Hip City Veg’s Burger Is Worth Two Hours on a Bolt Bus

vegan burger

But really, though. It’s that good. One of my favorite things to do is eat. One of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling is eat more than I normally do. One of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling to see DMB is eat more than I normally do when I travel since I’m burning off all those calories dancing at concerts (I’m sure the added calories from booze don’t matter…).

This June, my friend Jess and I (I’ve known her since 2006 when I was in high school and she was 23 and not so tired of life….I think we met via IM through a DMB message board…), embarked on our annual when-we-can pilgrimage to DMB at Camden. As per usual, I made a detour to the incredible Hip City Veg, a take out, entirely plant-based not-quite chain in Philly (and DC too). Sure, I could be drunk and cheat with pizza or grilled cheese. But with a burger THIS good (the Ziggy Burger is made with organic smoked tempeh and special sauce)…why?

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Food Blog Hero Q&A with Holy Cow Vegan: Vegan Indian Food You Didn’t Know You Crave

The real title of this blog should be “Food Blog Hero Q&A with Holy Cow Vegan: Vegan Indian Food You Didn’t Know You Crave…But Must Tackle Immediately.”

Recently, I was lucky enough to pick the brain of one of my favorite food bloggers, Vaishali of Holy Cow Vegan. Her tantalizing vegan recipes (many of them Indian) run the spectrum from signature Bombay street food, Misal (If you’re not familiar, heck, even if you are, run, don’t walk) to banana coffee cake with chocolate streusel (both pictured below, courtesy of author). Her blog makes pulling off seemingly-complicated dishes approachable and fun, and her recipes never fail to introduce me to a brilliant flavor-pairing (zucchini for dessert, who knew?) or clever ways to spike a dish with not-your-average-spice-rack spices.


Banana Coffee Cake

Banana Chocolate Coffee Cake

1. What’s your favorite vegetable to cook with and why? Is there a secret-weapon veggie you use to slip into salads or soups or entrees that makes it super special? 

“I love cooking with most vegetables, but mushrooms are definitely one of my favorites. Although they’ve not been part of traditional Indian cooking, mushrooms go with virtually anything — I’ve tried them in curries, dals, sabzis (Indian side dishes) and even stuffed them in a paratha. I also love how mushrooms of all kinds contribute rich textures to vegan cooking. And they’re super-good for you, which is a huge bonus.”

2. What are your tips for ordering vegan Indian food when out? It can get tricky sometime! Is non-vegan? Any tips for decoding a menu or how to ask a waiter to make a non-vegan dish (say a stew made with ghee or dairy) vegan-friendly? Any vegan desserts on menus when eating out?

“I am not one of those vegans who will quiz a waiter about every last ingredient, especially when I am eating out with friends. The reason is that I don’t want to make a vegan lifestyle appear ridiculously unattainable to others. I usually ask the waiter if there is any ghee or cream in a vegetarian dish like a dal and if they say no, I will eat it. You might not always get dishes like dals and stews made to order because the ghee is part of the base when the dish is cooked, but with breads you have a little more leeway, since they will most often make them fresh for you and the ghee, in most cases, goes on the bread at the very end. It’s a little tough to get vegan Indian desserts in restaurants since Indian sweets are almost always milk-based, but jalebis are an option, if available. They are swirly yellow sweets made of chickpea flour and dunked in sugar syrup. They are delicious.”

3. What’s your favorite vegan Indian dish that anyone can (and should!) add to their repertoire of dinner options?

“Most vegans are really into dals when it comes to Indian foods, but I’d encourage them to try more curries made with vegetables and often a coconut and spice base, like My Dad’s Not-Mutton Mushroom Curry. While dals are wonderful for adding protein into your meal, curries like this one really perk up the taste buds and are a great introduction to the rich, varied cuisine of India.”

4. What advice would you offer to aspiring food bloggers?

“I’d advise them to blog with love. There are a zillion food blogs out there today, each one better looking than the next and SEO’d to the eyeballs, but when I think of great food blogging I always hark back to the early days when bloggers wrote about foods they cooked at home for the people they loved and why they created them, rather than just cook and post the hottest thing on Google Trends. I might be old-fashioned, but I think blogs that really engage you and have a personality are the ones that pull in and retain a loyal following. And here’s one more piece of advice: Check your grammar before you hit “publish.” 🙂 You don’t have to be a great writer, but there’s nothing as off-putting as a post with spelling and grammatical errors.”

*proofreads three times*

If I had to pick, Vaishali’s grain dishes are probably some of my favorites, and she’s been kind enough to let me share the photo of one of my favorites, Tawa Pulao. A serious treat for your senses and time-saver on weeknights. Get the recipe here.

Tawa Pulao

How to Eat Vegan at Any Restaurant (Yes, Even Steakhouses)

It may involve some creative thinking, or, gasp, calling the restaurant ahead (many chefs are amenable and excited to cook for plant-based folks. it gives chefs an opportunity to experiment and a fun challenge), but I promise you it’s easier than you think.

Image courtesy of Juicepresso 

Here are my tried-and-true tips:

1. Befriend the “sides” 

But be wary. Roasted Brussels sprouts may sound delicious but are they dotted with prosciutto bits? That baked broccoli rabe sounds good too, but is it doused with butter? Restaurants should have no problem omitting the animal portions of the sides (unless they cook it up in big batches ahead of time and just reheat…but do you really want to eat KFC baked beans anyways?) and simply request that your veggie side be cooked in olive oil. It slashes fat and helps out dairy cows: win-win. A veggie side or two along with a side of brown rice (okay, okay, french fries) or beans rounds out a filling and satisfying meal.

