Two Christmas Recipes: Lasagna Pinwheels & Candy Cane Mocha

What great holiday is complete without great food and treats?  As I’ve mentioned, I love holiday cooking and baking, and Christmas is my favorite holiday of all.

My mom’s side of the family is Italian, and so it’s a long-standing tradition that we have pasta of some kind for Christmas dinner.  Usually it’s lasagna, and this year was no exception.  While my mom put together a traditional lasagna for herself and my brother (using the sauce I made), I decided to play around with the lasagna pinwheel recipe from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.  For filling, I made some tofu ricotta using the recipe from Veganomicon and invested in a little bag of mozzarella-style Daiya.

tofu ricotta

Armed with that and some whole wheat lasagna noodles, I took a crack at adapting the original recipe.  It’s extremely versatile, so if there’s something you like in your lasagna and you can fit it into the rolled-up noodles, go for it!  Vegan sausage, cooked spinach, or even shredded zucchini would make great additions.

Lasagna Pinwheels
inspired by 1,000 Vegan Recipes
serves 4

10-12 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
2 cups of your favorite vegan ricotta
2 cups pasta sauce, homemade or store bought
1 cup shredded vegan mozzarella

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lay the lasagna noodles out on a flat surface.

lasagna noodles layout

2) Spread about 3tbsp. of vegan ricotta out on each noodle.  Top with some of the shredded mozzarella.

lasagna noodles filled
In a large baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce. (I used an aluminum pie pan since I was only making these for myself.)  Carefully roll each noodle up and place it in the dish, seam side down.

lasagna noodles rolled
Top the rolls with the remaining sauce and the rest of the mozzarella.  Cover with foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes.

lasagna pinwheels
Remove foil and bake for a couple minutes longer to finish melting the cheese, if desired.  Serve hot with your choice of sides.

vegan christmas dinner 01
vegan christmas dinner 02
Even my guinea pigs got in on the Christmas food action!  I usually stick to small stuff or raw veggies when I give them treats, but this year I splurged and got them a “Snak Shak”…100% edible and a heck of a place for them to hide when they’re feeling antisocial.

abbey snak shak

Abbey checks out the Snak Shak

mcgee snak shak

McGee gives the Shak a look

Speaking of treats, I’ve been trying to put together a vegan peppermint mocha for a few weeks now, and on Christmas Day I think I finally got it!  This is more of a cobbling together of flavors than a recipe, but I thought I’d share because it was so darn good.  I used to be kind of addicted to coffeehouse-style drinks, and this came very close to the taste of some of my old favorites without having to use funky flavor syrups.

Candy Cane Mocha
serves 1

2-4 oz. freshly-brewed espresso, depending on how much coffee flavor you want
6 oz. Creamy, Rich Hot Cocoa (from VegWeb)
1 organic candy cane (I like Pure Fun brand)
vegan whipped topping

Combine the espresso and hot chocolate in a large mug.  (If you prefer sweeter coffee, you may want to add a bit of your favorite sweetener to the espresso first.)  Top with the desired amount of vegan whipped topping and hang the candy cane over the edge.  Wait a bit for the candy cane to melt into the mocha, or enjoy right away!

I hope everyone had a very merry and blessed Christmas.  I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to a new year of vegan adventures!

Eating Disorders Series: Anorexia

Anorexia is perhaps the most well-known eating disorder.  Horrifying images of ultra-thin celebrities have graced tabloid covers in recent years under sensationalized headlines about rehab and breakdowns.  But alongside these tabloids, there are often “family” or “women’s” magazines touting the latest weight-loss strategies.

These diametrically opposed ideas do nothing to help people understand the dangers of eating disorders and obsessive dieting.  Society continues to cling to the image of an “ideal body” while millions of men and women suffer in silence as they struggle with body image and the myriad underlying causes of eating disorders.

To understand anorexia, it helps to know the clinical definition.  The following criteria must be met for an “official” diagnosis of anorexia:

  • maintaining a body weight that is less than 85% of the expected or healthy weight for a person’s height
  • intense fear of being fat or gaining weight even when the person is already underweight
  • distorted perception of body image that makes it difficult for the person to admit that he or she is losing too much weight
  • in women, the absence of a menstrual period for at least three consecutive cycles

Although these qualifications are standard guidelines for diagnosis, attempting to fit anorexia into such a specific mold can be problematic.  Many people may already be engaging in dangerous behaviors long before they reach the point of “official” diagnosis or qualify as underweight.  By then, irreversible damage may already have been done.

