While we’re on the subject…a Vegan Restaurant Finder App!

In my most recent blog entry, I told you about accidentally eating some cheese when I went to dinner at a regular restaurant with omnivore friends. In this day and age, with all the world’s information literally at our fingertips, that really never has to happen. There’s an app for that! The Happy Cow is a vegan restaurant finder app (and website), that shows you the nearest vegan options to you based on your location. It is free, and super easy to use!vegan restaurant app

It’s available in Google Play as well as the Apple App Store!

vegan restaurant finder app

When you first open the app, you have a few different choices as to what to search for. You can look for exclusively vegan restaurants in your area, or places that offer vegan and vegetarian options. There is also a “veg-options” button, which is perfect for those times when you are going for a meal with people who are not vegan, and need a varied menu so you all have choices.

This app is absolutely fantastic for when you are travelling, but I have found it very useful in my own city as well.

vegan restaurant app

In this case, I chose to look for vegan only places in my area.

The app lists the name of vegan restaurants nearby, and each listing includes location info, pricing, reviews, directions and hours of operation. It’s morning here when I write this, so as you can see, some restaurants are currently closed. If I click on any of them, it will bring up a page that tells me when they open, as well as more detailed information about the menu and other useful tidbits about the restaurant.

On a side note, I am dying to try Tamarind – I have heard so many good things!

vegan stores appI am pretty familiar with my own neighbourhood, and when it’s time for me to go to my grocery shopping for the week, I know exactly where I need to go for a variety of items.

However, say I am visiting a friend in another part of town, and realise that I should stop and get something on my way and I am not familiar with her neighbourhood?

This is where the “stores + more” option comes in handy. Clicking on it will give me a list of nearby grocery stores that carry vegan and health food options, as well as places that just fall under “other”, such as juice bars, bakeries, and in this case, a delivery service.

I’m telling you, when you are new to a city and trying to familiarize yourself, this app is invaluable! I used it when I went to Las Vegas last month, and found a couple of vegan restaurants that I probably would never have gotten to try otherwise. The website is just as good, and also gives you the option of typing in a city name so you can search even if you are not currently there. Great for planning a trip in advance!

What other methods do you use to search for specialty foods? Leave a comment below with your own tips and tricks!

-M.

Eating Out As A Vegan (I Got Cheesed!)

Here you are, doing great with your new, plant-based lifestyle. You’ve picked up a few recipes, maybe even mastered a few, eating at home is not an issue – you know your options and just how tasty vegan food can be.

And now your non-vegan friends want to go out to dinner! What to do? Even if there are vegan restaurants in your city or town, chances are that many of your friends won’t go there (they don’t yet know the magic that you have come to embrace!). So now, you are tasked with a Major Vegan Struggle – finding options for yourself in an omnivore restaurant!

Eating out as a veganSaturday evening, I went to dinner with some friends. We went to a Smokehouse/ BBQ pace so I knew my options would be limited, yet I chose the place. It was close to where we were that day, and I was able to check out their website prior to going so I knew what I would be able to eat.

They had a portobello mushroom burger on the menu – great! It said it came with aioli, so all I had to do was ask to get it without (I asked for guac instead and that was no problem). It came on a pretzel bun, which are usually vegan, and some kind of bean mash and fries. What the menu, or website, did not mention was that it also came with cheese! The cheese was kind of in the middle of the burger and also quite mild, so with all the other flavours, I didn’t even notice until I had eaten half the sandwich! I got accidentally cheesed!

Now, I had not mentioned to the server that I was vegan, so it was kind of my own fault – I should have double checked and the situation could easily have been avoided. There’s the lesson, folks! Do your research in advance, and always double check with the staff before you order.

I am assuming that any business owner wants to treat their customers well so that they will return. Most restaurants will be happy to try to accommodate you for this reason – it’s just good customer service!

If you have the option of calling or emailing in advance, do that. Quite often, the staff will have had this experience before, and they will be able to tell you what menu items are or can be made vegan. Sometimes, depending on the restaurant and the situation, the chef might be willing to create something off the menu for you.

These days, as more and more people decide to stay away from meat and dairy, many restaurants already have a couple of plant-based options on their menu – again, it makes sense to be able to cater to everyone, so that more people will come to their place.

