Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sticky Fingers Vegan Bakery in D.C.

If you are ever around the D.C. area make sure to check out Sticky Fingers Vegan Bakery. They're won numerous awards for their products and for good reason!

Here are my basic recommendations:

1. DO get one of their coffees. The latte with soy milk was particularly delicious, and I've tried many lattes (though cappuccino is my specialty). Had a very distinct flavor, bold and almost nutty.
2. DON'T get their brownies. In my opinion they're not worth the money. They don't seem as fresh and while they're pretty good, I feel a lot of places offer vegan brownies so these one didn't wow me.
3. DO (absolutely DO) get one (or two or three) of their sticky buns. Probably one of their more infamous dishes, its definitely a bang for your buck and tastes better than the real thing. It's light but slightly crispy, moist and sweet without tasting too artificial. They have the homemade taste.
4. DON'T count on a microwave working there. Some of the desserts are not super warm but unfortunately the microwave wasn't working so we just took most of our treats home.
5. DO play around with different cupcakes. I got the peanut butter fudge and I thought it was heavenly (I'm a HUGE peanut butter fan though). I've heard not so good reviews however on the red velvet, which is a shame because its one of my favorite types.

Sticky Fingers Bakery
1370 Park Rd. NW
Washington, D.C. 20010
Mon-Thurs: 7am-8pm
Fri: 7am-9pm
Sat: 8am-9pm
Sun: 9am-7pm

Do you know your fats?

The multitude of dieting rhetoric in our country may often lead to confusing, and sometimes misguided, ideas about what is healthy and what is not. Fat, for example, is often vilified, but not all fats are bad for us. In fact, some are essential. Here's a quick guide to what fats to look out for and what fats to avoid:

Saturated Fats: These fats have a chemical make-up which are saturated with hydrogen atoms since they lack the bonds that are in unsaturated fats. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Saturated fats should be limited in diet since they raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. Here are some common examples:

*Animal products (meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, lard, butter)
* Coconut oil
* Palm oil

Unsaturated Fats: These fats, when used instead of other fats, can actually be good for you by lowering your risk for heart disease by moderately increasing HDL (good) cholesterol and helping lower LDL (bad). Be aware that if you heat unsaturated fats over 400 degrees or for a long period of time their nutritional value will decrease.

Polyunsaturated Fats: A type of unsaturated fat that contains two or more double bonds in their chemical structure. These fats have been shown to protect against heart disease more than monounsaturated fats. It is recommend that these compile 10% of your daily calorie intake. Common examples include:

* Peanut Butter
* Sunflower seeds
* Bananas
* Fish (contains essential Omega-3 fatty acids which have also been shown to report anti-cancer effects, brain health, and immune function)
* Flax seed (contains essential Omega-3 fatty acids)
* Walnuts (contains essential Omega-3 fatty acids)

Monounsaturated Fats: A type of unsaturated fat that contains one double bonds in their chemical structure. It is recommend that these compile 20% of your daily calorie intake. Common examples include

* Avocados
* Olive Oil
* Oatmeal
* Cereal

Trans Fats: These are fat molecules who's normal structures have been twisted and deformed by heating liquid vegetable oil and combining it with hydrogen gas. Since these fats are more stable and can withstand repeated heating more than unsaturated fats they are commonly used for frying and in packaged snack foods. Trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol and have been linked to increasing the risk for heart disease. Common examples include:

* Packaged cake mixes
* Ramen noodle
* Donuts
* Fast food
* Cream-filled cookies

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pocket-Sized Guide to the Food You Eat.

Michael Pollan, the renowned journalist and author of The Omnivorous Dilemma, has just come out with a new book, Food Rules. Based on the idea that the American obsession with complicated diets has spiraled out of control and has often been more destructive than helpful to American health (the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, the Taco Bell diet even), Pollan puts forth this carry-with-you-anywhere manual of quick and easy rules on how to eat right.

The book is divided into three main sections, each with simple answers and short justifications accompanying: What to Eat (Pollan answers: "food"), What Types of Foods to Eat ("mostly plants"), How to Eat ("not too much"). Each section has witty tips to consult whether in your grocery store or at a restaurant.

One such tip from the first section on defining what food is writes "don't eat anything advertised on TV". Such a proposition (which was following by a short explanation and clarification) may seem quite obvious: we hardly see cucumbers or simple brown rice advertized on TV as often or in the same marketing way that we do Doritos and McDonalds. Another helpful rule "the whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead", indicating how white bread offers only shots of sugar with poor quality proteins and fattening starch, without the nutrients offered by unprocessed breads.

While Pollan's book may seem to some an oversimplication of nutrition (there are many opportunities to point out, "Well, I saw an advertisement for Dole Bananas, is that so unhealthy?"), the guide illuminates the simplicity of good dieting with common sense reason.

And while these rules may not only be incredibly accurate and helpful for those obsessing with the next crazy diet to move into a more wholesome diet, whether it is necessary to purchase a book for such common sense reason is questionable. Either way, flipping through Food Rules reminds us of the simplicity in eating right and living a healthy life which we often forget.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Give the gift of sustainability this Valentine's Day!

Chocolates and roses may seem like a great gift on the surface... but if give your sweetie a product that uses exploited labor from other countries, inhumanely treated animal products, and chemical processing really going to send the right message?

Here are some places to get great Valentine's day gifts that will send the right message!

1. Organic Consumers Association has compiled a list of places to buy organic for gifts such as flowers, chocolate, cards, and even wines. All gifts are listed as fair-trade.

2. Sticky Fingers Bakery: located in Washington, DC, this all vegan bakery offers as wide array of sweets from chocolate strawberries and sugar hearts, to customizable cakes and they will even send them to you anywhere in the US. This company has one numerous awards for their products; I'm planning on grabbing a desert myself here on Valentine's Day!

3. Farm Sanctuary is offering a Valentine's Day gift package for your significant other by adopting a farm animal in their name. You can pay monthly and you receive an adoption certificate with a color photograph of the adopted animal, an adoption card, invitation to schedule a VIP tour to meet the sponsored animal and other benefits. I already told my boyfriend that this would be the only thing I'd want for our anniversary.

Just another cafe?

Other Side Cafe is anything but just your average cafe. With loud grunge music, perhaps dangerously dim lighting, and almost 20 different selections of beer, this eccentric restaurant (and perhaps--I may--say Vegan haven), defies convention.

As a vegan, it's often hard to find a restaurant that serves up a large amount of veggie friendly food while still being a desierable spot for your omnivore friends. That, plus the fact that I had one (well, two) of the best restaurant cookies of my life (vegan and non-vegan) there, makes the Other Side Cafe a place that warrants a visit.

Be warned, while it's not the hippie sanctuary of most vegan-friendly restaurant, there is certainly a welcoming and anarchic vibe to this joint. The lack of pretension makes for the perfect late-night excursion, if not the best date spot.

If you've ever doubted the deliciousness of vegan food, just try the vegan BLT (my omnivore dining partner swears they used real mayonnaise and the fake bacon melded just like the real thing without all the fat!). Their deserts are all vegan as well: but don't let that dissuade you because, again, second best cookie I've ever had that was not homemade! Not to mention the chili is a must have (go for the half chili, half sandwich deal).

If you're not feeling the fake meat, try the tuna melt (perfectly crispy and warm on the outside but soft and juicy on the inside without all the grease common of this cheese-laden sandwich).

Whether you're looking for an excuse to go into Boston, or simply a cool and laid-back place to get a beer on tap (or some vegan wine), the Other Side Cafe is a must try.

Other Side Cafe $$
407 Newbury St.
Boston, MA
Monday - Wednesday 11:30 AM - 1:00 AM
Thursday & Friday 11:30 AM - 2:00 AM
Saturday 10:00 AM - 2:00 AM
Sunday 10:00 AM - 1:00 AM

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Emma Watson for Fair Trade and Organic Fashion

People Tree, an independent charity foundation dedicated to promoting fair trade and ethical fashion, has found a new voice in young actress Emma Watson. Watson has joined the ranks of many other celebrities in putting her name to a clothing line.

But, perhaps unlike others, she points out the importance of her fashion line as spreading something other than her name, “I think young people like me are becoming increasingly aware of the humanitarian issues surrounding fast fashion and want to make good choices but there aren’t many options out there."

