Friday, December 19, 2014

The Vegal Arsenal!

     Don't leave home without them!!!  What on earth am I referring to??? The Vegan Aresenal is any portable plant-based nutritional supplement or combo (added to food) that will come in handy when dining out or traveling to unknown parts where vegan options may be quite limited.  Expect the minimum and you won't be disappointed.  Come prepared and you can create your own nutritional powerhouse that will leave your non-vegan counterparts speechless (let's see them try and poke fun of you now!!).   Simply prepare small baggies of various non-perishable plant foods to carry in your purse (or fanny pack lol). There are even small packets of olive/coconut oil on the market in 6 or 10-count boxes. Then off you go to your worry-free meal!  You may wish to carry extra for your envious companions (although they hate to admit it).
     So you only see a garden salad (make sure there is no cheese) or some kind of meat-infiltrated entree salad (that you will most definitely have to pay the same price for sans meat) and a plain baked potato/white pasta on the menu?  Have no fear... tasty and hearty toppings are here! Whip out your oil packet or ask for some olive oil as well as balsamic vinegar for the salad then pull out your bag of tricks!  Sprinkle your nuts of choice like cashews, walnuts or almonds (a drupe, not a nut btw), and seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, hemp or chia, and finish off with your coconut bacon, a little salt and pepper and bam!  You have a salad fit for a king...or vegan queen!  In many instances, dining establishments will actually have peanuts or trail mix available which are not on the menu. Wherever you go, always ask for avocado, which they should have!!  They will probably want to charge you extra but you can argue your point that it is replacing the meat!  If you are allergic to peanuts, tree nuts or certain seeds...that must SUCK for you as a vegan!!! Have you tried those new TigerNuts yet?

     When it comes to the potato or pasta, remember...don't fear carbs, you need the complex ones for extended energy, as long as they are consumed with the proper balance of protein and fats!  How else are you gonna fill up?  With pasta, whole wheat is preferred and luckily, it is becoming increasingly available in mainstream restaurants!  But if you find yourself limited to only white pasta, choose to have a small portion, plain, topped with steamed veggies (chefs/servers are more than willing to accommodate if you just ask). Whether potato or pasta, use some olive/coconut oil in place of butter, throw on steamed broccoli, spinach or whatever fresh veggies are available that night (and don't forget to specify "no butter"), plus fresh herbs like basil if possible, then sprinkle a generous amount of your nutritional yeast on top (better than any parmesan cheese), followed by nuts/seeds, spices, some more coconut bacon and the kicker...Sriracha or Tabasco (your own little bottle if you prefer). To add a rich and creamy texture to your entree, mix in any avocado left over from the salad or snag a dollop of guacamole!  I always can never have enough of that green gold since it consists of the good fats!!!

     For dessert, let your meaty friends feast their eyes on your fresh fruit or sorbet topped with either coconut salted caramel or dark chocolate shreds (or some more bacon lol)!  Sure, their molten lava brownie bottom pie or deep fried cheesecake will look scrumptious at the time but remember...a second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!  You will walk out of there feeling energized and satisfied while your company will be sluggish and sleepy.  Perfect for them as they are sleeping in the next day while you will spring to your feet before sunrise for your daily hard core workout!  After all, you are a Vegan Girl with a conscience; staying firmly planted.
VeGALS unite!!!

Train hard, fuel hearty!
VeGAL Andee

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Meatus Interruptus!

