Thursday, July 29, 2010

DIY Veg-Friendly Clothing

The Topic: Repair and Wear

The Dish: In addition to seeking deals on veg-friendly clothing, I'm an avid second-hand shopper, from thrift stores to trendier resale shops. They're gold mines for finding stylish, animal-friendly pieces (fashion is cyclical, after all). The major downfall? You get what you pay for, and that can mean missing buttons, broken zippers, and funky seams. In the case of affordable retailers such as Forever 21, the life of clothes can be unfairly cut short when you indulge in a new dress, wear it to work, and the strap button pops off mid-commute (ahem). Instead of giving up on it—or any of the potential finds at Thrift Town (one of my favorite San Francisco shops), I'm getting a lesson in DIY clothing repair from VN Associate Editor Liz Miller.

Surprisingly, this whole sewing-on-a-button thing isn't rocket science like I thought it was. Learning a few mending tricks can be huge in keeping your wardrobe from looking ragged, and helpful when you find the perfect cotton vintage dress that needs just a little help. For the novice like me who isn't ready to invest in a sewing machine and learn advanced seamstress skills (some day), a well-stocked sewing kit at Walgreens will only set me back $5. That's about the price of my favorite vegan Frappuccino combo!

As for learning the ropes, I plan on taking a few lessons from Liz and hitting up this beautiful new thing called the internet. I'm currently loving What the Craft—there are lots of free tutorials, not to mention a place for requests if you're really stuck. There are countless sites, so get searching!

The Final Word: Once you're confident in your sewing know-how, the possibilities are endless for expanding your wardrobe with minimal investment. Shirts become skirts, conservative dresses turn into perfect Vegan Drinks attire, and the things you can do with old t-shirts are endless. Are there any crafty vegans out there? Share your favorite tips and projects with me! I'd love the inspiration.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Easy Peach Pie

The Topic: Saving Seasonal Fruit

The Dish: You know what are super delicious and starting to pop up everywhere? Peaches. While these babies are perfect just the way they are—or with a little sugar sprinkled on top—there's something to be said for an amazing peach pie, topped with vanilla coconut ice cream. The downside? Baking in the summer heat sucks. The solution? Make friends with the freezer.

While it's a tried and true trick to toss excess seasonal fruits and veggies in the freezer to use later, my Nona recently shared her new favorite method of freezing summer fruit, which guarantees a quick, delicious dessert anytime you want it. Since peaches are the ticket right now, she's decided to save up a few pie's worth for later. Here's her method:
  1. Lightly grease a pie plate, and fill with sliced peaches, about 1 inch above the top of the dish. Sprinkle with sugar and 1/2 cup of flour. Stir until well combined.
  2. Gently press peaches into dish until evenly distributed, wrap in foil, and freeze. Once completely frozen, remove fruit from pan (in one piece) and place in a freezer bag. Depending on how many pre-made pie fillings you make, they'll stack neatly on top of each other, ready to go at a moment's notice.
Ta da! You have instant pie filling, without pouring anything from a can. Buying in-season fruit is certainly healthier and cheaper than that gelatinous canned stuff.

The Final Word: To prepare a perfect peach pie, use your favorite vegan crust recipe (or store-bought pastry). Line a pie pan with dough, drop in your filling, top with another layer of crust, and bake. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Veg Freebies

The Topic: Fantastic Freebies

The Dish: Finding a great deal is a daily pursuit of mine, but sometimes I want more. I want free. While my luck generally doesn't lead me to winning many contests, giveaways, or raffles, someone has to win. Why not me? Better yet, why not you? With the ever-growing presence of veganism online, there's always a site or blog willing to gift great prizes (including our weekly VegNews giveaway). My newest discovery is Ecobunga, a site which bills itself as "your guide to green deals and giveaways." While not exclusively vegan, many of the featured deals are veg-friendly, and marked as such. Right now, potential freebies include everything from kamut pasta to a fancy bicycle to vegan chocolates. Oh, and there's a $50 Whole Foods gift card I wouldn't mind winning.

