January 2, 2013 § 5 Comments
Hello friends! I meant to write on New Years Eve and then again on New Years Day – I was hoping to write some encouraging words to inspire you to start a vegan challenge if you haven’t already done so. But with the emotions I was feeling, I couldn’t focus on a vegan challenge and neither day could I find the words to express what I wanted to say. So I hope you’ll bear with me here. The words are still hard to come by as I have a whole mixture of emotions saying goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013. Mostly I guess I am relived…
It seems like both yesterday and forever ago that we were in that cold, too-bright waiting room at the hospital. Waiting to learn my Dad’s fate. I remember leaving and barely being able to make it through that first night. I laid in bed at my parent’s home wondering how on earth we’d manage – literally reminding myself to breathe in and out and just make it through the night. Minutes turned to hours which turned to days and before I knew it, Daddy was buried – and gone forever.
As the weeks wore on I counted the days endlessly. Day 25…Day 78…Day 123… I remember wondering how long the counting would go on for – at what point would I stop? And then, out of nowhere, I did stop.
Just as I had counted those days – I remember wondering how we’d possibly make it through our “Year of Firsts”. We had many…
My first birthday without him – and then my Mom’s and sister’s and husband’s.
Our first fourth of July BBQ without him – where he would have been manning the grill and playing host.
My parent’s wedding anniversary – what would have been their 32nd.
Mother’s Day… Father’s Day… Halloween – his favorite holiday of all… Thanksgiving.
Then there were the real tough ones. His birthday on 12/21. He would have been 62. And then of course there was Christmas.
So needless to say with all these firsts, and hard ones at that, I didn’t expect to be totally knocked out by New Years. In fact I’d been looking forward to it. I even ordered New Years cards! Something I’ve never done. I was ready for 2013. Ready to give 2012 a big kick and watch it tumble away.
But when push came to shove, saying goodbye to 2012 wasn’t so easy. Welcoming 2013 – welcoming a year in which my Dad will have never lived – never smiled, never laughed, never sat on his back patio reading his iPad – welcoming this year meant he was gone and he wasn’t coming back. I so wanted to welcome 2013 with open arms – but I just couldn’t. I really truly wanted to make resolutions and goals and be excited – to watch the ball drop with anticipation and joy. But I couldn’t. And that was alright.
I didn’t jump up and down at New Years. I reflected. I peacefully said goodbye to 2012 with a light wave and looked toward the New Year. And as if nature knew I was going to be needing a little help – today marks 28 weeks of our pregnancy. Magically it seems the 12 week countdown begins and I need to get into “game-mode” and focus on finalizing all the details to welcome my precious little girl. Knowing I’ll be a mother soon has literally lit up my world. I’m awaiting my baby girl with open arms – ready to receive her and give her my entire life. Life is funny like that. It’s totally messy, but thank goodness for the mess. It’s what keeps us going.
Thanks for bearing with me as I’ve likely shared too much over the past 8 months and possibly today. But sharing here whether anyone is reading or not has been very helpful.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013. And I will be back to hopefully inspire some of you to understake that 30 day vegan challenge! We will be starting the inspiration with…drumroll please…pancakes! Yes, pancakes so light and fluffy you may never make them with dairy or eggs again!
September 26, 2012 § 4 Comments
Well I’ve hinted in my last few posts that there is good reason I’ve been MIA – there’s been no vegan food exploration or cooking experiments in the Dieguez house the past few months and I’m finally ready to share why. We are pregnant! Fourteen weeks pregnant to be exact. Little Baby Dieguez will be arriving on March 27 and we are so excited we can hardly contain ourselves. Thus, between the constant “morning” sickness (whoever dubbed this term “morning sickness” had no idea what they were talking about) and the unbelievable fatigue, I’ve not been able to find any time to blog – nor has there been any cooking, more on that below. Sarah was nice enough to ask me to participate in her gutsy girl series and just putting that post together nearly wore me out! I’m shocked at how exhausted I’ve been and how much my body is changing – but it is all for good as WE ARE HAVING A BABY!
I found out at 5 weeks. I should have known the week before when I dumped two bottles of wine down the sink exclaiming there was something wrong with them – or when I nearly gagged on my morning coffee – or when I was experiencing extreme fatigue and pregnancy brain! But alas, all these signs eluded me. Needless to say I was a little preoccupied with work and everything else that had been going on.
