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Vegandale 2019!

Last year, during the peak of my new vegan life, I attended one of the best vegan food festivals around, Vegandale. I was extremely excited to be able to go to a vegan food festival– I’d made it my personal goal to get to as many vegan food events as I could that summer and hitting up Vegandale was an absolute dream.

One of my hands down top favorite dishes from last year’s festival— the buffalo mac and cheeze from Freakin’ Vegans, based in Jersey.

100% vegan food vendors from all over the country. It was amazing — tons of people, great vibes, music, lots of activities and lots of F O O D. Delicious and amazing food! I went in with the goal of trying foods from places that were not based in the New York City– that is, I only wanted to try food from vendors who were based in cities from around the country and outside of NYC. A nationwide food tour! I hit up spots from Chicago, Texas, Jersey, Toronto and more. It was insanity!

I was trying to stay away from food based out of NYC, but this was an exception. I had to try the mock oxtail from Chef Rootsie and her crew over at Veggie Grub!

This year, the festival’s back! Vegandale is coming to New York City again and they’ll be back at Randall’s Island Park on Saturday, September 28th, 2019. You don’t wanna miss out on trying some of the most innovative and just downright delicious vegan food you’ve ever seen. I’m telling you, it truly is a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach. I tried so much amazing food and of course, I chronicled everything on my Instagram page — so much food that I literally had to bring containers with me so I could take food home 😀 I wasn’t complaining though; who would when you have an abundance of decadent vegan noms to nosh on for days, long after the festival is over?

One of the only vendors from outside of the United States— The Vegan Outlawz came all the way from Switzerland and bought their bomb BBQ kebab sandwiches with them!

Okay, the supply didn’t last me as long as I would have liked, but that was due to me being greedy — what can I say, I’m a true (vegan) foodie at heart!

Head over to www.vegandalefest.com to get tickets for this year’s festival at the current discounted rates! And check out their Instagram page — not only can you go gaga over all the drool-inducing noms on their page, but you can also get tickets via the link in their bio.

This beautiful scoop of fig and apple flavored ice cream topped with toasted aquafaba was brought to us by Chef Nick Di Bona over at Bona Bona Ice Cream, based in Port Chester, New York.

September 28th is right around the corner, so start preparing to experience some of the best vegan food you’ve ever tried! And I might just see you out there!

Eco-Friendly Menstrual Solutions– Period.

This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been wanting to write about my period for quite some time. The ups, the downs, and everything in-between. So, here it goes– my journey to trying to make my period more eco-friendly.

But, before I begin, I’ll start with a disclaimer:

I won’t cover absolutely everything about the history of my period in this post. Honestly, I could write an entire thesis on what I’ve been through with my cycle— but I will touch on most of the major stuff that’s happened in the past several years. I also included a random af but pretty encompassing summary in the last paragraph in case you don’t want to read an entire blog post about my menstrual cycle. Feel free to email me through this blog or message me on Instagram if you’d like more info about my period.

Whoa… that sounded kinda creepy, but you know what I mean 🙂

A (not so) Brief Period History.

I’ll start by acknowledging that all these issues may have been condensed into a smaller time-frame if it weren’t for my overall laziness and lack of taking immediate action whenever something happens with my health. For the most part, I’ve learned my lesson when it comes to this, but in the past, I was definitely the type to “wait and see what happens”, no matter what happened.

For years I had really heavy periods that slowly got progressively heavier, accompanied by really crappy pain — as in, picture really horrible cramps, then, turn the dial up another notch or two. I would go through overnight pads in a matter of hours — not overnight. When I finally did see a gynecologist, I ended up on birth control and was diagnosed with menorrhagia — a fancy name for bleeding waaay too much when you’re on your period. I was also informed that I had both ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids.

You can imagine how much fun I was having at this appointment.

Ovarian cysts are common among many child-bearing aged woman, but the fibroids— which are actually benign tumors (that also appear during child-bearing years), are way more common among African-American women. I have no idea why and I don’t think the medical community does either. But I digress.

In the land of birth control, all was well. I had really clear skin and much lighter periods. I had to set about 100 alarms to remind myself to take it at the same time everyday, but once I got the hang of that, it was all good. Or so I thought…

… One day a few years ago, around the time I started trying to take control of my health, I was on my period and I decided to look up the side effects of birth control. It was horrifying. Now, the internet has the power to make anyone think they’re dying for any reason, but the stuff I was reading just wasn’t sitting well with me, especially not at this point in my life and health journey. Something inside just told me that I didn’t wanna be on birth control anymore.

Also, at this point in the aforementioned journey, I’d already decided that if one takes control of their diet and lifestyle, they have more control over certain health issues than they may think. So, although I wasn’t vegan yet, I felt I could maybe deal with a heavy period sans medication. 

Not so coincidentally, at my next gyno visit, the results of my ultrasound showed something amazing: my fibroids had shrunk significantly and my cysts were now completely gone.

You may be thinking … “Wtf?” Or “that’s amazing!” Either one would be applicable and totally understandable.

I definitely believe that my changes in lifestyle and diet played a role in here somewhere— I ate horribly before getting healthy, and who knows what kinds of hormones and chemicals were affecting my poor uterus. But personally, I also believe in higher powers, so I gave a heartfelt shoutout to the universe on this miraculous occurrence as well. From there, I listened to my intuition and told my gyno I wanted off birth control for good. She obliged, but my heavy period journey was far from over.

