Vegan Eats in the Queen City

Cincinnati is the place I call home, and each year it seems as if the city gets even more vegan friendly! Since leaving, my visits have led me to indulge in everything from cheesy croissant sandwiches, to “Crack ‘n’ Cheese,” to a mouth-watering raw vegan chocolate bar!  My stomach is rumbling just thinking about it! Here are some of my favorite spots to help me go up a notch on my belt buckle whenever I’m in town!

  • Rooted: The last time I visited Cincinnati and didn’t go to Rooted was probably before I knew Rooted existed! Beyond the allure of beautiful, sleek, minimalist decor are some delicious plant-based noms that will have you craving more and feeling energized afterwards! They have a plethora of cold-pressed juices and cold case items they make in-house when you’re on the go, and a full menu of raw and hot meals when you’re dining in.Everything is vegan besides the occasional use of honey in a few juices. Some of the meals include Quesadillas with their house-made cashew cheese, raw vegan Taco Wraps, and a raw Caesar Salad. Don’t forget to finish your meal off with some raw vegan chocolates from the chocolate bar, the Twix will not disappoint!
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  • Happy Chicks: Happy Chicks fits right into Northside, a part of Cincinnati full of record stores, antique shops and yummy food! Happy Chicks is a bakery specializing in celebration cakes, cookies and cupcakes galore, with all sorts of unique flavors. On Saturdays, the bakery sells croissant doughnuts with flavors like Strawberry Margarita and Lemongrass Matcha. They don’t only serve up delicious sweet treats, but their croissants are the best I’ve had, vegan or not. The croissants have a crunch on the outside that is the perfect start to the warm, soft, flaky pastry. Happy Chicks even makes croissant sandwiches that are out of this world (or city, at least)! Melty vegan cheese and fresh veggies sandwiched between two hot, mouth-watering croissants? I’m in!

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  • The Kitchen Factory: The Kitchen Factory is another Northside favorite, and the perfect late night bite! The Kitchen Factory isn’t entirely vegan. but their vegan menu items could confuse a carnivore! Their vegan Meatball Marinara Sub was able to confuse me at least, who thought the sandwich was so realistic looking and tasting that I was worried I forgot to specify to make it vegan! Not to mention, I could eat a bucket of their “Crack (Mac) ‘n’ Cheese!” Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s gluten-free, with a house-made cheese sauce that could make anything taste good and penne pasta, it is every bit as glutinous and cheesy as you could dream of! They also have a vegan ricotta they make in-house for their veggie pizza, served by the slice as late as 3 am on the weekends!
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  • Jungle Jim’s: Jungle Jim’s may not be a restaurant, but it is easily the IKEA of grocery shopping. Jungle Jim’s is filled with every food item under the sun, especially when it comes to international specialities and a vegan section you could get lost in! You can even find a little bit of Louisville with V-Grits cheeses in the vegan cheese section! Stop here to get that weird, exotic looking vegetable you’ve heard all about, four types of vegan mozzarella, or your favorite international condiments!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

In Love with Lasagna

One of my favorite things to make with our V-Grits Mozzarella Cashew Cheese Sauce… Lasagna! It’s not nearly as time consuming as you may think. If you want to impress your friends or family, this is the perfect dish.

We’ll start with a basic recipe using store bought ingredients, followed by even more recipes for ricotta, marinara, and parm. But to keep it simple, your favorite jarred tomato sauce and packaged vegan ricotta will work wonderfully. Here we go!

lasagna

CROWD PLEASING VEGAN LASAGNA

V-Grits Mozzarella Cashew – store list is here

Lasagna Noodles – you won’t need as many as you think

Marinara – Jarred or try the homemade recipe below

Ricotta – Packaged by Tofutti or Kite Hill, or recipes below

Bonuses: Basil & Parm – recipe below

 

Instructions…

 

OODLES OF NOODLES

Par cook your lasagna noodles – this means only boil them until you think they’re 50% done. You don’t want them to fall to pieces while you’re building this beauty, and they’ll continue cooking in the oven. They go a lot farther than you think. You can find regular, whole wheat, or brown rice noodles nowadays. After cooking, lay them out on parchment paper or foil with oil so they don’t stick together.

MAGIC MARINARA

Any variety of jarred will work. If you want to go big, our favorite recipe is below.

CREAMY RICOTTA

The easy way would be to purchase a packaged vegan ricotta, such as Tofutti or Kite Hill brands. I love making my own! So my 2 favorites recipes – one with cashews and one with tofu – are below.

 

mozzLAYERING THAT LASAGNA

The fun part! I typically use a 9×13″ glass pan. Spread a thin layer of marinara in the bottom (and up the sides just a bit) to prevent the noodles from sticking and burning. Layer the pasta evenly – you’ll probably have to slice it to fit. More marinara covering those noodles, and then next up is the ricotta – spread or scoop evenly. Followed by creamy V-Grits Mozzarella Cashew sauce, and another layer of noodles. I can usually only get 2 full layers of all this goodness. Then for that final top layer I do noodles, then marinara, then a little more V-Grits Mozzarella – but not spread out all the way out, so you can still see that bright red sauce. Check out the main photo above for reference.

SHAKE & BAKE

Ok, don’t actually shake it. For a full 9×13 lasagna it’s going to need a solid 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Top with plant parm (recipe below) and fresh basil. And then instagram it to impress your friends!

 

Feeling really inspired? Here are the marinara, ricotta, and parm recipes!

 

V-Grits Marinara Recipe

Put all this tasty stuff in a food processor and puree to a chunky consistency…

1 15oz can of crushed tomatoes

  • or 8-ish tomatoes, diced
  • try broiling them for 5 minutes first!

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp rough chopped onion

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup water

1/2 tbsp sugar or agave

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Then simmer on the stove lightly for at least 10 minutes. Throw in some fresh basil and oregano. You can also sauté some mushrooms in the pan before adding the marinara – and/or – some vegan beef crumbles for a meaty marinara.

 

V-Grits Cashew Ricotta

Into the vitamix or food processor goes…

2 cups cashews, soaked

4 tsp lemon juice

3-4 cloves garlic

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp white pepper

3/4 tsp onion powder

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/4 cup water

Then chop up these greens and stir them in…

spinach

basil

oregano

 

V-Grits Tofu Ricotta

This one can be nut-free or oil-free if desired too, depending on which cream cheese you pick. Using your hands, because that’s more fun, smash up…

1 14oz package firm or extra firm tofu

4oz vegan cream cheese (I like Tofutti or Kite Hill)

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

3/4 tsp onion powder

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Then chop up these greens and stir them in…

spinach

basil

oregano

If you have leftover ricotta it’s wonderful on pizza, rolled up in thin zucchini slices, on toasted bread, etc etc, just don’t waste it for pete’s sake!

 

V-Grits Plant Parm

In a small food processor, process down…

1/2 cup cashews, dry/not soaked

3 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp or less black salt (opt.)

You can also make this with almonds or sunflower seeds.

Are Humans Herbivores or Omnivores?

As much as I could get behind having the speed and strength of a lion, comparing humans to carnivorous or even omnivorous animals is like comparing apples to oranges! There are a vast amount of biological differences that keep both species thriving on completely opposing diets. Humans, for example, have hands that work well for picking fruit off trees or plucking ripe vegetables from the ground. Those same hands would probably come in short when it comes to catching prey or tearing animal flesh because we didn’t get a set of claws. Even if we did manage catch prey, not only are human teeth underwhelmingly flat like an herbivore’s, but our jaws also set us apart from any meat-thriving animal. Our jaws move from side to side to grind up fruits and veggies, unlike an omnivore’s jaws which move only up and down to tear chunks out of their prey and swallow it whole. When it comes to digesting food, our livers and stomachs create even more omnivorous road-blocks! Omnivorous and carnivorous animals have shorts colons and intestines as well as highly acidic stomachs that allow meat to digest and pass through quickly so the animals won’t get sick. Our long livers reflecting of an herbivore’s and comparatively weak stomach acidity keep our bodies from fully breaking down meat, or benefitting from it as an omnivore would. And when it comes to animal products such as milk, there could definitely be a reason that no other species on the planet besides humans consumes the milk of another species. If we no longer need the  milk of our own mothers, maybe it’s time for humans to get off the cow breast milk, too!

But humans have been eating meat for hundreds of thousands of years, so can it really be that bad? Dr. Neal Bernard, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, concluded that humans have never adapted to the animal-product focused diet we all have learned to crave. “To this day, meat-eaters have a higher incidence of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other problems,” Dr. Bernard states. There might be a reason we never got the urge to bite a chunk out of our neighbor’s dog, after all!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

Can Animal Agriculture be Humane?

Are “happy,” “ethical,” and “grass-fed” the trendy animal agriculture buzz words vegans have been waiting for?

Unfortunately, even if cows are fed grass of the lushest jade pastures and slept on their own personal clouds, the animal agriculture industry will infinitely be the farthest thing from happy or ethical. Humans have terrorized and abused animals so horribly and consistently that now it’s a hipster farming miracle just if the cows eat food that’s actually supposed to be in their diets. Is choosing not to feed cows to other cows really the best we can do when it comes to our treatment of our furry friends? Grass-fed and cage-free has never meant violence-free (as the rise of internet videos of these farms has led us to understand), but what are we saying about our own ethical conduct if not torturing animals before we kill and eat them is our end-all be-all? Of course not torturing animals before they’re killed is obviously better than a combination of the two, but letting animals live without being the receiving end of human violence should just be common, standard ethics rather than the phenomenon it is made out to be.

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The violence used in industrialized farming is only a part of the problem. It goes without saying that the animals raised in ethically marketed farms probably will be happier and healthier in comparison to animals encaged and being fed food that’s not meant for their bodies. However, happier and healthier doesn’t mean the animals will actually be happy or healthy. Regardless of the environment or conditions of these farms, the animals are still being used as machines to pleasure a human’s taste buds. Animals in dairy and egg farming will still get diseases from being used for their bodies beyond their natural capacity, as well as have their reproductive systems damaged, immune systems deteriorating, and their children torn away from them almost immediately after they first lay eyes on them. In farms that supply meat, animals are literally bred to be killed as babies so we can eat their flesh. There is no ethical hierarchy when it comes to the treatment of animals, but we as humans can choose to do better. Not to mention, grass-fed cow farms are still not slacking on the environmental destruction, and the glass of pus-filled, cow-blood-infused milk and plates of chicken periods (eggs) is definitely not our best look!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi