Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The North End

So I met a friend and we ventured into the North End for lunch. Middle of the week and off hours (like 2:00 p.m. on a Wednesday). Unfortunately, my favorite vegan-friendly restaurant was closed. They only do dinner during the week. Too bad, they were so accommodating when I visited them a while back, they are always my first choice. Check them out:   Ristorante Damiano

So we walked and talked and looked at menus until I found one that looked like it could be tweaked to accommodate a vegan diner. We went in, and I explained to the first waiter I saw that I was vegan and wondered if any of his pastas didn't contain egg. "Oh no, you will not be able to find that in the North End! All semolina pastas have egg." (Clearly he has never eaten at Ristorante Damiano where they care about their customers.) I bit my tongue, and didn't mention that I had already had vegan pasta in the North End, not to mention from Trader Joe's (imported from Italy) and Stop and Shop/Market Basket/etc. from right here in the USA. (Sadly, I can't remember the name of this restaurant, because I would love to ask you NOT to patron them simply because of their attitude!)

We continued on and ended up at Cantina Italiana which at first seemed promising. Again, I asked told my story to the first person we met. She said that she knew that the rigatoni, the penne and something else didn't contain egg. But the waitress next to her had to jump in and say, "No this is the North End, you can't get anything like that here!" My blood starting to boil again, but not wanting to embarass my friend, I turn toward the first waitress and ask about the pizza dough. She says she'll check and goes away, and two new people appear. A sloppy looking little man, who appears to be a chef, and a woman, who may be the hostess or the manager, not sure. The woman says, "You are looking for a vegan restaurant?" To which I reply, "No. Just some vegan options in your restaurant. My friend is not vegan." The phone rings and she answers it; meanwhile the man says, "This is the North End, there are no vegan restaurants here." Now I am mad. I start to argue with him that I am not looking for a vegan restaurant just some vegan options. The woman gets off the phone and after we go round and round, my friend and I decide to stay, because I didn't feel like having to have this same argument many times over. Luckily the first woman is our waitress, and she is the only one who seems a) to know her stuff and b) to care about pleasing, not losing, a customer. Our meals were both very tasty (even though mine was "boring" according to the waitress.) And the company was good, so we concentrated on that and let the dispute be gone. But, I left the restaurant with a very bad feeling about the North End.

My friend wanted to buy pasta at DePasquale's Homemade Pasta Shoppe in the North End on the way back to the T, so we stopped in. I was going to ask if they had any that didn't contain eggs, but guess what? They had two, count 'em two, packages of raviolis marked, get the North End...where "you can't get that..." I grabbed one of each, even though they were pricey and thanked the man, explaining what I had been told. "All of my short pasta is vegan." So, I got some of that, too. Can't wait to try it! I would definitely go back there---he appreciated his customers and was very accommodating!

Is it me? Are customers a dime a dozen that you can afford to offend one by making sweeping generalizations instead of trying to find a way you can meet their needs? Perhaps it's my age, but I am now realizing that I need to speak with my wallet, not my mouth. Next time, we might have to walk a little further to find the Damiano's and DePasquale's because they do exist.

Bon Giorno!

It's Planting Season!

We now come to the most exciting part of the year, and the most work: planting season! It's funny how my 3 worlds collide during this time:

Yesterday, I planted asparagus (the gardening world), perhaps my favorite vegetable of all time! (That's the vegan world). I dug a massive trench and filled it with my very own home-made compost and watered it with rainwater from the rain barrel (the green world). Now, all I need is someone, who will still know me in 5 years to remind me of all this hard work, when I am finally able to reap the benefits!

We now have a vegan makeup store in Metrowest! It is called the All Natural Face, and the owner makes all of her own makeup. It is located in Framingham, but she also has a web-based business. (

Here is a disgusting fact that she told me: the ingredient carmine (in food or makeup, by the way) is actually ground up cockroaches! Disgusting!

Vegan activities this week - Worcester Veg Fest and Worcester vegan meetup at Belmont Vegetarian (which was yummy).

Green activities this week - Conservationist Group "sealed" my house, and I installed gaskets around most of my outlets---need to get more, ran out.

Gardening activities predominated the week - cleaned out the strawberries (they are looking good), planted outside (broccoli, spinach, shallots, radish, potatoes), took the mulch off the garlic, which is up in a big way. And, installed 35+ pinwheels all around the garden. This year I am waging war with my little groundhog friend: NO VACANCY! Also, went to a seminar on dirt at Harvey's Garden Center and learned that we don't need to water much---good to know. He said the average plant needs 1 inch of water per week and that here in New England, we are almost perfect that way. So, save yourself some work and leave the hose alone most of the time!

Happy Planting, Pruning, & Weeding!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

So Much for Re-emergence!

