The Thick Vegan

St. Lucia 2019

Like most women, I have definitely struggled with body image in my adolescence, my teen years, and my young adult years. Unfortunately, the shape of my body has been a source of many insecurities throughout the duration of my life. I have been body shamed for the majority of my life by both family and peers, which is something that young women in this society must deal with on a consistent basis more than their male counterparts. Now that I am a vegan, and my body has changed, I have found myself being questioned about my diet because of the shape of my body. Despite my restrictive diet, I am still very thick and I absolutely love it. Though I love my diet and now love my body, I am in a position where I have to defend myself against those judging my body type and questioning my diet and lifestyle, on top of having to defend the diet itself, which as vegans we all know, is way more frustrating than missing a rack of ribs.

When I was younger, I was definitely one of the larger kids in school, and when I look back at my self perception, I always saw myself as fat. And not the cute chubby kind of fat. Not like when I see young girls now who hold the same shape and I think to myself, “oh my goodness she’s so pretty”, but the unattractive fat (that was just me). When I looked at myself, I saw a pudgy little girl, and as discouraging as it was, and the other kids in my class did as well. When I look back at old pictures of myself now, I was not fat, but I was not as small as some of the other kids in my class. I definitely got teased about my weight by peers, which was a large contributing factor to my insecurities that had developed at an early age. And I remember around that time, there were other young girls that were my size, maybe a little bigger, but they carried their weight with such confidence, and I was dangerously envious that I didn’t have the same type of confidence. As I got older, I continued to gain weight, and as a result, the teasing increased and the love that I was supposed to have for my body and myself as a whole, was not there at all. By the time I was 12, I loathed every single thing about myself and my body. My family passive aggressively picked at my weight by constantly making negative comments on the food that I ate or telling me that I would look better if I was like J-Lo or my skinnier family members (which made it hit close to home). I noted that although many people had a lot to say about my weight, nobody was willing to put in the work to support me through a transition, so I knew that my journey was going in my own hands.

I had pretty low self-esteem by the time my teen years kicked in, due to the way that my body had developed in comparison to my female peers, in addition to the fact that by the time I was in the 6th grade, I had been in 4 different schools, and I got teased at every single one of them. Once everything hit the fan (once puberty kicked in) I had acne, accompanied with several acne scars, crooked and spaced out teeth, a large stomach, large thighs, and a large backside. And although my body began to develop, I was having an increasingly rough time having to deal with being teased about my size and appearance by my peers. So, eventually I started trying to make some efforts like eating better, exercising regularly, drinking more water, washing my face consistently, etc.. Though I felt as if I was not getting any actual results, it boosted my self-confidence because I had motivated myself to change what I didn’t like, which took strength. And although I had it a little rough because I was in a Danger Zone called “Middle School”, I knew that there was going to be a light at the end of that tunnel.

Soon enough, I lost a noticeable amount of weight. My body transformed from its pre-pubescent shape to having noticeably large breasts, a smaller waistline, and a very large backside. When I was about 13 going on 14, I exercised full time and I made better decisions when it came to my diet, as I decided to quit pork and beef on my own, and I was determined to not just lose weight, but to be healthy. But not long after I began putting in necessary work to improve my health, my confidence took a full nosedive because I found out that I was pre-diabetic and actually had been for some time. So I continued to make efforts to reverse that. I shrunk down to decent weight by the time I was 16, but after being forced to deal with relationship troubles, family issues, depression, stress from AP courses., IT courses, and college prep/applications as well as an addiction to pizza, Chipotle burritos, Macaroni and Cheese, and Honey Buns, I had gained over 40 lbs and was 222 lbs by the time I was 18 years old, my shape kept up, but I was much wider than before, and I hid my body insecurities from myself and my peers. I was a pescetarian at that point, and I was still pre-diabetic. I was very discouraged at that point because the only thing that I could see at the end of that tunnel was me living with diabetes at a young age. And unfortunately, I was so discouraged at that point that I stopped caring. In 2014, I was 18, and I unintentionally reverted back to eating chicken and turkey, but because I was in college without a car, forced to walk the campus (In South Carolina) on a daily basis (While being forced to only eat college food) and decided to begin working out at the free campus gym, I managed to lose a few pounds instead of gaining the Freshman 15.

Towards the end of 2015, when I just turned 20, and I was still not a size that I was pleased with. And knowing that I had been prediabetic for so long, I decided to test out a vegan(ish) lifestyle, and see how my health would improve (because cutting chicken, turkey, and fish out of my diet was definitely not enough). The transition included cutting chicken and turkey out of my diet, switching to plant based milks, yogurts, and cheeses, snacking on 75% dark chocolates instead of milk or white chocolates, consuming fresh fruits and vegetables on a consistent basis, and testing out cool new recipes like chia pudding, smoothie bowls, and vegan mac and cheese. In February of 2016, I had a checkup with my primary care physician and I gave her the whole rundown of what the results are most likely going to come out as: “I should be fine, but I’m sure I’m going to test positive for being pre-diabetic, and I have been stressed so my blood pressure could appear to be high.” A few days later, I got a call from her saying that I did have a Vitamin D deficiency, but that there was no sign of diabetes, so I should just keep up the good work. And that was the moment I knew what direction I needed to go into decreasing the chances of me developing one of the illnesses that had been running in my family (Cancer, Diabetes, and Hypertension).

