Category Archives: vegan

Vegan Pastitsio

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One of the glories of Greece is that its native cuisine is either thoroughly vegan or easily veganized. Dishes that are already vegan include dolmades(stuffed grape leaves), gigantes(lima beans in tomato sauce), as well as many others. Spanakopita and tiropita can be veganized by replacing the feta cheese with vegan cheese. Meatier dishes may be more difficult to veganize but there are myriad ways of doing this.

One of my favorites growing up was pastitisio, which is essentially baked ziti topped with bechamel sauce and ground beef. This dish is typically served during big holidays or large gatherings and I must warn you it isn’t a fast, easy recipe. Reserve this for special occasions.

One of the things that gives pastitsio its distinctive flavor is the allspice or cinnamon in the beef. For most recipes I find that cinnamon and allspice are interchangeable, hence I used cinnamon which I had on hand. This may not be true of everyone but I think most people won’t notice the difference. I also decided to use vegan ground beef from Trader Joe’s instead of using lentils like other Greek vegans like to use.

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For this use a standard size lasagna baking pan, or something close to 12 inches by 16 inches and is 3.5 inches deep.

Ingredients:

Meat sauce:

  • 1 lb vegan ground beef(I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or allspice(or more)
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Bechamel sauce:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups cashews(soaked overnight)
  • 2 cups veggie broth(optional)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • black pepper
  • pinch of salt

Pasta:

  • 24 ounces of penne or ziti
  • drizzle of olive oil(optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Saute all beef ingredients in saucepan until onions are a slightly browned.
  3. Cook pasta until it is almost al dente. Remember you’ll be baking it later so don’t over-boil it. Drizzle with olive oil(optional).
  4. Thoroughly blend cashews in blender. Mix in other bechamel ingredients and cook in sauce pan for a few minutes until everything is thoroughly mixed together.
  5. Thoroughly mix about 1/4 to 1/2 beef sauce mix with pasta and put in lasagna pan(spray bottom of pan with oil first).
  6. Put the rest of the beef sauce mix on top of the pasta/beef sauce mix.
  7. Put bechamel sauce on top of all the other layers.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes in the oven at 350 F.
  9. Let it sit outside the oven for 10 minutes before serving to cool.

This was a hit when I last made it and I’m sure it will be in your home as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Gardein’s Ultimate Beefless Burger

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There are so many choices these days when it comes to plant-based burgers, it’s never been easier to go meatless during grilling season.

One of my current favorites is Gardein’s Ultimate Beefless Burger. It tastes great! It’s savory and kind of beefy, and it also has a “meaty” texture which I enjoy. I love it with tomato, onion and arugula. This was yummy and very filling. Also easy to prepare. Plant-based burgers or veggie burgers have come a long way over the past 2 decades. I remember when I first went vegan how bland most veggie burgers were, and there was little choice. Now there’s a plethora of options.

The Beyond burger, another one of my favorites, tastes beefy to the point that some non-vegans are fooled into thinking it is beef and some vegans find the beefiness disturbing or unpleasant. I think the Gardein burger is nearly as good as the Beyond burger, which is typically pricier.

What is your favorite plant-based burger? Or do you prefer to make your own? If you prefer making your own, please share your favorite recipe!

Wild Juggling relaunched as AcroTrekker!

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Wild Juggling is no more we’re relaunching as AcroTrekker to better reflect the new direction of the blog. As I’ve said before, the name “Wild Juggling” was meant to be temporary until I could come up with something better. In part this is because I’m no longer just a joggler, I’m also a unicyclist. “Acro” does a good job of representing both of these pursuits, with “trekker” suggesting adventurer, traveler or endurance sport.

I’m as committed as ever to vegan living and to a science-based approach to health and fitness. This hasn’t changed. What has changed is that I’ve become more of a scam-buster over the past year  I’m an ally of the anti-MLM coalition and will do more posts exposing these types of scams. Sadly, it seems few vegans are speaking out against this.

Other than this, things won’t be that much different. Expect the usual(or unusual) adventures, the inter-state runs, the vegan meals, the training plans, among other things. To those of you who have followed and supported me over the years, thank you for sticking around.