Okay, so I admit it; student teaching took its toll on me. I was pretty much out of commission for normal life for the whole month of March. But I'm baaaack, and even though it snowed yesterday as a cruel April Fool's joke, I am energized to begin a new planting season!

I learned about the MassSave program through my electric company, NStar, and I had a home energy audit. Getting the people to show up on the right date at the right time was a pain, but the process was worth it. The man who performed the tests said that you may have one once a year. He filled any empty light sockets I had with CFL bulbs and replaced any incandescent bulbs with CFL's. Of course, I had already done that, so my total was only 3. But, I won't buy them any more, because they can come once a year and they give you the bulbs for FREE (the price is right!)
I am also back to my schools, so this week, I was able to walk to school two days and ride my bike one day. I intend to diminish the use of my car as much as possible now that the weather is turning (although that snow through me for a loop!) Besides it being better for the environment, it cost me $50 to fill my tank last week; that is insane. I also got a hold of a Consumer Reports from a friend of mine and will be researching the most green vehicles. So, stay tuned!

I ate a Red Lentil in Watertown last week, and I must rave about the desserts. I had raspberry cheesecake; it was to die for! I also bought one to go: chocolate, blueberry cake. It was yummy too. The meal was good too, although I like True Bistro in Somerville better, I think. (Only been once, so jury is still out.)

I have been making smoothies for breakfast the past month, so that I could drink them in the car on my long ride to student teaching. Here are two of my favorite concoctions (Note: I didn't really measure anything, so am just guessing):

Banana Blueberry Smoothie
1 room temperature banana
1/2 - 1 cup of frozen blueberries
cinnamon to taste (I use a lot, maybe even 1 T)
2 T ground flax seeds
1-2 cups kale or spinach
1 cup Soy or Almond milk

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
1 frozen banana  (I peel, and freeze it in three sections)
1-2 T peanut butter
2-3 T cocoa powder
1 t cinnamon to taste (it goes in everything for me! You could omit it.)
2 T ground flax seeds
1-2 cups kale or spinach
1 cup Soy or Almond milk

I think if you want a thinner consistency, you could use milk instead of water. Also, I learned through this process that there is no right way, and that I don't really need a recipe to make these. Just use whatever ingredients you like and play with the amounts until you get just the taste you want. Remember to write it down if you want to recreate it.

At this time last year, I would have already planted the onions, leeks, scallions and radishes outside and this weekend last year I also planted the potatoes, spinach, and broccoli outside. Fat chance of that today, since the snow is still covering the ground. Maybe by tomorrow, I can clear a section and at least get the onions in. Last year they didn't have a long enough growing season. This year I am going to put them in a raised bed so that I could possibly extend the season by making a pseudo cold frame. Also, last year this weekend I planted a lot of herbs in the garage, and some stuff inside. 

Last year, I calculated seeding dates based on the Farmers Almanac and a May 10th last frost, but I decide to push my dates back two weeks this year, and base all seed dates on Memorial Day. For one, it is more practical to transplant on that weekend, and for another, last year a lot of them stretch while inside and burnt up once I put them out, and then had to recover from that.

The strawberries are looking good, I think. I had covered them with raked leaves last fall for a protection from the winter weather. I planned to rake them off this weekend, but some are peeking through and they look healthy! Yeah---I had started 2 years ago with 8 plants and this year have 131---so worth all the work last fall separating and transplanting them. I hope I get a good yield to make smooties and desserts with!

The garlic is sending up shoots through the 6 inches of hay that is covering it. The hay is hard too, so I wasn't sure what to do about it. It's a good thing I saw the shoots, because I was going to rake it. Now I will be careful not to do damage.

I also cleaned out the raspberry patch, and removed a few more stalks, and transplanted them elsewhere in the yard. They may not grow, but if they do, yippee! I think between the fall and now, I have transplanted at least 13-15 plants. I will keep you posted!

That's all for now...sorry to be so long winded. That's what happens when I take a month off of writing!

Happy Spring!

Saturday, February 26, 2011


So, life got the better of me, and I haven't been good about writing. But, take two...

I definitely have the winter doldrums. I couldn't walk to work at all in February, and only twice in January---so much for saving the planet that way. And, March marks my student teaching, so I will have to drive there as well. BUT, spring is just around the corner, and so I plan to make new strides. Between walking to school and training for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (My Avon Walk page), I plan to hang up my keys as soon as the weather gets better. In the meantime, I have been sorting and saving plastic, aluminum, etc. in hopes of learning where I can recycle them.

Found another vegan gem. Trader Joe's Vegetable Gyozas in the frozen food section are incredibly yummy! Get or make a dipping sauce for them. They are really easy to cook and all my non-vegan party guests really enjoyed them. Bummer: Cupcake wine that was previously listed on as vegan is now listed as non-vegan. But, Fish Eye is vegan and I tried the white, and it was pretty good. And lastly, I made two recipes that came out terrific. The first was pancakes:

The first time I made it, I used almond milk and they were good, the second time I made them I used soy milk, and they were terrific! I cut the recipe in half, don't know if that makes a difference.

