty and peppery French fries. Yum.
The tofu omelet looked like an egg omelet and tasted delicious to boot. Brian also got a small cup of berry and wine jam made by Trappist monks, which really hit the tongue with sweet and sour berries and lush wine.

The seitan was slathered in tangy and spicy barbeque sauce and topped with crunchy slaw, which was perfect for me since I hate mayo-y and soggy salads. I gave half to Brian and was still more than satisfied. I’ll have a hard time trying anything else off the menu in the future because I’ll always want this sandwich.

By the end of our meal, we were stuffed and very happy. Our waitress asked if we’d like dessert, which included vegan chocolate cake with almond crust. I so wanted it but I could barely move at this point. Perhaps I should not have overdosed on the fries but I could not help but pop them in my mouth. Next time we’re there, we’re getting dessert.
Headhouse Farmer’s Market
Our next stop was the Headhouse Farmer’s Market, which was bustling even though we got there just about an hour before closing time. There were tons of green leafy vegetables and some berries and tomatoes. Other than produce, this market has lots of cheese, meat, and milk. Fittingly, one of the cheese tables was also selling ground veal. At least they’re keeping it real and not hiding the fact that veal is what all those dairy cows’ male babies become. I would have loved to have sampled and bought some baked goods but even the plain white bread had milk in it. Judging from the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival a few weeks back, I know there are plenty of Philly people making delicious vegan baked goods. I’d love to see a table or two of them representing at the farmer’s market.

After the market, we walked down South Street, got a Rita’s Ice, and sat in a park, watching some squirrels chase each other and a cute toddler relishing in her lunch. It was a nice day and over way too soon.
2331 E. Cumberland St. (corner of Memphis)
Philadelphia, PA 19125
2nd and Lombard Streets
10 am to 2 pm on Sundays

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Random Fridays: Shopping at Etsy, Strolling Through Philly, & Portable Babies

Although I’ve been using totes to carry my groceries for years, I still used plastic bags to bring home fruits and veggies until I ordered these reusable drawstring bags from etsy. They come in 3 different sizes and are machine washable. I love them! Hopefully these will become as ubiquitous as cute grocery totes.

"Etsy Goes Vegan," posted by Jen on Vegan Soapbox (who also blogs at That Vegan Girl), is all about the vegan items available on the crafty site. The How I Get My Protein/Calcium/Iron books are designed for vegetarians and vegans to pass along to inquiring minds

One day I will order plates and mugs from Vegan Dish.

I just finished reading Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner. The plot got a little too busy for my liking but I enjoyed it overall. The surprising tragic wallop in the end made me cry. Jennifer Weiner's publishing company has compiled a list called "Cannie's Philadelphia," which includes some of my Philly favorites, like 30th Street Station (kicks NYC's Penn Station's ass but not quite Grand Central, which is just ridiculously gorgeous), Rittenhouse Square Park, Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Kelly Drive, and Chef's Market.

I just found the informative and adorably designed blog, DeliciousBaby: Living the Good Life with Kids through Get Rich Slowly. It's full of tips for traveling with children and includes city guides and budgeting advice. Although Brian and I won't be visiting Portland and San Francisco this summer with any children in tow, since Brian can attest to the fact that I sure do act like a baby when I get too hungry, the site will come in handy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Wedding

There was no better way to usher in the unofficial start of summer than by attending a wedding. The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend could not have been more perfect--pure sunshine, blue and cloudless skies, warm weather. Our friends got married in West Orange, NJ, in the backyard of the groom's parents' home. From there we could clearly see the New York City skyline. We saw chipmunks scurrying around the yard, probably picking up dropped appetizers. Birds chirped and flew overhead. Planes flew in and out of Newark Airport in the distance and, at night, they looked like moving stars.

The food at the wedding was fresh and delicious. You know what they say about wedding food (it sucks). Well, this maxim did not apply. The appetizers included many meat options, including shrimp cocktail and a huge platter of fresh strawberries, melon, grapes, and dried apricots with a half-dozen cheeses. I was somehow able to resist the wedges of Brie and veiny blue cheeses. Brian and I instead munched on the fruit and vegetables, the mini samosas and water crackers. I also drank a flute of champagne and a glass of lemon soda and vodka, which pretty much tided me over until dinner, which was a fabulous and inadvertently vegetarian feast. There was beef and chicken but otherwise, the dozens of other dishes were ours for the taking: falaffel; tabbouleh that bursted with mint and lemon; four kinds of hummus and baba ganoush; farfalle with garlicky tomato sauce; olive bread; tomato foccacia; grilled asparagus, peppers, eggplant, and zucchini; french fries; salad with sun dried tomatoes and olives. I was stuffed after my first plate but I couldn't resist sharing a second one with Brian. I hadn't eat much before the wedding so, by the time dinner was served, I was ravenous and that is why there are no pictures of the food!

