Snacks on a Plane

Fasten your seat belts and try to get comfortable; it’s going to be a long flight. You’ve downloaded hours of music and movies well in advance, kept your smartphone within easy reach, and even remembered the disinfectant wipes for those grimy in-seat remote controls. Long-haul flights are never fun, but you’ve prepped and packed well, done the research and steeled yourself for any length of idle time. Certainly, you’ve considered the food options, perhaps even locking in your ticket or choosing a seat. Vegan meals are more widely available than ever, providing essential sustenance when there’s no land in sight for half a day or more, but they still leave quite a bit to be desired.

Snacks are absolutely essential at this critical moment. Countless lists extol the virtues of sturdy grain salads, granola bars, and freeze-dried fruits, but what is it that we need to avoid? As I prepare to embark on an intimidating 14-hour flight, I considered the options for truly terrible choices to bring as in-flight foods.

BAD snack ideas that should remain grounded are as follows:

  • Yogurt, applesauce, and pudding over 3.4 ounces, which is the greatest amount of any “liquid” you can bring on board. That amounts to less than 1/2 cup, so why bother?
  • Dips and spread of all sorts, including but not limited to hummus, peanut butter, salsa, ketchup, and cream cheese. Packed separately, they can be considered a liquid, but you might be able to get around this restriction by bundling them into some kind of sandwich assemblage.
  • Peanuts in general, because you never know when you might be sharing space with an allergic passenger.
  • Whole fruits and vegetables. There are some exceptions to this (like bananas and apples) but many countries have restrictions on fresh produce. For your best bets, always cut and prepare them in advance, stashing them in ziplock bags for later. Smaller, peeled, or pitted, they’re usually easier to munch on without utensils, too.
  • Saucy dishes or overfilled containers, which could get very messy in case of turbulence.
  • Tofu/chickpea egg salad or fishless tuna salad in any format, because such strong odors are unlikely to be appreciated by anyone within a 10-foot radius… Which may very well be the whole plane.
  • Chips or crackers packed in zip lock bag. Factory-sealed is fine, rigid Tupperware will work, but I promise that any other attempts at conveyance will end in a sad handful of crushed crumbs.
  • Raw cauliflower, broccoli, or cabbage for most people. I mean, you know your body, but this kind of roughage just… Don’t sit well with most people. I’ll just leave it at that.
  • Excessive onions or garlic. Pretend you’re on a date with the other 100+ passengers on the flight; that dragon breath will not win you any new friends.
  • Caffeinated drink mixes, despite the fact that fun flavors might make it easier to drink more water. You don’t need extra energy to sit on your butt all day; the excess is likely to make you more agitated and anxious.

What’s on your no-fly list? Did you have to learn the hard way, or suffer from the poor decisions of your fellow flyers? Hopefully no one has to travel on an empty stomach after carefully weighing the choices!

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Peace, Love, and Avocado for All

San Francisco is home to the original hippie, the flower child borne of the 1967 Summer of Love, though only faint traces of the counter culture movement remain today. Largely replaced by tech workers with smartphones in their pockets rather than floral ornaments in their hair, it disappoints me to no end that we don’t even have an outpost of Flower Child out in the bay area. Had it not been for a trip out to Austin, TX, I never would have even known of the peaceable chain.

During my whirlwind five-day visit, I managed to drop in not once, but twice; a real rarity for a food traveler with a bucket list of restaurants to eat at, not historical sights to see. Given more time, I might have simply taken up residence on those plush benches lining the walls instead of booking a proper hotel room. True to concept, the vibe is essential to the experience, setting it apart from other fast-casual dining experiences. Seeking harmony between all sorts of eaters, the menu is clearly labeled with abundant options for the vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free, and omnivorous among us.

Vegetable-forward dishes allow peak produce to shine, like the simple heirloom tomato salad spiked with balsamic vinegar and shreds of fresh basil strewn about like confetti. Crisp cubes of watermelon sweetly contrast and provide balance overall. A rotating list of seasonal sides offers other savory treats like roasted yuzu Brussels sprouts, blistered snap peas, or curried cauliflower, depending on the time of year.