Though I did manage to lose a noticeable amount of weight just from cutting dairy, eggs, and meat and making sure that I replaced it with fresh fruits and greens, I still had a thicker shape than what most people would assume a vegan would. And even though I exercised regularly in 2017, my shape kept up, even though I was a size or two smaller, which was perfectly fine with me given that I knew that I wasn’t going to be suffering with Diabetes in my young adulthood AND the fact that I was weighing in less than what I was in middle school, definitely helped. So, when I began telling people such as coworkers, family, friends, etc. that I was vegan, I always got a “Really?? Wow!……… Really?!” *Insert shocked facial expression*. After that, the conversation either proceeds, “well what made you do that?”, “How do you still have that shape?”, “You don’t look like you’re missing anything” or just a simple, “Good for you!” (which is my favorite because most time that means that the passive part of the conversation is over). The funniest question that I have received to date was, “I just want to know how your butt is still big” to which I responded, “Oh baby, I eat rice, pasta, potatoes, and sandwiches like it’s my job” (and then proceeded to list all of my favorite dishes in each category, to which I didn’t feel sorry for because she honestly brought it on herself). And I realized at that moment how secure I finally was with my body.

When I first went vegan, it was not easy. The only vegan cheese that was accessible and meltable, was Daiya and that was not in every store, and also had a noticeable aftertaste that I couldn’t get over. And not all of the meat replacements were that good. So I was being very experimental with my meals. Veganism and I were always on the first date. We went through this really awkward phase back when I was broke, had maybe $20 to work with at the local Giant. I was really nervous to make certain moves (meals), because I didn’t know how it would turn out. There were only two vegan restaurants in the vicinity at the time, and one of them wasn’t even fully vegan, it just had an incredibly lit selection of vegan Jamaican food (which I freaking LOVE) but of course, I rarely had enough cash for it. And when I did, I made myself work for it and walk from my house all the way up Georgia Avenue. But she and I stuck by each others side even though we were both pretty difficult at times. I have grown to love my diet and my body fully, and more importantly, I love what this diet has done for my body, inside and out. So I don’t take offense to the questions or comments due to the fact that I struggled with my body image for the majority of my life, and I am now in a place of peace with it within myself. My health and my body are in the best place that it has ever been in, and even though the transition of my diet and body is something that has worked for me in regards to my body image and improving my health overall, it may not be for everyone. My diet has improved many things about my well being, giving me the confidence to love myself and my body more than I ever have, but in retrospect, I was beautiful in different ways before I began changing my lifestyle, I just didn’t have the confidence to see it fully until now. I transitioned into veganism as I was transitioning into womanhood. Not the womanhood you go through as a teen and your body develops, but the womanhood that requires you to make serious, lifelong decisions and the full transition of everything has caused for my spirit to flourish significantly.

Although now I am seeing the different side to veganism now. We are now in the time where veganism is at it’s coolest. Not like 10 years ago when all we had was Tofu. Veganism is evolving to a point where we are unable to say that we’ll miss Eggs, Cheeseburgers, or Chicken Nuggets. You can literally go into whole foods and pick up plant-based chicken patties, nuggets, burgers, cheese slices, and ice cream, and have a vegan McDonalds Party at your apartment. You can even brush up on some cooking skills and make yourself a Jackfruit Seitan McRib Sandiwch while you’re at it (and the ice cream machine won’t be broken. Yes. I Said it.). There is no shortage of Beyond Burgers, Vegan Cheese, Vegan Nuggets, Vegan Eggs, Breads, Sugary Cereals, Sugar-Loaded Granola Bars, Pasta, Potatoes, etc. We’re in a time where people have to resist all of those temptations when they go vegan to lose weight. Going vegan is now TOO easy. And even though I manage to cut back on my portion sizes and sugar as well as increasing my fiber, due to some other internal issues, I actually ended up gaining weight, not long after I posted about my plan to drop a few pounds. And it has been my first major weight gain since I’ve been a vegan. But the weight gain didn’t stop me from posting all of the bikini pictures that I took while I was on the beach of St. Lucia. It didn’t even stop me from putting my bikini away altogether. The most beautiful thing is that I don’t feel insecure or less attractive with the extra pounds. Even when someone told me, “that vegan food is making you fat”, I was able to disregard it because there are only a few other things will give you thicker skin other than being a Dark-Skinned Vegan Black Woman that weighs over 160 in a society where Dark Skinned Black Women, Black Women, someone who does not weigh a size 0, Women in general, AND Vegans are shamed horrifically and that’s a fact.

I asked a dear friend of mine from college to write about her own experience being a beautiful full-figured vegan woman. As a little backstory, when she and I first met, neither of us had any interest in being vegan. As a matter of fact, I had her and a few other friends come over for Shrimp and Chicken Alfredo, orange chicken, cupcakes, pancakes, and more. It wasn’t until after I left the school that I started to transition. Around the same time I was a “Seagan”, her parents were also making some transitions so she took interest and not long after I became a vegan, she did as well. She is lowkey my soulmate, even though we haven’t seen each other in a while. While I was transitioning into my womanhood, she was present and I was able to grow from seeing how confident she was. Here’s what she had to say:

” I, myself, have always been a full-bodied woman, ever since I was a younger child. Of course, with that, I also had many self-esteem issues dealing with body image until I went to college and really found an appreciation for what this body does for me. I started my meatless transition being a vegetarian from July 2016 and became a full vegan in February 2018. My reasoning for this large transition started as a way for me to reduce my environmental impact on this planet, and slowly has shifted to many other reasons as well, like health for example. The transition out of meat alone helped me lose 10-15 pounds immediately, which of course boosted my confidence, and my body had a very similar reaction when I first went vegan, weight just fell off at first. I’m still a larger girl going from a size 18 pants to 14 with little to no consistent exercise. I have found that being vegan, even when my weight has spiked up, my body carries it differently than ever before, and it’s even less noticeable with any pounds I have gained. I am always striving to live a healthier life style, but being vegan helps me enjoy double cheeseburgers and fries with a little less guilt. You can always be healthy, happy, and full-bodied on a vegan diet, and that is beautiful. “

