Thursday, January 31, 2013

"New" Sewing Machine

I've been on a two-week long shopping spree in anticipation of my income tax refund. First, it was the ModCloth Cabin Fever Sale. Since then, I've been visiting thrift stores like I'm Macklemore or something. Yesterday, I found this 1961 Kenmore sewing machine with a vintage cabinet - for just $30.

It even came with the original owner's manual and a vintage button hole maker.  

I can't wait until I can get an extension cord (I live in an old apartment with hardly any outlets) and try it out. Check back later this week to see my first project using it. In the meantime, get a little thrift shop inspiration from Macklemore:

What's the best thing you've found at the thrift store?

- Shelly

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I want candy (bars)!

I love sweets! Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are one of the things I miss most now that I am vegan. That's why I was super excited when I learned that Go Max Go! Foods makes a vegan peanut butter cup with rice milk chocolate. I'm going through a break-up and feeling a little mopey, so I decided to cheer myself up with a little vegan candy bar taste test. here's what I tried:

Go Max Go Foods - Cleo's Peanut Butter Cups 

Price: $3.99
Calories/Fat: 240/18
Taste: Really good. The chocolate didn't have the same thin, peely quality as Reese's, but the peanut butter was spot on
Grade: A-

Go Max Go Foods - Twilight (similar to a milky way) 

Price: $3.99
Calories/Fat: 250/9
Taste: OK. The chocolate and caramel were good. The nougat was dense and not at all like I remember milky ways being
Grade: C

Go Max Go Foods - Mahalo (similar to an Almond Joy) 

Price: $3.99
Calories/Fat: 280/19
Taste: Amazing! Tasted exactly how I remember an Almond Joy
Grade: A

Enjoy Life - Boom Choco Boom Ricemilk Crunch (similar to a Nestle Crunch) 

Price: $1.99
Calories/Fat: 170/10
Taste: Solid. Tasted a lot like those cheap chocolates I remember being in stockings at christmas time.
Grade: C-

Crispy Cat Mint Coconut

Price: $2.69
Calories/Fat: 210/8
Taste: Awful. Overpowering mint flavor. Tasted like an energy bar. Way too healthy tasting to qualify as a candy bar in my book.
Grade: D

What are your favorite vegan candies?

- Shelly

P.S. I'm totally listening to this song as I write this post. I don't think I've ever loved anyone more than ice cream. I guess that's why I'm single. :(

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On Not Being a Vegan Jerk

I maintain a vegan lifestyle and have done so for the better part of the last 9 years. More often than not, when I tell someone that I'm vegan, I am greeted with some trepidation. Usually I'll get a "good" argument about why I should eat meat: it's unnatural to be vegetarian; bacon is delicious; your body needs protein. Typically I try not to engage people I have just met in a conversation about why they should become vegan. It's a conversation that I'm willing to have, but it's the conversation that most people are expecting. "Oh, you're a vegan. Here's the part where you tell me my lifestyle is cruel and unhealthy and unsustainable. Whatever, I'm still eating meat." Or the pre-emptive surrender, "I really would love to be vegan, but it's just SO hard!" These are the conversations I try to avoid. - I promise to respect your special dietary needs at my barbecue if you promise not to talk about them.
Don't get me wrong! I totally believe in veganism. I've watched the slaughterhouse and farm videos. I've seen the documentaries (Forks over Knives, Vegucated) that talk about how much healthier of a lifestyle it is to be vegan. I've read Fast Food Nation and Eating Animals and cannot reconcile that information with the Standard American Diet. I've even shed a tear once or twice to this song...

But, I digress. At work today, a co-worker said to me, "Thanks for not being an a****** vegan." And it got me thinking. Why is it that so many have that impression of vegans? Why do people automatically get defensive? When I spend time with my vegan friends, I see them as some of the coolest, most compassionate and generally awesome people I've ever met. Why can't we "mainstream" with general success?

Now, I want to make it totally clear, I have great respect for vegan activists. It takes guts to get out and protest anything, especially when the issue isn't generally agreed upon as being "important". I do think there are many ways vegans who want to mix and mingle with meat eaters can perform everyday activism without being THAT guy. Here are three things you can do to fit in socially while still being an activist in your day-to-day life.

1. Cook Vegan Food and Feed People

This could mean hosting a dinner party or attending a potluck and bringing a tasty vegan dish to share. At my office, people are always bringing in treats like cupcakes and cookies. I try to bring in a vegan dessert item every few months. My office always gets excited to try new things and are usually amazed at how much a vegan cupcake tastes like a regular cupcake.

2. Support Vegan Businesses

Vegan-friendly businesses are everywhere. From coffee shops to restaurants to bakeries, vegans can partake in the deliciousness of life in super convenient ways. An establishment doesn't have to be all vegan, but when they offer options for vegans, it's something we should support. A great example is a local pizza place here in Chicago. They make vegan pizzas to order every day of the week. On Tuesdays, they offer a vegan slice. Better yet, you can order the vegan slice as part of their "PB&J" Special. One low price gets you a slice of pizza, a beer (PBR) and a shot of Jameson. My friends and I try to go here on Tuesdays at least once a month. This encourages business to "Keep up the good work!"

