Cheapskates in Reykjavik

Vegan carrot cake and a soy cappuccino from Cafe Babalu in Reykjavik

Vegan carrot cake and a soy cappuccino from Cafe Babalu in Reykjavik

The last of my Iceland posts—until the next trip!

Eating in Iceland is pretty expensive. And drinks are crazy expensive. We were on a tight travel budget, so we had to economize, and we quickly discovered we couldn’t afford to go out for drinks. But we found a pretty good way to indulge ourselves anyway.

Before the trip, I did a lot of Googling and Instagram surfing looking for vegan food tips. And although I somehow missed any warnings about the high cost of eating and drinking in Iceland, I did manage to get some good restaurant tips, and I read in more than one place about a not-to-be-missed drink called the tree-hugger—a vegan white Russian at a place called Lebowski’s. So we went out after dinner one night to see what it was all about. We sat down at the busy bar and looked at the drink menu. We were still getting used to translating the currency, but after staring at the menu, doing some calculations in our heads, and finally using the currency converter phone app, we discovered that the drink, at 1,900 krona, cost about $17 U.S. dollars. Times two. We couldn’t do it. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend $35 on two drinks. I’m sure it’s amazing—but maybe next trip.

So we wandered down the street to a place that was recommended for live music and figured we would just grab a beer and find some good music. There was no live music that weeknight and hardly anyone in the place, and it was almost $8 for a beer. I know, we’re cheap, but it just didn’t seem worth it. So, we scratched that one off the list too.

Finally, we ended up back at Glo, the Reykjavik raw restaurant chain where we’d enjoyed a great vegan lunch the previous day. But this night we went for tea and dessert. A couple of delicious vegan desserts and two cups of tea later, we’d spent about what those couple of beers would have cost us. So even though we are a couple of very enthusiastic beer drinkers, we ended up skipping the drinks in favor of desserts for the duration of the trip—and it was a sweet trade!

Polaroid with Icelandic sheep and graffiti—best souvenir of the trip!

Polaroid with Icelandic sheep and graffiti—best souvenir of the trip!

The next day, we had vegan carrot cake and espressos at Cafe Babalu—really yummy. The cafe is a funky little thrift-shop-decorated place. Very cozy and friendly. There are lots of other options on the menu, including plenty of non-vegan desserts and veggie chili. Bonus: it is located on a busy street full of shops and cafes, including a storefront/studio for some local photographers offering $5 Polaroid portraits. On our last day in Reykjavik, we stopped in and couldn’t resist getting one. It was taken in front of a great blown-up shot of some Icelandic sheep and is definitely our favorite souvenir of the trip.

Raw vegan blueberry cheesecake from Gardurinn

Raw vegan blueberry cheesecake from Gardurinn

And the best dessert of all, also on our last day in Reykjavik, was from the tiny cafe called Gardurinn, where we also enjoyed coconut soup. We had a tiny, raw chocolate brownie bite and a delicious raw,vegan blueberry cheesecake. I love cheesecake, and it’s one of the few foods I truly miss from my dairy-eating days. This treat satisfied the cheesecake craving I’ve been denying for years.

After all those sweet treats, did we miss our beer? Admittedly, yes, we kind of did. So after arriving (starving!) in Boston, we stopped on the way home at one of our favorite dinner destinations, Garden Grille, for dinner and a beer. And that complete dinner and (good) beer cost less than two tree-huggers would have been in Reykjavik. Traveling is good, and so is coming home!

Photos by Josh Araujo


Get Glo-ing


My second post about vegan traveling in Iceland. Short and sweet, but really, don’t miss Glo. I wish we had one here! 
Our first lunch in Reykjavik was at Glo, a mostly raw, mostly vegan chain of restaurants in Reykjavik. Glo was recommended by our hotel desk attendant when we asked where to find a vegan lunch. We were more than a little surprised to find a chain of mostly raw, mostly vegan restaurants in Iceland. If you’re traveling vegan in Iceland, you definitely don’t want to miss it. You won’t find more options anywhere. And the vegan desserts are worth going for, even if you skip lunch or dinner.
A little off the topic of Glo, but worth noting: we were surprised to learn that in Iceland they’re able to grow most of their veggies themselves. They just do it in greenhouses and they’ve got fresh produce year round. Fruits don’t grow well there, so those do have to be shipped from offshore. Helps explain how we were able to find such a surprisingly fresh and wide variety of veggies on this northern island. We learned this interesting factoid from one of our tour guides, Benedict. He was our driver and tour guide for the must-see Golden Circle tour, and he was like a human Google—just full of expansive knowledge about almost everything anyone in our group asked him. The Golden Circle Tour heads east from Reykjavik out to Pingvellir National Park, the Strokkur geyser, and the Gollfoss waterfalls, and back. And if you’re lucky you might get to stop and mingle with some Icelandic horses along the way.
Strokkur Geyser

