Uncategorized

So… where do you get your…? Vitamins Edition

When choosing to deviate from the standard American diet and instead follow a plant-based lifestyle, many assume there will be a lack of… things.  In the first of our series “So… where do you get your…?”, we will discuss vitamins.

  1. Cal-Mag Plus
  2. Daily Multivitamin
  3. B12
  4. D3
  5. Omega-3 DHA
  6. Alpha Brain

Prior to June 2016, I was not taking vitamins.  I felt fine, was eating a “balanced” diet, and had a vegan chip on my shoulder that food intake would be sufficient enough to meet my vitamin and mineral needs.   I was also an avid runner, just off my first marathon,  my body was at its peak. Then, the unthinkable happened… I got a stress fracture in my shin.

WHY ME?! HOW!?

At this point, my running coach Rita, asked if I was getting enough calcium. UMMM OF COURSE I WAS!..nt.  After reviewing my MyFitnessPal food diary, that I was keeping meticulously to make sure I was getting enough calories while training, it revealed I was getting sad amounts of calcium.  What a disappointment! The vegan chip on my shoulder was quickly knocked off.

My new plan, add tons of food sourced calcium to my diet!  I began consuming crazy amounts of fortified plant-based milk. Almond milk with breakfast, almond milk with lunch, almond milk with dinner…  this got old… quickly. That is when I decided to buy a supplement.  I searched on trusty Amazon and found that Deva has many varieties of vegan vitamins and landed on their Cal-Mag Plus tablets.

41GbFWXNO7L.SX500_SY436_CR,0,0,500,436_PIbundle-2,TopRight,0,0_SX500_SY436_CR,0,0,500,436_SH20_ (1)

The bottle calls for 3 tablets per day, so I added this supplement to my daily routine.  I took one tablet with breakfast, one with lunch, and on with dinner, sometimes.  Often, per my MyFitnessPal food diary, I did not need a 3rd tablet, as I already met my calcium needs for the day.  I did notice one thing, shortly after taking the supplement with breakfast and lunch, I would grow a tad sleepy.  Funny thing, mag, short for magnesium can make you sleepy!! Now, I take one tablet at night before bed.  Not only does it make my bones strong, it helps me get to sleep more soundly!

It was not until speaking with friends that I decided taking a multivitamin, was a good decision.  Friends scared me with stories that B12, not found abundantly in a vegan diet, deficiency was silent and irreversible.  Stating that once damage of deficiency is done, there is no coming back from it.  NOTE: I did not look up any information or consult a doctor.  I just believed them and acted.

Again, I took to Amazon and went with a Deva product, Multivitamin & Mineral Support.

I had recovered from my stress fracture in about 3-4 months.  I continued to take the cal-mag tablets because I definitely did not want another one.  Though things seemed to be going well, I wanted to be sure all my levels were in good standing.  During my yearly physical, I had a full panel of blood work done.  The results were not that bad.  Turns out, I was slightly low in B12 and significantly low in vitamin D.  My doctor was not worried and did not associate these almost deficiencies with my plant based diet.  Turns out, most people are low in both as sun exposure, due to a million different things is not strong in the northeast, and B12 absorbancy is generally low.  Back to Amazon I go….

Life went on and so did my continued education into the world of vitamins.  Turn outs me and Vinny both listened to different podcasts, Rich Roll and Joe Rogan, with Dr. Rhonda Patrick  and decided to add Omega-3 DHA, essentially algae, to our list of supplements.   This is normally found in fish oil and has a wide list of functions in the body.

Just when I thought our supplement intake was perfect, Vinny brought Alpha Brain into the mix.  Alpha Brain is a nootropic that supports memory and focus.  This was not added to fulfill a lack of vitamin, just an addition to the group.

To conclude, I am no way throwing shade on the vegan diet.  A lot of the time, we lean towards a junk food vegan diet and these vitamin supplements keep us meeting out dietary goals.  I also forgot to mention why we order specified vegan vitamin supplements.  As some people may not know, many vitamins contain gelatin, which is not vegan.  Be careful when ordering your supplements.

— Erin

 

 

Post Run Recovery

Sure, the actual running is SUPER important but so is post-run recovery.  For a long time, I was in the habit of going for a run then going home and sinking into my couch and catching up on social media.  After my stress fracture last year, I changed my ways, sort of.

My Post Run Routine

  1. Drink water. I like to consume about 32 ounces of water within 40 minutes of finishing my run.  32 ounces sounds like a lot but it just so happens to be the size of my Hyroflask.  This is also just my personal preference.  No science behind it.  This is just the amount that make me feel re-hydrated.
  2. Elevate. Since I am still very into sitting around and skimming social media/Strava after I run, I work this in by spending 5-10 minutes with my legs up on the wall.  This increases circulation and makes my legs feel great!
  3. Stretch/strengthen.  On a well-behaved runner day, I follow the NHS basic stretching routine.  Afterwards, I do a series of planks, push ups and crunch variations.  My strength series is nothing too strenuous, with only 30 second planks and about 3 sets of 10 push ups and crunch variations.
  4. Recovery Smoothie.  This part is my favorite.  Within 40 minutes of finished my run (yes I time it), I enjoy my post run “milkshake” aka a Vanilla Vega Performance Protein Smoothie, which I think tastes like a milkshake.  The following recipe is used for any run longer than 5 miles, for all other runs, I half the recipe.

