Restaurant Review: Cafe Con Leche

Before my best friend Julia went off to school last week, we decided to have one last hoorah, and went out to dinner in a neighboring town. I decided to google a place that would accommodate me as a vegan and happened to stumble across Cafe Con Leche in Newtown, Pennsylvania.

And boy, I am so glad that I did.

Cafe Con Leche has something for everyone. They have a regular menu, and an entirely plant-based menu as well! And both menus were equally stocked with goodies.

The vegan menu had burritos, “crab” cakes, various salads, pulled “pork,” bean and mushroom burgers, “cheesesteaks,”fajitas, “chicken” dishes, stir-fry, pastas, cobbler, and chocolate cake. Literally, they had anything you could possibly want!

I chose the veggie stir-fry with tofu. The assortment of vegetables were delicately sauced and resembled some of my favorite asian take out…but healthier! Cafe Con Leche definitely did not skimp on the veggies, and I was presented with a heaping helping of onion, celery, zucchini, squash, red pepper, purple cabbage, broccoli, and carrots. If you love eating the rainbow, order the veggie stir-fry!

I definitely plan on going back, and this time I will be trying the vegan burrito! I am so excited, and I hope you guys think about giving the vegan menu a taste, too.

Thank you, Cafe Con Leche, for a lovely evening of good food and good company! I am so glad I got to celebrate my best friend Julia here, and wish her good luck on her new college journey. I am so incredibly blessed.

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Restaurant Review: Nelli Rae’s Kitchen

One of my favorite things to do with the people I love is trying new restaurants! Eating out can be a little tricky as a vegan, especially if you don’t just want to eat a house salad at any ordinary restaurant (especially when your friends are chowing down on much tastier foods). But no worries! There are tons of vegan, vegetarian, and veg-friendly restaurants popping up as veganism gains popularity.

The other day my mom and I were out shopping for my college dorm and decided to stop at a cute little vegetarian restaurant that my Aunt suggested to me earlier in the summer. With an open mind and an empty stomach, we arrived at Nelli Rae’s Kitchen in Revere, Pennsylvania.

Upon arrival, the place had already charmed me. The restaurant was located in a quaint, roadside farmhouse. The tables were draped in various eclectic, floral table cloths and adorned with mismatched silverware that gave the place a little quirk.

The atmosphere was calm and very relaxed. With big windows, the sun illuminated the inside of the restaurant warmly. My mom and I were seated on the cozy front porch, and were welcomed kindly. Although they claimed to be understaffed on that particular day, our food came in a timely fashion, and our waitress was extremely pleasant.

And of course, the food was amazing! Although mainly vegetarian, there are a few vegan options worth trying. There was also a large selection of delicious smoothies and freshly pressed juices! I decided to get a carrot-apple-ginger juice, which was extremely refreshing and tasty (even though this was how I found out how I was allergic to carrots…I broke out in hives lol). Regardless, I still enjoyed the juice, and would totally recommend…if you’re not allergic, of course 🙂

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For my lunch, I had a sushi salad! Based with brown rice and topped with assorted greens, the salad was also decorated with nori, sesame seeds, avocado, shredded carrots, zucchini, and red pepper. The salad was completed with a perfect drizzle of miso-ginger dressing. It was the perfect amount of food, and I finished all of it.

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The front counter of the restaurant is also stocked with tasty baked goods (which are sometimes vegan!) Although I was too full to sample, I would definitely encourage you to try some vegan treats…they looked amazing.

So, all in all…if you’re hungry and happen to be in South East Pennsylvania, stop by Nelli Rae’s Kitchen for a bite to eat 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling the Jersey Shore…Vegan!

IMG_3981This past week, I spent a few days in Ocean City, New Jersey with some of my closest friends from high school. I was nervous about staying in a non-vegan household, but it ended up being so easy, and the trip was SO fun! I know a lot of new vegans struggle with traveling, so I thought I’d share some of my experiences so that it may help some of you.

Tip #1: Food prep! If you are staying with someone else, you can’t expect the host or hostess to accommodate your vegan lifestyle, especially if they have lots of guests to prepare for! So, come with your own food, so there isn’t any stress for either party! Luckily, I had a vegan friend along with me, and we brought applesauce, apples, bananas, fruit bars, pre-made rice, cereal, and almond milk with us to graze on. We appreciated the convenience of these foods when we were on the go.

Tip #2: Look up Restaurants: Before you go, look up restaurants that accommodate veganism or have vegan options! Eating out isn’t always essential, but sometimes it adds some more adventure to your travel experience. I either use Google, HappyCow, or the app Food Tripping to look up cool places.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate any explicitly vegan restaurants in Ocean City, I had to get creative! My friend told me about a frozen yogurt store that sold smoothies, acai, and pitaya (dragon fruit) bowls that were suitable for vegans called Yoasis.

So, for breakfast one morning I bought a Pink Dragon smoothie made with pitaya, mango, pineapple, and apple juice. It was such a vibrant pink, and it tasted amazing! I wish I’d snapped a picture for you guys, but it was truly amazing! My friend got the Green Goddess smoothie made with spinach, kale, spirulina, pineapple, banana, coconut water, and agave. She was pleased with her smoothie, as well!

Also from Yoasis, I bought an acai bowl for breakfast another day. I chose the Tropical Bowl, topped with mango, strawberries, coconut, and granola. It was delicious and very filling! I remembered to snap a picture (take a look above).

Many places on the boardwalk make sorbet, banana whips, and smoothies! Just be sure to ask if they have any dairy in them before you make your purchase.

Ultimately, veganism doesn’t make traveling a difficult experience! Just be prepared when it comes to food and dining. Don’t let food stress you out and ruin your vacation! Eating vegan is super convenient, so just pack to be prepared and enjoy the adventure 🙂 xx

Most Commonly Asked Questions About a Vegan Diet

Why are you vegan?

This is always a tricky question for me, and the reasons I went vegan aren’t as noble as I wish they were. I decided to become vegan in ignorance. At this time, I was in an unhealthy mindset, and I wrongly thought veganism equated to weight loss. I had lost a ton of weight in my sophomore year of high school, and shedding pounds became an addiction. In my junior year, I was starting to plateau on fruits, veggies, nonfat yogurt, lean chicken, and fish. I was at my lowest weight on this diet, and probably my most unhealthiest self. I was sickly skinny, my hair thinned, I bruised easily, and I was always unbearably cold.

But, of course, skinny was never skinny enough for me. So, I went vegan blindly. I had no idea what I was doing, and I ate fruits and veggies minimally, rather than in abundance. I was essentially starving myself, which led to anorexia, and then a bingeing and purging disorder. I ruined my digestion, my metabolism, and my sanity. It was an endless, hollow cycle of self-hatred.

But NONE of this was veganism’s fault. It was my own anxiety, my own lack of confidence. I wanted to be thinner, and I thought being vegan would accomplish that. But I didn’t know what it truly meant to be vegan. I was unenlightened.

Eventually, I had enough of being sick, both mentally and physically. I watched YouTube videos of Nina and Randa, the Vegan Couple, Freelee, Bonny, Steph, and so many more amazing individuals. They shined, and they led such vibrant lives. And they were all vegan.

But apparently, I was also a vegan. So, why was I so miserable, and so utterly lost?

I’d cry over eating a mere pecan, or if my mom made me “too much” food…and that wasn’t normal.  Who falls apart that easily? I certainly was never that type of girl, nor did I want to be that kind of girl.

I used to be stimulating, inquisitive, adventurous, cheerful, ambitious, and even a bit goofy. But here I was: lethargic, irritable, exhausted, isolated, paranoid (and totally constipated because my digestive system refused to work).

So, I educated myself further. I adopted a high carb low fat vegan diet. I ate until satisfied, and sometimes a little more. I ate in abundance, and it felt wonderful.

Suddenly, I had energy, more color in my face, and was so much happier. I think my happiness coincided with a happy, comfortably full stomach. Because as soon as my stomach started to become full, so did my life.

Veganism took on a whole new meaning. I started to notice the health benefits of my diet right away, which I will discuss in another question below. More so than the health aspect, I fell in love with the humanitarian and compassionate side of veganism.

I stay vegan because it is a life rooted in pure kindness. It heals and preserves the earth, it values all living beings, and serves as a more sustainable diet for starving third world nations.

You see, I have harbored a lot of guilt over how I became “vegan.” I feel as if I wasted so much time absorbed in my own worries, that I couldn’t be a good example for how wonderful veganism actually is.

And although I am still coping with the remnants of my eating disorder and my anxiety, I am ultimately growing. I went vegan out of selfishness and ignorance, but I stayed out of love for the world around me.

And let me tell you, I will never go back.

What benefits have you seen since becoming vegan?

            I apologize in advance if any of the following is a bit TMI…I just want to be honest with you guys!

DIGESTION: So, as I mentioned before, in the depths of my eating disorder, my digestion was terrible. There was a period of time when I couldn’t poop for a week, and I became dependent on laxatives. I was bloated beyond belief and by the time I saw a doctor, I looked 8 months pregnant. Why? I simply didn’t eat enough food to cause a bowel movement. It took way too long for my gastrointestinal tract to empty out, and it was one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life. Everything about my life was full of complete and utter SHIT. Literally…

But, when I adopted a high carb low fat, mostly whole foods, vegan diet (in abundance), my digestion improved immensely. I go to the bathroom regularly, and bloating happens much less. I think this is due to increased quantity, and healthy foods full of water and fiber!

SKIN: Ever since I decreased my fat intake, my skin cleared noticeably! I never had terrible acne, but I did have icky bumps on my cheeks that disappeared with a cleaner diet. Now, whenever I eat oil and high fat content, I break out on my cheeks and chin. I also use an awesome vegan face cleanser by the brand Pacifica…maybe I’ll review it for you sometime on another post. It’s great!

ALLERGIES: Soooo…I can’t vouch completely that veganism rid me of my allergies…but I think it had a lil somethin’ to do with it! Plus, I’ve seen a ton of articles of people who think the same thing. While the flowers were in bloom, my nose would be stuffed up, and my eyes red and itchy. Springtime is supposed to be beautiful, yet I felt like I was hit over the head with a sack of bricks all season. But after eliminating meat and dairy, the following springtime was allergy free! No more Zyrtec for me…

Where do you get your protein?