Whether I’m eating a salad loaded with kale, avocado, beans, and tomatoes, or a Double Beyond Burger with Violife Cheddar Cheese Slices, Ketchup and Mustard, with a basket of fries with more ketchup on the side and a boozy cookies and cream milkshake, being a vegan has become a part of my life and it is one of the most beautiful changes that I have ever made, whether I am 200 lbs or 150 lbs. The journey to self-love was not easy, and I still have a long way to go, but being a vegan was the healthiest outlet I could find and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. Veganism has been such a force in my life that it has fueled future career aspirations and I love the confidence that it has brought me. What I have realized throughout this process is not just women and young girls that have struggles with the way that they view themselves, but all people need to look inwards and find what they need to do, in order to gain the self love that they deserve to give themselves, and begin the process, because it is not over night. For me it was going vegan and getting my heart broken a few too many times. Whether it is changing your diet, getting a new job, seeing your family and friends more often, treating yourself to your favorite snack, taking a dance class on your free nights, or buying new clothes for yourself. The journey to self-love is never easy, and takes a lot of effort and concentration, but it is a journey that is well worth it. Invest in it. Invest in yourself.

   -”To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance”.

-Oscar Wilde

My Pre-Wedding “Get Yourself Together” Plan

Disclaimer: The Title can definitely be misleading, but it is not my wedding lol

Hello Loves! I have been completely incognito because my father is getting married next month on the beautiful Island of St. Lucia, and I will be serving as a bridesmaid, to which I feel the need to drop a few pounds (and save a few dollars) for. I decided in the middle of February that I was going to crack down on my fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, carbohydrate intake, and physical activity. I decided to organize my diet significantly since I’ll be on the beach in the Caribbean, living my best life.

First off, I usually don’t set goals when it comes to my weight control/loss, mainly due to the fact that it is incredibly easy to become consumed with staying on top of a scale to reach a number as opposed to getting to a size that you’re comfortable with visually, as well as actually being healthy. So I’ve organized my breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals despite having a hectic schedule. I work for a catering company, and getting there earlier in the morning, since some orders go out before the crack of dawn, there must be someone to troubleshoot, if there is an issue. Since that’s the case, sometimes I just skip breakfast, even though I try to make it a habit to keep a few boxes of maple brown sugar oatmeal at my desk. Since there is lunch provided, I usually end up just eating what is served, and since the main thing that I am able to consume is rice pilaf, rice and beans, potatoes, pasta or some type of vegetable soup, I eat a lot of it, and when I feel like it, I run over to Sweet and Natural and get a full meal that almost always includes vegan mac and cheese and at least one other carb. And for dinner, consuming anything that I come across at some of the amazing restaurants that I’ve posted, or something slight that I have at home, which may end up being heavy or greasy and consumed late in the evening. I realized that even though I’m vegan, my lifestyle isn’t completely healthy. If you keep up with my instagram stories, you’ll see that I cook and eat a lot of rich foods that include Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs, Chili, Beyond Cheeseburgers, Grilled Cheese, Funnel Cakes, Vegan Eggs (the JUST Egg is sooooooo amazing), Pancakes (which are very fluffy and sometimes include chocolate chips, or apples, and topped with organic pancake syrup as well as whipped cream when I’m feeling extra naughty), Sausages, French Toast, Cheesy Grits, Alfredo, and believe it or not, a lot more including desserts that I can’t even get into fully. Cooking full meals and not checking to make sure that there is a significant amount of fiber or balance in my meals, as well as eating out and living my best life, has contributed to my weight flat lining, to where it is now (don’t get me wrong, being a thick vegan is something that I love). So I listed my plan to whip myself into shape, not just for the wedding, but in general. Check it out!

Three Meals a Day that Include:

Breakfast:

  • One Drinkable Yogurt (I prefer Calfia Farms Strawberry Yogurt)
  • One Packet of Steel Cut Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal
  • 1 Granola Bar or Banana

Lunch:

  • One Kale and/or spinach salad with limited toppings and dressing. I try to include beans of some sort, falafel, and avocado.
  • Roasted Vegetables, with one serving of carbs (roasted potatoes, rice, beans, etc that have not been fried)
  • A piece of fruit on the side (an orange or fruit salad that includes grapes, strawberries, pineapples, and apples

Dinner:

  • Treat yourself as long as You include a workout at least three times a week.
  • If you can’t fit in a workout in your hectic schedule (which is almost always the deal in my case so I try to fit one in where I can), definitely don’t starve yourself or deprive yourself of a good dinner, but don’t eat anything that is loaded with sugar or carbs or snack after 8:00 pm (sneaking yourself a few bites of your so delicious salted caramel ice cream pint isn’t prohibited though).

When I workout, I always mix abdominal workouts with another part of my body. For example, I will do an ab and leg day, ab and arm/back day, or on days when I’m exhausted, I’ll do  ab and extended cardio or just cardio.

Three Workouts a Week that Include:

1 hour on the treadmill on the highest incline and a speed walking pace (for those nights you want to give it your all, but you’re just far too tired).