As for other current giveaways, here's a few I've come across:
  • Dreaming of owning your own fancy Matt & Nat handbag? Ecouterre is giving away one! If you don't care about cruelty-free fashion, feel free to win it and send it to me.
  • Vegan Backpacker, a blog dedicated to traveling the world and exploring vegan food, is ready to gift some pretty cute Secret Society of Vegan tees.
  • Vegan Etsy, the one-stop online source for handcrafted vegan goods, has compiled an awesome grab bag of Etsy goodies for one lucky winner.
  • Here at VN, we have a huge hemp goodie basket ready to go, full of everything from the most delicious granola bars to comfy clothing.
The Final Word: Twitter is another great resource for keeping tabs on veg giveaways, as most bloggers and sites will publicize their promos in their tweets. Even if you have no interest in tweeting your own personal thoughts, it's worth it to keep up with what's happening in veganism—and for scoring free stuff.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Veg at Trader Joe's

The Topic: Veg Bargains at the Beloved TJ's

The Dish: Hailing from a land where Trader Joe's was an hours-long road-trip destination, I still get giddy every time I walk into a San Francisco location. They're so bright and full of wonderful, delicious things, and people are everywhere! Okay, so the people-being-everywhere bit is kind of a hassle, but the selection of affordable veg products more than makes up for it.

For those of you who haven't had a chance to visit a TJ's, for your sake, do it. Some day soon. Here are a few of my favorite TJ things that I'm pretty much guaranteed to buy. Each costs less than $5, but I'll admit that they're purely convenience purchases—great for when I'm on a budget and want to treat myself (which is, um, all the time).

Abby's Trader Joe's Must-Haves
  1. Dark Chocolate-covered Almonds with Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar ($3.99). I barely have words to describe these. They're pretty much the most amazing snack ever, and are incredibly addictive. Sweet plus salt equals heaven, especially when it's wrapped up in dark chocolate. I try to conserve a container as long as possible, but I advise against sharing in order to make that a reality.
  2. Wheat-Free Toaster Waffles ($1.89). I don't intentionally eat a wheat-free diet (if you couldn't tell that from my white flour-filled posts), but this fluffy toaster variety is vegan, and after devouring my first box many summers ago, I've been hooked ever since.
  3. Better n' Peanut Butter ($2.99). Don't judge me, but holy crap, I'm in love with this stuff. It's certainly not the most natural of products, and many healthy eaters may not touch it, but it's liquid gold. While sporting a schtick that it's lower in calories and fat than regular peanut butter (not my concern!), it also functions as dessert in a jar. Very sweet-tasting (yet somehow low in sugar), very delicious, and perfect for spreading on a wheat-free waffle for breakfast.
  4. TJ's Mediterranean Hummus ($3.99). Hummus, you are a spectacular creation. This huge container of smooth, delicious dip is way cheaper than its similarly priced counterparts at major grocers. It still doesn't last long in my house, but it's certainly more economical than the pricier name brands—and just as amazing.
  5. Simpler Times ($2.99). It's summertime, folks, which to me seems like the perfect excuse to sit around with friends and enjoy an ice-cold beer at only 50 cents per can. If you're not a beer snob—er, aficionado—then grab a six-pack and unwind. Consider my fridge stocked.
The Final Word: Of course there are dozens of veg products I didn't get to mention. I love them all! Don't forget to grab some TJ-brand Goddess salad dressing, affordable cleaning supplies, a bottle of famous $2 Charles Shaw wine, some fresh bread—I'll stop now. Are you a TJ's fan? What's your favorite bargain?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vegan Happy Hour

The Topic: Happy Hour Specials

The Dish: Every budget-conscious consumer knows that staying in for dinner and drinks is a surefire way to save money. The cost of an at-home meal or affordable bottle of wine is disturbingly cheaper than their restaurant counterparts. But sometimes, you just need to get out of the house, revel in good service, and enjoy a drink with friends. Enter: fantastic summer happy hours.

Veg eateries across the country are holding amazing happy hours, and for the 9-to-5 group, the timing is just right. San Francisco favorite Millennium offers buy-one-get-one cocktails Monday through Thursday, and to sweeten the deal, they're throwing in a free appetizer. If you're in the Bay Area and haven't been to Millennium, you should probably go, but not until 5:30pm—when the discount kicks in. May I suggest the Fiery Grapefruit-Basil Margarita?

