The Great Green Gift Guide

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This holiday season, add eco-friendly and vegan clothing to your wish list! Not only are these clothes cool and comfy, but they’re great for the environment and kind to animals. So what more could you want? Here’s some of my favorites and things I’ve added to my list, too!                         

Toms Shoes

I have a pair of metallic, shiny Toms that I’ll admit, aren’t the of the vegan sorts, but I love them regardless. They’re super comfortable, glitzy, and I can wear them with just about anything.

One of my favorite things about Toms is the fact that they donate a pair of shoes to needy children when you buy a pair of your own. I always love organizations that help others and the fact that I don’t have to move a muscle (aside from pressing “Add to Cart”) to help someone, too, is even better.

Their vegan collection includes a wide variety of men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes. Expect earth tones, animal print, muted plaids, and beachy prints. Bright colored wrap boots are also offered under the vegan category, which are great for the fall and winter months. Who doesn’t love a good pair of boots?

Plus, I’ve seen Toms pop up everywhere lately, so jump on the Toms bandwagon, help a child get a pair of shoes he or she needs, and help animals in the process.

     View the vegan collection here!

The Herbivore Clothing Company

To be honest, I’ve never heard of this company before, but as I started browsing the website, The Herbivore Clothing Company has a lot of cute and quirky products perfect for vegetarian and vegans.

A lot of their shirts, hoodies, cardigans, and socks have graphics and vegan sayings, similar to PETA, but they’re all really interesting.

They have a lot of different bags and purses for sale that do not have graphics and look a little bit more professional for everyday use. Some of their leather looking bags would be great for the season.

They have one oversized “leather” tote with zippers and tassels in dark and light brown. A cute, bright pattern is on the fold-down flap to bring it further into the spring season. Cute!  The bags themselves are pretty simple, but think how good they are for the environment? Selling for $45, prices are fairly in line for everything else you would have your eye on.

PETA

PETA offers a large selection of vegetarian and vegan products. Between clothes, calendars, books, and jewelry, I found something that everyone can use and benefit from. Hate when you have to fight the produce bags when you stock the refrigerator? Me too. PETA sells a Veggie Bed, a reusable tote with special sections for veggies and fruits.

The Compassionate Cook is a vegetarian cookbook is under the gift section. Whether or not you want to get the PETA cookbook, there are many different versions of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks and they’re always great to have because sometimes the thought of eating carrots and bread for every meal of every day can seem somewhat monotonous.

This one is specifically for girls, but it’s adorable. They are selling a recycled aluminum bunny necklace that I know I want!

If you’re shopping locally, here is a list of some vegan and vegetarian shops in Phoenix.

  • Boutique Solie, originally at Scottsdale Road and Shea Road moving soon to Central Phoenix, this boutique offers a variety of organic products.
  • The Eco Sleep Shop on Ray Road also has an online store with organic bedding.
  • Buffalo Exchange has locations around the country. They are a type of a thrift store with a vintage appeal. Not everything is vegan, but it’s always fun and efficient to recycle clothing.

Don’t Forget the Pumpkin!

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This autumn, it’s no surprise that pumpkins are everywhere. You have pumpkin patches, pumpkin carving, pumpkin pie and scary pumpkin haunted house masks, so why not add a little pumpkin to your diet?

"I'm great for you!"

Pumpkin is full of nutrients that are great for anyone with a vegetarian diet, as well as everyone else, too. According to VegHealthGuide.com, pumpkins have nutrients in their seeds and the pumpkin “stuff” itself. Dieters love pumpkin, too, because it is healthy and low in calories.

VegHealthGuide.com says that the seeds you pull out of the inside also go by the name of “pepitas” and are especially great for men’s health.

“Eating [them] may promote prostate health, protection for men’s bones, anti-inflammatory benefits for those with arthritis and help lower cholesterol.”

Pepitas also have “essential fatty acids, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, and copper, protein and vitamin K.”

Vegetarians and vegans often need to keep track of how much iron, fatty acids and b-12 they get because of the meat that they lack in their diet.

For vegans, zinc is especially important because zinc is usually found in meats and eggs, both of which are not a part of their diet. Pumpkin seeds take care of quite a few of these important nutrients, as well as a few others.

After recently carving my pumpkin for Halloween, I separated the seeds from the orange, slimy guts of the pumpkin and baked them with a few small shakes of salt. Bake them at a moderate temperature (I rarely ever measure it), until they seem to look crispy and cooked. The salt will give them a little extra flavor, but still keep them healthy.

The pumpkin itself is great for many different recipes and can be cooked in a variety of different ways. Think of traditional pumpkin pie, pumpkin (or any kind of squash) soup or cooked and caramelized side dishes. Want to try something different?

Try this creamy, pesto pumpkin pizza with cheese and cashews.

Or even try this sweet, seasonal Italian Risotto made with pumpkin.

And for dessert, how about a vegan chocolate pumpkin pie?

Click here for the complete chart of pumpkin nutrition.

Surprisingly Difficult To Find A Meal, But Ended Up Happy

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This is just a quick pointer for Valley residents looking for a place to eat delicious vegetarian food.

I went to Kabuki the other night at Tempe Marketplace for dinner, hoping to find something vegetarian, because I usually have a pretty easy time finding something meat-free in the Asian category.

Unfortunately, there was barely anything on the menu that was specifically a vegetarian option. I ended up having to ask for something that was meat-free but still had tofu in it, which the waiters didn’t really know until they went to the kitchen to verify what was in any specific dish.

Their menu is somewhat difficult to understand as it is, as I ordered the Sukiyaki (minus the beef) expecting it to be a plate full of noodles, sauce, veggies, and tofu. When it was brought to me, it was a huge vat of broth with a few soft noodles, soft tofu, mushrooms, and onions. It was very hard to eat, but ended up being delicious. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind though, so I was disappointed about that. As far as the whole meal goes, however, I was happy with what was brought to me.

Maybe I was confused about what I ordered because I don’t usually eat a wide range of Japanese dishes!

Aside from the main course, the meal came with a small salad with a light, tangy Asian dressing, miso soup (which is, of course, a fishy broth), steamed rice, and edamame (which I wasn’t sure if it was always complimentary, or if we got it for free, ‘just because’).

For non-vegetarian dinner guests, they have a huge menu of sushi (which I hear is great), and other dishes are chock full of different types of meat.

I would recommend Kabuki if you’re wanting something fancier and a little less Americanized like Panda Express is, but be open to different experimental vegetarian dishes, as there isn’t anything (that I saw) that was directly vegetarian.

Quick and Yummy Tofu Recipe

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There are a million different ways to cook tofu and many of them can taste delicious if you do it right. I often found myself disliking tofu at the beginning of my vegetarian diet because I was getting the wrong kind of tofu and it was cooked in a way that reminded me of a ball of glue that I could bounce off the wall.

One of my personal favorites now is tofu cooked Asian style, because the flavors from the sauces meld into the tofu and cover up a lot of the weird cooking flubs and other things that sometimes make it less than appealing. Those recipes take time and are often part of large dinners and time consuming projects.

I was taught a way to cook tofu so it resembled a more “meaty” and dry texture, useful for tofu recipes that don’t require marinating it in something wet, like the Asian foods and sauces I mentioned above.

I love quick and easy lunches, so this healthier “fried” tofu is great for me.

Ingredients:

-EXTRA FIRM Tofu. Make sure it’s not just “firm” or anything else because it may not cook up to be as dry of a texture or as thick once it’s cooked. Unless you like tofu to be more soggy, I’d stick with the extra firm.

-Cooling racks or anything with slats for draining the tofu liquid from packaging

-Cookie sheets

-Non-stick cooking spray

-Something mildy heavy

-Eggs

-Bread Crumbs

-Assorted Seasonings (I like to use pepper, garlic salt, some italian seasoning, mesquite seasoning, or anything with a bite)

Instructions:

1. Drain the excess liquid from the tofu container and place the block of tofu on a cutting board.

This is a package of tofu

Although this is the firm kind, look for anything that looks like this!

2. Use a knife to slice the tofu into thin rectangles and place each one carefully on a cooling rack. The cooling rack should be on top of a cookie sheet or something else to collect the liquid that may drain from the tofu during preparation. Be careful not to slice the tofu too thin or else it may break – it’s fragile!

Tofu on Cooling Racks

Make sure the cooling racks are over a cookie sheet to collect the drained liquid!

3. Place at least one layer of paper towel over the tofu on the cooling racks and place another cookie sheet over that. This will sandwich the tofu on the racks between the two cookie sheets.

Tofu Draining

The paper towel will begin to soak up the liquid very quickly.

Place heavy objects (I like to use cans of vegetables or something similar) on top of the top cookie sheet to put weight on the tofu. This will drain the liquid out of the tofu slices.

Using weight to drain the tofu

These cans are putting weight on the tofu to force out excess liquid.

4. After letting the tofu drain, which may take a while depending on how wet the slices were and how dry you want them to be, remove the layers of cans, cookie sheet, and paper towel. 

These were a little too wet still, so I put them in the oven.

If the tofu doesn’t drain well, try putting it in the oven on really low heat for a few minutes to speed up the process. Don’t completely bake the tofu, however.

5. Beat an egg in a bowl and create a separate mixture of your favorite seasonings and bread crumbs. Be careful not to mix too many salty seasonings because it can be way too overpowering!

First the egg, and then the mixture!

6. Coat a strip of tofu with egg and pat on the seasoning/bread crumb mixture to bread the tofu. Fry the breaded tofu in a pan on medium heat coated with non-stick cooking spray until it is cooked well and golden to your liking.

Slowly frying the strips of tofu.

It’s that simple! You can use them immediately or let them cool and save them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.

Let the strips cool before putting them in tupperware in the refrigerator.

I like to put this type of tofu on paninis, sandwiches, and wraps.

My favorite quick snack or lunch is a tortilla with hummus, ranch, lettuce, cheese, and a few slices of this tofu.

The best part about this recipe is that it is so quick and easily personalized to what you want it to taste like. Want a simple breaded “meat” flavor? Do you want something spicy and cajun?

Experiment with different flavors and seasonings – I don’t even measure my seasonings when I make the mixture. I just add until I like what it tastes like!

Have a good lunch!

World Vegetarian Day!

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Today is World Vegetarian Day! Pat yourselves on the back if you’re a vegetarian and if not, you can still participate in some of the animal and earth friendly activities planned nearest you.

The North American Vegetarian Society has their own website dedicated to the support of vegetarians and education about the benefits of a veggie diet.

According to the NAVS site for World Vegetarian Day, “the day was originated by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977 and endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978.”

So now that it’s established that it’s a real celebrated holiday, where’s the World Vegetarian Day gift and card exchange? I wish.

Celebrate today by eating your favorite vegetarian meals, or converting yourself to a temporary (or permanent) vegetarian for the day.

Phoenix and Tempe are full of great vegetarian restaurants and eateries with delicious vegetarian options!

As said in a previous post, the Phoenix MeetUp Group is hosting a celebratory pizza party at zpizza with a group of fellow vegetarians. Check it out! Everyone is welcome, whether you’re already a MeetUp member or not. The group is very passionate and excited about their events and are more than eager to celebrate this vegetarian-friendly holiday!

Steve, the head of the Vegetarian MeetUp Group, and Roger, a member at a past event at Tsom Vegetarian Flavors Restaurant.

The Phoenix Public Market

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The Phoenix Public Market is a great place for vegetarians, vegans, and even healthy meat-eaters because they have a great variety of food and products. They have prepared meals available for purchase or can create something to your taste. If you’re looking for something quicker or to take home, purchase some of their fresh fruits and vegetables, along with tofu, tempeh, and other meat substitutes.

They have a back-door style coffee shop off the back of the store itself with a contemporary, simple charm.

Stop by the Phoenix Public Market to visit their farmer’s market to pick up even more local produce, specialty foods, and more!

Like them on Facebook, too, for special news and events!