Veganism and multi-level marketing

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It’s the new and improved veganism taking social media by storm. It’s no longer just about animals, or about health, it’s about riches beyond your wildest dreams. All you have to do is join the right team and watch the money start flowing like Niagara Falls into your bank account. And it only takes a tiny sign-up fee to get started! Or at least that’s what the “vegan” wealth gurus of social media want you to believe.

So a blog post about veganism and multi-level marketing(MLM) aka network marketing? What’s going on here? The two seem worlds apart but if you’re a vegan and you’ve been on social media lately you’ve likely encountered someone claiming to be a vegan pushing some product or an “amazing” MLM “business opportunity” that they can’t stop talking about. This used to be a rare occurrence for me, but much to my annoyance I have been experiencing a lot more of it over the past year; this is what inspired me to write this post. For those of you who are unfamiliar with MLM, it’s a business strategy that’s all about endlessly bothering everyone you know to either join the scheme or buy from you so they can bother everyone they know to join the scheme, ad infinitum.

It’s for good reason that MLMs are often considered pyramid schemes with better lawyers. Research shows that almost no one except those at the top of the pyramid make any money. These schemes often target the most desperate and vulnerable people with promises of riches, with representatives encouraged by up-lines to use a “fake it till you make it” approach, complete with fancy cars and lavish vacations to lure people in. Many people are so badly burned by these scams that they end up filing for bankruptcy. Besides this, they may end up feeling like failures because they believe they either didn’t do it right or they realize they’ve fallen for a scam and are too embarrassed to admit it. As if this wasn’t bad enough, MLM reps often become increasingly alienated from friends and family when they can no longer tolerate the non-stop scam promotion.

It’s disturbing witnessing people who claim to be vegan engaging in this sort of unethical, predatory behavior. This can damage our movement in myriad ways. Besides inflicting financial harm on individual vegans, it also hurts the credibility of the movement and has the potential to drive people out of it. And the infiltration of MLM into the vegan movement is not just an online phenomenon, since MLM companies will often set up shop at vegan fests around the world. Our movement in general and our fests in particular need better quality control, lest the word “vegan” become utterly meaningless or a synonym for pseudo-science and chicanery(rampant pseudo-science in the vegan movement is something I’ve addressed before).

Vegans involved in animal activism and education know how difficult it can be to raise money to fund our efforts. Credibility is everything when it comes to activism and charity. People want to know where their money is going and how much of an impact it is making. It should go without saying that for activist groups to look like they have any kind of connection with a scam is a huge credibility killer(many MLMs will donate to charities to improve their reputation). Fortunately, this isn’t a big problem for most activist groups, at least not yet, but those of us concerned about the credibility of the vegan movement should be extra vigilant when it comes to MLMs trying to infiltrate it.

MLMs and other charlatans through their actions dilute the meaning of veganism, sometimes to the point that it’s only about healthy living, or for MLM-bots, healthy living + financial independence. Animal rights are pushed aside, or if they are considered at all, the “cruelty-free” label is similarly diluted. Some MLM cosmetics companies will even falsely claim their products are “cruelty-free” when they’re not: Presenters – You Need To Stop Telling Customers That Younique is Cruelty-Free, Now.

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False health claims promising perfect health or increased energy are the typical siren songs of many MLM-bots, both vegan and non-vegan. Many vegans, fed up with mainstream medicine, are drawn to the MLM-bots and their “natural” cures. If they are struggling with their new vegan lifestyle, they may seek help from an MLM-bot out of desperation, instead of going to a qualified health professional. “Failure to thrive” is a lot more common among vegans than many vegan advocates care to admit, and is probably the main reason there are many ex-vegans out there. I believe a lot of this “failure to thrive” related attrition is due to the bad advice I see floating around on social media like thick smog around a large industrial city, which MLM-bots are big contributors to. Fortunately, critical thinking can help blow away some of this dense smog of misinformation.

This very toxic nexus of quackery, greed, and deception is radioactive to social networks. The damage it could do to the vegan community is incalculable. Just imagine you’re a non-vegan and you see this kind of thing. Especially if the non-vegan knows anything about science. Vegans are often scorned enough as it is by mainstream society, but add MLM to the mix and it looks positively nauseating. And I’ve barely touched upon the cult-like nature of many MLMs and the extremely tacky “look at all the money I’m making” videos and social media posts MLM-bots often make.

It’s time we do something about this infiltration before it thoroughly poisons our movement. Don’t buy MLM products, report MLM-bots on social media, alert charities if it looks like they are associated with an MLM or other scam, and get involved with the scam-buster and growing anti-MLM movement. Besides this, complain to vegan fest organizers if you notice MLM company representatives hawking their products at the event. Remember, for many attendees this may be their first time being exposed to veganism on a large scale. If they have a negative opinion of MLM as most people do, this may make them less likely to want to go vegan.

Just because someone says they are “vegan” and uses the #vegan hash-tag doesn’t mean they really are vegan or they are doing it for the right reasons. Fake friends are worse than obvious enemies. Don’t be misled into thinking that if so-called vegans are involved with an MLM company, it must be one of the “good” MLMs. We need to declare loud and clear that get-rich-quick schemes and supplement scams have no place in our community. As our movement continues to grow we need better quality control to ensure we’re all on the same page about what veganism really stands for. The credibility and potential of our movement is at stake and by extension the lives of millions of animals. Standing for ethics and good science shouldn’t be the exception, but should be the very foundation of our movement.

Have you had a negative experience with an MLM or a vegan MLM-bot in particular, or are you just concerned about the infiltration of MLM into the vegan movement? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Related articles:

Why I Hate Multi-Level Marketing

MLM and Social Media

Younique’s Animal Testing Statement; Not 100% Cruelty-Free

The Biggest Scam in the Fitness Industry

MLM and Appeal to Consequences Fallacy: If MLM is illegal, then why hasn’t it been shut down?

Vemma Agrees to Ban on Pyramid Scheme Practices to Settle FTC Charges

What do I do with hummus?

Going vegan can be bewildering for many people. You’re discovering all these enticing new foods, and you have no idea what to do with them. In particular, you’re seeing hummus everywhere but have no idea what to do with it.

Hummus is a spread or dip made from chickpeas, garlic and tahini that is a mainstay of Middle Eastern and eastern Mediterranean cuisine, and can be used in many different ways. There are countless varieties of hummus, some that are very lemony, some more garlicy, and some that are very spicy.

While many people just use it as a dip for chips or bread as an appetizer, you can make some delicious, more elaborate meals from it.

Here’s some suggestions.

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A hummus-chickpea-arugula wrap: Just use a tortilla wrap or pita bread and stuff it with hummus, chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, tahini sauce, harissa(Tunisian hot pepper sauce), olives, fresh parsley, lemon juice and black pepper. The hummus is there, it just got buried under all the other ingredients. Not only is this very tangy and delicious, it’s also very nutritious.

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Not in the mood for a wrap? Another suggestion is to make a hummus platter with stuffed grape leaves(dolma), tomatoes, romaine lettuce, tahini sauce, hot sauce, lemon juice, and black pepper. Another delicious, easy to make(unless you make the dolma from scratch) Middle Eastern meal that’s totally vegan.

This barely scratches the surface of all the things you can do with hummus, and Middle Eastern cuisine has so much to offer vegans. Have fun!

Unicycle ride from City Hall to Coney Island

I am sorry I haven’t posted in a long time. Certain life issues made regular blogging difficult. Now that these have been mostly resolved I am back to updating you on my latest athletic adventures, tips on vegan living, and occasional random stuff.

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Last Friday, I completed my first ever group unicycle ride, riding 12 miles from City Hall to Coney Island for the Brooklyn portion of the NYC Unicycle Fest. This involved unicycling across the crowded Brooklyn Bridge, my first time ever unicycling across it. It was an amazing experience, and wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Though this wasn’t a race, my training over the past several months paid off and I didn’t feel wasted at the end. It helped that we took several big breaks. Thank you Bindlestiff Family Cirkus for organizing this event and for your volunteers who made sure we went in the right direction.

This event was scheduled for 3:00 PM, and so I arrived at City Hall at 2:30, having unicycled part of the way down there along the East river from Grand Central Station. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect that day — though still technically summer, it went up to only 70 F with low humidity. It felt both strange and wonderful approaching City Hall and seeing so many unicyclists, about 47 of them, getting ready to take on Brooklyn. I’m always unicycling alone, but here was my tribe, so many different ages and ability levels and wildly different personalities. But here we are all united by our love of riding unicycles.

I brought my 29″ road unicycle for this ride, and so did a bunch of other unicyclists. I was expecting to see mostly 36″ inch unicycles considering the distance, but was surprised by all the 24″ unicycles. I made small talk with a few of the riders and before I knew it it was time to start our quest for to Coney Island. I was a little nervous at first because of how crowded it was, and kept thinking I would bump into someone or someone would bump into me. Fortunately, this didn’t happen.

So we all mounted our unicycles and started to climb the Brooklyn Bridge bike path. Since I ride on hilly terrain almost every day, this was like nothing to me, but it was challenging for some of the other riders. I was more concerned about bumping into some careless tourists than getting wiped out by the ascent. We basked in the lovely sea breeze while unicycling across the historic bridge and many tourists and pedestrians were excited by the seemingly endless parade of unicyclists. A few bicyclists on the other hand seemed annoyed.

Going across, it felt less and less like Manhattan and more and more like Brooklyn. Hello Brooklyn! I felt elated making it to the Brooklyn side without a hitch(it reminded me of the time I flawlessly joggled across many years ago), and so did the sub-group of unicyclists I was with. Once on the other side and across the street we had our first break. I talked some more with Jeff about his unicycling experiences, then had a conversation with Chris, who I ran into nearly 2 months ago up in the wilds of Yorktown in northern Westchester on the North County Trail when we were unicycling in opposite directions(he was doing his first century ride, wow!). He told me he hasn’t been riding much these days, and that he still has trouble mounting the 36″ he had with him. I admit to being a little envious of his 36″ because of how much faster it is than my 29″, but I think I would also have serious trouble mounting such a large wheel.

After waiting for the slower unicyclists to catch up, we were off. It was a little scary unicycling through the streets of downtown Brooklyn, but I soon got used to it. Since a lot of people were on vacation that weekend, the traffic isn’t as heavy as it usually is. Amazingly, I found that I could idle(staying in place on the unicycle by quickly pedaling back and forth) at some of the traffic stops. I can idle proficiently on my 24 inch unicycle but usually have trouble doing it on my 29 inch. We soon found ourselves cycling through the streets of Parkslope, an upscale area full of trendy restaurants, boutiques, cafes and lots of onlookers who were delighted by the unicycle parade. Even in New York, a large group of unicyclists cruising through the streets isn’t something you see every day.

At Grand Army Plaza(mile 4) at the northern end of Prospect Park we had our next break and first group photo at the memorial arch. I talked a little more with Chris and drank some of the juice I had with me.21314811_1594702827216762_8372208298688654356_n

After the break we rode south through Prospect Park, by far the easiest part of this journey since there were no cars or traffic lights to worry about. I even took a video during this section, it was that easy. And it seems many people in the park were taking pictures or videos of us. I easily could have juggled while riding at this point, but I didn’t bring my balls with me. Another short break at the southern end of the park, and then we were back on the streets of Brooklyn heading south toward the Atlantic ocean.

We made our way to Ocean Parkway which takes us straight to Coney Island and has a wide bike path that’s separate from the walking path and used this for most of the rest of our southward ride.

The ethnic and religious diversity along this route was amazing. This is what makes NYC and the U.S in general such a wonderful and dynamic place. Russians, Chinese, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Indians, Caribbean islanders and Middle Easterners were all happy to see us and very supportive of our unicycle parade. The further south we went, the more Russian it got(a lot of these Russian-speakers aren’t ethnically Russian but they speak Russian because they’re from a former Soviet republic).

We didn’t have to worry about traffic except at the cross streets, and although this wasn’t a race it sure felt like one when we would frantically try to beat the light before the traffic blocked us. I was still able to idle when I had to stop, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, but it started causing soreness in my upper thigh because I’m not used to idling on such a large wheel.

A few miles from completion and we could feel the sea breeze again and the sweet smell of the mighty ocean. Or was that the sweet smell of success? In my mind I was thinking how I had yet again nearly accomplished something that not too long ago I would have thought impossible. Though this wasn’t my longest ride(I unicycled for 20 miles a few months ago on a rural bike path), it was the most challenging long unicycle ride.

Finally, we made it to Coney Island in front of Nathan’s. What an incredible journey it was! I felt like I could have unicycled for another 10 miles, my legs were certainly up to it. It was such a festive atmosphere on Coney Island with all the revelers, the lights, the rides and games, the perfect place to celebrate this achievement. All in all, was very happy with my City Hall to Coney Island ride experience. I think unicycling through Brooklyn is the best way to experience it.