3. Start a Vegan Brunch Club

Or Supper Club, or Lunch Club or whatever meal you'd like to celebrate. Last year I started a Brunch Club with 5 of my friends. Every month, a someone hosts the brunch at their house. They pick the theme and they do the cooking. The rest of us bring beverages and sometimes a dish to add to the mix. While it didn't start off as a Vegan Brunch Club (only 2 of us are Vegan, the rest are omnivores), it quickly became an all Vegan Brunch. This has been a great opportunity for our friends to try new vegan food and recipes out. Think being vegan is hard? You should come to one of our brunches! They are amazing! One day a month we eat cruelty free and enjoy an afternoon of mimosas and brunch foods. Everyone has branched out to learn new recipes and get creative in the kitchen. It's a tradition I hope we keep up for a long while.

I'd love to hear some ideas on how you've used cooking as a form of advocacy!

w/ <3

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Peer Pressure

About a week ago, a friend of mine posted a picture of a giant stuffed baked potato from Jason's Deli on Facebook. It was the largest potato I had ever seen. Seriously, Google "Jason's Deli Baked Potato". There are all sorts of images of the potatoes with dollar bills, iPhones and other items so you can tell how big it is.

Ever since then, several more friends have enjoyed potatoes from Jason's Deli and posted the pictures on Facebook. According to the Jason's Deli website, their potato is it topped with "Natural buttery blend, cheddar, sour cream, bacon, green onions". It has 2320 calories and 150 grams of fat (WHOA!).

I've had this potato on my mind for a week now. I'm vegan and "natural buttery blend" scares me. So, I decided to make my own (healthier) version for dinner last night. I used a diet app (Lose It!) and information on the Daiya Foods website to determine the nutritional information for my potato: 463 calories and 21g of fat (darn avocado).

Here's how I made mine:

1 medium russet potato
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup coarsely chopped mushrooms (I had chanterelles from the farmers' market, but any will do)
about 1TBSP chopped jalapeno (optional)
about 1TBSP roasted red peppers
1 TBSP olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp each)
1 TBSP Earth Balance buttery spread (optional)
1/4 cup Daiya cheese (I had mozzarella shreds, but any will do)
1/2 avocado, sliced
1 TBSP hot sauce (optional)
  • preheat oven to 450
  • wash and wrap potato in aluminum foil
  • bake potato for about an hour (or until easily cut with a butter knife)
  • While potato is cooking, put oil in a skillet and heat. 
  • Add onions and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes)
  • Add jalapenos, salt and peper and cook for another minute or so
  • Add mushrooms and cook until they are done (about 8 minutes)
  • Mix in red pepper and set aside until potato is done.
  • When potato is done, remove from oven and cut in half. For a true "Jason's" taste add 1 TBSP Earth Balance (I skipped this). 
  • Top with Daiya, vegetable mixture, sliced avocado and sriracha or other hot sauce, if desired. I used Cherry Bomb Sauce from River Valley Kitchens. I absolutely love its great roasted tomato flavor.
Tell me in the comments what "junk food" you like to make at home?

- Shelly

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ugly Coat Weather

It's cold in Chicago. Super cold. Colder than it's been in about two years. It was 0o when I took my dog, Iggy, out this morning, with a windchill of -11o.

Yesterday, I heard a former co-worker call it "ugly coat weather", and that's exactly what it is. It's nearly impossible to look cute when it's this cold.

This is what Iggy and I looked like today on our morning walk. Even the dog has her ugly coat on.

Shelly's wearing: Coat//Jones New York, Scarf//New York City Street Vendor, Gloves//Target, Hat//Vintage

But, the worst part of "ugly coat weather" is all the cute clothes hidden underneath. You would never know it by the picture above, but I am actually wearing one of my favorite summer dresses made winter-appropriate with tights, legwarmers and a long sleeved T-shirt:

Shelly's wearing: Dress//ModCloth, Shirt//Express, Tights (2pairs)//
Target, Legwarmers//American Apparel, Shoes//Wanted

Once I had the idea for this post, I had Pari take a picture in her "ugly coat" and another showing off what she was wearing underneath:

Pari's wearing: Coat//LL Bean, Scarf// Sarong from Costa Rica
Dress and Cardigan//Forever 21, Tights//Target, Boots//ModCloth, Belt//vintage

Hope you're staying warm,

Monday, January 21, 2013

Babe-raham Lincoln

In October, Shelly and I went to Springfield, Illinois. Capitol of the great state of Illinois, Springfield boasts many sites dedicated to our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.

We limited our trip to two main stops: the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Oak Ridge Cemetery, where the President is buried. 

Shelly and I both agree, the museum was much creepier than the cemetery. So creepy, in fact, we thought we met an actual ghost from the 1860's. There was a room set up to look like the conference room where Lincoln and his cabinet were editing the Emancipation Proclamation. Out of nowhere a man dressed in period garb appeared. He pulled out his pocket watch and, with a perplexed look, asked if anyone had the time. No one spoke, and finally I looked at my phone and told him the time. He nodded, turned to leave the room, then asked if anyone had any questions. When no one said anything, he left. We tried to follow him into the next room, but he was nowhere to be found. We sort of expected him to be in one of the theater presentations, but it turned out the presentation was a video and not a live show. GHOST!

Shelly's Wearing: Dress//vintage; Tights// Hue; Sweater//ModCloth; Scarf//Urban Outfitters; Shoes//Golden Ponies

Regardless of how creepy the museum was, we LOVED our Lincoln day! Here, you can see that the feeling was mutual! As always, Shelly and I thrifted our way back to Chicago, scoring some great vintage blouses and some pyrex casserole dishes.

w/ <3