Warm Up:

30 minutes to 1 hour on the treadmill either on the highest incline, or a jog/running pace

15 minutes on the bicycle or stairmaster

Ab Workout:

2 sets of 10 crunches, and then increase when you feel comfortable

100 abdominal twists set to a moderate weight

100 abdominal crunches on machine

2 sets of abdominal crunches and then increase when you feel comfortable

2 sets of 10 hanging leg raises

2 sets of 10 twisted leg raises

Leg/Butt Workout:

1 set of 20 squats with 20 lb weights

2 sets of 10 leg presses (I don’t want to brag, but my record is 290)

2 sets of 20 leg extensions on each leg

1 set of 50 leg adductions

1 set of 50 leg abductions

Arm/Back Workout:

2 sets of 20 lateral pulldowns

50 chest presses

2 sets of 20 of cable triceps

2 sets of 20 bench presses at a moderate weight

It has definitely been a challenge keeping up with the plan, but challenges come with the territory of being an adult, and the thing about being a vegan who avoids soy for the most part, is that I already have a tremendous amount of discipline as is, so pushing my boundaries is not just something that I love to do, but I’m good at, as all vegans are. There is no stronger, more disciplined, ethical, or compassionate being than a vegan.

P.S.: I have made a deal with myself that as soon as the wedding comes and goes and I do a little bit more traveling, I will be treating myself to a dozen assorted vegan donuts from Sugar Shack (not all at once though lol).

Experiencing Sticky Rice, Pow Pow, and Noridojo

As many Natives to Washington, D.C. know, H Street has become a foodie’s heaven as there almost no type of food that doesn’t exist down that two mile strip. If you’re looking for Ethiopian, you got it. Burgers? You got it. Sushi? You got it. Pizza or Italian? There’s an abundance of that! Middle Eastern? Absolutely. Just a regular burger? Don’t even sweat it. Or if you’re just looking to go get drunk, there would be no doubt that you would be able to accomplish that while traveling down H Street. Within the past 4 years the number of vegan restaurants as well as Non-Vegan Restaurants with vegan options, on H Street alone expanded significantly. Sticky Rice, a Sushi restaurant with a separate vegan/vegetarian menu, has been open on H Street since I was in high school, and has made waves in the local Sushi and Vegan Sushi Community. But the creators of this creative and innovative sushi restaurant came up with the idea to open a fully plant-based bistro- style establishment featuring Asian Inspired Cuisine called Pow Pow just a few doors down, and it has changed the ways that vegans in this area approach buying Asian inspired cuisine. As if it couldn’t get any better, the two establishments developed a fully vegan Innovative and Creative Sushi Pop-Up that blows the minds of all of those that are able to snatch tickets before they so quickly sell out.

I heard about Sticky Rice from a friend back in 2014, but had rode past it on my way to school every morning, as I had to pass through H Street to get to Benning Road. . I was recently able to go and see what all of the rage was about. My friend and I walked in, were seated, and handed our menus to which I flip over to see a fully plant-based menu. I knew that I wanted to start with the garden balls which are shiitake mushroom, red pepper, cilantro, and rice in a tempura fried inari pocket drizzled with Vegan Eel Sauce. I sat in awe of how delicious it was just to start an amazing meal. I then ordered a Supa Roll which had Cucumber, Pineapple, and Vegan Tuna. That was the first roll that popped out at me, especially the “Vegan Tuna” part. In my personal opinion, that is the top sushi roll that they have (on the vegan menu at least). I followed it up with a Spicy Avocado which had Avocado, Vegan Cream Cheese, and Cucumber. Both rolls were covered with vegan caviar and served with Vegan Eel Sauce ad well as Vegan Cream Cheese and I was able to score an order of Vegan Tuna Nigiri. I was thoroughly pleased with the entire meal and realized that good Vegan Sushi is not as hard to find as some may have thought. Sticky Rice has been the catalyst for the growth of good and creative Vegan Asian Cuisine in Washington, D.C. It has shown itself to be what H Street/ DC needed to jumpstart the vegan food scene.

I heard about Pow Pow, a 100% Plant-Based Asian Cuisine Inspired Restaurant located just a few doors away from Sticky Rice, in September 2018, through Doordash, when I filtered down my options to only the vegan options. Now, I live in Southeast, DC, and the fact that there was a vegan Chinese was available to me was as beautiful thing to me as it was confusing. I scanned through their menu and noticed that everything that was listed was completely vegan, and I was shocked and amazed thinking to myself, “When did this open and How did I not Hear about this sooner??” I actually put ordering delivery from them on the back burner because I decided that I wanted to experience the restaurant as a whole. And when I finally decided to go, I had a complete and total blast.

From the moment my friend and I walked in, I was taken aback by the energy and the scenery. I proceeded to walk down the aisle to take an order (but not before I made my friend snap a cool picture of me), and saw their menu, to which I didn’t really need to look at because I did my research thoroughly and knew exactly what it was that I wanted. I proceeded to order the Natalie Porkman, which is Sweet and Sour Pork Seitan that is served with Black Quinoa and Rice, and a House Salad. My non-vegan foodie friend who accompanied me, got the General Tso’s Chicken which came with similar sides. She and I split the Disco Egg roll, which is similar to traditional egg rolls, except 5x the size, no exaggeration and 10x the taste. We both also got our own orders of the Chimi Chimi Pow Pow Egg Roll, which is vegan Nutella, and Banana in an egg roll, and drizzled with agave nectar and 5 spice (I attempted to place an order for the Taiwanese Fried Mozzarella Balls, but much to my dismay, they were all out. We ordered our food with the incredibly friendly cashier, and proceeded to wait for our food to be ready. In my personal opinion, it was better than the non-vegan alternatives, but that’s just me. My friend loved it just as much as I did and was amazed that she couldn’t tell the difference in the food, and that’s when I knew I wasn’t crazy and that their food was amazing to all who walked through their doors, both vegan and non-vegan. As I was leaving, I noticed a rotating light that was Pow Pow’s logo, which made leaving unforgettable. I’ve picked up food and ordered delivery from them several times since the first time that I’ve gone because I’m literally hooked and I’ve successfully been able to get friends of mine to be equally hooked. I definitely recommend this one of a kind establishment.

Not long after I found out about Pow Pow, I learned that a beautiful secret love child made from Pow Pow and Sticky Rice was in the oven and it’s name is Noridojo. Unfortunately I was not able to get tickets to the first pop-up (because tickets go incredibly fast), but I was able to snag tickets to the second ever Noridojo Sushi Pop-Up on February 5th. I was able to experience how vegan chefs are pushing boundaries and making foods that are identical and slightly better than the non-vegan alternatives. Now, a good portion of the reason as to why it took me to long to become a vegan was me not being able to get legitimate sushi replacements, but Noridojo has made it so nobody has to miss a thing.

My friend and I entered Sticky Fingers, an amaaaaazing vegan bakery located in Columbia Heights, the establishment where the event was hosted and we were offered ginger pear cocktails upon arrival while we waiting to be seated. We were presented with our pre-set menu and proceeded to get our food as they were brought out one by one. Our first course included a “crab” roll that was served with melted butter for dipping and tasted so much like actual crab that I almost came close to shedding a tear because my DMV upbringing included mountains of crabs (I became the crab cracking princess at 8 years old), and I was starting to miss it a lot. We were then served with two completely amazing and mind blowing Nori Tacos (nori sheets fried hard in tempura batter into taco shell shape…… I know who would’ve thought??). One had Seitan Bulgogi and another had Vegan Tuna Poke.One hot, one cold, but both were topped with slaw and absolutely mouthwatering.The seitan bulgogi was legit, but the tuna poke was perfect to the point where I was questioning if I had purchased tickets to a VEGAN sushi pop-up. The creativity in that dish specifically puts them on the next level of culinary excellence. That was followed with a seaweed salad to hold us over until I could feast my eyes on the one thing that I’ve been waiting on, VEGAN EEL! The “OG’s” were presented to us which were Vegan Eel and Cucumber, Spicy Tuna and and Cucumber, and Spicy Crab and Avocado. Those three rolls had the perfect flavor, texture, and even smell. I was in love with how the rolls made me feel as though I never had to give up sushi in the first place.

As if it couldn’t get any better from vegan Spicy Tuna AND Eel rolls, we were then presented with Vegan Unagi Donburi, which was Eggplant Eel over a small bed of Sushi Rice and accompanied with Japanese Pickles. Although I could tell that it was Eel, it still had the perfect taste. As crazy as it sounds, we still had more food to be served. They gave us a taste of Cashew Mozzarella topped with Sliced Beets to hold us over until we were given our next taste. Soon we were given Colonel Mustard which was Ninjin (Sliced Marinated Carrots) wrapped Beef Seitan with Mustard Sauce which was served perfectly. The Ninjin was cold, and the Beef Seitan was fresh off of the grill, in addition to the flavors of the ninjin and Beef Seitan being perfectly complimentary towards each other.  And for our last taste, we were given King Kinoko and Zen Zen rolls. King Kinoko was a Tempura Fried King Mushroom, Avocado, and Cashew Mozzarella Roll which was actually perfect because it is definitely difficult to find good vegan tempura rolls. Zen Zen was Asparagus, Shredded Tofu, and Avocado topped with Sliced Beet, and it was a nice subtle way to end the meal. For Dessert, we were then given Hong Kong Challah Bread lined with Red Bean Paste and served with Sweet Dipping Sauce, which was the perfect way to end

All in all, I applaud Noridojo for their ability to replicate Vegan Sushi to their Non-Vegan Alternatives and throw a creative spin on it. Them as well as Sticky Rice and Pow Pow have broken the barriers for Vegan Sushi and Traditional Asian food throughout the DC Area. The unrivaled creativity, impeccable replications, explosions of flavors, and these businesses giving you the opportunity to say that it is all vegan are qualities that make these establishments an unforgettable experience the moment that you enter.

My Recipe for Creamy Cashew Cheese Kale Dip/Spread

Now, there’s a little backstory to this recipe. It was 2017 and I was experimenting with several recipes because at the time, every time I saw a recipe, I said to myself, “I know I can make that”. One day I purchased a large container of cashews, which happens to be the base for several vegan recipes and went back home and made Seitan Jackfruit BBQ ribs and Cashew Mac and Cheese.

2017 Throwback before Portrait Mode or Pretty Plates

It came out so good that I was looking for the next seitan and cashew recipes I could make. A few days later, I decided to soak cashews and I figured I was going to find a recipe by the time they were done soaking. But I ended up getting incredibly busy and wasn’t able to make anything for days because I was out of the house before the sun came up and home long after it went down. So instead of soaking overnight, then soaked for 3 nights. I finally caught a spare moment and was finally able to use it. I decided I was going to make my own recipe for a dip, and when I tried it, I got a pleasant surprise to find out that the overly soaked cashews had slightly fermented and created a tangy flavor that was complimentary to the savory flavor and tasted like a real cheese dip. I figured out how to get a similar flavor without the fermentation. Check it out!

