Friday, November 30, 2007

Jason's Deli

I ended up having dinner at Jason's Deli last weekend. It's a restaurant that I really like for a quick meal, but that I seldom go to because of its location on the dreaded Hanes Mall Boulevard. (I hate traffic!) My visit reminded me, though, of just how vegetarian-friendly it is. There are quite a few vegetarian items to choose from, and they're clearly marked.

Some of the vegetarian choices are: vegetarian pasta, portobello wrapini, garden po'boy, spinach veggie wrap and macaroni & cheese. You can get steamed vegetables or fruit as a side. I love being able to choose healthy side options instead of, say, French fries or onion rings.

I usually get soup and a salad at Jason's Deli, and this visit was no exception. They always have three vegetarian soups -- tomato basil, vegetable and, wonder of wonders, French onion. It's practically unheard-of to be able to get a vegetarian French onion soup, and theirs is terrific -- deep and rich with lots of onion flavor, plus cheese melted on top. Carnivores wouldn't miss the usual beef broth for a second. What a treat!

It's easy to make a meal off the salad bar. They have a lot of fresh vegetables to choose from, as well as several prepared salads. They'd added a few new items to the salad bar since my last visit, including red pepper hummus (delicious on the garlic toasts) and a tasty, slawlike Asian vegetable salad. I was pleased to see that they were touting a couple of organic items there, too -- apples and a lettuce mix.

Plus, you get free mini gingerbread muffins and soft-serve ice cream for dessert! And the entire restaurant is nonsmoking! The only real drawbacks are that it's often crowded and can be noisy, especially with lots of children at the tables.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Worthwhile documentary

As a friend said after we watched the new HBO documentary I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA, "A lot of people need to see it."

This is a fascinating and well-made film. Because PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - works to expose the horrors that animals face in slaughterhouses, laboratories, fur farms and so on, the film is in many places difficult to watch. It is remarkable that the filmmakers don't flinch from showing some of the graphic footage of animal cruelty that PETA has obtained through its investigations.

And it's appropriate that it premiered on Nov. 19, during the week of Thanksgiving, since part of the film focuses on a PETA investigation of a turkey slaughterhouse. The abuses described and videotaped inside the slaughterhouse should change meat eaters' minds about the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

I was tempted in spots to turn the movie off or turn away, but it is worth it not to. It is inspiring in showing how much one person can accomplish through passionate commitment. It will also inspire many people to have more compassion, and express it in how they live their lives.

While it ended up increasing my respect for Newkirk, the film doesn’t paint a simplistic portrait of her. It spends a fair amount of time with critics of PETA and Newkirk, both those opposed to animal rights, and animal-rights supporters who believe that PETA's tactics are so outrageous that they hurt the movement.

But Newkirk is eloquent in her contention that in an era when news coverage is often reduced to brief video clips and sound bites, it takes outrageous stunts to catch the public's attention.

The film also shows moments leavened with humor and tenderness, as when a turkey rescued during the course of the slaughterhouse investigation is taken to a shelter. During a stopover at PETA's headquarters, the turkey clearly enjoys the music that her rescuers play for her.

HBO has showings of I Am An Animal scheduled through December. And it is available through HBO on Demand through Dec. 23. For more information and schedules, go here. PETA has information about the film – including a brief video response by Newkirk to the documentary and a chance to win a DVD of it, here.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving thanks

Yes, I know Thanksgiving was yesterday, but sometimes I'm a little slow. So, better later than never, here's a list of some vegetarian-related things I'm thankful for:

*My vegetarian friends -- it's so much easier to be vegetarian when friends share your eating habits!

*Open-minded carnivores.

*Vanilla rice milk.

*Nasoya's already-cubed tofu.

*Dark chocolate.

*Laughing Seed Cafe in Asheville.

*"This product not tested on animals."

*Summer rolls with tofu.

*The growing selection of vegetarian and organic products in grocery stores.

*Organic baby carrots.

*Vegetarian dishes on the lunch buffet at Nawab Indian Cuisine.

*Wonton wrappers.

*Mambo Sprouts coupon booklets.

*Moosewood cookbooks.

*Tofutti's Cuties ice-cream sandwiches.

*Veggin' Out readers who leave comments. ;-)

So, what are some of the vegetarian-related things you're thankful for?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


In the autumn of each year, I buy a pomegranate. Pomegranates are beautiful, all crimson and crowned. And they taste great - sweet, tart, and refreshing - and are supposed to be very healthful. As an NPR report puts it, "Scientists say the leathery-skinned, orange-sized fruit with the sweet-tart juice may help with heart disease, cancer and problems associated with aging. It's loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, potassium, folic acid and iron. Pomegranates are the new superfood."

But eventually, each year, my pomegranate experience goes bad when I try to peel it and end up red-stained and saddened by how difficult it is to get at the fruit. But this year may be different. I came across pomegranate-peeling instructions from the CDC
that look crazy enough they just might work.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Turkeyless Turkey Day

I was all set to write a blog entry about vegetarian Thanksgivings, and then I read this article in the New York Times, which said most of what I wanted to already! I'm not sure if I will get around to making the included recipes for Thanksgiving, but I'm definitely going to give them a try at some point. They sound utterly delicious.

I really like the idea of making a dish more festive by putting it in a baked pumpkin. I had gnocchi served in a baked pumpkin at Paul's Italian restaurant once, and it was very impressive -- I still remember it vividly.

As the author mentions, it can be frustrating when attending a family Thanksgiving dinner to discover meat products thrown in the vegetable side dishes -- turkey broth in the stuffing, ham in the green beans, marshmallows on the sweet-potato casserole. That's one of the reasons I usually do most of the cooking on Thanksgiving. And if I go to an extended-family holiday dinner, I always make sure to bring something that I can fill up on if nothing else is meat-free, such as macaroni-and-cheese. (I always know that my mom's sweet-potato casserole is vegetarian, because I have the recipe!)

This link from the (New Jersey) Daily Record also includes some yummy-sounding recipes, as well as a handy guide of things to keep in mind if you're a carnivore preparing Thanksgiving dinner for vegetarians.

Do you have problems with getting enough vegetarian food when attending family Thanksgiving dinners? If so, how do you deal with it?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sweet Potato Pie

Can you believe it's only a little more than a week away from Thanksgiving? I look forward to spending the day with my family. One thing to be thankful for is that since my mother and sister are also vegetarian, I don’t face the conflicts over the holiday menu that many vegetarians have to deal with.

My favorite part of the feast has always been the sweet potato pie. These days, my dad makes the pies, and he uses a recipe he got from his mother. His recipe is below - although I’ve taken the liberty of veganizing it. That's how traditions grow.

Readers, what are your favorite parts of a vegetarian Thanksgiving feast?

Dad’s sweet potato pie (vegan-style)

2 1/2 to 3 pounds of sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled and mashed. (Please don’t try this with canned sweet potatoes – blech! It is OK to use an equivalent amount of butternut squash to make a "pumpkin" pie)
1/2 stick (4 TBSP) margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon or 3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups soymilk
Egg substitute equal to 2 eggs (for example, 1 TBSP soy flour mixed with 1 TBSP water per egg; for more information on vegan egg replacements, see the Post Punk Kitchen site)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional; use only if you like coconut in your pie)
Two 9-inch pie shells

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix all filling ingredients thoroughly, and put the mixture into the pie crusts.
Cook pie for 10 minutes at 400. Then turn the heat down to 375 and bake the pies for 45 to 50 minutes more, until done.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Cat's Corner

One of the restaurants that is in our lunch "rotation" is Cat's Corner. It's just down the block from the Journal, so it's very convenient, although it can be a bit slow and crowded when the convention-center hordes descend. Cat's has always been pretty vegetarian-friendly (apart from an unfortunate penchant for putting bacon in otherwise-vegetarian quiches), so I was a little bit concerned that their new menu might take a step backward in that regard.

Happily, that isn't the case, although it's personally a bit of a mixed bag since they took off two of my favorite vegetarian sandwiches, the Portabella Wrap and the hot Veggie Pita (both messy but oh-so-good). They kept their other vegetarian dishes, such as the Veggie Burger and BBQ Tofu Sub, and added several more. Additions include a Spinach Cakes appetizer, several veggie sandwiches (including a vegan wrap), and a Moroccan Vegetable Salad, which includes tofu and I can personally attest is quite tasty. You can still make your own sandwich and salad -- but now, instead of three free salad fixings included, it's only two.

Another drawback of the new menu is that it now costs $2.00 to get fruit as a side with your sandwich instead of the previous 50 cents -- quite an increase there! What, do they marinate the fruit in gasoline?

They don't yet have the new menu up on their Web site but promise that it's coming soon.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Veggie Reubens

A reader recently wrote to SAM, the Journal's Straight Answer Ma'am, to ask whether there is really such a thing as a Reuben sandwich without meat. Well, in a world with room for vegetarian haggis and caviar, a vegetarian or vegan Reuben is hardly a stretch. I don’t want to repeat SAM’s answer, which you can read here, but did think it might be a nice time to write about where around town you can get a veggie Reuben.

Mary's of Course, which offers a lot of choices for vegetarians, serves a tempeh Reuben "grilled with Swiss cheese, topped with sauerkraut & Russian dressing on grilled rye bread."

West End Cafe and its sister restaurant Cat's Corner - also extremely friendly places for vegetarians - both serve veggie Reubens that feature grilled mushrooms instead of meat.

Finnigan's Wake, which offers vegetarian versions of many of its menu items, serves a vegetarian Reuben. Finnigan’s uses faux meats to replace the meat in most of its vegetarian dishes, and that is the case with the Reuben as well. I haven't found a Web site for Finnigan's, but its phone number is 723-0322.

A fine variation on the Reuben theme is the Skippy's Hot Dogs Reuben dog – served on a pretzel bun, with sauerkraut and spicy mustard. Skippy's offers Morningstar Farms veggie dogs, so you can get a vegetarian version with no problem.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any restaurants that serve a vegan Reuben. So for vegans, the best place for a Reuben may be in your own home. As I mentioned to SAM, my favorite recipe is Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ Tempeh Reubens from Vegan With a Vengeance. Unfortunately, it’s not posted on her Web site, but it's still worth surfing on over to see what is there.

Do you know any other good places for a veggie Reuben around here?

Friday, November 02, 2007

A burst of randomness

A few random items today:

*I'm extremely pleased that Lowes Foods has begun offering a "reward" of 50 greenpoints a bag when you bring in your own bags for grocery shopping. You'll need to be a member of their rewards-card club in order to take advantage. I've found that cashiers can be hit-and-miss about whether they give you the bonus, so you may need to remind them. Or you can stop by the customer-service desk and they'll add the points onto your account. I think this is a FABULOUS incentive, although they haven't done a good job at all of advertising it. I discovered it from a blurb in Natural Triad magazine.

*I wanted to share a link to my favorite vegan blog. The author, lindyloo, is prolific, irreverant and vastly entertaining, and she posts great photos of her vegan creations. However, if you're easily offended, this is definitely not the blog for you -- I can't even mention the name of the blog, if that tells you anything.

*This is Thanksgiving month, so here's an article reviewing three vegetarian Thanksgiving roasts. I'm definitely fonder of the Tofuky than the author of the review -- at least the roast part, because I think the Tofurky stuffing is dreadful to the point of being inedible.

*Speaking of Thanksgiving, reservations for the Triangle Vegetarian Society's Thanksgiving feast are now being taken. I really want to go to this one year....