            People associate veganism with being emaciated and sickly…which is so inaccurate! Vegans are strong! There are tons and tons of successful vegan athletes and body builders. They are obviously getting more than enough protein…

The obvious answer for where we vegans get our proteins is nuts, seeds, beans/legumes, tofu, and other soy products. But what else has protein?

Veggies! Eat your peas, spinach, broccoli, lima beans

Grains! Quinoa, oats, brown rice, buckwheat

If none of that floats your boat, you can always buy some vegan protein powder for your smoothies. I find that I don’t need it, though.

Is veganism expensive?

            No way!! Vegan diets are one of the most sustainable diets for third world countries. I think it could be a cure for world hunger. Animal agriculture is much too costly, invasive, and poisonous for the earth. We simply can’t produce enough meat to sustain the population of this Earth.

Sure, some of the specialty foods are a bit more expensive. But more packaged foods are typically less healthy, anyway. But none of it compares to the cost of steak!

Buying organic isn’t always essential, either. The most important thing is to eat whole foods! Eating conventional produce is way healthier than meat or dairy any day. Just make sure you wash your fruits and veggies well.

Basic, whole vegan foods are some of the most inexpensive foods around. Luckily for us, these basics are the staples of a vegan diet. Oatmeal, rice, frozen veggies, pasta, bananas, and canned beans are always a good deal! I literally just bought a ten-pound bag of jasmine rice at an Asian supermarket for around $4.99.

If you’re looking for more ways to stay within budget…buy in bulk, buy produce in season, and my favorite little vegan hack: buy the discounted spotty bananas at the food store! (They taste better anyway).

All you eat are salads…but I like cheese too much…

            HELL NO! I don’t even remember my last salad…(which is bad, I should eat more greens!)

In all honesty, vegans can eat anything they want. There are really tasty vegan substitutes to animal products! And, most are healthier and made from plant proteins.

EGG SUBSTITUTES: flax eggs, vegan eggs, applesauce, tofu, vegan mayo and more!

CHICKEN: Enjoy cruelty free, vegan chicken nuggets, patties, tenders, strips, etc.

PIG: vegan ham, hot dogs, corn dogs, sausage, bacon, etc.

BEEF: veggie burgers, meatballs, jerky, beef strips, marinated jackfruit, meatloaf, bouillon, bean burritos, etc.

FISH: vegan tuna, salmon, fishsticks, veggie sushi, etc.

DAIRY: plant based milks (they even have quinoa milk now, lol), salad dressings, cheeses, coffee creamer, cream cheeses

JUNK FOOD: vegan chocolate, puddings, ice creams, cakes, pancakes, waffles, pie, cheesecake, cookies, muffins, brownies, etc.

Just remember to keep an open mind! It may seem weird at first, but a lot of these vegan substitutes taste similar to the real thing! And so much healthier, too.

How do you be social on a vegan diet?

            Just go out! Don’t hide from your friends and family just because you’re vegan. If they’re eating out at a non-vegan place, eat before you go, or order fruit cups if you go to a diner, or order steamed veggies from the list of sides. You can almost always find a salad! Ask for one without meat, cheese or dairy dressings! If you’re worried about the restaurant staff not taking your requests seriously, stress an allergy. If I eat dairy now, I get super sick, so I tell the staff I cannot have it. Don’t be shy to ask the staff about ingredients! Just be polite, and almost always your kindness will be returned.

If you’re hanging out at a friend or family member’s home, bring vegan goodies! Show them how delicious vegan food can be.

Just remember, true friends will always be accepting and tolerant of your beliefs and wishes! Don’t let people make fun of your lifestyle, so socialize with people who radiate love, not meanness.

How can I convince my parents to let me go vegan?

            Transitioning to veganism is a big change…but a change for the better! Regardless, any kind of change can be scary. Often times, parents reject their children’s veganism out of fear and worry. This doesn’t mean they don’t love you or purposefully want to disrespect your beliefs. Your job as a vegan is to educate and combat ignorance. So, talk to your parents! Show them what veganism is all about.

Show them documentaries about how eating animal products is ruining the earth, the health of our bodies, and how it is outright cruel to the living beings we slaughter for our taste buds. Show them the facts, and refer to trustworthy articles! Check out vegan YouTube accounts of teens just like you who live awesome, normal lives. Sometimes, you just have to normalize veganism for them.

Cook your own meals and go grocery shopping with your parents! Adding a special diet to your parent’s daily routine can sometimes create stress if they don’t know much about it. Help out in the kitchen, and find your own recipes to help out your busy parents. Offer to share too…because vegan food is TASTY!

Just remember to approach this change with kindness and compassion. Do not demand things of your parents. Simply talk to them, and engage them in genuine, patient conversation. Almost always they agree if they know how passionate you are about the lifestyle, and if you are educated on the nutrition and finances behind it. Best of luck!

 

HOPE THIS ALL HELPED! GO FORTH AND GO VEGAN, MY LOVES. XX, EM