Blogging, humor, Just For Fun, Veganiness

My First Time at a Hippie Commune, I Mean, Omega Institute

“Do you think they’ll have coffee?” my sister asked, peering over the edge of a wide toll bridge that would take us past the Hudson River towards a small town in central New York state.

“I was just thinking the same thing!” I said, slapping the steering wheel. “We’ll have to ask as soon as we check in.”

After a two and a half hour car ride from our hometown in New Jersey, we arrived at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York on Friday afternoon, leaving plenty of time to have dinner before our weekend workshop began at 8:00pm.

Go-Jules-Go-Omega-title-image

Omega is a nonprofit, mission-driven, and donor-supported educational organization. For more than 40 years we’ve been a pioneer in holistic studies – helping people and organizations integrate personal growth and social change, moving beyond ‘the way it is’ toward ‘the way it can be.'” –Omega Institute website

We wound through bumpy, forest-lined roads until we pulled into the main driveway. A tan, golden-locked young man greeted us with an easy smile and glazed-over eyes.

“Hey there! Staying here or are you a commuter?”

“Commuter,” I replied.

“Right on. You can go ahead and park in either of these two rows. Have a good one.”

When we’d spot him later that evening, we’d find him still perched at his station, but holding a guitar. We parked the car in the gravel lot and joined a long line in front of a building at the main entrance.

Eventually receiving welcome instructions and a map, we moseyed uphill towards the dining hall.

“I feel like I’m in Dirty Dancing,” I said, gazing at the casually dressed men and women wandering through Omega’s plentiful cabins and gardens. There was something serene about the timeless energy surrounding us. Or maybe it was just the lack of wifi.

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Someone definitely needs to put this in the corner.

As calm and quiet as the campus seemed, the institute was fully booked for the weekend and the food hall was hopping, hundreds of people lined up at the (mostly) vegan buffet.

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Commuters like us (we were staying at an off-campus AirBnB) had to pay a mandatory $110 “commuter fee” on top of the workshop registration fee in order to enjoy the food and campus amenities. (Coffee, the staff assured us at registration, would be available in the morning, along with milks made of everything from hemp to rainbows.)

We filled our plates and fruitlessly searched for the vodka station balanced our cups awkwardly as we tried to find a table outside.

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I think someone forgot to turn on the air conditioning…

All of the tables outside were large enough to accommodate at least eight people; luckily, I’d spotted the phrase “communal dining” in the brochure and had spent the prior two weeks practicing my fake niceties.

“What workshop are you here for?” I asked the man across from me, wondering how many chanterelle mushrooms I could shove into my mouth between questions.

“Psychic Detective,” he replied, spearing a chickpea and giving me the kind of bright-eyed, smiling response usually reserved for preschool teachers and cannibals. “How about you?”

I inhaled dramatically before replying with jazz hands, “Your Spirit Guides Await!”

Omega-spirit-guides-await-registration-letterHe nodded as if I’d just said “the sky is blue” and we went on to cover all of the other usual platitudes for the next hour before finding an excuse to leave. The question he never asked, and that I imagine you’re wondering at this stage:

What the f&@% are you doing here?”

I blame meditation. After just a few short months of daily meditation, my sister and I found ourselves exploring other metaphysical curiosities, from oracle cards to crystals to chakra-balancing. Poking around these avenues ignited a spark in both of us that felt too intriguing to ignore.

Jules-gypsy
Plus those crystal balls really bring out the crazy in my eyes.

With time to spare before our workshop began, my sister and I made our way down the hill towards the community lake, passing several people lounging in hammocks. We plopped down in two empty chaise lounges by the water and watched a few kayakers drift lazily in the distance. One of the staff members raked the sand in front of the water for a solid fifteen minutes, a concentrated frown on her face.

Omega-pond-raked
The result of her efforts.

“Do you think she misunderstood the term ‘Reiki’?” I asked at one point.

My sister rolled her eyes at my pun and answered, “Do you think people take the kayaks out just to smoke pot?”

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A solid theory.

Neither of our questions were answered because we spent the rest of the weekend sitting barefoot in a small, brightly lit room with one instructor and eighteen strangers, meditating and channeling spirit guides, angels, and for one unlucky classmate not used to a plant-based diet, farts.