Vanilla Vegan Performance Protein Smoothie

1.5 cups Silk Unsweetend Cashew Milk
1 scoop Vanilla Vega Performance Protein Powder
Flax Seeds
Chia Seeds
Tumeric
Ginger
1 Frozen Banana
Kale

Blend and Enjoy!

All Things Running – 2017 Training (and other things) – Month Uno

It is 2017 and I have BIG running goals, well one big running goal, QUALIFY FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON.  Training for something like this entails more than just constant running. In addition to my body, my mind needs to be equally, if not more, trained for the months of work and the race itself.

The Race

My official go at my BQ will be at the Via Marathon in September.  I know that sounds like a lifetime away, it is for typical 8-12 week marathon training plan, but in order to meet my 3:30 goal, training starts now.

Let’s take it back to the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2016.  This was my unofficial first attempt at a Boston qualifying time.  If anyone was in Philadelphia this day, the weather was not ideal (40 mph wind gusts, 30 degree temps, yada yada yada) and long story short, I clocked in at 3:36:50,  1 minute 50 seconds over “BQ time”.  I say “BQ time” because even if I did clock in at 3:35, I would not be guaranteed a spot due to time cuts made after submissions are final.  The end of the race was bittersweet, my friend Lia’s mom gave me my metal. I was greeted by my boyfriend who followed me on a bike the majority of the race. I had PRed my marathon time by almost 20 minutes but I was still  not qualified for Boston. This 1 minute 50 seconds only fueled the fire to make me more focused and determined to still qualify for 2018.

Back to current time… I chose the Via Marathon due to its location, course and time of year.  The Via Marathon is only a short turnpike trip away in Allentown (plus it is in close proximity to Bethlehem, aka dreams of post marathon ice cream at Vegan Treats).  A close marathon means not too much adjustment from traveling.  The course is flat and previously 27.50% of participants received a Boston qualifying time.    The marathon is on September 10th, 2017 which is the last possible weekend for Boston qualifying as the cut off should be one week later on the 17th.  Some might see this as a risky move or wonder why I did not pick a marathon earlier in the year, here is why.  I toyed with the idea of a spring marathon, the New Jersey Marathon on April 30th to be exact, but the back to back training I recently did between the Philadelphia Marathon 11/20/2016 and the Dopey Challenge 1/5/2017, left me feeling exhausted.  I was not mentally prepared for another 12 weeks of marathon training so soon.  A summer marathon was an immediate NO.  I do not fare well running in summer temps and I did not want to travel far to avoid them.  So here I am running the Via Marathon in late summer and, I think, if train problems do not repeat themselves, this is my BQ marathon.  PLUS, my friend Aaron from my Strong Hearts Vegan Power team will be by my side a pacer!

The Running

Since officially signing up for my second attempt at a offical Dopey Challenge, my coach Rita, has put me in full training mode.  My typical week consists of 2 easy runs, 1 day of coached track speedwork, 1 day of on-my-own speedwork, 1 long run, 1 optional cross training day and 1 rest day.  One rest day and all those work outs might sound vigorous for the “off-season”, and at times it feels that way, but Rita knows what she is doing and I can feel myself improving as the weeks go by.    I have now come to terms with the fact that I have no off-season, as it does not really fit with my current goals, and I am happy about that.  When I am running, I am happy.  It is the part of day set aside just for me, no distractions from my phone or TV or anything really.

All that being said, it is March and it was February.  Both of those months, are part of a thing people like to call winter.  Winter running is not pretty.  Red cheeks, running noses, teary eyes, numb limbs, ice avoidance — all happen and make it hard for any winter runner to be as gazel-like as they believe themselves to be.  Most of my running has been completed on my “home course” of Delaware Ave, the Temple University Track and, sadly, the treadmill at my local Planet Fitness, which I only resort to under unpleasant weather (i.e. freezing rain, snow, temperatures below freezing).  In addition to the cold, I have been haunted by wind since the Philadelphia Marathon.


My most notable and fun run happened during a trip to the PA mountains.  Coincidentally, Lake Harmony, where I was staying for the weekend, was set right on the course of my future race with my team Strong Hearts Vegan Power, the Ragnar Pennsylvania, benefiting Tamerlaine Farms.   I had this idea to complete the final miles, of the last leg, of the race.  To my disappointment, the course proceeded down private property and I could not complete my planned course which was for the better.  I ended up running the majority of my first 4 miles downhill then had to turn around and proceed up hill all the way back home.    It was as challenging as it was fun but my brother, who volunteered to run with me, probably wanted to kill me.


The Eating

I am a creature of habit…  2 hours prior to any run over 5 miles – caffeinated CLIF Bar; Night before a long run, some combination of red sauce with pasta, on pizza, with a baguette, any combo works;  1 GU energy gel every 4 miles; Recovery smoothie after.  They are the basic and things I keep consistent.  I am not perfect, my diet through this month of training has been confusing.  I’m logging 20+ miles per week, my body is in hunger mode and I am compensating, and then compensating more on top of that.  Next months goal: eat more consciously.  Stay tuned for my favorite recovery smoothie recipes as well as my weekly meal plans.

