Last January I set myself a number of goals, things to work toward, throughout 2015. They weren’t things that I jumped into as soon as the calendar flipped, nor were they things that I set any definite plans for, but it was interesting to see how many of them came to fruition in one way or another throughout the course of the year. I’d like to do that again this year, to put my goals and intentions down so that I can make note of their progress in the back of my mind throughout the year and check back again in 2017. But before we get to the 2016 list, let’s look back at 2015’s goals and see how it all shook out….
I wasn’t looking for a great chocolate chip cookie recipe. All I wanted was a decent-looking ingredient list that I could tweak and muck up into a fun Halloween treat for a party we were attending back in October. I started with this recipe and, at first, I did just that—turning out a spirulina-tinted, ghoulishly green treat speckled with vegan white chocolate chips. The result was downright delicious. I could tell from the fab taste and texture, however, that if I backed out my spooktacular additions, I might just have a really awesome, straight-up chocolate chip cookie on my hands.
So I took two steps forward and one step back in adapting and arriving at this recipe, but it was totally worth it.
(Photo borrowed from my classmate, Kevin, who is front and center!)
Last month I found myself coming out on the other side of one of the most educational, empowering, and connective experiences of my life. I knew going in that others who’d done this had found it to be transformative, so, just in case I didn’t feel the same, I tempered my expectations while still keeping an open heart and mind. And then it happened—all of it—to me as well.
The experience to which I’m referring is the Main Street Vegan Academy (MSVA) program, which informs and equips its students to become certified vegan lifestyle coaches & educators. At face value, it’s a class, a 6-day intensive, but it truly winds up being so much more than an education. When we all first arrived at MSVA, we sat, anticipatory, in that reserved silence that happens when a dozen people who don’t know each other are suddenly put in a room together. Some of us happened to be local to NYC, where the academy is held, but many had traveled across the country or internationally to be there. Victoria Moran—author, activist, speaker, director of the academy, and, among several other admirable descriptors, our generous hostess, since the program is run from her home—took note of this initial awkwardness and assured us that we’d all be like roommates by the time the week was over….
As those of you who follow me on social media may already know, last month I completed the Main Street Vegan Academy program to become certified as a Vegan Lifestylfe Coach and Educator. I have a whole post queued up about the wonderful things that we did and learned, but I wanted to take a minute to acknowledge my more than 3-month absence here—not in that “Ugh, sorry guys, I know I haven’t blogged in forever!” kind of way, but just to catch up on what’s been going on during this time and some of the fun things coming up.
With the growing awareness of veganism and plant-based eating, more and more people are trying out a diet free of animal products. Unfortunately for some, the switch is temporary, and they come away from the experience convinced that being vegan just isn’t for them. “I tried to be vegan, but….
…it was too expensive…it took too much time…I gained a lot of weight…I lost too much weight…my digestive system couldn’t handle it…I was bored/tired/hungry all the time…I don’t like beans….”
And that’s the short list.
For many, maybe even most people, cheese is the one thing that is most difficult to imagine giving up when considering going vegan. Fortunately, there are so many awesome and uncannily-similar-to-dairy vegan cheeses on the market these days that there’s little to miss out on in this department anymore. About as often, though, I hear another reason for which I’ve been able to offer little recourse: yogurt.
I so get this. For many people, yogurt is a breakfast staple. It’s lighter than oatmeal and cool on those days when you’re not in the mood for something hot, yet is still a solid base for all the same sorts of toppings. There actually are several dairy-free yogurt options on the market, but few of them are very good and not all of them are reliably vegan. I’ve personally only ever found two store-bought vegan yogurts that I wholeheartedly enjoyed*. The first was a brand called Whole Soy & Co, a soy-based yogurt with a nice texture that wasn’t intolerably sweet. I appreciated that it came in a plain variety and, though I was never able to find it, plain unsweetened as well. Unfortunately, this yogurt disappeared from the shelves shortly after I found it, made a brief and glorious comeback, and now seems to be gone for good (you can read the details here). The second brand is Anita’s Creamline, a coconut yogurt made with coconut milk, coconut water, and cultures—and that’s it. It’s unsweetened, free of additives and thickeners, and has a creamy, indulgent texture and a lip-smacking tang. The problem with this brand is that it’s on the pricey side, only locally available (so I can’t widely recommend it), and difficult to find consistently even at the locations that stock it.
So, last summer, in the midst of an Anita’s shortage and before Whole Soy made their fleeting reappearance, I decided to begin working on a homemade dairy-free yogurt….
This past weekend we took a drive upstate for a little Mother’s Day getaway. Our plans had included a visit to Catskill Animal Sanctuary, but we unfortunately weren’t able to get there this time. We were, however, able to revisit some of our favorite places from our last visit to the area and also try some of the restaurants that we missed.
I won’t spend too much time rehashing the places I’ve already posted about, except to say the following: We definitely made a detour to Lagusta’s Luscious for chocolate bars and truffles. I also snatched up a jar of their chocolate hazelnut butter, which made its way onto a sort of sundae when we got home along with some Van Leeuwen’s vegan banana nut ice cream and a pile of sliced strawberries. While in New Paltz, we also swung by Karma Road so that Chris could pick up a handful of their sweet potato biscuits, which he and Roman polished off in less than 24 hours. The biscuits aren’t GF so I got a smoothie, much of which became Roman’s.
We returned to Garden Cafe on the Green for brunch on Mother’s Day, enjoying a feast similar to the one we had on our first visit. We even sat at the same table and, while waiting for our food, I discovered a drawer that I hadn’t noticed before. Upon pulling it out I found the sweet little note pictured below.
Now onto the new stuff!
These scrumptious little snack cookies are the result of a handful of overripe bananas and a simple google search for “banana cookies”. (Heads up: I have a few banana-based recipes in the works right now, so get to ripening! Apologies, banana-loathers.) The recipe below is a complete bastardization of the original, but definitely found its inspiration there.
I obviously adapted them to be gluten-free, but also skipped the oil, added a bit of flax for binding/fiber/omega-3 goodness, and swapped the refined sugar out for pureed dates. That’s right, these cookies are made without refined sugar! Excepting the chocolate chips, of course, but you could easily use grain-sweetened chocolate chips or something else entirely if you wanted them to be totally refined sugar-free.
It was nearly 80 degrees on Saturday. Need I say more? Here’s a recap of our positively summery weekend:…
I meant to get this post out on Monday or Tuesday, which would have made the following gush-fest seem more appropriate, but, hey, better later than never. And just because we’re now winding down this week into another weekend, it doesn’t change a thing about last weekend. So, let’s take a minute to talk about last weekend. The weather: sunny! warm! The walking: roughly 15 miles of straight up strolling around the ‘hood. The food: Bliss Grand for brunch, bacon cheddar ranch beet burgers from Chickpea & Olive, a sampling of Juice Generation‘s new vegan/GF pastries, and crepes (and a nap 😉 ) at Little Choc Apothecary. I can’t even handle all the goodness that was last weekend. As we were walking along, drenched in sun, I realized aloud to Chris, “This is what our days are going to look like again.” Sorrynotsorry, Winter, but I am oh so glad you’re gone.
• Sunshine in McGolrick • Matcha, chocolate, and cinnamon sugar doughnuts and an acai pastry from Juice Generation • Daffodils everywhere! • Basking in McCarren • Peanut butter banana crepe at Little Choc •
Just a heads-up to this weekend: I am totally ready for another beet burger…or two.
And if the sunshine and abundance of awesome vegan eats weren’t enough, lots of good things have been making their way out into the world over the last couple weeks via various media platforms. Here are a handful of my favorites. Enjoy!…