Vegan in Rotterdam

Poor Rotterdam. It never had a fighting chance to win my affections. I arrived on a chilly, rainy afternoon after spending a few (relatively) warm, sunny days in Amsterdam. With my hood up against the wind and the occasional raindrop, I began the half-hour walk from the (admittedly striking) train station to my AirBnB with a minor sense of unease, and it only grew the further I walked. It wasn’t that the city seemed unsafe — more that it was slightly unwelcoming. I saw almost no one on my half-hour walk, a striking change after busy Amsterdam. The streets were unsettlingly quiet. The city gave off a distinctly barren vibe. The modern, clean lines of Rotterdam’s buildings were a jarring change from Amsterdam’s old-world charm, and they didn’t do much for me on that grey day.

Rotterdam central station

Shout out to Mr. Yawning Scooterist! (The blue skies appeared the morning I left… of course.)

I wish I could say my impression improved as the day went on, that I found a bit of charm in a seemingly charmless city. It didn’t happen, though. Perhaps the weather was to blame, but I found myself listless and anxious to leave. I gave the city a fighting chance, or as fighting a chance as I could in just under 24 hours. I had a good wander and I saw a few of the top sights, but I just didn’t connect with it.

Which is not to say the city has nothing to recommend it. The Museum Boijmans van Beuningen was an absolute highlight, with a surprisingly diverse collection. Although I got in for free thanks to my Museum Pass, I’d have happily paid the price of admission (€17,50 for adults as of January 2018). An eclectic yet engaging mix of Old Masters, Impressionists, Expressionists, Surrealists (and undoubtedly many more -ists) makes up the main collection, so you’re not sure what to expect in the next room. It’s also quite an educational spot; I didn’t know much about the De Stijl movement before spending time here, but the curators have done an excellent job of tracking the movement and I spent good long time reading through the signage. (Which, as a side note, is why I adore solo museum-ing. Free reign to… read!)

The museum also houses a fantastic display of “household objects that chart the history of design over eight centuries.” As I wandered through the basement rooms, I kept expecting the collection to come to an end — and then I’d turn the corner and find yet another room of, say, mid-mod chairs or pipes (including a charming one that’s shaped like a dog).

The museum was blissfully quiet and uncrowded, a welcome change from the tourist-filled museums of Amsterdam. I was impressed and gratified I’d made the walk, and spent a few happy hours exploring.

Vegan cake in RotterdamAfter all that intense arting, I needed sustenance — in the form of cake. I headed to Heavenly Cupcakes, grateful for a chance to sit indoors and sip a hot beverage after a chilly walk. I ordered a slice of vanilla cake with raspberries and buttercream; it was perfectly serviceable, if a bit dense in texture. My perfect afternoon pick-me-up would’ve included a side of espresso, but alas: The espresso machine was being serviced at the very moment I stopped by. A pot of hot tea made a suitable replacement, and I enjoyed a leisurely snack in the otherwise empty cafe before heading back into the chill.

Suitably sugared up, I walked to the can’t-miss destination you’ll find on all city guides to Rotterdam: the Markthal (Market Hall). 

A vast indoor market characterized by its striking curved and reflective exterior, a dizzying indoor mural, and dozens of stalls, the Markthal is as good a place as any to spend a few hours in Rotterdam. Although it previously housed a vegan-friendly eatery, on my visit the Markthal was sadly devoid of much vegan fare, as far as I could tell. Still, there were plenty of bulk shops and a few bars, so you can always buy looseleaf tea and/or get a beer! Neither of which I did, but — you could.

The area around the Markthal also features the stunning elevated yellow cube houses that sometimes crop up on Pinterest and make you do a double-take. They’re even more impressive in person than in photos, and I wandered in the little cube-y “neighborhood” for a good while, wondering whether I should’ve shelled out for an AirBnB room in one of them. But I hadn’t, so eventually I returned to my regular ol’ AirBnB to charge my phone and fret over what to do next. I decided to keep it simple and go for dinner. Burgertrut was just a mile away, so I hoofed it to this indie eatery for a — you guessed it — burger.

The place was packed when I arrived, with patrons who skewed heavily towards the hipster more than the hippie. (I didn’t realize overalls are now “on trend” until I saw a band of teens rocking them!) Luckily, the relaxed atmosphere meant I could grab an open seat on a couch and order from there, rather than waiting for a table to open up. I was seated right next to a visiting artist who was working on some kind of wall mural. Burgertrut is just one piece of a larger organization that includes a public studio and a communal art space. We chatted briefly while I waited for my food, and then I adopted an awkward silence and pulled out a book to read. As one does.