Omega-institute-fart.png
Elizabeth Harper, a walking fairy our instructor, explained in a lilting British accent that we all have one main spirit guide with us throughout our lives, along with one main guardian angel, but you might have other spirit guides with you for specific life events or goals. You can tap into these all-knowing, all-loving energy forces at any time, most especially through meditation. I would tell you more, but apparently I can make a lot of money offering this kind of instruction.

Elizabeth-Harper
Photo credit

So, did I receive any meaningful guidance or insight throughout the weekend? Yes.

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My classmate Gale received this channeled message for me from my spirit guides, including the symbol. Obviously, I am destined for superstardom.

Did one of my spirit guides look like Zac Efron? Yes. Did I love not stressing about finding vegan food to eat? Yes. Did I mention the farter every chance I got? Yes. Would I go back?

Jules-meditating-Zac-Efron-spirit-guide.png
Um…YES.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

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Food, humor, Veganiness

Save Time & Money with MORE Vegan Food Hacks!

MORE VEGAN FOOD HACKS

I’ll be honest, Chipmunks. I’m shocked that my first vegan food hack post wound up being one of my most popular ones ever. Usually I write something, my mom reads it, and I move on. That post gets new views and likes every day, even two months later. Whether you’re reading this because you love me food, love saving money/animals/the planet, or any combination of the above, I’m so glad you’re here. BECAUSE…

I HAVE SO MANY MORE (VEGAN) FOOD HACKS!

Jules-single-dollars
You can just go ahead and hold onto these.

They’re so cheap. And so easy. And so yummy.

And? We’re on the heels of my 2-year veganniversary (May 17, 2016…not that I’m keeping track of the spiritual awakening that completely turned my world inside-out or anything), so what better time to celebrate a few more?

Let’s do this.

MORE VEGAN FOOD HACKS

Heads-up: My recipes are very informal because I want to encourage you to experiment! Most of these are really hard to mess up, so let your vegan flag FLY. And if you do mess up? You get to blame me! 

1. Orzo is a fun word

Go-Jules-Go_orzo-pasta-salad

  • 16-oz package orzo
  • 1 jar (about 8.5 oz.) oil-packed sun dried tomatoes (chopped or julienned)
  • Salt (to taste)

That’s right. One 99-cent package of orzo (tiny, scrumptious, basmati rice-shaped pasta) + a jar of julienned sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (about $3.00 from Trader Joe’s) = all you need for several filling meals. Just cook the pasta according to the instructions, strain, and then dump in the jar of sun dried tomatoes, oil and all. DONE. (Okay. You’ll probably want some salt.)

Don’t live near a Trader Joe’s? Check out the food aisle at TJ Maxx/HomeGoods – you’ll often find great deals on things you can stock your pantry with like sun dried tomatoes, condiments, seasonings, nuts, coffee/tea – even almond butter!

For other cheap additions, stir in a some baby spinach (it’ll wilt just from the heat of the pasta), sautéed onions and garlic, and/or any other vegetables that tickle your fancy (asparagus? Zucchini? Cherry tomatoes?). Speaking of fancy, if you want to splurge, add some pine nuts!

You can serve this hot, cold, or room temperature, and it’s a great make-ahead meal for a picnic or party.  Or, try mixing in some vegan mayo (Hellmann’s is my favorite) and turn it into a traditional cold pasta salad with celery, red onion, mustard and dill!

2. InstaPot: What Can’t She Do? (Refried Beans Recipe)

Go-Jules-Go_InstaPot-refried-beans

By using that magical hummus recipe I mentioned in my first vegan food hack post as inspiration, I created my own InstaPot “refried” bean recipe. This is so, SO, *SO* much better than refried beans from a can, and it yields a ton = mega savings.

Don’t have an InstaPot? You can do this on your stovetop, just plan for a 1-2+ hour bean-cook time. (Less if you soak the beans overnight.)

