The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

MANY COMPANIES WILL MAKE MATCHING DONATIONS TO THE VEGETARIAN RESOURCE GROUP

Posted on December 11, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Thank you to the Bank of America employee who recently made a donation to VRG, which was matched by Bank of America. To see if your large employer matches donations, see www.vrg.org/donate and select “Would you like your employer to match? You could double your donation.”

Thanks so much for your support!

A Vegan Chanukah Celebration

Posted on December 10, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Chanukah is a time that extended families gather together. Here are three vegan recipes you can share with your friends and family during this 8-day celebration.

Tofu/Potato Pancakes
(from Conveniently Vegan)
Makes 8 pancakes – serve 2 per person

2 pounds white potatoes, peeled and chopped
6 cups water
1 box (about 10-12 ounces) extra firm silken tofu, crumbled
½ cup matzo meal
Small onion, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon dill weed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons oil

Place potatoes in water in a large covered pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook 15 minutes over a medium-high heat. Drain.
Place the cooked potatoes and remaining ingredients (except for the oil) in a food processor cup. Blend until smooth (about 3 minutes).
Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown pancakes on each side for 8 minutes. Flip over carefully. Serve warm pancakes with applesauce.

Vegan Noodle Kugel (from Vegans Know How to Party)
Serves 5

Vegetable oil spray
One 12-ounce package wide vegan noodles (lasagna noodles work well)
1½ cups silken tofu
¾ cup organic sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange zest
½ cup raisins
½ cup drained, chopped canned peaches
1½ cups peeled, cored, and cubed green apples
¼ cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a loaf pan (about 4 inches deep and 8 inches long) with oil. Cook noodles according to package directions, drain, and cool. Using a blender or mixer, puree tofu with sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and zest.
In a large bowl, combine raisins, peaches, apples, and applesauce. Whip in tofu mixture. Add in noodles and mix until well combined. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden.

Variations: For different flavors, use pineapple or apricots instead of peaches and dried cranberries and cherries or apricots instead of raisins. Whole wheat noodles can be used in this recipe.

Festive Cashew Cookies (from Simply Vegan)
Makes 2 dozen

2 cups raw cashews
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup molasses or maple syrup
½ cup water
¼ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Small jar fruit-only jam

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grind the raw cashews and rolled oats together in a food processor for a few minutes. Pour mixture into a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients, except for the jam. Mix all the ingredients together.
Form 24 round balls and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. With your thumb, form a small well in the center of each ball. Place a small amount of jam in each well. Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Allow cookies to cool before removing from the cookie sheet. These cookies make a wonderful gift!

VRG’s Affinity Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card

Posted on December 10, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Support The Vegetarian Resource Group with VRG’s affinity Visa® Platinum Rewards credit card!

When a cardholder activates the card, The Vegetarian Resource Group receives $50. Then for the life of the program, VRG will receive a portion of every dollar that each cardholder charges. The VRG Visa® Platinum Rewards card offers qualified cardholders exceptional benefits including no annual fee, a low APR and reward points for shopping at participating merchants. View FAQs.

Add your support with every purchase when you use the The VRG Visa® Platinum Rewards card. To apply, see: http://www.cardpartner.com/app/vrg

Support The Vegetarian Resource Group by Purchasing VRG Items Sold at Zazzle.com

Posted on December 09, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Coffee mugs, key chains, t-shirts, and buttons featuring VRG’s slogan “Vegetarians Have Good Hearts!” are available at http://www.zazzle.com/vegresgroup. By purchasing these items you will be supporting our vegan outreach including sending literature to schools, doctor’s and dietitians offices, restaurants, hospitals, senior centers, and more. Thank you for your support!

Fall 2014 Internship at The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG)

Posted on December 09, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Dina Gharib
Former VRG Intern

When I applied for the VRG internship, I didn’t know what to expect. I was just beginning my junior year at UMBC and I knew I needed to start gaining professional experience. I was unsure of what I wanted to become, and saw that this internship would be beneficial to both routes I was considering, as well as my own personal beliefs. In a few short months spent at the VRG office, I am leaving as a completely changed person. I am now confident in my beliefs, as well as my capabilities. Before this internship, I was always too nervous to show others my writing or to talk with fellow co-workers or classmates in fear of judgment. I learned that no one is perfect; that everyone on this earth is trying their best to be the ultimate version of themselves. We learn, we listen, and we grow as individuals. I also learned that every single person on this earth has some wisdom to be shared. Whether you agree with their perspective or not, it is our duty as educated individuals to take all perspectives into consideration, especially if you’re a writer.

