Category Archives: vegan

The Day Chalet, Our Vegan AirBnB

Last November, Dr. D. and I decided to open our home to travelers through AirBnB using our spare bedroom. At first, we were a little hesitant about having strangers in our home but had confidence in AirBnb’s system as we learned more about ways to vet our prospective guests. Although many people around the world have turned to AirBnb to make money using a spare bedroom, a rental property, or a vacation home, ours was going to be unique.  Most AirBnB listings have house rules such as, no smoking, no parties, no pets, etc. but we had special house rules.

You are welcome to use our kitchen but please keep it free of animal products as our home is vegan.

Most guests understood this and many wanted to talk about it after they arrived. “Can I eat Cheez Doodles in my room?” one guest asked. I told him I wasn’t going to kick him out for eating Cheez Doodles but had a bag of the Earth Balance equivalent waiting for him in his room when he returned for the day. He loved them!

I had another AirBnB user send me this message prior to booking, “I’d like to know if it’s allowed for me to cook my dinner. I eat salad with chicken or rice, eggs. I don’t eat meat.” I gently explained that as stated in our profile under House Rules, we don’t allow any animal products in our home (and told him that chicken was, indeed, meat) which led him to give me warnings about Vitamin B-12 deficiency. He found another place to stay.

Our experiences with guests has been nothing short of fabulous. We’ve shared tea at midnight, bourbon after our usual bedtime, and lots of stories of travels at home and abroad. We’ve welcomed a motorcyclist during his cross-country trip and an older couple from a town 30 miles from us who were attending a concert and didn’t want to drive all the way home in the dark. We’ve had guests from India, Canada, Germany, Scotland, China, and many other places in the world. Each one of them enriched our lives during their short stays.

We quickly found that travelers were encouraged to book more readily after I added pictures of our cat and dog to our profile. “We want to meet Willow the Wonder Dog” or “your cat is adorable. I just had to meet her” were common remarks. Did this weed out some people who weren’t animal lovers? Maybe. But that was okay.

Willow the Wonder Dog

What I found interesting is that we have not had a single person stay with us who identifies as vegan. We’ve had a couple of vegetarians but everyone else has been omnivorous. There’s no sense in “preaching to the converted” and we are happy to use our home to open up ways to passively promote veganism; it could be in the form of a conversation they initiate, a comment about a book they found in their room, or simply the aroma of delicious food cooking when they arrive. Or maybe simply finding out that vegans are friendly, welcoming, and kind.

We donate monthly to The Coalition for Healthy School Food, a non-profit founded by our friend Amie Hamlin and discovered that noting in our profile that a portion of our profits go to the organization helped spread the word about the work they’re doing. During Labor Day of 2017, we donated all our profits to Hurricane Harvey animal rescue relief efforts. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money using AirBnb but we feel our good fortune should be shared.

Our AirBnB business will be going international as we build our home in Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica. With the help of a property manager, we hope to be welcoming guests there by late 2018. In the meantime, check out our current listing here. If you’re interested in setting up your own AirBnB, please contact me with any questions or use this link and I will donate our referral bonus to an animal rescue organization of your choice.

Coming in 2018!


Foodie Friday! Quinoa Tabouli

Quinoa Tabouli from The Great Life Cookbook

This recipe feeds a crowd but can easily be scaled down for a smaller family or bring it to the office to show everyone how delicious gluten-free vegan food is!  I was blown away by it at the macro vegan dinner in August!

Quinoa Tabouli

5 cups quinoa

10 cups water
2 bunches red radishes
1/2 cup olive oil (optional)
1 large bunch mint leave, finely chopped (~1/2 cup)
6 lemons, juiced (~1 cup)
1 tsp. sea salt
3 Tbl. umeboshi plum vinegar
6 Tbl. raw pine nuts
6 medium cucumbers, peeled and diced small
1/2 bunches fresh parsley, finely chopped (~3 cups loosely packed)

1.Rinse quinoa and strain.  Add water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for     20-25     minutes.     Allow to cool.

2.  Prepare radishes.  Finely dice, quickly blanch and cool.

3.  Mix olive oil, mint, lemon juice, salt and vinegar.  Add this mixture to the quinoa. 

4.  Toast pine nuts in a small skillet on a low flame for a few minutes, stirring frequently. 

5.  Fold in blanched radishes, cucumbers, pine nuts and parsley. 

6.  Serve chilled.

Restaurant Review – Strong Hearts Cafe, Syracuse, NY

Although I live only an hour away from Syracuse, I just finally got up to Strong Hearts Cafe.  Situated on a one-way street in the heart of Syracuse, the cafe is easily found and has ample parking.

The cafe is not only 100% vegan but also environmentally conscious and community focused.  They use local produce and compost all their food waste as well as their compostable food packaging.  Best of all, the food is delicious!

I treated myself to a vegan reuben and was not disappointed.  It was grilled to perfection and topped generously with sauerkraut and Russian dressing.  I was given a choice of potato chips or greens on the side (I chose chips because I’m not that righteous).

I couldn’t wait to take the picture before
biting into this scrumptious sandwich!

If you’re a fan of milkshakes, Strong Hearts can deliver!  I counted 44 different kinds of shakes on their menu all named after famous movers and shakers.  Try the Medgar Evers shake made with peanut butter and strawberries or the Farm Sanctuary shake made with caramel cookie dough.  All vegan!

The soups and muffins served change daily and they’re even open for breakfast!  Check them out and let me know what you think!  I know I’ll be back for more!

Vegan eating in Punta Gorda, Belize

We recently spent a week in Punta Gorda, Belize. For two vegans, this meant doing a little research on what our options were for meals and to be prepared to be flexible in this Central American country. 

Before leaving, I contacted the owner of the place where we’d be staying. Hickatee Cottages is a remote jungle retreat but the owners, British ex-pats Kate and Ian Morton were very accommodating. Kate asked lots of questions beforehand such as: do you eat honey? do you eat Marmite? (nutritional yeast here in the U.S.) do you like peanut butter? (truly vegan butter substitute in Belize is unheard of) so I knew from the beginning we were in good hands. 

Upon our arrival, Kate had prepared chips and salsa along with some champagne and had it waiting in our room. This was a very welcome treat after a long, hot journey.  Dinner would be provided every evening except Saturday and Wednesday and rides into town for dinner were arranged on those nights. 

Since we arrived on Saturday, Ian took us into Punta Gorda (PG to the locals) to Mr. Gomier’s restaurant. I had researched this unique eatery prior to arriving and was really excited to finally experience this local eatery. 

Mr. Gomier is Rastafarian and makes his own tofu. He also offers tofu making classes from his unassuming restaurant on the Caribbean Sea. When we arrived, Ian took us inside and shouted, “Gomier!  Are you cooking tonight?” 

The inside of the restaurant looked like a busy Caribbean kitchen, unlike any restaurant we’d ever seen. A round woman in a t-shirt and skirt who acted as both waitress and cook wordlessly led us to the deck where she covered a wooden table with a colorful cloth and took our drink orders. Reggae versions of 80’s music played on the sound system. We were the only customers.

You may be cool but you’ll never be
Belizean Rastafarian tofu-making cool.

We’d already been introduced to Belize’s own Belikin beer earlier in the day so we ordered two stouts to go with our barbecued tofu platter. This platter included a large portion of rice and a small tossed salad. It was just as delicious as I’d expected and we enjoyed every bite. We returned to visit Mr. Gomier on Wednesday night as well bringing with us Ray McDonald, the Garifuna drummer we had met at Hickatee earlier that evening.  What a pleasure to spent time with Ray and to meet the ultra cool Mr. Gomier himself!

Breakfasts at Hickatee were a tropical paradise of fruits and homemade breads. Dragon fruit, papaya, banana, and the best mango I’ve ever tasted were offered each morning.  We were introduced to soursop juice, a local treat we both loved.  Kate spoiled us with fantastic vegan chocolate muffins!  Peanut butter and jam were always available and we made sandwiches for our lunches. 

Dragon fruit, papaya, pineapple and banana.

What?!  Ian’s rum punch isn’t mentioned?

Dinner was a treat!  Homemade bread or rolls, delicious soup and a hearty entree awaited us on the nights Kate was in the kitchen.  On our last night, we had tofu with cohune cabbage.  I enjoy cabbage but it didn’t sound like a good combination until it was explained to me that cohune cabbage was otherwise known as hearts of palm.  It was fantastic and Kate kindly sent the recipe after we returned home.