Poke bowls are a rising food trend for good reason, especially evident when the concept is applied to a fishless main. Tender cubes of marinated beets join forces with lighted brined mushrooms, both salty and umami, with all the fatty decadence of avocado to drive the combination home. Crunchy wasabi peas are an unexpected touch of whimsy in this ode to whole foods. The spicy bites are a good reminder that healthy eating shouldn’t be boring, nor are those choices black and white.

If there was a signature dish at Flower Child, the Mother Earth Bowl would be the undisputed winner of that title. It’s the one that everyone talks about in newspapers, magazines, and blogs the world over, each source breathlessly extolling the virtues of its copious components. The appeal is obvious just from a glance at the bare ingredients; roasted sweet potato and portobello mushrooms, broccoli pesto, charred onions, avocado, and cucumber, all perched upon a bed of ancient grains and lavished with red pepper miso vinaigrette. It really is like having the whole world in a bowl before you.

While I can’t get those same chill vibes out in NorCal, the flower children in the kitchen were generous enough to spread the love with this harmonious secret formula.

Mother Earth Bowl
From Flower Child

6 ounces Super Grain Mix: red quinoa, farro, and barley, cooked and tossed.
2 ounces sweet potatoes, roasted
2 1/2 ounces Portobello Mushroom, roasted
½ ounces Arugula
1 teaspoon daikon sprouts
1 teaspoon rice wine vinaigrette
1 tablespoon broccoli pesto*
1 tablespoon red pepper miso marmalade*
2 tablespoons cucumber relish*
¼ avocado, fanned
1 teaspoon hemp seeds

Broccoli Pesto:
1 cup broccoli, blanched
4 ½ tablespoons black kale, blanched
2 ¼ tablespoons roasted salted pistachio
1 1/3 tablespoons spinach
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon mint leaves
1 ¼ teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water

Red Pepper Miso Marmalade:
½ cup peppadew peppers, rough chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, rough chopped
2 teaspoons ginger, peeled & rough chopped
1 1/3 tablespoons miso paste
1 ½ tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
3 teaspoons tamari
3 teaspoons grapeseed oil
1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cucumber Relish:
1 cup cucumbers, peeled, seeds removed, and ¼ dice
2 tablespoons. seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon evaporated cane sugar
2 teaspoon sesame chili oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
½ teaspoon mint leaves, minced
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

Broccoli Pesto Directions
1. Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth and emulsified.

Red Pepper Miso Marmalade Directions
2. Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth and emulsified.

Cucumber Relish Directions
3. Combine all ingredients and mix until incorporated.

Mother Earth Bowl Directions
4. Roast sweet potatoes and Portobello mushrooms and set aside.
5. To prepare dish, toss arugula with sprouts and vinaigrette, then spoon Super Grain mix in
the center of the bowl.
6. Place sweet potatoes on top, next to Portobello.
7. Place arugula next to mushrooms and cucumber salad next to arugula.
8. Top with pesto, marmalade, and avocado across the center of the dish.
9. Finish with hemp seeds.

Printable Recipe

Birthday Free For All

As a closeted couponer, there are few things that give me more joy at the checkout line than seeing the bottom of my final total drop out after scanning a few little slips of paper. It’s not uncommon for fellow shoppers to crane their necks away from glowing smartphone screens, startled to see such impressive savings. Where does all this free money come from, and how can they get in on the game?

Daily grocery shopping is nothing compared to the embarrassment of riches one can collect on their birthday. Planned out properly, you could eat for free for weeks, if not your whole birthday month! Plenty of roundups exist online, but few, if any, take veganism into consideration. After posting about all my loot on Instagram a few years in a row, I’ve decided to lay out the spoils of my plunder in one post for easy future reference. These options include smaller stores that have only a few outposts located on the west coast, and larger chains that you may or may not wish to endorse based on ethics, so your mileage may vary. Many more independent local shops will likely offer discounts if you just ask, so whenever you’re out shopping, don’t be afraid to mention it!

Starbucks: Sign up for Starbucks Rewards and get a free drink or prepared food item upon registration and for your birthday. Almost any of the drinks can be veganized thanks to the option to substitute soymilk, almond milk, or coconut milk. Just avoid the pumpkin spice, white mocha, caramel brûlée syrups, caramel sauce, java chips, and of course, whipped cream. Many stores now offer a highly serviceable brown rice bowl if you’re hungry for something more substantial.

Rubios: Although best known for their cheap fish tacos, if you sign up for the Beach Club mailing list, you can score a free grilled veggie taco right away, and a free entree on your birthday. My favorite pick is the Balsamic & Roasted Veggie Salad, with extra veggies and avocado because hey, it’s all free! Don’t forget to load up on as much salsa as you can carry at the self-serve salsa bar too.

Flacos: You’ve gotta hike out to their solo Berkeley location, but trust me, it’s worth a trip from anywhere. Just show up with your ID on the exact date of your birthday to get an entree of your choice, including rice, beans, and salad. That means you can dig into their superlative tamales, tacos, taquitos, or huarache, on the house!

Jamba Juice: Become a Jamba Juice Insider for $3 off your next purchase, and any small juice or smoothie your heart desires on your birthday. Opt for an all-fruit blend to avoid the yogurt or sherbet bases, or get a bit more creative. I’ve found that by ordering the Cookies ‘n Cream Protein Shake with soymilk and soy protein, it becomes a sweet vegan treat!

Yogurtland: Register for Real Rewards and let the froyo flow! Okay so it may be soft serve sorbet, since only the syrup-based options are vegan, but that still shakes out to over two dozen potential flavors to choose from. It’s not all fruit either; that dark chocolate sorbet is nothing to scoff at. Get your first free 3-ounce swirl as soon as you sign up, and another on your birthday.

CREAM: Speaking of sweet, get ready for dessert by snagging a free sundae at any CREAM location. Take your pick of one vegan cookie (oatmeal, banana chocolate chip, or “fudging awesome” chocolate), one scoop of ice cream (soy-based blueberry or mint chocolate chip) and any two toppings when you sign up for their CREAM Rewards Program.

San Francisco Soup Co. and Ladle & Leaf: They go by different names but these two soup-slingers are really the same brand. Redeem a free bowl of soup on your birthday after signing up for their newsletter at either shop, and don’t forget to snag a free roll while you’re at it! Vegan options are clearly marked on the board, and there’s always at least one available everyday. You can’t go wrong with a comforting lunch of split pea soup or southwestern corn chowder, but keep your eyes peeled for special offerings on the daily menu, which vary by location.

Proper Food: Growing in leaps and bounds, this one tiny startup now has closet-sized outposts all across the downtown San Francisco area. Download the Thanx app and register for the Proper Food rewards program to get discounts all year round, and $8 off any purchase on your birthday. That’s a free box of tofu spring rolls, hummus and vegetable platter, or bowl of oatmeal!

Moe’s Southwest Grill: Welcome to Moe’s! If you’re familiar with this ubiquitous rally cry, you already know that there’s plenty of tofu, beans, rice, and plant-based goodness to go around at this quick service establishment. What you might not know is that by signing up for the Moe’s Rockin’ Rewards, you can walk out with a completely free burrito on your birthday. Load it up with all the good stuff, including guacamole, and come hungry because these are some behemoth tortilla torpedoes.

Project Juice: Also available through the Thanx app, redeem a free wellness shot along with a 10% discount on anything else purchased on your birthday with registration. If you plan it right, you can combine this deal with $5 off for following them on social media, and get a seriously healthy discount on some liquid nutrition.

Veggie Grill: Download the Veggie Grill Rewards app to your phone to cash in on $5 off your purchase, both when you sign up and when your birthday rolls around! That’ll net you a free soup, mac and cheese, mini wrap, black bean and quinoa mini bowl, side of fries, cauli-mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh little salad, multiple veggie sides, or a dessert. With so many tempting choices, you can easily stretch that fun money into a satisfying snack or light meal.

Pinkberry: Go froyo! Join the Pinkberry loyalty program through the mobile phone app for free and you’ll instantly earn a generous swirl of the frozen creamy confection with four toppings from the array of fresh fruits, nuts, crushed Oreos, mochi, and popping boba. Non-dairy froyo flavors will vary by store, but you can always count on finding at least one creamy treat to cool down with. Coconut and salted caramel coconut provide a more ice cream-like soft serve indulgence, while simply fruit peach passion and tropical mango offer a lighter, more refreshing experience. Take a peek at all the ingredient information here.

Dunkin’ Donuts: DD Perks offers a free beverage upon registration and on your birthday, but there is a small catch: You need a card to create your account, which means dropping some actual cash in advance. The good news is that you can load as little as $5 to get started, and if you’re already inclined to make a stop for coffee, that shouldn’t be such a big sacrifice. Dunkin’ Donuts has even made the work of sussing out the vegan options easy by rounding them up in a handy guide.

Pressed Juicery: Create an account under your phone number next time you make a purchase, and you’ll be treated to any full-sized bottle you fancy when it’s time to celebrate your birthday. Make the most of this opportunity by trying one of the creamy nut milks that usually fetch top dollar.

Sprinkles Cupcakes: What’s a birthday without cake? Sprinkles understands that we’re not all up to the task of baking amidst all the festivities, which is why they’re kindly gifting all the lucky birthday girls and guys who join Sprinkles Perks with one cupcake on their big day. I hope you like red velvet because that’s the only vegan flavor, but hey, who could really complain about free cake?

Peets: More free coffee, yes, but not just any coffee. Fancy coffee that you can top with whipped coconut cream! Blend up a decadent Javiva with almond or soy milk, warm up with a cup of thick hot chocolate, or cozy up to a seasonal latte with billowing mounds of the exclusive tropical topping, in any size from small to large, all compliments of this national chain. Beware that Peetnik Rewards are only accepted at select locations, so call ahead to your nearest outpost to make sure they’re in on the deal.

Ike’s: I like Ike, and you will too once he treats you to a generous full meal for your special day. That includes any sandwich, along with a bag of chips and a drink. Almost anything on the extensive menu can be veganized, and some of the best combinations aren’t even listed in store so don’t be afraid to ask. One of my favorites is the Tom Brady; breaded meatless chicken, mushrooms, avocado, and non-dairy cheese. Sign up for the e-club to get this offer, or email customer service directly. They’re super responsive and very friendly!

Regal Theatres: I wouldn’t suggest you go to the theatre just to snag a snack without seeing a movie… But you certainly could, free of charge, when you go to any Regal Theatre after signing up for the Crown Club. Representatives have confirmed that their fluffy kernels, including popcorn salt and buttery topping, are all vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free. You’ll get a free popcorn valid within a week of your birthday, as well as other delicious discounts all year round to compliment your cinematic experience.

VeganBurg: If you’re craving more comfort than cleansing, head out to the Haight with that same FiveStars app booted up and ready to go. VeganBurg has made their name on juicy meatless patties, but the free swirl of soft serve they’re offering to celebrate your birthday is no trifling consolation prize. It comes only as a creamy vanilla blend, but will definitely hit the spot after a long day of hustling for freebies.

Milkbomb: As the name might suggest, this isn’t exactly the most vegan-friendly scoop shop in the bay area, but they do offer at least one or two flavors of dairy-free sorbet to satiate your sweet tooth. Sign up for their email newsletter and get a complimentary scoop on the exact day of your birthday only.

Sephora: Rounding out the list with some non-edible pampering, this one is for all you glamorous makeup enthusiasts out there. Become a Beauty Insider to earn rewards for your cosmetic purchases all year round and cash in on free luxury minis on your birthday. Those deluxe samples change every year and there’s always two or three options to chose from, but bear in mind that not all brands are cruelty-free, so do your research before showing up at the counter to cash in.

Baskin-Robbins: Believe it or not, this old school ice cream parlor is churning out some “accidentally” vegan treats these days. Flavors vary depending on the store and time of year, but the total selection of dairy-free scoops includes Horchata Ice, Lemon Sorbet, Lime Daiquiri Ice, Strawberry Sorbet, and Tropical Ice. Sign up for the Birthday Club and you’ll get to chill out with a free kids scoop (2.5 oz) of any flavor your heart desires.

