Deer Run B&B Review: A Vegan Bed and Breakfast in the Florida Keys

I turned 30 in March. In August, my mom will turn 60. Two momentous birthdays in a single year required a special celebration: a mom-daughter vacation!

I asked my mom where she wanted to go, and after throwing around a few ideas, she was pretty decisive: the Florida Keys. She hadn’t been since her honeymoon 37 years ago, and I’d never been at all. I didn’t know much about the Keys beyond what I’d heard about Key West, but I was excited to explore both it and the less popular keys. And when we discovered that there was an all-vegan bed and breakfast on Big Pine Key, well, that sealed the deal. To the Keys!

Mom and me in Key West

Blurry Facebook photo of mom and me in Key West!

Deer Run Vegan B&B on Big Pine Key

Big Pine Key is 33 miles north of Key West, more than halfway down the stretch of 43 connected islands that make up the Keys. Besides hosting the only population of the diminutive Key Deer in the entire world (!), it also hosts a fabulous vegan B&B. Mom and I spent five nights at Deer Run Bed and Breakfast, enjoying the B&B’s private beach, astonishingly large and delicious breakfasts, and the occasional game of Scrabble when the weather didn’t cooperate.

Nothing like some RBG on the beach. 👌🏼👑 🌴

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Proprietors Jen and Harry have created a true vegan oasis in the Keys. Mom and I shared the Eden room, which might not be oceanfront but does have a private, secluded garden. The entire beach and yard is a wildlife-friendly habitat, and I loved having surprisingly good wildlife-watching right outside our screened-in porch. The redwing blackbird who was making a home for his family greeted us loudly every morning, the tiny lizards scurried through the trees, and I caught a glimpse of a shy resident iguana high-tailing it away from me when I walked around the corner one afternoon. The aforementioned endangered Key Deer (which grow only to about waist-height) roamed freely over the beach, and I couldn’t get enough of their tiny selves.

I'm pretty curious about you too, little one.

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Not only are Jen and Harry true-blue animal advocates (they’re both involved in all sorts of vegan and animal-friendly causes in the Keys), but they’re also environmentalists. To that end, Deer Run is kitted out to be super eco-friendly, with composting toilets, water-recycling systems, and compost bins for guests’ plant refuse. They also supply bulk shampoo, conditioner, soap, and body wash — no tiny plastic bottles here.

Out on the beach, Harry and Jen are working to restore and replant mangrove trees. They form a natural barrier against erosion but have typically been ripped out to make way for development and long stretches of sandy beaches.

View for the next five days.

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It’s good for the soul to stay in a place where the owners share your values and don’t compromise on them. Deer Run is that place.

Delicious vegan breakfasts at Deer Run

Deer Run is also the place to go if you want massive vegan breakfasts that feature multiple courses and take you at least an hour to eat. This is not an exaggeration, and I have to admit that I didn’t finish my breakfast even once during the five days we were there. (Don’t worry, plates and aluminum foil are at the ready so you can save your leftovers for later.)

At first, I wasn’t thrilled when I realized that the 8:30 breakfast call meant I’d had to get up early during my vacation. But it was totally worth it. It meant that Mom and I made the most of our days, and we started with super hearty breakfasts that kept us going. Plus, there’s copious coffee and tea if you need a caffeine kick!

Breakfasts typically included a baked good to start, followed by an incredible fruit smoothie, and then a ginormous main dish with fruit and another side. For example, one day we had almond scones, tropical smoothies, toasted oat waffles, and slices of cantaloupe. Another breakfast featured a to-die-for mocha muffin, a southwestern frittata, roasted potatoes, and a pineapple spear. And we had the absolute best vegan bacon I’ve ever tasted on our last day — I’m salivating just thinking about it!

Words not good enough? Check out the visuals.

See? I wasn’t joking about the ginormous breakfasts. You will leave full!

I can’t recommend this place highly enough. If you want a relaxing vacation where you’re immersed in gorgeous nature with wildlife all around, go. It’s pricy, but it’s worth it.

IF YOU GO…

  • Be sure to visit nearby Bahia Honda Beach, located just a five-minute drive away. After driving past the entrance kiosk, turn left to hang out on a world-famous beach, or turn right for a chance to walk out on a portion of the old Key Highway system, which extends over the absurdly blue water and offers great views (photo below!).
  • Borrow a bike from Deer Run and take a ride to one of the nature trails on the island, or just cruise around enjoying the sun.
  • Order a custom-made key lime pie from Jen. It’s the only (!) vegan key lime pie in the Keys, and she’ll deliver it to you in a picnic basket with silverware, plates, and coconut whipped cream for your dining pleasure. Mom and I split one and finished it in two days. #noregrets
  • Be aware that the B&B attracts plenty of non-vegan guests, so you might have to field the standard “curious omnivore” questions. Think of it as an opportunity to educate and inspire!
  • Ask to meet the cats (if you’re not allergic, of course)! They’re sweet and super friendly but don’t interact with guests unless their presence is requested.

View from Bahia Honda

Pretty sure that’s a photo of paradise right there. ;)

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Deer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.com  Deer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.com

Deer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comDeer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comDeer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comDeer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.com Deer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comSave

The Open-Faced Sandwich I Didn’t Know I Was Missing

I’ve never been a fan of mayonnaise. I’ve never been one to slather it thickly on a sandwich or sneak a spoonful of it or use it, heaven forbid, as a dip. Blech! Even recipes that rely on large amounts of it for creaminess (potato salad; slaw) make me nervous. I don’t want to taste it, I just want to use it as a glue on a sandwich or as the otherwise unnoticeable base of a salad or slaw.

But then I discovered the tomato-mayo open-faced sandwich. I could ask where it’s been all my life, but I already have the answer: in the American South, served up on a hot day, probably alongside a pitcher of sweet tea.

That’s why I — Yankee by birth, Midwesterner by college/first-job choice, Mid-Atlantic…er… by current situation — was unfamiliar with it. But man, I was missing out. Because when you take delicious, quality bread, toast it gently, spread it with mayo, heap on freshly sliced tomatoes, and sprinkle a little salt on top, you get a transcendent summer sandwich.

The return of warm-weather lunches. 🌱🍅😍 #whatveganseat

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Now, tomato-mayo sandwich purists might balk at my usage of anything but grocery store white bread, but come on, that’s not my style. I used a white sourdough here and it was perfection. I recommend something neutral in flavor; this isn’t the place for your seven-grain swirled rye masterpiece.

In case you’ve never made one before, here is my take on this summer delight. I can’t wait till I have my own garden-fresh tomatoes to use in it. Come on, summer!

Vegan Tomato-Mayo Sandwich

Serves 1

  • 2 pieces neutral-flavored bread
  • 1-2 TB vegan mayonnaise (I like Just Mayo)
  • 1 tomato, thickly sliced
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Pepper flakes (optional; I like piment d’espelette)
  • Sprouts (optional)

Method

Lightly toast bread. You want it just a bit crispy, but not at all blackened. Spread mayo on one side of each slice to taste, then layer on the tomato slices and sprouts (if using). Sprinkle sea salt and pepper flakes (if using) on top. Eat and enjoy.

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Vegan open-faced tomato-mayo sandwich // govegga.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ethical Clothing Companies with Cruelty-Free Vegan Options, and Why You Should Care About Your Clothes

Original photo by Roberto Trombetta on Flickr // vegan ethical fashion

Original photo by
Roberto Trombetta on Flickr

One of the most infuriating “questions” lobbied at vegans sounds something like this: “Why do you care about animals when there are HUMAN BEINGS suffering all over the world?!” This is infuriating for many reasons, of course: It assumes that one cannot care about and work to help both human and non-human animals; it assumes a near-speciesist distinction between humans and animals; it is often “asked” by speakers who they themselves are not doing much for humans or other animals. Plus, it’s never really a question; it’s a goading comment designed to rile up the vegan target.

But despite all this, there’s actually a kernel of relevance to the question. If your veganism is founded on ethics, on a desire to reduce suffering and not take part in suffering as far as is possible and practicable, then caring about your fellow humans and striving to reduce their suffering should also be important to you. It’s not that you have to do it all, but that you should be conscious of suffering and work against it and the systems that encourage it when possible.

Which all leads me to my point: that we as vegans should probably be a little more ethically conscious in stores other than the grocery store. Specifically, when we’re buying clothing.

It’s no secret that the clothing industry—especially the fast-fashion industry—is notoriously horrendous in terms of human rights and worker safety. The horrific 2012 garment factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed 117 people, is a particularly poignant example of what can happen when safety isn’t a priority, but the day-to-day injustices and inhumane working conditions in the garment industry are no less important.

On top of this high human cost, fast fashion hurts the environment. Getting rid of textile waste is a real problem, and even so-called “recycling programs” (where fast-fashion retailers like H&M will take back their unwanted garments, ostensibly to turn them into recycled fibers) might actually encourage consumerism. Plus, the products use to dye that brightly colored T-shirt or make that non-biodegradable polyester sweater are terrifically harmful to the environment, so much so that the textile industry ranks as one of the worst industries in terms of pollutants.

All these facts, when taken together, form a pretty strong case for caring a little more deeply about—and putting a little more thought into—one’s clothing purchases. Buying fewer pieces of clothing and keeping them for longer is a great place to start.

The good news is that there’s a new crop of ethical designers and retailers, mostly online, dedicated to producing ethically made clothing that’s friendly to the environment, to people, and frequently to animals. Below I’ll share with you my favorite brands doing great work in this space, but first, a quick list of points to look for when you’re trying to determine whether a given retailer is “ethical.”

How to tell whether a clothing or apparel manufacturer/retailer is ethical

These are just a few things you can ask and look for as you find brands that you think might produce their wares ethically. In a nutshell, transparency counts! And don’t be afraid to email companies and ask questions—it’s good to keep them accountable and let them know that people want more ethical clothing options.

  • Do they mention sustainability or ethics on their website? (Scroll down to the bottom of their homepage and check for a link to a dedicated page or read through the FAQ to start.) If there’s no mention at all, there’s a good chance that this retailer produces their garments in sweatshops and/or has not even signed on to any labor/working condition agreements. Retailers that are actually committed to ethics, fair trade, and/or sustainability almost always explain why they hold these values and how they put these values into practice. On the other hand, beware of statements so vague as to be essentially meaningless. Greenwashing is real, and if a brand can’t give concrete examples of its commitment to ethics and/or sustainability, it’s probably just paying lip service to those ideals.
  • Do they list sources for any materials? For example, some sustainable producers use recycled polyester, and they’ll always call that out. Other ethical brands use “waste” products or use only environmentally-friendly dyes. if a brand doesn’t give any information, the information they do have is likely not going to meet your ethical standards.
  • Do they include the exact country in which the product was made? Many retailers will just list “imported” next to a product, which can indicate a lack of transparency. On the other hand, most ethical companies will tell you exactly where each product was made. And although you might see something like China and immediately assume the worst, note that some factories do follow higher welfare standards and pay a living wage. A truly transparent and ethical company will explain how they choose their factories and will often perform in-person checks.
Original photo by Joel Kramer on Flickr // ethical and vegan clothing

Original photo by Joel Kramer on Flickr

My favorite ethical clothing brands with vegan options

Alternative Apparel

Why I love it: I practically lived in Alternative Apparel’s super-soft athleisure-focused pieces last summer: I’d get home from work and immediately change into a sports bra, tank top, and shorts or yoga pants and head outside, either to work in the garden or sit with a beer and a book in the backyard, soaking up the sun. They have an impressive range of mostly casual pieces for men and women, mixed in with a few slightly dressier pieces that could fit into a business-casual wardrobe.

Why it’s ethical: Alternative Apparel’s statement of social responsibility ticks all the boxes: Eco-friendly fabrics? Check. Recycled materials? Low-impact dyes? Fair labor conditions? Check, check, and check again. Their base in LA is even certified green, meaning they encourage and promote small-scale environmentally friendly practices, like ride-sharing and using green cleaning products. And they use almost exclusively non-animal fabrics; you’ll find the occasional woolly garment, but it’ll be labeled clearly.

What it’ll cost you: At full price, AA’s clothing tends to hit the middle of the spectrum, with a few items skewing pricier. $28 organic cotton T-shirts are pretty comparable to similar brands, but the $112 flannel shirt-dress seems a bit much. Note that many of the more expensive items are the private-label brands AA carries. Look for their own house brand for more affordable options.

Want a discount? AA is great for discounts! I’ve never paid full price for anything. First check out the sale section for discounts that hover around 50%, then head over to the last-chance section for truly bargain-bin prices. Sizes and colors tend to be limited, so hop on a sale whenever it’s offered. Be sure to sign up for the mailing list to be the first to know about their (frequent) sales, and note that shipping and returns are always free in the 48 contiguous states. New customers can use my referral link for 20% off a purchase of $30 or more.

American Giant

Why I love it: For whatever reason, many ethical clothing companies seem to shy away from color. (I think it’s because many of these companies want to offer eminently neutral—and therefore versatile—basics.) Not American Giant. This brand embraces color, from vibrant red to jewel-toned emerald to dusty purple. It also offers an impressive range of mostly casual basics: Think waffled henleys, simple T-shirts, and an oft-praised hoodie. I have a simple grey sweatshirt from AG that’s both warm and comfy, but I’d love to try their ponte pant/legging—it looks like the epitome of comfort and perfect for traveling.

Why it’s ethical: The name should be a dead giveaway: everything is made in the USA with American-grown and crafted cotton. Plus, the company offers free returns on any item at any point in time for any reason, a quality guarantee that demonstrates how strongly they stand behind their products. And because all products are cotton (along with some new nylon offerings), you don’t need to worry about wool or silk sneaking in!

What it’ll cost you: Although not the cheapest brand on this list, American Giant offers a relatively low price for fully made-in-the-USA goods. Women’s T-shirts will run you anywhere from $25 to $40, while their much-lauded hoodie is about $90. Sales are rare but not unknown, so keep an eye out.

Want a discount? Like I said, sales are infrequent, but new customers can score 15% off with my referral link.