As I mentioned above, Kate cooks every night but Saturday and Wednesday so we were prepared to have dinner at Hickatee on Thursday night until Ian arrived at our cottage with the news that he’d be taking us into town for dinner that night.

“The flood flies have hatched.  Kate can’t cook.”

Flood flies are winged termites and they make a grand entrance for about four hours and then disappear.  They swarm and head for the nearest light source before losing their wings and dying.  A sad short life.  We turned out the lights in our cottage and piled into Ian’s truck to go to Asha’s Culture Kitchen in Punta Gorda.

Unassuming is an understatement for this eatery on the Caribbean Sea.  A big blackboard displays the menu and we easily found something vegan for dinner; curry veg with coconut rice on the side. A refreshing glass of watermelon juice tasted amazing in the Belizean heat.  The meal was delicious but I was feeling under the weather and didn’t eat very much.  Asha generously offered to give us free dessert but we politely declined as everything contained animal products.

On our second to last day in Belize, we headed to Belcampo Lodge for lunch and massages.  A beautiful resort, they pride themselves on being a farm to table restaurant.  Unfortunately, we got a glimpse of the unsuspecting farm animals soon to be taking that trip to the table.

We were there for the organic produce and promise of great food.  We explained to our waiter that we’re vegan and he was very helpful in guiding us through the ordering process.  We decided on tortilla chips as an appetizer which came with a dip on the side.  When we asked what it was, we were told it was hummus.

It didn’t look like any hummus we’d had before but we tried it and I immediately tasted something non-vegan.

“Is there mayo in the hummus?” I asked.

“No, no mayo.  Yogurt.”  Immediately, we witnessed the poor waiter’s light bulb moment when he realized he had just given two vegans a dairy product.  He apologized profusely and whisked the plate away to replace the “hummus” with salsa. 

Our meal at Belcampo was less than memorable; two vegetable wraps that didn’t impress either of us.  But the view was stellar and watching the hummingbirds flutter around our table while we ate made it all worthwhile.

We both feel so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to visit this wonderful country with its beautiful, gracious people and delicious food.  As always when traveling, it’s challenging to adhere to a vegan diet but we never went hungry and so many were eager to accommodate us.  I told Kate before we left that she may have a new niche market for vegans with her phenomenal cooking skills.  I’m not sure if she’s happy about that or not.

Vegan on holiday

The Born Again Vegan blog will be quiet this week as I spend Christmas in England.  Be prepared, however, for some posts when I return.  The topics will include staying vegan while out of the country as well as the story of how USAirways tried to give me a Muslim meal instead of the vegan one Dr. D. ordered for me. I’m hoping to liberate all the sheep in Derbyshire!

Stay tuned and may we all have a peaceful and compassionate Christmas!

Foodie Friday – Cream of Squash Soup

This soup comes from The Great Life Cookbook and is perfect for those fall potlucks or make a batch and freeze some for later.  Only four ingredients and deliciousness beyond belief!

I will admit it took some time to peel and chop the squash but I think it was worth it.  I did see some pre-peeled and chopped butternut squash in the produce section this week which would greatly help the next time I make this.

Just look at that creamy deliciousness!

Cream of Squash Soup

2 large butternut squashes (~14 cups)*
4 medium onions, chopped coarsely (~6 cups)
Water to almost cover squash (~2 quarts)
1 Tbs. sea salt
4-6 Tbs. brown rice syrup (optional but I used 1 Tbs and it was plenty)
1/2 bunch of parsley (optional)

  1. Peel squash, cut in half, remove seeds and chop into large 2-3″ cubes.
  2. Water saute onions in an 8-quart pot for 4-5 minutes; add squash, water and salt.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer; cover and cook until squash is soft, about 20-25 minutes.
  4. Carefully puree hot squash in a blender using just enough liquid to blend, possibly not using all the liquid (I used none of the liquid).  A slightly thick creamy texture is preferred.
  5. Add brown rice syrup, if needed.
  6. Garnish with parsley.

*I used one large and one medium and still needed to use half of another medium squash.  Mother Nature is never very consistent in how she allows vegetables to grow.