The Listening

I am not the type of runner who relies heavily on music during my workouts. I make playlists, sure, but if music was to fail on race day or during a run, it would not ruin my performance.   Music more or less became backround noise, so after the Philadelphia Marathon, I cancelled my Spotify subscription and went in a different direction with my audio of choice.  I started diving into that purple icon on my iPhoen… podcasts.  Some might find it odd listening to someone talk as you run but podcasts, specifically the Rich Roll podcast, has transformed my running on a mental level.

Ok “transformed my running on a mental level” sounds hippy and out there, I get it, weird, but hear me out.  The Rich Roll podcast features some of the most inspirational guests of our time.  The guest that drew me in and made me a regular listener of the podcast was Kerri Walsh Jennings.  Her interview was so real and though I am not a professional athlete, parts of it were so relatable.  I had to hear more.  This led me down the rabbit hole of the Rich Roll podcast, current and previous episodes, all of them teaching me something new about others and myself.  I loved all of them, except I must confess the more hippy dippy episodes cannot keep my attention, so I skip those.  They probably are enjoyable to some, just not me, especially while I am running! Anyway, I continue to love the podcasts and listen weekly.  There is just something about listening to a person with an inspirational story, while creating my own personal inspirational story, that settles the mind and makes me feel like I am floating through a run.

My suggestion, listen to this podcast.  It does not have to be done while running.  My favorite episodes so far include #273 Mark Allen, #269 Travis Barker, #268 Darin Olien (even though it made me rethink my regular ass water consumption), #266 David Goggins (HE IS BADASS). #262 Kerri Walsh Jennings, #259 Dean Karnazes (the no foam roller), #256 Chris Hauth, #277 Brogan Graham and #230 Robin Arzon.  The list goes on and on and will definitely continue to grow!

Side note, Rich is vegan but not all of this guests are.

Until next month!

Erin

Detour: Italy… The Good, The Bad, The Croissants

Italy, the land of pizza, pasta and cheese…  Many people would think a trip to the big ol’ European boot would pose a problem for a vegan.  At first, many people would have been correct.  It was not till day 3 of my trip that a trip, plagued with bad luck, turned itself around.   Get ready for a whirlwind food (and a bit of fitness) tour of my experience in Italy with my friend Erica.

First stop… Positano on the stunningly beautiful Amalfi Coast..

IMG_4929

Positano.  WOW. I felt like I was living in a postcard for 2 days.  For this location, my friend Erica and I stayed at an AirBnb in the Montepretuso area of the town.  This was up the mountain and a pretty intense stair climb from the city center.

On night one, we went out with a blind eye.  I settled on going anywhere.  We stopped at the first place we saw after missing the stair path to town and walking on the sidewalk-less roads.  Both of us were starving and our legs were tired.  We ended up at Ristorante Caffe Positano.  It felt like a bit of a tourist trap, pictures of food on the menu, etc.  We went anyway.  After walking miles, we were just happy to see civilization.  No pictures were taken here but I ordered bruschetta  and pasta with tomato sauce.  At first, it came out covered in cheese even though I ordered with “senza formaggio“. The meal itself was nothing to write home about.

Day two started with a planned 4 mile run.  Due to the elevation of Positano, this was disastrous.  It was me either running extremely uphill or extremely downhill.  At one point, I found the steps down to the city and, thinking it was a short way down, ran down them.  Big mistake.  The run (WALK) up was killer.  Feel free to check out my Strava account for routes.  For those into hiking, I am told the Hike of the Gods is along my run route and should be checked out.  We did not really have the time during our trip.

For breakfast that morning, our AirBnB host provided us with a bunch of stuff I could not eat.  Thankfully my friend was not vegan and took on for the team to make us not look rude.  I ate pre-toasted bread with jam, juice and espresso.  It was a sufficient.  Looking back, I should have told her I was vegan.  She probably could have accommodated.   We then headed out for the city.  After exploring all morning, we stumbled upon the CUTEST cafe and overall popular eating establishment in the area, Casa E Bottega.

IMG_4981

Casa e Bottego was an extremely fresh cafe in Positano offering vegan options. So happy to find it.  I had the vegan panini and it was so simple yet so delicious. The ambiance of the cafe is worth going to alone. There is nothing else like it in all of Positano. The seating area is small but worth waiting for. We sat at the “bar” area and it was very enjoyable. We were able to watch the chef prepare food as we waited for ours. Everything was prepared fresh. Nothing frozen or pre-made.  I highly recommend making this a priority stop if visiting Positano.

IMG_4982

Next stop, Naples…

IMG_5053

Naples is quite the city.  It is very busy and not in the tourist sense.  Despite the beautiful back drop of Mt Vesuvius, of all the destinations in Italy, this is the one I would not return to.  If I did return, it would only be for the pizza, and maybe the gelato.

Out first stop in Naples was Perfectoo, a semi Americanized cafe very close to our hotel, Hotel Palazzo Salgar.  Here I had the Vegan Burger. The burger itself was great, the bun, looking back on it, was a bit suspect since I did not feel quite good after eating it. My thoughts are that the bun was not vegan as it had been labeled on the menu.  I suggest going bun-less if you try this place. ALSO, chips listed on then menu are NOT french fries! They are actual chips.