  • 16-oz. bag dried pinto beans
  • However many cups of water it takes to cover said beans
  • Your favorite seasonings, e.g., 1 bay leaf, 1-2 peeled garlic cloves, 1 onion (peeled and quartered), 1-2 spicy peppers (stems cut off), and a teaspoon each of smoked paprika, salt, pepper, oregano, etc.
  • 1/2 c. reserved cooking liquid (see instructions)
  • 1/4-1/2 c. your favorite oil
  1. Rinse off your beans and dump ’em into your InstaPot (IP).
  2. Cover with water, leaving about two inches of extra water on top of them (those suckers grow faster than my waistline after Thanksgiving).
  3. Add whatever seasonings make you smile from the suggested list above – or come up with your own!
  4. Set the IP on manual for 38 minutes (this is the magic pinto bean number – they will be extra soft), and make sure to turn off the IP when the timer sounds. Feel free to use those 38 minutes to catch up on my blog.
  5. After about 10 minutes post-timer, you can manually release the pressure valve without melting your face off.
  6. Strain the beans and any other veggies you added (garlic, onion, peppers, etc.), reserving the cooking liquid. If you used a bay leaf, discard/compost that.
  7. Put the beans in a food processor, along with any other veggies you used, and blend.
  8. Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water, then slowly add about 1/4 c. of oil while the food processor is on. Do all of this while everything’s still warm, and you’ll be AMAZED by the results. So light! So fluffy!
  9. Give it a taste, and then add more of the cooking water, oil and/or seasoning as needed to light your tastebuds on fire. If it seems thin, it will firm up once it cools.

Like I said, this makes a ton, but it’ll keep all week. You can eat it cold, reheat it and serve with tortilla chips, make a layered bean dip, spread it on tortillas (#foreshadowing), or just eat it on a spoon! Heck, one time I used it as the “sauce” for a Mexican pita pizza (pictured below), adding green chiles, tomatoes, corn, cilantro and vegan cheese!

3. You Get a Tortilla, You Get a Tortilla, Everybody Gets a Tortilla!!!

Tortillas

I buy these tortillas from the refrigerated dairy section of Stop & Shop for $1.49. Eight, succulent, giant, versatile blankets of magic for less than $1.50. The possibilities? Endless.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Quesadillas

 

  • 1 tortilla per quesadilla
  • Your ‘main’ filling of choice: ~1/2 c. refried beans, hummus, mashed potatoes (sweet or regular), or meat substitute
  • 1/4-1/2 c. vegan cheese (optional)
  • 1/4 c. sautéed veggies/greens (optional)

I’m telling you, just about anything will work in quesadillas if you have a pasty-bean-like-filling; you don’t even need cheese, although I’m in love with Trader Joe’s vegan mozzarella and Follow Your Heart.

Once you add your fillings to one half of the tortilla, fold over, and toast on a large nonstick pan (no greasing necessary) on medium-high heat for a couple of minutes on each side.

Last week I microwaved frozen vegan meatballs and mashed them up, added some vegan mozz, put them in a quesadilla, and used marinara sauce for dipping. Italian ‘dilla – BAM!

Enchiladas

Go-Jules-Go-cauliflower-cream
Shhh… this is actually manicotti, but when you make enchiladas like I describe below, it looks pretty much like this!

Enchiladas are more labor intensive (because of prepping the filling), but they’re GREAT for leftovers/work lunches, and I’ve got an awesome hack coming up here.

  • 4 large tortillas
  • Filling:
    • ~2 cups of your grain of choice (rice, couscous, bulgur, quinoa, etc.)
    • ~2 cups of your veggies of choice – cooked (spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc.)
    • ~1 to 1 1/2 cups prepared vegan meat (optional), e.g., soy chorizo, “beef,” etc.
  • 1 jar marinara sauce (anything from 10 to 24 oz. will work)
  • About 1 teaspoon each (or to taste): oregano, crushed red pepper, chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder
  • 8 oz. vegan cheese (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Prepare your filling and distribute it evenly among the four tortillas, wrapping each into a burrito.
  3. Place four burritos in a 9 x 13 pan.
  4. Now for the hack! Aside from the dirt-cheap tortillas, you can buy ANY marinara sauce and just add your favorite Mexican seasonings (suggested list above) and VOILA! Enchilada sauce for about a buck.
  5. Pour your genius sauce over your burrito babies and feel free to top with vegan cheese.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until nice and bubbly. (If you’re worried about the cheese burning, you can cover the dish with foil for the first 15 minutes.)

