vegan DYNAMITE

food ➕ activism ➕ lifestyle

This week, I have been extremely disappointed that the two stores I buy most of my groceries from, Sprouts and Trader Joe’s, have failed to make statements about police brutality and racial inequality. I did some digging, and found that it was actually pretty silent across the board in the grocery industry. I decided to compile a list of grocery stores and markets that have posted statements as allies, as well as those who have not. You’ll also find local black-owned markets at the top of the list.

I understand that changing your shopping habits might not be feasible for everyone, but I’ve also included contact and social media information for the companies who’ve stayed silent, and I encourage you to reach out. I also understand that there are racial injustices within the food supply outside the context of this post, but I believe this still moves us in a positive direction.

You can also show SUPPORT for the businesses below by following them on social media, posting about them when you visit, thanking them for their statements, asking how they plan to continue their support, and writing them positive reviews!

Scroll to the bottom of this post for additional links you might find helpful, including for people outside the LA area. If there are any other businesses you think should be on the list, please let me know!


Black-Owned Grocery Stores & Markets (Los Angeles Area)

Right Choice Caribbean Market | 4233 S Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles 90088

Selam Market | 5534 W Pico Blvd., Los Angeles 90019

SoLA Food Co-Op | 1847 W 43rd St., Los Angeles 90062

Simply Wholesome | 4508 W Slauson Ave., Los Angeles 90043

Grocery Outlet | 2175 W Rosecrans Ave., Compton 90222


Online & Delivery-Based Retailers Who HAVE Shown Support

Imperfect Foods | produce & grocery delivery on the west coast, midwest & northeast

Thrive Market | grocery staples that ship nationwide, with lots of vegan options


Supportive Brick & Mortar Retailers (Los Angeles & Nationwide)

Albertsons | many locations

Besties Vegan Paradise | 4882 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles 90029

Erewhon Market | stores in los angeles, silverlake, santa monica, venice, calabasas & pacific palisades

Follow Your Heart Market & Cafe | 21825 Sherman Way, Canoga Park 91303

Food4Less (Kroger) | many locations

Lazy Acres | stores in hermosa beach, long beach, san diego, encinitas & santa barbara

Ralphs (Kroger) | many locations

Vons | many locations

Yummy.com | stores in playa vista, silverlake, century city, west hollywood & mid-city, with local delivery available


Retailers Who’ve Stayed Silent (& Their Contact Info)

Aldi | contact / instagram / facebook / twitter

Costco | contact / instagram / facebook

Mother’s Market | contact / instagram / facebook / twitter

Sprouts | contact / instagram / facebook / twitter

Trader Joe’s | contact / instagram / facebook

Whole Foods | contact / instagram / facebook / twitter


Additional Links

BlackDoctor.Org | Shop Black: Complete List of African American Owned Grocery Stores & Farmers Markets

VegOut | Black-Owned Vegan Restaurants in Los Angeles

VegOut | 11 Black-Owned Vegan Businesses to Support That Ship Nationwide


Todays Ingredient Curry 4

I first made this recipe on a night when I didn’t feel like stopping for takeout, didn’t want to go to the grocery store, and knew I didn’t have much going on in my fridge.  I was determined to come up with something good using ingredients I already had in my pantry.  The jarred sun dried tomatoes were something I bought for a scrapped recipe and ended up never opening them, but they were a delicious addition to this dish.  The first night I served the chickpea kale sauté over a baked potato with vegan butter and nooch, which was awesome, but I thought polenta would class it up a bit for this video.

INGREDIENTS

  • minced garlic
  • julienne sliced sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • garbanzo beans
  • lemon (juice)
  • polenta
  • olive oil
  • tuscan kale
  • salt & dried herbs (if desired)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • start by draining and rinsing chickpeas, then use a fork to partially mash them to your preferred texture.  (I aim for about 50% mashed, but it’s not an exact science.)
  • sauté desired amount of garlic in a little olive oil, then add chickpeas.
  • cook the chickpeas until slightly browned and crispy, stirring as needed.
  • add 2-3 forkfuls of sun dried tomatoes.
  • add juice from 1/2 or 1 whole lemon.
  • sauté for 2-3 more minutes, then add kale.
  • cook for 3-5 more minutes, until greens cook down.
  • add salt and dried herbs to taste.
  • cook polenta according to package instructions, or as preferred.

Don’t forget to check out the 2-minute video version of this recipe!

Hi!  In my most recent YouTube video, I talk about how I’m trying to eat everything in my pantry & freezer before I buy new stuff.  I’m also trying to stick to a tight budget, and come up with some basic recipes that can be customized based on what you happen to have in the kitchen.  For these recipes, I’ve included two sets of ingredients — one tells you what you need to make the recipe, the other you can pick and choose from.  Or maybe toss in your own ingredients that I haven’t listed!