Strokkur Geyser

Pingvellir National Park

Pingvellir National Park

Gollfoss Waterfall

Gollfoss Waterfall

Meeting an Icelandic horse during the Golden Circle tour.

Meeting an Icelandic horse during the Golden Circle tour.

The Humble Sandwich


Sandwiches never really excited me. But lately I’ve been kind of amped up about sandwiches. And today I could hardly wait to eat my lunch—because I was so excited about all my sandwich makings.

I think part of my new and growing appreciation of sandwiches is simply that I never really liked the meats they were usually built around. But now that I don’t look for a main meat ingredient, my mind is open to many more possibilities. I look in the fridge for slices of tofu, or a bean salad, or a leftover veggie burger, and start there. Or if I have some especially good garden tomatoes or cucumbers, I put those in the starring role. In fact, one of my favorite sandwiches is a good old-fashioned cucumber sandwich with Veganaise and a little salt and paper. Comfort food to me, since I used to eat those as a kid.

Today’s sandwich was good enough to go out of my way to make again. It consisted of:

Half an Arnold’s Whole Wheat Pocket Thin (not 100% sure it’s vegan! but I don’t see any egg or dairy products listed in the ingredients)
A block of Trader Joes Teriyaki Tofu, sliced
1 Tbs Veganaise
1/4 cup sliced cabbage
1/8 cup fresh corn, sliced off the cob
1 Tbs thinly sliced red onion
1 Tbs fresh basil leaves
Half a small garden fresh tomato
A splash of Cholula

Spread the Veganaise on both insides of the pocket. Fill with the tofu and veggies, then splash on some Cholula to taste. Delicious!

Home Sweet Home Buddha Bowl Night


Just got back from a two-day conference in New Orleans and spent the day getting unpacked and resettled—laundry, cleaning, a long walk with Hammie, a little workout. Dinner presented me with a dilemma because after a couple days of restaurant and airport food I really wanted something healthy and nourishing, but I didn’t want to go out to the grocery store. We didn’t have a whole lot to work with at home, but I managed to find an assortment of ingredients that came together in a Buddha bowl deliciously and healthfully.

For each bowl, layer the following ingredients in the following order:

A handful of raw spinach (1-1/2 cups or so)
1 Tbs veggie broth sprinkled over spinach
1/2 cup cooked rice
1/3 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup cooked wheat berries
1/2 cup canned spicy black beans
1/2 cup roasted sweet potato chunks

Warm in microwave for a minute-and-a-half.

Top with:

1/2 cup shredded raw cabbage
1/3 cup shredded raw carrot
1 Tbs sliced scallions
1 tsp ginger dressing
1 Tbs chopped tamari almonds

As always this recipe is completely flexible. Use what you have. A combination of warmed and raw, crunchy and smooth, and a little sauce or liquid makes it good. Enjoy!

Southwest Skillet Supper—Love Your Leftovers!


A Love Your Leftovers meal is kind of the opposite of a pantry meal. A pantry meal is something you make when you open the fridge and there’s nothing much in there. A Love Your Leftovers  meal is what  you make when you open the fridge and there isn’t a square inch to spare because you have too many leftovers crowding the shelves. That happened last night. I had (among other things) leftover white rice from three nights ago, red quinoa from two nights ago, some black beans left from opening a can and using just a few for a quesadilla, a couple of tomatoes whose days were numbered, some kale from the farmer’s market a week-and-a-half ago, and some beautifully colored bell peppers just begging for a purpose. So I made up a meal as I went along, adding some frozen corn and seasoning to all those leftovers, and this was the happy result—good enough to actually buy ingredients for and make again!

Here’s what I used, but you should throw in whatever you’ve got and season it however you like it!

