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At the End of My VRG Internship 1

Posted on February 05, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Gianna Mautone

At the end of my three month internship at The Vegetarian Resource Group, I remember my first days here very clearly. I remember my online internship search prior to returning to Loyola University this fall, when I discovered that there was an opportunity available at the VRG, just minutes from my school. I had learned about the VRG from a professor, and upon searching the website and blog, reading articles and descriptions, I began to realize just how fitting this internship would be for me. My passion for health, vegetarianism, writing and activism fueled my interest in continuing to learn more about these topics while applying my skills to the organization. I came into the internship comfortable with the fact that there was a lot I did not know about these topics, but was excited to learn more from the VRG staff and community.

From the start of the internship, my personal interests and goals have been recognized and valued. Charles and Debra compiled a list of projects and tasks that I would be working on throughout my time at the VRG, all of which related in some way to the personal experiences, interests and goals that I had expressed involvement and interest in. I am most grateful for the opportunity to have expanded my knowledge and experience in areas that actually apply to my interests and passions, rather than participating in mundane tasks in the office.

My first project, for example, was to write a recipe article for the Vegetarian Journal on Vegan Ecuadorian Recipes. For the past two years, I have traveled to Ecuador with a delegation of students and staff from Loyola University, for a faith-based immersion trip. My experiences in Ecuador and the relationships I’ve built with individuals there are very close to my heart and have shaped who I am today. That being said, I was thrilled to be afforded the opportunity to use my experience in Ecuador and my knowledge of the Spanish language (as well as my love for food!) to create vegan recipes inspired by traditional Ecuadorian cuisine. After developing these recipes and writing the article, I translated it into Spanish. This was a fun and challenging way to kick off my time here at the VRG.

Other projects I have worked on throughout my time as an intern include writing for the blog about vegan and vegetarian food available at Loyola, compiling research for vegetarian/vegan senior care, updating our national Restaurant Guide, working at the VRG table at Baltimore’s Vegtoberfest, and informing local newspapers and media sites about our annual Vegan Thanksgiving potluck dinner, as well as, of course, attending the delicious potluck. I even converted an article into HTML – at a very basic level – but am impressed with myself, nonetheless!

Among these tasks and projects, I have learned a lot in less concrete ways throughout my time as an intern. Daily talks with Charles and Debra about life and my future have been very encouraging and inspirational. It means so much to me to have been able to learn from the experiences of individuals whose job reflects their passions in life. This is something I aspire to!

I leave my VRG internship feeling grateful for the opportunities I have encountered, the welcoming people I have met, and the useful information I have learned about vegetarianism, non-profit and advocacy work, as well as the encouragement to foster passion in my future endeavors.

For information about Vegetarian Resource Group internships, see: http://www.vrg.org/student/index.php

To support VRG internships and other projects, please donate at: www.vrg.org/donate

Sapthagiri Indian Restaurant in Jersey City, NJ 1

Posted on January 22, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Gianna Mautone, VRG Intern

Purely vegetarian, authentic South and North Indian fare offered in a very casual, friendly environment – this is what defines a dining experience at Sapthagiri in Jersey City, NJ. On a Thursday night, the restaurant was lively and full of patrons, many of whom appeared to be regulars. The restaurant is medium-sized, with enough space for approximately 50 people and some outdoor seating in the front. Sapthagiri offers an extensive, purely vegetarian menu, with many vegan options clearly indicated. If not 100% vegan, various dishes are listed as having a “vegan option available.” The menu also specifies which dishes are gluten-free, low carb and low fat. The staff at Sapthagiri are very compassionate toward vegetarian and vegan eating, which made the experience very comfortable and enjoyable. The atmosphere of the restaurant is very friendly and welcoming, as the owner and waiter cracked jokes with our party and offered very attentive service throughout the duration of our dinner.

Our table ordered a variety of items to share, which made for a fun dining experience. We started with a sample plate as an appetizer. The plate featured an Idly (steamed rice cake), a Vada (fried lentil donut), a Masala Vadla (flat fried donut made with lentils, peanuts, garlic and spices), an Aloo Bonda (potato dumpling coated in chickpea batter), and a Samosa (crispy, flaky crust stuffed with potatoes and green peas).

A feature item on the menu is the Dosa, a thin crepe made from rice and lentils. The dosas were all served with a chutney and sambar (a spicy vegetable stew). The “Mysore Masala Dosa” came stuffed with potatoes, onions, peas, cashew nuts and a spicy sauce, while the “Paper Dosa” (a very long, crispy crepe) was served plain and intended to be ripped and dipped into the chutney or spread with curried potatoes. The Paper Dosa was huge, perfect for sharing and full of crisp flavor. Both Dosa plates were delicious and I enjoyed sampling the various spreads and dips that were served alongside.

In addition to the Dosa, another Indian bread that our table ordered was the Poori (a very fluffy fried whole wheat bread). The Poori was served with a side of channa masala, spiced chick peas. In my opinion, the channa masala was seasoned perfectly – the heat of the dish and its flavorful spices were balanced and complimented each other just right.

An extensive list of South Indian and North Indian curries are also available on the menu. The curry dish I tried featured vegetables cooked in coconut milk with a spicy kick and was served along side a bowl of rice. I enjoyed the spiciness of this dish, though the waiter informed me that he requested it be made at medium spice, so it could have been made even hotter. The waitstaff was very accommodating to any special requests or additions our party asked for.

The variety of authentic Indian spices, flavors and Dosa that I tried at Sapthagiri made for an interesting and enjoyable dining experience. As someone who had limited knowledge of Indian cuisine, I felt that Sapthagiri’s descriptive menu and helpful waitstaff made for an easy and welcoming experience. I will definitely be back to Sapthagiri soon. There are over 100 items on the menu, many of which I have my eye on!

For more information about Sapthagiri, visit their website: http://www.sapthagiri.biz/index.aspx. For more information about other vegan/vegetarian restaurants around the U.S. and Canada, see our Restaurant Guide at: http://www.vrg.org/restaurant/index.php.

Vegetarian/Vegan Options at Loyola University Maryland 2

Posted on December 03, 2012 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Gianna Mautone, VRG Intern

As a senior at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, I have seen our dining services transition over the past four years toward a more student-oriented menu. As a vegetarian myself, and conscious about eating healthy, well-balanced meals, I have learned to be creative when purchasing meals on campus to suit my dietary preferences. Loyola Dining implements surveys and student forums in order to hear students’ voices about what they desire for meal options at school. There is also a student dining committee that all students are invited to join. I have found that Loyola’s dining services truly try to make accommodations based off of student input and preferences.

Loyola does not have a mandatory meal plan like some colleges, but rather, all items are a la carte (paid for individually). This option can be an advantage for students with special dietary preferences because students are able to pick and choose items from various dining establishments on campus, without feeling restricted to buy from a set location or to use up dining ‘points’ for the day.

Dining options on campus include a number of chain establishments such as Moe’s Southwest Grill, WoW Cafe and Wingery, Boar’s Head Deli, Starbucks, and Red Mango. Other dining locations include Vocelli Pizza, Savor (homestyle cooking), Ikigaii Sushi, Iggy’s Market (offering packaged market and convenience items) and Iggy’s Express (offering homestyle meals), as well as a pasta bar, salad bar, Bagels & Spreads counter, and Simply To Go items. Each dining establishment on campus offers vegetarian options, though finding vegan options may require more creativity. It is possible to dine on campus as a vegan, though, and there is always a possibility to have your voice heard in order to implement further changes to Loyola’s dining options.

Below is a sampling of the vegetarian and vegan options available across Loyola’s campus for each meal of the day.

Breakfast:

  • In the morning, Loyola’s dining cafe offers fresh oatmeal with vegan toppings. Some vegetarian breakfast items such as pancakes are also available, though not much on the vegan front.
  • Starbucks offers soymilk as a vegan option in drinks. Starbucks’ oatmeal, which is made with water and served with a choice of nuts and/or dried fruit makes for a satisfying vegan breakfast.
  • Packaged granola bars and energy bars are also always available for purchase, including ‘Cliff’ bars (most of which are vegan).
  • ‘Simply To Go’ fresh cut fruit cups offered daily.
  • ‘Naked’ juices (most of which are vegan, besides “Protein Zone” smoothies, which contain Whey, a milk-derived protein).

Lunch & Dinner:

  • Loyola’s salad bar offers an extensive selection of vegetarian options, and is priced by weight. Vegan toppings include a variety of fresh greens, raw veggies, tofu, beans, hummus, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, fresh fruit, pita bread, etc. There are also soups offered daily, usually one of which is vegetarian.
  • Savor is a homestyle cooking option that offers a rotating menu. Each day should include vegetarian options such as, Mediterranean Vegetable Pita, Mediterranean Vegetable Burger, Falafel, and Polenta Stuffed Pepper. Roasted vegetables, couscous barley salad, potatoes and Mediterranean salad are some of the veggie sides available.
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill serves burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, quesadillas, etc. No matter which Southwestern variety you select, the individual toppings/fillings are up to you, making it easy to customize a vegan meal. An example vegan option would be rice, beans, guacamole, tofu, salsa, lettuce, and tomato served in a bowl. Filling, satisfying, and vegan!
  • Ikigaii Sushi – Our sushi bar hand-prepares rolls every day. Vegetable sushi, spring rolls (wrapped in rice paper), and fresh seaweed salad are delicious vegan options.
  • Iggy’s offers prepared foods, with a more home-cooked feel. While the menu offerings are always changing, there should consistently be vegetarian options available. I enjoy the roasted, seasoned veggies from Iggy’s. Other vegetarian options may include rice, couscous and barley dishes with veggies, baked beans, chickpea salad, and polenta. Iggy’s is also an on-campus market where packaged items, snacks, and bulk bins are available.
  • Boar’s Head Deli offers a variety of vegetable toppings and cheese that create a substantial sandwich or wrap. The cheese can be left off for a vegan sub, though this is not a very substantial meal option.
  • Vocelli’s Pizza offers Italian cuisine, with vegetarian options including vegetarian ciabatta, Mediterranean salad, and veggie pizza. Vegan options are limited, aside from pasta with marinara sauce and a Mediterranean salad, without cheese.
  • Bagels and Spreads – Bagels are a quick vegan option, though peanut butter and jelly are probably the only vegan spreads available.

Nearby off-campus locations that are vegan/vegetarian friendly do accept the student ‘Evergreen’ cards (from which money is deducted with each purchase). Off-campus dining is a convenient option that allows you to mix up your meals while also getting the opportunity to enjoy the surrounding community. Often, there will be formal dinners on campus for student groups, organizations, or awards ceremonies. For these catered events, students and staff always have a vegetarian and vegan option. Be sure to communicate your dietary preferences, because the catering staff is equipped to meet students’ needs.

While it is not difficult to find vegetarian options at Loyola, I have yet to see extensive vegan options (such as vegan desserts and dairy-alternatives) on campus. As I previously mentioned, Loyola’s Dining Services are accommodating to student feedback, so inquiring and getting your voice heard is important if there is something more that you wish to see on campus.

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