The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Pumpkin Recipes Perfect for Fall

Posted on October 24, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

It’s the Perfect Time of Year to Prepare Pumpkin Recipes! Enjoy the following with family and friends.

Pumpkin Smoothie (from Vegans Know How to Party, by Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD)
Serves 4

1 cup canned pumpkin (unsweetened)
1 cup vanilla soy yogurt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon organic brown sugar
2 cups ice cubes

Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Serve in a small glasses, as this is very rich.

Pumpkin Bread (from Vegan Microwave Cookbook, by Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD)
Makes 9×5-inch or 8×4-inch loaf pan, or about 10 slices

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup organic sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon clove powder
½ cup oil
4 Tablespoons silken tofu
½ cup chopped walnuts, almonds, or mixed nuts (optional)
1 cup canned pumpkin (unsweetened)
Vegetable oil spray

In a medium-size mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients (except oil spray) until well combined.

Spray a 9×5-inch of 8×4-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil. Spread batter evenly in the pan. Place an inverted shallow bowl or saucer in the center of the microwave or use a microwave baking rack. Place the loaf pan on the bowl or rack. Microwave on MEDIUM for 9 minutes. Rotate and microwave on HIGH for 2-5 minutes. Check for readiness with a toothpick inserted in the center.

Note: If possible, use a loaf pan with straight, rather than sloped sides for microwave baking.

Moroccan Couscous and Pumpkin (from The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook, by Debra Wasserman)
Serves 4

1 pound pumpkin, seeds removed and chopped
1 cup water
1 cup couscous
1 small onion, minced
¼ cup slivered onions
¼ cup raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup maple syrup

Steam chopped pumpkin in water in a covered pot over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer in covered pot for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and let covered pot sit for 3 minutes longer. Stir and serve immediately.

Join VRG at Vegan SoulFest in Baltimore on October 25!

Posted on October 24, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

The Vegetarian Resource Group will just be one of many amazing exhibitors at Vegan SoulFest in Baltimore tomorrow, October 25th. We will have plenty of copies of The Vegetarian Journal and your favorite vegan cookbooks so make sure to stop by our booth and say hi! You can find more details about the event below.

Saturday, 10/25 from 12p-5pm
Downtown Cultural Art Center
401 North Howard Street, Baltimore

Vegan SoulFest is a celebration of culture and vegan living in Baltimore. This is a free event featuring delicious vegan food, nutrition experts, vegan cooking demonstrations, raffles, contests, a children’s area, live entertainment, free prizes, special invited guests and much more!

Here’s our lineup of activities so far:


Dr. Ruby Lathon – Plant-based Nutrition
Dr. Milton Mills – Human Anatomy and the Plant-based Diet
Marc Steiner of WEAA’s 88.9FM The Marc Steiner Show – panel discussion on Afrofuturism and Afroveganism

Cooking demos:

Chef Luz – Vegan Food Kids Will Eat
Antoinette St. Clair (TrueSelf TotalHealth) – Healing with Raw Foods
Chef Greg (Land of Kush) – Vegan Comfort Food
Chef Bey (Son Deys at The Grind House) – You Won’t Believe its Vegan!
Celebrity Chef Ayinde Howell ( – Cooking for Vegans Dating Non-Vegans

Other activities:
Magic Baltimore 95.9FM Onsite
Children’s activities provided by Nsoroma Academy
Live entertainment provided by JKai Productions

Everyone is welcome at this event – vegans, vegan-friendly and anyone who’s curious about this lifestyle and would like to learn more. The goal of Vegan SoulFest is to spread awareness about how the vegan lifestyle can improve personal health and our relationships with other people, animals and our natural environment. Come out and join us for this fun, educational event and let’s start a dialogue about how we can all move towards a healthier, more sustainable future for everyone in Baltimore.

Exhibitor, vendor and non-profit registration is still open. Food vendor registration opens 9/15. Sponsorships are welcomed.