Warning signs of anorexia can appear long before a person meets the official criteria.  The combination of symptoms is different for each person, but typical ones include:

  • intense fear of gaining weight
  • deliberate skipping of meals, overexercising, or undereating in an attempt to lose weight
  • obsession with weighing oneself
  • scrutiny of certain body parts for a disproportionate amount of time
  • pushing food around, hiding food, or rearranging food to make it appear as though it’s being eaten when it isn’t
  • fear of certain foods or irrational refusal to consume certain foods
  • irrational “compensation” when it is perceived that too much food has been consumed, i.e. adding an extra hour of exercise after eating a cookie
  • fixating on caloric intake or intake of certain nutrients such as fat, often to the point of distraction

The terrifying thing about many of these symptoms is that they can begin as seemingly harmless dieting strategies.  Reasonable calorie restriction for weight loss involves calorie counting, which requires the dieter to have a more intense focus on food and food labels.  This coupled with society’s already disproportionate fixation on food, weight, and body shape may lead to obsession, beginning the slippery slope from diet to disordered eating to full-blown eating disorder.

Like all eating disorders, anorexia is rarely just about food or weight.  The difference between someone who stops dieting after reaching their target weight and someone who becomes anorexic involves many underlying factors:

  • obsession with body image, be it through the media or an ideal that is modeled in the home
  • a need for control
  • dissatisfaction with oneself, one’s lot in life, or one’s current situation
  • a history of abuse
  • a family history of eating disorders or other mental illness
  • underlying depression and anxiety or suppressed negative emotions

Whatever the case, in anorexia and other eating disorders, food and weight are simply the mediums in which people attempt to deal with other, deeper life problems.

If left untreated, anorexia can lead to osteoperosis, reduced body temperature, muscle weaknss, cardiovascular complications, digestive complications, and more.  The severity of the disease is real, with one of the highest mortality rates of all mental health conditions.  Between 5% and 20% of anorexics die of complications from the disease, depending on the severity and duration.

Between 0.5% and 1% of American women currently suffer from anorexia.  If that seems like a low number, consider the hundreds of millions of people who live in the US.  Even taking into account the divide between genders, it still amounts to millions of people struggling with anorexia every day.  And although 90-95% of anorexia cases appear in females, it is far from a “woman’s disease.” As many as 10% of anorexics are men.  With up to 60% of Americans on a diet every day and no end in sight when it comes to societal weight fixation, it’s likely that anorexia will continue to be a disturbing trend among both genders.

Dryden-Edwards, Roxanne, MD. “Anorexia Symptoms, Causes, Treatment – How is anorexia diagnosed.” MedicineNet. 1 Dec 2010.
NIMH – Anorexia Nervosa.” National Institute of Mental Health. 1 Dec 2010.
Anorexia Nervosa.” National Eating Disorders Association. 2005. 1 Dec 2010.
Factors that may Contribute to Eating Disorders.” National Eating Disorders Institute. 2004. 1 Dec 2010.
Statistics: Eating Disorders and Their Precursors.” National Eating Disorders Institute. 10 Feb 2008. 1 Dec 2010.

Happy Thanksgiving!

happy thanksgiving (image from I Can Has Cheezburger)

image courtesy of I Can Has Cheezburger

Here’s wishing everyone a happy, healthy vegan Thanksgiving!  There’s a lot to be thankful for even in today’s crazy, mixed-up world.  I hope you’re all spending the day surrounded by the people you love in a place that’s peaceful and happy, serving up your favorite vegan Thanksgiving treats.

I’d love to hear about everyone’s menus!  Fill my comments with ideas, guys–one of these days I’m hoping to convince my still-omni family to have a 100% vegan Thanksgiving, so give me something to rock their socks, okay? 🙂

Much peace and love to all!  (And don’t forget to Adopt a Turkey!  I did, and it made me feel pretty awesome.)

Veggie Brothers Product Review: Delicious Vegan Convenience Food!