IMG_5018

Next, there is gelato.  Almost all gelato places have a vegan option, they are either fruity or extra dark chocolate.  Typically they are labeled in the case.  I tried as many as I could.  Just note, the cones are typically not vegan.  Your best bet is to go with the cup OR the gluten free cone many places offer. Always ask first.

IMG_5134

It would not have been a trip to Italy without pizza.  We went to one of the top places in Naples and their marinara pie was amazing.  Pizzeria Trianon was established in 1923 and you can tell they have perfected their pizza making in those years.  I ate my entire pizza, like always and I suggest you do the same.  Oh and it costa whole 3.50 euros.

IMG_5130

Last but not least, Naples opened the doorway to croissants, VEGAN croissants.  To be honest, I was not completely thrilled with my food in Italy, as a whole, at this point.  All my meals not listed, consisted of fruit, chips and chocolate purchased at the grocery store, Gran Gusto.  Not the healthiest and not the most fulfilling. Then… at a gelato shop my last night in Naples, I see a sign for “vegano cornetto” aka vegan croissant! My plan was to wake up early the next day and go get one! Sadly, I woke up too late and missed my chance. LUCKILY, this was not the only place in Naples with a vegan croissant.  They are everywhere and not just in Naples, in all of Italy.  I found this out hawking every place we passed by on my sad walk to the Napoli Centrale train station.  On the right, river side, I spotted a sign on the outside pastry case, vegano! They has apricot filled vegan croissants, I scooped one up. It was delicious.  It was my first. I will never forget it.

IMG_5149

Before we move on to Rome, I want to note something that did not disappoint, my run in Naples.  While exploring the day before, my friend and I saw several runners on the water front path, this was good news for my 4 miler the next day.  I left from my hotel and enjoyed a really nice morning run.  Naples runners are friendly and I waived to nearly everyone.

Please be advised………… DRIVERS IN NAPLES ARE WILD.  Stop signs more or less do not exist. Crossing the street, even at cross walks, is risky.  You have to be aggressive.  That being said PLEASE BE CAREFUL if you run here.  Its bad enough walking around during the day, running in it is even worse.

FullSizeRender

Now off to Rome…

IMG_5276

Rome… where I truly fell in love with Italian food.

Steps away from our hostel, The Yellow, in Rome, we found the most lovely authentic Italian restaurant, Rifugio Romano, so wonderful we went twice!  Unlike other places in Italy, this restaurant had an entire vegan menu.  Big plus!  We sat outside and it was perfect.

On my first trip, I had pizza with vegan mozzarella and it was so creamy. I was very impressed.  We also enjoyed the vegan antipasto which contained really interesting garlic bread balls, house made vegan mayo, fried rice ball, hummus, and marinated tofu. Me and my non-vegan friend both enjoyed it.  For dessert, they had a special cake on the menu, I would provide details but I spaced when they mentioned chocolate.

IMG_5151 IMG_5159o

On visit number two, my friend and I shared a lovely bottle of vegan red wine.  For dinner, we ordered the bruschetta, mixed salad and gnocchi. The gnocchi was in walnut sauce and to DIE for.  Truly a MUST STOP if in Rome.

IMG_5284

IMG_5293

IMG_5292

After spending the day getting turned down from countless religious establishments for having our knees exposed, we found something that did not let us down, lunch at Crispy.  Crispy is a market/cafe with sandwiches, juices and salads, among other things!  I had a vegan”ham” sandwich and it really hit the spot.

13263813_952493493961_5819899647792061805_n

I know you’re not surprised.. but.. I found croissants in Rome..

Right around the corner and on route to all the Rome tourist locations, was a small cafe named Synbiofood.   To my enjoyment, they has vegan croissants and other vegan baked goods.

13312748_952493164621_5316794511650832528_n

Roma Termini, I love you, but only for your croissant sandwich.  The terminal has multiple locations with vegan sandwiches and croissants but not a vegan croissant sandwich like this one from the Juice Bar.  It made travel day delicious.

IMG_5303

My Rome run was the highlight of my trip (run-wise).   I woke up early and even after a night of lots of Italian beer, I went for my “long run”.  It was delightful. Since I was able to get out so early, barely any tourists were around!  I did loops around the Colosseum and ventured around the area taking in all the touristy sites before they were crowded by annoying selfie sticks.

IMG_5272

Portofino

IMG_5399

Portofino was nothing special for the vegan books, but boy was it super cute.. and super ritzy.  The little waterfront town was filled with designer stores and overpriced drinks.  One good thing about having drinks in Italy that I have no mentioned thus far, snacks.  They give you snacks.  Whether it is chips or peanuts, it is pretty cool.

We set out in Portofino hungry, but still too early for  dinner.  So we ventured around and found a cute wine bar with outside seating facing the beautiful Portofino harbor.  This was a prime people watching location.  We had a few drinks and an awesome snack plate.

13260109_952883282821_8269177284989753889_n

For dinner, I wanted pizza and my friend wanted pasta so we found a place close by, and also on the harbor, that had both at Da Nicola.  At Da Nicola, me and Erica split the marinara pizza, pasta and a salad.  Our meal was alright.  Nothing special really.