No More Meds, and I Went Vegan… but the Heavy Bleeding Continued

As time went on, my periods were still heavy. I no longer experienced horrible cramps and pain as badly as I did before, but I was still going through pads more often than I felt I should. My thoughts were “oh crap, nothing has changed– what do I do now?” Even after going vegan, I didn’t notice immediate changes in my cycle.

Navigating period products has been an
interesting and thought-filled journey to say the least.*

Making My Period Eco-Friendly (and Later, Low-Waste)

Nonetheless, I started slowly trying to change everything I used for health, beauty and otherwise over to more eco-friendly options (hence the existence of this section of my blog). I think part of my thought process with my period products was that I really had to try everything I could think of to fix the heavy bleeding issue. If I had already changed my diet and was more physically active, I guess now I had to focus on the products I was using. I started buying eco-friendly pads and tampons around last winter. I was amazed to see that the price was the same as regular sanitary products– which frankly, contain stuff I do not want in my vagina. 

I felt content that I’d made an eco-friendly switch, but I wanted to do more. So, several months ago, as I was scrolling through vegan Instagram, I came across an ad for a free menstrual cup. I thought “this is it! This is my chance to try a menstrual cup!”

Using a menstrual cup was a great experience– although it wasn’t right for me, I’m happy I tried it.

I’d heard about the cup years ago when the famous Diva brand made the menstrual cup a household normality, but I had all sorts of reservations about using one— but still, I got the cup and tried it out on my next period. I chronicled the journey in my Instagram stories and highlights. The first cycle using it wasn’t too bad. Aside from the annoyance of getting used to putting the actual cup inside of me— and taking it out for that matter, when it was in place, it worked well. But sometimes it would move around, and that was a little uncomfortable.

Then, one day… it flipped. Both literally and figuratively.

The cup turned sideways inside of me. I was home when it happened which was a huge relief— I also had a pad on as a safety net. This very inconvenient occurrence shook me a bit. I envisioned every possible worse case scenario:

What if this had happened while I was on the train?

Or at work and on my feet?

Or I was nowhere near a bathroom?

What if I hadn’t been wearing a pad? (highly unlikely but still within the realm of possibility)

It freaked me out so much that I didn’t use the cup for the rest of that day. Or the rest of that cycle. I finished out that period with my eco-friendly pads and tampons. By the time my next cycle arrived, I tried the cup once more. I used it on my heaviest day, hoping for the best. But I could tell the spark was gone. I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. I used it for a few hours at most that day and that was the end of the cup and I’s short-lived relationship. I know there are tons of shapes and sizes available for menstrual cups, but I just didn’t feel enough motivation to try cup after cup.

However, this mishap contributed to zero discouragement in my period journey. I knew there was a chance I might not like the cup, and the fact that I got to try it for free calmed my nerves even more.

What was more concerning was wondering what my next step was. I really wanted to conquer having a low-waste, eco-friendly period; yes, I was using non-chemically treated, cotton products — but I felt like that just wasn’t enough, mainly because it was far from low-waste.

More time passed, and a page I follow on Instagram that makes reusable pads ended up having a huge flash sale.

Perhaps you’ve noticed a pattern of me trying to acquire products for cheap and/or free? 😀

This was yet another option I’d been aware of, but had been waiting for the right time to try it. Or maybe more like, had been too lazy to getting around to try it? Either way, a 50% off flash sale definitely seemed like the right time.

Too cute for words. Some of my favorite reusable, cotton-based pads.

I was eager to see how the reusable pads would go over— I had a bunch of questions like: how would I store a soiled pad when I was in public and needed to change it? Were they truly absorbent? How long could I wear one before I had to change it? And so many more…

When they finally arrived, I was immediately obsessed. Mainly because I was in love with the prints! But I didn’t buy them to have cute pads… okay, having cute pads did factor in a bit, but the point was low-waste, eco-friendly periods… period.

Too Many Variables— but they Happened at the Right Time.

Now, I’ve gotta back track a bit, because this part is kinda crucial to the story. In May of this year, I turned 32. Why is that relevant? Well, as you may (or may not) know, as women get older, their periods will often get lighter. You may not (or may) notice drastically lighter periods overnight, but this is relevant for my story because as mentioned, I had a history of ridiculously heavy periods. But a couple of months before I turned 32, my periods were noticeably lighter. I couldn’t say with 100% certainty that it was only the age factor because there were just way too many variables:

  • I’d been eating about an 80% whole foods, plant-based diet for several months at this point (so very little processed foods and practically no mock meat at all… like, I stopped buying it completely)
  • I had become very physically active— I even took up running before I suffered an injury last winter.
  • I’d been vegan for a year and a half, so for all I knew, my body could have decided to just start adjusting to my new vegan lifestyle via my cycle (this one is actually very plausible because I know and have read stories from so many women who claim their periods got lighter after going vegan).

The entire paragraph above was written for the purpose of me saying this:

I don’t know if I would be as happy as I am with reusable pads if my period were still as heavy as it was in the past. But I love them now. They’re absorbent af and they work amazingly. So, my period journey has a happy ending. I’m still working out a few kinks like: changing and storing the reusables in public and washing and drying them as soon as possible, but overall they’re great. I’m thrilled that I found a low-waste solution for my period. I’m supplementing the use of the cotton pads with tampons, but cutting my waste in half makes me very proud, and I am constantly reminding myself that this is a baby-step journey, as it should be.