One time I boiled a head of cauliflower and blended the sh*t out of it and used that as a topping, too (swirled like in the photo above). Funky-smelling like cheese, healthy, delicious. Oh, cauliflower, you are the Justin Timberlake of vegetables: limitless potential.

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I knew I’d work this photo in eventually. (JT’s Man of the Woods tour. March 2018, Madison Square Garden.)

Chickpea salad wraps

  • 1 can (about 15 oz.) chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • ~1/4 c. your favorite vegan mayo
  • 1/8 c. finely chopped red onion
  • 1/8 c. finely chopped celery
  • 1 t. dijon mustard
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar (optional)
  • 1 T. relish (optional)
  • 1 T. fresh or 1 t. dried dill (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Think tuna salad, but swap out a can of chickpeas for tuna! The above are really just suggestions meant to play around with – go crazy! I mash the chickpeas a bit with a fork so they’re even more “tuna”-like.

I love to make wraps out of this with those bargain tortillas, topping with lettuce, tomato, and/or sprouts. You could even skip the mayo and just use oil and vinegar though it would cause me to reevaluate our friendship.

Hellmans-vegan-mayo
My lifeblood.

I could go on and on about tortillas, but I’ve still got two more hacks to go! (And hey, aren’t you supposed to be working?)

4. Carrot-Ginger Soup

 

Feel a cold coming on? Want comfort food that won’t require wearing yoga pants for the next week? This is one of my absolute favorite soup recipes, and I just realized how cheap and easy it is. To make it vegan, simply swap out the butter and milk with plant-based options. (Earth Balance and Westsoy unsweetened soy milk are my favorites, respectively.) To make it even easier? Buy baby carrots – no peeling or chopping necessary!

5. You Say Potato, I say Potatohmygod

Ohhh, are we ever ending with a bang here, Chipmunks! I often keep a container of whole, roasted potatoes in my fridge so that Uncle Jesse (the dog) and I can enjoy them in myriad ways throughout the week. Here are just a few:

Pierogi quesadillas

Go-JulesGo_Pierogi-quesadillas-closeup

I have my friend Christine to thank for this miracle. (Remember Christine? The mastermind behind the vegan dinner party?) When she first found out I went vegan and had me over, she made this as an appetizer and blew us all away!

  • Tortillas (1 per quesadilla)
  • Your favorite potatoes, roasted or boiled (1 per quesadilla)
  • Vegan butter spread (e.g., Earth Balance) – about 1 T per quesadilla
  • Plant-based milk (optional) – about 1/8-1/4 c. per quesadilla
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Other optional fillings: vegan cheese, sautéed onions, peppers, spinach, jalapeño, tomato, scallions, cilantro – you can’t go wrong!
  1. Mash up potatoes with a fork and add non-dairy butter, milk (if using), salt and pepper. I use yukon gold potatoes and leave the skins on (mmm yeah that’s right).
  2. Add any other optional fillings, spread that sh*t on one half of a tortilla, fold over, and toast on a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. No greasing the pan necessary. It takes about a minute or two on each side – watch it closely!
  3. Serve it with whatever you’d like: Salsa, vegan sour cream, ketchup, hot sauce, etc.

Roasted sweet potatoes with creamed spinach

Go-Jules-Go-creamed-spinach-sweet-potato

Sound a little weird? Good. I like pushing you outside your comfort zone.