Thanks to our financial sponsors:
The Land of Kush, Better Health, Better Life, Stolen Outfitters, Alternative Cultures, A Well-Fed World, Humane League of MD, Humane Society of US, TrueSelfTotalHealth, United Poultry Concerns, FARM, Unbeetable, Exittheapple

Media sponsors:, Yelp Baltimore, The Marc Steiner Show and The Center of Emerging Media, The Baltimore Times, Magic 95.9FM,

The Land of Kush, Better Health, Better Life, Stolen Outfitters, Park Heights Community Health Alliance, Get Fit with Councilman Mosby, Open the Cages Alliance, Alternative Cultures,

Check the website for more info at

What Did I Wish I Knew as a New Vegetarian?

Posted on October 23, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Dina Gharib

Switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet can be one of the most rewarding decisions humans can make. While the movement is still expanding, it’s no secret that you’ll be bombarded with questions and concerns about your lifestyle. I have compiled a list of the top ten tips I wish I knew as a new 16-year-old vegetarian, and the different ways to approach them.

1. Everyone will have an opinion about your diet.

Even if you haven’t talked or seen them in years, random individuals will comment on your dietary lifestyle, asking the ever popular “How do you get your protein?” The way to handle this is simply by educating them with pure facts. If you provide them with opinion, they will assume that you’re following a trend. When you provide answers with factual research behind them, you’ll be sure to educate them without coming off as confrontational. Remember that our lifestyle is very peaceful, so stick to the core beliefs.

Want more information about protein? Visit:

2. Individuals will argue that caring for animals means that you don’t care about humans.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, vegetarians are compassionate about all living things. It shouldn’t be insinuated that we have to only care for one or the other. It’s extremely possible for vegetarians to care for humans AND animals. Provide a subtle response such as “I am a vegetarian because I’m interested in human rights.” Next, direct the conversation towards the nutritional and environmental benefits of going vegetarian. We are changing the world for animals, people, and the entire planet.

3. Someone will always bring up religion in your conversation.

No matter what religion you are, someone will tell you that animals are on this earth solely for human consumption; a statement which is simply absurd. No matter what religion you observe, do your research so you can have a valid response. In my scenario as a Muslim female I was questioned with the religious aspect at every family gathering. My response has simply been, Islam is a religion of peace, and therefore God will not punish me for not slaughtering animals. He put all living things on this earth, so he should be the one who takes them off of it. Visit: for a great resource as to why your religion is vegetarian friendly.

4. There is a vegetarian option for EVERY meat product.

Burgers, Check. Cheese steaks, Check. Orange chicken, Check. The amount of options that vegetarians have is endless. You can get a delicious, hearty meal, without sacrificing flavor, or animal life. Not to mention these substitutes are even more nutritious than their counterparts.

5. Play around with new fruits, vegetables, and legumes you wouldn’t ordinarily use.

The world of fruits, veggies, and legumes is HUGE. There are so many combinations of these delicious foods so there is no reason to only be eating rice and beans every day. Foods such as lentils can take part in many different recipes. Your options are endless, ranging from a big bowl of southwestern chili, a hearty sloppy Joe, or an exotic Indian curry. Play around and you’ll be sure to find amazing new recipes.

6. Take advantage of the versatility of fruits and vegetables.

There are so many things that you can do with individual vegetables, that meals should never be boring. Have a cauliflower? Make cauliflower crust pizza or pineapple fried rice. Have a zucchini? Make zucchini fritters or zoodles (Zucchini noodles). The versatility of vegetables is remarkable, so don’t be afraid to get creative!

7. The vegetarian movement is huge!

If you ever find yourself feeling alone, due to the lack of support from relatives or friends, join a vegetarian club or volunteer at your local vegetarian organization. You’ll meet so many people who share your interest. You’ll be sure to make new friends, who will want to explore your local vegetarian hot spots.

To find a vegetarian organization in your area, visit:

For a list of vegetarian organizations, visit:

8. Be open-minded about meat substitutes.

Tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc. Meat-eaters are typically unfamiliar with these foods. Due to their unfamiliarity, these foods usually come with a negative connotation. But these foods are extremely versatile and inexpensive. You can bake, boil, stir-fry, grill, or sauté these with your favorite veggies for a meal that tastes and functions as a meat product. Ignore the negativity and experience it for yourself!