IMG_5407 IMG_5357

Florence

IMG_5532

Starved from travel day, we set out in Florence to find somewhere to eat.  Since a lot of places close after lunch but before dinner, our timing was pretty bad.  It was 2:45 pm, horrible timing to get a good meal.  Anyway, we stumbled upon Konnubio down the street from our hotel.  What caught our eye was how beautiful the inside was, then we saw the menu.. with.. VEGAN OPTIONS.  Luckily, the staff was amazing and sat us despite the time! We ordered the Cous Cous appetizer and the Chickpea salad for lunch.  Both were amazing and we were so thankful to have stumbled upon such a great place with vegan options.

IMG_5415

13315674_953154614071_5360915306773493764_n

And then there was our late night dinner at Universo Vegano.  Two separate friends had told me to go here while I was in town, I do not know how I almost forget, let alone totally missed a visit at the restaurants other location in Rome.  Anyway, I got there just in time before closing.  The staff was super friendly and though I wanted to order everything on the menu, I ended up with the burger and a delicious looking dessert.  If I was staying in Florence I would have went back.

13331101_953027269271_8505182483174874867_n

IMG_5484

And then there was more gelato. I was OVERLY excited when we stumbled upon this place.  A friend had suggested it but I had forgot to look up the address while in Wifi zone.  Luckily we passed it by accident!  The place… Festival del Gelato.  They had soooooo many vegan fun flavors!  I was impressed by the clear labeling as well.

Note: Only the gluten free cone is vegan.

13335620_953154738821_824021463569260991_n

IMG_5435

My final (sigh) European croissant was enjoyed at the Shake Cafe.  This little cafe in the Duomo area was super cute and in addition to their various vegan croissants, they had an assortments of juices and smoothie bowls suitable for vegans.  I actually took their vegan bagel sandwich to go for my plane ride to Vienna and it was a treat.

13332977_953153191921_2335593187780276444_n

THE LAYOVERS

During this trip, my friend and I used our American Airline reward miles and it left us with some pretty lofty layovers in London and Vienna.

I had huge dreams for London… a vegan pub with authentic English fare, an all vegan ice cream shop. Dreams crushed.  We arrived at The Coach and Horses around 9 pm.  Late for dinner I know! Sadly,  they were done serving food. 😦 We then ventured on and found a Thai restaurant. Nothing special.  After our meal, we ATTEMPTED to get ice cream at Yorica.  We showed up just as they were cleaning up. Bad luck in London.

IMG_4888

On the way home, however, our layover was lovely.  We had about 8 hours in Vienna and we decided to have our meal at Swing Kitchen.  I had the vegan cheeseburger meal and a cute chocolate cupcake.  I wish I had waited on dessert though, later I found out they had soft serve.  Erica had the falafel wrap.  I did not try it but it sure looked good.

IMG_5545 IMG_5541

Well there is that.. my tour of Italy (and London… and Vienna)! I would like to give a HUGE SHOUT OUT to Yelp.  Without Yelp, I would have never found any of these places in the first place.

These are a few of my favorite things: March Edition

With the approach of spring in Philadelphia and all its wonder, I would like to take some time to point out a few of my new found favorite things popping up all over the city.

1. Miyoko’s Creamery Cheese

01-Chive_TallerNumber

Miyoko’s cashew based cheeses recently entered my life when friends of mine were kind enough to pick some up while visiting Lagusta’s Luscious in New York. Until this moment, I did not know what I was missing. Since then I have tried nearly all the varieties, savoring each block then waiting for my next chance to get another. It has never been available in Philadelphia which set up a road block on my highway to vegan cheese glory.

The the road block was averted…

While shopping at Whole Food’s South Street, I nearly fainted in the dairy (free) isle. This Philadelphia location now carries Miyoko’s Double Cream Chive ($8.99) and Aged English Sharp Farmhouse ($9.99). I purchased the Double Cream Chive and now I do not know how I will live without it. It’s rich, creamy flavor fulfills any pre-vegan cheese dream I ever had. Whether you plan to throw a vegan wine and cheese party or just indulge is some cheese on toast, you will want to pick up both of these delectable cheeses.

2. Center City Soft Pretzels

Not to begin on a negative note but I have always had a bone to pick with the Philadelphia Pretzel Factory and their need to use whey in their pretzels. I not only ate one of these pretzels myself before doing my research, but I have also had to correct other people on a vegan diet of this unnecessary ingredient in the well-known Philadelphia staple. So let’s talk about a company who does not put unneeded ingredients in their pretzels: Center City Soft Pretzels.

Seeing a Center City Soft Pretzels immediately reminds me of my childhood, specifically, recess in grade school. It is funny how a pretzel could bring you back to a time when your biggest worry was finishing your homework in time to go to the playground. These three-ingredient, kosher bundles of joy are just perfect.
Since recently moving onto Richmond Street in Port Richmond, I am lucky enough to be in walking distance of the River Wards Café, an establishment serving up Center City Soft Pretzels daily. (TIP: Get there at 8:15 am and the pretzels will still be warm.) So stop by and get your carb on. The lattes are not that bad either.

 928202_924083634372481_1140708329_n

Center City Soft Pretzels are also available around the city of at their factory in South Philly.

3. Origin Almond

916343_1006362176105890_983510866_n

Oh, almond milk and all this dairy-free goodness. The past two months have been very almond-y for me.

