Saturday, March 26, 2011

In the Raw

I confess I have been very skeptical when I hear about going all raw when it comes to food. I am not convinced that eating raw all the time is necessarily great for the digestive system. A few years ago I tried a wonderful recipe my mom gave me--it is basically broccoli, raw, marinated with lots of garlic and olive oil, that sits in a marinade for hours before you eat it. Delicious, yes, but not without some odiforous consequences and a little digestive discomfort (yes I know broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable and lends itself to such effects, but certainly not as many as when I eat it cooked.)

Then two things happened. One, while in Boston I discovered a place called The Other Side Cafe and fell in love with their mock chicken salad plate, which I learned was totally raw (made from ground pecans, cashews & sunflower seeds mixed with cucumbers, celery and tart green apples--no soy or tempeh here!) I was amazed at how tasty it was, very satisfying with the hint of cashew lingering on the taste buds. For dessert I had the fresh fruit/chocolate mousse (made from raw cacao)which was a yummy meal in itself (I prefer to call it cold fondue on a plate! Such wonderful fruit--strawberries, grapes, bananas, apples. The mousse had a texture similar to chocolate sorbet, very smooth and rich). The Other Side offers a multtude of vegan choices though it is not exclusively a vegan cafe, and many of the dishes are raw. For example, for an appetizer, you can get the Raw Food Chips & Dip - slices of beet and carrot with a dip of blended macadamia & cashew w/garlic, lemon and Bragg’s. (FYI--for non-raw fans, they offer vegan chili, vegan BLTs, veggie burritos--I mean, a vegan has real choices at this place! Go there if you go to Boston--and if you don't mind loud music playing. It is located in the Back Bay. For more info, go to

The second item which gave me pause to consider incorporating raw food into my life is Kris Carr's book CRAZY SEXY DIET. You have to take seriously a woman who has kept a deadly cancer at bay for seven years with her diet. I am currently reading it--so much info to absorb, but it is so well written, I do recommend it to anyone looking to change what and how they eat. The recipes she includes in the back seem simple enough, and how hard can to be to eat raw at least once a day or so? My rabbits are natural raw vegans-seems to work for them. As I have said before, will say it ad nauseum--we can learn so much from our animal companions, if we just pay attention.

So dear readers of my blog, I would love some feedback from anyone out there who really endorses this way of eating and from others who have tried it and may be aren't keen on it. As I said, I could eat this way some of the time, but 100%--not so sure. It was hard enough in many ways to go vegan, going raw seems daunting. Of course, if someone had told me ten years ago that at this point in my life I would be vegan I would have laughed in his/her face. I look forward to getting some feedback/advice/raw cookbook recommendations, etc. Thanks in advance for your input!

The Hoppy Vegan

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box

Well, I'm back from my trip to Boston. I will be posting on various places I sampled for my article on being vegan while visiting the Back Bay later on, but for today, I just want to muse about that old phrase "thinking outside the box." Whenever I go home, it is inevitable someone asks me when they learn I'm vegan, "what do you EAT?" It seems beyond comprehension to so many that a meal can be had without an animal involved. "You don't eat fish?" "No eggs?" My God, you can almost hear them think, how do you SURVIVE? (You can also hear them thinking, what a pain in the ass, but that is an issue for another day.)

Here is where the thinking outside the box comes in. You HAVE to do this when you go vegetarian and/or vegan because, face it, if you have been omnivore most of your life, chances are you were raised in believing a meal had to have (1)meat (2)potato and (3)vegetable, the one element that most kids seem to think equates to torture. Going vegetarian isn't simply removing the meat and just having a dinner composed of side dishes (though there is nothing wrong with that, especially if you come up with memorable, savory ways to prepare them.) It means thinking PROTEIN instead of meat. Beans and tofu, and even grains like quinoa, contain oodles of protein. It is so simple to prepare meals around them. With the right seasonings and ingredients, as the hundreds of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks out there suggest, you can whip up some pretty yummy meals. I make a curried potato stew that is very hearty and filling in the colder months. Or one of my uber favorite dishes-- broccoli rabe with grape tomatoes and cannellini beans and TONS of garlic and red pepper flakes. Yummy! I just had that dish on St. Patrick's Day (thank you, Mom, for making it). The eating of the green! Who says it just has to be cabbage?

