Vegan MoFo: Margherita toast!  »

More often than not, my easy vegan recipes come from a random craving that needs immediate satisfaction. Margherita toast is no exception: One autumn afternoon in 2010 I had a serious hankering for pizza—not greasy, drippy, stringy-cheesy pizza, but hearty, rich, and healthy: whole grains, chunky veggies, fresh greens, and tons of flavor. With no vegan pizza options in the vicinity, I rolled up my sleeves, opened my refrigerator door, and decided I’d have to get creative. Margherita Toast was soon born, and has become a simple staple in my household ever since.

Depending on the portion, it can be a snack or a full meal, and the flavors are full and rich enough to satisfy cravings for the not-so-super-healthy pizza varieties. Read on, and drool accordingly!

A couple slices of bread (whole grain is obviously best; sprouted is even better!)
Extra virgin olive oil
Roma tomatoes
Fresh ground salt and pepper
Fresh greens (I like arugula, but spinach, mizuna, broccoli rabe, etc. all work too)

vegan cheese alternative (I love Daiya, any flavor)
Tomato sauce
Fresh or dried Italian spices (basil, rosemary, oregano, etc.)
Get creative! Maybe some olives? Mushrooms? Artichoke hearts?

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place one or two (or more!) slices of bread on a baking sheet or sheet of tinfoil. Spread a spoonful of sauce on the bread if you like, or just leave it plain. If you have a taste for cheese, sprinkle a little handful of Daiya (whichever flavor you like) on each piece of bread.

Then lay three or four tomato slices on each piece—slice ‘em thick if you like it hearty, or thin if you prefer a more subtle tomato flavor.

After the oven has preheated, put your creation on the middle rack and let it toast for about 12 minutes, depending on your oven—it may take as little as 10, or as much as 15.

Yank those bad boys out of the oven before they burn, and sprinkle some finely chopped fresh or dried herbs if you’re into it, then toss a good handful of greens on top of the whole mess. Follow that up with a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper, then a drizzle of olive oil over everything. Let it marinate for a minute or two—be patient!—and then feast.

With all the fresh, real, simple ingredients combined, you’ve created a serious taste of Italy. Win!


Vegan MoFo PLUS: Tofu Xpress makes amazing antipasto!  »

The cool dudes over at Tofu Xpress were kind enough to send over a unit for review, and I was so pumped about using the nifty gadget that I decided to incorporate it into my Vegan MoFo recipe. Talk about slicing two carrots with one knife!
The Tofu Xpress is a fully dishwasher-safe, easy-to-use, gourmet kitchen tool. Though it was created to remove moisture from a traditional block of tofu, it can be used for other foods that need pressing as well. To use, place a block of firm or extra-firm tofu into the container, attach and lock the lid, and let it do its job. Most of the water will be gone after an hour or so, but you can leave the Tofu Xpress in the fridge overnight, or however long you’d like.

Once pressed, tofu becomes easier to grill, marinate, stir fry and bake and results in richer flavors and increased versatility. After food prep, the machine is easy to clean and store, with only two, corrosion-resistent parts. Miraculous! After searching for some relatively simple pressed-tofu recipes, I was thrilled to find the perfect project: Marinated Tofu Cheese.

After pressing a block of extra-firm tofu for 48 hours (I wanted to be sure!), I chopped it into small blocks and tossed it with sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, fresh basil and rosemary, extra virgin olive oil, and a little salt and pepper. After making sure it was well combined, I packed the whole mixture into a Mason jar, topped it up with more olive oil, and let it sit in my fridge—patiently—for almost four days to soak up all the goodness.

Today, I picked up an Italian loaf at a local market and packed it, along with about half of my ready-to-devour mixture, and headed into work. After tasting the antipasto goodness myself, and gathering feedback from my foodie coworkers, the consensus is that my first Tofu Xpress experience was indeed a GREAT success!
Next time I’ll add a few whole cloves of garlic to the marinade, but aside from that it was truly delicious and rich. One of my coworkers said she’d even love to serve it at a party! Win! Can’t WAIT to try another recipe!