These three recipes also include some shared ingredients, so it would be super efficient to plan them for the same week like I did!

Here’s the video in case you missed it:

Keep scrolling for the recipes!

padthai

simple pad thai

necessities:  rice noodles, peanut butter, soy sauce or liquid aminos, rice vinegar, garlic, sweetener (sugar or agave), lime

extras:  green onion, cabbage (purple and/or green), carrot, cilantro, peanuts, tofu, oil, hot sauce or crushed red pepper flakes, more lime

The most important part of this recipe is the sauce.  I combined about 3/4 cup of smooth peanut butter with 3 tablespoons of Bragg’s liquid aminos, 1 tablespoon of raw sugar, 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar, the juice of 1 dried up old lime (not ideal), a couple tablespoons of crushed garlic, and 1 cup of warm water.  Blend in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Add a little squirt of sriracha or some crushed red pepper to taste (this is just to add more flavor, not to make it spicy — you can do that later).  Cook your noodles according to package direction, drain, return them to your pot and stir in the sauce.  Then, stir in some of your shredded cabbage.

Prior to making the noodles, I also stir-fried some firm tofu, red bell pepper & green onion in toasted sesame oil and set aside.  I used this to top my noodles, along with some more shredded cabbage for some extra CRONCH.  Pad Thai is also awesome topped with crushed peanuts, which I never have on hand, ever.  Serve with fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and the hot sauce of your choice.

tahini

curried lentils & tahini sauce

necessities:  (for the lentils) lentils, curry powder, salt  (for the tahini sauce) tahini, lemon/lemon juice, garlic, salt

extras:  (for the lentils) onion, potatoes, veggies  (for the tahini) fresh herbs  (also) some kind of wrap, tortilla, lavash, etc., plus kale or other veggies if you choose to wrap it up

This is seriously one of the easiest meals you could make.  I cooked 1 cup of red lentils according to the package, then drained as much of the water as possible (I planned to use them for wraps, and didn’t want them to be too soupy).  After transferring them back to the pan, I added about 2 tablespoons of curry powder and salt to taste.  I also stirred some chopped green onion straight into the lentils — depending on the type of onion you use or your preference, you may want to sauteé the onion first.  That’s all.  Lentils are done.

For the tahini sauce, combine 1/4 cup of tahini with the juice from 1/2 to 1 lemon.  Add some finely chopped herbs if you have them, parsley would be ideal, I had cilantro so I used that.  A little bit of crushed garlic.  Then, slowly add warm water and stir until you reach the consistency that you like.

I wrapped these with Mikey’s gluten-free cassava tortillas.  Because I didn’t want them to be too runny, I tossed the tahini sauce with some massaged kale and added that to my wraps.  These would also be great with the addition of some roasted veggies, and I plan to make them that way in the future!

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pickled cabbage

necessities:  cabbage, vinegar, sugar, salt

extras:  jalapeños, garlic, herbs, onions.. get creative!

For this recipe,  you’ll need about 1-2 cups of vinegar, 1/2 head of cabbage, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt to fill a small mason jar.  This works with any type of cabbage, and whatever kind of vinegar you have on hand (but keep in mind that they will alter the flavor).  I used white vinegar, purple cabbage, and sugar in the raw.  For my extras, I included thinly sliced jalapeños and crushed garlic.  You’ll want to heat your vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan and boil for a minute or two until everything is thoroughly dissolved.  Layer your cabbage and other ingredients in a jar, then pour the vinegar over while it’s hot.  The cabbage will start to wilt, so if you had extra you can shove it in at this point.  Cool on the counter until it reaches room temperature, then pop it in the fridge and enjoy for about 2 weeks (if it lasts that long)!


Thanks for reading!  Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for weekly content.  I plan to include more easy to follow, customizable recipes with minimal ingredients — so stay tuned!

Yesterday I was sitting at the nail salon and ended up chatting with the woman next to me.  She brought up the recent earthquakes in California, how living in Los Angeles has changed compared to 10 years ago, and how people need to connect more and be kinder to each other.

“And stop eating animals,” she said.

Not knowing anything about me, she mentioned that she doesn’t consider herself fully vegan, but she’s almost there.

Here’s another thing that’s changed in the last 10 years: my go-to response in conversations like this always used to be, “have you been to Veggie Grill?”  It was the perfect place to send someone who wanted to try more vegan options at a reasonable price, right in the neighborhood.