In the beginning of February, my vegan runner enthusiasm came to a screeching holt when I was unofficially diagnosed with a stress fracture. After taking a careful review of my calcium intake, I found out I needed A LOT more than I was getting. Since almond milk is a huge source of calcium for vegans, I did my research on all the commercialized milks and their calcium content. Quite frankly, I was too lazy to make my own almond milk at home. It was really hard to settle on an almond milk that was organic, non GMO, and did not contain carrageenan until Origin Almond popped in my inbox.

Origin Almond is a localish (New Jersey) company that makes 100% raw and unpasteurized almond milk. Their flavors vary from plain old almond milk to a Golden Tumeric blend. Not only do they use organic almond, they are also GMO and additive free! As if things could not get better, ONE 16 oz bottle of Origin Almond Milk contains the almond equivalent of TWO commercial cartons of almond milk. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

Origin Almond can be ordered online and delivered to your door (like the olden times) OR it can be found at Essene Market on 4th Street.

4. Dottie’s Boston Creme Donut

12818911_1530752710561896_852112152_n

The wait is OVER. Dottie’s Donuts finally opened up its brick and mortar location in West Philly. On that day, the heavens opened up and sent down the Dottie’s Boston Crème Donut for all of the people of Philadelphia to enjoy. I have no further words about it. Just go. Try one for yourself. You’re welcome.

5. Front Street Cafe Kale Caesar Salad

image1

As if Front Street Café could not get even better in my mind, THEY DID. If you have not been to Front Street Café you are missing out on a lot. The café/restaurant hosts a ton of vegan Philly favorites including Crust Vegan Bakery and Dottie’s Donuts (not so fast, you still can only get the Boston CrèmeS at THEE Dottie’s Donuts in West Philly) along with juice, smoothies and bagels. Their sit down brunch and dinner menu is on point, carrying everything from pancakes and buffalo cauliflower to their version of vegan eggs benedict. All this is great and delicious.

But then there is the Kale Caesar salad..

Skeptics out there would think “what is so great about a kale salad?” Skeptics have never tried THIS kale salad from Front Street Café.

The salad is as follows:
Kale; Walnut Picada; Roasted Tomatoes; Pickled Red Onions; Caesar Dressing
(I also added grilled tofu to my salad <3)

Again, just go. Try it. I have never tasted something so healthy yet delicious.

OH! Do not be fooled by the Front Street Café menu. Instead of placing a symbol next to vegan menu items, Front Street places symbols on items that are not vegan! So go crazy and order anything without a cow, pig, chicken or cheese wedge next to it.

❤ Erin

These are a few of my favorite things: Cheese Edition

Let’s face it, nothing will replace the taste, texture, creamy, gooeyness of cheese. There are many equally delicious substitutes for other cruelty free items such as meat, milk and butter but cheese? Could there ever be? Will there ever be? I think at this point I have tried almost everything out there in terms of vegan mainstream supermarket cheese scene and have found some pretty wonderful replacement for my pre-vegan cheese obsession.

Best Cream Cheese:
Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread

Kite Hill
Flavors: Original and Chive
“Philadelphia cream cheese who?” This newer cream cheese alternative is a game changer when it comes to vegan cream cheese. It is almond based and has a creaminess factor that surpasses anything I enjoyed as an vegetarian or omnivore. In the past, I would tell people “Yeah vegan cream cheese is good but do not eat it alone”, Kite Hill has changed that. I would gladly eat this cream cheese with a spoon.

Best Grilled Cheese “Cheese”:
Daiya Cheese Slices

Daiya Cheddar
Flavors: Cheddar, Swiss and Provolone
Some cheeses just do not melt. Then there are others that overmelt. This is something every vegan has gone through. Daiya cheese slices do the perfect combination of melting and stretching which is perfect for a grilled cheese.

Pro tip: Do not overuse or there might be too much melting and stretching. Moderation with this cheese goes a long way.

Best Cheese Sandwich Cheese:
Field Roast Chao Slices

Chao Cheese Slices

Flavors: Creamy Original, Coconut Herb and Tomato Cayenne
I sure love a good cheese sandwich, side of chips and pickles. Who doesn’t? The Chao cheese slices make vegan sandwiches perfect. Think traditional American cheese slices veganized. Throw them together with some Tofurky slices, tomato, lettuce, onion and Just Mayo, you may actually think you are mistakenly eating a non-vegan hoagie.

Best Pizza Cheese:
Daiya Shreds – Mozzarella

Daiya Mozzarella Shreds
Not to sound redundant but these cheese just melts correctly. It is perfect for your at home, run of the mill pizza craving.

In conclusion, vegan cheese should be left to the vegans, dairy sensitive or lactose intolerant.  My words to all non-vegan and not even trying to be a little bit vegan friends: do not eat vegan cheese.  You will not like. It does not compare. You will probably have a rude remark about it.  But hey, for us vegans this is as good as it gets and it tastes pretty great of for us.   We love it and its cruelty-free nature.

Disney World as a Vegan — PART II

Detour:
Walt Disney World
Orlando, Florida

PART II

Soooo I sort of cannot stay away from Disney World.  Who can really?  This December I returned for my second trip as a vegan.  I learned a lot from my first trip as a vegan last year and felt pretty confident about this one.  However, I did do my research again.  A lot could change in a year! Thankfully my friends over at the Vegan Disney World blog opened my eyes to some new food endeavors.