  • 3-4 sweet potatoes
  • 1 onion (any kind), roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ~12-oz. baby spinach (roughly chopped, if desired)
  • 1/4-1/2 c. your favorite vegan “cream” (Cashew cheese? Non-dairy milk, sour cream and/or cream cheese? Tahini? They all work!)
  • Nutmeg, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste
  • 1-2 T. nutritional yeast (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Wash and prick sweet potatoes with a fork and pop ’em in the oven (usually takes about 1 hour).
  3. While the potatoes are roasting, sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet (use whatever you prefer to sauté: plant-based butter spread, oil, water or stock).
  4. Once the onions are translucent (5-10 mins), add the baby spinach a few handfuls at a time, letting them wilt.
  5. Now the fun part. Add 1/4-1/2 cup of your vegan cream of choice. My favorite (and arguably easiest) is half tahini, half unsweetened soy milk. Tahini is ground-up sesame seeds, and it’s delicious. It’s also mild in flavor so you don’t have to worry that it’ll outshine your garlic and spinach. They usually sell it in a jar right by the peanut butter, typically on the top shelf.  It can be a little pricy (don’t pay more than $7.00 if you can help it), but a little bit goes a long way in things like dressing, hummus, and the wacky recipe I’m giving you right now. My favorite is Whole Foods 365 brand. I’ve gone on so long about this that I kind of want to make a “The More You Know” video.
  6. Add your seasonings, tasting as you go (a little nutmeg is usually all you need).
  7. Dump that gloriousness on top of your roasted sweet potatoes and have at it! (Pssst. This keeps well as leftovers for a few days.)

Potato casserole

Do you watch Counting On? It’s one of my favorite guilty pleasure shows where the parents have 867 kids, all the women wear long skirts, don’t dance, and make some really f#@$*& delicious-looking food.

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They look kinda like this.

One of those foods is “tater tot casserole.” That is the inspiration behind this much somewhat healthier, vegan version. Thank you, Duggar family.

Go-Jules-Go-potato-casserole

  • 4-5 your favorite potatoes, cut into 1-inch (ish) cubes – I use Yukon gold and keep the skins on
  • 1 or 2 onions (any kind), peeled and roughly chopped
  • ~1/4 c. oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ~15 oz. can black beans
  • 8 oz. your favorite vegan cheese -OR- 1/4 c. nutritional yeast + 1/4 c. walnuts ground together
  • Optional: 1/2-1 c. corn, chopped tomatoes, wilted greens and/or spicy peppers, etc.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Toss potatoes and onions with oil, salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet in a single layer for about 35-45 minutes. (Check on them and give a stir about halfway through. You’ll know they’re done when the potatoes are fork-tender.)
  3. You could seriously stop here and just eat all of it while standing in front of the oven, leaning through the doorway to catch the new Tig Notaro stand-up special on Netflix. No? Okay. Carry on.
  4. Rinse and drain the black beans and add those to the cooked potato-onion mixture, combining into a 9 x 13 pan.
  5. Add any other optional fillings from the list above – or your own invention!
  6. Top with vegan cheese or walnut/nutritional yeast combo and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese is your desired bubbly, golden brown-y-ness.
  7. Don’t tell anyone you made this, because you won’t want to share.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Happy Cooking, Chipmunks! I love you as much as I love carbs.

stuffed-chipmunk-cheek-2

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Family Ties, humor, Veganiness

What Jesus Would Definitely NOT Do

WWJD-bracelet-funny

Every other week, I meet with one of my favorite people in the world, my thesis advisor, Mary Pat (or MP, as we affectionately call her). At the start of these chats, we often find ourselves sharing humorous anecdotes before getting down to brass tacks.

Speaking of nail-like things, this past week, she shared a little story about growing up Catholic as one of seven siblings. “This wasn’t like growing up in the 80s,” she said. “I mean, we had nuns. Nun nuns.”

“On Good Friday,” MP continued, “from 12 to 3, while Jesus was on the cross, Catholics are supposed to be quiet. Our parents would put all seven of us in our tiny basement and not let us out until we oh-so-silently finished our annual arts and crafts project. Which was,” she paused dramatically, “to make a life-sized Jesus on the cross using brown paper bags, red markers, tape, and scissors.  We didn’t have to make the cross, just Jesus — which was a depressing task to say the least, especially with four brothers who loved drawing the gory parts…”

I stared at her, mouth agape. “Go on.”

“Once giant Jesus was complete, my parents hung Him on the wall where He remained for the rest of Good Friday and most of Holy Saturday. Then, Saturday night before bed, we rolled Him up and put Him in a shoebox with a rock on top, like His tomb,” she took a breath. “This isn’t even the best part.”