But lately the menus have been iffy, the quality is unpredictable, and the prices keep going up.

These days, I’m more inclined to ask – have you tried the new Beyond Burger at Carls Jr.?

Veggie Grill’s new summer menu for 2019 was surprising.  Some items that I expected to be just okay ended up being my favorites, and a couple that I thought would be the best were actually disappointing.  Keep reading for my full review.

Note:  All items for this review were purchased at Veggie Grill in Torrance, California.

pattymelt

beyond patty melt

“grilled rye, beyond burger, grilled onions, melted cheese”

I usually like burgers piled high with veggies, so I’m rarely in the mood for a patty melt, but this day I was.  The bread was pretty dry, and it wasn’t buttered and grilled like you’d expect.  Were they trying to make it seem healthier?  Patty melts typically have Swiss cheese, but I believe they used cheddar.  It wasn’t a bad sandwich, but a little more attention to greasy-spoon detail could have made it much better.

Would I get it again?:  Probably not.  I’d go for the Luxe Burger or Steakhouse Burger instead.

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carne asada burrito

“carne asada, grilled peppers and onions, mashed avocado, crema, pico de gallo, salsa quemada | optional: tortilla chips | get it on fire: add jalapenos, sriracha”

Flavor-wise, this was delicious.  The taste and texture of the carne asada were great.  But it reminded me of why I don’t usually order Veggie Grill burritos – they’re watery as heck!  Nobody wants a drippy burrito.  I think this could be improved by replacing some of the veggies (or even some of the meat) with a layer of rice and beans.  The best part was the crema; it reminded me of a veggie burrito I used to get all the time in my pre-vegan days, and without that creaminess all other veggie burritos have paled in comparison.

Also, my burrito had a whole stalk of green onion in it, roots to tip:

asadaonion

Would I get it again?:  I wouldn’t not get it, but I still haven’t had many of their tacos, so I’d probably try those first.  I also like their taco salad.  I have no loyalty to this burrito.

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tonkatsu chickin’ ramen

“choice of chickin’ katsu cutlet or fried tofu, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, edamame, ginger, mushroom broth, ramen noodles, furikake”

I’ve made more exciting ramen with a tea kettle in a paper cup.  Next.

(Note:  I’m not a picky eater at all, and the only other times I’ve been less impressed with a meal than I was with this ramen, I ended up getting a cold the next day and realizing the problem was with my taste buds, not the food.  I waited a few days before writing this review just to be sure, and I’m still fit as a fiddle!)

Would I get it again?:  No.

salad
summer celebration salad

“bbq grilled chickin’ or tofu, quinoa tabbouleh, avo-kale hummus, fire-roasted corn+tomato salad over arugula + romaine, citrus vinaigrette | optional flatbread”

They had a similar salad last year – it’s so weird, and I love it!  It’s like taking all the leftovers from a summer BBQ and dumping them on a bed of greens.  This is one of my favorite salads from Veggie Grill.

Would I get it again?:  Yes!

streetcorn

chargrilled street corn bowl

“grilled sweet corn, chipotle mayo, parmesan, cilantro, fresh lime | get it spicy: add chile seasoning”

This is probably not something I would have ordered had it not been for this blog post, but it was one of my favorite items on the menu.  I thought it was a little too heavy on the mayo, but I won’t hold that against them.

Would I get it again?:  Yes.

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smoky corn bisque

“smoky corn bisque”

They couldn’t write a better description for the smoky corn bisque than “smoky corn bisque?”  Anyway, this was another unexpected favorite that I wouldn’t have ordered on my own.  It’s full of roasted corn and veggies!

Would I get it again?:  Yes, probably as half of a pick-a-pair.

peachcake

grilled peaches-n-cream cake

“baked fresh daily”

Those peaches are grey, y’all.  #nofilter

The first time I tried this was in a peak adulting moment where I went to Veggie Grill for dinner, remembered I didn’t have any breakfast food at home, so instead of stopping by the store I just got one of these little cakes to-go.  For breakfast.  You know.  The next morning I had it with coffee, and.. it wasn’t good.  I thought it might be my fault for refrigerating it overnight, so I got another one to eat fresh and write this review (pictured).  And.. it still wasn’t good.  It was a little better once I took the peaches off.  But still, yikes.

Would I get it again?:  No.  God no.

sangria

“prepared fresh daily”

This is the only item I didn’t sample, as I’m not drinking alcohol at the moment.  Have you tried it?

Would I get it again?:  n/a


Let me know what you thought of the summer menu!  What are your favorite things to order at Veggie Grill?  To view the whole menu, click here.

guinea pigs

This article was originally posted on my pets blog at veganpetsitter.com on March 30, 2018.