Philadelphia's Horizons runs an outdoor-seating happy hour from 5pm to 6pm Monday through Friday, and Portland, Ore.'s Papa G's offers not only food and drink specials every weekday, but free live music Wednesday through Friday. While you're in Portland, head to the all-vegan Bye and Bye for $1 off well drinks and dinner entrees, $2 chips and salsa, and $6 mason jar drafts. There is nothing I love more than drinking out of a mason jar—seriously.

The Final Word: This is just a small sample of what's available. Do you have a favorite local eatery or bar that's offering great summer specials? If you still would rather stay in than head out, Vegan Happy Hour has plenty of delicious-looking recipes to whip up for an evening in. Pair that with the Happy Hour How-To feature in our July+August issue (Flotastic, I love you), and you're all set.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vegan Shoes

My prized Betseyville vegan pumps

The Topic
: Cruelty-Free Footwear

The Dish: Shopping stresses me out. While I love the idea of spending a day downtown, about 20 minutes into looking at clothes and I'm done. Fitting rooms? It's all too much work. However, the one exception to my retail-fearing nature might be shoes. I own, well, more pairs of shoes than I'd like to admit. Keeping my collection up to date doesn't have to be expensive, and I have a secret weapon: Ross.

Ross, a discount retailer, carries everything from housewares to clothing to accessories, to the most random stuff you'd never expect to find—or need—for 20 to 60 percent off retail prices. Its shoe selection is freaking awesome, and I never have trouble finding cute vegan styles for my giant feet. Believe me, it can be difficult to find age-appropriate shoes in a size 10.

For the summer, there's plenty of fashionable sandals to choose from, and I grabbed a few pairs at only $12 each. I will warn you, however, that these man-made material beauties aren't the best for major city walking—R.I.P., my favorite white gladiators. By far my biggest score has been the most adorable, faux-leather pair of Betseyville black pumps for only $15. Designer shoes for less than one Andrew Jackson? I'll take it. The style wasn't even on sale online yet, meaning that not all of the discounted garb is completely out-of-season, making it even more gratifying to stock my closet.

The Final Word: Similar discount retailers exist across the country, including Marshalls and T.J. Maxx. While these big, open-space, and often unorganized stores may seem daunting, if this shopping-phobe can handle the stress and snag sweet deals, so can you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cheap Eats: Fried Green Tomatoes

The Topic: Summertime Specialties

The Dish:
If there's one thing I miss about living in Missouri, it's my parents' summer garden crop. Those two have been exercising their green thumbs for as long as I can remember, and I never really appreciated it. Gardening wasn't my thing, but the endless supply of tomatoes it yielded? I could get behind that. I know a surprising amount of people who don't fawn over the total deliciousness of a ripe tomato, which I will never understand. Sliced up with some garlic-pepper salt? That might be the best snack ever.

And of course, I can't mention my love of this fruit without touching on a childhood favorite—fried green tomatoes. When you grow your own, it's easy to have dozens of green lovelies, ready for pan-frying at a moment's notice. The batter is super simple to whip up, without any costly ingredients. If you can get your hands on some unripe tomatoes, this is a total treat. While it's a bit harder to hunt them down in San Francisco, I'm determined to enjoy these bad boys this season. Or, I might just have to take a trip home before Missouri's hot weather—and our crop—disappears.

Freakin' Delicious Fried Green Tomatoes

What You Need:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic-pepper salt
Dash paprika
4 green tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup nondairy milk, unsweetened
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil, for frying

What You Do:
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, corn meal, pepper, garlic-pepper salt, and paprika. In a separate bowl, pour nondairy milk.
  2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, add salt. Wait 15 seconds, then cover pan in olive oil. Dip tomato slice in milk, then dry mix, and add to skillet. Repeat until skillet is full, and cook tomatoes 2 to 4 minutes, until brown. Flip, cook an additional 2 to 4 minutes, and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cook. Repeat, eat, and enjoy!
The Final Word: One dip in the batter will provide a light, crispy coating. If you want to go heavy on the crunch, double dipping is allowed—just quickly go back to the milk, then dry mix, once you've completed the first round of coating. Feel free to add whatever spices you like to it, as well. For the finished product, I love these with hot sauce, vegan sour cream, ketchup—pretty much any condiment will do.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Money-Saving Appliances

The Topic: Fast and Easy Eats

The Dish: Buying in bulk is one of the best money-savers, and I'm all for stocking up on cheap, healthy grains to serve as meal mains. I've been on a quinoa kick lately, but am transitioning back to my undying love for brown rice. While quinoa takes no time on the stove, cooking up the perfect pot of rice can take closer to an hour, which is still worth the investment if I'm planning for the week ahead.

Honestly though, I'm a creature of convenience more than I'd like to admit. Despite having approximately one square foot of counter space in my apartment, I decided to bite the bullet and invest in a rice cooker. Verdict? Best decision ever. I scored a small, 6-cup cooker for a reasonable $15 at the local Target, which is perfect for one person. It even came with a handy steamer basket, so heating up veggies is easy and keeps it to a delightful one-pot meal. I know to the uninitiated it may seem silly to buy an appliance strictly for cooking grains (yes, any grain is fair game), but it makes even the laziest person (me) capable of having a healthy meal with very little effort. Add rice and water, and push a button—ta da! It's really, really hard to mess it up, and at around 22 cents per cup of rice, the price can't be beat. With a little seasoning, steamed veggies, and a few dashes of Tapatio—my favorite hot sauce—I have the perfect meal.

The Final Word: Water to grain ratio varies depending on your rice cooker, as well as the grain used, so make sure and consult the manual for your machine. If you're jonesing for some amaranth and it doesn't mention it, then Google is your friend. I've also heard of people using their cookers for all sorts of culinary adventures, including soups and sauces. Are you a rice cooker devotee? What's your favorite use for it?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Homemade Dog Treats

The one and only Boo Bear

The Topic:
Cheap Canine Treats

The Dish
: I adopted my dog Boo this past December, and he's pretty much the best ever. While I grew up surrounded by animals, he's the first that has been solely my responsibility, and I'll tell you the biggest lesson I've learned: Dogs are expensive. Totally worth it? Yes. Could I stand to spend a bit less on toys, treats, and every other ridiculous canine-themed thing I see? Oh yeah.

There are plenty of healthy, store-bought treats that he likes, but just like with my own food, it can be much cheaper—and satisfying—to whip up a batch of dog chow or small bites in your kitchen. I mentioned It's A Vegan Dog's Life last week, and it's definitely worth a read. On top of all the great advice on raising a healthy dog (vegan or otherwise), it has more than 50 recipes, such as Apple Cinnamon Muffins and Peanut Butter Cake, to keep the Boo in your life happy.

In the meantime, whip up a batch of these peanut butter treats, courtesy of member VeganRun.

Oliver's Favorite Doggy Treats

What You Need
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup water
1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup flax seeds
1-1/4 cups rolled oats
1-3/4 cup brown rice flour

What You Do:
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine peanut butter and water and microwave for 1 minute. Stir to combine and add canola oil.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine nutritional yeast, flax seeds, oats, and flour. Add to wet mixture and mix well.
  3. On a piece of parchment paper, roll mixture out to 1/4-inch thickness. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour.
  4. Remove plastic wrap and with a knife, score the dough, making whatever size pieces you wish. If you want to get fancy, feel free to use cookie cutters.
  5. Cook the scored dough until crispy and no longer soft in the middle, about 1 hour 45 minutes for small treats. Halfway through, remove the dough and carefully break apart pieces. When they're crisp, take out of the oven and let cool.
The Final Word: Once you start cooking for your canine, you can go off-book and design your own recipes featuring his or her favorite foods. Just be sure to stay away from poisonous ingredients, including chocolate, raisins, garlic, and walnuts. With a little research and some time in the kitchen, you'll have one happy pup on your hands.

Bonus: In other huge news, today is the official 10th anniversary of VegNews! Celebrate with us and enter to win one of our brand-new tote bags. We're giving away 10 at 11am, 2pm, and 5pm PST. Good luck, and thanks for making this milestone possible!