I was sure I wasn’t pregnant. So sure in fact that when my husband finally convinced me to go to the store to buy a pregnancy test, I wanted to buy the bulk package! They aren’t cheap, so I figured we should stock up. He was pretty confidant though and said, no, buy the two-pack. I swore up and down I wasn’t pregnant and argued how much more economical it was to buy the twenty pack! Hah, glad he was able to persuade me. All it took was one. Immediately (not after waiting five seconds as it instructs) that little blue plus sign jumped off the stick. I was floored. I sat in disbelief and sheer joy. At that point it had only been about three months since my dad died. I guess what they say about death and birth is true. To think, we created a little person. There was (and is!) a little baby growing inside me. After all we’d been through, this was just amazing. I took another just to be sure and was delighted when I saw that instant blue plus sign appear again.
Since then it’s been pretty much a whirlwind. I had a rough first trimester. I was nauseous pretty much every minute of every day. Luckily I didn’t literally get sick – just once – ironically the day I turned 12 weeks. I was hopeful at first. I read that vegans don’t get as much morning sickness as the body doesn’t have to expel as many toxins as a non-vegan mom. But that didn’t seem to work in my favor. The nausea hit pretty quick and still lingers. However, perhaps that’s why I never got sick sick, and was just nauseous?
Regardless, the moment I learned I was pregnant, staying vegan wasn’t even up for discussion. We had already discussed that when the time came, we wanted to try our hardest to raise our children vegan. But I was a little nervous about the pregnancy, as I’d read how some vegans crave meat or don’t like veggies anymore. But I was determined to stay vegan – or as close to vegan as possible. Luckily, for the most part I’ve been able to do that. Unfortunately, with the nausea that set in immediately, food has quickly become my enemy. I developed a sense of smell as strong as our beagle/basset. I could smell food a mile away. The kitchen quickly became off limits. If it required cooking or heating – it wasn’t allowed. At 14 weeks, it hasn’t gotten much better. Thus, there has been no cooking at home. After two solid months of eating out – we are soooo tired of restaurant food. I’m anxious to be able to cook again and miss my once healthy meals.
In terms of being vegan while pregnant, so far it really hasn’t been difficult at all. As I’ve been so nauseous and mostly wanted carbs, there hasn’t been much of an issue. I can’t imagine being nauseous and wanting meat – even when I wasn’t vegan! In the beginning I was really worried about getting enough nutrition. But as my midwife told me, in the first trimester just eat what you can keep down. That eased my concerns. Now that I’m in the second trimester, I’m hoping some of the nausea will subside soon and I can get on a more regular eating plan with healthy choices.
For those of you who may be pregnant and vegan and wanting more details, below is a week by week what I was able to eat and what helped me. I hope it will be of help to you!
Weeks 5 and 6 were just brutal! I lived on nothing more than bagels. My husband would go pick up fresh bagels every single day and I literally had a bagel for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Anything else had me turning green. I leaned that getting hungry made the nausea worse so I snacked on saltines throughout the day. That first week, I did crave chicken noodle soup. I don’t know if it was psychological or what (my mom always made this for me when I was sick) but I did give in and order it out a few times when I couldn’t stand to eat anything else. I just ate the broth and it did help settle my stomach a bit. Strangely, I couldn’t stomach vegetable broth. Like I said, I only did this a handful of times and haven’t wanted it again. By week 6 I was able to add apples, pears and grapes to the mix. Pears were surprisingly appealing and comforting.
Weeks 7 and 8 weren’t a whole lot better but I was able to expand my food preferences slightly. I would get a veg out sandwich from Einstein’s nearly every day for lunch. Somehow I could eat the sandwich but the thought of any other vegetables was gross. I was able to eat a lot more fruit though and found it to be very comforting – particularly cantaloupe. Strangely, around this time I went through a week where all that sounded good was a cheese pizza. I literally thought I’d die if I didn’t eat it. All I could think about was cheese day and night. I was kind of turning delirious – telling my husband maybe we shouldn’t be vegan. He really didn’t know what to make of the situation. But having not eaten cheese in over a year, and feeling so very nauseous, I was scared to give in and try it. I’m glad I didn’t. The craving went away and I haven’t even thought about cheese again.
Weeks 8 and 9 I was traveling. I found that when I traveled, I felt better. Somehow being on the road helped. I don’t know if it is that you have so much going on you don’t pay as much attention to your stomach or what, but it worked. I’ve heard this from other women too. I was able to eat a little bit better – introducing salads back into my diet. I even managed to eat a few veggie burgers on the road. French fries were also appealing – and I have to admit I gave in! Again, whatever you can eat and keep it down, go for it!
Weeks 10-13 have been getting much better. I’ve been eating lots of salads. I go through phases where I eat one thing over and over. That Einstein’s veg out sandwich – can’t touch it. I think I overdid it. My new obsession is Panera’s Mediterranean Veggie sandwich – no cheese of course. I think I’ve had one almost every day the past three weeks! I also love going to Jason’s Deli and loading up on the salad bar. I’ve learned cold food is my friend. And cereal – cheerios have been amazing! I still can’t eat a cooked vegetable unfortunately. And up until today, haven’t been able to do my smoothies. Today it finally tasted good though and I know that will help me get some good vitamins and minerals. And my sweet tooth finally kicked in. I’d been wondering where it was! I particularly like my dark chocolate covered frozen bananas. I get them from the supermarket and they are a nice, not too indulgent, cold treat at night.
To all the nauseous mommies out there – I hope you find some foods to comfort your stomach and keep you full. And just remember, nausea can be a sign that all is well and working correctly. I reminded myself of that many times!
July 9, 2012 § 1 Comment
I’m in need of a challenge. I miss the the adrenaline I had when I undertook my 30 day vegan challenge. The need to commit and keep my determination fueled me those 30 days and beyond. But now after almost a year of eating a vegan diet, not to mention everything else that’s happened, I am lacking in inspiration. Hence – a new challenge.
I found Sarah’s 101 Day Blogging Challenge on Twitter today. A lofty goal. I dug in a little deeper: the subject is 101 revolutionary ways to be healthy. Now that got me excited. I’m not sure I can stick to 101 days, but I’m up for the challenge. Truth is, eventhough I eat a mostly vegan diet, I could use some inspiration to get healthier. There’s a misconception that being vegan = healthy. It doesn’t. Sure vegans tend to make healthier choices but I can be a vegan that eats potato chips all day and never works out. So – let the motivation begin. If writing for 101 days and rethinking health gets me on the right track, so be it.
Now about defying convention. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty safe bet. I’m not much of a risk taker. I’d never skydive for instance (maybe never say never). I just tend to go by the rules. But you know, the rules can really be quite boring. And when I think about it, this former art student turned MBA has actually made some pretty interesting moves.
What you see is not all you get. I’m diverse and I like it that way. So maybe I’m not as safe as I think I am? Afterall, what could be more defying than trying to become a vegan! It’s not the easiest thing in the world and it certainly isn’t the norm. Today’s act of defying convention says “Do the healthy thing, even when it’s challenging, inconvenient or considered weird. Take pride in that.”
Challenging – check!
Inconvenient – check!
Weird – mmm hmmm, check!
While I’ve stumbled over the past year and am still trying to find my way, I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. Eating a vegan diet has been one of the most challenging yet liberating things I’ve ever done. And I know my journey has just begun.
The next 101 days should be fun. If you’d like to join in, head on over to Sarah’s blog and check it out. Together we can make a difference and empower others to think differently about their health!
July 8, 2012 § 2 Comments
I was a bit surprised when my mom said she wanted to have people over for the fourth. It was only two months prior, May 4, that my dad died. Some people probably find this odd to have a party so soon. I did at first. But I have to say, having the house full of our close friends made it somehow feel like he was there. Afterall, there’s nothing my dad enjoyed more than a full house, BBQ going, and margaritas blending. So with the party looming, I set out to find what I was going to make.
Last year when July 4th rolled around, panic struck. I’d been vegan for a whole day. A whole day! July 4 was going to be the second day of my 30 day vegan challenge and I was determined to stick with my challenge and not let the July 4th spread get the better of me. I entered the party and had everyone telling me to start on the 5th so I could enjoy all the food that day. But I was determined to stick with it.
I remember I brought a salad – just in case there wasn’t anything else I could eat. Well, I ate that salad all afternoon at the party. It was literally the only thing there I could eat. So, when the 4th rolled around this year, I knew I needed a better game plan.
I did some research and settled on three items to bring. I also wanted to make recipes I’d never made before. I think we all get in a rut of making the same things over and over again so a little change would be good.
Scouring the web, I found Chef Chloe’s mexicali sliders. Holy moly these were tasty. Everyone at the party liked them and several told me they wanted the recipe. Not bad for sliders on the 4th at a meat-eaters party!