I pursed my lips. This was already the greatest story I’d ever heard.

jfc-post-kristin-wiig-as-sue
Cannot…take…it!!!!

“In the morning — on Easter — we would come downstairs to discover that the shoebox was empty, the rock removed! If we wondered where He went, we needed only tip our seven little faces toward the heavens to find Him.”

“The…ceiling?” I could barely get the words out.

“That’s right,” she confirmed. “After we went to bed, my parents would tape Him to the ceiling in the dining room. He had risen!”

JFC-pic-3
I’m guessing it didn’t look like this.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Any other horrifying fun family memories you’d like to share?

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Food, Lists, Veganiness

Save Money and More: My Top 5 Vegan Food Hacks

Everywhere I turn, I hear people say, “How can I be more like Go Jules Go? What’s up with this vegan thing? What do you eat? Do you save money?”

I’ve only been vegan for two years, but I’ve been a foodie for 35 and counting, which means you can be dang sure I’ve found a way to eat fabulous fare even after parting ways with my old standbys, cheese and bacon.

Whether you’re interested in improving your health, spending less money, or putting your dollars towards preserving the planet and protecting animals, just a few vegan food choices here and there can truly rock (y)our world (and your wallet).

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you purchase the linked product, at no additional cost to you. I only ever link to products that I truly love. Like this.

Go Jules Go’s Top 5 Money-Saving Vegan Food Hacks

1. Frozen potato and onion pierogies

pierogies

Poppy’s brand pierogies are currently EIGHTY CENTS a package at my local New Jersey ShopRite. Caramelize an onion, maybe toss in some bell pepper or spinach, and put your carb-o-phobia on hold while you enjoy this filling meal for two. (I dip mine in ketchup…shhh.)

2. MUNG BEANS (yes, they demand all caps)

mung-beans

I buy these little green gems in bulk from Whole Foods and, when combined with onion, garlic, ginger and coconut milk, you have yourself a fine ass curry. They taste like a delicious split pea-bean hybrid, and they’re a nice change of pace from your standard lentils and legumes. (In fact, Just brand is coming out with a vegan scrambled egg liquid made out of mung beans!)

3. Peanut (satay) sauce 

peanut-sauce-bowl-2

Need I say more?  Use some of that leftover fresh garlic and ginger from your mung bean curry, and – bam! Put over pasta, stir fry, rice/grain bowls, even raw cabbage/veggies for a salad… you can’t go wrong. You can prepare ahead of time if you’re entertaining (it’s a major crowd-pleaser) and it even freezes pretty well. My go-to recipe is a lot like this, with some lime juice and cilantro thrown in.

IMG_4742
When it comes to peanut sauce, the sky’s the limit! (With Sriracha hearts because I’m a show-off.)

4. Banana ice cream

banana-ice-cream
What? You think it looks like… YOU’RE SO IMMATURE.

Do you like watching freezer-burned bananas turn into creamy dog doo deliciousness? This “recipe” is that magical! Peel a couple of ripe bananas, cut them into chunks, and pop them in the freezer for a few hours. (I don’t recommend leaving them in there for more than 24 hours.) Then, put them in a food processor and let it go. Wait at least a minute or two, and you’ll have yourself some silky smooth banana fro-yo. You can add chocolate chips, peanut butter, cocoa, strawberries, your lost dreams of ever working on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, whatever. It’s miraculous! (AND cheap. AND healthy. You’re welcome.)

5. V-Dog kibble

Uncle-jesse-v-dog

Hear me out. After gobs of research and learning that vets prescribe plant-based kibble to dogs with skin conditions, I switched my 8-year-old pooch, Uncle Jesse, to V-Dog. (Whereupon he immediately rejected the old stuff.) That was over a year ago and he’s crushing it, with a flawless bill of health from his normal vet. While this decision wasn’t financially driven, it turns out V-Dog costs about half of what I was spending on high-end animal-based kibble. (It smells so decent I might actually try it. If I do I promise to blog about it.)

vegan-Uncle-jesse

And because I love you – a bonus hack!

6. InstaPot Hummus

InstaPot
KNEEL BEFORE ME AND BEHOLD MY AWESOME POWER TO ROAST, RICE COOK, STEAM, PRESSURE COOK, STERILIZE, SEAR, SAUTEE, AND SLOW COOK!