[Tofu Xpress image via Rollin’ Oats Market]


CLOSED! Vegansaurus Giveaway: Opti3 Omega-3 supplement!  »

The lovely (and healthy!) folks across the pond at Opti3 were kind enough to ship over a sample of their fine product for an honest review, and the verdict is in: This is one heart-healthy, smart-making, mama-supporting, ass-kicking Omega-3 supplement! Opti3 is a 100 percent vegan, high-strength Omega-3 EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) supplement, which are considered essential fatty acids because our bodies don’t produce them on their own. These fatty acids ultimately affect the function of virtually every system and every cell in our body and are responsible for cell flexibility, nerve function, mood support, and even weight control. Basically, they’re SUPER-IMPORTANT.

Some less-evolved peeps may get their Omega-3s from eating the bodies of our fine-finned ocean friends, but Opti3 has eliminated the known risks (and environmental damage) of consuming fish—including the toxins—by creating a high-performance vegan formula.

More from the Opti3 website: All of the ingredients in Opti3 are 100 percent vegetarian- and vegan-approved. This includes the capsule itself, which is vegetable-based and gelatine-free. Opti3 is produced under pharmaceutical quality-controlled conditions.

You want to boost your overall health and support an awesome vegan company, right? OF COURSE YOU DO! You’re in luck - Vegansaurus and Opti3 are going to give away a FULL BOTTLE of Opti3’s newest, high-strength formula to three lucky readers! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post including another vegan source of Omega-3s. Yup, that’s it! You have ONE WEEK from post date to enter, and we’ll pick three winners at random. A bottle of Opti3 will be shipped directly to your door—it’s as simple as that. Get healthy and enter today! [images via Opti3]


NYC may get a vegan grocery store! Help make it a reality!  »

As you may have heard, New York City is mighty close to having its very own vegan convenience store. The brainchild of Eric Hopf, Vegan Bodega is currently in its early stages of development, with an IndieGoGo page up for community fundraising and awareness. Vegan Bodega plans to carry everything a vegan could need—healthy food items, vegan junk food, household products, vegan condoms, baby food, beer—imagine not having to read a label! Finally, a real one-stop-shopping experience right here in the Big Apple.

I talked to Eric about the project and how we can help bring it to life!

Vegansaurus: Tell us about Vegan Bodega. What inspired the idea?
Eric Hopf: Like many other vegans, I traveled to the Pacific Northwest with my partner Gita and we saw Food Fight Grocery and Sidecar For Pigs Peace. I remember thinking, “This is fantastic, we should have something like this in NYC.” Once I returned home, I went back to working in photography and didn’t think about it again until a year ago. The arrival of my daughter was close at hand and I was well overdue for a visit to Orlando, Fla., to see my family; I went down for a long weekend, and that was where the idea came from, that this all-vegan convenience store could be something real. There is a small shop near downtown Orlando that I happened upon [called] Artichoke Red, it’s all-vegan and it’s succeeding. The owner was nice enough to talk with me and answer some of my questions. Again I asked myself: Why doesn’t New York City have something like this? Once I arrived home I started thinking about an all-vegan grocery store and shared my idea with Gita. It was going to be a huge undertaking and very expensive. We scaled back the concept. The name came naturally, as there is nowhere in NYC I can think of without a corner store or “bodega,” as we have all become used to calling them. So the inspiration came partially from other business and from my family who support this dream.

How long have you been vegan? Is your family vegan as well?
Actually I don’t keep track of the length of time, but I know I have been vegan for at least six years now, and both Gita and our daughter are vegan.

Tell us about your IndieGoGo project.
After seeing a few vegan projects make their goals on IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, we thought that it would be an excellent way to raise a portion of the funds we need for opening the business. Crowd-sourcing would also get the vegan community involved with launching a store that so many have told us they have been wishing for. Our goal is to raise $15,000, but we are less than a week and a half from the deadline and are only around 23 percent of the way there. Any contribution is helpful and we are very thankful for anything we get. There are a variety of incentives for donations of $5 and up. The money will be used to secure the location, buy used shelves, a commercial freezer and fridge, the computer setup for handling sales/inventory, and some stock for the soft opening. The store will have a slicer and deli display, but we may need to introduce those after the opening.

Where do you think Vegan Bodega will be located?
We are going to open in Manhattan, most likely on the Lower East Side, as we really like the feel there, [and it’s] close to other vegan spots and lots of public transportation. We are willing to reconsider the location if we find a fantastic space.

What products and/or services will you offer at Vegan Bodega? Will you deliver? What about online ordering?
The plan for Vegan Bodega is to carry a broad spectrum of products, from healthy items to vegan junk food. [We want] to support other local vegan businesses by offering them a space to sell their goods, a focused vegan and vegetarian customer base, and a chance to connect with customers by doing in-store samplings. We are also contacting Community-Supported Agriculture farmers about being a drop-off point. Delivery is something we are looking into and how best we can offer it. Online ordering may be offered in the future, but it is dependent on the demand for it.

What is your planned opening date, and are you organizing an event for the big day?
We do not have one set yet. Currently our focus is on securing a space and locking down all the funding we need. In the meantime, you may soon find us at a weekend food market, as a prelude to what will be available in the store, but that has yet to be finalized. We intend to do a soft opening and get settled in, then have a grand opening party that will also double as a fundraiser for a to-be-determined animal welfare group. Vegan Bodega would also like to support different nonprofits by allocating a portion of the sales once a month.

We’re pretty excited about this project! If you want to help Vegan Bodega reach their fundraising goal, you only have FOUR MORE DAYS to pitch in at their IndieGoGo page. If you don’t have cash to spare, spread the word and show your love by contacting the Vegan Bodega family. The anticipation is killing us!


Book review: Thrive Foods by Brendan Brazier!  »

You know who Brendan Brazier is, right? He’s a Canadian-born professional Ironman triathlete, international bestselling author, and creator of VEGA natural whole food products and supplements. He’s pretty much a vegan superhero, and he just released a brand new, ultra-informative book called Thrive Foods, which was ever-so-kindly sent to me for review.

The perfect follow-up to his acclaimed vegan nutrition guide, The Thrive Diet, Thrive Foods covers some of Brazier’s original material and delves into much more detail. The first four chapters cover everything you’d ever need to know about the foods we eat and how it translates to fuel and well-being in the body. Chapter one, Health’s Dependence on Nutrition, discusses nutrition’s effects on the body and mind, from stress levels to sleeping patterns. Chapter two, Eating Resources, discusses in glorious detail the effect of our diets on the environment—did you know that livestock production uses 70 percent of all arable land, and 30 percent of all land surface on the PLANET?

Chapter three, An Appetite for Change, explores what Brazier calls the Nutrient-to-Resource Ratio, which analyzes the total amount of each natural resource that goes into a food’s production in exchange for the amount of nutrients it offers. He presents the most beneficial foods based on personal health and environmental preservation. Brazier introduces the Eight Key Components of Good Nutrition in chapter four, and suggests some nutrient-dense pantry essentials for any healthy vegan’s home.

The recipes arrive in chapter six, and they are pretty incredible. Thrive Foods features 200 recipes, from Brazier himself and also a slew of celebrity vegan chefs like Amanda Cohen (Dirt Candy), Chad Sarno (Saf, Whole Foods’ Health Starts Here program), and Tal Ronnen. Some of the recipes are straight from the menus of some of our favorite vegan hotspots, like Candle 79, Millennium, and Fresh. Candied grapefruit salad! Baby zucchini and avocado tartar! Wild rice with kabocha squash and sage butter! Chocolate-chip maple maca ice cream! OK, I’m drooling.

Brazier has created a consummate guide to health and nutrition for every human being, regardless of athletic prowess. Thrive Foods is an encyclopedia of well-being and I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from its wealth of information and incredible food. The Thrive Diet caused me to question the effects of my diet in my body, and now Thrive Foods has taught me about its effects on the world.

Wanna get your learn on? Watch the book trailer, buy the book, and like Brendan Brazier on Facebook to download a Thrive Foods introduction and three free recipes! You can also enter to win a trip to Hollywood to meet Brendan at the Alive! Expo on Friday, Sept. 16!


German fox cub on a slide!  »

Ever wonder what a four-month-old fox cub gets up to when Mom’s not looking? Taken in Bursfelde, Germany by Duncan Usher, the photo above captures our foxy friend mid-ride as he and a pal made use of an old conveyor belt situated in an abandoned gravel mine.

The fox thinks it’s people! It’s the cutest thing in the world, right? Right.

[image by Duncan Usher via the Daily Mail]


Big news: cows also suffer in extreme heat  »

Those of us on the East Coast, especially in the concrete sauna otherwise known as NYC, are well aware of the suffocating heatwave that’s settled in this summer. If you thought New Yorkers were cranky before, the bar has definitely been raised due to the weather as of late. Now, imagine you can’t sweat.
Cows cannot sweat. Nor can they crank up their A/C, or dip into Victoria’s Secret for a while to browse frilly things while they cool off, or hit up the closest Starbucks for a Venti Mocha Frap. Instead, they become exhausted and debilitated, and they lose their appetites. This leads, of course, to a decline in milk production by as much as a third. Cows in Texas have become so overheated and lethargic that they drink so much water it actually kills them. While some dairy farmers are installing fan and sprinkler systems to alleviate the heat and cool off the poor bovines, this is only to maintain productivity and keep business booming. Perhaps we should start looking at the bigger picture and just stop treating these distinguished animals as if they were machines in the first place. After all, there are plenty of delicious milk alternatives out there, and I’ve never seen a lethargic almond.

[image via NDSU Agriculture Communication on Flickr]


Rosie the pit bull made me cry  »

Last Sunday July 24, New York Animal Rights Alliance America (NY-ARAA) held a demonstration outside the Brooklyn Animal Care and Control exposing the horrific mass euthanasia occurring in their New York shelter locations. Joining protesters at their local shelters across the country, the NY-ARAA dressed in red as a reminder of the unnecessary death that occurs daily at these kill shelters.

[Can’t see the video? Watch it on]
The demonstration came to a screeching halt, however, when a badly injured pit bull named Rosie arrived at the shelter. Bearing tire tracks on her hind legs and backside, Rosie was clearly in pain and was seen dripping with blood, including form her muzzle, indicating internal damage. The protesters observed that she was likely hit by a car, and quickly came to her aid. Rosie had a stroke of luck arriving at the shelter on that particular day: the NY-ARAA removed her from the kill shelter and has arranged veterinary treatment for her while embarking on a search for a new family for the recovering pup. They’ve graciously set up a Facebook page for Rosie HERE—click the link and find out how you can help this beautiful girl!

[image in video via This Dish Is Veg]


Vegansaurus does an Organic Avenue juice cleanse!  »

Last week I embarked on a five-day Organic Avenue Lovedeep juice cleanse. I did it for a number of reasons: I wanted to “reset” my body and system after developing some bizarre and detrimental habits (daily venti coffee, unreasonable affinity for sugar and candy, pigging out at night and not eating anything in the morning, etc.); I wanted to observe the effect it had on my body and my training regimen (muay Thai, running, Bikram yoga, four jobs); and of course sheer curiosity. I consulted with the folks at OA and told them my intention was to maintain my usual life/training schedule during the cleanse, and after their approval, I booked the dates and kept my fingers crossed. I went to the pick-up location near my office on Monday and picked up a big silver box of fresh-pressed fruit and veggie juices. Inside were six 16-oz. fresh juices and one chlorophyll shot, my food for the day. Organic Avenue also sent me a daily email explaining the benefits of each juice, and offering a suggested drinking schedule and words of encouragement.

I didn’t finish the juices; I couldn’t stomach all of that juice every day. And since I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t necessarily need them. I’d usually keep them and enjoy them the following day, and I have three leftover juices now that the cleanse is over, which I definitely intend to drink before returning my bottles! The juices themselves ranged from totally scrumptiously delicious—orange, ginger lemonade, grapefruit, pear—to borderline undrinkable—chlorophyll shot, Young Love (spinach/celery/cucumber). Pick-up/drop-off was easy, the staff was cheerful and accommodating, and the simplicity of the whole process really made it run smoothly.

Day 1
The first day was the toughest; my moods swung like crazy and I was impatient and irritable for most of the afternoon/night. I had a brutal headache from Starbucks withdrawal, craved salt, and generally felt unlike myself. I made it through the workday without too much drama, but that evening’s seven-mile run was undoubtedly tougher than usual, and I realized I’d need to take it easier in the gym over the week. With no carbs in my system I wasn’t my usual Energizer Bunny self. I got home from the gym that night and passed out on my bed before I could even take my shoes off.

Day 2
I was definitely a little out of it when my alarm went off, but I packed up for the gym and sipped a cucumber juice on the way. Muay Thai class wasn’t too bad, though again I noticed my stamina wasn’t up to par. The following run, this time five miles, wasn’t as rough as the previous day’s, but I was huffing and puffing more than usual. Once at work I was actually feeling good; though still a bit foggy I was in better spirits and enjoyed the juices. I wasn’t nearly as cranky or tired when I got home, though I still slept like a rock.

Day 3
I woke up feeling decent, made it to work and coasted through what was to be the best overall day of my cleanse—no hunger pangs, no headache, no mood swings, decent energy throughout the day—I’d even say I was chipper! There was an orange juice on the menu that day, and after living on spinach, orange juice is the GREATEST THING EVER. I felt like I was cheating! Feeling great, I made it into the gym that night and blasted through five rounds of full-contact sparring and an advanced conditioning class. I felt tired when I got home, but that’s normal for me on a Wednesday night.

Day 4
I woke up feeling clear-headed and was off to the gym. I took it easy in muay Thai, having noticed a significant drop in my stamina and endurance, but I made it through just the same. My run was, again, grueling: I took walk breaks and was certainly not as fast as usual. Though my patience was wearing a little thin at this point, my mood was good. Work was busy and I stayed focused through the day, and enjoyed the delicious grapefruit juice. Into the evening, I was having elaborate, borderline-romantic food fantasies; I missed my precious food! Got home that night a little grumpy, but as usual passed the heck out swiftly.

Day 5
While I generally sleep until about 1 or 2 p.m. on my Fridays off, this time I was wide awake soon after 11 a.m. Feeling great, I got ready to run some errands and packed a few juices along with me in my gym bag. I made it through the day feeling really good; my energy was up, I felt clear and enthusiastic and focused, and my body felt rejuvenated from the good night’s sleep. When I started that night’s training, however, everything changed. My run was dismal; I could barely keep it up for more than five minutes at a time, taking frequent walk breaks and watching other runners leave me in the dust. Muay Thai was equally pathetic; though I made it through three hours of training, I felt like I didn’t have a shred of life left in me. I got home that night and did my best to get a juice down as fast as possible before passing out.

Breaking the Fast
OA sent me an email with directions for my first day after the fast: I could eat as much as I wanted of one fruit of choice, and enjoy a big green salad for lunch and another for dinner, adding some roasted veggies if I so desired. I had some water, then enjoyed CRUNCHING into an organic Fuji apple before heading to the gym again. That day’s training was the worst of them all—I barely survived the run, and opted for a beginner muay Thai class. Even still, I was wiped out by the end and couldn’t wait to get home for my salad. I took a quick nap before I ate, and truly enjoyed every forkful of greens and tomatoes and beets and kale. It felt so good - almost scandalous!—to chew mouthfuls of food again.

I made it through five days of juicing without any major adjustments in my work/life/training schedule. I didn’t cheat once, I followed my plan, and I feel great. Though my stamina and endurance in the gym were significantly lower, my energy levels were the same and I really wasn’t tempted to cheat very often. Hunger was never a problem—if I craved food it was its flavor, texture, familiarity. My skin never broke out like crazy and my digestive system didn’t react too violently at all. I’m so glad I had the experience and I feel pretty great. I learned so much about my body and the fuel I put into it, the importance of complex carbohydrates and balanced proteins, the benefits of a raw organic diet, and how fuel affects mood. I am excited to make changes to my old habits. No, I won’t be cutting caffeine out of my life—I am a sincere and dedicated coffee-LOVER—but it will be decaf for the most part. When I crave something sweet I’ll opt for organic pineapple or fresh berries instead of Twizzlers and Swedish Fish. And I’ll fuel my body on a more regular basis rather than that abusive binge-and-starve pattern. This was an incredible, educational, rejuvenating experience and I can absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in a kick-start to good habits. Organic Avenue offers many different levels of cleansing, and supports you the whole way through. If I can do it, anyone can: you just have to want to!

[Organic Avenue provided me a five-day cleanse free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. You can order your own cleanse on their website or by calling 212-358-0500. First image via Organic Avenue. Also, check out how Maria did on the Blueprint Cleanse. Vegan cleanses galore, people! Now, back to your regularly scheduled binging!]


Rad Vegan Marketing Company:  »

We love to shop for vegan shit, that’s no lie. So when a new vegan website crossed our tracks (via them emailing us and being awesome and giving us some awesome stuff to review), we had to pass on the Good Word. In a super-awesome act of vegan solidarity, the folks at have made it their mission to help supply the consumer market with quality vegan goods. We like.

Their clean and simple website features the tagline “promoting vegan products to the world”, and provides some solid up-to-date research and impressive facts on the vegan/vegetarian market. They certainly prove to have their act together with an enviable game plan and big name clients like Tofurky and Edward & Sons! From marketing to branding to product placement to social media to grassroots demos, director (and total sweetheart) Lisa Shapiro has a real understanding of what will make your product successful. If you have a vegan product and want to make it to the big time without compromising your ethics, don’t be shy - now you know how!

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