These sliders weren’t hard to make but they weren’t exactly easy either. The tricky part is they are quite delicate so forming the patties just takes a little patience. I promise it is worth it though! Coupled with the spicy mango sauce and cooling guac, it makes for the perfect bite. One note: this recipe makes about double the guac and mango sauce you need so you could definitely cut those in half if you wanted to, although extra guac at a party is never an issue.
The second item I brought was Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s tantalizing thai slaw from The Vegan Table. This slaw was another winner! It’s a fun spin on the classic coleslaw you usually find at a BBQ. There’s a bit of heat with the addition of red pepper flakes, garlic, and ginger. And my favorite bites were those with peanuts so I may add more next time. (If you don’t own it yet, The Vegan Table is a definite winner!)
Lastly, I brought rellenitos. These are a Guatemalan specialty and something my husband fondly recalls from his home. They were quite messy to make, and I need to perfect the recipe a bit more before sharing here, but they’re essentially just black bean stuffed plantains. They’re a bit sweet and can be eaten like a dessert.
This spread sure did beat my lonely salad last year! And as my mom has adopted a no-dairy lifestyle, there was a bit more I could eat this year including cous cous, veggie pasta salad, and a marinated broccoli salad (my fav that I need to get the recipe for!).
What did you bring to your July 4th celebration? Any suggestions for vegan friendly BBQ’s?
July 7, 2012 § 6 Comments
It’s been a year since since I undertook my 30 day vegan challenge. A year of amazing explorations in new food groups and tastes have transpired. I’ll write more about my thoughts on the past year later, but today I’m wondering:
Am I vegan?
I don’t know why but I’ve always been into labels and the need to define myself. “Vegan” has been one of the hardest labels to deal with. Vegan denotes a person that excludes animal products and byproducts of any kind from their life. In the beginning, I had successfully cut out all animal products but didn’t dare call myself vegan for quite a while. It just didn’t feel right saying I was vegan when I was driving around in my car with leather seats and wearing leather shoes. Even though I really wanted to be vegan, what was I supposed to do? Buy a new car and throw all my shoes away?
This bothered me for a long time. I remember eating out a few months in and realizing there was fish sauce in my stir fry. I didn’t know when I ordered it and the fact that I’d wavered made me literally sick to my stomach. Here I thought I’d been doing so well! Little slips like this made me frantic and I became that annoying person at the dinner table asking about every single ingredient in a dish.
I recall reading a line in The 30 Day Vegan Challenge where Colleen says something to this extent: The idea is to try and avoid all animal products but also teach others that veganism is attainable and easy. If you’re out at dinner and asking about every ingredient in every menu item, that doesn’t make it look attainable to others.
This offered me some hope. I felt like I didn’t have to be that annoying person at the restaurant anymore. That showing others the ease of trying to be vegan was important and since that day, that’s the philosophy I’ve lived with and got more comfortable in saying “I’m vegan” despite slips here and there.
Last week marked my one year “vegan-versary” as a friend called it. I was overjoyed. I did it. I successfully stuck to it for a year. Yes there had been a few slip ups like the aforementioned stir-fry and probably others I’d not known about. And yes, I’ve knowingly cheated a handful of times, but all in all I’d eaten a vegan diet for a year. I was finally confidant in calling myself vegan.
But today, I’ve taken a 180. I’m a new follower to Choosing Raw. BTW – How I ever went the last year without finding this blog and surviving is beyond me! Gena is a truly gifted writer and I’m always left inspired by her posts. Today I stumbled across this post: “Why going vegan is not a pledge of perfection“. At seeing the title, I think I got a little too excited. Would Gena confirm that I’m vegan and I can be confidant in calling myself that?
She lays out a very compassionate and accepting approach to going vegan and that the fear of slipping or not being 100% perfect is no reason to not try. The comments that followed were diverse and interesting. First off, I’m not alone. There are many people trying to be vegan but slipping occasionally – intentional or not. And there are many comments from true vegans who are models of living a compassionate life 100% of the time who quite strongly (and rightfully) point out, eating a mostly vegan diet but intentionally eating a non-vegan meal on occasion does not make you a vegan.
Over the past few months, I’ve had multiple friends and family members that have watched my journey this past year tell me they are inspired to give this a try in light of how I’ve done. I’ve had many tell me that the fact that I cheat every now and again is OK. It makes me human and again, gives them hope that they could do it too. I recently wrote about this here and the fact that I have the occasional slip up. This is due to a variety of factors. Sometimes, I’m somewhere that I can’t eat vegan, and thus must make the best non-vegan choice possible. Sometimes the allure of food gets the better of me. It is as simple as that. To be clear, I never go to a restaurant with the intention of ordering a non-vegan meal – but on occasion it has happened where I order the fish or eat a bit of cake. Without fail, every time, I wish I would have ordered a vegan meal (or been able to).