If you’re one of the proud new owners of an InstaPot, the countertop multi-cooker on crack and Amazon’s #1 Christmas gift for “The Person You Care About But Also Resent Because They’re Implicitly Forcing You to Feed Into the Consumerist Machine to Prove Your Affection,” this recipe is for you! My manager who totally reads this blog and did I mention she is the cat’s meow? sent me this amazing InstaPot hummus recipe using dried chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans). The trick is using the warm, cooked beans and cooking liquid to whip ’em into a pillowy bean dream after they’re done in the iPot (I’m trademarking that). Grab a bag of dried chickpeas for about $1.00 and don’t do what I did yesterday, which is cave to convenience.

hummus-rip-off
Guess how much. No, no. Just guess. FOUR DOLLARS. FOUR. DOLLARS!!

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Have you tried (or would you try) any of these? Have any other plant-based hacks?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Animals, Chipmunks Forever, Veganiness

Save the Earth! It’s the only planet with chipmunks.

Last fall I lost my mind and decided to go back to school. I’m now halfway through my Masters degree in Humane Education a.k.a. Learnin’ How to Save the Planet.

Of course, we all know I really just want some more of those fancy letters to add to my work signature.

Go-Jules-Go-signature

Over the past year, I’ve struggled to find humor while bearing witness to the countless atrocities detailed in the coursework. I even considered throwing in the towel on higher learnin’ altogether. But speaking of towels (wait for it) – there’s still hope! On top of the recent move to tiny living, here are some of my favorite ways of ensuring the world’s chipmunks will have many, many years left to thrive:

1. (S)wipe Left on Paper Products

No, no, no. I’m not asking you to trade your TP for twigs. But getting into the habit of using dishtowels as napkins is the gift that keeps on giving! Who wants to dry their hands with 18 pieces of tissue paper anyway?

napkins
WHAT ARE YOU MADE OUT OF?? Necco wafers and sadness???

I love using soft, fluffy hand towels as much as…

2. Bag Lady

I’m obsessed with my reusable bags. Remember this?

home-alone-shopping-bag-fail-o

No more once you switch to sturdy, waterproof bags!

HUED-640-reusable-bags
This is 1/4 of my collection. I may have a problem.

3. From K-Cups to More-than-OK-Cups

Not only do they make gobs of compostable products for any coffee machine, they also sell reusable Keurig K-Cup pods that you can fill with your own coffee, then compost the grinds, for a totally waste-free caffienating experience.

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This is New Jersey. We drink cawfee.

4. Got milk? Yeah, and it’s nuts!

Swapping out any one dairy (or meat) item at any one meal for a plant-based option instead is a HUGE win for woodland critters and humans alike. I know, I know. “BUT CHEESE,” you’re thinking. Thankfully, the plant-based options for milk and cheese are becoming more convincing than ever – check out Chao cheese if you don’t believe me. (For more on the implications of eating dairy, which I know can be confusing – shoot me a note. And here’s a great article with lots of cool charts emphasizing the impact of small dietary changes.)

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Then you too can search “nut milk bag” without hesitation at work.

5. Compostest with the Mostest

By far my proudest accomplishment in 2016 was making this composting bin with Babs:

Babs-composting
Booya.

Since then, I’ve upgraded to an item that’s marketed as “the most beautiful composter in the world.” By tossing all of my raw produce, coffee grinds and compostable packaging in there, these bad boys have cut down my garbage by a whopping 75%!

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So beautiful, no?

6. It’s the Little Things that Count

Plastic straws, paper receipts, those little stickers on your fruits and vegetables – they really add up! Say “no thanks” when you can and hopefully these items, much like Scott Baio, will soon become a thing of the past.

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“Global warming” – chyeah right! He doesn’t even need pants! Photo credit

7. This is Us. Not Buying New Sh*t.

Learning about the materials and energy required to produce every single new consumer good was enough for me to reconsider buying that battery operated armpit hair braider. Even recycling itself -turning those plastic Sprite bottles into a rug, for example- can demand intensive resources. Choosing refurbished or borrowed items will make you the Kevin to Mother Nature’s Kate.