While Burgertrut is not a fully veg establishment, it does have a fair few thoughtfully crafted vegan options alongside its organic meaty burgers. I opted for the curry burger with a side of fries and vegan mayo and found it all perfectly tasty (especially with a beer). Wholly sated, I decided to call it a night and headed back to my AirBnB.

The next morning, I hoofed it to Rotterdam Centraal where I grabbed breakfast: an Alpro vanilla yogurt and a cup of fruit. This ersatz parfait was a surprisingly filling breakfast, and I thanked the vegan gods that Europe sees fit to sell vegan yogurt in its train stations. And then I was off. Bruges was my next stop, and as I’ve shared, it blew me away.

So, Rotterdam. I left feeling perfectly happy to put it in my rear-view mirror, but also with a tiny crumb of regret. Maybe I shouldn’t have expected it to be like so many other European cities I love; by its very nature, it’s a different beast. Rotterdam sustained heavy bombing during World War II, and rather than try to recreate its older architecture, the city was designed anew in a much more modern style. And while I did enjoy and appreciate elements of that style — the Markthal and the cube houses, to name a few — perhaps I needed to clear my mental slate and judge the city on its own merits, not in Amsterdam’s glow.

Pooping dog statue, RotterdamAnd if I’m honest, there were a few moments that made me think Rotterdam had hidden depths I left unplumbed. I saw a few pairs of honest-to-goodness punks, for example, that made my counterculture heart sing a bit. These were not the try-hard young hipsters of Amsterdam but grizzled old-school punks, and a quick Google search does indeed indicate that Rotterdam is home to a legitimate punk scene. I’ve also heard that Rotterdam is tops if you enjoy clubbing and “nightlife,” but as I spend 99% of my nights on the couch knitting, reading, or re-watching The Office, this fact holds no appeal for me. (Another high point? Finding this statue of Fikkie the dog… and his poo. Yes, I consider this a high point. No, I am not ashamed.)

My one actual Rotterdam regret is not taking an afternoon trip to see the Kinderdijk waterfalls (see here and here). It had been on my tentative to-do list, but the timing just didn’t work out — you have to take a water bus over to them, and the schedule didn’t make sense given my limited time in the city. They look really lovely, though, and they remain on my bucket list.

All in all, with six months of retrospection behind me, I’m glad I visited Rotterdam. The cube houses had been on my to-see list for years, and my sense of the Netherlands as a whole country was deepened by my visit. Will I return? I could be convinced. It’s easily accessible by train, so a half-day visit could happen at some point — and definitely with a visit to Kinderdijk built in. Maybe I’ll even shell out for a cube house for a night.

Other vegan options in Rotterdam

My pre-visit list of Rotterdam vegan restaurants wasn’t huge since I knew I’d only be spending a single night there. Here are a few places I didn’t get to try.

  • Gare du Nord: Vegan bistro in a train car! Lots of organic,and local options. Reservations recommended.
  • Happy Kitchen: Eco-friendly eatery and small grocery store featuring vegan foods that skew towards the organic, raw, and whole-foods-based.
  • Tribestlife Raw Food Kitchen: Cafe with a bevy of raw, organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan menu items. Choose among small bites, heartier dishes, sweet treats, and plenty of hot and cold drinks.

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A Very Isa Thanksgiving

Happy Tuesday, friends! Before we get too deep into the holiday season, I thought I’d share a quick recap of my very tasty — and shockingly stress-free — Thanksgiving. But first, a few housekeeping notes:

  • A sincere thank you to everyone who commented on my post about losing my cooking mojo. It seemed to resonate with quite a few of you! I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, but I did feel relieved to realize that I’m not the only one who gets worn down with meal prep. On my end, Steven is still going strong with the cooking (and cleaning). A few recent highlights included a creamy tomato-basil bisque with GARLIC BREAD GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES! on the side; tacos with TVP chorizo, spicy black beans, cheese sauce, avocado, and a tangy slaw; and a super comforting samosa soup. I even roused myself to make a mid-afternoon snack on Sunday: poutine! Featuring store-bought waffle fries, Steven’s homemade cheese sauce, and a quick brown gravy I whipped up. I’ve never had poutine — vegan or otherwise — and I suspect a cheese sauce isn’t the best choice, but it was still a decadent delight.
  • Second, a gentle reminder to check out my Q&A with Nancy Lawson, aka the Humane Gardener. The book giveaway closes at the end of this week and is open to everyone!

https://vegga.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/img_2888.jpgNow, Thanksgiving! Spoiler: We rocked it! Steven’s mom and stepdad came for dinner, and they seemed to thoroughly enjoy our animal-free spread. In the name of simplicity, I had the genuinely good idea to cook all our sides from a single source: Isa’s fabulous The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook: Entertaining for Absolutely Every Occasion cookbook. I don’t own it, but I do own a library card! Here’s what we made — and how it all turned out.