In this recap, I have added two sections that I previously left out: Rants & Raves and pricing.  As a vegan, I do not feel the dining plan is worth it.  In previous years, the dining plan left me with a daily bloated feeling, as I felt the need to over indulge with desserts and too many snacks simply because it was included.  My most recent experience proved it was cheaper to do without the plan.  7 out of the 10 days, I ate breakfast in the room.  There is a Whole Foods located 15 minutes from the park.  I picked up bagels and fruit.

I present to you my experience as a vegan in Disney World for the second time.  See my post Disney World as a Vegan for my first encounter.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Lunch – Counter Service
Pizza Planet Arcade

Vegetable Pizza ($9.69)- Mushrooms, Peppers, Onions and Tomatoes served with Caesar Salad

VEGANIZED: Surprisingly, they have soy cheese here.  Order your pizza with soy cheese (it may take a little longer to make).  In place of the Caesar Salad, they will give you a cup of lettuce with Italian dressing.

Pizza Planet Arcade

 

Rants & Raves:  In my opinion,  this would have been awesome except my pizza came out cold.  I would recommend asking for your pizza well done to avoid this issue.

Dinner – Table Service
The Hollywood Brown Derby

ALREADY VEGAN — Noodle Bowl ($29): Wok-fried Coconut Tofu, Soy Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, Bok Choy, and Shiitake Mushrooms in a Red Curry Broth

(The rolls served are also vegan here and the waiter was happy to bring olive oil to the table for dipping. )

The Hollywood Brown Derby

Rants & Raves: The taste of this dish was perfect.  The tofu, was a bit small but full of flavor and cooked just right.

Epcot

Dinner – Table Service
Via Napoli 

ALREADY VEGAN — Appetizer ($7 per person): “Family Style” House Salad – Served exclusively with pizza! Leaf lettuces, roasted red peppers, marinated mushrooms, olives, peperoncini, red wine vinaigrette – (minimum 2 people)

Via Napoli 2

Build Your Own Pizza ($17)

Margherita – tomato, mozzarella, basil

Add a topping – ($3.50 each) – Eggplant, Pepperoni, Italian Spicy Sausage, Fontina Cheese, Proscuitto, Red Peppers, Artichoke, Olives, Anchovies, Mushrooms, Onions, Zucchini, Parmacotto Ham, Arugula, Chicken Sausage, Pancetta, Fresh Diced tomatoes

VEGANIZED: Hold the cheese.  Add veggies. 

Via Napoli 1

 

Rants & Raves:  I am not cheap.  This pizza, however, was overpriced.  For the individual pizza with mushrooms, onions and fresh diced tomatoes the total was $27.50.  They did not take into consideration that declined cheese.  Overall though, the pizza was amazing. The wood fire grill cooked the pizza perfectly and the flavor was not lacking.

Dinner – Table Service
Teppan Edo – Hibachi Style Dining

Appetizer: Garden Salad ($5.95) – Mixed greens and seasonal vegetables with your choice of our original ginger dressing or creamy sesame dressing

VEGANIZED: Choose the ginger dressing for the salad.

Teppan Edo Part II

Yasai ($17.95) – fresh seasonal vegetables
– includes seasonal vegetables with udon noodles and steamed sukiyaki beef rice

VEGANIZED: Mention to the manager, waitress and chef that you are vegan. In my case, they cooked all vegetables prior to cooking meat products. Opt out of the udon noodles and steamed sukiyaki beef rice and ask for white rice.  If you do not want them to use the same grill top, they will even cook your vegetable in the back kitchen.

Teppan Edo Part II 2

 

Rants & Raves:  Any hibachi in the world could provide the same quality vegetable stir fry.  The ginger dressing made the salad delicious and the vegetables were seasoned wonderfully.  My sister happens to love Hibachi’s and this was the only reason we ate here.  It is a solid meal but not a top pick amongDisney Dining.

Snack
World Showcase, ETC.
“Drinking Around the World

Every time I go to Disney, I attempt the nearly impossible, unofficial, feat of “Drinking Around the World”. For those who are not familiar, a person attempts to have one drink in every country along the World Showcase, a la “Drinking Around the World”.  I have never made the full loop though I know snacking in each country is key.  This is tough for a vegan.

Mexico – La Cava de Tequila

ALREADY VEGAN: Chips and Guacamole

Note: They also have a PHENOMENAL Avocado Margarita here. ($13.50)

Mexico

The American Adventure

ALREADY VEGAN: Pretzels ($4.29)

Pretzel

Morroco – the Tangierine Cafe

ALREADY VEGAN: Hummus ($2.99)

Breakfast – Buffet
Tusker House – Donald’s Safari Breakfast

VEGANIZED: ($29.99) The chef prepared the following items special per the vegan diet.

Mickey waffles – Also gluten free

ALREADY VEGAN: Fresh Fruit, potatoes, plantains and white rice

Tusker Hourse Restaurant PART II

Rants & Raves:  Unless you have children or are dying to see characters, this place is just meh for breakfast.  Veganized Mickey Waffles can be found at almost all quick service breakfast locations and are under $10.  These two waffles were pretty much $30.

Animal Kingdom

Dinner 
Yak & Yeti

Vegetable Lo Mein with Tofu ($18.99) — Lo Mein noodles, carrots, cabbage, green onions, bean sprouts
VEGANIZED: Substitute rice. Lo Mein noodles contain egg.