Our friends eschewed the traditional wedding cake for an ice cream sundae station. Brian and I skipped the ice cream but gorged on many of the toppings like Oreos (yuh huh--they're vegan!), walnuts, maraschino cherries, pineapple and strawberries dipped in chocolate, mini chocolate covered apples on cinnamon sticks.

I danced with Brian. Danced with the bride. Walked barefoot on the lawn. The newlyweds gave baby spruces and lily bulbs as wedding favors, both of which I planted the next day. Watching them get married made me so happy. I cried through the whole ceremony. And then ate my weight in joy.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Random Fridays: Vegan Fashion Booty & Some Links

Alloy A great place to find cheap and often leather-free bags and shoes. I just purchased the metallic, copper Birkenstock-like sandals and madras print flip flops as well as a great tie dye dress for the beach and a raspberry pink blouse.

Kiyonna My “wedding” dress. And by wedding dress, I mean the one I’ll be wearing to other people’s weddings this summer. I myself am not getting hitched. And if I were, I think I’d wear red.

Alternative Outfitters Is where I bought wedges to match my dress. I love this store. They have a wide selection of stylish and very affordable shoes, bags, and beauty items.

My favorite just stumbled upon links this week are:

Vegan Yum Yum How did I miss this one? The pictures alone are worth a visit. They are so luscious and textured, you can see how good the food must taste. This will definitely be a new regular read for me.

Vegan Eats and Treats Another site full of excellent and colorful photographs.

Pistachio Crusted Tofu from Fat Free Vegan.

Oprah’s 21-Day Cleanse You may have heard that Oprah Winfrey is giving a vegan diet a shot for the next three weeks. What’s exciting about this experiment she’s embarking on is the fact that this is not a fast just for personal health reasons. The treatment of animals is a part of the discussion Oprah and author and cleanse advisor, Kathy Freston are sharing with others. Oprah wrote in her blog:

“How can you say you're trying to spiritually evolve, without even a thought about what happens to the animals whose lives are sacrificed in the name of gluttony?
"So this 21-day cleanse gives me a chance to think about it differently and see what my attachments are to certain kinds of foods—and what I'm willing to do to change.”

No matter the outcome for Oprah, I think it’s wonderful that a vegan diet is being discussed with millions of viewers and web site users. I’m sure more than a few people who give the cleanse a try will end up staying vegan. I also love that Kathy Freston discusses animal treatment in her book, Quantum Wellness and cites resources on animal rights.

There are some great vegan recipes on Oprah’s site, such as Scampi Style Tofu Wrap and Black Bean Cakes with Lime-Peppered Mayo by chef Tal Ronnen, a graduate of New York City’s Natural Gourmet Institute, which is where I took a really fun and delicious class with vegan chef and author, Myra Kornfeld.

On the nonfood front, Putting Things Off is the anti-productivity web site. It posits the revolutionary idea that we cast aside our PDA addictions in favor of paper and pencil. I love the sarcastic humor and simple, practical tips.


Have a good, and hopefully long, weekend. Off to a wedding in my wedges.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Would You Like Fries With That?

The second Brian and I turned the corner of Trenton Avenue just before noon on Saturday, we knew the festival was already well on its way to being a huge success. And by huge, I mean so much huger than it was last year. The number of food and art vendors seemed to be double the amount from 2007. I immediately began eyeing the cute purses, aprons, and jewelry I wanted to buy. Dozens of tables were lined along several blocks and the entire length of the festival was sandwiched by two stages starring local musicians and performances by the Walking Fish Theatre.

Our first official stop, though, was to Viva Las Vegans. The truck was parked off to a side street and I was a bit worried about festival-goers missing the sidelined truck. I met Blythe and Derek, the wife and husband duo behind the operation and the first thing I noticed is, OK, Blythe is gorgeous. She and I talked about the inspiration behind Viva Las Vegans—she just wanted some simple and quick vegan comfort food that literally didn’t cost an arm and a leg. We talked about how we ended up in Philly (or really, how I will eventually end up in Philly) and our job experiences. Our first conversation went so well, I almost forgot to step aside from the window when the first customer came along. I left to help Brian place some recycling bins along the avenue. We were both pleased and surprised by both the picture perfect early summer sunshine and the huge crowd.