Here’s a Final Recap — or a Summary for the Slackers…

  1. Super heavy periods > Menorrhagia nightmare > birth control saved me, but the chemicals had to go > I started trying to find natural ways to lighten my period and eventually I ended up also trying to make my period more eco-friendly and low-waste.
  2. My first route was changing over to chemical-free, natural, cotton sanitary products > I felt great because I knew I was immediately eliminating placing chemicals inside my body, which I had apparently been doing for almost two decades— ew.
  3. Next, I focused on low-waste > I tried the menstrual cup and it was unsuccessful for me; there were too many grey areas.
  4. Then, I tried reusable pads and I loved them > I settled on a combo of the reusable pads and chemical-free, cotton tampons.

And that’s it! That’s my journey so far. Oh, and PS – full disclosure: I’m a visual person, so going in to change my pad and seeing a bloody Jaws kinda gives me a much needed chuckle when I have cramps and am bleeding from my uterus.

* Menstrual products image courtesy of Vanessa Ramirez via Pexels.com

Lazy Scalloped Potatoes

My recipes are meant to be simple and quick, so when I thought to myself: how can I make scalloped potatoes easier and vegan? this lil’ recipe came to mind. No baking, quick prep and process, and best of all, it tasted extremely decadent. I’ve raved about potatoes many times. They’re a really versatile food and they can be transformed into practically anything. I mean, you start out with a big, round and hard potato, and end up with golden, crisp and soft fries. What kind of magical sorcery is that? And fries are just one of the foods these babies can transform into… tater tots, pancakes, hash browns, I could go on and on, but I won’t because I’m getting hungry. Also, this recipes incorporates my super easy thick and cheezy sauce recipe, which I also use to make mac ‘n’ cheeze.

What You’ll Need:

For the Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (x3) plain, unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)

For the Potato Dish:

  • 1 large potato
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp essential seasoning blend*
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Seasoned potato slices all lined up and ready to go.

What to Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Slice the potato into thin slices ( I was able to yield about 20 slices from my potato –not potato chip thin, but thin).
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine potatoes, olive oil and essential seasoning blend and toss until well mixed.
  4. Place potato slices evenly about 1/2 an inch apart on a large sheet tray lined with aluminum foil.
  5. Place tray of potatoes in oven for approximately 10-13 minutes, making sure not to burn them.
  6. While potatoes are cooking in the oven, start the cheeze sauce.
  7. Heat a medium to large sized skillet over low heat.
  8. Add butter and melt over low heat.
  9. Very slowly, begin to add the flour, about 1/3 of the whole 1/4 cup at a time; Use a flat utensil (preferably wooden or silicone) to stir flour into the butter as you add it to the skillet. Stir continuously until all flour has been thoroughly mixed into butter and the entire 1/4 cup has been added.
  10. Reduce heat to a very low simmer– almost as low as you can get the flame without turning it off.
  11. Add the first 1/4 of almond milk and stir slowly into the roux until completely mixed-in to the mixture.
  12. Add the second 1/4 cup of almond milk and repeat the above step, stirring slowly until the milk is completely mixed-in to the mixture.
  13. Add the third 1/4 cup of almond milk and repeat the above step.
  14. The sauce will start to form now and should be nice and thick.
  15. Return the heat to low.
  16. Add the nutritional yeast and salt and stir into the cheeze sauce until fully blended. Continue stirring sauce for approximately 1 minute, then, remove from heat but keep the sauce in the skillet and on the stove burner.
  17. Remove potato slices from oven and let cool on the side while you finish prepping the sauce. Remove the aluminum foil with the potato slices from the sheet tray to cool faster or place the potato slices on a wire rack.
  18. You have two options here: 1) you can remove half the sauce from the skillet now and store it for later use**, or 2) you can follow the next step with all the cheeze sauce still inside the skillet, although this basic recipe yields more sauce than you will need for the amount of potatoes used***
  19. Add the spinach to the skillet and stir into the cheeze sauce until thoroughly mixed.
  20. Place the potato slices into the cheeze sauce and fold the potatoes into the sauce carefully so you don’t break the slices.
  21. Transfer cheezy potatoes to a serving dish and enjoy. Have fun with the toppings! I added jalapeño and a side of ketchup to mine 🙂

Date Posted on Instagram: 5/1/2019

* essential seasoning blend can be found here.

** transfer the excess sauce to an airtight container (preferably glass) and store it in the refrigerator; it will keep for several days but I don’t recommend saving it for more than 5 to 6 days. To reheat: place sauce in a skillet on low heat. Once heat start to melt the sauce, add about 1 to 3 tbsp. of plain, unsweetened almond milk (add the milk one tbsp at a time) to the skillet and stir the sauce with a flat utensil (preferably wooden or silicone) continuously and slowly until sauce becomes “saucy” again. This should return the sauce to it’s thick consistency, but you can add more milk if you want to thin it out even more.
*** so really, you have 3 options. You can also bake more potato slices using another large potato if you want to use all the cheeze sauce in one sitting.