Yak & Yeti

 

Rants & Raves:  Sorry for the poor photo quality.  The meal was glorified vegetable fried rice.  Just.. meh.

Snack
Mr. Kamal’s Kiosk – Asia (Near Flights of Wonder)

ALREADY VEGAN —  Pea and Potato Samosas with Mango Chutney ($5.99)

Mr. Kamal's

Rants & Raves:  I would make an effort to try these while in Animal Kingdom.  They are hands down my favorite snack in the park.

Magic Kingdom

Lunch – Counter Service
Columbia Harbor House – Liberty Square

ALREADY VEGAN: Vegetarian Chili ($4.99) & French Fries ($2.99) (if you do not mind the joint fryer.)

Columbia Harbor House

 

Rants & Raves: I honestly loved this lunch.  At the time it was exactly what I wanted.  I would totally recommend this place.  It is pretty much the hottest quick service in the Magic Kingdom due to its omnivore options.

Lunch – Counter Service
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe – Tomorrow Land

Vegetable Burger ($9.99)– with choice of Apple Slices, Green Beans, or French Fries

VEGANIZED: Substitute regular bun for dairy-free bun.

Cosmic Rays

Rants and Raves: I LOVE this place.  Their condiment bar is PERFECT.  As you can see I love pickles too and they are unlimited.

Snack
Aloha Isle – Adventureland (Near Swiss Family Treehouse)

ALREADY VEGAN: Pineapple Dole Whip ($3.99)

Dole Whip

Rants & Raves: Heaven in a cup! Worth the wait in line (Yes, there will be a line).

(Please note: The vanilla flavor offered is NOT vegan.)

Plaza Ice Cream Parlor – Main Street USA

ALREADY VEGAN: Vanilla and Chocolate Tofutti Cup! ($4.49)

Ice Cream

Dinner – Table Service
Be Our Guest

ALREADY VEGAN – Appetizer – Seasonal Salad Trio ($7.99): Three individual bowls of: Roasted Beet, Gold Raisin, Orange Salad and Green Bean, Tomato, Roasted Shallot Salad and Watermelon, Radish, and Mint Salad

Be Our Guest 2

ALREADY VEGAN – Layered Ratatouille ($17.49): Oven-baked Zucchini, Eggplant, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, and Caramelized Onions sliced and layered on Quinoa served with a Bell Pepper Sauce

Be Our Guest

Rants & Raves: Sorry for the poor quality photos, it is a bit dark in the Enchanted Castle.  The environment is lovely but I would not return.  The ratatouille was bland and the though the salad trio could hold its own, without an entree it is not worth it.  Also, unlike all the other restaurants, the chef would not even come to the table to talk about the vegan options.

Resorts

Dinner – Buffet
Wilderness Lodge – Fort Wilderness –Trail’s End (Featuring Chef TJ)

Chef TJ at Trail’s End in the Fort Wilderness section of the Wilderness Lodge will specially cook vegans a DELICIOUS four course meal.  I could not tell you what exactly my four courses were, exactly.  Just take my word for it that as a vegan, in Disney World, this meal was the best of the best. 

Spicy Sweet Buns with Coconut Carrot Soup

Trail's End 1

Spring Rolls with Balsamic Glaze and Arugula Salad

Trail's End 2

Grilled Vegetables & Barbecue Tofu with  Noodle Salad

Trail's End 3

Strawberry-Banana-Brownie-Ice Cream Sandwich- Ice Cream-Dessert Tower

Trails End 4

Rants & Raves:  Everything was perfect! My recommendation is to arrive at Trail’s End SUPER hungry and ready to eat.  Everything is made to order.  DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, eat anything at the buffet before your order comes out.  You will not have room for the amount of food Chef TJ prepares.  You will regret it. That being said, a Trails End TJ Experience is a MUST for vegans vacationing in Disney World.  Make sure you call in advance though, TJ only works certain nights and you DO NOT want to miss this culinary experience.  Another plus for you pocket, Trail’s End is the cheapest dinner buffet on Walt Disney World property.

Breakfast
Polynesian – Kona Cafe

Tonga Toast ($12.99) – Banana-stuffed Sourdough French Toast rolled in Cinnamon Sugar and served with a Strawberry Compote and your choice of Ham, Bacon, or Sausage

VEGANIZED – If you find a willing chef, they will soak in soy milk opposed to egg.  If you find a SUPER willing chef they will pan fry the toast for you.   If you are a vegan with no problem with shared fryers, they can also deep fry the toast that way.  Also, request no strawberry compote, it has dairy.  Substitute potatoes for meat option.

Kona Cafe

Rants & Raves: I still dream about how perfect this toast was.  Try your best to convince the chef to make it.  They will give in, hopefully.  Another “I’m not cheap but…” annoyance.  They charged me for the side of potatoes instead of subbing them for the meat I clearly did not receive nor want to received.

And there you have it… vegan options in Disney from my point of view.  There are a few more, but these are the ones that worked best for me during my visit. Side note, be prepared to talk to managers and chefs at all restaurants.  Also, prepare wait longer than your omnivore friends/family for food.  Everything vegan in Disney is more or less made to order.  

For further vegan options, I would view AllEars.net or, the constantly updated blog, Vegan Disney World.