  • Creamy whipped potatoes, p. 341. This recipe employs an immersion blender to whip up cashew cream with tender russet potatoes for an ultra-rich and creamy side. They were quite tasty, but Steven (who handled this recipe) said that the immersion blender wasn’t quite up to the task. I didn’t notice too many lumps, but the taters also weren’t particularly creamy.
  • Green bean casserole, p. 346. This classic dish was actually never a staple in my family’s Thanksgiving spread, but Steven’s a fan, so we decided to include it. YUM. Mushroom-y, creamy, bean-y goodness, all topped with Trader Joe’s fried onions. Perfection!
  • Caramelized onion and cauliflower casserole, p. 330. Oh dear. This did not turn out. I know my proportions weren’t quite right (my tofu block was a few ounces larger than called for, and I didn’t have quite enough cauli for the topping), but I don’t think that’s entirely to blame. We just didn’t care for the texture of the casserole base, which was kind of mousse-y and unexpected. The flavors were also a bit off, a little too acidic and just generally not enjoyable. Alas!
  • Orange-scented cranberry sauce, p. 344. You cannot go wrong with homemade cranberry sauce. If you’re still eating the jellied stuff from the can, I encourage you to try making it yourself! It’s a no-fail process and the results are so tasty. Isa’s recipe was, of course, delicious. Tangy and zippy and the perfect topping for a plate piled high with savory goodness.

Vegan Thanksgiving plate

We also cooked up a Trader Joe’s vegan roast as the main and found it quite tasty. This roast is, somewhat bizarrely, breaded! I was dubious, but it actually worked quite well. This roast was tasty, juicy, and affordable! We also picked up some store-bought stuffing mix; I think it was Pepperidge Farm. Call me uncultured, but I don’t want fancy homemade stuffing on Thanksgiving: I want the kind that comes in a bag and is salty and savory and comforting. Same goes with the rolls: We got Wegmans-brand crescent rolls and have #noregrets.

On the homemade front, I stirred up a big ol’ batch of gravy using a C’est La Vegan recipe that doesn’t appear to be online anymore. (I was working from a printed recipe my mama keeps on hand — she sent me a photo of it.) I added lots of poultry spice and a (not so) secret ingredient for umami deliciousness: Gravy Master! My mom has an ancient bottle of this delightfully retro browning sauce that comes out every Thanksgiving, and to me, gravy just isn’t the same without it. It’s accidentally vegan, so I picked up a little bottle of my own this year.

Vegan Thanksgiving appetizersFor dessert, our guests brought two vegan pies (apple and pumpkin) from Roots, our favorite local/ independent grocer, and I made a cranberry-orange loaf that isn’t worth mentioning — it was too sweet, and the orange was barely detectable. Oh well! Our guests also brought appetizers: samosas, crackers, rolled-up Tofurky slices, and a wheel of Miyoko’s cheese. Perfect for snacking while I wrapped up all the cooking.

In terms of said cooking, everything went eerily smoothly. No burnt roast, no lumpy gravy, no messes. I credit my obsessive levels of preparation: Steven and I chopped, diced, and prepared nearly all our ingredients the night before; I even blended up all the creamy elements for the various dishes (the cashew cream for the potatoes; the creamy sauce for the green bean casserole). That meant all I really had to do was bring it all together on Thanksgiving day. We ate almost exactly at 3:00 pm as planned, everything was hot, and I felt bizarrely relaxed sitting down to dinner. I’m not complaining!

I also had a brilliant idea for holiday breakfast: a massive, protein-rich smoothie that you can drink throughout your entire food prep process! It’s a quick, healthy meal that will keep you full until it’s time to overdose on savory sides. (Although I made a peanut butter-banana-chocolate-oat smoothie, so the “healthy” descriptor is arguable.)

So, all in all, a very successful Thanksgiving with LOTS of leftovers for Steven and me… and a reminder that even omnivores can enjoy a meat-free Thanksgiving. No turkeys need be harmed in the making of your belly-filling dinner!

Vegan Small-Business Interview + GIVEAWAY: The Vegan Potter

One of the most under-rated aspects of being an ethical vegan is the sense of community it offers. I love meeting other vegans and gushing about the best new dairy-free ice cream on the market or swapping recipe tips. I especially love meeting vegans who bring their passion for animals and a cruelty-free lifestyle to work with them. Even better? Meeting folks who create a business that centers around and celebrates being vegan.  And I love connecting vegan consumers with businesses that they can feel good about supporting.

So today I bring you the first in what (I hope!) will be an ongoing series, where I’ll chat with vegan small-business owners to share their stories and help bring a little publicity to their good work. I’m starting with the Vegan Potter, a fabulous Connecticut-based small business run by Lyndsay Meiklem.