Here's the bottom line. We need to correct the thinking of people who believe going veg means opening three cans of vegetables and baking a potato to make a meal. Cook a meal for those around you who are cynical. Crack those cookbooks and come up with the tastiest dishes you can. Remember, eating vegan or vegetarian is not just about the veggies. It is about celebrating ALL life at the dinner table and there are thousands upon thousands of recipes that can enhance the celebration. Bon appetit!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Hoppy Vegan is on the road

I am reveling in being back in Boston's Back Bay twenty years after working and commuting here. Way back then, I wasn't even vegetarian, let alone vegan, so this time I am scoping out vegan-friendly places to write about at a later date. I am staying at a very nice hotel whose sole purpose seems to be to kiss your butt the whole time you are here. (I can get used to this!) They are very environmentally conscious (one reason I chose it) and their bath amenities are all Aveda products! How sweet is that! For once I didn't have to bring my own (honestly? This is the OTHER reason I chose it.) Every room has a recycling bin for paper, plastic, etc. So here is my question--why don't they offer vegan options at their restaurants (other than the room service power breakfast consisting of yummy oatmeal, fresh fruit, juice and coffee)?

Don't worry, friends, the Hoppy Vegan will point out this oversight when it is time to comment. A follow-up letter full of praise and gentle vegan prodding will also be sent. And of course I will share my insights on this trip after I get home. Until then, I will carry on seeking out cafes and restaurants friendly to vegans while I am here in
Boston's Back Bay. A dirty job but someone has to do it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday is here!

I don't know how vegans eat in New Orleans. The one and only time I visited there I was not even vegetarian so the town was literally my oyster, so to speak. But I can point y'all to a vegan cookbook which has some great recipes if you're planning your own Mardi Gras bash. Alicia Simpson's "Vegan Celebrations" has a great chapter on New Orleans dishes, to include a fabulous recipe she calls "nawfish etoufee" (nawfish as opposed to crawfish).

I made the nawfish dish last night and it was delicious but labor intensive in that like many N'Awlins dishes, you need to make a roux which always requires some serious stirring and standing time. The other problem may be finding and affording the key ingredient--lobster mushrooms. They are not cheap and they are hard to come by in stores. I have never found them fresh and only discovered the dried ones in a My Organic Market (MOM). A .05 ounce cost $5.99 (you read that right, a point oh five ounce! On line you can order lobster mushrooms from gourmet websites (Amazon sells them at $32.00 for half a pound.) Why use these froufrou 'shrooms? For one thing, they are lobster-red, chewy like lobster meat. The more critical characteristic is its seafood-like flavor. Don't worry--it's a very subtle flavor, no overwhelmingly fishy taste. This dish I assure you is worth the work and expense--but I would definitely reserve it for special occasions like Mardi Gras.

So come on, vegans! Do your homework, grab some beads and as they say in Louisiana, "laissez les bon temps rouler!"

The Hoppy Vegan

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Annual Girl Scout Cookie Shakedown

It is March and therefore inevitable. Walking out of my local Giant supermarket, I saw them. The green boxes of mint cookies. The orange ones brimming with Do-Si-Dos. The yellow stack, signifying the lemon cremes. From behind the table on which these boxes lay, innocent young faces gazed pleadingly at each shopper trudging out of the store.

It is time for the annual Girl Scout cookie shakedown.

In a hurry, yet without a shred of willpower, I stopped nonetheless to buy Do-Si-Dos, his favorite, for my husband. Then I pondered, aren't there some Girl Scout cookies which are vegan? I recalled seeing a list somewhere- I think from PETA. As usual, I didn't remember the names. I picked up the cranberry-colored boxes and scanned all too quickly and carelessly the ingredients. Ok, vegan, I thought, digging out the cash to pay. I grabbed the cookies and ran.

Then I got home, and actually read the ingredients of the cranberry filled cookies more carefully. Dry milk powder?

Why does ANY cookie have to have dry milk powder in it? And why, why, why don't the Scouts sell their entire line at their tables? All right, fine, maybe I should have actually taken the time to read the ingredients but when you are leaving a supermarket with groceries in tow, you usually just want to go home.

I suppose I could cheat and eat the cookies. After all, I did do something positive in supporting the Girl Scouts, so doesn't that make it ok? Well, in a word, no. I am tempted, make no mistake about that, but I will not touch those cookies. It's the principle of the thing, damn it!

Besides, if I were to fall off the vegan wagon, it would be sweeter to do it with Thin Mints.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Vegan, Vegan Everywhere

Have you checked out the mother load of vegan books that are out these days (or about to come out?) From Kathy Freston's "Veganist" to "The Happy Herbivore" to "Sexy Crazy Diet", bookstores now have displays full of titles that they can use to promote the vegan way of life. I of course must have them all, despite the fact my shelves are full, I'm already vegan, and I barely have time to read or cook these days.

What a joy it is to see so many great choices out there. Even Good Housekeeping, that magazine that has existed for generations, is putting out a cookbook, "Simply Vegan." You never stop learning as a vegan so I see no reason why I should stop collecting these books now. How can I possibly live, for example, without Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's latest work, "Vegan's Daily Companion"? (Answer: I can't so I bought it through last week). And what about "Vegan Celebrations"? The recipe do for a vegan po' boy alone was worth the price of that one.

One thing is for certain--no one can claim there are no resources from which to learn about the vegan way of life. Happy book shopping, everyone!