If you don’t have the advantage of being able to contact the restaurant before your visit, there is the classic “make a vegan meal out of side dishes” – option. You’ll have to make sure to ask what the different side dishes are made with or cooked in, but most of the time, you can build a pretty satisfying meal for yourself with a house salad, fries and sauteed veggies!

Fries – saving hungry vegans from starvation every day!

-M.

Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipe (Really!)

Vegan Cheese – isn’t that an oxymoron?

The most common argument against going vegan that I hear is “I could never give up cheese!”. I used to say it too. I couldn’t imagine a life without dairy. I mean, where would I get my calcium? 

(Sidenote: I have a lot to say about veganism and calcium, but that’s a completely different blog post. Today, let’s just make food!)

A Grilled Cheese Sandwich, to me, is the perfect comfort food. Warm, crunchy, gooey. Easy to make, and filling! But, cutting dairy out of my diet meant I was going to have to find an alternative, and after much trial and error, I finally did.

This is not a gourmet vegan grilled cheese sandwich. This is a simple, easy version. Some day, I will perfect my own homemade vegan cheese, but today, we are making a vegan grilled cheese sandwich using Daiya Shredded Vegan Cheese.

Not every vegan loves Daiya, but I find some of their products quite tasty, depending on what you use them for. The shredded cheddar type cheese is great for grilled sandwiches…but you need to add my secret ingredient.

The Secret to good Daiya is…

…MUSTARD.

vegan grilled cheese sandwich 1 You could use a fancy, grainy kind if you prefer, but I like the regular yellow kind. You will also need sliced bread of your choice (I used Silver Hills 16 Grain bread, which is my favourite), vegan mayo, Daiya Shredded Vegan Cheese, and a tomato (because, vegetables).

For some reason, the mustard makes the vegan cheese taste like the real thing. 

It’s science.

Mayo is an important part of any grilled cheese sandwich – I learned this trick not too loong ago, and it has upped my grilled cheese game by several levels.

vegan grilled cheese 2

Spread the Mayo on one side of each slice of bread. This is going to be the outsdie of your sandwich – the mayo will make it irresistably crunchy and golden. You’ll be infinitely impressed with your own grilled cheese skills!

There are several brands of vegan mayo out there, Vegenaise being a very popular and tasty one. Hellmann’s Vegan Mayo is available most everywhere now, and I think it’s really good!

vegan grilled cheese sandwich 3

Now flip the slices over and put mustard on the other side. In hindsight, I wish I would have done this on a plate instead of my wooden cutting board, because it got messy. 

I use quite a bit of mustard, because some of it will get soaked up by the bread. You use as much or as little as you like. This is not about perfect measures. This is about you, and your need for wonderful vegan comfort food!

vegan grilled cheese sandwich 4

Sandwich assembly! Add the Daiya shreds to the bottom piece of bread, then a few slices of tomato, then some more cheese on top to help make the top piece of bread stick.

Use slightly less Daiya than you would dairy cheese. They don’t melt the same, and less is more in this case.

It doesn’t look like much at this point…but just wait.

Time to get melting!

vgc 5

I think I bought this little grilled cheese pan at Walmart for less than 10 dollars. It has more than paid for itself. I used to have a panini press, and it mostly collected dust and took up space. For a while, I made grilled cheese in a waffle maker, which works well, but it’s a pain the butt to clean. This pan is small, easy to clean, and makes amazing sandwiches!

Temperature-wise, “low and slow” is what you want to keep in mind here. It takes longer for vegan cheese to melt, and if the pan is too hot, the bread will burn before the cheese is melted, and you will be sad. This recipe is about happiness. 

Low and slow. Flip sandwich halfway. It’s done when the cheese is melty (professional term).

time to eat

You get to eat now!

I have been obsessed with this vegan grilled cheese for the last month and make it a couple of times a week. So easy and tasty! I usually make some fries for my side dish, or chips and salsa. It would be great with tomato soup too!

I hope you enjoy this recipe – please leave a comment below if you made it and let me know what you like to add to your grilled cheese!

-M.

