Vegan Eats: Amsterdam

 

Vegan Eats Amsterdam

I can’t decide what’s the most romantic thing about Amsterdam. Perhaps the cobblestone alleys, the endless river canals, the myriad of bicycles, or perhaps the tall Dutch houses? Or maybe the tinkling sounds of the tram and bicycle bells, the floral smell of tulips sprouting everywhere, or the cute country picnics that pop at every garden? For a city dubbed “The Venice of the North,” it sure doesn’t lack any of the romance you’d imagine to be found tucked away in a small Italian city. But this isn’t Italy, it’s the Netherlands – where you hear the soft-spoken Dutch language mixed with English, where contemporary architecture blends in with 17th century architecture, where the ambiance of the entire country seems to be welcoming to foreigners. As you walk across the little canal bridges and take in the breathtaking views this charming city has to offer, I’m sure another thing you’ll fall in love with is the food, especially the vegan eats.

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To read more Vegan Eats, click to read the other cities I’ve visited.

London: Part 1

London: Part 2

Munich

Vienna

Vegan Eats: Vienna

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Wilkommen aus Ӧsterreich! (Welcome to Austria!) This week we discover the classical beauty of Wien (Vienna). From the creative compositions of Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart to the original masterpieces of Gustav Klimt, Vienna offers many artistic treasures for you to experience and see during your visit here. And speaking of artistic masterpieces, let’s not forget about the delicious food. This is the land of café und küchen (coffee and cake) after all. And better yet, let’s discover the vegan options of Austria’s delectable delights.

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Read more Vegan Eats by clicking below.

London: Part 1

London: Part 2 

Munich

Vegan Rice Krispies Treats Recipe

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Summer is closely approaching and so are my cravings for my favorite summer treat – Rice Krispies Treats.

Now, some people might not know this, but store-bought Rice Krispies Treats are not vegan – they’re not even vegetarian because one of the main ingredients, marshmallows, has gelatin in it. And a lot of gelatin consists of animal fats. The hard part is that most products don’t label whether their gelatin is animal or plant based.

So, when I’m craving this tasty treat I make them myself. That way I know for certain they are vegan.

To find vegan marshmallows, check out your local Trader Joe’s. They carry vegan marshmallows seasonally. So, if you want to make these treats year-round, make sure you stock up on the marshmallows since they are only available during the summer months. However, if you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s you can also try looking for them at your local co-op. I found them there with no problem. Or, you can also purchase them online from various websites like Amazon.com or Thrive.com.

Any version of Rice Krispies cereal will do the trick. I used the generic brand sold at Trader Joe’s since it is cheaper by $2 than the Kellogg’s Rice Krispies brand. And the last ingredient you will need is plant-based margarine (vegan butter). I always have Earth Balance on hand in my fridge, so I used that in this recipe. It’s one of my favorite vegan butters.

These are super easy to make and super tasty. Below is the recipes and instructions. So, go ahead. Treat yourself.

RiceKrispyTreatRecipe

Vegan Rice Krispies Treats

Ingredients

1 10 oz. bag of vegan marshmallows

6 cups (half a bag) of Rice Krispies Cereal

3 Tbsp. of margarine (vegan butter)

Directions

  1. Heat pot on a stovetop to low-medium heat.
  2. Add margarine (vegan butter) into the pot.
  3. When margarine is melted, add marshmallows into the pot.
  4. Continuously stir marshmallows to avoid the marshmallows burning the bottom of the pan.
  5. After about 10-15 minutes, marshmallows should have melted into a fluffy, liquid texture similar to marshmallow fluff. Turn down heat to low and add in Rice Krispies cereal.
  6. Stir in one cup of Rice Krispies cereal at a time to make it easiest to stir and evenly distribute.
  7. Once the cereal is evenly stirred into the marshmallow mix, turn off the stovetop burner and transfer the Rice Krispy mix from the pot onto a wax-paper lined cookie sheet.
  8. After scooping Rice Krispy mix out of the pot onto the cookie sheet, flatten the Rice Krispies batter until it is as smooth as possible and shaped however you desire.
  9. Let it cool for about 30-60 minutes and then use a knife to cut evenly shaped squares (or stars, hearts, whatever shapes you desire). Plate and enjoy.

Book Review: The Weight of Zero

WeightofZero

High school is an intense experience for anyone; whether that experience may be positive or negative. It’s a unique time for a person because scientifically speaking this period is the most chemical-inducing for the brain. As one’s body transforms from adolescence into adulthood, that first-time feeling mixes with this precarious chemical balance in the brain, making every emotion more stimulated and every experience more vivid. Karen Fortunati’s novel, The Weight of Zero, beautifully and delicately illustrates the idea of chemically balanced and imbalanced minds through the main character’s, Catherine Pulaski’s, experience living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic disorder. I decided to read and review this book in honor of Mental Health Month, but I ended up connecting to this book for so many reasons.

This book is not one I had heard of before I found and picked it up in my local library, which is a shame because it seriously deserves a spotlight for accurately portraying the mindset of a mental illness. I myself have experienced an eating disorder as a freshman in college and have had depression from the age of fifteen. The thing I loved about this book is how it explains that mental illnesses are not magically cured overnight but rather it takes a long process to overcome, or, in most cases, to live with your mental illness. It took me a year of extensive, twice a week out-patient therapy to finally grasp control of my eating disorder. And even though years have passed, I still have those dark-eating-disorder-consuming thoughts. And every now and then my depression does creep up and return to become a stagnant part of my life. But despite that, I have learned to live with those dark times and to live my life. And that’s why I hold this book in such high regard, because Fortunati carefully arcs the narrative around recovery and recovering after each and every downfall.

I wish this novel was more well-known in the YA community, because it can relate to many people even if they don’t have a mental illness. Because everyone experiences low and high moments in their life, and this book can easily connect with people who are experiencing those extremes of emotions too. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that perfectly captures the depth of depression and how numbing it can be as well as this novel does. Catherine says it best when she explains how one of the hardest things about depression is in trying to explain to others the feeling of depression’s numbness:

“I couldn’t tell her that I was submerged. Numbed. Unable to feel anything. My spectrum of emotions had been obliterated, my feelings, all of them, good and bad, had gone AWOL. And someone who has never felt it can understand what the absence of emotion feels like. It is a hopelessness of incomprehensible, unspeakable weight.” (5)

I won’t give any spoilers about this book’s ending, but what I really liked is how the beginning of this novel starts after Catherine experiences a manic episode which spirals into a suicide attempt due to the onset stressor of her grandmother’s death. Beginning the story in the aftermath brilliantly exemplifies the novel’s theme of recovery in that there will always be an after – a time to come where you can live your life.

I’m glad I discovered this book and I know it will hold a spot in my heart for years to come. So, if you’re looking for a book that dives into psychology or just need something uplifting during a difficult time in your life, then I recommend The Weight of Zero.

If you or anyone you know needs help or is expressing suicidal thoughts, please know that you are not alone and there are people here for you who want to help you. You can reach out for help or guidance at the following number below:

Call 1-800-273-8255
Available 24 hours everyday

Vegan Eats: Munich

VeganEats_Munich

Europe is a favorite holiday destination for Americans. Over the summer, 20% of tourists in Europe are from the US. So, if you are thinking about traveling to Europe this summer, I hope yesterday’s post inspired you a little to travel there and I hope that with this week’s blog you’ll consider adding Munich to your Eurotrip, especially if you want delectable vegan eats.

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Book Review: The Land of 10,000 Madonnas

10000Madonnas

With Summer closely approaching many people will embark on vacation travels here in the US or abroad. But if you’re like me and you can’t scrounge up the money for an epic Eurotrip, then let me recommend experiencing a nice little vacation vicariously through reading. There are many great reads that include the journey aspect within the narrative. But my current pick at the moment is Kate Hattemer’s The Land of 10,000 Madonnas.

To best explain this novel’s premise, I’ll simply refer to the book jacket’s blurb:

“Jesse left behind five grieving friends – and five plane tickets abroad. As they backpack through Europe [Germany and Italy] with only their secrets for company, will they be able to fulfill Jesse’s dying wish?”

Now, the rest of this post will be a review so if you don’t want any spoilers, I suggest you come back to this post after you’ve read the book. However, if you’re still here let me tell you what I enjoyed and disliked about this book.

Let’s start with why I enjoyed reading this book. The story’s concept of Jesse sending his friends to find his birth mother, who had left Jesse when he was a baby, after his death is fascinating and engaging. It had my eyes glued to the page, reading to see if this gang of friends would find this mystical mother. As the group discovers clues about the mother’s whereabouts in Europe, the pacing of the novel subtly picks up and before you know it you’ve already read 50 – 100 – 150 pages. And what I loved about its realistic, life-like climax, (*SPOILER ALERT*) is that they didn’t find the mother! Because, that’s not what’s central to this story – the story is about Jesse and how his life and death impacted those that loved and cared for him. Jesse is beautifully woven into his friends’ lives and Hattemer’s writing only highlights the themes of life, death, and friendship. And I also liked how the characters initially butted heads and disliked each other at the beginning, understandable given the circumstances they’re thrown into. But as the group travel, they grow to trust each other and grow up a little, which illustrated great character development that I was fond of.

Now for the nitpicking. My biggest complaint is that the story is told in close 3rd-person for the five friends and 1st-person for Jesse’s narrative. Except for Jesse’s chapters, it was sometimes difficult to initially establish who was speaking and/or who’s point of view it was from. And I think the reason this was difficult was because the narrative style (diction, tone, grammar) didn’t change from character to character. They all had the same vernacular and tone of voice, which didn’t work for me because the characters varied greatly in education, social background, and age that this singular tone and style of voice could’ve been more varied. And my next complaint wasn’t really a deterrent from reading, but I kept wondering if maybe there were too many characters/friends in the story overall. It just felt very crowded to have six people’s point of view compete for my attention. I’m not sure what I would recommend: have only two POV’s (Jesse’s and one of his friends), have an omnipotent 3rd-person narrator, or just eliminate two characters/friends entirely. At the moment, I’m leaning towards the latter choice and eliminating two characters since I felt that at certain parts of the novel some of the characters weren’t really that different from each other. In the novel, the five friends are made up of three of Jesse’s cousins (two boys and one girl), Jesse’s girlfriend, and Jesse’s best friend (boy). But the girl-cousin and the girlfriend felt oddly the same character split into two. And three cousins on the trip? Really? It just felt excessive.

But despite my nit-picking I still recommend this book and I think it’s a fresh read. Just to foreworn you though, there is a lot of references to obscure Medieval and Renaissance art (like enough to be sitting through a lecture in an Art History class at a University) and the teenage characters tend to all speak with a very collegiate vernacular (like enough extra SAT prep words to help you accidently study for your test). Even though this wasn’t a deal breaker for me, I thought I’d warn you about this style of writing in case it’s not your taste.

So, I hope you’ll give this book a chance and enjoy reading it (hopefully by the side of a pool on a nice, sunny day) to kickstart your summer reading.

Thrift-Giving for Mother’s Day

mothersday3

With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday (here in the US), all we hear on the radio and TV is how we have to buy our mothers something special in order to show her how much we appreciate her. But, do we really need to merit our appreciation for our mothers with a dollar value?

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of spare change in my household, especially not enough to buy my mother the expensive items advertised on TV. And you know what? That’s very unfair to a child, to make that child feel incompetent because they can’t show their appreciation for their mother through materialistic means. Of course, you can always make your mom a gift, which is what I did for many years.

Now that I’m older and have a little money to spare, I want to buy my mom a nice gift. However, I also want to be consciousness about it though. I don’t want to contribute to the ever-growing fast fashion industry that horribly ruins the environment and workers’ lives. And I still can’t afford those flashy, expensive gifts advertised in the media for jewelry and department stores.

So, what’s a girl to do? Well, I decided to go to my go-to – thrifting. I checked out my local Goodwill and walked around with my husband hoping to see something that screamed “Mom” – and luckily enough, I also helped my husband find a gift for his mother too.

mothersday

Here’s a little outfit I put together under $10 for my mom. She lives in Florida, so a light-weight, flowy dress and a pair of sandals are very comfortable and fitting to her lifestyle.

I love the cinched-in waistline on this emerald green dress. It’s flattering for most body shapes and the extra space up top is roomy enough for women who need more space there. And I think this dark green will compliment my mom’s brown eyes. The faux-leather sandals have a sleek gold trim all the way around, which I think nicely pairs with the dress. I must admit though, there was a tiny chunk of the gold trim missing, so I simply filled in the scratched-up space with a gold sharpie and – voila – the shoe was fixed up. Now, it looks almost brand new.

mothersday2

Now, I know you can’t always find clothing and shoes for your mother (due to various sizes and what’s available in stock), but here’s what you can find instead. Most Goodwill’s have a book section. So, for my mother-in-law, my husband picked out his favorite books. I think it’s a touching gift to give someone a favorite book of yours, to share with them something you fell in love with. But, what I think is so special about this gift for Mother’s Day is, chances are, your mother was the one who taught you how to read. So, it’s nice that she taught you how to read and now you can share the gift she gave you by showing her your favorite reads.

mothersday4

Here, my husband found a complete Sherlock Holmes anthology (his favorite) and I picked out The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (two of my favorite books). My mother-in-law is an avid reader, so this was a fitting gift for her.

So, don’t worry about finding the most perfect or the most expensive gift for your mother. Just focus on giving something you think your mother will most enjoy. And by thrifting, you’ll often find it’s cheaper than buying something at the mall and you can feel good about reusing and recycling items instead of letting them rot in a landfall.

I hope you enjoy Mother’s Day and are lucky enough to spend it with your mother.

Vegan Eats: London Part 2

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To continue our wonderful voyage in London, we will try some of the diverse food in the city so you can get a bigger taste of what London has to offer for vegans. One thing I learned while living in London is the city is an epicenter of diversity since it has so many people of various cultures and ethnicities from all over the world living there. So, these tasty restaurants may not be the obvious plant-based food you’d expect but they make for great Vegan Eats.

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