I first learned about the Vegan Potter from my mom, who encountered Lyndsay and her pottery pieces at New England VegFest earlier this year. Mom enthusiastically shared what she’d learned about this fantastic business and gifted me with a small appetizer plate (see left!), which now has pride of place on my counter. With any luck, you, too, can own a vegan-emblazoned piece of original pottery!

Read on for my interview with Lyndsay, and don’t miss the giveaway at the end.

Interview with Lyndsay from the Vegan Potter

Which came first: the veganism or the pottery?
The veganism came before the pottery.

I went vegetarian at age 17 when I was still in high school. Vegan at age 19 in my second year of college, and I started taking pottery classes at age 20.

Why did you become vegan?
I became a vegetarian after researching the food industry and animal rights for an opinion paper in a high school English class. Two years later I came home from college and worked at a health food store. The owner was well-versed in many health and wellness issues (keep in mind, this was in 1994!). She encouraged me to read a book called Diet for a New America by John Robbins, son of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire. Each chapter focused on an animal and recounted in a very factual and non-inflammatory manner how our food industry processes the animals for human consumption. When I got to the chapter about how milk and eggs are produced, I felt like a total hypocrite for claiming that my reasons for being a vegetarian were motivated by animal rights, because the conditions that laying hens and milking cows endure are equally as deplorable as those in which animals are raised for slaughter. When I went back to college that year, I went vegan.

The Vegan Potter: spoon rest

Your spoon deserves a beautiful resting spot.

How did you get started as a potter?
I studied English and Creative Writing with a minor in Art History at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. I always loved the arts and had taken many metalsmithing and photography classes in high school but actually dropped a ceramics class in my senior year because I didn’t like getting my hands dirty.

During my final year of college, paint-your-own pottery studios were just starting to pop up and I went to one and painted a plate with a friend. After that I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wanted to learn how to actually MAKE the plate. I sought out a summer pottery course at another Montreal college but the enrollment was too low and they cancelled the class before it began. Shortly after, I discovered an art gallery owner who had a third floor studio space in an industrial building and had a small pottery studio in the back of the gallery to hold “classes.”

I signed up with my boyfriend at the time, and in the first class it was very clear this was not a teaching studio. The teacher gave us a quick demonstration and then left us on our own. I found out a few weeks later that the ‘teachers’ simply got use of the studio in exchange for teaching a class. During the pottery session my relationship ended, and as a result I spent ALL my free time in the clay studio, which was open most nights and weekends for practice. I watched and I practiced and after just a few weeks I remember calling my parents in Connecticut and having a conversation with my dad in which I recalled something he always told me: “Find what you LOVE to do and then find a way to make a living doing it.” I knew I had found what I love.

The Vegan Potter: cheese board

Cheese board and knife, complete with vegan cheese.

I continued to practice at that Montreal studio for another year when I had a thought: to open a pottery-teaching studio back in my hometown of Norwich, Connecticut. I tested my skills and endurance and spent the next two summers teaching 7- to 15-year-olds at a residential camp in southern Maine. I got a TON of practice teaching and honed my own throwing skills over the next two summers and then moved back to CT and spent the next year making pottery in my parents’ barn, which had no running water. I lugged 5-gallon pails and used a wood stove for heat and I threw pots on a partially motorized kick wheel.

In 2002 my dad rented me a small building next to his furniture craftsman shop, and after a few weeks of renovations and using a good portion of my savings buying 10 brand new pottery wheels and a kiln, I began my business. I’ve been teaching ever since, and in 2006 I purchased a property with two buildings on it and renovated one into a 2,500 square foot art studio, gift shop, and office. In the years following I renovated the building next door into a yoga and wellness studio and we’ve been thriving ever since.

How do you describe the type of pottery you create?
Functional one-of-a-kind stoneware made with love.

What does a day in the life of a full-time potter look like? I imagine it varies greatly depending on where you are in the process for each piece!
You’re right! Each day is very different, but in the past 15 years since starting my studio, a TON of time has been devoted to running the business! For the first 10 years I had my wheel in the main studio space where classes were held and over 40 students a week filtered in and out. When I added on to my building and created a 12 x 12 dedicated studio space for my own private workspace, things began to change. I was able to spend more time diving back into my craft and have fallen completely back in love!

The Vegan Potter: sloth life tumbler

Fabulous “sloth life” tumblers in lots of colors.