Going Vegan – Where the heck do I even start?

I received this text from a friend the other day and as you can see, I was excited about it. This is, after all, the main reason why I started My Vegan Website – to help people get started on their new vegan adventure!

I think it’s important to realize, as you are making the decision to Go Vegan, that you do not have to do it all overnight. I certainly know people who have, but for most of us, that just isn’t realistic! 

One Meal At A Time

You’ve probably heard of the “Meat Free Monday” movement – they suggest that you make one day a week a vegan/ vegetarian day. I see nothing wrong with simplifying it even more – how about just one dinner to begin with? 

The internet is full of amazing cooks who share their recipes freely – no need to buy expensive cookbooks right away (although I guarantee that you will, overtime, gather a great collection of vegan cookbooks – mine is coming along very nicely. More on that another day!). Free recipes are everywhere, all you have to do is search for veganized versions of your favourite meals.

Depending on how skilled you are in the kitchen, you may want to preface your search with “easy” or “simple”. 

Go For Real Food

I believe that it is fully possible to be 100% vegan for a lifetime and never eat a fresh vegetable. Just like you can be an omnivore and eat nothing but processed junk food, you can be vegan and do the same. And it’s obviously not going to do anything good for your health or well-being.

That, plus the fact that if you are going straight from the animal-derived products you are used to, to fake meats and cheese replacements, I can almost guarantee that you will not like them. There are tons of great vegan products out there to replace ground beef, sausage, eggs and cheese in your food, I use many of them on occasion, but I find that you are more likely to please your own palate as you make the switch by using whole foods in your recipes. You already know the texture of real foods, and they will be more familiar to you. Plus, your meal will be a whole lot healthier!

Grocery Shopping

In my city, going shopping for vegan items is a real “hit-or-miss” experience! The selection of healthy foods in grocery stores really vary depending on neighbourhood – my nearest grocery store, for example, has a very lmited selection of plant-based products, and even the produce section isn’t that great. I suppose there isn’t a huge demand for it, so they don’t stock it. We do have several health/ natural food stores in my city, and they have everything I need, but the downside is that they can be quite pricey. 

I wish I had a one-stop shop for all my grocery needs, but instead, a typical grocery trip for me usually involves one store for produce and bread, another for canned goods and general groceries, and a final stop at a natural food store for specialty items that I can’t find anywhere else. 

Whether you are vegan or not, making a meal plan and a grocery list will help you plan and budget for the week ahead, as well as making your shopping trip a whole lot easier!

Go Easy On Yourself

You’re new at this. You don’t have to perfect the ultimate vegan lasagna today. You don’t have to figure out how to bake a vegan birthday cake this week. All you have to do is find a place to start – one meal to cook. Start with something easy, like a veggie stew, a chickpea curry, or how about this amazing shepherd’s pie from one of my favourite recipe sites:

Tasty

(It’s actually easier than making a conventional shepherd’s pie!)

(Picture is from the Tasty.co website)

Good luck, and Happy Cooking!

Going Vegan for Beginners – How Do I Do It?

Hello, vegan-curious friend! So, you’ve decided that you want to try a plant-based diet, but now you don’t know where to begin – trust me, I get it. It can feel a bit overwhelming at first – finding recipes, revamping your pantry, learning new cooking styles, and in general just learning how to live your life without animal products in a world where most people still rely on them. But don’t fear – the vegan lifestyle is quickly catching on, and it is becoming easier and easier to find vegan foods at grocery stores, vegan options at restaurants, and animal free products in general.

But let’s start with you. Why did YOU make this decision? There are so many reasons to embark on this lifestyle, so let’s begin by looking at a few of them.

#1 – Vegan for your Health

This is where I started. I had seen a documentary about how a plant-based diet could help you lose weight, improve heart-health, and even reverse some illnesses. I was pretty healthy myself, but I had been struggling with my weight for pretty much all my life, and I knew that if I wanted to stay healthy for a long time, I had to do something about it.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of unhealthy vegan foods out there – I am pretty sure that you can be 100% vegan for a lifetime, and never eat a fresh vegetable. We know that processed, packaged junk foods are bad for you, and that doesn’t change just because the processed food doesn’t contain animal products. If you are looking to improve your health, you’ll want to remember this phrase: Whole Foods Plant Based Diet. Some would also include “low fat” in that description.

