Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vida Vegan Con: Day Two

The conference didn't officially begin until 6 p.m. on Friday, so we had all day to explore the nooch-covered streets of Portland. Can you guess where that day began? Voodoo Donuts, of course!

I knew Voodoo was a magical place since they sell vegan yeasted donuts, but I was completely convinced the shop was run by unicorns when I saw the GLITTER BRICK! God, I wish I could coat my whole house in glitter.

Voodoo carries non-vegan donuts too, so you have to make sure to order from this shelf:

I ordered the Oreo Donut, the first yeasted donut I've had in years! My life was complete after the first bite. Seriously, I could have died with this donut in my mouth, and that would have been just fine:

I also grabbed a Chick-O-Stick Cake Donut because, um duh, it's a freakin' Chick-O-Stick Donut! I ate both of these for breakfast:

Paul wasn't full after his donut, and he had a craving for Thai food, so he suggested hitting up the row of food carts near our hotel. Now mind you, I had just eaten two massive donuts. But I wasn't about to turn down lunch. When you're in Portland, it's okay to eat breakfast and lunch in the same hour. The legendary Homegrown Smoker, a vegan BBQ cart, was in the row of carts, and you know this Memphis girl was in (rescued-and-living-at-a-sanctuary) hog heaven!

With one glance at the menu, there was no question about what I would order: the Macnocheeto, a flour tortilla wrap stuffed with vegan mac & cheese, BBQ soy curls, baked beans, peppers, and BBQ sauce. Holy yum!!

As conference attendees, we got a 15% discount at vegan tattoo shop, Skeleton Key. I'd been dreaming about my next tattoo for ages, and that sounded like the perfect Portland souvenir. After lunch, we met Maki at Skeleton Key, and he got straight to work on my new ink:

Check it out! It's the "animal liberation/human liberation" symbol. I was already pretty badass, but now I'm, like, super way badass!

We had some time to kill before registration, so we hit up the Vegan Mini-Mall, home to Food Fight Grocery, Herbivore Clothing Company, Sweetpea Bakery, and Scapegoat Tattoo. All vegan, all the time. I bought a shirt and hoodie at Herbivore and some hard-to-find vegan treats at Food Fight! 

At 6 p.m., there was a Vida Vegan Con welcome reception in the hotel ballroom. Sweetpea Bakery provided these yummy cupcakes. I had the Lemon Chiffon ones:

We also sampled a selection of the all-new Heidi Ho Organics Vegan Cheese! It's a Portland-based company that makes hazelnut cheeses in Chipotle Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, and Monterey Jack. It's not available anywhere outside of Portland yet, but I hope they'll eventually be able to ship around the country. So delicious!

After the reception, some of the posse headed to Tube, a cool vegan-friendly dive bar in a tube-shaped building. Erin from Vegan Homemade and I enjoyed $2 Hamm's (like a PBR, but tastier) and Jen from That Pain in the Ass Vegan sipped on a club soda with lime:

I was still pretty full from all the donuts, BBQ, and cupcakes, so I ordered a tiny snack — the Vegan Ham and Cheese Muffin:

After Tube, we headed to Suki's where the party-animal Vida Vegan Con bloggers were doing some late-night karaoke. Even the event organizers — Jess, Janessa, and Michele — were there! My boyfriend Paul sang some old Verve Pipe from the 90s. He ALWAYS sings that song, "Freshman," every time he karaokes:

Dawn from Vegan Moxie and Brit on Twit sang a duet, but I can't remember what they sang!!

Amber's (of Almost Vegan) man Matt did a hilarious rendition of Billy Idol's "Flesh for Fantasy" complete with crazy dance moves!

And Erin of Vegan Homemade rounded out the night her signature song, "Toxic" by Britney Spears:

Well, that's it for Day Two! Check back tomorrow for pictures from the first official day of the conference.

And in the meantime, check out the latest issue of VegNews Magazine. I was asked to create a recipe using pumpkin for the blogger recipe challenge, so I came up with Pumpkin Cheddar Biscuits. The recipe and pictures are in the issue!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vida Vegan Con: Day One

Um, so I totally lied to y'all when I said I'd blog from Vida Vegan Con. My bad. I was having so much hanging with all my vegan blogger buddies, I totally neglected the blog. So now, I'll be re-capping for the next few days. I have almost 300 pictures! But I promise to narrow pics down to a few a day. The rest of the pictures will be up on Facebook by the weekend. Promise.

Paul and I boarded our Delta flight from Memphis at 8 a.m. on Thursday, August 25th. We had a layover in Minneapolis, and with only an hour to grab food and board our next flight, I managed to find tofu! I got the Kung Pao Tofu from Wok 'n' Roll in the airport. Pretty tasty for airport eats:

When we arrived in Portland, we checked into the hotel and immediately headed to the pre-Vida Vegan Con meet-and-greet. On the way to the bus stop, only a block from the hotel, we found vegan food carts!!!! Portland is a magical place! This row of carts near Portland State University is home to the famous Homegrown Smoker! I ate there on Friday, but more on that later...

The meet-and-greet was at a vegan-friendly bar called Vendetta. Look! It's Vida Vegan Con co-organizer/Get Sconed blogger Jess Scone and vegan burger queen/cookbook author/Just the Food blogger Joni Newman!

Vendetta only had a few vegan options, but I went with this Tofu Sandwich (tofu rubbed with a cilantro-lime seasoning and topped with garlic-habenero sauce). I never say no to habenero! Pretty tasty. Not for the folks who hate plain tofu, but I love plain tofu so...

After dinner, it was picture time! I ran into the kale-loving JL from JL Goes Vegan and the super-rad Krista from Sugar Skull!

And I finally got to meet my long-time cookbook author idol, Dynise from Urban Vegan ... in case you didn't know, she's written a cookbook of the same name.

I spent much of the weekend hanging with these awesome ladies: Cat of The Verdant Life and Amber from Almost Vegan (she made some delicious white chocolate peanut butter to sell in the Vida Vegan Con exhibitor room ... and I bought two jars!).

After dinner and drinks, we all headed to the Curious Comedy Theater for a sneak peek preview of Vegucated, a documentary following three omnis who went vegan for six weeks. It was a fabulous, honest, and touching (did I say "touching"?) film. Read more about it here.

When the screening was over, we spent a few minutes chatting it up with hunky vegan bodybuilder, Robert Cheeke! He's the author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness. This man has some serious guns ... way more serious than mine:

The after-party was at Sweet Hereafter, a totally vegan bar!! What? Yes, a vegan bar where all the beer, liquor, wine, and food is totally animal-free!

I was still a little full from my tofu sandwich, but I can't resist a totally-vegan menu. Eating too much became my theme for the weekend, a theme I kicked off with this Pretzel Plate (two soft pretzels with cashew cheese and beer mustard). Yes, there is only one pretzel on this plate because I ate one before I snapped this picture. Suck it.

After the bar, we made our way back to the hotel to prepare for another day in the vegan motherland. More on those adventures tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Portland Bound!

Hey y'all. No food pics tonight. In fact, I don't have much to say, except see y'all in PORTLAND!! I'm flying out Thursday morning, and I'll arrive in PDX around 2 p.m. for the first-ever Vida Vegan Con food bloggers convention.

I'll be speaking on a few panels, meeting my darling blogger friends, eatin' lots of Voodoo Donuts, hanging out at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary Galarama, and getting a new tattoo at Skeleton Key!

I hope to blog a little while I'm there if time permits. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

PureFit Bars

PureFit offered to send me a sample pack of their vegan nutrition bars to review, so of course I said yes! I work out five days a week, and since I hit up the gym after work, I always stash bars in my purse to snack on so I'm not starving during my workout.

Lately, I've been attending cardio kickboxing and a regular boxing class (punching bags!) every Monday and Tuesday, and both are super hardcore workouts. The harder I work out, the more filling of a bar I need. Food is fuel for real. These bars were perfect for those extra-intense classes since each ranges between 210 and 220 calories. Plus, they won't melt in your bag! That's guaranteed on the wrapper.

These vegan, gluten-free, low-glycemic, kosher bars have a soy protein isolate base mixed with either soy nuts, soy crisps, xgfx oats, nuts, or berries. And they're all naturally sweetened with fruit juice, agave, or brown rice syrup. All the soy might be bad if you're (very unfortunately) allergic, but I don't have a problem with soy.

My fave was the Peanut Butter Crunch Bar, probably because I'm slightly obsessed with peanut butter. The texture of all the bars is a little weird, kinda chalky. All the ingredients are blended, and I'm more of a crunchy gal. But the interesting texture worked best with the PB flavor.

The Chocolate Brownie Bar would be my second fave. It was the only bar with a chocolate rather a nutty flavor. Though I typically choose nuts over chocolate, this bar tasted better than most brownie-flavored energy bars on the market.

I really enjoyed the dried raspberry bits in the Berry Almond Crunch Bar. I'm not really that into fruit, but the sweet berries really complemented the almond flavor.

I actually tried the Granola Crunch Bar first because I figured it'd have bits of granola mixed in. But it didn't. Everything was all blended, just like with the other bars. But it did have a granola-y taste, thanks to the blended oats, almonds, and soy crisps. I would have preferred a crunch, but the taste was still yummy.

My least fave was the Almond Crunch Bar. It tasted too heavily of almond extract, and the tiny almond bits were hard to chew. I wouldn't buy this flavor again, but I'll certainly throw a few PB Crunch, Chocolate Brownie, and Berry Almond Crunch flavors in my cart at Whole Foods next week.

For another take on PureFit bars, check out this review on Vegan Vagrant. Kyle from Vegan Vagrant and I (along with John McDevitt from The Laziest Vegans and MeShell Goodz from Prairie Vegan) are speaking on a panel on Product Reviews & Ethics at Vida Vegan Con!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Breakfast with Celine and Joni

Ok, not really. But I did have Celine and Joni's tofu scramble this morning. Though I don't really need a recipe for scramble anymore, I was strangely drawn to the Spinach and Mushroom Tofu Scramble from The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions by Celine Steen (Have Cake Will Travel) and Joni Marie Newman (Just the Food):

This is the first thing I've made from their awesome guide to veganizing everything. Recipes are organized by ingredient being substituted for, like there's a Cheese Substitutes chapter, as well as one for meat, eggs, dairy, gluten, sugar, fat, and soy. As you can imagine, the scramble is in the egg-free chapter.

It's loaded with way more interesting recipes, like eggs benedict, baby back ribs (with little wooden ribs!), squash waffles, and tequila chili. So don't ask me why I started with the basic scramble. I just did, and it was good. Very good. Scramble is in my top five favorite breakfast foods. The addition of pimentos and Dijon mustard made it unlike any other scramble I've tried. Thanks Celine and Joni.

Oh, and I might actually really have breakfast with Joni (and a bunch of other awesome bloggers) later this week at Vida Vegan Con!! There's an Earth Balance-sponsored breakfast on the first full day of the conference (pancakes, biscuits & gravy, tofu scramble, bagels with EB spreads, raw chia pudding ... oh my). I'll be flying there early Thursday morning, and I CAN'T WAIT!!!!

What's your go-to breakfast?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Of Calendars and Cookbooks

On Saturday night, I whipped up a couple of recipes from a few of my favorite sources — Sarah Kramer's Go Vegan 2011 wall calendar and Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Vegan's Daily Companion.

Every month, I make the featured recipe in Sarah's calendar, and they're always delicious. August's recipe looked especially appealing as soon as I flipped the page to August 21 days ago. I'm a sucker for red lentils and Indian flavors, so naturally, I loved this Cauliflower Red Lentil Soup over Jasmine Rice:

There's cauliflower (my favorite veggie!), mushy-soft lentils, fresh tomatoes, and plenty of cumin and red pepper flakes. It was even better after I smothered it in sriracha.

I just bought Colleen's Vegan's Daily Companion about a week ago, and it's already my fave new book. Each day, the book has an affirmation — Mondays offer tips for using healthy foods; Tuesdays include techniques for speaking on behalf of veganism; Wednesdays are about health for the mind, body, and spirit; Thursdays are excerpts or summaries from literature and films about animals; Fridays are inspring stories of animal rescue; and Saturdays/Sundays are yummy recipes.

The first recipe in the book is for this Massaged Kale Salad:

I recently discovered that I love raw kale, so long its liberally massaged with oil. But this recipe uses avocado in place of oil, and it's just as delicious. There's also quinoa, carrots, onions, and heirloom cherry tomatoes from the Whitten Farms booth at the Memphis Farmers Market.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ramen Made Fancy

Ok, so you know how I love ramen, right? Well, ramen doesn't have to be cheap, instant food. Sometimes, ramen can be quite fancy. Like with this Crispy Noodle Cake with Kale and Mushrooms from the April/May 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times:

Ramen is boiled and then pan-fried and baked in a round cake and topped with sauteed kale, shitake mushrooms, carrots, ginger, and garlic. The re-fried ramen takes on a super-chewy and crunchy texture that totally rocks my little noodle-lovin' world. I may have found a new way to eat ramen.

On the side, I made some Steamed Yellow Squash:

Just squash, steamed for 10 minutes and topped with soy sauce. Tasty. Wholesome-ish. Best meal I've had all week.

How do you jazz up ramen noodles?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tofurky Tempeh!

I'm pretty cheap. Though I love processed and packaged foods, I rarely buy convenience foods I know I could make at home. It's about saving money, not avoiding packaged stuff. When I saw Turtle Island Foods/Tofurky Marinated Tempeh Strips a while back, I thought, "yea, I could marinate my own tempeh and save a buck."

But my co-worker Hannah let me sample a piece of her Lemon Pepper strips last week, and I was blown away by the intense flavor. It was far better than any marinade I could make on my own. On Monday, while shopping at Whole Foods, I noticed the strips on sale for $2.99. I pay that same price for plain tempeh, so I threw a package of the lemon pepper strips into my cart.

Then I found this recipe for Tofurky Tempeh Reubens on the Tofurky website:

Lemon pepper strips, sauerkraut, vegan cheese slices, and a homemade dressing of Vegenaise, ketchup, and pickle relish on rye. Delicious!

I've yet to try the other flavors — Smoky Maple Bacon, Sesame Garlic, and Coconut Curry — but I'll be happy to shell out the big bucks for these even when they're not on sale.

On the side, I made use of some fresh okra from my mom in this Smoky Stewed Okra & Tomatoes:

It's another recipe from my cookbook, which by the way, has been delayed until April. Sigh. I got an email from the Book Publishing Company a few weeks ago letting me know they were behind in production schedules and the book wouldn't make it's originally anticipated January release date. In a way, I suppose it's a good thing, as January may not be the best time to convince folks to buy more stuff. If you're like me, January is the month when you vow not to buy stuff because you've already blown too much on Xmas gifts. So hang on, folks! Don't give up. The cookbook will be out one day!

Are there any convenience foods you think taste better than homemade?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Japanese Breakfast

I once read that miso soup and steamed rice are typical Japanese breakfast foods. I'm the kinda girl who can eat any food for breakfast (leftovers, pizza, cake, whatever), so while miso in the a.m. might sound strange for western tastes, I thought, "what the hell?" So I started occasionally making a steamy bowl for breakfast years ago.

Then I sort of forgot about the miso breakfast option. Until this week. This morning, I had a big ole bowl of Miso Soup made with Westbrae Yellow Miso paste, sauteed onions and carrots, plain tofu, and nori.

I try to avoid white rice unless I'm dining out or eating something fancy like jasmine rice or sushi rice. So I served my soup with a side of brown rice seasoned with soy sauce:

What weird foods do you eat for breakfast?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy 31st Birthday, Sheridan!

I've been BFF with Sheridan since we were both 14! And on August 8th, my bestest bestie turned 31. I'm not far behind, but I always relish the two months between our birthdays, when I can make fun of Sheridan for getting old.

Since she lives in Little Rock, which is about two hours from Memphis, we didn't celebrate her big day until this past weekend. We met halfway in our hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Jonesboro, a college town in a dry county of about 50,000 people, isn't very vegan-friendly. But Sheridan, her partner Drew, and Drew's BFF Lindsay, are vegans too. So it took us awhile to settle on a place for dinner. Finally, Sheridan went with Kandela Grill, a locally-owned Mexican joint with tasty Vegetarian Fajitas:

If you saw my "Fajita Scramble" post last week, you might remember that I had some less-than-satisfactory veggie fajitas at El Porton in Memphis. But the fajitas at Kandela Grill completely made up for my recent unpleasant fajita experience. They had cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and all kinds of veggies inside. And they remembered to leave off the cheese and sour cream!

We ordered margaritas, too. Even though Jonesboro is in a dry county, they've begun to loosen up on allowing some restaurants to get liquor licenses (but you still can't buy beer in a store!). Having grown up there, it feels pretty rebellious ordering alcohol in public even though I do it all the time in Memphis. When Sheridan and I lived there, only one or two private clubs sold alcohol. Now you can get a drink-by-the-glass at several locally-owned and chain restaurants.

Thanks to a little language barrier, we accidentally ordered extra-large drinks in glasses big enough to house a few schools of fish. But Sheridan and I are champs, and we finished every drop.

After stuffing ourselves with fajitas and margarita, we didn't have much room left for dessert. But I'd made Sheridan the S'mores Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, so we had to make space:

For her gift, I gave Sheridan a copy of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's new Vegan's Daily Companion and one of each Go Max Go vegan candy bar:

I bought myself a copy of the Vegan's Daily Companion when I bought Sheridan's, and I'm loving it. It has affirmations ranging from stories of animal rescue to recipes for all 365 days of the year. I'm a super nerd (and so is Sheridan), so Colleen's new book is perfect for us!

Happy Birthday, Sheridan!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Jewelry Party!

My friend Cindy is always selling something. First, there was Arbonne (which I must say was pretty fabulous because it's all totally vegan). And now, she's peddling Premier Designs Jewelry. She talked me into having a jewelry party (think Tupperware party, but with necklaces and rings) for her on Friday night.

Since most of my friends aren't really the type to get into girly stuff, I knew I'd have to lure them over with food. I whipped up a batch of Eggplant Caviar from the Whole Foods iPhone recipe app. It's just roasted eggplant, red bell pepper, tomato, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Tasty served atop pita bread:

And also in the tomato-y stuff on bread category: Tomato Basil Bruschetta from Garden of Vegan. I grew the basil myself!

And because they were quick and easy, I made some Pigs in a Blanket using Smart Dogs and Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (yes, they're vegan):

Not pictured is the Garden of Eatin' Red Hot Blues tortilla chips with tequila-lime salsa and guacamole.

I was pressed for time on Thursday night when I was preparing for the party, so dessert had to be simple. So I made some Butterscotch-Dipped Pretzels with melted some vegan butterscotch chips and Chocolate Dipped Pretzels with plain ole' chocolate chips:

My plan worked! More than 10 people showed up, and I needed at least 10 folks so I could get some free jewelry. I ended up selling around $200 worth of jewelry for Cindy, and that means I get even more free stuff! I don't usually spend money on things like jewelry or clothes because I'd rather spend it on food. But it's nice to get some accessories for free.

Do you spend all your money on food? Or do you save some to blow on accessories or clothes?