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What does it mean to be vegan-friendly?

I’m very proud to announce that Jon and I are featured in this month’s Grand Rapids Magazine article Vegan-Friendly and Getting Friendlier. The piece is a great look at the overall vegan movement in Grand Rapids, and touches on many of the people working hard to make our city the best it can be. The thing I love the most about the article may be the title itself – it really embodies a belief on which my vegan activism is based; friendliness. I believe that by being open, understanding, and inviting, I can have the most effective and open conversations with people who don’t see things exactly as I do. I’ve never found vilification to be an effective method of activism. In fact, it stops dialogue dead in its tracks. Much of the success we’ve had with Vegan Grand Rapids is proof that being open and friendly works. The only way we are ever going to reduce meat and dairy consumption is through steady, incremental change. Some of those changes may be bigger leaps forward, but most unfold slowly. The truth is, progress in any movement always takes time. It may feel frustrating to inch our way forward, but progress is progress. Once you move to a vegan lifestyle, you pretty quickly realize that it’s not a big sacrifice at all. In fact, it can be hard to understand as a new vegan why more people don’t connect the dots as you just have yourself  – if you can choose a diet that doesn’t hurt the planet, your body, or an animal, why wouldn’t you make that choice every time you sit down to eat or purchase a pair of shoes? I’m passionate about helping the planet and I recognize that meat and dairy farming is a major contributor to climate change and pollution. I understand that a meat-free diet is healthier for our bodies and could help people live longer and help us save billions of dollars on health care costs. Vegans, by definition, are also passionate about ending the suffering of the billions of chickens, cows, and pigs tortured every year in this country to become food. It’s easy to become angry over this inescapable fact when you know how easy it is to live a vegan lifestyle. We can choose to eat with regard to the health of the planet, our bodies, and the animals, or we can choose to disregard all of...
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August’s Kitchen Vegan Chef’s Table, February 22

Every month, Chef August “Auggie” Treu of August’s Kitchen creates a special dinner for a small group in an intimate setting. The Chef’s Table event is special and only a handful of people have the opportunity to experience it. Chef August’s last vegan event featured such delicacies as Tofu Tom Yum soup, Eggplant Gratin w/ Mushrooms & Artichoke, and a delicious CranApple cobbler for dessert. MI Local Food Beet wrote about the dining experience here if you’re interested. Chef Auggie learned about vegan food from Chef Kevin Dunn at GRCC, who introduces many of his students to vegan cooking. Many of Chef Dunn’s students have ended up embracing vegan cuisine and incorporating it into their post-college careers, like Chef Auggie. His next vegan dinner will be February 22 at 6 pm. Seating is limited to 16 and will sell out quickly, so be sure to get your reservation today! The menu includes 6 courses and is just $50 per person. Here’s what you’ll get: Grilled Fig & Radichio with Balsamic Reduction Soup of the Day Fresh Baked Bread with Herbed Tofu Spread Ratatouille with Soba Noodles Nathan’s Greens with House Dressing Peach Cobbler Tea, coffee, and water will be provided but you are welcome to bring your own beverage as well. Bring your own bottle of wine or beer! Chef Auggie will provide wine glasses, beer glasses, and a cork screw if you need it. To sign up, please call (616) 340-1160. Payment is due on the day of the event. Cash or check only. August’s Kitchen is located at 1604 Diamond NE in Grand...
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Vegan Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be a hard time for ethical vegans. 45-million turkeys will be killed to celebrate the year’s harvest, and it also marks the start of the holiday season. It’s a long stretch of time where we’re constantly put in tough situations, looking at that once-living-now-roasted holiday centerpiece. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, more than 67-million turkeys will be killed for food. It can be a really tough time of year for those of us who don’t think animals should die for food! At Vegan GR, we show our friends and family that we eat great compassionate meals during the holiday season by bringing delicious dishes to all gatherings we’re invited to. Oftentimes, we get asked for the recipes or told that what we brought is better than the “real” version! Here are a few staples that have made it into our Thanksgiving routine. Vegan GR Recipes Pumpkin Pie Holiday Roast Cornbread Stuffing Easy Mushroom Gravy Looking for more ideas? Here’s a list of our favorite food bloggers. Post Punk Kitchen – Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s PPK claims to be the best place in the world for vegan cooking and baking. We totally agree! Vegan Dad – Mostly original recipes from a vegan father. Lots of great, inventive seitan recipes.We really love his stuff. His blog is not as active as it once was, but the recipes are still great. Chef Chloe – A Food Network Challenge winner, Chloe Coscarelli has a nice collection of creative and easy-to-make vegan recipes. Oh She Glows – Angela Liddon’s award winning website is packed with awesome recipes that work every time. We’re partial to her dessert work, specifically the brownie 3-ways recipe! Veggie Bon Vivant – A spicy ginger and self-proclaimed “vegan-ish” food blogger from right here in Grand Rapids. Have a safe and happy holiday season! We’d love to see you at our holiday party on Dec. 10! Hurry and reserve your tickets today. We’ve got limited seating and we’re getting close to sold out! Click here to...
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Grand Rapids author writes cookbook, I Like Toast