     Greetings VeGALs and plant fans!  If you are a mainstream vegan like me, then chances are you deal with the issue of animal byproducts being randomly placed in your plant foods on an ongoing basis when dining out.  Chefs/cooks/food preps simply cannot help themselves when it comes to adulterating the foods from nature that we love so much.  In their eyes, they feel they are enhancing the flavor whereas we can all agree it only detracts from the true essence that plant-based cuisine has to offer.  On many vegetarian/vegetable menu items, no where does it even indicate that there will be animal-based foods added to the dish, which is surprising nowadays with so many food allergy concerns.  For instance, it is often the case where I order a garden salad that is listed as having only lettuce, cukes, carrots, tomatoes (and other "safe" ingredients) and when it arrives, it is laden with shaved/sprinkled parmesan cheese.  I have learned to ask for salads now with no cheese, egg or bacon even if it is NOT listed on the menu. Sadly enough, there are still some naive food servers/preps out there that still have no idea what the term "vegan" actually refers to so often times I choose the old "food allergy" excuse to drive home a point, especially when at an unfamiliar place.  Don't get me wrong...I wear my vegan identity with pride but when it comes to ordering my meal, I go to great lengths to get the order right and even then, I have to send it back due to error half the time!!!
     A while back, I had written an article for, where I'm a staff writer/contributor that discusses hidden animal products in our foods, if you would like to refer to that, like chicken broth, fish stock, beef stock, milk, whey, egg yolks, egg wash, oyster sauce, anchovies, parmesan cheese, butter, casein, gelatin, etc. Many restaurants, especially chains, have an allergy menu available either on location or online which can be very helpful in providing insight into non-vegan foods we assume to be safe. It isn't always easy, and sometimes next to impossible to find a vegan/vegan-friendly joint and the majority of our family/friends are typically omnivours so we must settle on mainstream, trying to make the best of it without drawing too much attention to ourselves.  
     Just this past weekend, my running partner and I were in Cocoa Beach, FL to run the Space Coast Marathon (as pacers) for our third year in a row.  A few days before the race, we looked over the dinner menu online for Fat Kahunas, a small bar/restaurant we've had our eye on for a few years.  The menu seemed very welcoming and the location, ideal to watch a nearby Friday night street party, so we were excited to check it out.  As soon as we were seated, we were served fresh homade hummus with olives and warm tortilla chips.  I would've been perfectly content eating that all night, washed down by a draft beer, of course.  But I chose to order the grilled vegetable tacos, minus the red and green peppers (I always lie and say I'm allergic since I just plain don't like 'em), add avocado instead as my entree.  As an experiment of sorts, I refrained from mentioning the word "vegan"  while I made sure that there was NO cheese or sour cream also due to "allergies" and the waitress said NO problem.  The menu said it comes with a teriyaki glaze which sounded safe enough for me. she sets my beautiful plate down before me, veggie soft tacos accompanied by coconut rice, black beans and fresh salsa, I noticed a red/orange sauce strewn across the entire dish, along with the teriyaki glaze.  I was immediately suspicious of a mayonnaise presence as the server explained that the chef uses his own "secret sauce" for an added touch. I only wish I would've snapped a photo of it! My fear was confirmed...the sauce was mayo-based, probably mixed with sriracha...something I do with my vegan "Just Mayo" all the time. Our server apologized and offered to prepare another plate that was "vegan."  Yes, she actually used the word after all that lol.  In the end, the food was scrumptious, especially the coconut rice, and the restaurant was very accommodating.  I schooled the server about Just Mayo being egg-free and "safe" for all patrons without compromising taste.  She said she would relay that to the chef!
     As our post race meal, we headed back south to Delray Beach, FL, along famous Atlantic Avenue, to a preferred hang out of ours, Budda Sky Bar, a departure from our usual post race beer/french fries reward. We were famished and in desperate need of fried food so we ordered vegetable spring rolls in addition to their divine mushroom dumplings and stir fried string beans.  However, much to our chagrin, when spring rolls arrived, they were nothing more than veggie egg rolls, which of course are made out of egg wonton wraps.  I proceeded to taste the inside and was unsure of the filling.  I have encountered the  "inadvertent meat eat" with dumplings in the past so I grew weary of the contents, which looked an awful lot like ground chicken or pork.  It's hard to distinguish ground meat!  The chef actually came out and insisted there were only vegetables, no meat inside but when we remarked how they were egg rolls, not spring rolls, there was no changing his mind about that.  He brought us a fresh batch of the same to be sure and said it's definitely tofu inside and that he said he tries to season it so well so that it tastes like chicken, which makes it taste better...yes, those were his words. Needless to say, I stayed away from the egg rolls altogether and embraced all the wonderful veggie options this Japanese restaurant has to offer.  Essentially, the chef's opinion is much like so many others...everything tastes better with animal products in them.  We know better!!!
     Try as we might, we will always face challenges when it comes to plant-based, cruelty-free meals but as more and more foodies turn to plants, more and more folks in the food industry will catch on. It's a trend that's here to stay.  We must remain positive as well as patient in our endeavors and not get discouraged every time we have to send a meal back.  Each time that we do, it actually sends a message to both chefs and servers to think outside the box, be creative, go beyond the animal byproducts,  Even if a server seems to be aware of the term "vegan," they may not have a clear understanding of what that actually means.  We have to simply be specific when ordering and ask questions for clarification.  And just maybe, we'll make a few of them go plant-based all the way!