My Overly Photo Edited Original Cashew Dip from 2017
  • 2 cups of Cashews Soaked Overnight or Boiled for 30 minutes
  • 1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 Tbsp Pure Raw Apple Cider Vinegar or Juice from 1 Lemon (Optional)
  • 1 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
  • 1 Clove of Garlic or 2 tsp of Minced Garlic
  • 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 cup of Washed Kale
  • Salt to Taste
  • 1 1/2 cups of Water; Add to desired thickness

Instructions:

  1. Soak or boil your cashews until soft
  2. Mince your clove of garlic and wash your kale
  3. In a pan raised to medium heat, add olive oil, minced garlic, and kale and saute.
  4. Take your softened Cashews, Nutritional Yeast, Black Pepper, Salt, Lemon Juice or Apple Cider Vinegar, and Water, and blend until completely smooth.
  5. Add your Sauteed Garlic Kale and fold into Cashew Dip
  6. Enjoy with Chips, Crackers, or even as a spread on a sandwich!
My Fresh Kale, Smashed Avocado, and Cashew Cheese Dip/Spread Sammy

My Appreciation for NuVegan Cafe and Everlasting Life

NuVegan Cafe and Everlasting Life are the most heard of and loved vegan restaurants in the entire DMV area. The original store located right near the heart of Georgia Ave North West, has assisted many people with creating a love for vegan food by revolutionizing what we know as “Soul Food”. No matter what, if you live in Washington, D.C. or Maryland, or Virginia, and you say you’re a vegan, the first question that someone is going to ask is, “Have you been to Nuvegan Cafe on Georgia Ave” and my response without hesitation is always yes, but I really want to say, I’ve been going there when they were still Everlasting Life back in 2012.  It has been one of the best parts of living in the city, and has served as a reason as to why I felt safe transitioning into full veganism. It is a place that is versatile to non-vegans, vegans, and even raw vegans. Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, and Drake are just a few bigger names that can swear by their amazing cuisine that has taken a healthier and more wholesome twist on soul food.

In 2012, while I was transitioning from my sophomore to Junior Year in High School, I heard a friend my my church talking about her and her family fasting and they would get food from Everlasting Life when it broke. The first time I heard her mention it, I had no idea that they served vegan food, but I knew that whatever she had, smelled amazing after she opened her plate. A few months after that, my sister asked me if I wanted something from an all vegan restaurant called Everlasting Life, and I agreed without hesitation. She and I drove over and I decided to get a Steak and Cheese with Fries and Cinnamon Bun. The smell was driving me crazy while she and I were driving back home, so I knew that it was going to be a breathtaking meal. When I got back home and finally dug into it, I was perplexed. At the time I was a pescatarian and open to meat alternatives, but I had no idea that vegan food and desserts could be that good, as I was a part of the uninformed crowd at the time. The next time that I went there, I had the fried drumsticks and the vegan mac and cheese as a side and it changed my life. Now, the drumsticks were amazing and gave me the sensation that I was actually munching on a real chicken wing. But the mac and cheese hit my soul. I had no idea that something that didn’t actually taste like cheese would actually be able to successfully remind of traditional macaroni and cheese. I thought that it was the creamiest, and most savory version of macaroni and cheese to a point where I began to prefer it to non-vegan mac and cheese. And any time I went there, I always made sure that the vegan mac and cheese made it onto my plate, and if they didn’t have it ready at the time of my arrival, I waited for them to make more. I soon fell in love with their vegan brunch. Which again, was a first for me.

Not long after I fell in love with them, they changed their name to Woodlands Vegan Bistro. And then a separate Everlasting Life (which has since kept its name) in Capitol Heights opened shortly after that, still serving vegan soul food and Brunch on the weekends. They were the first restaurant in this area to introduce the Soy-Free Cashew Mac and Cheese and quite a few more soy-free options as entrees that turned out to be amazing. After I moved out to Landover, I had more opportunities to visit this location and fall in love with it since it was right down the road from me. I discovered their Maple Curry Drummies which happen to be amazing. Around this same time, Woodland’s Vegan Bistro became NuVegan Cafe and it stuck. I was ecstatic because I knew that it was going to be the last name change, and I was not able to keep up. And soon enough, a location popped up in College Park, Maryland under NuVegan and I was ecstatic that they chose to turn it into a chain.

I love that they opened Nuvegan in College Park because it not only caters to a new area of Prince George’s county that is not near Everlasting life, but it being located close to University of Maryland, caters to the population of college students and exposes the lifestyle to those who are not native to this area. Personally, I believe that Everlasting Life being open in Capitol Heights and staying open for so long shows that they successfully filled a void for vegans, vegetarians, and health conscious people, as well as skeptics alike. I think the action of having a vegan restaurant in that area is amazing because they took an opportunity to expose minorities in this area to Vegan Soul Food and Show us that it can be just as good as their non-vegan alternatives. Now, NuVegan has a location in Richmond Virginia, and Everlasting Life has locations in Takoma Park, and Anacostia inside of Anacostia Arts Center which is also available through Uber Eats.

Like I said before, these establishments has not only given vegans a place to get amazing food, but has provided natives in this area to healthier, guilt-free alternatives, by revolutionizing comfort foods so none of us can say that we miss mac and cheese or chicken wings. 20-30 years ago, we would not be able to say that we’re heading over to a vegan soul food spot, and because these establishments have given us the chance to utter those words so comfortably, they are deeply loved throughout the DMV and appreciated by all who walk into their doors.

Start the New Year off Right with these Vegan Groceries.