2. Stock your purse. 

Sounds a little crazy, but a quick sprinkle of nutritional yeast on a vegan-friendly house salad goes a long way. If you know you’re ordering coffee but not sure they’ll have non-dairy milk substitutes, bring along your own creamer (So Delicious Dairy Free Creamers will enchant any kind of caffeine aficionado). Bloody Mary addict? Tote along some Annie’s Natural Organic Worcestershire Sauce. I guarantee you someone at your waiter and table will learn something new when you tell them conventional versions are made with anchovies. Feeling risky? Many restaurants offer awesome-looking salads that become more than a little drab when you hold the cheese or shrimp. Sneak a packet of chopped walnuts or pecans into your bag and toss them with your greens for a heartier meal and satisfying crunch.

3. Make a DIY entrée.

See spaghetti and meatballs on the menu? How about a side of sauteed spinach and garlic? Chances are they have the materials to make you a simple spaghetti with tomato sauce and spinach. Does the veggie burger (double check that it wasn’t made with eggs!) look tantalizing but the spicy aioli and melted cheddar cock block you from ordering? Most places should be more than happy to let you skip the sauce and cheese. They may even let you replace it with a hearty topping like avocado or caramelized onions free of charge. Yes, you risk annoying the waiter with a “picky” request, but carnivores do it all the time too, you know. And with the whole gluten-free craze and vegetarians and vegans becoming more mainstream, I promise you they are used to getting these kind of inquiriu es.

Tomorrow I’m excited to be eating at renowned Bill’s Food & Drink. Their menu is heavy on the steak and Reubens. Am I nervous? Not at all.  For a starter, I look forward to the Field Green Salad with shaved fennel, radish and raisins. And for my main, either a Grilled Portabella with roasted pepper and arugula (hold the cheddar and pesto, unless the pesto happens to be vegan) or a platter of delectable sides like red quinoa and citrus, broccoli rabe and yes, french fries with rosemary and sea salt. And for dinner? I have no doubt New York Yankee Steak‘s cuisine will be just like my favorite baseball team: nothing but stellar.

P.S. That delectable soup photo above, yes you can make it with a juicer. And yes you can make a creamy squash soup vegan (just swap milk and cream for non-dairy versions of your choice!). Recipe here.

This Butterfinger Milkshake Sent Me to The Moon

I have a confession. I don’t even like Butterfingers. Or I thought I didn’t. Okay, real confession: They are my least favorite candy and when I was trick or treating growing up I used to trade all of mine for Crunch bars. Until:

BOOM! You’re starting at a Butterfinger (left, and on the right, mint chip, if you’re curious, also delicious, and my friend Angie and I referred to it as our “palate cleanser” between sips, well, gulps of inhaling the Butterfinger delight) milkshake from the amazing  Cafe Blossom (We went to the one on the Upper West Side). First-class Butterfinger shakes as a vegan are hard to find (let alone omnivore), but this one exceeded all expectations. My culinary school friend told me “Take it to go, it’ll be even bigger,” and man do I regret not doing that. Would have been the perfect breakfast. Cookie dough crumbly goodness with sweet chocolate drizzle and every sip explodes with goodness I couldn’t imagine from my least favorite candy bar.  They won’t divulge their secret, but I did find out it had something to do with Temptation ice cream, beyond that, and short of crack cocaine, I’m not sure what they put in it to make it so mindblowingly good, but man, all I have left to say is:  Run, don’t walk.

Easy Vegan Fast Food Meals You Won’t Even Notice Are Missing Meat

I try to cook as much as possible, but when I can’t, there are plenty of easy vegan meals to grab when you’re on the go and fast food is your only option.

Here are three of my favorites:

1. Tropical Smoothie Cafe Flarbreads, Wraps or Salads

I only wish this incredible fast food chain (those smoothies!) had more locations. It’s got 300-something sprinkled around America and the first major chain to offer my plant-based protein obsession, Beyond Meat.  Tropical Smoothie Café has a variety of delicious combinations you can create with Beyond Meat Chicken Free Strips.

2. Chipotle Burrito

Load it with peppers and onions, black beans (FYI: their pinto beans are cooked with bacon), rice, salsa, corn salsa, medium salsa, hot salsa, lettuce, guacamole…or whatever combination of those items that your heart desires. It’s incredibly filling and so full of flavor you won’t feel like you’re missing out. And currently available in select west coast locations, their Sofritas,shredded, organic tofu brasied with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and aromatic spices is 100% vegan and we hope coming nationwide in the near horizon.

3.  Subway

It may not be ideal Vegan-a-vore heaven, but when you’re in a pinch, The Veggie Delite at Subway may actually pleasantly surprise your taste buds. They’ve got a good mix of veggies and I like to fill up a 9-grain hero with olives, jalapenos, peppers, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, spinach and avocado. Just make sure you pick a bread without any milk or cheese, like their flatbread (milk) or any of their cheesy breads (Read the full list of bread ingredients here)

4. Juice Generation

How could I not include Juice Generation? Currently only in NYC, this juicer’s haven has turned my meat-and-eggs body building boyfriend into a Joyful Almond aficionado. We always add spinach for an extra nutrient-boost (you don’t even taste it), but you can also add kale to any of their smoothie creations. In their cooler, they’ve always got dishes to send me over the vegan rainbow like cashew cheese ravioli (drool times twelve), maki rolls with microgreens, live pizza, and chia seed tapioca or young coconut cream pie for a sweet finish.