In light of my friends support and my good intentions, I’ve been saying proudly “I’m vegan”. But after reading Gena’s inspiring post and then re-reading my post about cheating, guilt overtook me. Had I done the vegan community a disservice? After all this time calling myself vegan and writing about veganism on this blog – am I just a phony?
I don’t know the answer and I’m back to wondering what on earth to call myself. I guess at the end of the day, I’m striving to be vegan. I’m a person that awakes every day with the best intentions to not exploit animals and eat a healthy diet. I have hope that the vegan community isn’t offended by my actions but compassionate towards me and others that are on the same path, faltering here and there. And I’m thankful for people like Gena who are model vegans and inspire me to be better.
What do you think? Do you think these labels are important? Do you consider yourself a vegan?
June 18, 2012 § 3 Comments
I’m glad it is Monday, June 18. It means Sunday, June 17 has come and gone. So, I think it is time we focus on something positive!
I’ve recieved some really touching, lovely notes, emails, calls, and visits the past 45 days. While all the love and support has meant more than anyone can imagine, the ones that have really made me smile are those that told me I’ve inspired them…
My dad lived an amazing life. He had this ability to walk into a room and convince anyone to believe in his dreams. He was the epitome of a charismatic salesman. He knew what he believed in and he sold it well. I on the other hand have never really felt like I’ve had this quality. I used to be an artist. Weeks were spent creating fine pieces of art that were meant to move people. Make them feel something. But I often felt as thought I fell short. I went into business, and while I can sell my case, it isn’t like my dad. He was a natural.
So you can understand why I got so excited when a few people wrote to me that they are thinking of trying veganism in part due to me and this blog! My mission in life is not to convert everyone (OK, I may be fibbing here as with every day that passes, that is really what I want to do) – but I do want to show people that it isn’t necessarily that hard to be vegan. Vegans are often viewed as hippies that seem to do the impossible and have to eat food without flavor. I don’t care if I convince you to be vegan. But I do care that I do my part for the community in showing that this is not the case. Let’s debunk some myths:
- Vegan food has NO flavor. This couldn’t be further from the truth! When I first became vegan, I’ll admit I worried about this very thing. But really, if you think about it, non-vegan food doesn’t always get its flavor from the meat or cheese it uses to create it. I was predominantly a chicken eater before going vegan. Come to think about it, chicken really doesn’t have good flavor on its own. You’ve got to give it a lot of seasoning, add some delicious sauce, and then its got good flavor. So then, why can’t you give this same flavor to veggies, beans, and grains? Just because you’re entering a world without bacon or beef doesn’t mean it has to be devoid of flavor. I can promise you this vegan chili, raw zucchini pasta (don’t let the raw part fool you), curry spiced sweet potato soup, and spaghetti squash pasta are all absolutely bursting with flavor – this is the type of vegan diet I enjoy
- I just CAN’T give up meat or cheese. OK let’s just get one thing out of the way. Yes, bacon is absolutely amazing. It is crispy, smokey, and straight up delicious. I’m not going to argue with you on that one. Now that we’ve settled that, I don’t eat bacon because a) I know animal foods lead to a higher chance of disease, and b) pigs are highly emotional beings - they feel the need to be loved and seek community. So, now that we agree on the fact that bacon is delicious, but I chose not to eat it, I want you to know that you can choose the same thing if you want. Most people are worried about variety. It’s not that they are that worried about never having one thing again. I was really nervous about going vegan – how would I find variety in my diet? Well, I did my 30 day vegan challenge, and I can honestly say after 30 days, it didn’t bother me anymore to not eat meat, eggs, or dairy. Don’t get me wrong, the first few weeks are brutal. There’s no denying that. But after 30 days it really is no biggie. You Catholics out there will recognize this. I used to give up chocolate for Lent. At the beginning it seemed impossible. By day 30, I wasn’t even craving the chocolate. Your body is pretty unbelievable. It can retrain itself in no time. You just need to give yourself a little nudge.
- I just CAN’T live the rest of my life without ever having (insert item here) again. When I first went vegan, I was really nervous about my favorite food – cheese pizza. How on earth was I going to give it up?? Well, luckily for me, cheese pizza didn’t turn out to be a problem. Believe it or not, I haven’t missed it yet after almost a year. What’s turned out to be harder for me is fish. If I’m out at a super nice restaurant and there’s some fresh caught fish that sends my mind into foodie dreamland and I can’t possibly come back to planet earth without eating it – I order the fish. Yes people, I’m a cheater (GASP!!!). It’s taken me a while to come to terms with this as the vegan community can be seen as an all or nothing one. For me, it is about moderation. I cheat usually once a month or so and that’s how I keep my sanity. The way I look at it, if I eat 89 vegan meals out of 90 for the month and cheat at one meal, that ain’t so bad. So, I’m here to tell you, it is ok to cheat. This is about making positive changes for you, animals, and the environment. If never having a slice of cheese pizza or the aforementioned crispy bacon is enough to send you over the edge, then go ahead, allow yourself to cheat once in a while. You just need to watch your stomach and make sure you don’t overdue it.
So, I hope this has inspired you to realize that you CAN find flavorful vegan food, CAN live without the things you think you can’t, and CAN cheat occasionally if that convinces you to give this a try (don’t worry I won’t judge or tell!).
I hope this has made the thought of trying veganism more attainable and easy. Stay tuned for a post on tricks for newbie vegans!
November 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
I have found that some of the best vegan meals I’ve had are at ethnic restaurants – specifically Central/South American, Asian, and Mediterranean. I love the many spices and layers of flavor they create in their dishes – always proving to be truly satisfying. While in NYC, we had gone to the Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side and after a morning of whales and dinosaurs were completely ravished. I quickly scanned Foursquare to see what was nearby but nothing was looking very promising. We decided to just walk and see what we could find – one of the many joys of New York.
Just a few blocks away we could see Cafe Frida in the distance. It’s bright interior colors and the name itself called my attention. As a former artist, anything mentioning Frida is good by me. Upon entering I knew we were in for a treat. Mexican music bellowed through the speakers as the diners enjoyed their flavorful plates.
The vibrant orange and pink walls coupled with mis-matched chairs and tables created a warm, welcoming environment. We scored a table by the window and got to enjoy watching the New Yorkers pass us by.
Several items on the menu were vegetarian. They had a nice variety to choose from. If you are vegetarian, there were lots of choices. We started with a trio of salsas, but it was almost too hard to just pick three. We landed on the aguacate, pico de gallo, and mestiza. The aguacate was my favorite. It was a smooth creamy avocado salsa with a nice kick from the chile serrano. The chips too cannot be overlooked – slightly thick and golden, they were delicious and I’m afraid to say we finished the whole bucket – well mostly I finished it exclaiming with every bite, Oh my god these chips are so good, as Luis watched the bucket slowly disappear.
Luis ordered a vegetarian meal of chilaquiles. Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish of tortilla chips baked with tomatillo salsa, a green sauce, and topped with cheese and sour cream. On the side was a fried egg and black beans. I was a bit nervous as he ate it since he hadn’t had cheese or eggs in over a month, but he was OK and said it was one of the best meals he has had. That meal may have pushed him to want to be vegetarian instead of vegan but I can say, since returning home he’s had neither cheese nor eggs so he is still trying to be vegan
I had the vegetable fajita lunch. The lunch was a $12.95 combo (seriously, you can’t beat that in NYC!) for a salad and your entree. The salad was very nice and I think it had some kind of avocado dressing. I’ve seen recipes for this but never thought it sounded good but after trying this, I’ll definitely give it a try at home.
The fajitas were simply delish. An array of vegetables thickly coated in a nice spicy red sauce which gave them tons of flavor. Traditional Mexican rice on the side finished the dish. Needless to say I cleared my plate, even with the aforementioned empty bucket of chips
If you’re looking for a vegan restaurant in New York City or just good ‘ol Mexican, definitely check out Cafe Frida. If we lived there, I can tell you we’d spend every Friday night there no doubt – I didn’t try the margaritas, but I’m sure they’d go down easy with that amazing food!
October 25, 2011 § 11 Comments
Sometimes life doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. No matter how we put the pieces together they just don’t add up. We are left scratching for meaning, desperate to find some hidden realization below the surface.
I’ve already been exposed to much loss in my life. I’ve always been able to come to terms with it one way or another. But this loss has struck me hard – my dear friend Erin passed away last Monday after her courageous 3 year battle with breast cancer. Always optimistic and a beacon of hope, it is hard to believe the unthinkable happened.
Erin taught me so much, it is hard to take it all in. I learned the most from her as I watched her fight cancer – diagnosed at stage 4, she lived every moment to the fullest, continuing to realize her hopes and dreams. Even going on to get married to the love of her life in a castle in Spain. She was unstoppable.
Thinking back, it was actually Erin who first introduced me to veganism years ago. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to the facts she was giving me but now realize the profound effect they had and will continue to have on me. She had just been diagnosed and decided to meet that diagnosis with a fight – her new world consisted of juicing and yoga daily as well as a mostly vegan diet.
In fact, my newfound veganism was renewed while reading Crazy, Sexy, Diet by cancer survivor Kris Carr. Erin introduced me to the book a few months ago, and I have no doubt it will continue to influence me and my food choices for the rest of my life.
I think its normal to find yourself filled with regret at the loss of a loved one. There are many things I regret; ironically, or not, my biggest regret is not cooking for her the last time I saw her. Her cancer was spreading and making it difficult for her to perform basic tasks around the house – including cooking. I had just taken her to her last radiation appointment and tried to convince her to let me come over that weekend and cook for her. She said not to bother, she’d be OK. Unfortunately, I listened.
If you’ve found this post – please take the time read Erin’s story in her own words here. No woman should be diagnosed at stage 4. I hope what she went through will be a lesson learned for all young women to take signs of risk seriously. And if you’re thinking of cooking a lovely meal for someone just because – do it. I wish I had for her.
Erin, I miss you.
October 11, 2011 § 4 Comments
Candle79 is one of the vegan restaurants we scouted out on our trip to NYC last week. I can’t say enough good things about this place – nice staff, comfortable environment, and most importantly, amazingly flavorful and wholesome vegan food! Whether you are vegan or not – I highly recommend checking them out if you’re in NYC.
Overall the meal was fantastic. We thoroughly enjoyed all the options we had and the fact that we didn’t have to worry about what was in them. Portions are a tad on the small side – this is an upscale restaurant so with an appetizer and desert, it is perfect. Pricing was perhaps a bit high, but considering all ingredients are fresh and organic – not to mention delicious – its well worth it! They have a cookbook coming out November 1, and it will likely be my first vegan cookbook I buy it inspired me so much.
The restaurant has a quaint entrance on 79th street on the Upper East Side. The downstairs is pretty contemporary feeling with sleek lines and warm colors. We were seated upstairs in the back which was fine but next time I’m definitely asking for the front upstairs as there were booths and sweet tables by the window.
The meal started with a little treat from the chef. It was a crostini with some type of spread – I believe it was eggplant and artichoke. Whatever it was, it was amazing. I should warn you – these pictures seriously stink! I need to invest in a camera. I hate taking photos with flash but looking back at these, flash may have been better. Sorry.
We were really tempted to order the guacamole timbale as an appetizer as the next table had it. However, given that guacamole is often on the restaurant menus in Orlando, we went with the tri-colored beet salad with endive and almond cheese and kalamata olive vinaigrette. OK, first things first, I’ve never had a kalamata olive vinaigrette before but I will be figuring out how to make it because it was really delicious. I wouldn’t have every thought to pair olives and beets but it worked very nicely. Also, this was my first forray into nut cheeses. This is a common for vegans and I’d yet to try one anywhere. The almond cheese in my opinion tasted almost like a very dense whipped cream – perhaps like a mousse-like creme fraiche. It provided just enough creaminess to the dish to compliment the salty vinaigrette and hearty beets.
Luis ordered an impressive wild mushroom squash risotto. The risotto was drizzled with cashew cream and topped with frizzled leeks. The crispy leeks were a very nice compliment to the creamy, rich but simple risotto. The risotto was just decadent enough to be truly enjoyable but didn’t leave that harsh full feeling once we finished.
I ordered the live zucchini manicotti. The “live” should have warned me this would be a cold dish but it didn’t and I was a tad surprised to take a bite and meet cold food. But despite the lack of warmth – this dish had tons going for it. The zucchini are cut very thinly to roll into manicotti and stuffed with a vegetable portobello pistou. The pistou was actually almost like a tapenade mixed with diced portobellos. The dish is finished with a tomato sauce and topped with a parsley pine nut salad. A perfect bite of all elements was bold and vibrant. I’m definitely going to use this for inspiration at home – I’ve been thinking I can even just buy pre-made tapenade and mix with some mushrooms for a quick fix similar to this.
Last but my gosh certainly not least – dessert. Dun dun dun! Aside from some delicious vegan chocolate chip cookies from the Whole Foods bakery, dessert hasn’t been on my mind in the past three months. But I couldn’t resist the tempting menu. As a mousse lover, I ordered the chocolate peanut butter bliss and boy was it bliss indeed. Chocolate mousse and peanut butter mousse are layered and covered in a chocolate shell and then finished with a tart berry coulis. Honestly all I can say is yum. And this was truly decadent – for such a small little dessert, the two of us couldn’t even finish it.
There’s no doubt we’ll be going back to Candle79 next time we venture to NYC. I’m so glad we found this little gem on the Upper East Side. We almost missed it entirely by trying to eat near our hotel in Midtown. Luckily a quick google search and scan of the yelp reviews confirmed we had to go. As a matter of fact, I just finished Crazy, Sexy, Diet which I was reading while there, and many recipes in the last chapter are from this very restaurant and we almost missed it entirely!
Until next time, I’ll be waiting for that cookbook to come out.
October 8, 2011 § 3 Comments
I know my last post was about a vacation, but trust me, I’m not used to two vacations in a row! In fact, this one seemed to creep up on us out of nowhere and we found ourselves scrambling at the last minute to prepare for our trip to New York. I’d had two solid weeks of travel so all I craved for the weekend was my own bed and snuggling with my dog. But, we were going out of town for something very special – it was the wedding of one of my best friends. Plus, I figured there had to be tons of great vegan restaurants to explore in metropolitan NYC!
Luis had never been to New York but by the end of hour one he was already trying to figure out how we could move there – oh, and it was pouring down rain! I’ve been to New York City probably 10+ times. I always loved the hustle and bustle but have always remembered it as being too much chaos for me to ever live with. But it wasn’t that way this time. There was still that great NYC energy, but it wasn’t overwhelming at all – in fact, I was really sad when it came time to leave.
If it weren’t for our dog Chloe, I think we’d be trying to figure out how we could make a move there work. I’m not sure she’d transition so well from her big back yard where she can “hunt” all night long to a tiny 500sf apartment. Surprisingly though I noticed there are so many dogs in the city – but where do they potty? This one question bothered me the entire time we were there. I’ve decided the sidewalks must be the lucky spots. If those dogs are happy maybe Chloe would be too?
We spent the weekend strolling through the streets of Manhattan, enjoying the energy all around us. In fact, I would have usually planned every last second but instead left it to chance and we just walked where we wanted and let fate guide us. By accident we ended up at Bryant Park and I think that was my favorite 30 minutes of the trip – just sitting and enjoying the crisp air and children playing on the green grass, even rolling in it.
Our friend’s wedding was in New Jersey. It was a wonderful evening, one of those weddings where you can really see the couple growing old together – complementing each other in every aspect and having little tears creep out the corner of your eye as you hear them say their vows. They wrote their own and I especially loved the line of “I vow to love us some kids into this world, because I know you’ll make an eccentric mom.”
It was in the backyard of the bride’s New Jersey home and had twinkling candles hanging from the branches and mason jars overflowing with flowers on the table tops. It was a perfect evening and I am so happy for them both.
On Sunday we ended up randomly at a market on Lexington while trying to go somewhere else entirely. It was that very market where I actually ate the best thing of the whole trip – street side grilled corn. Simply grilled, a little chile and salt. Hot, spicy, and juicy – so juicy in fact that with each bite a little would squirt and I’d have to make sure I didn’t hit anyone! It was seriously good. I wish I would have snapped a pic before chowing down.
I’m a huge art buff and still can’t believe we left without visiting a single art museum – but we had too much fun just walking and taking it all in. We did pay a visit to the History Museum which was fantastic. Highly recommend the marine and blue whale room on the bottom. In fact, it was pretty hard visiting this museum as a vegan. Some of the content was a bit much for me. I wonder if all museum workers are vegetarian?
I was really looking forward to this trip for the food. Not the usual NYC pizza I would have usually stuffed myself with but good, wholesome, vegan food. I was actually quite surprised at how hard it was to find vegan options in the city. There are certain pockets of town that have more vegetarian options but we always seemed to be in the wrong area. And as always is the case, the vegetarian options were often loaded with cheese making them not vegan friendly. We made it work though. Except for the wedding, I was able to eat vegan the rest of the trip and Luis didn’t do too bad either.