I’ve learned that we develop as people through experience and that multiple drafts are necessary in completing a polished well-read article. I also learned that criticism doesn’t have to be something you take to heart; criticism is meant to help develop your thoughts, and allows for the writer to hear other perspectives concerning your work. I was able to push myself to write as much as possible about topics that I am passionate about. I was able to work at outreach events, and meet and talk to like-minded individuals. I was able to spread my knowledge, as well as embrace wisdom from many other people that I probably would not have crossed paths with if I had not done this internship.

My first week consisted of setting up and working at the Natural Food and Products Expo East, one of the biggest natural food conventions on the east coast. Safe to say I was completely overwhelmed. I had no idea how big the industry was, and I felt right at home. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals who share the same passion as me is an experience that I will not forget. Along with the expo, I had the honor of working at The Vegetarian Resource Group booth at the first Vegan Soul Fest in Baltimore, Maryland. Along with attending these amazing events, I was able to write countless restaurant/food reviews and articles, including an interview I conducted with a local vegan doughnut business. The freedom to write about topics that interested me resulted in the creation of countless pieces that I am legitimately proud of writing. Luckily, since I started my internship with a bang, I also had the opportunity to end it similarly with VRG’s 33rd annual Pre-thanksgiving Vegan Potluck. At the potluck I was fortunate enough to meet over a hundred people who were equally as excited and passionate about food and vegetarianism. Being in a room filled with VRG readers and supporters who were kind yet passionate about a similar topic was the best way I could end months of hard work. While I know that my time here at The Vegetarian Resource Group is over, I’m certain that I am leaving with a lot more wisdom, passion, and friends than I could have ever imagined.

Contact The Vegetarian Resource Group if you would like to intern in Baltimore or long distance. Please send to vrg@vrg.org your resume or a link to a bio, with a note detailing your desired dates and times to intern, your skills, short term goals, long term goals, vegetarian/vegan knowledge, and what you hope to gain from the internship. You can see the work of past interns at: http://www.vrg.org/student/index.php

If you would like to support internships, you can donate at www.vrg.org/donate

Home-Made Vegan Muffins Make Terrific Holiday Gifts!

Posted on December 05, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

You, your family, office workers, and friends will enjoy these vegan muffin recipes written by Debra Daniels-Zeller found in a recent issue of Vegetarian Journal. Gluten-free vegan options are included! See: http://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2014issue4/2014_issue4_muffin_mania.php

Support The Vegetarian Resource Group by subscribing to Vegetarian Journal today: http://www.vrg.org/bookstore/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=3

SafeGreenToys.org: Celebrate The Holidays With Gifts That Are Better For Your Child And The World

Posted on December 05, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

We received this information from Green America:

Parents who want to celebrate the holidays with gift ideas that are
better for their children and the world will find a wide range of
alternatives at www.safegreentoys.org, a new resource offered by the
nonprofit Green America. All of the highlighted toys avoid toxic
materials and are made from recycled, organic, and Fair Trade materials.

Holiday gift items featured on www.safegreentoys.org include the following:

Hooded bamboo bath towel, Andrews, SC. The fabric for Bamboosa’s baby
products comes from 100-percent organically certified bamboo fiber, or
is blended with organic cotton, Lycra, or recycled polyester. For the
infants on your shopping list, consider Bamboosa’s hooded bamboo bath
towel, which is generously sized and can still be used in the toddler
years. www.bamboosa.com

Board games, Naturally Playful, Aloha, OR. In addition to classic
products like recycled cardboard puzzles and organic stuffed animals,
Naturally Playful makes available cooperative board games made by a
family company in Canada. These games teach kids about cooperation,
while also educating about topics like loss of animal habitat (“Then
There Were None”), world geography (“Explorers”), and grammar (“Star
Words”).

Cotton kids’ T-shirts, Dhana EcoKids, Mill Valley, CA. One popular
item is Dhana’s 100-percent organic cotton kids’ T-shirts in the “Earth
Day Winter White Tree” design, featuring a tree formed from the
intertwining words rethink, revive, recycle, renew, regenerate,
remember, respect, reuse, restore, and recover.