Do you like toast? If your answer is no, it’s possible you’re just not making it the right way. To call local author Stephanie Strowbridge’s new book a cookbook is an understatement. I Like Toast is more about the establishment of a morning ritual and starting your day off in a positive direction. Stephanie says that “Every morning is a good morning when we create proper self-care routines and choose breakfast foods that are nutritious and sustaining.” The first chapter dives right into creating that positive morning ritual. Many of your morning behaviors may already start you off on the right track; yoga, walking your dog, grabbing a cup of hot tea, or taking a minute to smell the roses. I Like Toast aims to support those habits and help you set some new ones so that your tone for the day will be a positive one. Eating a breakfast you don’t enjoy will only serve to start your day off on the wrong foot, says Strowbridge. That leads right into the next chapter all about toast. Even if you currently consider yourself a toast-ninja, you’ve got to look through these recipes to realize that you can step up your toast game! You’ll find elegant, but simple recipes such as Berry Elegantly (strawberry / pomegranate chia jam, goji berries, and strawberry slices), Banana Nut Bread (nut butter, cocoa nibs, bananas, and raw cashews), or Tofu Scramble (a recipe that combines tofu, vegan bacon, and greens). There’s another chapter all about jams and spreads, where you’ll find a recipe for chia jam, as well as carrot cake jam, four fruit conserve, and apple spread. We were most excited about the section of recipes full of breakfast sandwiches. You’ll drool over the Avocado Lover’s or Morning Salsa Dance. There are also a few recipes that include tofu scramble (something we start most of our weekend mornings with). If you’ve got questions about any of the ingredients, Stephanie includes information about anything out of the ordinary and provides details on where to obtain those ingredients. Basically, Stephanie has you covered. The last few pages even include blank sections to write your own notes, self care rituals, and recipes. If Stephanie looks familiar to you, you might recognize her as the owner of the former Moxie Beauty & Hair Parlor. Moxie was the only all vegan salon in Grand Rapids. A long time vegan, Stephanie...
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Happy To Be Dairy Free contest winners announced

A big thank you to everyone who entered the #HappyToBeDairyFree contest. The contest celebrated the new dairy-free case at the Knapp’s Crossing D&W Fresh Market. The case is stocked solely with amazing dairy-free items, like Daiya cheese, Follow Your Heart Vegenaise, Silk, Blue Diamond, So Delicious milk, and Toffuti cream cheese. We would have had a hard time choosing our favorites, and so we had to rely on a random number generator to help us select the two winners. Congratulations to Kate and Megan! Each wins a $50 gift card to D&W so they can stock up on all their favorites for free! Kate’s winning photo shows her beautiful happy, smiling daughter and her favorite, Almond Dream yogurt.   Our next winner chose the Teese Vegan Cheese Alternative. Check out Megan sportin’ her happy face and showing off that Teese. Congrats, Megan! The new case at D&W Fresh Market marks a huge shift –  a whole case filled with dairy free products at a major grocery store? Can you believe it?! We’d like to thank D&W Fresh Market’s Living Well Lifestyle Expert, Margaux Drake, as she was instrumental in making both the dairy-free case, and contest happen. We want better, healthier choices in all our grocery stores and D&W and Margaux are giving those choices to us. Right now the case can only be found at the Knapp’s Crossing location, but it’s our hope that they will roll these out in all their locations very soon! Thank you to all of you, our awesome Vegan Grand Rapids community for participating, sharing, commenting and doing everything YOU do to help make Grand Rapids a more healthy and compassionate place to live. We’re looking forward to seeing many of you at Vegan Drinks in September. If you haven’t grabbed your tickets yet, do it now. They’re almost...
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Vegan Grand Rapids guide to Restaurant Week 2014