This Is Us - Season 1
I hope you’re not using those wafer napkins to dry your tears. Photo credit

8. Do you have your permission slip?

Because it’s field trip time! Visit your local farm sanctuary and be amazed by the animals’ stories. Did you know chickens experience REM sleep and teach calls to their babies before they’re born? They even purr! So cool!

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Just imagine what I could tell you about Dolly the Llama!

9. Cabbage Patch Pets

Remember how Cabbage Patch dolls came with those nifty adoption papers? There’s a lot to be said for adoption – skip the breeders and pet stores and scoop up a rescue.

Jules-Cabbage-Patch-costume
I don’t know why you assumed I DIDN’T have this photo.

10. Fork You

Switching to reusable utensils (and dishware) was a “sacrifice” that played in my favor! I dine like a queen at work:

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What’s with the bubbly, you ask? It’s Tuesday!

11. Warm Fuzzies

The best thing you can do for chipmunks? Love. Love them, love yourself, and love the land we share.

Chipmunk Smiling
She said “nut milk bag.”

P.S. – Yes I did.

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Food, PSAs, Veganiness

I Have Tasted the Impossible!

I grab my shirt and pull it away from me. The Manhattan skyscrapers have formed a barrier, trapping the early August humidity and dashing any hope that a breeze might dry the sweat running down my back.

“Do you think we’ll get a table?” my sister asks.

It’s 11:45am on Saturday and we’re part of a line snaking down 8th Avenue and 22nd Street. In 15 minutes, they’ll open the doors to Chelsea district’s Momofuku Nishi.

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We can already taste the succulent red meat and pan-fried char, our mouths watering at thoughts of the secret-sauce-and-blood-soaked bun.

Today, we would taste the impossible.

Beefy, melt-in-your-mouth… vegetables?

That’s right. Today we would sample the acclaimed brainchild of Patrick Brown, founder and CEO of California-based start-up Impossible Foods. According to all accounts, Brown had managed to create a plant-based burger that sizzled, bled and -hopefully- satisfied just like its meat-based counterpart.

Despite enjoying many bacon and cheese-smothered burgers in my day, I’ve always been a fan of veggie burgers. The ones that tasted like vegetables, that is. The more a veggie patty tried to disguise itself as meat, the more it seemed to fail.

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Until (spoiler alert) now.

Using a combination of science and more science, Impossible Foods attempted a feat no man nor chipmunk had yet mastered: Making vegetables actually mimic meat. How did they do it? Through reverse-engineering taste and including loads of something called heme. Heme is what peanut butter is to Reese’s cups, what cherry Chapstick is to a Katy Perry song, what Miss Piggy is to Kermit.

It’s the stuff that makes something what it is.

heme
Or, you know, if you want to be all LITERAL about it, it’s an “iron-containing compound of the porphyrin class that forms the nonprotein part of hemoglobin and some other biological molecules.” (Credit: Wikipedia)

Brown combined heme -the thing that gives beef its meaty, bloody flavor- and a number of plant products (namely potatoes, soybeans, and coconut) to achieve the Impossible Burger. A longtime vegan and accomplished biochemist, he wanted to make a veggie burger for people who loved meat. After all, who would forego succulent, savory bovine for lentils and chalky carrots?

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Us, apparently.

And we’re not alone:

Impossible Foods surveyed 600 “hard core middle America burger lovers” about their eating habits and asked them whether they’d choose a plant-based burger if it was identical—in taste and cost—to the beef version. Nearly 70% said they would. –Wall Street Journal

But with production costs still too high to actually offer the Impossible Burger to the masses, you have to wonder: is it worth all of the trouble? I mean, cholesterol aside, is there really anything that bad about sticking to the traditional?

cost-of-beef
According to NPR, this is what goes into producing a single beef patty. Photo Credit

With plans for a slow but powerful movement, Impossible Foods is piloting their burger in limited quantities in places like New York City, and soon, San Francisco. Within five years, we can expect to see some pretty happy cows, but for now, some pretty happy humans:


Do you think the Impossible Burger can do the impossible? Would you try it?

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