Studies have shown that following a WFPB diet can help you lose weight, as well as drastically improve your cholesterol levels and blood pressure readings. You may notice after just a few days that you feel more energetic, that your metabolism seems to be faster, that you sleep better and that your skin is clearing up. These are not uncommon “side effects” of cutting out animal foods and processed foods.

Quick disclaimer: I am not a doctor or healthcare professional, and this article is not meant to diagnose or treat any health condition. I speak only from personal experience, and I recommend that you consult your physician if you are having health issues!

#2 – Vegan for the Animals

As I began to read more about my new chosen lifestyle, searching for recipes and information, I came across a lot of information about where our food comes from, how it is produced, and how the animals are treated before they end up on our plates. I can’t say I was completely unaware before, but like so many others, I had turned a blind eye to it, because I loved my cheeseburgers and charcuterie plates, and I just didn’t want to know.

But then we got a dog.

I had never been a pet person, and anyone who knows me, knows that I used to not like dogs at all. But my husband really wanted one, and when I was away one weekend, he brought home Juno. Juno, the husky-shepherd cross who changed my life.

As I got to know Juno, I realized that she had a personality. She is capable of feeling happiness, love, fear and pain. She is pretty much the best dog in the world, and everyone knows that I love dogs now, and that’s because of her!

But discovering those things about her also made me realize that all animals are capable of those things. As I watched videos of what happens to cattle in order to put steaks on our plates and milk in our glasses, I realized that if I wasn’t OK with a dog being treated that way, I couldn’t accept that it was happening to cows or pigs either. In fact, I usually couldn’t finish watching those videos, and I thought “if I can’t face where my food is coming from…should I be eating it?”.

It was a long process for me, and I did it very gradually, but now that I am vegan, I only wish I had done it sooner and faster. It feels good to know that no animals were harmed in order to make my dinner!

#3 – Vegan for the Environment

I admit that this is a topic I know less about than cooking and shopping ethically.

But I do know this: Our planet is suffering, and one of the reasons is the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The greatest culprit behind this is animal agriculture – raising animals for food is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than anything else. Not eating animals is good for the environment – period!

#4 – Vegan for Yourself

Because it feels good. Because you will feel like you are treading more lightly on the earth (not just in terms of how much you weigh, but in general).

Knowing that you are contributing to a world of kindness and compassion makes you feel good about yourself, and about the world in general, because you are not alone. There is a whole community out there, full of resources and support. Companies that share your values and make products that do not harm animals, and people who create recipes and cookbooks to make your life easier and yummier.

My Vegan Website is Your Vegan Website

I created this website to be a resource and one-stop “shop” for all your vegan needs and questions. I will fill it with tips and tricks, recipes, resources, and stories about myself and my experience as I go along – I am still learning too, and we can do this together!

#govegan

 

 

 

 

About My Vegan Website

Hello! I am Maja With a J – Welcome to My Vegan Website!

MY STORY

A few years back, I started making the switch to a plant-based diet. In the beginning, it was mostly for health reasons, as I had read numerous articles and watched several documentaries on how a plant-based lifestyle can improve your health. I was a bit overweight, tired, simply not feeling my best. Over time, I also realized that animal welfare and environmental concerns were also a huge part of it for me. For a few years, I only “dabbled” in veganism – I was the only one in my family interested in this lifestyle and it made making the switch more complicated. Over time, I became vegetarian, and then, finally, decided to go “all out” and go vegan. Best decision ever! 

MY VEGAN WEBSITE

As I go along, my health is improving, I am losing weight and feeling much better, I definitely think my choice was worth it, but I find that it is still hard to find support, as veganism is still somewhat looked upon as “extreme” or “drastic”. I created My Vegan Website to be a support system for anyone who is interested in going vegan, but doesn’t really know where to start. 

MISSION

My Vegan Website is a resource for recipes, books, clothing, community and lifestyle for anyone who already is vegan, is trying to go vegan, or is simply “vegan-curious”. 

Come back soon!

– Maja With a J