Restaurant Week GR 2014 is here! August 13th-24th gives you twelve days to wine and dine your way through the Grand Rapids culinary scene. Last year’s line up in terms of vegan dishes was pretty impressive. Sadly, that’s not the case this year. Maybe we didn’t eat out enough as vegans last year? Looking through all the options has left us a little perplexed, however. Quite a few restaurants are only offering one, or two courses vegan. Why not go all the way? Hard to understand, as vegans are not likely to flock to your place for a small starter salad and leave because they can’t have anything from the second or third course. We’ve only included one of those on our list, as we feel like the offerings from Rose’s will be a complete enough meal. No matter, check out your options below and be sure to get out there and support these restaurants. You’ve got twelve days to do it! Amore Trattoria Italiana– Located in Comstock Park, Amore is known for having something for everyone. If you get a chance to meet owner and Chef Jenna, you’ll immediately understand that she has a passion for her food and love for everyone who comes through the doors. Known for making special requests to vegans upon arriving, it’s no surprise that her Restaurant Week menu extends to our subset. Warning, you will leave here stuff! Course One: Antipasto, Garlic rubbed crostino topped with savory Sicilian eggplant relish Course Two: Insalata, Baby spinach, Michigan beets, apple, vanilla balsamic and toasted pinenuts Course Three: Zuppa, Cucumber and parsley Gazpacho with fried chick pea garnish Course Four: Bucatini alla Puttanesca – Bucatini in spicy tomato sauce with roasted pepper, caper, onions, olives, basil, garlic and chili pepper flakes. -or- Penne Boscaiolo – Penne with a porcini, portabella and button mushroom marsala sauce Course Five: Sorbetto, Blood Orange Sorbet -or- Michigan Blueberry Bourbon Granita CitySen Lounge – Located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, CitySen offered up a great trio of vegan items for RW2013, so we’re glad to see they’re a stand out again this year: Course One: Chili – Stewed tomatoes, hot chili beans, onions, herbs, and spices. Served with jalapeño cornbread. Gluten-free. Course Two: Lentil Loaf – Fresh herbs, rolled oats, lentils, and onions baked and dressed with barbecue sauce. Served with garlic mashed potatoes. Gluten-free. Third Course: Southern Banana Pudding – with Vanilla Wafers. Grove – It’s no secret that Grove is...
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5 Vegan Blogs You Should Be Reading

While we cook quite a lot in our house, recipe blogging is not a skill we have. I mean, who has time to take pictures and write stuff down when there’s food to eat?! Thank goodness the world is full of others who are not afraid to write their recipes down, supplement with gorgeous pictures, and share them with the rest of us. Here are a few or our favorites from west Michigan helping to spread the vegan love one blog at a time! The Vegan Belle is a food, lifestyle, and parenting blog, with a focus being on vegan cooking. The author, Kate, is from Chattanooga but now calls Grand Rapids her home. The goal of The Vegan Belle is to prove that you can cook delicious food without animal products. The website is gorgeous and the pictures of Kate’s food will have you drooling. They are so perfect you can almost smell the aromas coming off the dishes!  You will be wowed with such recipes as her Pistachio Crusted Tempeh Filets with Pumpkin Sauce or, if you need something for the kids, Easy Peasy Mac and Cheese. What do you get when you put one busy “veganish” redhead in the kitchen? A collection of (mostly) quick recipes that anyone can follow. That’s Veggie Bon Vivant. Adrienne’s recipes are usually adapted from one of her favorite cookbooks, like this recipe for Sweet Potato, Kale, and Chickpea Soup that can be made in the crock pot. One of our favorite recipes that we found on her website is for Peanut Buttercream frosting. To veganize it, just substitute So Delicious plain greek yogurt in place of the heavy whipping cream. It’s best with just about anything! 86 Lemons features not just vegan food recipes, but also DIY projects and shopping finds. The recipe sections is where this blog shines! Gorgeous pictures highlight Livvy’s recipes, from sloppy Joe’s to pumpin oatmeal cookies, this blog really has something for everyone. Kind of Hilzey is written by Jessica and she knows her way around the kitchen. She is not afraid of, well… ANYTHING. We’ve seen her make her own kombucha, nut cheeses, and skin care products. He blog is chock full of all the fun projects she takes on. Not only does she share recipes, but she also shares her favorite grocery store items and other goodies. One of her most recent posts was a recipe...
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The Ghosts in Our Machine free viewing