Watson's line includes both guys and girls fashion of all cotton, organic shirts, bottoms, jackets, and the like, with cute saying such like "Don't Panic, I'm Organic". The style is American Apparel meets J-Crew, representing Watson's unique fashion sense with a twist.

The company boasts a large amount of produced-by-hand products to reduce carbon footprints, along with avoiding dangerous chemicals in their clothing processing. People Tree is an World Fair Trade Organization member working to help reduce poverty while increasing the uniqueness of each garment made by hand.

I don't know about you, but I was never a big fan of the celebrity rush to their names on anything just to turn a profit and get in the news; yet Watson seems to be on to something here. Our generation is really the one coming to terms with the effects on our environment and with a bigger interested in sustainability and it will most likely be our youth that will lead campaigns for change on these issues.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

International Ban on bluefin tuna fishing?

Sushi-lovers may have to find a new favorite fish to devour, as European officials lean towards a ban protecting the Bluefin Tuna species (a species which has been subjected to overfishing due to its high demand).

The overfishing of blue-fin tuna has not only led to their endangered status (because tuna are caught before the are old enough to reproduce) but has been causing irreparable damage to our ocean's ecosystems due to large scale fishing methods.

Find out more from the New York Times Article.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Valentine's Day Dinner for Vegetarians and the Health Conscious!

It's February and love is in the air as Valentine's Day fast approaches. But for many, the quest for the perfect, romantic restaurant can be frustrating with prix fixe menus often limiting our options. Never fear though, there are still great options for those looking for a meatless dinner or simply a healthier alternative:

1. The Pulse Cafe $$
195 Elm St.
Somerville, MA 02140
Tuesday - Thursday: 5pm - 9pm
Friday - Saturday: 5pm - 10pm
Sunday, February 14, 2010 serving 5pm to 9pm

An all vegan, organic restaurant focused on natural cuisine, The Pulse Cafe is offering a five-course special Valentine's Day event for $30 per person. Plus, the cafe focuses their efforts on sustainability through supporting wind energy (by using NSTAR Green) and working with Save that Stuff to meet recycling an compost needs.

2. The Elephant Walk $$$
2067 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140
Dinner Hours:
Monday-Friday 4:00pm - 10:00pm
Saturday and Sunday 5:00pm - 10:00pm

Though this restaurant has many meat-options, there are just as many vegan and gluten-free options (dedicating almost half their menu to such). A fusion of Cambodian and French cuisine, The Elephant Walk offers up everything from curries to flash-fried tofu satay. They also teach year-round cooking classes in vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisine. Call ahead to check on the Valentine's Day menu offerings. (There are also locations in Boston and Waltham).

3. Oleana Restaurant $$$
134 Hampshire Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
Mon-Thu. 5:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Fri-Sat. 5:30 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.

For those looking for a classy with a large focus on vegetarian fare for V-Day, look no further than Oleana's Restaurant. Serving up fresh vegetables harvested daily from Siena Farms (who has a CSA membership program by the way), their Turkish inspired menu changes seasonally to reflect the local product. Though meat is offered at their restaurant, there is a wide variety of both vegan and vegetarian options (including a vegetarian tasting menu for $36). Call ahead to check on Valentine's Day menu offerings.

4. T.W. Food $$$$
377 Walden Street
Cambridge MA 02138
5 – 10pm, 7 days a week

Interested in humanely raised meat products but don't know where to go for a night out? Looking for a restaurant that cares about getting locally? T.W. Food is your place then, serving humanely raised meat (such as grass-fed beef), picking wild mushrooms, and teaming with farmers who product herbs and vegetables for local consumption. For Valentine's Day, they are offering two sittings (at $59 and $85) with extensive vegetarian fare in a classy setting.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bill to Promote Massachusetts Schools to Buy Locally

A bill that has just made its way through the Massachusetts House prohibiting the sale of junk food in public schools has an attached amendment to study the possiblilty of increased cooperation between local farms and public schools.

I think this is a great move for our public schools! The need for good nutrition habits form early and now, more than ever, we are seeing the ramifications of bad dietary habits on our children's health (with increasing rates of childhood obesity and diabetes). The bill also includes a Farm to School program!

To find out more, check out the MetroWest Daily News article.