Home-made gifts. For green gift-giving around the holidays, one
popular approach is a “do-it-yourself gardening kit” consisting of:
three to five clay pots, water-based paints to decorate the pots, a
small bag of potting soil, vegetable or flower seeds, a small shovel,
and a child’s set of gardening gloves.

For the holidays, you may also want to shop at these cruelty-free
retailers found on The Vegetarian Resource Group’s website here:
http://www.vrg.org/links/products.htm#retailer

Vegan Candy Canes

Posted on December 04, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Enjoy Naturally Sweet Treats this Holiday including TruJoy’s Organic Candy Canes!

TruJoy Sweets makes it easy to enjoy natural sweetness for your holiday gift giving! They are all free of artificial colors and flavors. They are also corn syrup free, Non-GMO project verified, gluten-free, vegan and kosher too. For more information visit: www.trujoysweets.com.

Easy to be an Activist

Posted on December 04, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Dina Gharib
VRG Intern

When the term activism comes up, many people are quick to assume it consists of loud yelling, anger, and hatred. While in many cases it does, that isn’t always the scenario. Activism doesn’t need to be conducted in a group, or outside. It can simply be done in the comfort of your home. Each kind action we do for others that encourages them to be a better person is a sign of activism.

As a vegetarian and vegan community, we are constantly being activists. My name is Dina Gharib; I’m your average 19-year-old college student. I’m here to describe all the ways that I have become an activist by simply being me. No, I have not done anything out of the ordinary, or extra extraordinary, I have just been myself, helped people when they were in need, and spread my gathered knowledge through anyone willing to listen.

Coming from a family that emigrated from Egypt to America, I have been blessed to look at the world in a different perspective. One of those major perspectives is my value on education and learning. I know that the education system in Egypt isn’t the best, and throughout my years of learning in American schools I’ve learned that thoroughly learning and embracing knowledge is an experience that is irreplaceable. The impact that learning can have on a person is remarkable. I can honestly say through my two and a half years of being in college, my outlook on life has completely changed. I strive to absorb as much information as possible, and to use it to my advantage in everything I do.

While coming to America, my family was able to make friends with multiple other families that also immigrated to Baltimore. These Egyptians are now considered my family even though my real family is in Egypt. They’ve been with me through every step of my life, and vice versa. While the majority of them are much older than me, we were always considered equals. While I was set on going to college and getting my degree, the majority decided to take an alternate route. One day, as we were all sitting together, many of them came to my brother and me and stated that they were thinking about going back to school, but they carried apprehension since it had been so long. We sat them down, told them that it would be hard, but nothing that was easy was worth doing. I explained that the payoff in the end would be so much better; that even though the job market is horrible, you will change as a person and you will find a job that suits you. With a full force, I jumped on the opportunity to get them started. The following week, they all came over to my house, and we started filling out as many college applications as possible. Being the grammar freak that I am, I was in charge of editing and revising all of their college entrance essays. Some of them got accepted to universities while others opted to start with a community college.

Once the semester began, my house became THE house for studying. Every Monday and Wednesday, we would all sit at the kitchen table to do work. I attempted to make it fun by having coffee breaks and impromptu dance sessions, just to keep the positivity up. Luckily for them, we Gharib siblings shine in different subjects. My brother being the computer science “nerd” would help them with their math and science classes, while I was the designated editor for all English, Speech, and Communication classes. First and foremost, I went through the basics and then taught them how to develop their thesis statements, how to write for a certain audience, and how to pose their research essays. We went through a typical writer’s environment where they wrote a draft, sent it to me, I made corrections, sent it back, and so forth until we felt that the paper represented what they wanted to say properly. We’d run through presentations, and speeches, making sure we ran through the allotted time, and that minor necessities like eye contact was kept. My passion and persistence has allowed me to become an activist for education. While this impact might be small, it could inevitably become a chain reaction that leads others to pursue schooling again.

