Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vegan eats in the larger SoCal area

So, I haven't written in a while because as it turns out, June has been an even busier travel month for us than May was! OK, we only went to LA and Palm Springs, but as a SD based blog, I figured I may as well suggest some good veg restaurants in the surrounding areas.

The first place we went to eat in LA was our favorite standby, Real Food Daily. The food here is always good (albeit quite filling so watch out if you're going dancing later), the atmosphere is really nice, they offer outdoor seating (meaning our dog Juno gets to go too, although he actually has to sit outside the seating area on the sidewalk), and they are entirely vegan (and I believe all or mostly organic as well). They don't take reservations, but I've never had to wait for a table, even though there's always some customers, as it is a popular restaurant.

We also tried a great place that's new to us, called the Vegan Joint. I had a delicious mock fish dish (the Fish Dinner) and really yummy vegetable soup. They also have outdoor seating and brought water for Juno (as did RFD). Their menu is extensive and affordable: check it out here. We will definitely be eating there again!

We grabbed some food to go at Vegan Glory, which while we love the fact that it's all vegan, is more of a fast food type atmosphere and quality of food than either of the aforementioned places. I was disappointed that the seaweed salad consisted only of the dark green seaweed and not the bright lime green stuff that I adore. This is one of many Thai vegan restaurant options in LA. I wish we had even half as many options in San Diego! But trends eventually trickle down here, so hopefully it won't take too long.

Next we went to Palm Springs. Much slimmer pickings here but we did manage quite well. Our new fav restaurant, Native Foods, is in a shopping center here. Even though that may not sound like the ideal location, they had lovely misters outside and shade that made it quite bearable and even pleasant to eat there (with Juno of course). Now this place has five different SoCal locations (alas, none in San Diego), so check out the site for exact addresses. We ate there twice and every single item we got was delicious. We especially loved the "Save the Chicken" Wings. The service was good as well.

We also ate at Pepper's Thai in Palm Springs after not being able to find another vegan only (or even veg only) restaurant. I'm kind of glad we didn't find another one, because I am not exaggerating when I say this is one of the best Thai restaurants I've ever eaten at! And I love Thai, so I've been to a few. The service was excellent and they cater to vegans (at least they catered to us), so please don't let the fact that they're not all-vegan stop you from trying them. They do have a vegetarian section on the menu, but you can also pretty much order anything on the menu and just have them make it vegan for you, which is what we did. I had the Ginger Chicken (with mock chicken of course; I checked to be sure it was vegan and it is), as well as a delectable house salad, the Tofu Fresh Rolls, and their Coconut Pineapple Ice Cream, which is vegan as well. It was amazing! It's made mostly with coconut milk and pineapple chunks and a little added sugar but most of the sweetness tasted as though it were from the coconut itself. The service was also excellent; our server after catering to our vegan ways, bringing water for Juno, and suggesting additional vegan options (such as that amazing ice cream), also brought us hand-picked apricots from their own tree! They were sweet and delicious.

Well, I'm signing off until next month, and I'll be back with more veg choices and news then!

Monday, June 9, 2008

So you want to go vegan?

Today, I got an email from a classmate, telling me that he and his wife want to try going vegan, and asking for any tips and advice on how to do it. So I thought I'd share these here, in case they can help others as well. Because this is a transcription of an actual email to my friend, you will probably see some things I've mentioned already in earlier posts. I'll always remember the advice my vegan friend Jessica gave me that gave me the confidence to try it: "It's not as hard as you think." If anyone else out there has tips they'd like to share, please add them in the comments.

The only supplement you will def. need (although you may need others based on individual needs), and which you cannot get from an animal-free diet, is B12. Marc and I like to get ours through taking Emergen-C, which are powder packets that make fizzy drinks with plenty of B12 and lots of other good stuff, such as Vit C, etc. They come in many flavors, and we take one a day (I like mine in the AM). This, coupled with the fact that I consume no dairy, has basically eliminated the common cold in our household (I've only gotten 2 in almost 5 years of eating vegan and taking this).

Earth Balance
is a delicious butter substitute, which bakes, fries, cooks, spreads and in all ways acts like real butter. It is GMO-free and non-hydrogenized. It comes in tubs, both regular and whipped, and the same company also makes a version called Soy Garden. All are vegan, but Smart Balance is not, just similar name, so be careful. Even many of my non-vegan friends use this because it's so good and so much healthier for you than butter or margarine.

Silk Soy creamer is great for coffee and tea, and we like rice milk for cereal. It's good to mix it up because you don't want to overdo it on the soy. For this same reason, although in the beginning you may find yourself eating a lot of tofu, try to go easy on it; it's a processed food and too much soy is not the best thing, although far less dangerous than meat.

Tofutti cheese slices are one of the only good vegan cheeses I've found; they melt and taste better melted than cold. I like the mozzarella flavored slices best. My craving for real cheese disappeared in about a month, and that was my last animal food craving. Also, after about a month of eating vegan, I found myself feeling more naturally full and satisfied after meals, whereas for the first few weeks I felt a little hungry, but it passed.

Wondering what to eat? Almost any recipe can be made vegan by leaving out the meat (perhaps substitute portabello mushrooms, seitan, or tofu), using Earth Balance where butter is called for, soy, rice or coconut milk instead of cow's milk, and EnerG egg replacer, which is a potato starch based powder that comes in a box and makes baking vegan a cinch. If you crave eggs, try scrambled tofu instead.

The best vegan mayonnaise is Vegenaise, by Follow Your Heart. Even when you lick the knife, it tastes just like regular mayo, but a little better (to me anyway).

Wondering where to eat out and what to get? Apart from actual veg or vegan restaurants, most of which can be found for any area on, Asian restaurants are the easiest, especially Japanese and Thai places. But you must always make it clear to your server that you're vegan and what that means as sometimes things that you wouldn't think have any animal products in them do (many places put a fish base in their miso soup for instance). Most pizza places will be happy to make you a pie sans cheese and load up the veggies, Italian food is a cinch due to the many pasta dishes and marinara or garlic and oil. Many places will be happy to accommodate you by leaving out or substituting the offending ingredient; after all, even Oprah is trying vegan now.

Avocados are filling, delicious and nutritious and great on sandwiches, salads or dips. Rice has been one of our staples; brown is best and wild rice is yummy, although I must admit, we eat far too much white rice. Just about all veggies are great, but go easy on the fruits, most of which are high in sugar and should not be eaten with other foods, since they can rot in the stomach (or so I've heard). They are fine as a treat, just don't go crazy with them. Juices are good too, but the same rule applies: heavy on the veggies, light on the fruits, and to get the full nutritional value, must be drank right after being made. Cucumbers, celery, beets, kale, and parsley are all great for juicing. Raw ginger is a nice addition. Nuts and nut butters are good, with almonds being one of the healthiest, and peanuts one of the least healthy.

There are many internet resources available; here are just a few:

Many of these offer free vegan start-up guides online or by mail. Good luck, let me know how it goes, and feel free to comment w/questions!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Living Foods Lecture

This past Monday night, I attended a lecture about raw, living foods at Rancho's, an all-vegan market on 30th, just past University St. The speaker was Dr. Brian Clement of Hippocrates Health Institute. At first, I was worried that it would just be a long boring sales talk, but my worries were unfounded. Dr. Clement was a good speaker and quite generous with information, and although he told us a little about HHI, it wasn't the whole focus of the lecture.

He spoke about so many things that I will just touch on a few that stood out to me the most. He mentioned the connection of eating animal products (yes, that means dairy and eggs too, not just meat) and greenhouse gas emissions. Now I already knew all about this, having done research for a school project on it, but in case you didn't already know, the UN put out a report a year or two ago showing that eating animal products is the biggest cause of global warming, and far more impactful than the kind of car you drive. But I will not go too far into that, since as Brian would say, I'd probably be preaching to the choir!

However, although he does live and teach about an all vegan lifestyle, he takes it a step further and insists upon all raw, living food. This is a step I have not taken, but am curious about. He mentioned that sprouts are the most nutritious food, veggie juices are great as long as you drink them fresh from the juicer, and blenders kill nutrients—yes, you heard that right! Something about the oxygenation that occurs when blending and spinning the food. Damn, it's so much harder to clean my juicer than my blender, but I suppose I shouldn't be lazy anymore...

He made a lot of strong statements (such as Ritalin is cocaine - I'll buy that) but backed them up by saying "check every word I say" and I did check a few, although most I believed by instinct anyway. One of which is his statement that laptops cause ovarian and testicular cancer; weird, but I never felt comfortable working on a laptop and as a designer, I spend a lot of time on the computer, so you'd think I'd have one by now. He spoke about studies from Russia and Sweden that showed the relation between cell phone use and brain tumors; those of you who know me, know that I refused to get a cell phone until about a year ago and hate to speak on it even now. You can learn more about it here:,410111.shtml.

But I digress. Let's get back to nutrition. Brian also talked about distilled water, mentioning we get 2/3 of our oxygen intake from water and that it should be as pure as possible. He said the other alternative to distillation is molecular organization, which can be achieved with a living water system. He mentioned that many people have a vitamin D deficiency and shitake mushrooms dried in the sun are a good source of vitamin D. He is a big proponent of wheat grass and says optimally we should have 2 ounces in the AM and PM. He touched on the importance of hormones, oxygen and enzymes for optimal health. And he must know what he's talking about because his institute is famous for curing catastrophic illnesses such as cancer.

The other thing the institute's well known for is anti-aging; now, when I first got to the lecture, I checked Brian out to see if he looked extra healthy or "glowed" from eating raw foods. Unfair, I know, but we tend to do this when judging whether or not a person's lifestyle is truly worth emulating. I will admit he looked very healthy, but not in an unusual way. He looked good for a 40-year old, which is about what I assumed his age was. Then, later in the lecture, he mentioned something about going to college in the 60s. What?!? By my calculations, he would've been born in the 60s. He was a good 30 or so years older than I thought by his appearance! And I was not sitting very far away from him. Wow...

Dr. Clement also mentioned that agave syrup is really not much better than corn syrup in the way it affects the body—damn again! I had a feeling it might be too good to be true. I'll have to look into this one more, but he mentioned that the whole low-glycemic/high-glycemic thing is more marketing than anything else. He also mentioned fruit is so high in sugar and almost always picked unripened (and does not ripen once picked—bananas being the only exception), which when eaten, robs the body of nutrients. Another think I've instinctively felt. I eat very little fruit for being a vegan, which surprises people, but now I have a reason...

During the question/answer session, many individuals asked him about things that this scientist or that nutritionist had written about. Now, Brian approaches things from a very scientific and factual viewpoint (he works with many scientists for his studies and institute), but he was also able to disprove some things that scientists and doctors have stated. My friend Jessica once pointed out that if you add the phrase "God bless him/her" to a sentence, you can say almost anything negative about them and not come off as being critical. Well, Brian must know this trick, because he used it all the time when discounting other people's theories!

There are so many other things he spoke about, but I could go on forever. So I must stop here, but if you go to his website, you can sign up for a free quarterly magazine subscription, which I did after browsing through an issue I got at the lecture. Enjoy!