I also used a modified Tollhouse cookie recipe:

I used Trader Joe's chocolate chips, Earth Balance butter, Ener-G egg replacer. These came out great and were very addictive!

Today I broke out the calendar to start plotting potential plant dates on it. And I am happy to say, gardening season is just around the corner. Happily, some of the snow has melted so that I can actually see the fence around the garden and the tips of the raspberry plants. Most of the raised beds are still buried and I can't see the blueberries, but hopefully, the weather is turning around. This year I am going to start a lot of things inside because I think they could have used a longer growing season. (I will let you know how this works out since it is opposite of what the directions say to do.) I am looking forward to planting season, and am using this winter time to research pest prevention. I figure being proactive could make my life a lot easier in the spring/summer when I will have to wage war with bugs, bunnies and the groundhog. As soon as the weather permits, I will start putting the used kitty litter (no solids) under the shed as a No Vacancy sign for the groundhog; that seemed to work fairly well last year. Oh, and I got a real scarecrow, through Freecycle, to help out with the crows.

Thanks for reading; I'll write once a week from now on. No promises, but...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

This Week in Review

Lots to share from this week's activities:

One of my new year's resolution was to walk 10,000 steps/day. I chose this goal for many reasons: health, being more green, training for the Avon Walk. This week, I reached my goal all but 2 days. I walked to school (2 miles) and back 3 of the days. On those days, my car was off the road. I also walked to several errands. My challenge to you: Try to do just one errand on foot. It can be quite easy, healthful, and helpful to the Earth!

Yesterday, I made vegan donuts! It was so nice to be able to have a donut! I haven't had any since becoming vegan. Not that that is a bad thing, since they are really not good for me anyway, but once in awhile... Here is a link to the recipe, along with many other great recipes:

I didn't frost them, but instead rolled them in cinnamon and sugar. Yum! 

One other recommendation I have is for a frozen food product:
Vegetarian Plus Vegan Black Pepper Steaks
Okay, so it's backwards, but it gives you an idea of what the package looks like. I think I bought it in Whole Foods, but it could have been Stop and Shop. They were delicious!!!!! The texture was good, and unlike meat, it had no grissle nor fat. The sauce was so yummy; I even used my veggies to soak up every last drop! I would even serve these to my non-vegan friends.

Tonight I made fresh butternut squash from the garden! I still have one more left. How cool is that in the middle of winter! Remind me of this next year when I am complaining about all the work the garden is. I also remembered to put the potatoes, that were left at the end of the season and have been sitting in paper bags in my garage, into a box and cover them with sand. Perhaps they will be seed potatoes for next year's crop, and maybe not, but at least I tried!

Disney World, Here I Come!

Now, how could that have anything to do with being a green, vegan gardener, you ask? Well...

The most green option for travel to Disney is probably air travel, but I just couldn't do it, so Amtrak it is. It is both quicker and greener than driving.

And, research has proven that Disney can accommodate vegans. They now offer Rice Dream and Tofutti at the ice cream concessions! They have vegan cookies called Divvies at the parks. And, there is a fantastic chef, Chef T. J., at Ohana in the Polynesian Hotel who prepares a vegan feast!

Lastly, the garden...Well, that was probably the hardest part. I had to arrange a garden sitter, well, really a cat sitter that can also watch the garden. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

This year, in an effort to help others save time, I am going to try to blog about three things that I have become passionate about: being "green", living a vegan life, and becoming more self-sufficient through gardening. I plan to offer stories about my successes and failures in these three ventures and present little tips and tricks that I think could prove useful to others.

"Green" Tip: I have just discovered Freecycle. It is a wonderful online community for turning one person's junk into another person's treasure. I have used it this week to help clean out my garage and shed, and am so happy that my items are not only NOT going into a landfill, but that someone else is being able to use them and get joy from that!

Vegan Tip: Last night, I made vegan Rice Krispie squares, and they came out great. I used the Kellogg's recipe, left-over margarine from Christmas cookie baking (not Earth Balance, just something cheap and vegan I got at Stop and Shop---next batch will be with Earth Balance, though.) I did not use Rice Krispies, but instead used Erewhon Organic Crispy Brown Rice, and I used Dandies Marshmallows. I got both the cereal and marshmallows at Whole Foods Market. It took a long time for the marshmallows to melt, but perhaps I was just a little impatient because I had a friend coming over and wanted to finish before she got here. Both I & she thought they tasted great.

Gardening: I got nothing. (December was a vacation from the garden month.) But, stay tuned. Soon I will be preparing for next year's crop.

Happy New Year! I hope you found this information helpful!