Go ahead and admit it.  As a vegan, there are some dishes that you miss.  Perhaps you’re still transitioning to a vegan diet and keep slipping because of that one thing you feel you can’t live without.  Or maybe you’re just looking for quick and easy vegan meals that taste more like food and less like the box they come in.  Sound familiar?  Veggie Brothers to the rescue!

Veggie Brothers is a vegan food company founded in 2005 by Michael Balducci with the goal of bringing delicious meatless versions of favorite dishes to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.  They aim to use the best quality ingredients possible, focusing on providing organic, non-GMO, and pesticide-free foods.  Their products are prepared and packaged for convenience, with clear cooking instructions for stovetop, oven, and microwave.  With products ranging from breakfasts to soups to entrees to desserts, Veggie Brothers is a versatile choice for quick and easy veggie meals.

I had the opportunity to try several of their products, and I’ve been very impressed so far!  It’s hard to know where to start, but I think these might be a good introduction:

veggie brothers buffalo wings 01
Vegan buffalo wings!  I’ll admit up front that buffalo wings were one of the things I had a very hard time letting go of when first going veg.  As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I’m a huge sucker for hot food, and buffalo wing sauce was always one of my favorites.  Veggie Brothers’ Hot & Spicy Soy Chicken Buffalo Wings completely satisfied the part of my brain that still craves that flavor!  Everything from the texture to the sauce itself was just like I remembered buffalo wings being.  They’re even held together with a little wooden dowel in the middle, which makes it that much easier to pick them up and make a mess of yourself as you enjoy devouring them.  The 8-ounce serving is a lot of food, so they don’t really need much in the way of sides or adornment.  You might even want to share them with a friend!

veggie brothers buffalo wings in package
This is how the wings–and all Veggie Brothers products–come packaged, in a convenient sealed pouch that can be boiled as-is in a pot of water, cooked in the microwave, or dumped out in a casserole dish and baked in the oven.  (Some products, like their desserts, simply need to be thawed at room temperature.)  I chose the oven method for these, which worked out very well.  The wings held their heat and were warm from first bite to last, although the spiciness of the sauce probably had something to do with that!  The only potential con with these is the texture.  I loved it, but long-time vegans or people who really don’t like a “meaty” feel to their food might find it disconcerting.  But if you like and miss buffalo wings, these are pretty much epic.

Next up, lentil walnut burgers!

veggie brothers lentil burgers in package
These ain’t your puny, over-processed veggie burgers!  Each burger is 4 ounces of delicious lentil/walnut/vegetable goodness.  We are talking a burger you could serve to hardcore meat-and-potatoes omnivores and get no complaints.  And you won’t get any from me on these, either.  The texture and flavor are both amazing, without a trace of the strange chewiness and aftertaste that some commercial veggie burgers have.  Another big plus is that they’re low in sodium, putting them miles ahead of their processed counterparts.  Occasional bits of walnut add to the hearty feel, and the mushrooms give a fullness to the flavor.

veggie brothers lentil burgers
I served mine up on pumpernickel bread with onion, tomato, lettuce, and a side of mixed greens.  These burgers are pretty versatile, though; I’d imagine they’d even be good crumbled in a pita with a little hummus or served on their own with a mustard sauce.  One warning: they do tend to fall apart a bit as you eat them.  But since this has no effect on how amazingly delicious they are, I’d call it a moot point!

veggie brothers eggplant parm 01
Eggplant Parmesan is one of those things that I didn’t really eat before becoming vegan.  But being 50% Italian, I have a soft spot for just about anything involving red sauce and melted cheese.  Baked pasta dishes and the like were something I missed a great deal before finding viable vegan alternatives.  And speaking of, if you like eggplant parm, give this a try.  Veggie Brothers has this one spot on!  Flavor can be hit-or-miss with a lot of frozen foods, but not so with this.  I was impressed by how fresh the eggplant tasted.

veggie brothers eggplant parm 02
The bread crumb coating was impressive, too; it held together well even in places where it wasn’t smothered in vegan rice milk cheese.  The cheese itself?  Oh yeah.  I’m a Daiya girl through and through, but this was just about as amazing.  Creamy, smooth, and not anything like the crazy plastic stuff that most grocery stores try to pass off as cheese substitutes.  The sauce covering it all actually tasted like Italian sauce, which is saying something considering I grew up eating homemade tomato sauce more often than was probably healthy!  I made some whole wheat pasta with a little oil and Italian seasoning to go with the whole thing, but I think a green veggie like chard or kale would do just as well as a side.  Verdict?  Delicious.

Thus far, the food from Veggie Brothers has been a wonderful treat.  These are all dishes that would be difficult or time-consuming to replicate in my small kitchen.  And as someone who occasionally benefits from having a quick, convenient meal on hand, it’s good to know that there’s a place that is making delicious vegan meals without a ton of processing.  The portions are generous, the sodium content is lower than you would expect, and even the dishes that are higher in fat boast healthy fats rather than saturated.  Two thumbs up from me!  I recommend them highly for transitioning vegetarians, vegans looking for old favorites, and anyone trying to convince omni friends and family that vegan food isn’t all sprouts and lentils (and, even when it is, it’s delicious).

Still to come in a future post: chocolate chip cookies, “meatballs” in marinara sauce, and tofu “crab cakes!”  A big thanks to both Veggie Brothers and Vegan Mainstream for the opportunity to try all of these great foods.  If you want to make an order of your own, be sure to get it in by Monday morning (11/22) for delivery by 11/24!

World Go Vegan Week — Vegan For Life

All I can say is–whew!  Yesterday was really quite something.  As I mentioned in my previous World Go Vegan Week post, I gave a presentation at my local library about the health and environmental benefits of veganism, as well as a  bit of information on the vegan lifestyle itself.  I have a whole new appreciation for what it takes to plan and host an event!

My local library (the Sand Lake Town Library) was kind enough to let me use their meeting room for the presentation, and allowed me to rearrange it to my liking in order to accommodate information and refreshments.

vegan for life tables 01
vegan for life tables 02
vegan for life tables 03
vegan for life tables 04

Some of the pamphlets and handouts were things I either found and printed or put together myself, and some were extras I picked up at the Veg Expo.  The rest came from the wonderful folks over at In Defense of Animals, who provide information to people hosting events for World Go Vegan Week.  Let me tell you, it was a big help!  So were the delicious oatmeal cranberry cookies and chocolate brownies from X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery.  In addition to the hummus, veggies, and roasted chickpeas, I knew I wanted to wow people with some vegan desserts, and X’s to O’s is definitely the place to go for that.  Big thanks to them, as well!

vegan for life crowd 01
vegan for life crowd 02

People started to trickle in a little after 1pm.  A few I know from church and Bible study who had mentioned they were thinking about coming, and I was glad that they were able to show up.  Others were family friends, people from around the community, and a couple fellow NaNoWriMo participants (hi guys!).  All in all, my mom counted about fifteen people who stayed for the talk.  Oddly enough, all of them were women, which I didn’t notice until Mom mentioned it afterward.  I wonder if this is indicative of the mindset in my area, or in general across the board?  Might be a statistic worth looking into!

presentation 01
presentation 02

I’m pretty sure it was divine intervention that got me through the entire presentation.  Things have been so crazy over the last week that I didn’t have any time for formal preparation of the talk itself.  I had a printout of the slides, some notes, and a few ideas–and glory be to God that it was enough!  I think it went well; I touched on most of the points that I’d jotted down in my notes, and people seemed to be genuinely interested.  There were several good questions at the end, too, which I hope I answered to people’s satisfaction.

vegan for life q&a

(If it looks like I’m chewing in this picture, it’s because I am.  I couldn’t resist grabbing some hummus, veggies, and roasted chickpeas for myself!) The literature and refreshments were both a big hit, which made me feel good.  I saw several people leaving with a decent stack of fliers and pamphlets, hopefully with a few extra to give to friends and family!  And everyone who tried the refreshments was impressed.  The cookies and brownies were especially well-received; no one could believe that they were 100% free of dairy and eggs.

vegan for life post-refreshments 01
vegan for life post-refreshments 02

By the time all was said and done, most of the roasted chickpeas, half the hummus, and all but two cookies and two pieces of brownie were left.  The juice got finished and the soy milk was tentatively sampled.  The stacks of handouts were appreciably smaller, and several people expressed thanks that I’d put on the presentation.  Given that I tend to be extremely self-deprecating, that made me feel good.  I’m glad that I was able to put the event together and share necessary, important information with a group of interested people.  It was definitely worth the time and effort that it took to plan!  I’m hoping to be able to do something similar in February when Eating Disorders Awareness Week rolls around.

Presentation photos by Karen Houghton.

Slow Cooker = Life Saver

This is the stove currently residing in the Quantum Vegan household.

dead stove

Note the distinct lack of life.

This is the slow cooker that usually sits on the shelf and gets ignored, except for the rare occasions when (blech) stew meat appears in the house.

slow cooker

You may be able to guess where this is going.

On Saturday, I did some canning and had a few incidents with water boiling over.  Thus when an odd smell started coming from the stove, I figured it was just some of the water and omnipresent stuck-on food (you know, the kind that never comes off no matter how hard you scrub?) reacting to the heat.  But at around 2pm, hours after I’d finished canning, my mom and I noticed that the stove felt oddly warm.

Turns out the oven was running.  While it was turned off.  Thinking it might just be a glitch, I turned the oven knob to broil.  There was a pop, a flash, and then…nothing.  Dead stove, blown breaker in the basement.

Of course the first thing I did was panic.  No stove, no cooking, right?  No cooking, relegated to microwaved food and takeout!  Until my mom reminded me that we do, in fact, have the slow cooker pictured above.

(As a side note, literally everyone we told the stove story to asked if we were sure it was the stove.  We had an electrician come and check just in case…yes.  It was the stove.  Specifically, a mouse that had gotten into the stove.  Mouse tunnels in your oven are not good things!)

By a fortuitous twist of devine intervention, I also happen to have Robin Robertson’s Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker out of the library.  Flipping through it turned up a neat recipe for slow cooker pot pie, which I put together for last night’s dinner.

pot pie in slow cooker

I haven’t cooked much with slow cookers or Crock Pots in the past, and before this I’d never made a recipe written specifically for a slow cooker.  But it turned out to be as easy as, well, pie!

pot pie 01

The flavor was decidedly richer and deeper than something cooked in the oven.  I never would have thought that you could slow-cook something with a biscuit topping, but it turned out delicious and moist.  The filling was pretty traditional: onions, carrots, peas, potatoes, and some chickpeas for bulk and protein.

pot pie 02

It was definitely a lifesaver, and I’ll probably be pulling out the slow cooker again before our new stove is delivered.  It’s supposed to come tomorrow, but you never know what time the delivery service will announce they’re coming!  I think I’ll plan some chili, just in case…

Question for the comments: Do you cook with a slow cooker?  If so, what’s your favorite dish to make?

Happy World Go Vegan Week!

Holy tofu, guys, it’s World Go Vegan Week already!  It seems like just yesterday that I was spazzing out about all the awesome upcoming veg stuff in October (which, sadly, did not turn out to include Vegan MoFo since it got moved back to November this year), and now here it is, the big one.

I first found out about World Go Vegan Week last year.  No big surprise, since last year was the first year I was 100% vegan!  I wanted to do something to celebrate but never got the time to plan anything.  This year, I started planning enough in advance that I’ve managed to cobble together what I hope will be a fun and informative event.

After nearly dropping my teeth after finding out how much it would cost to get licensing for a screening of Food, Inc., I talked to the head librarian at my local library about putting on a presentation of my own instead.  Awesome woman that she is, she was totally on board with it and has been helping out a lot with promo.  The last time I stopped by, she had set up a table with a flier and some vegetarian/vegan cookbooks, and has been including the event as part of what the library submits to the local paper every week.

Basically what I’m planning to do is give a presentation and hold a short Q&A session in the hopes of spreading the word about both the health and environmental benefits of veganism.  Though there is a little bit of a subculture around here, it’s not nearly as big as those in even the closest cities.  I don’t think very many local people understand or even know about veganism, and I want to give them an opportunity to learn and to try some tasty vegan food.  I’m putting together some of the refreshments myself and getting the rest from X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery.

Are any of you doing anything special to celebrate or commemorate World Go Vegan Week this year?  I’d love to hear about it if you are!  I think it’s exciting to be able to spread the word about something that can have such an impact on human health, animal welfare, and the environment.  Too many people think that small choices make no difference, but I’m hoping to do my part to prove them wrong.

Restaurant Review: Shalimar in Latham, NY

On a recent drive through Latham, my mom and I noticed a new Pakastani-Indian restaurant had opened up in the Peter Harris Plaza.  It’s called Shalimar, though apparently it’s not related to the other area restaurants with the same name.  We noticed that they offered both eat-in and takeout, including a lunch buffet midday.  I’m usually fond of ethnic restaurants, as they tend to have a few dishes I can eat without having to ask too many questions.  When I looked up Shalimar’s menu, I found they were no exception.  They’re not veg by a long shot, but they do have several veg-friendly dishes, and all the menu descriptions are clear enough that it’s easy to tell the difference.

Last night my mom and I went out to dinner there along with a family friend.  The interior was subdued in both decor and lighting.  The only exception was the music, which was upbeat, lively, and definitely Eastern.

shalimar inside 01
shalimar inside 02

It was early in the evening when we got there, and there was only one other table of people.  The staff was attentive, seating us right away with menus and taking our drinks order.  The menu had enough tasty-sounding veggie offerings that I had a bit of a hard time deciding.  The vegetable curry won out along with some mango chutney, but there were also tempting appetizers like vegetable pakora and samosas, Mulligatawny soup, seasoned naan, and a few veggie rice dishes.

My mom ordered the veggie samosas, onion naan, and basmati rice with vegetables; our friend got some roti and the vegetable korma, which had a “creamy sauce” so I stayed away from it.  It did, however, look very nice when it arrived (and, in all honesty, might have been creamy because of coconut milk, but I didn’t think to ask).

shalimar takeout

Speaking of, you know the food is good when you forget to take a picture of it until all that’s left winds up in a takeout container.  I wish I had remembered, because the presentation was a nice as the food.  Mom’s samosas, being an appetizer, came first, arranged on a bed of lettuce.  Then both the korma and the curry arrived in decorative metal dishes separate from the accompanying rice, which had its own small platter.  The roti and naan were in bread baskets, and the chutney came in a small plastic condiment container.

I liked being able to mix the rice and curry the way I wanted.  I was also able to put away half to take home without a problem, which I always do at the start of any meal out since I tend to have eyes way bigger than my stomach and have made myself ill on more than one occasion by trying to finish everything at once!  My only complaint is that the curry wasn’t hot enough in either temperature or spice, though I suspect I could have asked for them to turn the heat up spice-wise.  The overall flavor was very good, good enough that I ate the cauliflower along with all the other veggies without fuss. (It’s a well-known fact in my family that cauliflower is one vegetable I’ve never been able to warm up to.)

veggie rice

Mom’s veggie rice was priced like a side dish, but came in a meal-sized quantity.  The other dishes were comparable as far as value goes, and all three of us ate for around $36.  Since we all took away enough for at least one more meal, you could say dinner itself only cost $18!  Not bad for three people ordering a combination of appetizers, main courses, bread, and drinks.  One thing they could do better on, though, is including condiments with meals rather than making people order them separately.  I’m sure this is a budget measure, but it did seem a bit weird.

Overall, Shalimar is a nice place to go for a tasty Indian meal.  The staff were very friendly throughout the evening, asking us if everything was okay and not giving me any strange looks when I requested a takeout container before the food even arrived (which gets instant points in my book).  The menu is varied enough to satisfy omnivores as well as vegans, making it a good place to take a mixed party and perhaps introduce them to a new veg dish.

All Good Bakers Community Supported Bakery

Remember my mentioning how I discovered the awesome All Good Bakers at the Harvest Fest?  I wish I’d had my camera with me at the time, because trying to blog about them without pictures definitely doesn’t do their baked goods justice.  Scratch-and-sniff blogging would be even better.

All Good Bakers is a local baking operation based in Albany, NY.  Nick and Britin Foster have been selling their delicious breads and baked goods primarily at the Delmar Farmer’s Market, but now they’re starting something truly cool: a Community Supported Bakery!  Like CSA (community supported agriculture), CSB is a seasonal operation, offering weekly baked goods rather than produce.  Everything is made from scratch with as many organic ingredients as possible, and amazing vegan options are available. (Several of their breads are “naturally vegan.”)

All Good Bakers’ CSB gives participants a good amount of control over what they receive in their weekly share.  Up to three breads or baked goods can be selected per week depending on share level, with an amazing variety to choose from!  Breads include:

  • hearty multigrain
  • rustic Italian
  • whole wheat
  • spelt
  • rye
  • varying selection of baker’s choice/specialty loaves

and the following baked goods are available:

  • vegan cinnamon buns
  • bialys
  • croissants
  • seasonal muffins
  • seasonal scones

along with a variety of special order items like cakes and cupcakes.

Joining the CSB is easy.  If you’re from the Albany/Delmar area and are interested in signing up, you can e-mail allgoodbakers (at) gmail (dot) com or check out the All Good Bakers Facebook Page and drop them a line.  Payment for the 26-week Winter Bread season (November 3rd, 2010-April 27, 2011) is due at the time of signup, with shares starting at $6 per week.  There will be two pickup locations: one in Albany and one in Delmar, with scheduled pickups on Wednesdays from 5pm-7pm.  Shares are given on a first-come, first-serve basis and a limited number are available, so be sure to sign up before the deadline–October 24th.

Shares that don’t get picked up for whatever reason won’t go to waste.  All Good Bakers is partnering with regional food banks to donate leftovers and missed shares, to give back to the community that they serve.  So this is a really groovy thing all around.  I’m glad to be able to share the news here on Quantum Vegan and hope that some local readers are able to sign up!  Be sure to spread the word to your fellow vegans and lovers of baked goods that All Good Bakers is shaking things up with their awesome CSB idea.

Fun at the Albany Vegetarian Expo!

Yesterday, I headed over to the Empire State Plaza in Albany for the 4th annual NY Capital Region Vegetarian Expo.  I went last year when it was held in Saratoga Springs and had such an awesome time that I couldn’t wait to go back!  This year, I spent a little time volunteering at the greeting table with a few other lovely ladies, handing out programs and groovy biodegradable bags (“Compostable!  Made from corn!”) to people arriving at the expo.

I went to so many tables and sampled and bought so many great things that I hope I can properly cover it here.  My first trip, of course, had to be to the table of the amazing X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery in Troy, NY.

x's to o's vegan bakery

X's to O's baker Sarah & her tasty treats

I can’t say enough good about their vegan treats.  What’s in this picture is only a fraction of the amazing stuff they offer on a regular basis, both at their store in Troy and via wholesale at retailers throughout the Capital Region.  As well as everything being vegan, they do a variety of gluten-free baking.  I picked up my personal favorite, a cookies-and-cream “canoe boat” (which is basically an amazing vegan twinkie), two brownies, and a chocolate peanut butter cupcake.  I also grabbed a pumpkin spice muffin of theirs from another vendor when lunchtime rolled around.  I’ll admit that the canoe boat became my morning “snack” and lasted about two minutes after I walked away from the table.

expo goers 01

expo goers 02

expo goers 03

While roaming around, I tried samples from

and also stopped by the booth of the amazing, wonderful, not-enough-adjectives-to-describe-them Liz Lovely Cookies.

liz lovely and cowboy dan

Liz & Dan being lovely

Not to sound like I’m selling, but if you’ve never had a Liz Lovely cookie, what are you waiting for?  I bake a lot of cookies, which means I eat a lot of cookies, and I’ve been a big fan of cookies for as long as I can remember…so I have a lot of cookie experience.  Liz Lovely Ginger Snapdragons?  One of the best cookies I’ve ever eaten, vegan or not.  And all of their cookies are vegan and as organic as humanly possible, plus they have a line of gluten-free options.  (Seriously, go to their website and find out where you can buy some near you.  If you haven’t tried these cookies, you’re missing out.)

Of course I loaded up on cookies (ginger snapdragons and gluten-free chocolate fudge), and couldn’t resist buying an “I’m a Ginger Snapdragon” t-shirt.  Speaking of t-shirts, I also popped by Motive Company‘s table.  They’re a local clothing company that offers some groovy vegan swag.  I picked up a light- and dark-blue striped shirt with a nametag design that says, “Hello, I’m Vegan,” which is awesome since I’ve been looking for a fun vegan shirt for a while.

There was more food available than one person could possibly eat, but managed to eat quite a lot of it as I wandered.  Lunch was catered by Sodexo and Little Anthony’s pizzeria, both of which have great vegan options.  Little Anthony’s uses Daiya on their vegan pizzas and calzones, and it’s beyond me why I’ve never eaten there since they’re on the same street as the co-op!  I wound up having a tofu veggie sandwich and coffee for lunch, and followed that up with a veggie strudel from Vegan Creations. (They need a website.  The fact that they don’t have one makes me sad because they’re so full of awesome.)  I also grabbed six more of their cookies, since the ones I got at the Harvest Fest were long gone.

My last couple of purchases were non-food items, starting with some vegan hair care from Pure Elements Organic Salon.  Ever since I first got my hair layered, I’ve loved using a straightening iron on it.  The only problem with that is my hair is naturally frizzy and heat styling can fry it very easily.  I picked up a tube of a product that’s supposed to help keep that from happening, and as an added bonus can be used to tame frizz on those days when it’s nasty, wet, or humid here in the Northeast.  And I couldn’t resist grabbing a couple pairs of earrings from Rainforest Seed Jewelry, since they were all beautiful and fair trade!

fashion show audience 01

fashion show viewers 02

Next up was the vegan fashion show which, as you can see, drew a lot of attention.  I’m not really a “fashion” person, but I was interested in seeing what sorts of vegan clothing got featured.  I wasn’t disappointed!  There were a variety of cute, fun, and interesting pieces from Vaute Couture, Cri De Coeur, No Harm, and Cherry Berry, and the whole thing was emceed by the lovely Mandi of Chic Vegan.  I was especially impressed by the peacoats for both men and women.  (As a side note, none of the models were professional–just people interested in sharing great vegan clothing!)

vegan fashion show

Models urge the crowd to dress vegan

Right after the fashion show, it was off to my second volunteer assignment, assisting chef Kelly Serbonich with a demo on how to make raw pumpkin/squash pie.  My mom  has been talking about seasonal pies lately so I thought it was a nice coincidence to be able to watch someone prepare a raw take on a classic.

raw food demo 01

Having tried my hand at raw food in the past, I knew most of what she talked about, but it was great to be there nonetheless.  The entire demo room smelled like pie when she was done, and I got to help hand out samples to the raw-curious crowd.  I was glad to see a wide variety of age groups in the audience; it wasn’t just young raw foodies.  In fact, there were a lot of older people who seemed intrigued by the concept of raw desserts and what foods could be eaten and enjoyed raw.

raw food demo 02

Chef Kelly finishes the pie

Kelly was a really nice person to chat with.  We got to talking after the demo about food and sharing vegan and raw dishes with people.  It was refreshing to be able to have a conversation with someone familiar with veganism and raw food, who enjoys it and enjoys cooking.  (She cooks for the Moosewood Restaurant, in case anyone was wondering.)  I wish I’d had enough money to buy her book, but by then I had blown through what I brought for the day.

Even without any money left, there was plenty of stuff to do.  I met a lot of nice people both while volunteering at the greeting table and while walking around.  I had a lengthy chat with the ladies at the Greyhound Rescue table; talked about yoga, veganism, and relaxation with the people from the Family Wellness Center; shamelessly recommended X’s to O’s and Liz Lovely to anyone who would listen; and even saw an old friend whom I’ve known since I was 5 and who I didn’t know had gone veg.

On top of all that, I made repeated visits to what was the most incongruous, but certainly no less interesting, table at the entire expo, manned by the Northeast Paranormal Society.  I talked to them a bunch last year and must have either made an impression or a total fool of myself, because they remembered me and were willing to listen to me babble.  I also got a look at some of their photos and listened to some of the most impressive EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) that I’ve ever heard.  A bizarre display at a vegetarian event, to be sure, but still awesome.

To cap off the day, my mom came by the Expo for a while and we walked around together.  I showed her some of my favorite tables, and we got hung up at a groovy handmade jewelry vendor, Squiggles and Swirls (another person who should have a site but doesn’t!).  Mom ended up getting some neat earrings which, as the name suggests, were made of wire bent into an inventive swirl pattern.

There were a ton of other vendors and speakers that I didn’t get to spend time at.  It was such a great, extensive event, and I’m glad I got to spend a good portion of the day there.  I know I’ll be enjoying all the great food I picked up (I’ve already dug into the X’s to O’s brownies), and can’t wait to show off my new t-shirts.  I’m already looking forward to next year!  Big thanks go out to the Albany Vegetarian Network and all of the awesome local sponsors for making the Expo possible.

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