9. Educate!

Don’t be rude or snobby to those who are uneducated about our lifestyle. Simply educate them on all the benefits of being a vegetarian. We want to encourage people to make dietary changes; we don’t want to drive them off with rude responses. Even if people provide you with the most outlandish anecdotes, stay positive. I’ll never forget the day my father legitimately argued with me because, “All vegetarians are low in iron, so they turn to cannibals.” This ridiculous argument was countered with hours of research to prove to him that vegetarian diets cause the exact opposite reaction. Now my father tries to spend at least two days a week on a vegetarian diet.

10. The Jokes will never end.

While at times they may get annoying, take them with a grain of salt. You’ll eventually get used to them, and acknowledge that it isn’t a form of disrespect. I am the butt of endless jokes at family gatherings, and the creative ones always get a laugh out of me. On the other hand, the classic “Grab some grass from outside for your dinner” has garnered many eye-rolls. The most important rule is to shrug them off. Just think of it as really bad stand-up comedy.


Posted on October 22, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Did you know that in 1993 there were approximately 55 vegan restaurants in the USA and that in 2014 there are at least 485 vegan restaurants in the USA? This number continues to grow rapidly and does not include vegetarian restaurants.

To see The Vegetarian Resource Group’s online guide to veggie restaurants in the USA and Canada visit:


Posted on October 22, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Cast your vote at:

Vegan Fitness Camp in Charlottesville, Virginia

Posted on October 21, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Ann Custer

This past summer, I volunteered in the food preparation for Camp4Real. The camp is located at different elementary schools in Albemarle County in Virginia. For a week, children in the area participate in fun activities to get their heart rates up and their minds engaged. They take a snack break midmorning where they are served fresh, organic, and vegan food to fuel their bodies.

The menu varies from week to week based on accessibility, but the thought and preparation that goes into it is always the same. An example of a typical week would be as follows. On Monday, campers would make their own cereal. We had shredded wheat, puffed rice, oats, granola, shredded coconut, flax and chia seeds, and other cereal toppings. Milk options included coconut, almond, or rice for those with nut allergies. The camp is very good about not cross contaminating the food and adapting to children’s needs. The kids with allergies always go first. The next day would be smoothies where the children would fill a bowl of their choice of pineapple, berries, bananas, spinach, seeds, and oats. We would blend it for them with the same options of milk and pour it in a cup for them. Wednesday consists of banana splits. We had homemade cashew cream, nut butters, seeds, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, and oats. The children loved the cashew cream! It was so cool to see kids enjoying healthy food. The next day was always catered by a local kabob company. They offered the kids grilled veggie kabobs as well as hummus and pita chips. The final day of camp was also always standard: fruit and veggie art day! We had hummus, nut butters, guacamole and salsa to act as the glue. We put out celery, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, berries, bananas, and of course toothpicks to put it all together! The kids made their creations and then ate them, but not before someone got a picture.

A few other days we switched out were apple sandwiches and whole wheat wraps which both offered nut butters, chocolate chips, seeds, and fresh fruit as toppings. One goal of this camp is to get kids to try new foods and to educate them on the benefits of eating healthy. Before the kids would come up, we would talk about the benefits of the food they were eating on a basic level. Most kids would then go and tell their parents about the food starting a chain reaction of healthy eating habits and education. Children are the investment we should make when we talk about implementing healthy changes to better our population. Camp4Real successfully does this through their program of fun physical activity and delicious vegan food.

For more information see:

Vegan Doritos®?

Posted on October 17, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou

An online reader recently asked The VRG if any Doritos products available in the United States were vegan. To find out, The VRG in August through October 2014 called Frito-Lay®, maker of Doritos. We spoke with different customer service representatives and nutrition specialists each time.

On the Frito-Lay website, there are several different lists of products suitable for people with special dietary needs: Among those of interest to vegetarians and vegans are lists of Frito-Lay products that do not contain milk, do not contain pork enzymes, or do contain eggs. There are two lists of products certified kosher by two different certifying agencies. There is no list of vegan products on the Frito-Lay site.

We asked Frito-Lay employees why a vegan list wasn’t available. A nutrition specialist told us that “since ‘vegan’ means different things to different people such a list would not be could confuse people.” The specialist advised The VRG to develop its own list based on website ingredient information.

In looking over all of the lists and comparing them, The VRG concluded that there are four possible Doritos products that are vegan-eligible. These four are on the lists of products containing no milk nor pork enzymes and they are not on the list of products containing egg.