The making cycle often goes like this: Throwing pots on Tuesdays, trimming and finishing Tuesday’s pots on Wednesday/Thursday, and sometimes finding a few hours of hand-building time. Saturdays are often glazing days. I also teach four adult pottery classes each week, and loading and unloading kilns eats up at least a few hours each week. When I’m in the studio, I work 12- to 13-hour days. When I’m not in the studio, I’m thinking about what I’m going to do the next time I’m in the studio! Coming into the holiday season I’m in high production mode, and some weeks are devoted to packing and readying for weekend shows and events like veg fests!

If you visited the home of someone who’d purchased some of your pieces, where would you hope to see them?
Typically my work lives in the kitchen or dining room! I absolutely love seeing my work in use, filled with home-cooked food.

As you create new styles and lines, what inspires you?
I’m equally inspired by nature and function. I’m obsessed with drinking vessels and most recently began experimenting with a new clay body. I thought I was going to use it on its own but realized I could combine my white and brown clay and it gave me the opportunity to play with techniques that leave wonderful swirls and organic lines throughout the pieces. This encouraged me to want to leave the exterior of the pieces as raw clay. The finished work reminds me of wood grain AND swirled ice cream all at the same time.

When I have time to play and vary from tight deadlines or set projects, I’m able generate new forms or ideas for pieces. The medium has held my attention because I’m constantly learning and honing my skills making new forms or playing with new colors.

What motivates you to include overtly vegan messaging in your work? I’m thinking both of your pieces that include the word “vegan” and your social media accounts, which show lots of vegan love. Do you consider your work a form of activism?
I’ve always made a few pieces here and there that said “vegan” or “ahimsa,” a yogic word for “non-violence,” but in recent years I’ve had many more people ask me about my food choices and I’ve run a few vegan-eating info programs at my studio. Last winter I had a revelation when I discovered a holiday gift bazaar that was ONLY for VEGAN vendors — Compassionfest in Hamden, CT. I created a few pieces of pottery that said “vegan” and they were the first things to sell. I realized I had found my tribe and I got much more serious about the Vegans Unite collection. Since then, it has grown to include bowls, bread plates, mugs, tumblers, ornaments, and magnet sets.

The Vegan Potter: vegan bowls

No one will think your ice cream is dairy-based when you eat it from this bowl!

I’ve always used my social media accounts to discuss my food choices in non-inflammatory ways by simply posting pics of delicious food, which are often enough to spark discussions with folks about veganism. In the past 20 years, I have seen a tremendous amount of change here in the Northeast. 20 years ago, the only brand of milk alternative was soymilk in tetra packs and it tasted terrible. Health food stores were far and few between and bulk food was just making an appearance. There were NO meat replacements or protein sources outside of tofu (which you certainly couldn’t find in a mainstream grocery store). We have come a really long way in the past two decades BUT I have also noticed a trend for new vegans or vegan curious to lean heavily on the vast array of “fake” meat and protein replacements that are so abundant now in mainstream stores.

When you’re not eating delicious vegan food or creating beautiful pieces, how do you spend your time?
I love taking day trips with my husband to explore New England towns and seek out vegan restaurants. I can also be found taking photos of the local cover band my husband plays in.

And finally, do you have any companion animals? Who are they?
Living in a very tiny studio apartment we don’t have any pets but our dream is to build an earth berm home and we have big plans for several companion animals when that happens!

The Vegan Potter: garlic keeper

The perfect vessel for your garlic.

Five quick-fire questions

Favorite vegan indulgence?
Any vegan dessert! I’m a sugar-holic!

Favorite restaurant?
Crazy Burger in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Although they are not exclusively vegan, they have an extensive vegan section on their menu and they catered our wedding!

Favorite vacation spot?
Vacation? What’s that? When you do what you love, there is little time for time away!

Favorite kitchen tool?
Vitamix for smoothies, and I love my microplane for zesting and grinding fresh nutmeg and herbs.

Favorite animal?
I can’t think of any animal I don’t love! Someday I’d love to meet elephants!

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Find the Vegan Potter!

Main site // Facebook // Instagram //

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GIVEAWAY TIME!

Vegan mug giveaway by the Vegan Potter

Giveaway closed!

From 77 entries, the randomly selected winner is Judith Rontal. Judith, I’ll be emailing you to get your information. Thanks for entering, everyone!

Lyndsay has graciously agreed to give a lovely mug from her vegan collection to one lucky reader! Enter below to win the vegan mug with turquoise trim. The only thing you must do is visit the Vegan Potter website and leave me a comment saying which of her pieces appeals to you most. Then fill out the Rafflecopter form below. (Only Rafflecopter entries are eligible!) You can rack up extra entries by completing a few other tasks.

>>> Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! <<<

This giveaway is open to both U.S. and international readers! Giveaway closes at 11:59pm, EDT, on Tuesday, September 5. Good luck!

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Make-Ahead Vegan Breakfasts to Save Time and Keep You Full!