1 cup cooked white basmati rice

2 cups cooked red quinoa

3/4 cup black beans

1/2 cup coarse chopped orange bell pepper

1/2 cup coarse chopped green bell pepper

1/2 of a large Spanish onion, coarse chopped

2 cups of coarse chopped kale

2 small tomatoes, coarse chopped

1 cup frozen corn

2-1/2 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs liquid aminos

2 Tbs BBQ sauce (I highly recommend Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Sensuous Slathering)

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

salt to taste

Serve with hot sauce and garnish with fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, peppers and kale and sauté for two to three minutes or so, until softened but not browning. Add  rice, quinoa, and beans and sauté for a minute or so longer. Add tomato and corn and stir. Add seasonings and sauté another minute or so to let flavors mingle and corn warm through. Serve with hot sauce and garish with fresh cilantro. Avocados and tortilla chips would make great accompaniments too. Or you could use this as a filling for tortillas. Hope you like it!

Butternut and Apple Bisque


Well, even though the calendar says spring starts  tomorrow, it’s still soup weather here in New England. Here’s a recipe for one of my favorite soups to warm up with. As usual with my recipes, it’s pretty flexible. Amounts can vary, even the ingredients can vary a bit. And the toppings and accompaniments can definitely vary.

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 ribs of celery, coarse chopped

2 carrots, coarse chopped

2 Tbs Earth Balance

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp nutmeg

1 Tbs cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1/4 cup white wine

1 butternut squash (2–3 lbs., peeled, seeded, chopped)

2 tart green apples, peeled, cored, chopped

3 cups vegetable broth

1 cup water

1-1/2 cups plain unsweetened coconut milk (any non-dairy unflavored unsweetened milk will do, but I think coconut is best for this creamy bisque)

salt and pepper to taste

Toasted pine nuts and minced flat leaf parsley for garnish

photo-1 photo-2 photo-3

Heat the Earth Balance for a minute or so in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and. Do not let it turn brown. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté for 5 minutes, reducing heat if the vegetables begin to brown.

Add the minced garlic and sauté just about 30 seconds or so, or until garlic softens, but doesn’t brown.

Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne and sauté another 30 seconds or so, stirring so garlic and spices don’t burn.

Add white wine and let it reduce for a minute or so.

Add squash, apple, broth and water. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat down to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes or until squash and carrots soften. Puree in batches in a food processor, adding part of the coconut milk to the food processor with each batch, and return to a clean pot. If the coconut milk cooled the bisque, you may need to put the pot back on a low burner to reheat a bit.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve garnished with pine nuts and parsley.

Coconut Soup in Iceland

Greetings from Reykjavik

Greetings from Reykjavik

This is the first of several posts about my recent trip to Iceland. My boyfriend (and fellow vegan) surprised me at Christmas with plane tickets and a hotel in Reykjavik. Best Christmas present ever! It was a great trip, and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Vegan travelers, there is food for you in Iceland!

Coconut soup. For reasons I can’t explain, it appeared on almost every menu we we saw during our short trip to Iceland. So we ate it. A lot of it. Four times in less than four days! And it was delicious every time. Although I don’t know the history of this food’s arrival on the Iceland food scene, I have to admit it makes sense. Iceland, while not nearly as cold as it’s name suggests, isn’t exactly tropical either. So a warm, creamy, sweet, mildly spicy soup is really the perfect antidote to those short, windy days!

Curried Coconut Soup from Graenn Kostur

Curried Coconut Soup from Graenn Kostur

My first bowl of this yummy soup was at a vegetarian restaurant called Graenn Kostur. They served a huge bowl of curried coconut broth, with just a few carrots and other veggies hidden away inside, served with a lovely green salad. Our first dinner out in Reykjavik and not a bad introduction to vegan eating in Iceland.

Curried Coconut Soup from Kryddlegin Hjortu

Curried Coconut Soup from Kryddlegin Hjortu

But the next day—the chilliest and greyest of the days we visited, and one that we spent wandering through Reykjavik and enjoying the harbor view with a strong dose of wind—we stumbled upon a really lovely restaurant called Kryddlegin Hjortu. The place itself feels like a cozy, colorful temple, accented by candles, pillows and Buddha statues. The soup and salad bar made for a perfect lunch. The salad was fresh and plentiful. There was homemade bread and homemade hummus. And there was, as you might have guessed, curried coconut soup. It was a little creamier and spicier than the previous day’s version, and a little heavier on the veggies. Bonus: the owner was very friendly and we enjoyed a nice chat with her. We loved hearing about her experiences traveling in Thailand and living in Miami, where she was introduced to organic and vegan foods. She told us that when she opened Kryddlegin Hjortu, she wanted it to be a place where vegans, vegetarians and carnivores could enjoy eating together, with good, organic menu items for all. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip—the food, the place, and the warm welcome.

Coconut Noodle Soup from Nudluskalin

Coconut Noodle Soup from Nudluskalin

Veggie Noodle Soup from Nudluskalin

Veggie Noodle Soup from Nudluskalin

That same evening, we had dinner at a noodle house called Nudluskalin. Knowing that being vegan travelers in a place known for seafood, sheep, puffin (yes, you read that right, puffin), yogurt and cheese wouldn’t necessarily be easy, we did some preparatory Googling for tips about where to go. Happy Cow was a great resource, as were vegan food and travel blogs and vegan foodies on Instagram. Nudluskalin was recommended by practically everyone and was very close to our hotel, so we had to give it a whirl. The atmosphere wasn’t much to write home about, but the soup was delicious and filling. My boyfriend had—of course—a coconut based soup, filled with noodles, veggies, and all kinds of good stuff. I had a veggie based soup, just to break things up a bit, and it was equally good. Maybe most people don’t go to Iceland for Asian noodle soup, but they should!

Curried Coconut Soup from Gardurinn

Curried Coconut Soup from Gardurinn

Our last coconut soup of the trip was at a tiny little place called Gardurinn. It’s run by followers of Guru Sri Chinmoy. I don’t know anything about Sri Chinmoy, but his followers in Reykjavik are humble, tranquil, sweet, and lovely, and they make a delicious coconut curry soup and a whole bunch of wonderful vegan desserts.

Photo credit: Josh Araujo


The Northern Lights

Tofu Scramble

photoTofu Scrambles are easy, yummy, and the only ingredient you absolutely must have to make a tofu scramble is—tofu. Beyond that, you can add whatever you like and omit whatever you don’t like.

Here’s a basic recipe. Try it. Tweak it. Make it your way.

1 package firm organic tofu

1 clove minced garlic

1 Tbs nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp dried mustard

1/2 tsp turmeric

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbs olive oil

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 cups baby spinach

1/2 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes

Drain and press the tofu.* (If you don’t have time to press the tofu, it will still work. You should still drain the water out of the package. But skip the pressing and you will find it just has more water in it than pressed tofu, so it spatters more when the water from the tofu meets the hot oil in your pan.)

Place the pressed tofu block in a bowl and add the garlic, nutritional yeast, mustard, turmeric, salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher or a fork until crumbly.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the tofu mixture and the veggies and saute until veggies and tofu are cooked through and very lightly browned.

Serve as is, or add avocado, hot sauce, whatever sounds good to you. Makes a nice meal with toast, fruit, refried beans. Or serve it on a tortilla with a little vegan cheese.

*To drain tofu, remove it from package and pour off the liquid. Then wrap the block gently in a clean, lint-free kitchen towel and place on a plate. Place a heavy flat-bottomed pan, kettle or bowl of water on top. Leave for 5 or 10 minutes while you prepare the veggies and get the other ingredients ready.

Blackberry Crumble


A sweet treat!

4 cups blackberries
4 Tbs unbleached AP flour
3 Tbs granulated sugar
3 Tbs Earth Balance or other vegan butter substitute

1 cup unbleached AP flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup Earth Balance or other vegan butter substitute
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbs ground flaxseed
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Rinse and drain blackberries and let them dry.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9″ x 9″ baking dish with 1 Tbs of the Earth Balance.

Pour blackberries into a bowl and gently mix with the 4 Tbs flour and 3 Tbs sugar to coat.

Pour berries into prepared baking dish and dot with 2 Tbs Earth Balance.

Put all remaining ingredients into another bowl and mix with your hands or two forks until mixture resembles large breadcrumbs. Don’t over mix; there should be pea-sized pieces of coated butter in the mixture.

Pour the mixture over the berries. Pat down, just with your finger tips or the back of a spoon; it shouldn’t be packed down tightly.

Bake for 35 minutes or so, until top is golden brown and crispy and berry mixture is bubbling.

Serve warm with vegan vanilla ice cream.