Our preliminary vegan list was as follows (Note: keep reading below!):

Doritos Reduced Fat Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Tortilla Chips
Doritos Salsa Verde Flavored Tortilla Chips
Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Tortilla Chips
Doritos Toasted Corn Tortilla Chips

The VRG called Doritos again about the ingredients in these products. We discovered that the Salsa Verde Flavored Tortilla Chips listed as containing “natural chicken flavor” is “from chicken.” Therefore, this is not a vegan item.

We also learned that the Reduced Fat Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Tortilla Chips (sold only in schools’ vending machines) and the Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Tortilla Chips contain natural flavors that are not animal-derived.

A customer service representative at Frito-Lay told us that “none of the natural flavors in any Doritos product is animal-based.” A nutrition specialist confirmed this. However, she elaborated further by saying “if a natural flavor contained an animal ingredient it would be identified on the label.” (As we learned, the natural chicken flavor mentioned above is from chicken.)

Doritos employees told us that the sugar used in the Reduced Fat Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Tortilla Chips and the Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Tortilla Chips “is either cane or beet sugar…it depends on our suppliers and availability.” We learned from the customer service representatives and nutritionists that “ingredient processing is not considered a part of ingredient information so we will not be able to tell customers if cow bone char was used.” All Doritos employees read to us from a prepared statement when we asked about the sugar in their products.

The VRG received confirmation from Frito-Lay of our tentative vegan listing for the Toasted Corn Tortilla Chips. The nutrition specialist told us that they are all-vegetable referring to the Toasted Corn Tortilla Chips as “vegan.”

Vegetarians may wish to note that all Doritos products containing cheese or cheese flavorings “do contain animal enzymes” according to two nutrition specialists we spoke with on the phone. The VRG asked if Frito-Lay made such a general statement to avoid potential mislabeling issues as other manufacturers may do or if all cheese and cheese flavoring in Doritos actually contain animal enzymes. The reply we received was “This is true in all cases.” Beside pork enzymes, Frito-Lay provides no further information on which type of animal enzyme or which animal species is used.

All VRG readers may wish to know that Doritos Jacked™ Ranch Dipped Hot Wings Flavored Tortilla Chips contain chicken fat, chicken powder, and chicken broth.

The contents of this website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, sources of microingredients can be unknown, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.


Posted on October 16, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Thank you to Jessica Schiappa, RD, Eric Sharer, RD, and Andrew Getz who staffed our booth at Vegan Mania in Chicago, Illinois. They gave out information to over 360 people who came by the VRG table. Eric and Jessica were also on a vegan nutrition panel.

If you would like to volunteer at VRG booths, contact
To support VRG outreach, donate at
To join The Vegetarian Resource Group, go to


Posted on October 16, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Don’t forget that many employers will match your donation to nonprofits such as The Vegetarian Resource Group, often up to $5,000. A partial list of employers that match can be seen here at by checking employer to match and clicking on Please Select.


Posted on October 14, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

When encouraging your college or other food service to offer more vegan options, you should find out what vegan items their distributors actually carry. This way you will be making practical requests that can be met. Ask the food service manager if he/she can obtain a list, which often changes.

For example, Gordon Food Service operates coast to coast in Canada, and from Michigan to Florida, with plans for further expansion. Their customers include restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities, recreational and lodging establishments, and other operators who prepare meals. In 2014 vegan items offered (subject to change and availability) included:

Baked beans

Couscous cooked

Quinoa cooked

Vanilla almond milk

Dark chocolate almond milk



Cole slaw

Cucumber marinade

Pasta fettuccini

Pasta penne

Pasta spaghetti

Roasted red peppers

Cranberry orange relish

Bean medley salad

Bean mojito salad

Couscous apple wheat berry salad

Couscous with feta and mint

Pasta rotini salad

Quinoa salad

“Bacon” bits

Malibu Gardenburger

Alu Chole

Khatte Meethe Baigan


Vegetable base for soups

Creamy tomato bisque

Black bean soup

Plus fruits, vegetables, and grain items.

For a current list from Gordon Food Service, your food service can contact:

Try this Fattoush Salad (omitting the Feta Cheese) with Lemon Garlic Dressing:

For more food service ideas, go to:

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