Super Thick & Cheezy Mac ‘n’ Cheeze

I love mac ‘n’ cheeze. I’ve decided that I would try my hardest in life to avoid any stereotypes about anyone, even the seemingly harmless ones (but, I’m not perfect, so don’t “@” me!). And so, I wasn’t gonna say that I’m pretty much obligated to like this side dish staple because I’m Black– but heck, it’s kinda true. I don’t know a single Black person that doesn’t like mac ‘n’ cheese. But there is one thing that most Black people frown upon in the sacred world of this classic food, and I’ve ventured into that territory with this recipe. Out of a box, stove top mac is a no-no. In fact, it’s almost sacrilege. But, when I can up with this cheeze sauce recipe, I knew I was on to something. Sure, it doesn’t have that baked in the oven taste exactly. And sure, it’s not made with real cheese, or even a vegan cheese substitute. And sure, I threw a bunch of seasonings in the recipe that are not at all reminiscent of traditional African-American mac ‘n’ cheese recipes– okay, I see I’m not really making a strong, positive case for my mac. But regardless, when I tried it, I felt like it tasted like something my family would prefer if they had to have the mac ‘n’ cheese made on the stove in like 15 minutes, instead of baked in the oven. Not only that, I made this with all my fellow humans of all ethnicities and cultures in mind, because who doesn’t love a thick and cheezy sauce? There are a lot of vegan cheeze sauce recipes out there, but mine differs in that the goal is for it to be a thick sauce from the start. It’s best when used right away, in it’s thick form. You’re more than welcome to thin it out by adding more almond milk to the mixture, but that defeats the purpose of this being a “super thick and cheezy” mac ‘n’ cheeze — and I know the point of my recipes is to “make them your own”, but I really like this recipe title, so pretty please keep this sauce thick af.

What You’ll Need:

For the Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (x3) plain, unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)

For the Noods and Mac ‘n’ Cheeze Dish:

  • 4-7 cups cooked small pasta shells*
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • dried parsley (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)

What to Do:

  1. Prepare noodles (boil water, add noodles, return to a rolling boil uncovered. Use approximately 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of dry pasta shells. Drain shells from boiling water and run cold water over pasta shells for approximately 10 seconds. Drain again).
  2. Place noodles in a large mixing bowl and set aside someplace near the stove to keep them warm.
  3. Heat a medium to large sized skillet over low heat.
  4. Add butter and melt over low heat.
  5. Very slowly, begin to add the flour, about 1/3 of the whole 1/4 cup at a time; Use a flat utensil (preferably wooden or silicone) to stir flour into the butter as you add it to the skillet. Stir continuously until all flour has been thoroughly mixed into butter and the entire 1/4 cup has been added.**
  6. Reduce heat to a very low simmer– as low as you can get the flame without turning it off.
  7. Add the first 1/4 of almond milk and stir slowly into the roux until completely mixed-in to the mixture.
  8. Add the second 1/4 cup of almond milk and repeat the above step, stirring slowly until the milk is completely mixed-in to the mixture.
  9. Add the third 1/4 cup of almond milk and repeat the above step.
  10. The sauce will start to form now and should be nice and thick.
  11. Return the heat to low.
  12. Add the nutritional yeast and salt and stir into the cheeze sauce until fully blended. Continue stirring sauce for approximately 1 minute, then, remove from heat.***
  13. Add sauce to the bowl of noodles and stir until cheeze sauce is well blended into noodles.
  14. Transfer some of the mac ‘n’ cheeze to a serving dish and garnish with seasonings to taste.

Date Posted on Instagram: 4/28/2019

* 4 cups will yield a ridiculously cheezy mac, and 7 cups will still be very cheezy but maybe more manageable. You can also use any pasta shape or type you’d like, but I don’t know if the “cheeziness” ratio will change. Most likely, it won’t, but try it out on any pasta you want and play around with the amount of pasta that works for the sauce based on your preference.

** This flour and butter mixture is known as a roux, and it’s the basis for many sauces — particularly in French cuisine (which has a lot of sauce-based dishes), but nowadays, in any cuisine.

*** If you don’t use all the sauce, transfer the remaining sauce to an airtight container (preferably glass) and store it in the refrigerator; it will keep for several days but I don’t recommend saving it for more than 5 to 6 days. To reheat: place sauce in a skillet on low heat. Once heat start to melt the sauce, add about 1 to 3 tbsp. of plain, unsweetened almond milk (add the milk one tbsp at a time) to the skillet and stir the sauce with a flat utensil (preferably wooden or silicone) continuously and slowly until sauce becomes “saucy” again. This should return the sauce to it’s thick consistency, but you can add more milk if you want to thin it out even more.

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The Vegan Girl in LDN

I’ve been obsessed with England since I was a kid. I’m not entirely sure why, but a few reasons come to mind. When I was younger, my favorite weather was cloudy and dreary days, and there’s no shortage of that in London. I also loved the accent. I think I do a pretty good British accent that might rival many natives. Whatever the reason my love affair with the country across the pond exists, my dreams of one day visiting came true when I went to London in February. The fact that I was traveling there as a vegan made it even more exciting. This isn’t specific to LDN (oh, and by the way, be prepared to see “London” replaced with “LDN” for the majority of this post– not because it’s a useful abbreviation, but because I love calling the city LDN), but I’ve decided that anytime I step foot outside of my hometown, it’s an opportunity for me to explore the vegan scene wherever I land. And that’s exactly what I did in LDN.

First stop in ldn, Shoreditch.