Pretty soon, we wanted to eat and we, of course, were going to hit up the vegan food truck. We did eyeball other food vendors and that’s when we were even happier to have Viva Las Vegans. There wasn’t much vegetarian-friendly fare, let alone vegan options. One vendor had vegan stew, to which Brian remarked, “Who wants to eat stew at a street fair in the sun?” By the time Brian and I returned to the truck, the line was bustling. I ordered the crispy soy chicken sandwich with jalapenos and Brian got a fish filet. Derek was generous enough to give us both for free. As we waited for our food, Brian offered up my services to Blythe and Derek and they both quickly took him up on his offer. I was admittedly nervous about the possibility of being more of a hindrance than a help to them since I still use my fingers to solve even the simplest of calculations. Blythe assured me that she’d yell out the prices for me and also, there was a calculator. I ate my delicious sandwich and went into the truck.

Viva Las Vegans has devised a complex and sometimes fragile ordering shorthand. For instance, when someone orders a crispy chicken, you write down “CC” and hand that off to the cooks. When someone orders a soy burger, you write down “SB.” OK, so that was easy. Yeah, but what the hell do you write when someone orders a fish filet and French fries? FF and FF? Derek insisted that “FF” would signify French fries and writing out “fish” would be the filet. It only took one or two ambiguous FF’s before I caught on.

As far as I know, everyone’s change was correct and we only lost one order, which we quickly fixed. Vegan customers are about the friendliest bunch you could ever hope to serve. One customer loved the idea of the truck so much that he asked that the generous remainder of his change go toward buying the next customer’s order. How often does that happen at Burger King?

During my truck time, I also met the owner of the Northport Fishington Cookie Factory, who supplies Viva Las Vegans with their cookies. Brian and I split the oatmeal cranberry cashew concoction and, oh my god, was it good.

In addition to that cookie, I ate a chocolate nut vanilla cupcake from Baked, a local microbakery that provides baking lessons and vegan and nonvegan baked goods for special order and Philly bakeries and cafes. When I bought the cupcake, I planned to share it with Brian. After one bite, I asked him if I could buy him another one because I no longer wanted to share mine with him. The cake was so moist and not too sweet while the frosting was creamy with the perfect balance of sugary and savory flavors.

A member of Philadelphia Tree People made vegan chocolate chip cookies. This cookie was out of this world delicious—soft, buttery, and, since this is still a compliment, one that did not taste vegan at all. I reluctantly gave my last cookie to Brian but don’t think that didn’t hurt.

Derek and Blythe assured me that my help at the window was indeed very helpful. What little I did for one afternoon, however, was nothing compared to what they do everyday. Standing and working in tight quarters to deliver delicious, high-quality, vegan comfort food takes a tremendous amount of hard work and elbow grease. I admire the risk and bravery it takes to launch a small business and especially the dedication it takes to provide much needed vegan grub in the food world.

If you’re ever in Philly, please do yourself a favor and visit Viva Las Vegans at 33rd and Market. Order a Big D with extra cheese, bacon, and ask for some fries to be sandwiched in between (Blythe’s second creation for Brian on Saturday). Then leave a generous tip.

Pictures by Brian.

The Big Secret Behind the 10 Healthiest and Cheapest Foods

According to WebMD's "10 Healthy Foods Under $1," the following choices are your best bets:

1. Apples

2. Bananas

3. Bagged Baby Carrots

4. Canned Beans

5. Canned Tomatoes

6. Oranges

7. Pears

8. Dried Lentils

9. Pearl Barley (dry)

10. Yogurt

The article states, "many foods that are good for you are also cheap." What they neglect to mention is that, with the exception of number 10, which could either be cow's milk or soy milk-based or both, all of these foods just happen to be vegan.

All of the most nutrient-dense, healthful, and cheap foods are plant-based, whole foods. None contain animal products. The list represents foods full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, and yes, calcium and protein.

Contrary to the popular myth, vegan foods are not more expensive and they aren't lacking in protein. Your wallet can never go wrong when you choose whole, plant-based foods.

For more information on the health and financial benefits of a whole foods, vegan diet:

Mutual Menu post, "Everyone Is A Little Vegan"

Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast episodes on:

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's resource on the New Four Food Groups: whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes.