Interview with The Tree Kisser

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have recently seen this post of mine when I participated in The Tree Kisser’s acts of kindness challenge.

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After my post, Jessica Schlueter (creator of The Tree Kisser) got in contact with me, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask her a few questions about her small business. Over the past year, my husband and I have tried to be very conscious about where our dollars go. We realized that every time we buy something, we are not only creating a demand for that product but essentially we are voting for the business we are buying from. We are voting yes for their product, their morals as a company, their practices, and upon realizing this we wanted to make sure we gave our money to people who create great products but do so ethically. One of those businesses is The Tree Kisser.

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The Tree Kisser is a charitable clothing line, part of the proceeds of each sale go towards helping different charitable causes. Jessica is nice enough to send these notes telling you how much your purchase helped. That’s a big difference from just buying a shirt from Forever 21, am I right?

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(This picture was taken in Okinawa with my good friends Carola and Naoko, buying vegan cookies supporting “We Love Okinawa’s Neko”, a small group of people helping the huge amount of stray cats in Okinawa get food, medical care, and homes.)

Without further babbling, I give you my interview questions and Jessica’s wonderful answers.

Q: What prompted your decision to start The Tree Kisser clothing line? Has it always been a dream of yours?

A:The clothing line honestly started on a bit of a whim. Last July, my uncle tragically and unexpectedly passed away, leaving the software company he founded without a CEO. My boyfriend, Chris, who had zero software experience but a lot of knowledge about running various types of companies, offered to step in while things got back on track. This meant both of us stopping work on the various projects we had going in California and moving to my hometown of Denver for six months. Chris was working 24/7 on the software company, so I was spending my days alone, feeling a bit directionless. I spent a lot of time writing for my blog and working on activism through social media. I was growing an Instagram following and gaining the opportunity to discuss important issues, but I was really craving an actual project. For quite a while, I’d been dissatisfied with a lot of “message apparel” out there, feeling much of it was either too aggressive for my style or too unfashionable. I’ve always had a desire to make activism (whether it be for animals, humans, or the environment) “cool”, for lack of a better word, and at some point I realized creating my own clothing line was the perfect opportunity. As soon as I started brainstorming and planning, I was hooked.

Q: Where does the inspiration for your designs come from?

A: So many places. Honestly (I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this in writing), I had consumed quite a few glasses of wine the night I came up with the “Kale-Afornia Girls” concept. I was riding home (with a designated driver, of course!) from my boyfriend’s office party, and I just said it out loud. Everyone in the car loved it, so that’s how I chose my first design! My most popular design since the beginning has been “Animals Are Not Fabric.” I’d come up with it and been using it as a hashtag on Instagram for quite a while, because I just really liked its bluntness. During a late night brainstorming session, it was my brother who actually came up with “Wear Pink Not Mink”!

I use the Notes app on my computer and my phone to write down ideas as I have them. If I’m unsure of an idea, I can look back on it weeks or months later with fresh eyes. It’s hard to know which ideas will connect with people and which won’t. I actually didn’t think “Animals Are Not Fabric” would do very well, and I thought “Wake Me When Jon Stewart Is President” would sell out immediately. I was very wrong in both cases. I just try to remind myself to design for me, not for what I think other people will like, because that’s the only way to keep it fun.

Q: Part of the profits from your line goes towards charity, are there any charitable causes that are especially important to you?

A: I could go on for pages about all the incredible non-profits I respect. It’s so hard for me to choose which organizations to donate to, because there are so many in need and so many doing exceptional work. I’ve been involved in animal activism for about seven years now, and one of the rewards is having had the opportunity to meet so many inspirational, selfless, creative people on the front lines of animal advocacy. I just tried so many times to start a sentence with “the cause most important to me personally is,” but I really can’t choose one! I’m passionate about any organization that spreads awareness about factory farming, that coordinates protests against exploitative companies, that facilitates rescues from shelters, the provides plant-based foods to homeless animals and/or humans, or basically that works to combat society’s institutionalized animal abuse in any way! Every organization I’ve been able to donate to through The Tree Kisser (the full list is here: lipanimalfund.wordpress.com) deserves all the support in the world.

Q: You yourself are vegan, is your line 100% vegan as well?

A: The materials used in my production and shipping are absolutely all plant-based, cruelty-free, and as environmentally friendly as possible, but I shy away from using the word “vegan” to describe almost anything these days! Not because I have any problem with the concept of abstaining from animal exploitation, of course, but mostly because I worry that people who aren’t vegan might assume I have nothing to offer them. On the contrary, I have some designs that have absolutely nothing to do with animals or even activism at all, but they do still generate donations for the non-profits I work with. I’m actually in the process of writing an excruciatingly long blog post about all my thoughts on the word “vegan”; hopefully I’ll finish that up within the month!

Q: What has been the best part of the process of starting your line?

A: I’ve had a lot of “life plans” and started a couple businesses in the past, and the only consistent theme among them is that I’ve always wanted to do something I enjoy that simultaneously helps others. I’m so thrilled that I’ve found a way to do this. The absolute best moments come at the end of each fundraising session, when I get to tally up the donations and give them to an organization I respect. I get giddy every time I click that “send” button!

Q: Is running a small business like yours stressful at times, and do you feel it’s worth it?

A: I’m someone who unfortunately gets stressed very easily, so yes. I have an irrational fear of upsetting people, so despite the fact that I’ve only had one or maybe two vocally unhappy customers out of the thousands of orders I’ve sent out, I’m constantly worried about letting people down. There are definitely days when everything seems to pile up at once- I have 50 orders to send out, I accidentally miscount the inventory and sell someone a shirt I don’t have in stock, I run out of packing tape 30 minutes before the post office closes, I get a letter in the mail reminding me my state taxes are overdue, etc. In times like these, I am SO grateful that my business has a greater purpose than just the bottom line. If it were just for my personal profit, there’s no way I would get through the tough times. When I need a pick me up, I just think about the non-profit I’m fundraising for and remind myself that each order I’m working on, regardless of how complicated it might be, is generating a donation that will impact the lives of exploited or abandoned animals. Picturing the face of a death row shelter dog who will be rescued thanks to money I send that pays his adoption fee helps me get over my temporary, silly problems pretty fast!

Q: What are your hopes for the future of your business? Any plans to go into retail?

A: I’m in a really exciting time right now as I’m preparing to launch my new designs that, for the first time, are being printed on garments specifically manufactured for me in a factory in LA! Previously, I was printing on garments purchased wholesale from other suppliers, which meant I had to choose from their colors and their specific garment styles. I’m able to have much more creative control over the process now, which is huge for me. I definitely plan to start working with retailers now! I’ve had a lot of lovely people approach me over the past year, but until this step I wasn’t really ready. I still have so much to learn about this industry, but the education process is a rewarding adventure.

As for the longterm future, my answer to this question changes by the day. I have so much fun with what I’m doing right now, but I definitely want to branch out into more. I didn’t grow up with a passion for fashion design, I grew up with a passion for making the world a better, more compassionate place for human and non-human animals. The clothing line is how I’m choosing to do that right now, but I absolutely have other ideas in the works!

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(Photo of my good friend Erika at an Animal Sanctuary wearing one of her many shirts from The Tree Kisser)

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the post. A big thank you to Jessica Schlueter for taking time to answer my questions and for making such an awesome clothing line, plus setting the example for what small businesses should be. Her new line just debuted, which you can check out at her website http://www.thetreekisser.com.

Also a big thank you to my friend Erika, who is the reason I originally found out about The Tree Kisser! Thank you for letting me use your photo Erika!
You can find Erika on Instagram, @peacelovevegan.

And lastly, thank you to my readers, whoever you people are! I am thankful for you and for this blog that I get to share with you! 🙂

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Chickpea, Mushroom & Wild Rice Soup

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I love soup in the winter. I also love it in spring or summer. I’m a huge soup fan. I used to eat at panera bread really often and order the “you pick two” with a bacon turkey bravo and a bowl of the chicken and wild rice soup. Then I moved to Okinawa, went vegan, and making a veganized version has been on my to-do list. So the other day when my husband offered to make dinner, I have him a list of instructions and ingredients and sent him off to do the dirty work. The end result? Magic. In my opinion this is better than the panera bread soup. It certainly has more nutritional value, and no animals were harmed! Take notes, Panera Bread!

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Ingredients
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 large yellow or white onion, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 &1/2 cups mushrooms, halved
1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil

3/4 cup of cashews
1 cup of water (seperate from boiling water)

1 14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup of cooked wild rice

Instructions:
Firstly, cook your rice according to the package instructions. I personally used Bobs red mill wild & brown rice mix.

Next, lightly sauté the carrots and celery in the oil for about five minutes. Then add the broth, seasonings and the rest of the veggies. Leave it to cook on medium heat.

While the soup is cooking, add your cashews to a small pot full of water and boil for about 20 minutes. After the time is up, strain the nuts and add them to a blender with 1 cup of water. Once the mixture is smooth, add it to the soup.

Add the rice and chickpeas to the soup and heat through. Serve immediately. I recommend eating this with some garlic bread. Enjoy!

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Thai red curry with vermicelli noodkes

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This year for my birthday my good friend Kiwa gave me thai red curry pastes. I had been looking all over for a fish-free red curry paste with no luck, so I was very thankful to get these from her. I love Thai curry. It has so many complex flavors and spices, and I think of it as comfort food. Especially when you add vermicelli noodles, which add the perfect texture to this soup. You should be able to find vermicelli noodles and red curry paste at your local store in the ethnic section, or at a specialty Asian foods market.

Ingredients:
4 cups veggie broth
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced in half
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon agave nectar, honey or brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 ounces vermicelli noodles
1 tablespoon turmeric powder (optional)
1/2 cup drained, pressed, cubed tofu (optional)

Optional toppings: cilantro, lemon zest, sliced jalapeño, green onions, bean sprouts

Instructions:
Add all ingredients (except the noodles) to a large soup pot. Bring to medium high heat and let simmer for about fifteen minutes. Add the vermicelli noodles and heat through. They will take about five minutes to cook through.

Serve as soon as the noodles are done. Top with whatever suits your fancy. I like cilantro and green onion on mine. Enjoy!

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Being Vegan in Okinawa – Where to Eat

I have bad news. This is my last post on “how to be vegan in Okinawa”. We are leaving this island in two weeks. I am sad to go, because I love it here so much. But I’m excited for what adventures lie ahead. Both for my life and for my blog. I will miss running around trying to find vegan food, taking a million pictures, and telling you guys (whoever you are, I know I have readers but I only have spoken to maybe 7 of you) all about the food I’ve found and the adventures I’ve had. This blog has become so much more than I planned on, and I’m so thankful for it.

So recently I posted about where I shop as a vegan in okinawa. Today I want to talk about where to eat. Is it possible to be vegan in Okinawa, Japan? Absolutely! It’s more than possible. Check out the Facebook group for vegans and vegetarians on island. There are places to shop for your own vegan food (read about it here) or you can grab some vegan grub in many places all over the island.

In the past few years in Okinawa many vegan/vegetarian places closed. Vegan junk deli casbah, warahondo, Heart of Earth, ital corner, Noah style, Salon Cuttho, Goocuru, Herb/Gilead, vegi cafe shanti, love vegi cafe, Granma’s vegan cafe, wine and veggie macro. I had the pleasure of trying out three of them and they were awesome places. I spoke to the owner of cafe sprout and she doesn’t understand why there has been so many closings of vegan/vegetarian places. Thankfully there are places you can still get your hands on some vegan grub. In fact, there’s tons of places! Some of them even I’ve never been to!

Keep in mind – Many of these places are not strictly vegan, but have vegan options. Never be afraid to go to an omnivorous restaurant and ask about vegan options.

Places I’ve been.

1. Dechibica.

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Obviously it’s my favorite place, I talk about it all of the time. They have curry, taco rice, seasonal vegan pho, bibimbap set, and vegan desserts. Read about it here.

2. Cafe Sprout.

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Seriously delicious vegan food in Ginowan. Veggie plates, curry plates, veggie burgers, and vegan desserts including ice cream. The owner is awesome and loves to talk to customers, and has the coolest adopted cat I’ve ever met. Read about it here.

3. Bakery and cafe coo.

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I haven’t shared this one with my friends yet because I wanted to take them with me to check it out, but I’m down to my last few weeks on the island so I don’t know if I’ll have time. So I’m posting the info and hoping you all will check it out, because this place is fabulous! They have a wide variety of vegan baked goods for sale (I even saw cinnamon rolls once) and they have the best home made veggie burger I’ve ever eaten. It was weirdly similar in taste to a turkey burger. The owner that I spoke to was very nice and was vegan himself. I had a lovely time here and hope to go back once more before I leave. Find their website in English here.

4. Guacamole burrito truck.

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You may already know (because I’ve said it so many times) Kentaro the burrito guy named me pioneer of the vegan burrito at this place. Check out my post on it here. And if you’re in okinawa, be sure to pick up some of his fresh vegan burritos!

5. Bakery Suien.

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This place is as close as you’ll get to Panera Bread in Okinawa. I highly recommend it. They made the best veggie sandwich I’ve ever had, and their tofu “cheese” is delicious. I recommend trying the elderberry soda with your meal! Read more by clicking here.

6. Ploughmans lunch bakery.

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HOLY CRAP this place is fabulous. A bakery as well as cafe, everyone orders the same plate with a drink. You can order yours vegan style, they speak English and will know to make yours without animal products. The plate is either a veggie plate (topped with a small amount of meat usually, for the omnivores) or veggie sandwich and normally comes with soup, a drink, and a basket of fresh bread. You can also purchase their breads to go. I highly recommend eating here. You can find out more information by clicking here.

7. Cafe Niffera.

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This place is owned by my sweet friend Naoko. At the hotel she runs is a breakfast cafe that is sure to sweep you off of your feet. With something for vegans and vegetarians as well, it’s perfect to stop in here for a breakfast before shopping the tsuboya pottery village. Check out my post on it here.

8. Soi cafe.

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A curry place in Tsuboya pottery village. This place is so cute and the food is fresh and delicious. They only have one vegan option – vegan curry. But sometimes they have vegan desserts like cookies and once in a while they make vegan donuts. You can find their Facebook page here.

9. Sushi.

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There is tons of it on the island, even for vegans! Check out my post about the different places to grab some vegan sushi by clicking here.

10. Daikon No Hana.

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A buffet with multiple locations in Okinawa. They have fresh local produce, and lots of tofu dishes. There’s an ingredient card next to each dish explaining if it contains meat, dairy, or eggs. Read more about it here.

11. Sunabe gyros.

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My husband is obsessed with this place. They make a falafel gyro with hummus, lettuce, and tomato (make sure you order it without tzatziki sauce). They also have a pita and hummus plate, as well as vegetable soup. Read more about it here.

12. Plenty of Joy. (UPDATE- closed as of March 2015)20140809-213040-77440943.jpg

A small sandwich and smoothie shop in Naha, right off of kokusai street. They make house made soy mayo and slather it on some super fresh sandwiches. Plus, their smoothies are swoon worthy. Check out my post on POJ here.

13. Cactus eatrip.

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A cafe near foster with a menu centered on delicious home made bagels. The majority of their bagels are vegan, and their hummus is to die for. They also have a great drink menu including Oreo smoothies and they do have soymilk for your coffee. One of my favorite places. I recommend checking it out. More info can be found here.

14. Jai Thai.

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Jai thai is a thai food restaurant in American village that has an entire menu page dedicated to vegan fair. Beware of the curries though, they contain shrimp paste. They’re veggie pad thai is delicious, as is their fried tofu. More info can be found here.

15. Bollywood Dreams.

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An Indian curry restaurant in American village that has multiple types of veggie curry. Vegan naan bread is available but must be requested 24 hours in advance. Their pumpkin curry is my favorite thing on the menu. More info can be found here.

16. Vita smoothie.

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Smoothie and bagel shop in Naha near kokusai street. They have a list of options for smoothies so you can pick and choose what you’d prefer in your smoothie. They will make you a bagel with veggies and basil sauce if you ask them to. Their menu now has an English version. More info can be found here.

17. Ukishima garden.

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Vegan restaurant in Naha near kokusai street. They have a great menu! I’ve had their seafood “roe” pasta, their taco rice pizza, the caprese salad and their Salisbury steak. Everything here is delicious, and I highly recommend going. We save this place for special occasion date nights because it’s very cute and romantic at night. Read more info here.

18. Woodys international.

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A burger place near tomigusuku. The owner, Cody, is an American and happy to make you vegan fare! I’ve had the veggie wrap, salads, and pasta here- all are delicious and fresh! He does make a delicious vegan burger as well.If you would like a veggie burger, give him 24 hours advance notice. Read Carola’s post about Woodys and get more info by clicking here.

19. Pizzakaya Okinawa.

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This pizza place has some options for vegans. It’s owned by Americans and they are familiar with veganism, so much so that they’ve actually made a “vegan cheese” for their veg customers. Salads, pizza, and roasted veggies are all available for vegans. I recommend the wild mushroom pizza with vegan cheese and add guacamole. More info can be found here.

20. C&C breakfast Okinawa.

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A breakfast cafe in Naha with a few options for vegans. Read Carola’s post on it here.

21. Hearth Cafe.

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A cafe by the sea wall that is willing to work with you to make you vegan food. They’ve made us veggie sandwiches and veggie rice bowls. They’re very generous with their avocado, which is a huge deal for me! More on this place here.

22. Dosha.

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A vegan curry shop not far from kadena. She has healthy curries, vegan pudding, and I’ve heard she sells vegan muffins. Her curry is excellent, I highly recommend it. Find their Facebook page with their address listed here.

23. Istanbul Kebab House.

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A Turkish restaurant in Sunabe that has vegan curry available upon request. Also try their hummus while you’re there! More info available here.

24. L’Orange Patisserie.

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My favorite bakery. Thankfully it’s not too close to my house or I’d be there every day. It’s in Ginowan near foster, so if you’re in that area you are about to eat your weight in delicious muffins. The owner/baker Michiyo has freshly baked vegan muffins and cookies. A great option for those who are craving something sweet, but also fresh and not loaded with chemicals and preservatives. Read my post about this bakery here.

25. Starbucks Coffee.

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This may seem like a dumb thing to add to the list, but Starbucks locations are all over Okinawa and every one I’ve been to carries soymilk. Sometimes they also have fresh fruit salad if you need a snack on the go.

26. Poka Poka
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A raw food smoothie bar in Naha. Their smoothies are packed with nutrition and superfoods. Beware- these are not your typical Jamba Juice. Some of their smoothies contain Goya, which is not for the faint of heart. This place can be hard to find, and I don’t have directions. Find yourself a friend to help navigate! Their website:
here.

27. Tamie’s Kitchen

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A new vegetarian/vegan place opening 9/1/2014 in American village. They had a pre-opening gathering outside the restaurant where they sold soft serve ice cream and sandwiches. The ice cream was delicious! I am so sad I won’t be here when they officially open, but if you’re in Okinawa you should absolutely check them out. Check out their Facebook page by clicking here.

Places I have not been. (Click on the names to view more info).
These are not omnivorous restaurants with veg options, they are strictly vegetarian/vegan.

1. Cafe Ionca

2. Biosmile Cafe

3. Canaan Slow Farm

4. Kintsubo Shokudo

5. Cafe Kokuu

6. One Life Cafe

7. Munakata-do Bakery

I’ve also gotten word of vegan options being available by request at the omnivore restaurants Deans Kitchen, Borrachos, El Patio, Cinnamon Cafe, Coffee Casa, Mofgomona. I don’t have much details other than word of mouth from fellow adventurous vegans mentioning that they have been able to find vegan fare here after explaining what veganism is, showing their diet card (pictured below), and relying on the kindness of the employees to whip up something for them. Great places to check out if you’re in a pinch.

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There’s more, I’m sure. But I don’t know them all. I could drive all over this island and back and still not have found all of the vegan food. Try these places out, but don’t be afraid to explore the island and ask about vegan options. It helps to carry along the following card, either save it to your smart phone or print it out. It will help you out when you find yourself in a translation struggle and you’re really in need of some vegan food. It also helps to learn the words for meat, milk, eggs, etc.

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Thank you for reading! If you’re new to Okinawa and looking for vegan eats, welcome to the island and I hope this post helps you. I feel privileged to have started my vegan journey here, and to have had the opportunity to try so many different kinds of vegan food and meet new friends. I hope your experience is just as wonderful. Enjoy!

Rachel

Vegan fried fish & mango avocado salsa

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Lately I’ve been using a lot of nori. I love nori. Nori is the reason for that ocean-y taste of fish. So it’s perfect in imitating that same flavor without actually eating fish. And I know some people think tofu is gross, but if you treat it correctly it’s going to be your best friend. As a vegan self-taught home cook, I’m pretty well versed in the ways of tofu. I’ve used it to make scrambled “eggs”, vegan fish, nuggets, “turkey” thanksgiving roast, cheesecake, creamy soups, and more. Tofu is your friend. Don’t be grossed out by it, embrace the versatility!

Tofu fried “fish”
Feeds 2, but can be doubled easily
Ingredients
1/2 of a 14oz block of tofu, drained
Nori sheets

2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable or any other mild oil

1/8 cup flour

1/4 cup soy milk

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions
Drain the water from the tofu package.
Sliced tofu width wise into 1/2 inch slices. Since I make this for two people I make four or five slices and save the other half of the tofu block in the fridge for another recipe (usually tofu scramble). Press the slices of tofu between two clean towels with something very heavy on top, such as multiple cookbooks or a large glass casserole dish. Press for at least 30 minutes, or as long as four hours.

Cut the nori sheets into strips to fit one side of each tofu strip and press until the nori sticks to the strips. You don’t need to have nori on both sides of the tofu. One is enough to get the fish effect.

Mix your seasonings/soy sauce/oil in a shallow bowl. It will turn into sort of a paste. Coat each tofu strip in about 1 teaspoon of the paste, then set the strips aside. There will be excess paste when you are finished. Add the 1/4 cup of non-dairy milk to the excess and mix.

Dust each strip with flour. You probably won’t use all of the 1/8 cup, and that’s fine. Just dust them, not fully cover them.

Dip strips in the paste/milk mixture, then coat them in panko (it’s easiest to have your panko in a bowl and make a factory line, so to speak. Dust with flour, milk marinade, panko). Make sure they are evenly coated.

Once all strips are coated, fry them in a pan with about 1/2 inch of oil on the bottom. Fry about three minutes on each side, until golden brown but do your best not to burn them. I always make my husband do the frying for me. I’m terrible at it.

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Serve these puppies up with vegan spicy tartar sauce and mango avocado salsa. Recipes below!

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Spicy tartar sauce
Makes about 1/4 cup
Ingredients
1/4 cup plain vegan mayo (or cashews that have soaked overnight and then been whipped up in a blender)
Juice and zest of 1/2 a large lemon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder or girly minced white onion

Mango and avocado salsa
Makes about 1&1/4 cups
Ingredients
1/2 of a large ripe mango, diced
1 medium avocado, diced
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon cilantro
1 tablespoon finely minced white onion
Juice and zest of half a lime or lemon

Voila! I serve all of this up together over some brown rice in a bowl for myself, while my husband prefers his taco-style. It’s good no matter how you do it. Try it out! And thanks for reading!

Being Vegan in Okinawa, Japan – Eating Sushi

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Not long ago, that was me. Long before Rachel Cooks Vegan. Long before I even knew anything about food. I loved sushi. And living by the gulf, seafood was everywhere. It’s not just feeling badly for sea creatures that inspired me to stop eating them. Sadly, overfishing is a real problem with real consequences . I won’t go off on a tangent though, so if you’d like to read more about the facts and consequences of overfishing you can click here.

Before i was vegan, I spent many months as a pescetarian. I loved seafood. I grew up in Florida and many of my family memories are of me going to seafood restaurants with my family. My dad and I would get some seafood at a place on the beach and then go play putput golfing. My brother and I would both order shrimp and he’d make fun of me for picking the breading off. And in later years, my sister and I spent many Friday and Saturday evenings together getting sushi in Tampa. I love sushi. The only thing I love more than sushi is my sister.

Then suddenly, my pescatarian days were over when I realized why I wasn’t already vegan. Laziness, mixed with a love of eating smoked salmon. So I went vegan. And you know what? I love veggie sushi. Japan was the perfect place for me to go vegan.

So here’s the list of places where you can find vegan sushi in Okinawa. Some of my fondest memories were made here.

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1. Kouwa sushi.
My friend Frankie and I stumbled upon this place while my husband was deployed. We walked in and sat at the bar where we spoke to the owner, Cho. A super nice guy and awesome sushi chef, he is originally from okinawa but worked in the United States for some time. The girls responsible for me going vegan, Erika and yesenia, later went to Kouwa and asked Cho to start making a vegan roll. And holy crap, it is delicious.

Cho also has other vegan options such as avocado tempura, seaweed salad, tofu steak, and even his miso soup is vegan. He has other options for sushi rolls like avocado rolls, cucumber rolls, etc. I highly recommend you check his place out and sit at the bar. Read more about kouwa by clicking here.

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2. Yoshihachi’s.
One of the first places I went when I came to Okinawa. This place is famous! Yoshi, the owner, is the original creator of the tempura roll. He’s awesome! He speaks many languages besides Japanese including English and Spanish. For vegans he has teriyaki tofu, vegetable tempura, sautéed eggplant, French fries, and he does have a veggie roll BUT make sure you order it without mayonnaise. This place is awesome! A must-do while in okinawa, even for vegans. Read more about it by clicking here.

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3. Kami sushi.
This place was where I went the second day of me being in okinawa. It’s extremely popular with Americans. I haven’t been in quite some time because it’s always packed. They do have options for vegans and they’re very good. The have a tofu steak, tempura vegetables, a veggie roll, and sea grapes. You also can order their tuna/salmon spring rolls with extra avocado instead of fish. It’s a great place! If you see Saiya (girl in the pink shirt who works there), give her a hug from me. Read more about kami sushi by clicking this link.

4. Newport sushi.
I only ate here before being vegan, but according to my friend Carola from carolatic they do have options for vegans. Read more about Newport by clicking here.

5. Sushi Zen.
I have never been here. But it’s very popular, and my friend Erika says they made her the best veggie rolls she’s had on the island. Read more about sushi zen by clicking here.

So that is my list! I hope you’ll check out some of the restaurants listed. These aren’t the only sushi restaurants on the island obviously, and I didn’t even know they catered to vegans until me or someone else asked. Don’t be afraid to ask people to make you a veggie option. There’s always vegan food to find in Okinawa, if you know where to look.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

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Vegan fudge. What a concept! I remember looking at the different kinds of overpriced fudge at Disney and begging my mom to buy it for me. There were so many different kinds! My favorite was always chocolate peanut butter. So since going vegan it’s been my mission to recreate things I loved in my non-veg days into cruelty free treats that make me both fat and nostalgic.

Ingredients
1 cup canned coconut milk, chilled
3 cups carob or vegan chocolate chips. I used a mix of both.
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons sea salt
Kosher salt for topping (optional)

Instructions
In a sauce pan bring the coconut milk to a low boil on medium heat. Add the carob/chocolate chips one cup at a time. Stir in peanut butter, sea salt and vanilla. Turn off the heat and stir until the mixture is smooth.

Sift your powdered sugar into a bowl. Pour in the chocolate mixture and mix together using a hand mixer.

Once smooth, pour the mixture into a 8×8 dish coated with wax paper or tin foil. Sprinkle with kosher salt if desired. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

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