Photo credit: Brass Clothing

Photo credit: Brass Clothing

Brass Clothing

Why I love it: This woman-owned, Boston-based company focuses on basic, foundational pieces. Although it’s designed with a capsule wardrobe in mind, these basic pieces will fit into anyone’s closet. I particularly appreciate the muted tones and fairly timeless shapes. The company will also reimburse you up to $15 if you need to get a piece tailored to fit, which is a nice gesture. Plus, Brass uses “real models” to demonstrate how their clothing fits on a variety of body shapes. Sizes run from XXS-XXL at present.

Why it’s ethical: The women who run Brass ensure that their fabrics are high-quality and their garments are well-constructed so that they’ll last—these are not items you’ll throw out in a year because they’ve developed holes. They design their clothing here in the USA and manufacture it in Hangzhou, China, at two factories that they visit fairly regularly. Most fabrics are vegan, though they do use silk occasionally.

What it’ll cost you: These are not inexpensive clothing items; expect to pay $20-$30 for a T-shirt and ~$90-$125 for a dress. That’s because they’re truly built to last. Check out the last-chance room for occasional deals: I bought the grey sweater dress on sale last year and it’s absolutely a winter staple for me.

Want a discount? New customers get $10 off by signing up for the Brass mailing list—just scroll down on the home page and enter your email address at the prompt.

PACT Apparel

Why I love it: Similar to American Giant, PACT focuses on cotton basics. Unlike AG, whose wares are eminently casual, PACT offers a broader range of goods, from undies to cute dresses. It’s a particularly great choice if you want simple basics (socks, undies, tights) that are fairly made and don’t cost a fortune. I particularly love their tights, which are thicker than regular tights without venturing into legging territory—perfect for winter! I’ve also been eyeing this cute pocket dress for a while, and at $29.99, it’s really a steal.

Ed. note: I purchased the pocket dress when it went on sale recently, and I LOVE IT. It’s soft, super comfy, and a great length (I’m 5’5″ and an XS hits just above the knees). Plus, the pockets fit even the largest smartphones!

I also appreciate the breadth of PACT’s line; they provide clothes for women, men, and babies (a rarity), and they offer lots of fun colors (just check out all the legging patterns!).

Why it’s ethical: The PACT motto is “Change you can wear,” and a good-for-people, good-for-the-planet ethos drives their work. Everything is sweatshop-free, ethically produced, and features certified organic cotton (which uses less water to manufacture than conventional cotton).

What it’ll cost you: One of the most affordable brands on this list, PACT won’t break the bank. Yes, you’ll pay more for a pair of socks or underwear here than you would buying a six-pack at Target, but that’s the trade-off of purchasing fairly made goods. And honestly, PACT’s prices are pretty much as low as you’ll find for ethical basics. T-shirts run an extremely affordable $15.99, while a four-pack of basic crew socks is $22.99.

Want a discount? Sign up for PACT’s mailing list for frequent discounts (they recently offered 30% off winter favorites). And watch out for their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales—you’ll get some amazing deals! I scored an $8 T-shirt last year.

prAna

Why I love it: Yes, this is a bigger company than most others on my list, but I had to include it for its commitment to fair-trade and sustainability. You can read their full sustainability statement here, but here’s the short version: PrAna is committed to using sustainable materials (think hemp and recycled polyester), reducing waste (no plastic-wrapped clothing when you place an online order!), offering fair-trade certified clothing (since 2010!), ensuring that they know where their materials come from (thanks to traceability projects), and avoiding harmful pollutants (by partnering with bluesign to meet high environmental standards). I own a few prAna pieces (yoga pants, everyday pants, swimsuits, and a winter jacket) and they’re all high-quality, investment pieces that I think will last me years.

On top of all that, prAna has an amazing commitment to customer service—they want you to love your clothing and wear it till it wears out. I purchased a pair of pants and wasn’t 100% happy with them (they were just a little big) and found I wasn’t wearing them that often. Six months after my purchase, they were willing to exchange them for a smaller size at no cost to me!

Why it’s ethical: Well, see above! PrAna walks the walk when it comes to ethics. Note that they do use some animal products in cool-weather clothing, mostly down (ugh, though it’s allegedly responsibly sourced), wool (usually recycled), and the occasional suede elbow patch (why?!?). Luckily, everything is clearly labeled online so you won’t get any unwelcome surprises when your order arrives.

What it’ll cost you: PrAna is not cheap, but they do have a robust sale section with seasonal discounts up to 50% off. That’s my preferred way to shop!

Want a discount? Check out the aforementioned sale section and sign up for emails—you’ll be the first to know about shipping offers or new discounts!

Photo credit: SmartGlamour

Photo credit: SmartGlamour

SmartGlamour

Why I love it: When it comes to body-positive style, SmartGlamour stands alone. This brand is amazing in so many ways. It’s a woman-run, New York-based company; in fact, owner, designer, and general powerhouse Mallorie Dunn makes all clothing items to order. So while the company offers straight sizes in a truly amazing range (XXS-6XL+), you can customize any aspect of your garment (including the fabric!) to fit your body and sense of style. And Dunn is 100% committed to body positivity; the SmartGlamour Instagram account features real women of all shapes and sizes. (Check out the photo above for proof.) This inclusivity doesn’t end at size and shape; Dunn features women of color, women of all ages, and women all over the LGBTQ+ spectrum, including trans women. Reading her Instagram captions fills me with joy because of how overwhelmingly positive and inclusive they are—this is what America looks like, and I’m so happy to find a brand that’s committed to outfitting every single woman!

Why it’s ethical: Because everything is handmade in NYC, no shady labor conditions are contributing to your cute new dress! Aside from the occasional well-labeled wool, all fabrics are vegan—in fact, I first found SmartGlamour while perusing the #veganfashion hashtag on Instagram!

What it’ll cost you: For handmade (and often customized) clothing, SmartGlamour is surprisingly inexpensive (probably because Dunn keeps overhead low too). A classic (and classy) fitted sheath-style dress will run you $65, while a drape-y cardigan costs $40.

Want a discount? Check the sample sale section and follow SmartGlamour on Instagram to see additional sample materials as soon as they’re available.

Sotela

Why I love it: The driving idea behind Sotela is disarmingly simple: women should have a few pieces of clothing that will always fit, regardless of weight fluctuations or shape changes. Founder Hanna Baror-Padilla  wanted to address this issue after severe digestive issues left her so bloated and uncomfortable that most of her existing clothing didn’t fit. She decided to design a line of simple, basic dresses with a decent amount of give to allow for changes in size and shape. In practice, that means that Sotela’s dresses don’t match up with typical sizing. Instead, you’ll find just three sizes, each of which corresponds with a set of straight sizes. The largest size (3) fits traditional sizes 14-18.

Why it’s ethical: Baror-Padilla is committed to using environmentally friendly fabrics, such as modal, which can be made from the pulp of renewable beech trees. All items are produced in Costa Mesa, California. If you’re looking for ethical clothing that’s also made in the USA, this is a great start.

What it’ll cost you: Dresses start at $100, although a sample sale running right now offers a $65 swing dress.

Want a discount? Enter your email address in the popup window for free shipping.

Photo by Anthony TwoMoons for Vaute Couture; Belden coat

Photo by Anthony TwoMoons for Vaute Couture

Vaute Couture

Why I love it: It’s the OG high-fashion, all-vegan, cruelty-free brand! Founder Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart started the company in 2008 as a way to unite her fierce belief in animal welfare with a product that would appeal to a fashion-forward crowd. And it most certainly does. Although Vaute Couture is perhaps best known for its uber-warm winter coats, Hilgart has expanded her line to include dresses, sweaters, shirts, and even swimsuits—all vegan and all super stylish. Back in 2011, I split the cost of the original Belden coat (similar to this one, but with a slightly different fabric) with my mom as an early Christmas present when it went on sale—and I’ve been wearing it ever since. It’s a beautiful, well-fitting coat that got me through a few killer Wisconsin winters!

Why it’s ethical: Let me count the ways! For one, Vaute Couture is a 100% vegan brand, so you can always trust that the materials are cruelty-free. Vaute Couture uses sustainable materials (recycled, organic, or even waste-free) and makes its coats ethically in New York City by teams paid a living wage.

What it’ll cost you: This is easily the most expensive brand on this list: at full price, expect to spend about $400 to $600 for a snow- and weather-proof coat that will keep you toasty. Sweaters and skirts will run you upwards of $150, in line with similar high-fashion brands.

Want a discount? The good news: Vaute Couture frequently offers end-of-season (and even pre-season) sales, with discounts of up to 50% off. (That’s how I could afford my jacket; in those days, Vaute Couture funded its winter runs by pre-selling coats.) Yes, you will still pay a pretty penny, but you’re purchasing an investment piece that will last. Six years later and my coat is going strong!

A few more brands for your consideration

  • Everlane: The darling of ethical fashion bloggers everywhere, Everlane was one of the first web brands to focus on transparency. They share the cost breakdown of each item so you can see exactly what their profit margin is, and they forge relationships with their factories to ensure working conditions are fair and safe.
    So why didn’t I include them in my list of favorites? Well, they do use a LOT of animal products, from silk to cashmere to wool to leather. They also don’t have anything that’s certified fair-trade, as far as I can tell. And finally, I find many of their styles to be puzzling: a recent email hawked a pair of bizarre wide-legged cropped pants as “the most flattering pant you’ll ever try,” which is just absurd. Their boxy shapes seem unfriendly to many body types (nor are their models inclusive of all body shapes and sizes), and their persistently drab shades just feel bland (and that’s coming from someone who loves neutrals). That said, I have one plain black v-neck T-shirt I really like, and it was well-priced. Note that the clothes run big—I had to order an XXS!
  • Good Apparel: A newcomer to the world of ethical/sustainable women’s fashion, Good Apparel is the brand-new house line of Good Clothing Company. The latter is a Massachusetts-based production partner that works with designers who want an ethical, made-in-the-USA option for producing their designs. Good Apparel creates small-batch collections, releasing new ones every 2-3 months to buck the traditional fashion calendar. They focus on sustainable, locally sourced fibers, avoid waste by producing small batches, and pay their staff living wages.
    So why didn’t I include them in my list of favorites? The company is brand-spanking new, and there’s not much press on the quality of their clothing (though it should be top-notch). I also find their designs a bit puzzling and perhaps too fashion-forward for the average consumer ($138 split-leg pants?). I appreciate what they’re doing and imagine they’ll be a great fit for a very specific audience. I am not that audience, however.
  • Seamly: Founder Kristin Glenn wanted to create clothing that’s made to last, that doesn’t support unethical labor practice (it’s all made in the USA), and that supports the environment by using primarily “waste” products.
    So why didn’t I include them in my list of favorites? Here’s the catch: Seamly is currently not offering new products, but is relaunching in spring of this year with a new line of “modern staples.” However, this means that their existing inventory is on sale for 50% off! Pickings are somewhat slim, but take a look. I’ll update this list when Seamly officially relaunches.

Notes and thoughts on buying ethical clothing

  • Cost: I won’t deny that ethically made clothing costs more than fast fashion. But if you’re already paying more for your vegan almond milk than you’d pay for cow milk, you’re familiar with the trade-off: truly ethical products don’t come cheap. As you switch to a more ethical wardrobe, you might need to rethink your shopping strategy: Gone are the days when you can hit up the mall for two-for-$15 T-shirts; instead, you’ll typically spend more on a single shirt! Personally, I’ve enjoyed paring down my wardrobe to find what I really need and to find pieces I love, pieces that are versatile and that will last. I fully acknowledge that this practice might not be as attainable for anyone who is truly struggling with money or poverty. That’s OK. Just do the best you can.
  • Thrifting: Much of my wardrobe right now is secondhand. I don’t feel bad about purchasing so-called fast fashion when it’s used and it fits a specific gap in my closet. (For example, I have a few cotton sweaters from cheap brands that I bought at thrift stores. They’re lasting quite a while, and they were way more affordable than purchasing a $75+ organic cotton fair-trade sweater.) There’s an argument that buying items like this, even secondhand, feeds into the market for those items existing in the first place, but for many people, thrifting is an affordable way to fill your closet without directly supporting unethical companies.
  • Sizing: I tried to note which brands on this list offer a wide range of sizes, but the unfortunate reality is that many ethical brands don’t cater to my larger sisters. I am 100% on board with the health at any size movement and with fighting the gross fat-shaming culture that exists in the vegan movement, and I’ll update this list if I find great ethical brands that also want to clothe bigger women.
  • On chasing perfection: Once you learn about the horrors of the fast-fashion industry, it can be tempting to throw everything out and start anew. Slow down; that’s not sustainable! Don’t worry about perfection, about making sure that every single item in your closet is immediately sustainable and ethical and fair-trade and and and and everything else. Do what you can. The perfect is the enemy of the good.
  • Women-centric? It’s entirely possible that my inherent bias as a ciswoman who wears mostly clothing designed for women means I’m just missing out on ethical male fashion, but I do think that there’s a whole lot more going on in this space for women than for men (especially when it comes to vegan fashion). And that’s a shame. So yes, my list is very female-focused, but I’m writing what I know. ;)

Further reading

  • From AlterNet, details on the sustainability and and environmental issues inherent in modern clothing production. Also linked above.
  • From Huffington Post, an extremely comprehensive long read on the history of the ethical fashion movement, why it’s hit a wall, and how we need to pursue policies and regulations that make sweatshops and unsustainable practices untenable. A good reminder that “[w]e are not going to shop ourselves into a better world.”
  • From NPR,  a look at the problems inherent in fast fashion and how corporate-driven “recycling” efforts could be problematic. Also linked above.

Like this post? Let me know and I’ll work on guides to more specific types of ethical, vegan apparel (undies, shoes, etc.). And please share your other favorite brands!

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Five Vegan Pancake Recipes for Shrove Tuesday

Although my pancake recipes are predictably and unimaginatively housed on my breakfast recipes page, I am a firm believer in the occasional pancake dinner. Pancakes are quick, they’re relatively filling, and they’re practically dessert! And I am all for the occasional dessert-y dinner.

If you’re feeling lazy and in need of a carbolicious meal tonight, might I suggest you make pancakes and say it’s all in the name of celebrating Shrove Tuesday? Here are a few recipes to get you started, both from me and from some of my fellow bloggers. (For more vegan breakfast recipes, check out my Pinterest board!)

Vegan pancake recipes for any time of day (or night)!

Vegan Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes with Apple Pie Sauce // govegga.com

Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes with Apple Pie Sauce (pictured above)

Spicy pillows of puffy goodness topped with a buttery apple pie-inspired sauce—what’s not to love? Check out my recipe here.

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes with Cinnamon Swirls

This recipe from Minimalist Baker is the stuff of my breakfast-for-dinner dreams! Note that it’s a yeasted batter, so you’ll need to allow an hour for the batter to rise.

Puffy Pillow Pancakes

For classic melt-in-your mouth straightforward pancake goodness, look no further than the queen of all things vegan brunch-y, Isa Chandra.

Bright blue cloth with a white plate and a stack of seven thin, orange pumpkin pancakes. Scattered around them are a few mini chocolate chips.

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Pancakes (pictured above)

This recipe is an oldie, but definitely a goodie! If you’re into towering stacks of wafer-thin pancakes studded with little chocolate bites, this is the recipe for you.

A stack of five pancakes, covered in maple syrup, sit on a blue plate. To the left are three slices of apples. In the background is a bowl of chocolate chia pudding and a bottle of ginger syrup.

Whole-Wheat Ginger-Apple Pancakes (pictured above)

Another one of my older recipes, go for this recipe if you’d like to convince yourself you’re eating a healthy dinner: It uses whole wheat (pastry) flour, after all!

What’s your favorite vegan pancake recipe?

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Five vegan pancake recipes for Shrove Tuesday -- or any day!

Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara

Though I have no clue why, a few days ago I was seized with the idea of cooking a vegan carbonara—despite never having eaten carbonara in my life, vegan or otherwise. Perhaps I saw a recipe while perusing Pinterest and it lodged in my unconscious? Or maybe I’m just nostalgic for the Sims 2 and preparing a Goopy Carbonara for my hapless Sims? Who knows. But I had to try it.

I fully intended to follow an existing recipe for this pasta dish. I had no frame of reference for how it should taste, and I only vaguely understood the premise: add uncooked eggs (and maybe cheese?) to hot pasta; wait for eggs to cook through (but not scramble!) and create a rich “sauce” that clings to the pasta. Top with bacon? So I began researching how to make vegan carbonara.

But as I opened up tab after tab of vegan carbonara recipes, nothing seemed quite right. One recipe relied solely on silken tofu, which seemed like it would give a decent texture but would risk the end result tasting overpoweringly of soy. Another recipe used an entire half cup of Follow Your Heart’s VeganEgg—a product I appreciate in theory but am frequently disappointed with in practice—to get that clingy, eggy texture, which made sense, but I didn’t have a whole package of the product on hand. And a third recipe employed that ubiquitous vegan favorite, cashews, to add a nice rich mouthfeel, but that method seemed like it would create a more generic cream sauce, not carbonara. All these elements seemed useful in the end goal of creating a true carbonara, but not by themselves. I had to mix them.

Vegan pasta carbonara
And thus, my very own vegan carbonara. A small addition of the VeganEgg provides that clingy texture, cashews offer a creamy and slightly cheesy flavor, and a small amount of silken tofu adds bulk. I included black salt to approximate eggy flavor and threw in a few scoops of nutritional yeast for cheesiness. Topped with crispy bacon, my carbonara was a surprising and delicious success. It’s quite filling, too—I had leftovers for lunch the next day. Now that’s the measure of a true winner.

Vegan Carbonara

Serves 3-4

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1/3 cup cashews, soaked for as long as your blender requires it
  • 2 T VeganEgg + 1/2 cup cold water
  • 7 oz soft silken tofu (half a vacuum-sealed block)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (or other nondairy milk)
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 T nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tsp kala namak (black salt; if you don’t have it, just use regular salt)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 pieces your favorite vegan bacon, chopped into small pieces (1/2″ or so)
  • 12 oz pasta
  • Parsley for serving (optional)

Method

Set your cashews soaking. If you have a high-powered blender, you can soak them briefly (I soaked mine while prepping the rest of the sauce); if not, be sure to start ahead of time as required by your blender.

In a small bowl, add the VeganEgg and the cold water and whisk forcefully until the powder is incorporated. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for another 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Turn off the heat and set aside, but keep the pan on the stove for later.

At this point, start boiling a pot of water for your pasta.

Drain the cashews and add them to your blender, along with the VeganEgg mixture, silken tofu, cooked onions and garlic, almond milk, lemon juice, black salt, nooch, and a few grinds of pepper. Blend on high until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasonings as necessary. Set sauce aside.

Heat a small amount of oil in the pan you used for the onion and garlic and add the chopped bacon.

By now, the pasta water should be boiling. Add pasta and set a timer for al dente pasta, following the package’s instructions. As the pasta cooks, monitor the bacon. It should heat through and become somewhat crispy. When the bacon is done (about 7 minutes), you can either leave it in the pan (so that it mixes in with the pasta and sauce) or scoop it into a small bowl (so you can top the pasta with it). Either way, turn the heat off but leave the pan on the burner.

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and immediately add it to the hot pan. Pour the sauce over it and cook for about 4-5 minutes on low heat, using a spatula to coat all the pasta. When the sauce starts clinging to the pasta and darkening a bit in color, it’s ready. Serve topped with bacon and parsley (if using) and a few more grinds of fresh pepper. Enjoy!

Notes

  • I used Sweet Earth Natural Foods‘ Benevolent Bacon, but you can go with any brand you prefer. You could also make your own crumbles from tofu or tempeh, although a fattier product works best here—the fat released in cooking helps everything cling together at the end.
  • If you don’t have the VeganEgg on hand, I think you can forgo it. You’ll just lose some of that clingy, eggy texture. Feel free to experiment with other ingredients in its place!
  • I used linguine for my pasta, but spaghetti and rigatoni are also common choices.
  • A quality vegan parmesan would be a perfect addition here. If you have it, swap it for the nooch and use as much as you need to get a nice cheesy flavor.
  • Timing is important here; you want the spaghetti to be nice and hot when you add the sauce. For that reason, make sure to follow the steps as written.

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Vegan pasta carbonara // govegga.com

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies to help cover hosting costs.

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Weekend Trip: Watkins Glen + Corning, New York, and the Ginger Cat B+B

Last March, Steven and I headed to New York State for a little getaway in advance of my 29th birthday — and I never shared the details. Shame! It was a fantastic weekend trip loaded with some of my favorite things, thanks to Steven’s careful planning.

I knew the general gist of our trip (a vegan B&B in New York State’s Finger Lakes region; a trip to the Pyrex exhibit at the Corning Museum of Glass) in advance, but not the details. And the details made this trip amazing.

Vegan Treats Bakery in Bethlehem, PA

We headed up to New York on a Friday evening, leaving after work and breaking up the six-ish hour drive with a stop at a store that’s been on my vegan bucket list for years: Vegan Treats. I think of it as the vegan baked goods mecca: if you’re a sugar-loving vegan, you need to visit at some point. (Or at the very least, try out its wares at select restaurants and VegFests on the east coast.)

Vegan Treats bakery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

If you visit, don’t let the unassuming location on a residential street fool you; this place is well worth a visit. Vegan Treats smells like an old-timey ice cream shop, and it’s chock-full of beautifully decorated delights. I could barely contain my excitement as I ogled the dozens of impeccably decorated sweeties.

I thought we were stopping to stock up on a few snacks for the weekend, but no: Steven had a surprise waiting for me. Check out my birthday cake:

Yes, that is a reproduction of my favorite Pyrex pattern (Butterprint) in cake form! The amazing artists at VT hand-painted this beauty at Steven’s request. It was almost too pretty to eat! (Rest assured, eat it we did — later.)

Cake (and additional treats) in hand, we set off for our final destination.

The Ginger Cat B&B in Watkins Glen, NY

The Ginger Cat is an all-vegan B&B, and it’s a gem of a place. It even won a VegNews award a few years ago, and rightfully so. Owner Gita has created a cozy, homey vegan sanctuary for visitors to the Empire State. She’s the perfect host, willing to take guests’ leads on whether they prefer solitude or camaraderie. We arrived late at night and let ourselves in, grateful for a warm bed in a quiet house.

Pig and pamphlets at the Ginger Cat B&B in Watkins Glen, NY

During our two-night stay, we enjoyed chatting with Gita, a dedicated vegan who seems to be a go-to source in Watkins Glen for establishments looking to provide vegan offerings. If you need a recommendation for food, wine, or anything, she’s got you covered. On Saturday night, we cut into the Pyrex cake and made sure to share a piece with Gita, who thoughtfully offered up some locally made vegan ice cream (!) for topping. The mint chocolate chip was amazing and paired beautifully with my vanilla amandine cake.  I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical when I realized that it wasn’t chocolate, but the vanilla amandine won me over at first bite. It’s a mature flavor, not overly sweet, but nuanced, and the cake had a layer of vanilla frosting to set it off. The texture was really special, too — almost like a sponge or an Angel food cake, with a little bit of a crust at the edges The whole cake was covered with vanilla fondant, and although I know some folks can’t stand the stuff, I personally love its chewy sweetness.

Back to the Ginger Cat! Of course, the second B in B&B stands for breakfast, and we breakfasted like royalty. I’ve never been to a B&B; it was SO nice to wake up and smell breakfast cooking! Gita cooked up a feast each morning. From soy-sauce braised kale with cashews to tender scones to a savory quiche to waffles with lots of maple syrup, we had lots to choose from each day, all washed down by freshly made coffee (her tea collection was also impressive).

Note that although Gita has a few friendly kitties living in the house, they stay in the residential area, not in the B&B section. Steven has a fairly sensitive cat allergy, but he wasn’t bothered by them. If you do want to meet the kitties, just ask — Gita will be happy to introduce you.

Corning Museum of Glass + Pyrex Exhibit

Steven chose this particular weekend for a reason: it was the last chance we’d get to see a Pyrex retrospective at the Corning Museum of Glass. My love of vintage Pyrex is undying and well-documented, and I loved this opportunity to learn more about the brand’s history and to see its evolution throughout the past century.

Although not particularly expansive, the Pyrex exhibit was exhaustive: it included examples of just about every Pyrex pattern available at any time in the brand’s history, along with a comprehensive history of the brand’s founding and evolution. We had the exhibit to ourselves when we visited, and it was fantastic to take in the beautiful patterns in peace.

Even though this particular exhibit was temporary, the Corning Museum of Glass is well-worth a visit regardless. I didn’t quite know what to expect, and I was blown away by the sheer size of the museum: multiple levels house a breathtaking display of glasswork throughout the ages, from ancient Rome to the Islamic world and right up to contemporary designers. Honestly, you could spend an entire day here learning about how glass has been made throughout the centuries and ogling the gorgeous work.

But CMOG really won a place in my heart as one of my favorite American museums because of the demonstrations. You can watch firsthand as a master glassworker creates a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork from start to finish. (And, if you’re lucky, you might be the lucky audience member who gets to take it home!) The museum offers four different demo sessions (hot glass, flameworking, optical fiber, and glassbreaking) and runs each one a few times a day. Attendance is included in the price of your admission ticket. We attended a hot glass and a flameworking demo, and I was super thrilled that both featured bad-ass lady glassworkers! The museum also offers classes in glassmaking, but those cost extra and probably need to be scheduled in advance.

City of Corning, NY

After your visit to the Museum of Glass, take a little time to wander around Corning! This sweet small town is perfect for walking — make sure you stop at the Corningware, Corelle & More Factory Outlet store for discounts on kitchen goods! You can also goofily pose with this absurd giant Pyrex measuring cup. Because why not.

Pyrex measuring cup in Corning, New York

Veraisons Restaurant

Trust me on this one: If you are in the area and want a nice evening out, make reservations at Veraisons Restaurant. The Finger Lakes are home to a robust wine scene, and Veraisons is the eatery attached to Glenora Cellars. You’ll have a gorgeous view of the vineyard as you sip locally made wine and nosh on — wait for it — a gourmet vegan cheese board.

Remember when I said that the purveyor of the Ginger Cat has some kind of uncanny influence on businesses in the area? Well, she’s made her mark here too, and the chef(s) at Veraisons offer a rotating selection of house-made vegan cheeses. The board comes with three cheeses (the menu currently lists brie, a rarebit-style soft white cheddar, and a mozzarella, although it was slightly different when we were there), along with grapes, bread, and a few other nibbles. We were blown away with how delicious and unique these cheeses were, and how wonderful it was to see “vegan cheese board” on a menu alongside a local (dairy) cheese sampler. I’m clearly the worst blogger in the world, because I neglected to photograph it, but TRUST ME ON THIS: it is worth your while (and your dollars).

This surprising creativity carried over into the rest of the menu too. Vegan options are clearly marked and abundant, from “fish” tacos to eggplant parm to braised chickpeas. Prices are on par with similar upscale-ish restaurants, and you’ll be voting with your dollar to encourage more vegan options at Veraisons.

Farm Sanctuary

Our single regret on this short visit to Watkins Glen was that we couldn’t visit Farm Sanctuary — it was too early in the season! But don’t worry, we’ll return — and we’ll make sure we can visit this beautiful place while we’re there.

BONUS STOP IN SCRANTON!

Steven had one last birthday surprise in store for me during our drive back to Maryland from Watkins Glen: a stop in Scranton, PA. Why? Here you go:

Scranton sign from The Office

To see the original Scranton sign from The Office, duh! The sign has a permanent home in the Mall at Scranton, which you might know as the Steamtown Mall if you’re a fan of the show. Frankly, it’s a depressing place — one of those malls that’s failing to thrive, with more stores shuttered than open. A metaphor for dying industrial towns over the country, perhaps? Anyway, if you’re driving through and want a photo with a sign, it’s not a big detour. But don’t expect much entertainment at the mall!

IF YOU GO…

  • …to the Ginger Cat B&B, ask owner Gita for recommendations for vegan eats in the area. Lots of veg-friendly visitors come to Watkins Glen to visit Farm Sanctuary, and local businesses seem more than willing to accommodate them. Gita will be in the know about the most up-to-date options!
  • …to the Corning Museum of Glass, check out the scheduled demos as soon as you arrive and plan your visit around them. I highly recommend attending at least one, if not more!
  • …to the general Watkins Glen/Finger Lakes region, check that Farm Sanctuary is open so you can schedule a visit. Going in the late spring will also be better if you intend to visit any of the local parks. (We didn’t have time for this, but these hikes look gorgeous!)

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Vegan options for a weekend trip to Watkins Glen and Corning, New York

 

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Smoky Vegan Black Bean Chili

This is a recipe that truly surprised me. After a whirlwind long weekend with family in town (my mom, my sister, and my two adorable—but energetic!—little nephews), I wanted to make something quick and easy for dinner last Monday night after our houseguests rolled out. Chili seemed like just the ticket. Without much fanfare and without trying to fancy it up, I quickly whipped up a batch of black bean chili. And it turned out to be one of the best chilis I’ve made in a while, despite having minimal ingredients. Smoky, hearty, richly flavored and beautifully textured, this chili is going to become a mainstay in my dinner repertoire.

Smoky, Spicy Vegan Black Bean Chili // govegga.com

The secret? Two simple techniques:

  • Use fewer spices, but more of them—lots of cumin and coriander provide rich flavor.
  • Don’t rinse the beans! Instead, leave them in their aquafabulous coating. This makes for a gorgeously thick sauce that holds everything together and binds the flavor.

My only regret? That I didn’t have enough ingredients on hand to make even more chili! This is a small batch, so feel free to double it. (I’d recommend not immediately doubling the serrano pepper and chili powder; instead, taste for spice and go from there.) You could also omit the mushrooms if you’re not a fan, but I really enjoyed how their soft texture played against the beans.

Smoky Vegan Black Bean Chili

Makes about 4 servings

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8-10 cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 serrano chili, minced
  • 1 heaping tsp cumin
  • 1 heaping tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp smoky chili powder
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 15 oz fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 32-oz can black beans (Drain (and save!) the aquafaba, but do not rinse the beans themselves; you’ll add them directly from the can with whatever aquafaba remains)

Method

In a large stockpot, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium heat, then add the onion. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Add the mushrooms and let cook for another 3 minutes, then add the garlic and serrano chili. Sauté for another 3 minutes, then add the spices (cumin, coriander, oregano, and chili powder) and stir to coat. Cook for another 30 seconds, then add the tomato sauce, fire-roasted tomatoes, and black beans. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste for spice and salt, then serve with your favorite chili toppings!

Notes

  • I used piment d’espelette, a really lovely chili powder my brother and his girlfriend got me for Christmas from a Seattle spice shop they frequent. You can find piment d’espelette on Amazon or just use whatever chili powder you have on hand.
  • I didn’t add extra salt because the tomato sauce and fire-roasted tomatoes I used contained salt. Your mileage may vary; check your brand of tomatoes and adjust salt accordingly.

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Smoky, Spicy Vegan Black Bean Chili // govegga.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my links, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

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Oven-Baked Sweet Potato and Kale Patties

Happy 2017, pals! After the craziness of Vegan MoFo in November, I went 100% radio silent in December. What can I say? The holidays are always so busy, and since November was a mad rush of cooking, baking, recipe-writing, photographing, and blogging, I was pretty much spent when it ended. Let’s just call it a hiatus and move on!

I nearly always enter a new year with a few weeks of vegan cookie binging behind me, ready to incorporate just a little more good green food into my diet. It’s not that I don’t eat healthy foods during the holidays (I think I’ve eaten my weight in clementines in the past month!), but I tend to also eat lots of baked goods and indulgences. January seems like a natural time to re-calibrate and reset my eating patterns. Is it a resolution? Nah, just an intention to include more nourishing ingredients in my meals.

So in that spirit, today I bring you some simple oven-baked veggie patties, inspired by the sweet potato and mung bean croquettes I made a few years back. This recipe again features sweet potatoes as a base, but it also incorporates a handful of steamed kale and some crumbled tempeh for extra protein. I kept the flavors simple — fresh ginger, soy sauce, and curry powder — but you can add whatever spices appeal to you. The final step (brushing the patties with melted coconut oil and broiling for a few minutes) adds a little crunch and some extra flavor, but it’s totally optional; feel free to omit it if you’re cutting down on added fats.

Baked Sweet Potato and Kale Patties // vegan // govegga.com

Baked Sweet Potato and Kale Patties

Makes 12 patties

  • 1.5 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 block tempeh, crumbled into small pieces
  • About 2 cups kale, chopped finely (measure loosely after slicing)
  • 1/3 cup scallions, sliced thin (measure after slicing)
  • 1/4 C coconut flour (or other flour; coconut adds a little nutty flavor)
  • 1.5 T freshly grated ginger
  • 1.5 T soy sauce
  • 1/2 T curry powder
  • 1/2 T coconut oil, melted (optional)

Method

Begin by steaming the tempeh and the chopped sweet potatoes for about 15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender. While they’re steaming, you can finely chop the kale and slice the scallions. Set both aside.

When the potatoes are done, add them and the tempeh to a large mixing bowl. Let them cool slightly while you steam the kale just until soft, about 3 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400˚F and spray a baking sheet with oil (or line with parchment paper).

Using a wooden spoon, mash the sweet potatoes and tempeh mixture. Add the scallions, ginger, coconut flour, soy sauce, curry powder, and kale, and mix thoroughly. Then use your hands to form about 1/4 cup of the mixture into patties about 2″ across and 3/4″ thick; you should have enough of the mixture to make 12 patties. Place on the prepared sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, then brush the patties with the melted coconut oil and broil for 5 minutes, just until they start to brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

~~~

These soft fork-tender patties are best eaten drizzled with your favorite sauce, alongside a big helping of veggies. You could try this peanutty coconut sauce or this similar curried version.

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Baked Sweet Potato and Kale Patties // vegan // govegga.com

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my links, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

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Handmade Vegan Holiday Gifts You Can Find on Etsy

As you might know, my love for Etsy knows no bounds. I’m constantly in awe of the creative independent makers who offers just about everything under the sun. I always want to support small businesses when it comes to holiday gift-giving, which means that many of my gifts end up coming from Etsy.

If you, too, would like to shop small this holiday season, read on! I’ve compiled a massive list of vegan-friendly, cruelty-free finds for everyone on your list. Happy shopping!

For the body!

For an exfoliating scrub that smells just like the holidays, check out this Vegan Balsam Flaxseed Rosehip Scrub. Loaded with flaxseed, colloidal oatmeal, and coconut milk, it’ll smooth away rough skin and leave you silky smooth.

If you need stocking stuffers, vegan lip balms are super affordable and come in tons of creative flavors. Mint Cocoa or Sugar Cookie (below) make great seasonal options!

Epically Epic Soap's Sugar Cookie Lip Balms

Image copyright Epically Epic Soap

>> For an extensive list of vegan lip balms you can find on Etsy, check out this post.

I don’t know about you, but I love receiving fancy soaps I wouldn’t necessarily buy for myself. You can’t go wrong with classic English Lavender; it’s a season-neutral scent that’s so lovely and calming. For tea enthusiasts, try this beautiful Vanilla Rooibos Gift Set, which includes soap, lip balm, and a fragrant unisex perfume. (Or check out the Earl Grey Gift Set instead.)

For the facial-hair-havers on your list, beard oil could be fun. Try Ranger of the North if you want an Aragorn smell-a-like (swoon), or Headmaster if you’d prefer to channel Dumbledore.

This list would be remiss without including some of the fabulous accessories you can find on Etsy. The sweet Floria bag in one of its many beautiful colors makes for an affordable, fun gift, while this bold sapphire-blue clutch (below) is a splurge for someone whose style you know well.

Image copyright MeDusa Brand

Image copyright MeDusa Brand

>> For an extensive list of vegan handbags, purses, and backpacks you can find on Etsy, check out this post.

For the home!

Candles make great gifts because they’re useful, long-lasting, and fun. For the Harry Potter fans in your life, how about a handmade soy wax candle that’ll make their house smell like Christmas at Hogwarts or Mrs. Weasley’s Jumpers? Or for the fan of classic holiday movies, try a Whoville-scented candle.

If you know your recipient’s decorative style, an art print could be a sweet, thoughtful option. I love the food-inspired watercolors at Marcella Studio, especially this Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil print. (Though this one, which features kale varieties, is pretty great too.)

Fettle and Fire's pig planter

Image copyright Fettle and Fire

Plants make any home a little bit homier — so how about gifting this adorable ceramic pig planter (above) filled with an easy-to-care-for succulent? I love the simple design and how charmingly rotund this piggy is.

For a recipient with a fireplace, check out these Scented Fire Starters — they’re both pretty and practical.

For the belly!

In my personal opinion, handmade, high-quality chocolates are one of life’s greatest luxuries. In other words, if someone were to give me a box of fair-trade vegan chocolate truffles from Creek House for Christmas, I would not turn it down. (And I would not share (unless you asked really nicely).)

Creek House Patisserie's truffles

Image copyright Creek House Patisserie

Creek House offers samplers in a few different sizes (6 pieces, 12 pieces, etc.) and with some mouthwatering flavors (like chili mango dark espresso). I’ve given Creek House chocolates to vegan/dairy-free folks a few times in the past, and everyone has enjoyed them — but nobody offered to share. Alas. (Okay, fine, all the recipients live out of state so I can’t really blame them!)

Perhaps you want to share the joy of vegan baked goods with a loved one, but your baking skills end at popping open a can of cinnamon buns and squeezing on ready-made icing. Of course Etsy has you covered. You could try these incredibly decadent chocolate and peanut butter dessert bars from The Healthy Vegan, or maybe a six-pack of dark chocolate cannoli from Veganlotus. (I haven’t had cannoli in years so it’s taking me loads of self-control not to order these right now.)

For that other tea enthusiast in your life (you know, the one who didn’t receive the tea-scented body care goodies listed above!), how about a loose-leaf tea gift set? I’ve tried many of these myself, and I love the creative, tasty blends. This sampler comes with both herbal and caffeinated teas so your recipient can drink them any time of day.

If your giftee’s caffeinated beverage of choice happens to be coffee, how about a pound of freshly roasted and ground fair-trade coffee? This seller roasts beans to your roast level of choice (and helpfully explains each one) and will also grind them to your specifications, if you’d like.

And if beans are too obvious a gift for the coffee fiend in your life, check out the Etsy Editors’ Picks coffee-themed gift guide for dozens of creative, coffee-related accoutrements.

>> What’d I miss? Share your favorite Etsy shops and gifts in the comments!

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Vegan holiday gift guide for Etsy // govegga.com

All images copyright their respective owners.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my links, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

VeganMoFo 2016 graphic

This list was originally published as part of the Vegan Month of Food, in line with the final prompt about giving vegan food gifts for the holidays.

10 Vegan Recipes to Make for the Holidays

VeganMoFo 2016 graphic

Week Five: Holidays!

It might not be December yet, but if you’re anything like me, you’re already planning your holiday cooking and baking. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a roundup of some of my favorite holiday-appropriate recipes from the blog! From drinks through dessert, I’ve got you covered.

1. Creamy Caramelized Onion Soup

This luxe, creamy soup makes the perfect start to your holiday dinner. Serve it alongside a loaf of crusty home-baked bread for extra deliciousness!

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

2. Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

Serve individual squash halves as the main course, or halve them again to serve smaller portions as a side dish. Heck, if you don’t have squash on hand, just make the filling and serve it alone as a warm side dish.

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

3. Warm Lentil and Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

If the combination of lentils, Brussels sprouts, and pomegranate seeds doesn’t scream “filling winter dish!” then I don’t know what does. Feel free to double the dressing if you’re serving someone who loves a big pop of flavor.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts

4. Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts

It is a scientific fact that you cannot fail to impress your guests if you serve risotta. Your secret? It’s incredibly easy to make! This version features pureed butternut squash, and its golden hue makes for a beautiful presentation.

Caramelized Onion and Broccoli Quiche

5. Caramelized Onion and Broccoli Quiche

Hungry houseguests clamoring for breakfast the morning after a holiday? Bake up this rich quiche. Who needs eggs when you’ve got aquafaba? You could also go rogue and serve this with your holiday dinner — why not?! It’s your house; you make the rules.

In the foreground, three chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips. In the background, a container of instant espresso powder, a glass of soymilk, and a stack of more cookies.

6. Espresso-White Chocolate Chip Cookies

My favorite part of the meal: dessert! For chocolate-y, caffeine-y decadence you can bake in advance, these cookies can’t be beat. Bring them to your annual cookie swap and you’ll be everybody’s favorite swap partner.

Chocolate-Orange Chia Seed Pudding

7. Chocolate-Orange Chia Pudding

Chocolate and orange: the quintessential Christmas flavor pairing? They come together in this creamy, healthier version of chocolate pudding. You could even eat it for breakfast!

Gluten-Free Vegan Sweet Potato Pie with a Pecan-Date Crust // govegga.com

8. Sweet Potato Pie

I know I keep talking about this darned pie — but it’s just so good! Whether you serve it in a gluten-free nut crust or a more traditional pastry crust, the creamy, pumpkin-like filling will make your guests salivate.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Buckwheat Bites

9. Chocolate-Hazelnut Buckwheat Bites

Sure, buckwheat doesn’t exactly sound like the most indulgent of ingredients. But trust me — these rich, chewy buckwheat bites do indeed taste indulgent! Buckwheat offers a beautiful crunch and a little bit of savoriness to counteract all that rich chocolate.

Vegan chai hot toddy // govegga.com

10. Chai Hot Toddy

Wrap up your holiday evening the way it’s meant to be ended: on the couch in front of a crackling fire, wrapped in a cozy blanket, with a mug of something steaming hot. I recommend this hot toddy, but if you want something non-alcoholic, you could do worse than my hot molasses mug!

So — what are you making for the holidays?