Moment Cafe PragueBreakfast: allegedly the most important meal of the day, and almost definitely the most easily skippable. As a reformed chronic breakfast-skipper, I can sympathize with anyone who just isn’t hungry enough to eat in the morning. (And don’t let the breakfast evangelists get you down — it turns out that the science behind breakfast’s importance has been over-stated and misinterpreted.)

These days, I nearly always eat something within an hour or two of waking up. On weekdays, that means I’m eating at my desk; I’m just not hungry enough to eat before I leave for work. (And, to be honest, I simply don’t want to get up early enough to make and eat breakfast at the house!) So I’ve come to rely on to-go options that will give me a burst of energy and keep me full.

If you, too, are in search of vegan breakfasts that you can make ahead of time and take with you, I have you covered! Here are some of my favorite ways to eat breakfast without digging into that stash of Clif bars you keep in your desk. (Save those for afternoon slumps!)

Top-down view of a metal baking dish filled with a casserole-like baked oatmeal studded with blueberries. To the right is a tan baking mitt, and across the top of the dish is a wooden spoon.

Make-ahead oatmeal breakfasts

There’s a reason overnight oat recipes are still popular: they’re awesome! Overnight oats are portable, dead easy to make in advance, and quite healthy. (As long as you don’t sweeten them into oblivion.) Put together your jar of ingredients before bedtime and by morning, you’ll have breakfast ready to go. You can even make a large amount and parcel it out for a few days’ worth of breakfasts!

Here are my favorite easy overnight oat recipes:

If cold oats don’t appeal (especially during the winter), you can always heat up your overnight oats. Or you can make fresh hot oatmeal in the morning, provided you have access to a microwave at work. I do this frequently — before I leave for work, I’ll fill a jar with a big scoop of quick oats and a handful of frozen berries. When I get to work, I’ll pour everything into a bowl and add some soy milk and hot water, then cook it in the microwave. The berries add flavor and a little extra nutrition; I don’t need to sweeten my oats when I use them. No, quick oats aren’t as nutritious as rolled or steel-cut oats, but they’re certainly better than no oats at all!

Baked oatmeal is another oat-based breakfast favorite of mine. You’ll need to prepare the baked oats in advance, but then you can reheat portions for a hot, oat-y breakfast that’s not quite oatmeal and not quite a breakfast bar. My banana bread baked oatmeal or baked blueberry oatmeal would both work here!

(Semi-)healthy breakfast bars or cookies

Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal BarsIf you’ve overdosed on oats or just want something a little more indulgent, a batch of breakfast bars or cookies might fit the bill. (They could also be a great option if you’re used to eating sugary muffins or pastries for breakfast and want to transition to a slightly healthier baked good.) What moves a bar or cookie into breakfast territory? Well, my completely unscientific definition is that if it contains less sugar than a normal recipe and has other redeeming factors (whole grains; extra protein to keep you full), it counts! Perhaps best of all, you can make a batch on the weekend and it’ll sustain you for the entire week.

Here are a few options to get you started. I’d pair one of these bars or cookies with a piece of fruit for a rounder meal.

Easy vegan pudla

My love for pudla (savory chickpea-flour omelettes) never wanes! Although I typically enjoy pudla for dinner, you could make a double batch and save one for breakfast. Just reheat and serve with your favorite toppings. My basic recipe is here, but you can also make them smaller and thinner, like crepes. Play around with flavor profiles and mix-ins for infinite pudla fun!

Leftovers for breakfast!

Greens & Grains Bowl // govegga.comWhat? Last night’s dinner for today’s breakfast? Why not?! Plenty of folks enjoy savory food for breakfast, and you can too. If last night’s kale and grain bowl was particularly tasty but didn’t leave enough leftovers for a full lunch, why not just eat it for breakfast? There are worse ways to start the day than with veggies. You could even purposefully make extra roasted or pan-fried potatoes and call them home fries the next day. Now that’s thinking ahead!

Filling breakfast smoothies

Although I prefer to make my smoothies right before eating them, some recipes handle overnight refrigeration just fine. I personally wouldn’t do it with a banana-based smoothie (because I find that the banana flavor and texture get a bit odd), but any other fruit and nondairy milk smoothie should work OK! Add protein powder for even more staying power.

PB granola and vegan yogurt // govegga.com

Other easy vegan breakfast options

Let me know if I’ve missed any other great make-ahead vegan breakfast recipes!

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Make-ahead vegan breakfasts // govegga.com Make-ahead vegan breakfasts // govegga.com

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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!

