Interview with Sarah Pugilese

Thanks to Sarah for patience with me in getting her interview posted — it’s been a crazy week! If you live on the east coast, Sarah has so many recommendations for great places to eat.  I might have to make a trip to Pittsburgh just to try all the amazing vegan cuisine! Thanks for sharing your story & insight, Sarah!

How long have you been vegan?  Short answer — since September 2014.

Why did you decide to go vegan? I stopped eating meat when I was 12, but knew eggs weren’t fertilized and cows “need” milked, so I was fine eating eggs and dairy until I went to the walk for farm animals that raises money for Farm Sanctuary in September 2014. I had been limiting dairy for dietary reasons, but still ate it with the aid of lactose pills. Gene Baur spoke at the walk and shared his first experience visiting a factory farm. He described the cages in which the layer hens are kept and how they can’t even open their wings fully or turn around. I was instantly 100% vegan. I went on to watch the documentary Forks Over Knives and the medical and scientific proof made me even more confident in my decision.

What’s your favorite vegan food? Oh gosh this is so hard. I love to make insane salads. Biggest bowl I have filled with spring mix, spiralized zucchini, quinoa, roasted veggies and potatoes, and goddess dressing or oil and vinegar. If I’m eating out, I really can’t pick a favorite. There are so many good meals out there now. I’m a big fan of brunch because I’m super lazy in the morning, so having someone else cook me pancakes or a breakfast sandwich brings me extra joy.

What are some vegan products you can’t live without? Quinoa, peanut butter, Gardein brand everything, Orgain protein powder.

What’s something you want others to know about a vegan lifestyle? It feels amazing, it’s no harder than planning meals that include meat and dairy. It’s better for your health, it’s better for our planet, and it just feels great.

Any challenges you’ve run into? The attitudes of other people and the stereotypes (I think/hope they’re slowly fading) about vegans and veganism. A lot of people ask with genuine curiosity and interest, but some ask with a tone that suggests I’m a crazy person and should probably be on my death bed by now.

Any advice you’d give to people just starting out or interested in becoming vegan? Eat the rainbow, don’t be afraid of carbs, and never say no to vegan-friendly desserts. Pinterest and Instagram are awesome resources for recipes and meal plans. Barnivore tells you what alcohols are vegan-friendly. Search “vegan food” on yelp anytime you’re going on a trip. PETA has a list of “accidentally vegan” foods; Oreos are on there. You’ll be consuming A LOT of fiber, so up your water intake and don’t be surprised if your…bathroom habits change a bit. All of the muscle I currently have on my body was built with plants. Elephants and gorillas eat a plant-based diet and they both could kick your ass.

What are your favorite vegan restaurants? Favorite all-vegan restaurants are Relish, Onion Maiden, and B52 café. Zenith is all vegetarian and has an entire brunch buffet that is vegan as well. Burgatory, Franktuary, Burgh’ers, Aladdin’s, Square Cafe and Doublewide Grill all have options for all diets. Vegan Pittsburgh’s website has tons of restaurants. I’m slowly working my way through the list. If you’re into the mail order meals, Chip and Kale is Pittsburgh-based, but ships nationally. It’s 100% vegan and the meals come with everything labeled and chopped and frozen. It’s so convenient. I know a couple other meal subscriptions have vegan options as well. My friend has done Sun Basket and has shared her meals with me. (I wish we had this many vegan-friendly restaurants in Iowa!)

What’s the best thing about being vegan? My happiness is not hurting any other living being. I am strong and healthy and confident and I don’t have to feel guilty for being that way. Oh, and if I have a “cheat meal” I can reason that it’s all plant-based, so it’s essentially a salad.

Any books or documentaries you’d recommend? I mentioned Forks Over Knives previously, What the Health is interesting too. I’ve heard great things about Cowspiracy as well, but haven’t watched it.

Any go-to recipes or vegan websites you use?  Barnivore, Vegan Pittsburgh, PETA (they’re a little extremist, but have good info regarding restaurants). I have the cookbook “Eat like you give a F*ck” but I honestly haven’t eaten out of it yet.

Anything else you’d like to talk about? I think a lot of people are convinced you’re missing something by being vegan. Taste, nutrition, experiences… with the growing popularity of veganism, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Knowing how to properly fuel my body has me in the best shape of my life and the only supplements I take are B12 (most people should take it anyway) and a probiotic. I probably have a more well-balanced diet than most omnivores.

Product Review : Amy’s Lentil Soup

Lentil soup is one of our family’s favorite meals for lunch.  It’s quick, delicious, nutritious and incredibly easy to dress up. Not to mention affordable! We love Amy’s vegetable lentil — while making it from scratch would be ideal, this soup is hearty & comforting, especially with whole grain bread to dip into it!

 

On this day, we added Tofutti sour cream, green onion, a squeeze of lime & a dash of hot sauce.  It’s also wonderful with nutritional yeast & garlic salt sprinkled on top, as well as slices of avocado.  We sometimes eat it over a bed of brown rice and topped with fresh cilantro. The possibilities are endless, and having a variety of flavors keeps it exciting when we have this meal nearly once or twice a week! Our one year old daughter loves it, too, and it’s a great source of iron, fiber & protein. Plant protein for the win!