All the LDN Vegan Nomz…

The first day I arrived, it was raining and cloudy. Hmmm– raining in London, what a surprise. But I knew exactly where I was headed. My first stop was Shoreditch, a neighborhood that is borderline what we’d call “hipster” in the states. It’s chock-full of amazing street art and graffiti, cool vintage shops and a bunch of vegan noms. I had plenty of options, and a lot of people rave about vegan places in Shoreditch, but I wanted to go to one specific spot. This place was both my 80’s and favorite childhood breakfast dreams come true. It was the Cereal Killer Cafe. This cute place is a giant cereal bar. They have tons of yummy cereal options, many of which are vegan, along with vegan milk options. They also have a vegan loaded hot chocolate, and that’s what I went for due to the chilly weather I was facing outside. You can enjoy your meal in front, facing an entire wall of cereal boxes, or in back, and have a seat on one of several twin sized beds from you brightly colored childhood bedroom. I could live there, like seriously.

Peanut butter cereal loaded hot chocolate for my first vegan nomz in ldn.

So, I basically had a warm dessert as my first vegan meal in LDN. Next, I hit up the Shoreditch location of The Vurger Co. for my main course. The menu is filled with creative, meat-free substitutes for burgers, and many of them don’t use traditional, sliced-cheese substitutes either. They simply focus on fresh and interesting flavors.

They even bring you the receipt in old VHS cases– how cool is that?

I went for the “Auburger”, which is a tabasco chipotle patty made with aubergine (or eggplant as we would call it in the states), red onion and chickpeas. The burger is topped with gherkin, pickled red cabbage, tomato, vegan cheese and house cumin mayo. Instead of fries, I decided to switch it up a bit and get a side of slaw. It came topped with pickles and tortilla chips, and it actually reminded me of traditional American BBQ sides in its presentation and flavor (and the pickles). The burger was insane. So filling. Not only because it was filled with a hearty amount of toppings, but the patty was t-h-i-c-k, and really flavorful. This was an amazing intro to vegan food in London, and I was excited to try so much more. After my yummy burger and slaw, I made my way out of Shoreditch and headed to my LDN digs for the rest of my stay. Fun fact: I got lost heading home on my first night, my phone died while I was trying to find the air bnb, and when I went to get my portable charger, I realized I’d left it at home– in the states. I had to rely on the kindness of a store clerk to let me charge my phone for 15 minutes, and I ended up having to buy a new portable charger while in London. Welcome to my life.

The “Auburger” at The Vurger Co. Check out that thick patty, loaded toppings and saucy slaw.

And it Just Keeps Getting Better! But Literally, it Does.

The next day, I trekked over to Southbank Centre Food Market. This place is a burgeoning outdoor market that has food of all kinds, and also has more than enough vegan options. I actually arrived so early that most of the tents were still setting up. That didn’t bother me one bit– I wanted to get my hands on the vegan noms, and early; I had a lot of sight-seeing to do. I hit up Ethiopiques, an Ethiopian place that vends at the market and also has a spot on Brick Lane.

Ethiopiques vegan platter.

This is authentic Ethiopian food, a lot of which is naturally vegetarian; and they have a big ol’ vegan plate– that’s what I had. This was my first time trying this classic vegan plate that is served in many Ethiopian restaurants; at first, I wanted to save this meal for an NYC spot– I’d been meaning to go to an Ethiopian restaurant in New York for the longest since going vegan, but hadn’t yet. But then I thought: “dude, I’m in London– when is a better time to try it than now?” And I’m glad I did. So much flavor in that plate, and it got better with each bite. And the injera, the traditional and very popular Ethiopian bread, was sooo good. Soft and fluffy, but sturdy enough to pick up the sides with. Such an interesting texture also. And there was a great mix of pickled veg with more savory veg– each little component filled with it’s own flavors. I don’t even like okra unless it’s fried (at least I thought I didn’t), and I stuffed my face with the okra on this platter like nobody’s business.

For dessert, I headed over to Crepes a la Carte. I absolutely love crepes so I couldn’t leave without trying a vegan one. I got mine filled with banana, strawberry jam and chocolate. The crepe itself was nice and soft and had a hearty flavor from the buckwheat mix they use as a base, but it wasn’t overpowering. I would have really loved to try it in a savory crepe, but mine was insanely good– it hit my sweet tooth perfectly. Also, the folks at the booth were so nice. They spoke French and entertained my menial French skills by having a little conversation with me while they made my crepe. Great people always make good food even better.

100% vegan crepe in ldn.

So Much More to Come…

The Old Street Underground station.

Next, I ventured out on the Underground to the Old Street area. It was beautiful and hectic out there– it was the weekend and from what I saw, this was a popular nightlife area; there were a few bars around and the streets were filled with people partaking of the nightlife vibes. On my way to my main destination, I stopped to pick up a few doughnuts at Doughnut Time UK. Although they aren’t exclusively vegan, they always have several vegan selections, which is great. I decided to get a “safe” doughnut and a “rebel” doughnut. I ended up getting a jam filled sugar variety and another called “Sia Later” (perhaps named after the singer?), a red velvet cake doughnut, topped with buttercream frosting and freeze-dried raspberries. Both doughnuts were ah-mazing.

Just look at these doughnut beauties.

The jam-filled tasted like your average jelly doughnut– but the jam tasted really fresh and the doughnut was so soft. The red velvet doughnut was unique and a bit more dense due to it being a cake doughnut and not a classic, doughy one. The buttercream was really sweet. I loved that so much. But the sweetness was slightly balanced out by the red velvet doughnut. A perfect ratio, in my opinion.

But I saved those for later. After picking up my sweet fix, I kept on trekking until I got to Unity Diner. I took a risk going out there on the weekend, during dinner, with no reservation– but I got a seat. And yes, it was already pretty packed, but I couldn’t leave LDN without trying the food here, for several reasons. If you’re big on veganism, you likely have heard of Earthling Ed. He’s popular here in the states, but he’s mega popular across the pond– he’s a vegan activist, speaker and educator and Unity Diner is his creation. All profits from the restaurant go to funding an animal sanctuary in the U.K as well as an animal rights organization called Surge. Knowing that made my food taste even better, although it didn’t need much help because the food here is ridiculous, and I mean that in a very good way.

So much flavor in this surf ‘n’ turf dog, I didn’t even know where to begin. I finished every. single. bite.
Some of the cheeziest vegan mac I’ve ever had, and some of the best too.

I had the surf ‘n’ turf dog, which was part of their Veganuary menu. Sea and land flavors are always a great combo– when they’re vegan, of course. Plus, this dog was pretty hearty. The crispy “shrimp” were delicious and having them alone or sharing them with a bite of the sausage was really good. Even the bun was great– lightly toasty and not soggy at all from the delicious saucy goodness happening on top of the hotdog, but also on the bun, which had a flavorful sauce and lettuce spread across it on one side, and tomato on the other side. I actually ate pieces of the veg, sauce and bun alone, and it tasted like a yummy veggie sandwich.

I also had the mac and cheese and it was piping hot, so cheezy and absolutely delicious. One of the best vegan macs I’ve had yet, and that’s saying a lot because there are a lot of vegan macs out there. Unity did not disappoint in any arena– the food, the hospitality, the service– everything was absolutely stellar and more than I could have imagined.

Outside Norman’s Coach and Horses.

Next up, I went to a vegan pub called Norman’s Coach and Horses. I found out about this place before I even left for the trip and I was so excited to visit because I could already feel that it was one of those hidden gems that doesn’t seem super popular, but if you know, you know– you know? It’s the first 100% vegan pub in LDN. I wanted to get there bright and early, so I traveled into SoHo, stopping first in China Town– and by the way, China Town in London is gorgeous. I marveled at everything I saw there while waiting for Norman’s to open. I started to walk over to the pub, and with about 10 minutes left, I noticed they were already open– my first clue that this place was definitely here to serve the locals. There were a few folks in there already enjoying a nice pint and chatting it up. I already knew what I was getting, because I couldn’t go to a proper British pub and not have the Fish ‘n’ Chips– or in this case, Tofush and Chips!

The meal, the ambiance and the people here were so great. The tofu “fish” was marinated in lemon and you could taste it in every bite. There was also a great crisp on the fry batter and it had seaweed on it to give it that kelp-y, sea flavor. The house-made tartar sauce was so delicious, and I used up every bit of it to dip my tofush in– it was nice and chunky and flavorful. The chips were nice and thick– not steak fries but somewhere in the middle; just perfect for the dish. And the peas were your regular peas, but also delicious. Being that I love to balance every meal out with veg these days, they were probably more spectacular to me that they would be to anyone else, and most folks could maybe do without them– that is, except a native Londoner who orders Fish ‘n’ Chips at any pub in London.

My Norman’s tofush and chips spread, along with dandelion and burdock “beer”. I also partook of that vinegar and ketchup on the table.

After my meal, I had a long conversation with some of the locals about a few struggles Norman’s is going through– by summer 2019, Norman’s could be shut down– a corporate entity may not renew their lease. Norman’s has been run by a father/daughter team for over a decade and the pub thrives off the support of some tourists, sure– but more so (and more importantly) off the support from locals who love this place so dearly. I signed the in-house petition while I was there, but I have recently found out about the Change.org petition for Norman’s. If you can sign it, that would be amazing. If you are able to donate any funds to help keep it going, that would be even more amazing. Let’s help keep this vegan pub alive and thriving!

And Even More Proper British Grub — with Dessert!

A lot of the shops had fun 3D art on them, like these sneakers.

Next, I headed out to Camden Town to check out Young Vegans. This was a looong time coming– I’ve been following them for awhile and I was so excited to go there and try proper British pie and mash. This was by far one of my favorite trips while I was in LDN. I’m obsessed with Camden Town. As soon as I got off the Underground, I knew I was in love with this place. It’s an alternative wonderland and it was packed with so many people and it was just sensory overload in the best way possible.

Proper Pie and Mash at Young Vegans, covered in dark gravy and topped with crispy onions. Food porn to the max.

When I finally made it to Young Vegans, I got the classic meat pie and mash with gravy. Yes, yes and yes. The crust was perfect. And the flavors of the seitan meat were so great– I assume they marinate it with magic (don’t quote me on that but it tasted like it was marinated for days!). The crispy onions on top were the perfect addition to add a nice lil’ salty crunch to the mash also. And the gravy was so flavorful but not thick at all. It just glided over the pie and mash and right into my mouth — which is currently watering while writing this description. And eating great food in an atmosphere that is amazing just adds to the greatness of the meal– Young Vegans is a quaint lil’ spot on it’s own that basically has “hole-in-the-wall” charm, if you will, but the quality of the food and the chill all around made me feel like I was eating in a tiny, cool British pub in town that no one knows about but everyone that matters knows about.

So many alternative and punk stores, and a lot of hip hop gear too. It felt like I was at home in New York, but not.

It was already dark outside when I left Young Vegans, and the plan was to head back to my air bnb– I strategically headed out there at a time where I’d be getting back a little later so I could see Camden Town at night 🙂 But as I was leaving, I looked around at the other shops and noticed there was a vegan dessert booth right across from Young Vegans. It was Nora and Nama— a 100% vegan bakery. I’d just had dinner, so, I had to get dessert right? This was an impromptu addition to my vegan food tour, and I also had a budget to stick to, so, although they had several delicious desserts staring at me, I went with a cute and delicious Alfajores— a traditionally Argentinian cookie, made vegan. It was delicious, with cream and coconut centered between two cookies. I’m actually not a big coconut fan but it wasn’t overwhelming in this cookie at all. And the cookies were soft but crisp at the same time–a difficult feat to achieve. I chowed down on mine while walking back to the underground and taking in all the beauty that Camden Town at night had to offer. You can say that I definitely left there a happy girl.

Vegan alfajores on deck in Camden Town.

And Another Vegan British Pub? Yes!

The next stop on my vegan food tour took me out to The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker. This is another 100% vegan British pub. Although Norman’s has the history, this place has certainly carved out it’s own spot in the hearts of Londoners. It was a rainy day when I went, and that actually felt perfect. Once I got there, I was greeted by the folks working and also by Stella, the cutest pub dog ever (forgot to mention that I met an awesome pub cat at Norman’s).

Spicy Chorizo sandwich at The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker.

Their menu is also hella cute– a piece of brown paper posted on a wooden clipboard. So frickin eco-friendly… once I saw that, I was already in love with the place. I didn’t know what I wanted to get because I’m indecisive, but once my eyes ran across the spicy chorizo sandwich, I knew that was it. It was the most perfect pub sandwich I’d ever seen. The description alone screamed: “eat me after you’ve had a few beers or shots”. I knew I would be having neither, so I was hoping it would live up to my expectations being 100% sober; and boy-oh-boy, did it. The house-made, spicy chorizo was so delicious. Perfectly spicy, with the heat level just slightly off-set by the refried beans, but the spice was kicked right back up by the jalapenos. There was also cheddar which always makes everything better. All this goodness was sandwiched between two slices of pressed sourdough. OMG.

I also got a side of mozzarella sticks and what did I do that for? I wanted to order 100 more after trying them. And that cheeze pull though! They were perfectly crispy on the outside and so gooey on the inside. I haven’t had too many vegan mozz sticks since going vegan, but so far, the ones at Blacksmith are by far my favorite, and they were the most reminiscent of the mozz sticks I’ve had pre-vegan. The food was so good and the chorizo was so filling that I actually didn’t finish the sandwich– I took half home with me, tucked away in my bag for a late-night snack.

Mozzarella stick goodness at Blacksmith.

But I Didn’t go Home Without Dessert, of Course

The rain had let up a bit, so I decided to go to another destination right after leaving Blacksmith– a spot I was planning on getting to at some point while in LDN. I headed over to Yorica! , a 100% vegan ice-cream shop, to get dessert. Not only are they all-vegan, but they’re ice creams are also free from all 14 major allergens. Although I’m indecisive, I already knew what I was getting before I even walked in the door. Anyplace that let’s me combine caramel, waffles and ice cream has a special place in my heart.

Who takes selfies while eating ice cream? This girl right here. Because dude, I was eating ice cream in frickin London.

They have several combos, and I got a waffle and ice cream combo, with the salted caramel and caramel popcorn flavors. I actually swapped out one of the the original combo flavors for the caramel popcorn one because more caramel, duh. Yorica! is also awesome because they let you have free sprinkles with everything. So, although the sprinkles didn’t necessarily go with the flavor profile I was creating, they were free, so on they went and delicious they were.

Yorica! waffle sundae featuring: Salted Caramel and Caramel Popcorn ice cream with caramel and popcorn. Yes, you read that right, and yes, I’m a savage.
Close-up shot featuring sprinkles– free sprinkles. Yay.

And Finally– I Couldn’t Leave London Without Going to This Place…

Me, attempting to look cute while devouring Temple of Seitan nomz.

My final stop was the one and only Temple of Seitan. I think they’ve achieved cult status in LDN, and for good reason because their food is frickin amazing. I knew it was gonna be good, but I didn’t know it was gonna be that good. I had the chick’n bacon sandwich combo with fries and a cola. Even the cola was insane– it was organic, so that could be why, but dang! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this was one of the best chick’n sandwiches I’ve ever had, vegan or not. The outside of the chick’n patty was perfectly crispy and the bacon was just salty goodness. The inside of the patty would absolutely fool any meat-eater, and I’d dare them to challenge me on that. Not to mention the sandwich was slightly greasy and filled with mayo — such pure, unadulterated, vegan fast food goodness. I was kinda peeved that I couldn’t try the burger also but my appetite and budget wouldn’t let me. And the wings– oooh, those wings. I would fly back to London just to try the rest of their menu. Every taste bud in my mouth was thrilled that I left London with Temple of Seitan in my tummy.