It’s finally 2019 and it’s time to get serious about finding good vegan options in the area that will make being vegan incredibly easy. This past week, I had an amazing time finding new vegan options. I went to Wegman’s, one of the top grocery stores in the DMV in my personal opinion, Whole Foods, the world’s top organic grocery store, and a random liquor store to pick up a new gem. When I was at Whole Foods, I was able to snag Sushi made with Vegan Tuna Sashimi. Yes, you read that correctly. Vegan. Tuna. Sashimi. While I was shopping at Wegman’s, I picked up Breyer’s Cookies and Cream Ice Cream, (my all time favorite), Beyond Burgers and Hot Italian Sausages, the new Daiya American Cheese, the new Daiya Santa Fe Burrito, Daiya Vegan Pepperoni Pizza, Daiya Strawberry Cream Cheese, and Hilary’s Maple Breakfast Sausage. While I casually rolled over to a nearby liquor store, I was able to get my hands on Bailey’s Almande (their new Almond Milk Liqueur), and I can easily say that I have spent my hard earned money very well on these products. Below is a full description of everything I had and what I did with it.

I was meeting a few friends over at the Whole Foods located on H Street NW, and since I was hungry, the natural instinct was to look for something to eat. I was particularly excited to come to this location because I knew that they carried Ahimi Vegan Tuna Sashimi. When I first came across it, I knew I had to try it because something that I struggled with before going full vegan was giving up fish sushi and sashimi. So as soon as I saw the words, “Ahimi Tomato Tuna”, my face lit up, and as I picked it up, it was as if I was holding gold in my hands. I rush to their bar/ lounging area (after purchasing of course), and cracked it open before I was able to sit down fully, because I was just that excited. My first thought was that it tasted identical to actual tuna sashimi. Though I could tell that I was eating tomato, the texture was as similar as it could be to actual tuna sashimi. I Highly Recommend.

Back a few years ago, I tried Daiya Cream Cheese for the first time when I was working on going vegan. I purchased both plain and strawberry cream cheese spread. Unfortunately, I was not a fan and would actively not purchase it because it had a taste that I was not pleased with in addition to it being a little too thick. A few weeks ago, I was in the grocery store, and something told me to look over at the strawberry cream cheese, to which I did and saw the words, “new and improved” and so I knew that I had to see if it was true. When I got back home, I couldn’t wait to break it open to see if it was really improved. To my surprise, it was perfect and it tasted like traditional cream cheese made from dairy with the same taste and texture. I was ecstatic to have it because one of my favorite past times includes strawberry cream cheese and bagels. I Highly Recommend.

Next I tried Hilary’s Apple Maple Vegan Sausage (Not Pictured). I loved the flavor but was not a huge of the texture as it was similar to a mushy falafel or soft veggie burger. I do recommend for those that would not mind the soft texture.

I had the Daisy Santa Fe Microwavable Burrito and I was incredibly pleased. I was particularly interested because I have not had a beef and cheese microwavable burrito in what feels like decades. It was the perfect replication of a beef burrito. It is also soy-free as well as gluten-free which makes it perfect. I Definitely Recommend.

Next I made the Beyond Burger with Daiya American Cheese slices. Although I have had the Beyond Burger before and know that it lives up to and way past the hype, I never had it with the Daiya Soy-Free American Slices which are actually new. Of course I threw it on vegan sandwich bread (because a vegan hamburger bun was no where to be found in the store, so I won’t even bother posting a picture of it), topped it with some ketchup, and enjoyed the Perfect Vegan Cheese Burger. (I’ll be looking for vegan , soy-free bacon to take this up a notch) I Highly Recommend.

Along with my burger I had Beyond Hot Italian Sausages for the first time, which really didn’t need anything with it. As a kid, I always loved Bratwurst and Italian Sausages and didn’t know if I would be able to find a good enough replacement but as you can see from the grease and bubble on the picture, you can hardly tell the difference in taste and texture. I topped it off on a vegan, low-carb hot dog bun, and enjoyed it to the end. I Highly Recommend.

I tried Daiya’s vegan, soy-free, gluten-free Pepperoni Pizza for the first time. It was perfect. Enough Said. I Highly Recommend.

And Lastly for Dessert, I made vegan boozy milkshakes. Initially, I just grabbed my favorite ice cream, Breyer’s Almond Milk Cookies and Cream Ice Cream with no intention of doing anything else with it. Since I was in Prince George’s County, I had a random idea to look for Bailey’s Almande since I had such a successful day with finding new vegan foods that were UH-MAZING. I pulled up to the first liquor store that I came across and found it almost immediately. I was ecstatic. I went home and combined my ice cream and almond milk liqueur, and added a little bit of extra Jameson to give it the kick that it needed. I let my dad try it since I was staying with him, and he said he didn’t want to drink the whole thing because it was too rich (and he’s trying to stay in shape for his upcoming wedding), but he soon gave in and asked for his own cup. I didn’t have anything fancy to garnish it with, but if I did, I’ll definitely be using Reddi Wip’s Coconut Milk Whipped Cream as well as crushed oreo cookies. Needless to say, it was perfect. I Highly Recommend Both Products.

Sunrise Caribbean Restaurant

                                                                                            5/5

Sunrise Caribbean Restaurant is not only an amazing restaurant that is filled with the same familiar faces, it’s a small piece of my life because it was a part of my transition from being a young adult to an adult. I’ve seen them from their Station in Union Station, to their Stand in DC Veg Fest, and grow into their Brick and Mortar Establishment located near the heart of Georgia Avenue. Their bright colored sign, amazing tasting vegan and non-vegan food that put you into proud and happy food comas, fresh pressed juices, and wellness tips are just a few of the things that make this your go-to Caribbean Restaurant.

From the time that I was a young girl I have been exposed to multiple cultures and their foods. Being that my father is of Caribbean Descent, one of our go-to take out options was always Caribbean food. I grew up down the street from a Negril, which is the best chain of restaurants that contain Caribbean food in my personal opinion. I grew to fall in love with curry chicken, goat, and shrimp, jerk chicken, stewed chicken, and oxtail as well as patties, rice and beans and coco bread as a result of being able to have Negril and other Caribbean restaurants in my area. I had the perfect the opportunity helped to develop my love for spicy food and trying new things. As I got older, I began going out of my way to find the best Caribbean food in the area. I soon found out that if you wanted good Caribbean food, you had to go to a hole in the wall that was not a chain. Because the chains are good, but the taste of the food was no where near that of a restaurant that was its own small business. So when I was a teenager living in the city, I was incredibly independent because of my ability to take the train and bus everywhere, so one day after school, I was at Union Station, and my love for Caribbean food Exploded.

After school on Fridays, my best friend and I would always go to Union Station because our boyfriends at the time were on the football team, and we couldn’t just hang around the school for 4 hours, so we would kill time by shopping with the extra $10 or $15 in our pockets, and getting something to eat. One day we were in the food court and I was looking hard for something to eat. Now at this time, I was a pescatarian and I wasn’t in the mood for Chipotle, which is always my go-to, so I was at a loss about what I could eat. My friend, who is addicted to orange chicken, simply went to a Chinese Food Station, while I spent around up to 10 minutes walking around the food court. I soon,  saw a sign that read “Sunrise Caribbean Cafe”  with a sun above it. I then saw that their menu included “Vegan Jerk Chicken, Vegan Curry Chicken, Vegan BBQ Steak, Vegan Stew Chicken, Vegan Sweet and Sour Pineapples Steak, Vegan Stir-Fry, and Vegan Mac and Cheese” and in all honesty, I was sold at the “Vegan Jerk Chicken”. And of course it said other things, but I wasn’t thinking about all that. So I ordered the Jerk Chicken, Rice and beans, and the Regular Mac and Cheese (honestly I was a punk, and since I wasn’t a vegan, I didn’t see the need to have the Regular Mac and Cheese if my diet didn’t require for me to do so). Since I had never been to a place that had a separate vegan menu, especially for Caribbean food, I was ecstatic to try it out. When I had it for the first time, and tasted the perfect and authentic Jerk Seasoning, And not the jerk that Negril would make, but the Jerk that my father and sister would make, and I fell in love.

Every single Friday after that for the remainder of high school football season, I got a plate from them. I rotated between the Jerk, Curry, Pineapple Steak, and BBQ Steak and NEVER got the vegan mac and cheese. I even got laughed at by the owner for ordering all of the vegan food and not the vegan mac and cheese. I started telling everyone that I knew about this place, especially their Macaroni and Cheese because it is simply on another planet. But the only person that showed to be interested was my mother. So one day, we went over and I grabbed the Jerk Chicken and she got Curry Chicken and took our plates to go. Now, I forgot to grab something to drink while I was there and I realized after I started eating. Not because I was thirsty, but because the jerk seasoning was purely authentic and purely spicy. So I’m eating my delicious Jerk Chicken in my mom’s car with my nose running, my eyes are watering, and I’m coughing a lot more than I would want to, especially since I’m someone who literally laughs at the idea of someone telling me that something is spicy. Most people would ask, “why wouldn’t you just stop eating?” And my answer is, “it was just too good to stop”.  

After my senior year was over, and I went to college in South Carolina, I had severe withdrawals because there was a cultural food drought where I was. So I had to travel miles for good (and incredibly expensive) Thai Food and Sushi. No Indian. No Caribbean. Definitely no African Cuisine in the slightest. I was surrounded by Jimmy Johns, Cheesesteaks, and sub par, takeout Hibachi Restaurants. So I knew where one of my main stops was going to be when I came back home for break. When I was done with school, I made it my business to patronize them consistently. When I got my braces, I went to them to celebrate, and it was then that I tried their amazingly creamy, savory and delicious Vegan Macaroni and Cheese. And to this day, on the times that I do allow for myself to consume soy, I make sure it’s with them and their Mac and Cheese. Side Note: You may have some reservations about vegetables being in your Macaroni and Cheese, but I promise, they will make you lean towards it for sure. When I got my learners permit and wanted to celebrate with them. When I went to DC Veg fest, I got myself a hefty plate to take home (and yes they pack those plates). Even when I got my braces tightened, I suffered through some of the most agonizing pain to eat their delicious food (Again, it was too good for me to just not eat). And when I signed the lease on my first apartment, I went to grab a plate from them to celebrate with my younger brother who has grown to love them ALMOST as much as I do.

As their business has grown, I have grown. They have become a favorite restaurant to my family. Especially my younger brother who absolutely loves their beef patties. The same tall gentleman with long dreadlocks who served me when I was 17, serves me now at 23. And the same sweet woman who makes the magic happen in the back, also serves me to this day. And I will say, I know that their food saves lives because no one there has aged a day and I’ve been going there for 6 years. They have the type of food in their establishment that make it hard to make it all the way home without touching it because the smell is far too enticing. And their food will have you coming back time and time again. The music playing throughout the store, the smell of the food, the Fresh Sorrel and Ginger Juices, and the calming energy given from the staff, will have you all in the foodie feels (Vegan and Non-Vegan).