Like last year, I’m joggling and unicycling for Team Humane, any support is appreciated.

 

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Vegan whole wheat blueberry muffins recipe

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One silver lining of all the nasty weather we’ve been experiencing lately is that I have more time to bake. Everyone who knows me knows I love blueberries, so what could be better than baking my own whole grain blueberry muffins that are not only perfect for breakfast but also a great snack? The combination of blueberries and a little maple syrup makes these just sweet enough to be enjoyable by most, though probably not sweet enough to be a dessert treat. A good source of protein, fiber and so fruity and spicy, they’re a great way to start the day.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds(egg replacer/thickener)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil(I used canola)
  • 1 and 1/8 cups soy milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 1 and 1/2 cups blueberries(fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  1. Preheat over to 375F
  2. Combine all wet ingredients into 1 bowl and mix thoroughly, adding blueberries last(for this recipe I made a puree of about half the blueberries with my blender and the rest were whole, but this is optional).
  3. Combine dry ingredients into 1 bowl and mix
  4. Now combine all dry and wet ingredients and mix thoroughly
  5. Scoop the batter into muffin cups in muffin tray, about 3 tablespoons each, or enough to fill 1/2 to 2/3 of the muffin cups
  6. Put in oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 375F until muffins are golden brown or you can smoothly stick a toothpick in and out of the muffins without any difficulty
  7. Cool for 10 minutes before serving

This should be enough to make 10 large muffins. Feel free to add a little more spice if you like muffins extra spicy. To make them even tastier, you can add vanilla if you want. Similar recipes I’ve seen also include lemon or orange zest(or even orange juice or apple juice), or even apple cider vinegar, all of which I see as optional.

The batter consistency should be thick, but if you find it a little too thick and hard to work with, add a little more soy milk. If it’s too liquidy, add more flour. These came out better than expected though I think I’ll add more spice next time. Enjoy!

I’ll be joggling the Brooklyn Marathon to raise money for the Humane League

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As I’m sure many of you already know, on November 20th I’ll be joggling the Brooklyn Marathon. It’s been a few years since I’ve last joggled the Brooklyn Marathon, and a little over a year since my last marathon, which was the one in Yonkers. This time I will be joggling as part of Team Humane to help raise money for the Humane League, one of the most effective animal rights organizations in the U.S. To contribute: Help me raise money for Team Humane League

I considered many options when it came to which animal rights group to raise money for, and went with the Humane League because they really know how to get things done.

I’m beyond excited to be part of this. There are so many incredible athletes and activists who are part of this group, I can’t help but think I am part of something big and wonderful. The Humane League’s current focus is on confronting Aramark and their abuse of chickens. To get involved, you can join their Fast Action Network, and/or you can join Team Humane.

It feels great joggling to help alleviate animal suffering. Yes, we can’t end all animal cruelty overnight, but if those of us who care all play our part we can slowly help bring an end to it. As for race specifics, I’m just aiming for under 4 hours, not aiming for a PR this time. Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement. I’m definitely looking forward to race day!

My Segment on Plant-Based by Nafsika

In case you missed my segment on Plant-Based by Nafsika: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1NHYHNfloQ

Plant-Based by Nafsika premieres on Wednesday — I’ll be a guest on August 24th

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The vegan lifestyle show we’ve all been waiting for is finally here! Called Plant-Based by Nafsika, the show is hosted by amazing vegan mogul Nafsika Antypas who will guide us on a wide-ranging tour of veganism through engaging interviews with trailblazing vegan doctors, activists, athletes, chefs, and fashion designers, among others.

Calling itself “The world’s first vegan lifestyle TV series”, Plant-Based by Nafsika aims to show the world how healthy and fun the vegan lifestyle can be. This educational and inspirational new show will premiere on Wednesday, June 27, 7:30 AM EST on the FYI network. The rumors that I was invited to be a guest are actually true! My segment, in which I discuss joggling and unicycling for fun and fitness will air on August 24th. The launch of this show, besides many other positive developments makes this an especially exciting time to be a vegan! Be sure to tune in!

Plant-based by Nafsika TV Show glimpse