Just look at this massive pile of vegan fast food insanity that lays before you, courtesy of Temple of Seitan.

Until Next Time London!

So, that’s it. That was my #veganfoodtour of London. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The food supplemented all the amazing things I got to see and do while I was there. I saw a show at the theater, got pics of some amazing street art, wandered around so many cool neighborhoods, got to see some classic London tourist destinations, went to some dope museums, got to ride the underground, met some cool people, and got to experience the amazing vibes of a super chill city. So yes, it will bear repeating for many years to come: #takemeback! Check out more awesome pics on my Instagram page and stay tuned for more vegan travel reviews!

Jackfruit and Potato Curry

I’m a big fan of potatoes. And for some reason, they seem to taste waaay better when they have sort of saucy goodness on them. This recipe includes just that– potatoes with saucy goodness of the curry variety. There’s also jackfruit in here, and of course, some veg to balance it all out. I’ve been making recipes in a more sporadic nature lately– mostly because I haven’t had the time or energy to devote to coming up with them. Although this isn’t the most unique recipe around, it combines my love of Indian and Caribbean cuisine, creating recipes, and yes, eating food. Unfortunately, this description doesn’t really include my love or skill of writing. Ha, see what I did there? In my defense, I’m writing this late in the evening, and I’m really tired, and this is a personal blog, not the New York Times. So bear with me, read my less than stellar but still witty intro, then, go make this recipe because it’s really frickin good. Oh wow– the word “good” just reminded me of good night. Good night– I’m going to sleep.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups of cooked white rice
  • 1/2 can of chickpeas, drained (15.5 oz)
  • 1 cup jackfruit, diced (fresh or frozen can be used)
  • 1 1/2 cups baby potatoes, chopped in halves (I used Klondike potatoes; you can use any variety)
  • 1/2 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1/8 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup “not beef” bouillon broth*
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder
  • about 1/4 – 1/2 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

What to Do:

  1. Prepare rice (boil water, add rice, stir and bring to a boil again, turn heat to a low simmer, cover and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes or so– use approximately 1 3/4 cup of water for every one cup of rice). Set aside.
  2. Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.
  3. Once hot, add chopped onion, diced potatoes, and carrots; stir ingredients well to mix with oil.
  4. Cook for approximately 2 minutes over medium heat.
  5. Reduce heat to low (not a low simmer, but low) and add chickpeas and “not beef” bouillon broth (or vegetable broth). Gently stir and cover with a lid; let ingredients simmer on low heat for approximately 4-6 minutes, until potatoes just start to tenderize, but not fully.
  6. Remove lid and add jackfruit, cumin, curry powder and salt to skillet. Gently stir into potato mixture until well mixed.
  7. Reduce heat to (a low) simmer and return lid. Let curry simmer for approximately 6-8 minutes, until potatoes are more fork tender but liquid should not dissolve.
  8. Remove from heat; add additional salt if desired.
  9. Transfer rice to a serving dish and top with curry. Serve and enjoy 🙂

Date Posted on Instagram: 4/23/2019

* recipe for the broth can be found in another recipe I wrote. If you do not want to use this broth or don’t have the bouillon cubes, you can use vegetable broth instead.

Tofu and Autumn Veggie Soup

Dump Skillet meals are ideas for meals to create with fresh produce– specifically fresh produce that is on its way out.  Sometimes we don’t know what to make or what we can do with a bunch of veggies because we aren’t used to using produce as the star of our meals or as the only components of our meals. Hopefully these ideas will inspire you!

Produce Used:

  • about 2 cups brussel sprouts, finely chopped (or roughly chopped depending on your preference)
  • 1 large carrot stick, chopped (or shredded with a vegetable peeler — I did both)

Other Ingredients:

  • 1/2 block of firm tofu, drained and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 “not beef” bouillon cube*
  • 1 tsp essential seasoning blend
  • additional salt for seasoning
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

What to do:

  1. Heat a medium sized skillet on low heat with olive oil in it.
  2. Once hot, add cubed tofu and stir.
  3. Turn heat to medium and let tofu cook for approximately 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Reduce heat to low, and add carrots and brussel sprouts to skillet and stir until well mixed.
  5. Add about a pinch or two of salt to lightly season the mixture.
  6. Let the tofu mix simmer, stirring occasionally until tofu has a light browning to it, approximately 4-6 minutes. Do not let the vegetables get too soft, because you want them to remain slightly crisp for the broth. Turn up the heat for the last few minutes if you would like the veggies to be cooked a bit more well-done (as in the picture). Once cooked, remove from heat.
  7. While the veggies cook, you can start the broth. Bring the water to a boil with the bouillon cube in it.
  8. Once boiling, reduce heat to a low simmer and add essential seasoning blend and stir.
  9. Continue to stir broth until bouillon cube is fully dissolved if it has not done so yet.
  10. Let broth simmer for about 2-3 minutes, then, add tofu and veggie mixture to broth and stir.
  11. Let soup simmer for another minute or two, then, remove from heat and serve hot.

Date Posted on Instagram: 04/08/2019

* I used the Edward and Sons brand and found it at Whole Foods. You should be able to find these at your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or even a specialty store. If you don’t live near one of these places, you can also try purchasing the cubes online. There are also other brands that make vegan-friendly bouillon cubes. To make the broth, you dissolve 1 full cube into two cups of hot water (or 1/2 a cube into 1 cup of hot water).