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

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Veganized Pepper Steak

VeganMoFo 2016 graphic

Week Four: Memories and Traditions

One of last year’s MoFo prompts was to veganize a family recipe. Pressed for time, I didn’t actually make the recipe I chose: pepper steak. It’s been on my to-make list for literally a year, but somehow I’ve never gotten around to it — till now.

Original pepper steak recipe

A frequent fixture at family dinners, pepper steak reads to me like a retro ’70s throwback: not very fancy, maybe a little odd (ketchup + soy sauce), but total comfort food. We always served it over mashed potatoes, where the brown sauce could shine.

It’s been more than 10 years since I’ve eaten meat, and at least that long since I had pepper steak. I was curious whether the vegan version would bring me back to those childhood meals in my grandparents’ dark wood paneled kitchen. It did, 100%. And Steven — who’d never tried this retro delicacy — enjoyed it too.

Vegan pepper steak // govegga.com

As you can see by comparing the recipe card and my recipe, I had to modify the method a bit to accommodate vegan beef strips, which don’t exactly stand up to an hour in a pan of hot liquid. But that just means this recipe comes together much quicker than the original — you’ll get it on the table in less than 30 minutes. (If serving over mashed potatoes, you can easily make them in this amount of time — just get the potatoes boiling before you start the pepper steak.)

Vegan Pepper Steak

Serves 2-3

  • 1 T neutral oil, like canola
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced into half-moons
  • 1 large green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 package vegan beef strips (Gardein, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans)
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 C ketchup
  • 1/2 T cornstarch whisked with 1 T cold water
  • Mashed potatoes to serve

Method

In a large saucepan, heat the oil on medium. Sauté onions for about 3 minutes, then add peppers. Sauté for another 5 minutes, then add the beef strips. (Pour in a little vegetable broth if the pan gets dry.) Cook for another 5 minutes, then add the wet ingredients and simmer for ~7 minutes. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the sauce to thicken, then turn heat to low. Once the sauce has thickened slightly, serve over mashed potatoes.

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Vegan pepper steak // govegga.com

Fully Loaded Vegan Colcannon

VeganMoFo 2016 graphic

Week One: Treat Yourself (and others)!

Treat yourself… to mashed potatoes for dinner!

Vegan colcannon: fully loaded mashed potatoes // govegga.com

If you’re anything like me, you relish any opportunity to chow down on mashed potatoes. I think it’s unfortunate that they’re typically treated as a side dish instead of a main or a meal in their own right. Enter colcannon, the Irish dish featuring mashed potatoes and kale or cabbage… or both! My version of colcannon is chock-full of veggies, with just enough vegan butter and plant milk to make it nice and creamy. I also add a few tablespoons of vegan mayo. Sounds crazy (and kinda weird), but you don’t taste it at all, and it ups the creamy factor. You can certainly leave it out if you’d prefer. Either way, these vegan mashed potatoes are a meal unto themselves. Treat yourself!

Vegan colcannon: fully loaded mashed potatoes // govegga.com

Fully Loaded Colcannon

  • 2.5 lbs of your favorite mashing potatoes, chopped roughly
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 head cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 5 large kale leaves, roughly shredded or sliced into ribbons
  • 1/3 cup non-dairy milk
  • 2 T vegan butter
  • 1 T vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Measure out the almond milk and let it come to room temperature while you cook.

Add water to a large stockpot and heat on the stove. While the water is coming to a boil, chop the potatoes. You can peel them first, but I like to leave the skins on. When they’re ready, add them to the stockpot (whether it’s boiling or not). When it comes to a rolling boil, reduce the heat and let gently boil for 15-20 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the shallots and sauté for 3-4 minutes, just until they start turning golden. Add the cabbage and a sprinkle of salt and stir to coat with oil. Cook for another 5-7 minutes or until the cabbage starts getting tender. If necessary, add a little water to the pan to prevent the cabbage from sticking. Add the kale to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat.

Check the potatoes. When they’re fork-tender, drain them and add to a large mixing bowl. Using a potato ricer, masher, or your favorite tool, mash away! Add the butter early on so it melts right in, then add the almond milk and vegan mayonnaise once everything starts getting creamy.  Add spices to taste; you can also add more butter, milk, and mayo to taste. Finally, fold in the kale and cabbage mixture. Taste for salt and pepper and season as necessary.

Enjoy for dinner, and have the leftovers for lunch the next day!

Notes

  • Your average Idaho or russet potato works beautifully, but I’ve used golden potatoes and they work just fine.
  • Feel free to mix in seitan or bacon bits for added flavor and protein.
  • Go wild with the creamy ingredients to taste. I won’t judge!
  • You can reserve the cooking liquid to add back in as you mash. I don’t do this often, but it certainly works for a less fatty option.
  • Colcannon is traditionally eaten by itself, without gravy, but if you want to add some, I won’t tell. Opt for a recipe with lots of umami.