My next form of activism has been my most ongoing form. As a typical American child I grew up with a legitimately intense love for all things fast food. My love of junk food soon got out of hand when I became overweight. I never was active, and I’d spend my summers in front of a TV, in my pajamas with a bag of chips. I ate anything and everything in sight. Perhaps it was my growing lack of self-confidence or my emotional instability that led me to eat so much. Whatever the reason was, I knew I needed to change. I knew that there was no reason for me to wear baggy clothes all the time. I wanted to dress up, and feel pretty; I wanted to be confident. So, I knew what I had to do. I started doing research on all the different ways to be healthy. I signed up for a gym, and decided to give running a try. For the first two weeks it was hard. It wasn’t something that I had ever done or been good at. As months passed by, I noticed that I began to run farther and faster. The ability to beat my record every week was thrilling. I loved the competition that I had with myself. While continuing my new found love of running, I decided to experiment with different foods. I found nutritious recipes that comprised mostly of vegetables, and saw how they tasted. After many hit-or-miss recipes, I discovered my love for broccoli. Since broccoli couldn’t be found in Egypt in the 90’s, my family had no idea what it was. I on the other hand, couldn’t get enough! After I finally discovered fruits and vegetables the weight just kept shedding off. I was a lot more confident and my skin was clearer. Along with my new found love of running, I started taking Zumba dance classes. That way I was up and active without feeling like I was working out. It was literally a dance party masked as a workout.

While continuing my lifestyle shift, I met a group of kind vegans while at a music concert. They were handing out pamphlets and took the time to explain to me all the benefits of going vegan and/or vegetarian. I was inspired by all they had to say, but I had to look further into it. Once I did, I couldn’t believe how I wasn’t already a vegetarian. I quickly made the decision to switch over, and I’ve kept at it ever since. While this was a short summary of why I decided to go vegetarian, the main reason I decided to share this was to represent all that I’ve done to spread my beliefs, as well as the way others have influenced my life.

After years of improving my vegetarian cooking skills, I decided to try and work on my family. All the members of my family were obese, not active and couch potatoes. Their dinners consisted of nothing but empty carbs and/or starch and meat. I decided to begin cooking for them, and trying to incorporate vegetables with their meals. While most of them were open to it, my little brother was a challenge. But after buying every possible vegetable I could find, I discovered that he liked string beans, carrots, soybeans, and romaine. From there I would try to incorporate those vegetables into everything he ate. I also took it upon myself to make eating fun. I wanted each meal to be exciting, and not “torture” as my mother would put it. From there, I developed fun ways to eat vegetables without my brother even knowing (or caring). I began making Cauliflower vegetable fried rice, and spaghetti squash and Meatless Meatballs along with countless other recipes. Once my family started eating vegetables in their meals I decided it was time for them to get active. I took my mom to a Zumba class which she now loves, and I would take my little brother to the park to play soccer or basketball. When my brother would want to give up, using his weight as an excuse, I wouldn’t have it. I told him, that weight wasn’t an excuse, that he could be excel at anything if he really tried; that this should be a stepping stone into becoming a healthier person. Once they were all moving, I noticed all of their moods increased, and their confidence began to beam.

Besides my personal activism, I believe that my social media has inspired many others to eat healthier and live well balanced lives. By posting endless pictures and videos of my recipes for all of my followers, I’ve been a voice that helps inspire others to eat healthier. Common excuses like “It’s too expensive” or “It takes too much time” are all diminished. I also take requests from my followers to take unhealthy comfort foods, and morph them into delicious and nutritious meals. I provide an example that everyone can eat healthy, flavorful meals that are cost and time efficient. Since my diet and social media pages are specifically vegetarian, I also have a lot of people from around the world messaging me and asking me questions about vegetarianism, my recipes, and easy ways top transition into having a healthier life. Offering my humble advice deriving from my years of experience and knowledge is all that I can do, and it is enough. Just as that group of vegans and vegetarians took the time to stop and share their wisdom with me, which has eternally changed my life, I hope that I can do the same in someone else’s life.

Vegan Winter Coats/Jackets

Posted on December 03, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

If you’re looking for winter coats or jackets that do not contain wool, down, leather, or other animal products, here are a few suggestions.

Vaute
Stylish coats for women and men. They also have a store in Brooklyn, NY.

HoodLamb
Stylish hemp coats and jackets for women and men.

Pangea
Non wool Peacoat for men and women (limited sizes).

Finally, LL Bean, Lands’ End, Big Agnes, Free People, and North Face offer synthetic or vegan “leather” jackets for women, men, and children that are light weight and very warm. Please note that not all the coats from these companies are vegan.

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