The Ghosts in Our Machine is a powerful new documentary by Liz Marshall that aims to highlight the lives of animals that are used for food, fashion, entertainment and research. The film asks the question: Why do we value domestic and wild animals over others? It’s something I, along with many others have tried to figure out over the years. I see all creatures as equal and my best answer when asked why I don’t eat meat is simply this; I love all animals and don’t want to eat my friends! Many vegans turn to a plant-based lifestyle because of these reasons. If you need affirmation about your decision, this is a great opportunity to be reminded of this. If you want to help a friend understand your decision, this is a wonderful chance to open their eyes. We have a chance to see the film locally, for free, at the Fountain Street Church on Wednesday, April 30 at 7 pm. There are only 150 seats available so you must claim a free ticket from EventBrite. A discussion will follow the movie. Do not miss your chance to see The Ghosts in Our Machine!...
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August’s Kitchen Vegan Chef’s Table, May 4

Every month, Chef August “Auggie” Treu of August’s Kitchen creates a special dinner for a small group in an intimate setting. The Chef’s Table event is special and only a handful of people have the opportunity to experience it. Chef August’s last vegan event featured such delicacies as Tofu Tom Yum soup, Eggplant Gratin w/ Mushrooms & Artichoke, and a delicious CranApple cobbler for dessert. MI Local Food Beet wrote about the dining experience here if you’re interested. Chef Auggie learned about vegan food from Chef Kevin Dunn at GRCC, who introduces many of his students to vegan cooking. Many of Chef Dunn’s students have ended up embracing vegan cuisine and incorporating it into their post-college careers, like Chef Auggie. His next vegan dinner will be May 4 at 6 pm. Seating is limited to 16 and will sell out quickly, so be sure to get your reservation today! The menu for the “Chef Inspired Vegan Dinner” includes 7 courses and is just $50 per person. Here’s what you’ll get: Belgian endive tapenade amuse bouche Celery root soup with granny smith apples (recipe by Tal Ronnen) Potatoes & shallots with rosemary & thyme (recipe by Peter Berley) Vegan “meatloaf” with mushroom ragu gravy (recipe by Kevin Dunn) Cole slaw (recipe by Juliano) Sourdough wheat rolls with garlicky tofu spread (recipe by August Treu) Chocolate cake with raspberry sauce (recipe by Peter Berley) Tea, coffee, and water will be provided but you are welcome to bring your own beverage as well. Bring your own bottle of wine or beer! Chef Auggie will provide wine glasses, beer glasses, and a cork screw if you need it. To sign up, please call (616) 340-1160. Payment is due on the day of the event. Cash or check only. August’s Kitchen is located at 1604 Diamond NE in Grand...
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Let no good blog go unpublished

A few months ago, we were asked by the local office of a national health insurance company to write a series of guest blogs. We sent off the first post to them and we could not come to an agreement on some of the language, and ultimately, we decided to pull out. It went through just a few minor edits before going before their staff dietician for final approval. It was there that we hit a hurdle. We were asked to change the post to tone down sections that stated plainly that a meat-heavy diet is unhealthy, while a plant-based diet is healthy. After discussing the pros and cons of writing for them and making concessions, we decided that we just couldn’t go down that path with them or anyone else. Compromising our views wouldn’t be fair to ourselves, let alone to you, our audience. We have to stay true to our mission and we know that eating a plant-based diet IS *the* healthy choice. If we aren’t allowed to say it loud and proud, we’re not going to say it at all! While we do respect the stance of the health insurance company, it is another sign to us that big business and big agriculture will be the last ones to figure out what millions of Americans know. Plants are good for you! It seemed a shame to waste the effort, so here’s the article. Plus, we’re sharing our recipe for easy cashew cream. We’d love to hear what you think in the comments. According to just about every poll and measurement out there, the number of Americans cutting meat and dairy from their diets is on the rise. Whether it’s Google Trends, or actual surveys, the interest in plant based diets is through the roof. Many Americans are cutting animal products from their diets entirely, or more often, cutting back in favor of a few meals a week of plant based meals free from meat, fish, dairy and cheese. Eating more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains while reducing cholesterol and saturated fat intake can improve your health. More and more people that follow this kind of diet are realizing that it helps them get healthier, lose weight and reduces their risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. However, this kind of overhaul to the kitchen pantry can be daunting for some people. How do you give up...
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