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Vegan colcannon: fully loaded mashed potatoes // govegga.com

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Chewy Vegan Coconut Cookies

Let’s not talk about the fact that Labor Day weekend has come and gone, okay? Instead, let’s talk about chewy, melt-in-your-mouth rich vegan coconut cookies. The kind of cookies you could bring to a gathering of even the staunchest omnivores and feel good about. The kind of cookies that you just want to keep on eating and eating and eating, even when your stomach groans in protest.

I’ve made these cookies three times in the past few weeks, twice to share at events, and they haven’t let me down. I’ve basically veganized this recipe, toned down the fat and sugar just a bit, and tweaked a few other things to my taste. I highly recommend using shredded (not flaked!) coconut — it seems to melt into the cookies, providing them with coconutty goodness, without those noticeable flaky bits that might distract from your eating pleasure. (I buy it at Wegmans, but Amazon also carries shredded coconut from Bob’s Red Mill.) Adding the coconut early on helps it soften up and become infused with the creamed sugar and butter. The result is a true delight.

chewy vegan coconut cookies

Almost as good as the final product? The fact that this recipe is so, so easy — you can make it in a single bowl, plus a small one for mixing up your flax egg. I use my KitchenAid stand mixer, but a hand mixer or even good old-fashioned elbow grease will do the trick.

If you’re feeling decadent, I bet these would be amazing drizzled with chocolate… but I’ve been too impatient to try that!

Chewy Coconut Cookies
Makes ~18 cookies

  • 6 T Earth Balance buttery sticks, softened
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 flax egg (1 T ground flax mixed with 3 T warm water)
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and have two cookie sheets ready to go. (You can line them with parchment paper if you’d like; it’s not necessary, but if your sheets are finicky, feel free to try it.)

First, make the flax egg by whisking the ground flax with the water until combined. Set aside.

In your stand mixer (or using a hand mixer or your own brute strength), cream together the Earth Balance, sugars, and vanilla until well combined; it should take two to three minutes. Pour in the flax egg and mix for another 15 seconds or so.  Add the shredded coconut and mix on low until it’s folded in to the creamed butter and sugar.

With the stand mixer (if using) off, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then mix on low until all ingredients are incorporated. It should take just a minute.

Scoop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto your cookie sheet, leaving about 2″ between each cookie. Press down slightly. Bake for 10 minutes, and let cool for another 5 before removing from the cookie sheet.

Enjoy!

chewy vegan coconut cookies

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My Vegan Inspiration: Auntie Jae

VeganMoFo 2015 banner

Day 18: Honor a human or non-human animal who inspires your veganism.

Truthfully, every non-human animal I meet reinforces my veganism. From the dogs who come to work with me to the rescued animals I meet at every sanctuary I visit, every animal reminds me that we are all alike and all equally deserving of compassion, respect, and humane treatment.

threeanimals

From left to right: 1. Our little adopted Luna, a tiny mutt with megaesophagus. She’s often aloof and enigmatic, and she requires special care, but when she deigns to give us a lick or a nuzzle, our hearts just melt. 2. Rescued piggies at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary. You can’t not smile when you see how much they enjoy wallowing. 3. My Moria, the sweetest girl in the world.

On the human front, so many people buoy my spirits and keep me going. Steven is, by far, my #1 supporter and my #1 champion. My parents, who are vegan and mostly vegan, make me proud every day. My compassionate friends are forever enthusiastic about vegan food and cute animals and saving the world. There’s a lot of inspiration in my life.

But today I’m thinking especially of my Auntie Jae. She was the first family member to go vegan, years ago, in an effort to address a few health problems. I think she was the first vegan I ever knew! She’d bounced around from diet to diet, but nothing stuck — except veganism. It’s a far cry from Atkins, but veganism has one big difference from all those fad diets: its base in ethics. As my aunt says, once you learn about the horrors of factory farming and what goes on behind closed doors, you can’t go back. And even if you become vegan for health reasons, the ethics behind it keep you going.

jae
My smart, compassionate, lovely aunt.

My aunt is one of my biggest fans. She’s an enthusiastic supporter of my blog and always likes to hint about a future cookbook, which is flattering and charming. When we get together (which is rare, because I’m in Maryland and she’s in Colorado), we chat about veganism and food and politics and all those topics that help you really get to know how someone else thinks and feels and believes. We’re very much on the same wavelength where it matters. I like to think it’s because she babysat me when I was an infant and my mom was wrapping up her last year of teaching — like she passed on her progressive values to my tiny self!

So here’s to you, Auntie Jae! Thank you for showing me that veganism is both simple and incredibly important. I can’t wait to share a meal with you soon!