I’ve always found it ironic that when you finish checking out at places at Petco and PetSmart, they pop the question – would you like to make a donation to help homeless animals today?

It brings to mind the thousands of guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, reptiles and birds who end up in shelters or worse.  Many of whom were purchased at places like Petco and PetSmart.

Walking among the cages of small animals in these stores, you’ll see signs that encourage you to “think adoption first.”  But, given the pet overpopulation epidemic, why don’t we think adoption only?

If you browse the Los Angeles County Animal Care & Control website right now (which is looking pretty nice after a recent makeover, by the way!), here’s what you’ll find:

  • 17 rabbits
  • 5 red eared sliders
  • 8 guinea pigs
  • 1 ball python
  • 1 corn snake
  • 1 yellow-headed Amazon parrot
  • 1 cockatiel
  • 1 cockatoo

Searching with Los Angeles Animal Services will give you 273 small animals of similar varieties, plus a few hamsters and mice.  That’s over 300 small animals in need of a home, not even counting the ones on Craigslist, posted on social media and neighborhood apps, abandoned in parks, and being fostered through reputable rescue groups.

I spoke with Michiko Vartanian of Orange County Cavy Haven to get an idea of the number of animals the rescue works with, and to see the breadth of how many small animals need homes in the Los Angeles area.  OCCH is a tiny but mighty organization that works closely with each animal, and focuses only on one species: guinea pigs.  They typically have 25-30 animals in foster homes at any given time, and average about 25 adoptions per month.  One of the largest small animal rescue groups in Southern California is Bunny Bunch, and I counted 158 animals (mostly rabbits, with a few chinchillas and guinea pigs), at their two locations in Fountain Valley and Montclair.

Clearly, small animal rescue groups deserve a huge round of applause.  They are doing the work for these little guys that pet stores don’t, from educating the public about proper housing and care, to rehoming the animals who are no longer wanted.  And even though most animal lovers support adoption of dogs and cats, the idea of rescuing a small animal – or donating to groups that do – might not even be on their radar.

I first got some insight into the world of small animal rescue pretty early on in my activist career, when I started a campaign against a local pet store to stop them from selling puppies from puppy mills.  One of my biggest supporters was Linda Baley, founder of Too Many Bunnies Rabbit Rescue, who also despised the store.  She said that not only did they sell rabbits with cages that were much too small, they kept a stack of her cards to give to customers when the rabbit inevitably outlived their short attention span, or became too difficult to care for.  I also became familiar with a few common dumping grounds for small animals, a plan which is not only cruel to the animal you’re abandoning, it’s harmful to native species, and most definitely illegal. 

My campaign against the pet store was successful, and the location in Torrance pretty quickly closed down.  Their other branches switched to adoption only for puppies, which is what we wanted, but it was hard to see this as a victory.  The conditions these rescue puppies were kept in were far below ideal, and small animals were still being sold.  When the chain eventually went out of business, I have to say it was a huge relief.

In the past decade or so, we’ve seen some corporate and legislative improvements to help animals in pet stores, and overpopulation.  City ordinances have slowly popped up around the country that outlaw the retail sale of dogs, cats, and sometimes rabbits.  PetSmart actually stopped selling rabbits in 2007 after pressure from The House Rabbit Society, and Petco followed in 2008.  Both chains also used to sell puppies, something that is a very foggy memory from my childhood, but gives me hope that their policies can improve for small animals as well.  After talking to Michiko, I’m more convinced than ever that this has to happen soon.  She says:

Our biggest problem is that the laws that require pet stores to sell only animals from rescues do not include small animals.  When these ordinances were passed in some counties a few years back, it only made the situation for guinea pigs worse, as they were one of the few animals now in pet stores, so they are now filling up shelters faster, and the incidences of them being dumped in parks, trash cans, etc., has increased dramatically.  Furthermore, we have a ‘re-home’ program, where we will help people re-home unwanted guinea pigs, and the prior owners now become ‘fosters,’ while we find new homes for their animals.  This helps us help more guinea pigs in spite of having very limited foster space, but we also track the origin of the animals.  In 98% of the cases, they came from pet stores.  It’s sad the new laws won’t help the guinea pigs and other small animals.

I’m writing this post in the wake of yesterday’s PetSmart raid in Tennessee, which I believe accurately depicts the values of these big name pet stores and their small animal suppliers.  We would never support a company that treated puppies this way, and I think it’s time to extend our compassion to the little guys, too.  Vote with your dollars, and support companies that understand animals – big and small – deserve more consideration than a product on a shelf.