Bamboo Asia: Get a taste of Vietnam, Japan, or India all under one roof, customized to your tastes! Bamboo Asia offers a free “lite” bowl through the FiveStars app, which includes any base of greens, rice, or noodles, one protein, one veggie, three toppings, and two sauces. For me, that means teriyaki tofu with eggplant chips, hella pickled cucumbers, and yes, avocado is included as a complimentary topping! There’s a meatless main on every station, giving you ample options for whatever world cuisine you’re craving. While you’re there, don’t forget to consult Yelp for possible check-in bonuses, which have ranged from free sodas to sweets in the past.

The Habit Burger Grill: The Habit Burger Grill has been offering free birthday Charburgers for years now, but only recently started offering veggie burgers as a regular menu staple. Now that’s something to celebrate all by itself! Join the CharClub and when your special day rolls around, order the veggie burger on a French roll, wheat or seeded bun, or wrapped in lettuce. The sourdough is grilled in butter, but there are so many other choices, you’ll have yourself a hearty meatless meal no matter what.

Do you know about more vegan birthday freebies to add to the list? Let me know and I’ll keep this post updated!

Jet Set Pets

Long before emotional support peacocks or squirrels started making headlines, everyday folks have been taking their pets with them on sky-high adventures without causing a scene. As we approach the Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas, the height of travel season, the issue of how to reunite the whole family is top of mind. Dog mamas and daddies understand that inviting their four-legged baby is a given, and for those with a considerable distance to go, that means negotiating the barrage of challenges that’s included with airfare.

Before you start dreaming about walking in a winter wonderland with fido and well before you book your tickets, check the rules of your chosen carrier. Every airline has different regulations, and while the general guidelines for having a trained, well-behaved pup won’t vary, some require specific forms or documentation submitted far in advance of your flight. If you can’t play by the rules, you will be denied boarding, and that would really put a damper on plans.

Generally speaking, your pup must be small enough to fit in a carry-on approved bag that fits beneath the seat in front of you to fly on board. Thus, a proper carrier is a must. Have a soft sided model with a rigid base so it will be supportive while in use, but easily pressed down to fit into awkward spaces. More windows are better because no one liked to feel trapped in a tiny space all by themselves. When your dog can see you, they’re more likely to remain calm because they know they’re not alone. Take the fear of the unknown out of the equation by doing a few “dress rehearsals,” covering shorter distances, before the big event. Bring them around town in the carrier to get then accustomed to process, and leave it out and accessible when you’re home. Periodically toss treats into it to associate it with positive experiences. My little Luka was initially terrified of becoming airborne in this crazy contraption, but has come to regard his carrier as an enclosed safe haven, and at home, second bed!

Speaking of calm, even the most even tempered animal (humans included) have been known to lose their cool in these stressful situations. Try clothing your little guy in a thunder shirt, which is a very snug garment that simulates the feeling of a constant hug. It’s surprisingly effective and great to have on hand for other unwelcome stimulation, like fireworks or trick-or-treaters at the door.

Treat well and treat often. Any journey should be a vacation, sprinkled with little luxuries along the way. Bring plenty of bonuses for yourself and your dog, doling them out slowly, as needed. CBD-infused dog biscuits like Treatibles have been an absolute GODSEND; I wouldn’t dream of taking Luka anywhere without them. One before leaving the house, one before takeoff, and he’s as chill as can be. Options are still limited in this burgeoning category, which makes Treatibles even more noteworthy for their two entirely vegan flavors. They come in small and large sizes for easy dosing, but there’s no psychoactive component (no THC) so it’s impossible to overdose. For a calming supplement you can both enjoy, I’ve frequently packed pure CBD oil (3.4 ounces or less, don’t forget!) that’s specifically labeled as safe for dogs, cats, and humans alike.

Don’t feed them a full meal before departing to reduce the need for potty breaks, or potential accidents. Instead, bring it with you and dole out a few morsels at a time to keep them satiated, not stuffed. Same goes for water. Proper hydration is essential, but possibly problematic depending on the length of your flight. Bring a collapsible bowl, filling it with a few good slurps every few hours. If your pup is not reliably housebroken, consider subjecting them to the indignity of doggie diapers for this limited time. Promise them that the photos will never make it out on social media if they’re inconsolably embarrassed.

To manage both bathroom needs and excess energy, take them on as long a walk as possible before departing. A tired pup will just want to hunker down and rest, which makes it infinitely more easy to deal with inactive time in transit.

Keep a variety of toys to keep them entertained. Just like human children, they need something to do during those hours up in the air. Give them just one at a time, rotating them out if they start to get bored or fussy, switching between hard chews and soft plushies. For the love of your fellow traveler though, please refrain from packing anything with an audible squeaker!

As soon as you land, your priority is not camping out in a prime spot at baggage claim or securing your Uber. Head straight to the nearest pet relief area available. Know where to go by scoping out airport maps in advance to prevent any frantic scrambles through a maze of disoriented passengers just barely verticality upon arrival.

There’s no one fool-proof approach to bringing puppies on an airplane. Just like people, some simply can’t tolerate the stress, so know their (and your) limits if it’s simply infeasible. Always have a plan B, with a loving, trustworthy dog sitter on speed dial in the worst case situation, but don’t shoot down the idea before giving it a try. Despite the sensational horror stories circulating online, it’s really not so hard to have a proper family reunion, no matter the distance. You might even find it’s a better experience for every on board; nothing brightens a trying day like the bright, loving face of man’s best friend at your side.

A Fresh Approach to Fast Casual

Chain restaurants have come to represent the slow erosion of all that is held dear by discerning diners the world over. Homogenized, mass-produced, oversimplified menus designed for consistency and volume proliferate, muting bold flavors in favor of simplicity. Quality isn’t the first, nor second or third, consideration, with more focus placed on cost than true value. Small businesses are edged out, putting the endangered mom and pop shop around the corner at even greater risk than ever.

Surely you’ve heard this tale of woe before. It’s not a new story, and no happy ending seems to lie ahead in the yet unwritten pages. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. “Franchise” doesn’t have to be a dirty word when it represents the spread of better corporate values. Veggie Grill is bucking the trend as the largest 100% vegan chain in the country, bringing real food that “celebrates the veggie, the fruit, the grain, and the nut” to the people. Veggie Grill has over 30 locations spread across the west coast and is soon to begin their east coast invasion, taking root in Cambridge, MA before spreading to NYC in 2019. If you haven’t yet heard about their infamous B-Wing Salad or sat down to a towering Beyond Burger, you’re in for a treat.

My first taste of Veggie Grill was many years ago when it was still a fledgling eatery based in Portland, OR. Although I’ve dabbled with the bay area locations once a year or so, they still remained just a bit beyond easy access… Until now. Planting themselves right in the heart of downtown Berkeley, it’s dangerously easy to pop in whenever the craving for Tempura Green Beans strikes, or worse yet, simply order $1 delivery through the app.

Meatless mains feature prominently through partnerships with Beyond Meat, Gardein and Hodo, appealing to the staunch omnivore and old-school vegan alike. Many reviews come from confused patrons who realize only after plowing through their entree that it was entirely plant-based. This is exactly the kind of accessibility that the industry needs now; not dumbed-down flavors, but a level playing field to unite eaters of all stripes. You can still get your spicy Buffalo Wings with creamy ranch dressing; your soulful Southern Fried Chicken plate piled high with mashed potatoes and gravy; your bright and zesty Mediterranean Super greens Salad, if you so choose.

My personal favorite of the moment is the Rustic Farm Bowl for its deeply umami grilled mushrooms, roasted yams, braised white beans, broccoli pesto, roasted tomatoes, and red pepper sauce. Every element would be a fine bite by itself, but in concert, creates a symphony of carefully tuned tastes, in perfect proportion. It’s a grounding meal that always leaves me feeling satisfied, energized rather than weighed down, easy to grab and just keep going. That’s what fast casual dining should really be about, right? Fuss-free, wholly satisfying fare that fits into the existing social fabric, rather than tearing a hole through it. If you haven’t yet tried Veggie Grill, prepare yourself. You may just see one opening up near you soon.

Don’t forget to download the app before you go and use my code HannahKa8145 for $5 off when you sign up!