And the winner is . . .

Congrats to Scout and Bodhi who won a copy of The Oh She Glows Cookbook!

Thank you to everyone who visited and entered!

DSC08248And by the way, I also made the Fiesta Taco Potato Crisps that are on page 85 and brought them to a get together. Everyone (including us) declared they were the Best. Appetizer. Ever. I made them again last night when my Mom came over for dinner. Again, Best. Appetizer. Ever.

20140406_163926_resizedThanks again, everyone!

25 Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

thanksgivingIn case you’re still wondering what to make for Thanksgiving, here’s a few ideas. Whatever you decide, I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with friends, family, and gratitude.

Brunch

Brunch

Cinnamon Rolls
Hash brown Casserole
Stuffed French Toast
Breakfast Tarts

Soups

soupsPesto Potato Soup
Eggplant Parmagiano Stew
Carrot-Ginger Soup
Creamy Wild Rice Soup

Sides
sides

Israeli Couscous with Pine nuts & Parsley
Roasted Asparagus
Twice-Baked Potatoes
Quinoa with Dried Apricots and Black Beans

Main Dishes

MainsField Roast with Fresh Blueberry Sauce
Gnocchi with Roasted Vegetables
Flaky Harvest Vegetable Squares
Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash and Cashew  Cheese
Vegetable Pot Pies
Field Roast with a Co Au Vin Sauce
Sweet Potato Ravioli with a Butter-Garlic Cream Sauce
Beet Ravioli with Garlic-Butter Walnut Sauce
Butternut Squash Lasagna

Desserts

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Pumpkin Pie
Cranberry-Muffin Bundt
Fruit Tarts
Coconut-Lemon Bundt Cake

My “New” Chairs

This post sort of has to do with food. We sit on these “new” chairs while eating delicious vegan food . . .

Our dining room chairs were beginning to show their age and I had already reupholstered them once before. We had inherited a new table, but the chairs didn’t match. *GASP*! Can you imagine?! ;-) The set had been a housewarming gift when we bought our first house back in 2002, so when we went shopping, we had no idea how dang expensive good quality chairs were. We would have paid anywhere between $800-$1000 for 6 chairs. In the end, I decided to go all DIY on them . . .

Chairs

Between fabric (worth waiting for a sale–saved 50%), paint, and supplies, I spent $102—for all six chairs. Don’t you love recycling?!

I chose to accent two of the six chairs with this fabulous patterned yellow fabric; the others in the gray chevron.

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Sure, there’s work involved, but I had these babies done in less than 3 days. My search is now on for a rug, which unfortunately, I don’t think I can whip up from anything I have already. Any recommendations for a durable, earth-friendly rug?

Garden Watch

It’s pretty amazing what can grow in a few short months. This was what our garden and yard looked like in May:

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and here we are now:

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Earlier in the summer, we had quite a crop of snap peas, but now that they’ve run their course, we’ve had to make way for the tomatoes, which so far, have been amazing! Here’s a look at what’s cooking in the garden . . .

PEPPERS (ANAHEIM, BELL & JALAPENO)

Peppers

DAIKON RADISHES, CARROTS (COLORED AND REGULAR), AND KALE

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TOMATOES

Tomatoes

I also thought I’d share the incredible transformation that our little corner of the earth has gone through since 2009 . . .

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Happy gardening and I’ll bring you pictures (with more than just green veggies) when harvest time comes!

WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO FROM YOUR GARDEN?

Vegan Vacation: Seattle

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I have been such a slacker! I finally got a chance to throw together this post about our vegan adventures in Seattle. I had made quite a list of restaurants to try to hit up while we were there, but it didn’t work out completely. Because we stayed downtown, we opted to hoof it everywhere, except for taking the city bus one day, which meant we couldn’t hit up a few vegan eateries that I was hoping to get to. All in all, it worked out just fine and we certainly didn’t starve!

Hook and Plow

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Located right along the piers on Alaskan Way, Hook and Plow wasn’t the most obvious vegan choice, but a menu we had found online listed some vegan options. Once we got there, however, these items were awol. When we asked the waitress about this, she happily offered to speak with the chef about what he could make. He ended up coming to our table and was very willing to fix us something vegan and delicious. We each went with this incredible mushroom (oyster, shiitake and button) risotto.

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It was probably one of best meals we had in Seattle. So flavorful and delicious! Diners at the other tables were intrigued and asked the waitress about it. We felt vegan-special. :-)

Chutney’s Queen Anne

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Located at 519 1st Ave., and is in walking distance to the Seattle Center (Space Needle, Chihuly Gardens, Pacific Center, etc.) The outside is very unassuming, but the inside is more upscale. If you like Indian food, you will love Chutney’s. They have a great selection of vegan items to choose from and are very reasonably priced. We started with the Onion Bhajiya, onion fritters fried in a seasoned chickpea batter.

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We could have eaten ten more a piece; they were outstanding.

We went with the Vegetable Biryani with rice, nuts, spices, and raisins. The flavors were amazing.

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And the Aaloo Gobi Punjabi (potatoes, cauliflower tossed with onions and tomato and seasoned with coriander and ginger garlic). Pure awesomeness.

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Everything was delicious (including the rosemary and garlic naan!) and the service was outstanding. I highly recommend Chutney’s for a fine vegan Indian cuisine.

So, speaking of the Seattle Center, we were highly impressed with the amount of vegan options (thank, Bill Gates)! At the Armoey/Center House, you’ll have your choice of several restaurant options in a food court setting. 21 eateries to be exact! Once day, we grabbed a quick sub from Subway, but then we discovered more . . .

Plum Market

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You can only imagine our excitement when we found this 100% vegan and organic eatery. It’s actually tucked back in a corner and we didn’t even see it at first (hence, the Subway).

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I don’t know what it was called, but I got the last one. Thank goodness. It was a puff pastry with vegan mac and cheese and caramel onions on top. Yes, please.

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I also went with the kale salad with tofu “feta.” Delicious!

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The Husband went with this incredible tofu sandwich. I can’t remember what was all in it, but he really enjoyed it.

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The Ninth Grader went with the vegetarian pot pie from Sweet and Savory Pie.

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He thought it was great . . . just not big enough!

Gordon Biersch

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Located at the Pacific Place Shopping Center downtown. For the typical American brewhouse, they actually have quite a few vegetarian items that can be made vegan. We were all drawn to the veggie tacos with lettuce, pico de gallo, and avocado. (Just ask for no cheese). Served with black beans and rice. They tasted fresh and the flavor was great.

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Dragonfish Asian Cafe

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Located at 722 Pine St. This was located just across the street from the hotel, so for Asian takeout, it was great. We weren’t necessarily starving, so we each ordered the vegetable spring rolls, the avocado rolls, and the tofu rolls.

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I’m usually not big on veggie sushi rolls, but these were fantastic. They were also larger than the rolls we’ve had in other places. We enjoyed the food so much, we ended up ordering another night from them as well.

Rock Bottom Brewery

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Located on 5th Ave., across from the 5th Ave Theater this was a great stop for a veggie burger. And a beer flight . . .

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The house-made veggie burger was pretty darn good and it was nice to hear (from our waiter) that around 90% of the menu is made in house and from scratch. The patio is a great place to sit and relax (as long as it’s not raining).

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Guaymas Cantina

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Located near Pioneer Square at the Harbor Steps at 1303 1st Ave. Typically, it’s pretty easy to find plenty of vegan options at a Mexican restaurant and that was certainly the case here.

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We all had the “Guaymas” Wet Burrito (minus the cheese).

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Another winner. Really delicious.

The atmosphere is nice and they also offer a complimentary salsa bar. The service was also great.

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Yard House

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Located at 1501 4th Ave. We were thrilled to come across Yard House since they have lots of vegetarian and vegan options, including a large menu of Gardein products.

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Plus, any of their burgers can be made with a Gardein patty. I ordered the Gardein Orange Peel Chicken with baby corns, bok choy with an orange glaze. Yum!

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The Husband went with one of their Gardein burgers, as did the Ninth Grader. Obviously, I was too hungry and didn’t get pictures! They enjoyed them, however.

Museum of Flight’s Wings Cafe

Located inside the Museum of Flight 9404 Marginal Way S.

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We were delighted to see the Vegan Asian Rice Noodle Salad, so we each ordered that.

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Although we highly appreciated the effort to accommodate vegans, it left a lot to be desired. Even with the sesame dressing, we found the salad (tofu, bell peppers, edamame, noodles, and cabbage) incredibly bland; there was just no flavor. At least it was healthy!

P.F. Chang’s

Located downtown at the Westlake Center (400 Pine St). This is always a great options for vegans and instead of trying to find another dinner place for our last night, we decided to wait the 30 minutes for a table. Having eaten at P.F.Chang’s several times before, we knew it’d be a good option.

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Veggie chow mein

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Buddha’s Feast

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Coconut Vegetable Curry

This post isn’t complete without showing you the original Starbucks located at Pikes Market!

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Yes, the coffee tasted the same, but it’s all about the experience, right?

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Vegan Vacation: Victoria, British Columbia

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Hey there! We had a fun-filled two-week vacation, but it’s good to be back. I’ve got a lot going on, so I’m going to try to make this brief! First, we had the most amazing weather in Victoria and Seattle—totally lucked out. We definitely want to move to Victoria, but I know that the cloudless weather we had is certainly not the norm. Either way, Victoria is high on our list of vacation spots. This is the view from our room. Instead of putting you through our vacation photos, I’ll skip to the food! I was pleasantly surprised at how vegan-friendly Victoria is; we had no trouble finding places to eat and stuff ourselves silly. For us, most everything was in walking distance, too. Our hotel had a small kitchen so we were able to at least prepare some meals ourselves. We started each morning with a short walk to a great coffee shop:

Moka House Coffee

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Excellent coffee and service and even had veggie burritos and veggie rolls—The Husband’s favorite.

Rebar

50 Bastion Square, Victoria

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Definitely a favorite!

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Kale Salad: $9 (vegan)

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Potsticker Bowl $13 (vegetarian)

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Rebar Poutine $12 (vegetarian)

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Vegan brownie (can’t remember the price. Don’t care. It was awesome)

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Rebar is very popular and fills up, so you may have to wait for a table, but it’s worth it. If you can’t make it, don’t worry—they have a cookbook!

Green Cuisine Vegetarian Restaurant

#5 560 Johnson Street, Victoria

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Vegan Mac n’ Cheese. That’s all you need to know. Okay, they have more than that, but be sure to try it, because it is fantastic. Green Cuisine is buffet style and prices are based on plate weight. There were so many items to choose from, that this was such an ideal way to try a bit of everything! Plus, it was all delicious. The menu changes often, so check their website for the menu.

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On a side note, I was really bummed that Sarah’s Place, a vegan shop above the restaurant, closed just one day before we arrived. Luckily, you can still order online! I want to wish Sarah a speedy recovery, as she is having to undergo chemo for breast cancer. Keep her in your thoughts and send her a friendly note if you can!

Lotus Pond Vegetarian Restaurant

617 Johnson Street, Victoria

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We went with the lunch buffet (also priced by plate weight), or you can order from the menu. The place is pretty small, but seemed to be a local favorite. We really enjoyed it.

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I will probably never forget this meal or this restaurant, because we ate here shortly after I about lost my shit out in the ocean in a kayak. We kayak a lot, but of course, being in Colorado, we’re confined to lakes and rivers. I’ve never been a big fan of being in the ocean, but I thought, hell, I could do this. After getting out a little too far, where the bay opened up and the waters got a bit choppy, I freaked. I was in the back of a 2-man kayak with The Husband and suddenly I panicked, thinking we were going to get eaten by a whale, a shark, or an orca . . . or all three. This was moments before I started hyperventilating:

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Anyway, I digress . . . If go, see Joanna at Victoria Kayak ~ Tours & Rental. She’s the best! (Us, after being safely back on deck)!

kayak

The Joint Pizzeria  

1219 Wharf Street, Victoria, BC

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Another great local favorite. Pretty small inside, but we were able to score a table. The Joint offers vegan and gluten-free pizzas, which you can have made on the spot, or take a slice or two to-go. They make their vegan pizzas with Daiya cheese (even though the menu says, “our own vegan cheese”). Whatever, I was happy with the Daiya.

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The Ninth Grader went with the nachos with veggie meat.

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Blue Poppy Restaurant—Butchart Gardens

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We hopped the bus one day and went up to The Butchart Gardens (a must-see if you visit). They have two restaurants and we opted for the cafeteria-style, Blue Poppy. We all went with the $8 salad that was ok—it sufficed. There weren’t many vegetarian options otherwise, although I believe they had a vegetarian Indian dish. It looks like the menu changes often, so you may want to call ahead to find out what veg-friendly options they’ll have that day.

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Is that it? I guess so. I will end it by featuring a British Columbia wine that was outstanding (especially while being enjoyed on the balcony, overlooking the bay):

Red Rooster Winery

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I’ll be bringing you our vegan Seattle finds soon!

Victoria, BC & Seattle . . . Here We Come!

victoria09Space Needle and Mount Rainier

 

We leave this weekend for a week in Victoria, BC and a week in Seattle! We’re very exited to get away and looking forward to spending time in two places we’ve never been. I’ve done a lot of research on places to see, places to eat, but it’d be great to get some recommendations!

So, how about it? Any recommendations?

Sunshine Award!

sunshine-award

I was pleasantly surprised to receive the Sunshine Award from V 8 Mile who has a great vegetarian/vegan blog. Be sure to check it out. This is such a great way to get connected with other bloggers and see what they’re cooking up. V 8 Mile lists some other great blogs and I’m looking forward to checking them out. So thank you, V 8! I appreciate the nomination! Now, onto the Sunshine Award questions . . . (which I may have, kind of, sort of deviated from the normal ones):

1. What is one of your favorite quotes?

I have so many, but I love this one from the late, the great, Dr. Seuss. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ~ The Lorax

2. What is your favorite time of day?

Early morning, around 6:30. The sun is beginning to warm everything up and it’s just a new day that can be whatever you want it to be.

3. What is your favorite holiday?

I have to agree with V 8 Mile on this one . . . I love Halloween. There are so many reasons why. For one, I love the fall time and even though we routinely get dumped on with snow—at least it seems that way—there’s just something about it. Costumes, party food, carving pumpkins! You name it!

4. What is your passion in life?

Everyone should know what their passion in life is (ideally, the sooner the better)! You may even have more than one. I love writing, art, music, veganism, creating anything with my hands, and helping those in need (both human and animal). I recently came across this amazing TED Talk  from Kathleen Taylor called, “Rethinking the Bucket List.” I love what she had to say. It’s worth the 10 minutes of your time. I also just attended the Northern Colorado Writers Conference and our keynote speaker was Andrew McCarthy—-yes, the cutie from “Pretty in Pink.” He’s also a writer and said that each and every one of us are creative and every time we don’t honor that, and plop ourselves in the front of the TV and veg, our creativity rots. So true.

4. What is your favorite non-alcoholic beverage?

What?! I’ve never heard of such a thing! ;-) Ok, so I sure like my vino, but I also love an almond milk latte . . . or a hot mug of vegan chai . . . while we’re at it, my least favorite is water, but, for the last month, I make sure I drink 64-100 ounces of water a day. My trick? Warm lemon water. First thing in the morning, I heat up some water and fill up the large Nalgene bottle—even before my coffee! Using this method, I’m usually able to knock out 64 ounces before noon. (Your skin will thank you).

5. Where are you on Facebook and Twitter?

I know, not a very deep question, but hey, we’ll get it out of the way. Twitter (I tweet very little, however): @EpicureanVegan and my Facebook page can be found HERE.

6. Where would you like to see yourself in five years?

Well, alive and healthy for one—or is that two? All right, so I hope to be making a living as a writer and illustrator, and/or owning my own vegan store (which by the way, may or may not already be in the works ;-) ) Really, all I can ask for is happiness and good health for my friends and family.  And lots of good, cheap wine.

7. Do you have a unique way of eating food that isn’t common?

I don’t know if it’s unique or not (The Husband calls it weird), but I like to slice an avocado in half, sprinkle a little salt on top and eat it out of the rind with a spoon.

8. What are the last four books you’ve read?

Well, that’s easy . . . (Thanks, Goodreads)!

*Just finished Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

* The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down, by Andrew McCarthy

* The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

* Bucking the Sun, by Ivan Doig (My all-time favorite author, by the way . . . in case you wanted to know)

9. How did your blog come about?

In November of 2009, I had picked up Alicia Silverstone’s cookbook, The Kind Diet (who hasn’t?) and began my vegan journey. Then in January 2010, while laid up after having my appendix out and nothing else to do but feel like a bloated whale on the couch, WordPress beckoned to me and Epicurean Vegan was conceived. (That sounded so romantic, huh?)

10.) What are your (vegan) “junk food” weaknesses?

Oh, man, Amy’s Kitchen makes this incredible mac and cheese that is gluten-free, vegan, and soy free that is absolutely to die for. Those darn things have 520 calories and a bit o’ fat and sodium. It’s ridiculous, but so good. I actually had to wean myself off of them and I haven’t had one in probably eight months, but I know how to get them! (At least they’re organic and non GMO, right?)

Now, on to my nominations . . . (Check them out!)

That Was Vegan?

Gypsy Roller’s Veggie Kitchen

The Cruelty-Free Review

JL Goes Vegan

Change for a Year

In Fine Balance

Luminous Vegans

Healthy Girl’s Kitchen

My Good Clean Food

Vegan Circles

Snow Day on May 1st!

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YESTERDAY

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TODAY

So apparently, May 1st is the new News Year’s. Schools were even canceled. There is over 6″ there and it’s still coming down. And our poor trees and shrubs! Heavy, wet snow is never a good thing for them. 

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Moe threw his brakes on when he came outside and realized what he was in for. “What the . . .  again?”

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Happy snow day!

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Time for Thawing

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This was yesterday. Yep. And those three square-ish mounds you see, are my veggie boxes. Two of which contain sprouts of peas, kale, and spinach. Fortunately, we covered them with wood planks and plastic, but it remains to be seen if they survived. This freak snowstorm dumped over 20″ of snow on us over 3 days and now the big melt has commenced. Our indoor seedlings, however, are going strong. It’s nice to see some greenery somewhere . . .

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The rosemary seems to be a late bloomer . . .

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Due to a cold I picked up this week, I didn’t whip up any soups, or bake any breads—what a missed opportunity! :-( Oh well, at least I’m feeling better and things are beginning to melt outside. I wasn’t totally unproductive; I did get some other blogging done . . . I’ll return tomorrow with a brand new recipe!

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My 3-year Blogger-versary!

Three years and 542 posts later, here I am. Still vegan. Still happy. Still blogging away. I have to admit, the anniversary sneaked up on me because it was actually WordPress who reminded me (and also, it’s time to renew, of course). I posted A Look Back in July 2011, so I figured this was a good time to look back again at some vegan favorites.

Appetizers

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Grilled & Stuffed Avocados

3-Nut Cheese

Spicy Empanadas

Cashew-Truffle Hummus

White Bean Truffle Spread

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Side Dishes & Salads

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Twice-Baked Potatoes

Quinoa and Rice Stir-fry with White Beans

Immune-Boosting Salad with Baked Tempeh

Kale and Cabbage Salad with Lemony Almond Butter Dressing

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Soups

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Lasagna Soup

Mushroom Chowder with Potatoes and Rosemary

Pesto-Potato Soup

Chili Stew

Hearty Vegetable Stew

Vegan New England Chik’n Corn Chowder

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Breakfast

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Lemony Quinoa-Almond Granola

Vegan Cinnamon Rolls

Zucchini and Kale Frittata

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Lunch

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Quinoa with Mushrooms and Spinach

Chickpea Salad

Portobello Wraps

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Dinner

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Field Roast-Mole Tamles

Field Roast and Spinach Enchiladas

Sweet Potato and Ricotta Raviolis

Creamy Mushrooms Fettuccine

Avocado and Pinto Bean Enchiladas

Tortilla Lasagna

Stuffed Peppers with Field Roasts and Ricotta

Stuffed Shells with Vegan & Soy-Free Ricotta

Coq Au Vin Fondue with Dipping Sauces

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Snacks

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Gluten-Free Granola Bars

Vegan Pigs in a Blanket

Papaya Trail Mix

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Desserts 

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Avocado Cupcakes

Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake

Gluten-Free Cupcakes

Lemon Monkey Bread

12/12/12 and a Giveaway!

As you probably already know, you won’t see dates likes today repeat themselves again this century, so enjoy it! So far, it’s shaping up to be interesting. Our hot water heater went kaput this morning :-( The good news (and hopefully it goes well) is that the Eighth Grader gets his braces off today! Caramel apples, anyone?

I thought I’d pass along this great giveaway that my friend from Hooked and Happy is offering.

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She’s giving away a copy of Clean Eating 3!

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Contest ends in 2 days, so get those entries in—you know you want the recipe for vegan Coconut Cream Pie!

Gearing up for Thanksgiving!

I apologize for my absence! Between an illustration project, writers retreat, and a week in northern California . . .

 . . . I’ve been pretty darn busy.

But now it’s cookin’ time!

I’m really looking forward to trying some recipes from Vegan Holiday Kitchen. There are so many recipes I want to try, that I’m going to try out a few this week for regular dinner meals. On the menu this week: Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tortilla Casserole, Rosemary-Citrus Sweet Potatoes, Classic Vegan Pumpkin Pie, and Red Quinoa Pilaf with Kale and Corn. I’m also going to attempt Vegetarian Times’ Flaky Harvest Vegetable Squares:

I’m also going to try making sweet potato or squash ravioli, so stay tuned for that recipe too!

What’s on your vegan Thanksgiving menu?

Halloween Fun

Another Halloween come and gone . . . with lots of delicious food and drink and wonderful friends. This is just one of many hysterical pictures!

The Menu

Guacamole, Black Rice Salad, Almond cheeze (herb and plain), pumpkin hummus, Party Cheese Ball, Spinach Dip, Pesto Potato Soup, Cashew-Truffle Hummus and cupcakes!

I hope you had a safe and fabulous Halloween!

Going Cruelty-Free

In an earlier post, I talked about cruelty-free cosmetics and where you can find a list of companies that do not test on animals. I’m working on eliminating all animal products and tested-on-animal products from our house as much as I can. I couldn’t justify wearing eye shadows and blushes that were experimented on animals anymore. Besides, if a product has to be tested on animals in the first place to see if would burn my skin off, cause a rash, or induce blindness, I don’t need to be putting it on my face anyway. So off to my nearest Sephora to find cruelty-free makeup. As far as cosmetics goes, they carry 2 brands: Urban Decay and Tarte. Not all Tarte products are vegan, but they do have a decent line of cruelty-free products. What I got from Tarte was actually their “gift with purchase” and I don’t know that I would purchase their products since their other products are tested on animals. However, perhaps the more people who buy their cruelty-free products, the more likely they are to make all their cosmetics vegan.

So I brought my expensive bag of goodies home . . . along with the ten stupid sheets of tissue paper that Sephora felt I needed . . .

Here’s the Tarte gift-with-purchase:

…with more tissue, of course.

On to skin care . . . I had picked up free samples of Boscia skin care products, a brand backed by PETAAll Boscia products are 100% preservative-free and natural. In fact, their products are created in a “state of the art Clean Room manufacturing facility where no human contact occurs.” Their dedication to quality is pretty amazing. You can read more about it HERE.

The little blue jar is an facial scrub/exfoliant from Ole Henriksen. I use this a couple of days a week. Love it! And it doesn’t hurt that it smells amazing.

So what’s the verdict?

I LOVE the Boscia products! (And so does my skin). It’s been about 2-1/2 weeks since I started this new regimen and my skin has improved a great deal. Yes, these products cost a lot more than drugstore products, but the quality is amazing and I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my skin. The facial cleaner is like washing my face with silk, and the moisturizer (oil-free with SPF) is great. It does have a woodsy, earthy, dirt-like smell, but that’s ok; I only smell it when I first put it on.

So far, I’ve been happy with the Urban Decay, except for the “Skyscraper” one—the brush is really ridiculous and doesn’t work well. I returned it for another. The Tarte mascara is a good one though. UD doesn’t have a lot of blush options—I think just four, and they’re mostly pink shades, as opposed to reds, browns or neutrals. I am happy with the one I chose. The eye primer and eye shadows from Urban Decay are excellent. They have a huge variety of colors and they last pretty much all day. The Naked foundation is superb and even though it’s full coverage, it’s not thick and pasty. I’ve been really happy with UD’s eye pencil as well, just be sure to also pick up their sharpener. I found out the hard way that not all eye pencil sharpeners play nice with other brands of eyeliners.

I received a free sample of Urban Decay’s “De Slick,” a setting spray. Basically, it’s like hairspray for your face. I haven’t tried it yet, so one of these days I will . . .

I’ll continue with these products and let you know what I think of them as I go along. And please, let me know what your favorite vegan products are and why you love them!

Have you taken the Leaping Bunny Pledge?

Like many, I’ve evolved over time to becoming a “strict” vegan. I got rid of dairy in 2007, gave up meat in 2009, have since stop buying and wearing leather and fur (although I never wore fur to begin with) and I’ve been getting rid of all cosmetics and other products that test on animals. Thankfully, Leaping Bunny makes it easy to find cruelty-free products. By signing up (for free!) and taking the leap to be cruelty-free, Leaping Bunny will send you this Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide that lists A-Z, companies that “do not test finished products, ingredients, or formulations on animals.”

It is estimated that up to 100 million animals are tested on annually. Some would argue that many medical breakthroughs of the 20th Century have been established because of animal testing, but I see no reason why lipsticks, eye shadows, and other cosmetic and toiletries need to be tested on animals, which include, but are not limited to primates, dogs, rabbits, cats, and mice. To learn more, I strongly urge you read these 11 Facts about Animal Testing at DoSomething.org. And you can also rely on PETA to show you the horrors of animal testing too. I may not be able to stop animal testing, but I can certainly do something about it at home. I’ll be the first to admit, it can be hard to give up products that you’ve come to love. We all get addicted to certain lotions, makeups, soaps, etc., but it’s not the end of the world. In fact, you may just find a new and cruelty-free favorite. I don’t expect my readers (vegan and non-vegan) to eliminate these animal products from their homes, but I hope to at least make you think about these products you use and what the animals had to suffer through to get it in your hands. (I know, I’m laying on the guilt here…)

If you want to know what companies still test on animals, check out this list. Print it off and start throwing stuff away (or donate it). PETA also is a great resource for more information. Click HERE. 

What are your recommendations for cruelty-free products? 

Starbucks is a Tease

It’s that time a year again…where Starbucks taunts us vegas with their Pumpkin Spice Latte. Word has gotten around by now to most vegans, that the PSL is not vegan. If you didn’t know that, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you. Even ordering it with soy milk, it contains condensed nonfat milk. Boo! Hiss!

In a quest to make my own at home, I came across this recipe. I haven’t made it yet, but I’m going to try to this week.

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In the meantime, have you found a recipe for a vegan PSL? Please, do share!

Vegan Vacation: Santa Fe, Taos and Montrose & Ouray, CO

Rio Grand Gorge outside Taos

Wow, where to start?! It’s good to be back, but it sure felt great to get away for nearly two weeks. I will try to keep this brief, but I have LOTS of wonderful food to bring you. Santa Fe and Taos are full of spectacular restaurants, so it wasn’t hard to find places to eat, even for vegans and vegetarians. I will say, when eating out in Santa Fe and Taos, be prepared to spend some dough. The average cost for the three of us (including wine or margaritas) for any meal, was $40-$45. The portion sizes, however seemed large, so splitting meals, or taking half your meal home with you (if possible) is a great idea. So first up . . .

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SANTA FE

BLUE CORN CAFE

133 Water Street

Located just off the plaza in Santa Fe, this is a pretty decent option for vegans and vegetarians. We started with some chips and salsa (which are not complimentary). The salsa is delicious. We opted for the most vegan item: the Marinated Portobello Fajitas ($14.95) that came with onions and bell peppers, not to mention all the fixins’. (I worked around the sour cream and cheese).

This is a good-sized portion that two people could have easily split—I wish we had; it was a lot of food, but really tasty.

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THE AZTEC CAFE

317 Aztec Street

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this place! If fact, we ate here three different times. This is such a cool little cafe that offers a wide range of organic and natural whole foods. They have a great covered patio…

Our first visit was for breakfast. The Husband and I went with the Vegan Burrito and the Eight Grader went with the vegetarian one. The vegan one was filled with potatoes, black beans, and other great stuff (sorry, I forgot to write the ingredients down…)

 We came back for breakfast again, and the guys went with their vegetarian quiche, and I had their homemade, raw muesli with fresh fruit. OUTSTANDING! And it came with almond milk. Even better. This kept me full all day long—a great choice before a long day of hiking.

Almond milk latte!

We then hit up the cafe for lunch and the kid went with a bagel with jam while The Husband got the portobello sandwich:

I decided the kale salad with cashew dressing was up my alley. So delicious!

This is a must-stop-at-destination if you’re visiting Santa Fe. Great service, reasonable prices, and excellent food.

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ATOMIC GRILL

103 East Water Street

This was a great option for a quick lunch. It was a pretty popular place and had a great outdoor patio. Not to mention a really extensive beer and wine list. We started with some chips, salsa, and guacamole. (Awesome, freshly-made guac)!

The guys ordered cheese pizza (yeah, I know…the guys will cheat and eat cheese when sometimes eating out. At least they’re vegetarian!) I wasn’t starving, so I went with the spinach and strawberry salad (minus the feta cheese).

Fresh and fabulous. It was perfect after having chips and guac, too.

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CAFE PASQUAL’S

121 Don Gaspar

This is actually located next door to The Atomic Grill. If you’re willing to splurge a bit, this is a must! Excellent! They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and it’s important to have reservations for dinner; it fills up. We tried to hit it up the first night, but it was full until 8:30, so we made a reservation for the following night (a Friday). The only space available was at the community table that seats about 10 people. I have to say, that was the way to go. We had a great time chatting with the rest of the diners at the table—it was a really fun experience. The restaurant has tons of gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options; it was pretty hard to decide. I went with the organic Tofu Mole Enchiladas:

It came with a jicama salad, cilantro rice, and corn bread (not vegan–so they subbed in their signature grilled banana). I’m not a real big banana fan to begin with, so I wasn’t lovin’ the grilled version. But that’s ok, the rest of the meal was outstanding. The sauce definitely has a bite to it, but not overly spicy.

The Eighth Grader went a la carte by having a vegan chile relleno and vegan tamale with green chile:

The Husband opted for the Plato Supremo: a vegan chile relleno, vegan tamale, and a tofu mole enchilada.

The food was probably the best we’d had in Santa Fe . . . and the priciest. For the three of us (plus a bottle of wine) was about $140. But the service and atmosphere is also incredible—it was well worth it.

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THE TEAHOUSE

821 Canyon Road

The Teahouse is located at the top of Canyon Road. It has its own parking lot, so keep that in mind—it’ll save you from trying to find parking on Canyon.

They have an outdoor patio, but the seating is somewhat limited. The area is large, but there aren’t a ton of tables. We were fortunate to snag one…

The kid went with a green tea…which he loved…

…and a scone and a bowl of fruit.

The Husband and I had their veggie sandwich (GF bread is an option, btw), with hummus, cucumber, sprouts, and bell pepper.

It was good, but it didn’t blow us away. It was a bit dry, actually. Some Vegenaise would have been great.

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TAOS

BENT STREET DELI

120-M Bent Street

This is located just off the plaza in Taos. It offers breakfast and lunch only. The place we were staying recommended it for vegan and vegetarian options. I’d say it definitely has plenty of vegetarian options, but not as many vegan ones. But of course, it’s not difficult to make them vegan. The kid ordered the SW Spud, a potato smothered with beans, cheese, salsa, sour cream, and veggie green chile. He wasn’t impressed; said it didn’t have much flavor. Luckily, my Taos Hum was plenty big enough to share with him.

I forgot to ask for no feta, so I spent a little time picking it out…oh well. It was delicious! (Hummus, tomato, red onion, sprouts, cucumber, and salsa). The Husband had the Pita the Greek with black olives, feta, sprouts, onion, tomato, and cucumbers. He really liked it.

We stopped here again for breakfast. While the kid had the vegetarian tamale (a special), the husband went with a croissant sandwich with egg. There aren’t many vegan breakfast options, so I went with an English muffin and potatoes…

I also got a soy latte!

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MICHAEL’S KITCHEN

304 C N Pueblo Road

This place is a local favorite, especially if you like diner-like food. There isn’t much for vegans, but there are some vegetarian options. The Hubby went with a vegetarian burrito:

And the kid had the French toast:

I had the granola pancakes. They were really good, but way too much! Four pancakes was a lot, so I recommend either splitting an order, or seeing if you can have half an order.

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ANTONIO’S: A Taste of Mexico

122 Dona Luz

This was certainly one of our favorite places to eat. Great food. It was raining, so we couldn’t enjoy the beautiful patio . . .

but that’s ok…it was the food we really cared about. This restaurant certainly seemed to be a hotspot. Maybe it just seemed that way since the patio was closed, but the place was packed—and it was a Tuesday night! We started with drinks (of course). The Husband ordered a margarita ($7.50) and was really disappointed. He said it was “severely weak” and decided not pay for another one that was sure to be watered down. I went with wine. I was hoping for a decent-sized glass because the wines-by-the-glass start at $8-9, but it was pretty skimpy. Oh, well, it’s probably a good thing anyway. So for booze, you may not get your money’s worth.

Antonio’s is known for their guacamole that they make right there at table. For $9 a bowl, you too could have some. We decided not to. But what a cool idea.

The guys started out with the Tacos de Papa a la Creama. They’re mashed potato stuffed taquitos with a cotija cheese on top. I tried a bite sans cheese and holy cow! It was delicious. They loved these.

For dinner, The Husband and I both ordered the veggie tacos. I ordered mine with no cheese, but asked for a side of guac. I was surprised that even though I didn’t get cheese, they still charged me $2.50 for the tiny cup of guacamole. It was yummy though. The Husband’s were pretty spicy, but mine weren’t—the heat is going to vary depending on the pico de gallo. We both thought these were great.

The kid went with the nachos, which was 6 really large tortilla chips, each topped with cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and pico de gallo. He wasn’t thrilled. It’s an appetizer, but the server said it was big enough for a meal. He was expecting your typical pile of chips with all the fixings, and it was disappointing to him. Overall, this was a great place for really delicious Mexican food—I recommend it.

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DRAGONFLY CAFE & BAKERY

402 Paseo del Pueblo Norte

This is a great option for vegans and vegetarians! When I looked at their menu online, they had me at Kale and Quinoa Salad! They serve a brunch on Sundays from 9-3, and are open 11-9 Monday-Saturday. We stopped in on Monday for lunch. I had a soy latte in addition to the salad.

The salad was amazing! (Kale, quinoa, onion, cucumber, mint, carrots, almonds, dried apricots, and a lemon vinaigrette).

The guys both ordered the Dragonfly Enchiladas with organic spinach, mushrooms, and white beans, topped with tomatillo salsa, goat cheese and tomatoes.

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STELLA’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT

112 Camino de la Placita

Yes, Italian food in New Mexico. After several days of Mexican food, we were ready for a little change and man, did we luck out. Stella’s is a gem of a restaurant located just off the plaza. The prices are incredibly reasonable and included in the meal are trips to the olive bar with a variety of olives and garlic.

The liquor is also reasonably priced as well. We each got a glass of prosecco for $5 per glass. The service is also exceptional. We started with the Italian Truffle Fries for $4. SO GOOD!!

I then ordered the eggplant Parmesan, served with pesto garlic toast. (The Parm was easy to brush off)  I love that it wasn’t drenched in sauce like what most restaurants do. It was delicious!

The Husband ordered the Mushroom Ravioli. These had ricotta inside (which is not listed on the menu description, so be sure to ask first). I couldn’t resist a bite…yum.

Oh, and all the entrees are served with a side of vegetables. Love that! The Eighth Grader ordered the vegetarian lasagna. We highly recommend Stella’s, especially if you’re wanting a change from Mexican food.

On our last day in Taos, we had a little picnic along the Red River. We had stopped at Trader Joe’s while in Santa Fe, so we picked up some goodies.

We picked up a Daiya Cheese Wedge (absolute best vegan cheese—ever! plus, my newest food obsession) and some apples at Cid’s Health Food Market (Taos’ answer to Whole Foods) and had a great snack while reading the latest issue of VegNews.

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MONTROSE/OURAY

I didn’t get pictures of the food, but I will recommend El Jimador in Montrose, CO for Mexican food. I had the veggie burrito. The margaritas were also quite good!

In Ouray (probably the most beautiful town in Colorado!) we went to the Ouray Brewery. Check out these great bar chairs!

This is definitely a local (and tourist) favorite. Even at 3:00, it was packed. They have great rooftop dining, as well as two more floors of dining room. They offer six of their own brews and quite a variety of pub food. I had the portobello wrap–outstanding! And The Husband had their vegan burger. He said it was THE BEST vegan burger he has ever had. Sorry for the lack of pics, but trust me, this is a must-stop if you’re in Ouray.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my culinary cruise through Santa Fe, Taos, Montrose, and Ouray. We certainly had fun eating our way through these great towns!

Wine and Words

For the second year in a row, I catered Wine & Words, a fundraising event for the Northern Colorado Writers. I love this event and I definitely love showing people that vegan food is delicious! You’ve seen the gluten-free & vegan cupcakes and I’m excited to show you what else I made (and about 95% organic, too!)

Quinoa Salad

I cooked 2 cups of quinoa in 2-1/2 cups of vegetable broth. I let it cool in the fridge for a day, then added 1 chopped up cucumber, two chopped tomatoes, a chopped red onion, 1 cup of chopped parsley, and a cup of toasted pinenuts. In a small bowl, I combined 3 Tbs of ume plum vinegar with 2 Tbs of olive oil, 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of black pepper, then mixed it into the salad. Easy!

Field Roast-Stuffed Mushrooms 

These were gone in minutes! I cooked up a diced green pepper with a small chopped onion and added four ground up Field Roast sausages, Italian flavor. I could make the stuffing a day ahead, so that helped out. I then used about 60 mushrooms and lightly sauteed them in Earth Balance and garlic. Don’t cook too much, just enough to soften them up. Just before the event, I heated up the stuffing in a pan on the stove and stuffed the mushrooms.

Pesto Potato Bread Sandwiches

I LOVE this bread for these finger sandwiches. The recipe makes two loaves, so I made two different kinds of sandwiches. I did, however, use a seasoned cream cheese (Tofutti mixed with Good Seasoning dressing mix) on both. On one, I had cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh basil. On the other, I used  roasted red peppers and avocados.

Fruit Cones

I figured this was a great way to eat fruit! I dipped the tops of ice cream cones in melted chocolate, then poured sprinkles around the top. Initially, I was going to fill them with fruit to serve, but it made more sense to let guests do it. That way, they can be picky about what fruit they want, and then the fruit wouldn’t make the cones soggy. I also recommend spooning a bit of chocolate into the bottom of the cone for added chocolate goodness!

I also made a huge batch (not enough!) of Avocado Bruschetta and served them with tortilla scoops and gluten-free crackers. The Spinach Dip was also a hit and I served it with cut up peppers, cucumbers, and celery. Olives and a green salad rounded it out and made for a fabulous event!

One Lovely Blog Award

I am so honored. Reia of  The Cruelty-Free Review and fellow Coloradoan, nominated me for the Lovely Blog Award! It was such a lovely surprise. Since I started Epicurean Vegan 2-1/2 years ago, I have come to know so many wonderful people and their blogs. This is a great opportunity for me to pass on the award and nominate some of my favorite bloggers. Thank you, Reia for the nomination!

So, here’s how this thing works . . .

  • Link back to the blogger who nominated you
  • Paste the award image somewhere on your blog
  • Tell readers 7 things about you
  • Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award
  • Contact your nominees and let them know about the award

Well . . . here goes:

1.) I love anything to do with the creative arts: writing, drawing, painting, DIY projects, sewing, you name it. I even owned my own handmade greeting card business for 10 years and sold cards to stores throughout the state. I hope to break into the children’s book market someday soon. My historical nonfiction will be out next spring and I’m toying with the idea of making a novel I wrote, an e-book.

2.) I’ll admit it. I’m a bleeding heart liberal, (which I wear on my sleeve—the heart, not the liberal).

3.) I have lots of fears: flying, water/boating, sometimes biking…and I’m a total worrier (but getting better, including about to board a four-seater plane this Thursday for Jackson Hole—what was I thinking?!)

4.) I love all kinds of music, but my favorite is Pete Yorn. You must check him out if you haven’t already. But my first music crush was Corey Hart, as in “Sunglasses at Night.” Memorized every word to every one of his songs when I young.

5.) I’m an avid reader. One of my favorite books is The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kay.

6.) I would love to open a vegan delicatessen someday (after I win the lottery).

7.) I have a tattoo of a guitar on my right arm, in honor of my father who passed away 5-1/2 years ago.

My nominees are . . . (in no particular order)

1.) Crash Test Vegetarian Such a fun blog! Izzy combines humor and honesty in her posts and cooks up some pretty awesome recipes. Her potato soup is outstanding!

2.) That Was Vegan? Barb is another fellow Coloradoan, but that’s not the only reason I like her! Her recipes are always fun, colorful, and tasty. I love that she’s not afraid to throw in a few vegan “junk foods” every once in while. I’m really anxious to try her Strawberry Jalapeno Salsa!

3.) Anecdotes and Applecores I absolutely adore Monet! And who wouldn’t?! She is so kind and always leaves the sweetest comments on my blog. She’s such a delightful blogger and fellow writer. She’s also a baker extraordinaire. You must see her beautiful creations—she a whiz with flour and frosting! Not all of her recipes are vegan, but are mostly vegetarian, many of which I have bookmarked.

4.) Hooked and Happy Another Coloradoan and dear friend. Carolyn and I met in a novel-writing class back in 2003. If you’re ever looking for a clever tip or trick, Carolyn is the one to ask! As a mother of two young daughters (and totally type A—love ya, Carolyn)! she is full of fantastic ideas to keep kids busy, keep yourself organized, and maintaining your sanity. She crochets some pretty awesome baby/toddler hats, too and plans on opening an etsy shop soon. Can’t wait!

5.) New Age Vegan  This blog is packed full of awesome vegan-ness! Aiming to spread vegan awareness, the thoughtful and insightful contributors on NAV hold discussions, interviews, and support the efforts of vegans everywhere. This blog is a great resource for even the veteran vegan!

6.) Please Pass the Tofu Teresa offers unique vegan recipes one pink plate at a time! Teresa always has a kind word to say when commenting about others’ posts, too. Her tater tot casserole is brilliant!

7.) The Gay Vegans I had the pleasure of meeting Mike and Dan at the Sustainability Fair last year (yes, more fellow Coloradans!) They are the nicest, kindest, folks who care so much about their community and making it a better place. They’re never afraid to step up to the plate and rally on behalf of animals and fellow human beings, and fight against injustices. They are such a delightful pair! (And Mike’s Famous Cinnamon Rolls are to die for)!

8.) Suburban Snow White Such a fun blog! SSW is always insightful and creative in her posts, from vegan food to vegan news to vegan awareness. She poses great questions and gets you to think about issues and new perspectives—all with humor and wit.

9.) The Veracious Vegan I had the great opportunity to meet Angela when she visited Boulder last year from Washington D.C. A total adrenalin junkie (car racing, cliff jumping, skydiving), Angela kicked my butt on a hike around the Flatirons before we grabbed lunch and some quick shopping on Pearl Street. She offers restaurant reviews from all over the country (I could see her flying her own plane), vegan product reviews, and recipes.

10.) Vegan Thyme Kelly of VT will entertain you with her fun anecdotes and musings while offering an amazing vegan recipe! And her pictures are always gorgeous—they make me want to visit her for tea and scones. I’ll just listen while she chats and knits something beautiful.

11.) Mile High Healthy Yep, you guessed it. . . another Coloradoan! If you need some inspiration to get healthy, you’ve got to meet Shelley. She’s the epitome of a healthy vegan—and lucky for us, she shares her secrets! From her workouts to what she eats to her amazing hiking adventures, she’ll get you off the couch and signed up for exercise boot camp!

12.) Luminous Vegans LV offers great vegan resources as well as delicious recipes and everything veg. Always with wit and humor, LV’s posts are fun to read—not to mention look at because the pictures are great!

13.) The Vegan Road Patrick and Kristine offer great recipes with beautiful pictures, as well as useful vegan news and advice. It’s also just a nice-looking, easy to navigate website that makes you want to stay a while.

14.) Carrie on Vegan If you like kale, nuts, and smoothies, you’ll love COV! Her recipes always look so good and are most definitely healthy. Carrie also takes readers with her when she travels, giving practical advice and amazing recipes for car food!

15.) Olives for Dinner OFD is such a well-put together blog with beautiful photography and amazing dishes. (The ricotta-stuffed french toast with butterscotch sauce is simply brilliant). Her unique (but very doable) dishes look like something out of a gourmet magazine!

So there you have it! I hope you have a chance to visit these fantastic bloggers and say hello. Thank you again to The Cruelty-Free Review for the lovely nomination!

High Park Fire

My poor city is on fire. Well, the foothills surrounding my city are. With all of the smoke settling on us, you’d think the fire was in our backyards. For many, it is. The fire, presumably started by lightening on Saturday has spread to 46,000 acres with 10% containment thanks to dry and windy conditions, as well as the many dead trees from the pine beetle. It has damaged or destroyed around 100 structures and has left people homeless. I took this pic on Sunday from my house. I wish it was just an ordinary sunset, but it’s not.

Myself and my family aren’t in eminent danger, but so many people have lost their homes and even their pets. It’s incredibly sad. I grew up here and this is the first time I’ve experienced a fire so close to home. The fire has destroyed the very places we spend all summer hiking, including Old Flowers Road, Grey Rock, and Lory State Park.

This photo was taken from Horsetooth Reservoir, just a few miles from our house a couple of days ago:

Photo credit

I want to send a thank you to all of those who are working night and day trying to save as many homes and animals from this devastating fire as possible. With no rain in our forecast, we’re looking at a very slow-going containment, so send us your positive vibes, good thoughts, and a little rain dance couldn’t hurt.

(Check out the Coloradoan for updates.)

I’m Still Here!

I haven’t forgot about all of you! This month has been uber crazy, namely, with the Northern Colorado Writers Conference that I help with. It was a huge success—probably one of the best NCW conference I’ve been to. Right now, I’m in the throes of polishing my novel to send to an agent and finishing up revisions for my nonfiction due at the publisher in less than two months! YIKES!  Anyhoo…I’ll be back very soon with more recipes because my family is certainly growing tired of take out, leftovers, and vegan pizzas. For now…here’s a pic of myself with two of my favorite fellow writers…

Katie Ireland, in the middle, is a psychic medium and dear friend of mine. So in the meantime, check out her site!

A Welcomed Getaway

It’s been a whirlwind week and a half, hence, my absence from posting. The Seventh Grader had to have his appendix out, then proceeded to follow it up with three ER visits, then two nights in hospital due to complications from surgery. Luckily, he’s doing great, but it did change our spring break plans of snowboarding. Not a big deal. We ended up going anyway since we were all in desperate need of a getaway. We stayed in this great little studio apartment in Nederland, CO, just 15 miles from the ski resort (not that that mattered). This was our favorite spot to hang out:

The apartment is just around to the left of the house.

I brought up way too much food (as usual) but we didn’t have time to check out the restaurants in town. I made a batch of VegNews’ Mac n’ Cheese and salad.

We ventured into town the second day and came across First Street Pub and Grill.

 

We checked out the menu posted outside and saw lots of vegan options including the Vegan Supreme Pizza. We were hooked. I decided to fudge on my no-wheat rule and order the pizza.

It was delicious! It had tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, and pine nuts. The only thing I thought it lacked was some type of sauce. They had hummus listed on their menu for an appetizer and I think hummus would have been a great addition to this pizza, or at least a tomato sauce. Otherwise, it was quite good. The Seventh Grader went with a vegetarian calzone:

And The Husband went with the portobello sandwich:

We also spent one day in Boulder which was only thirty minutes away. We were experiencing a little heatwave and enjoyed the 75 degree day! Of course, we stopped at the Dushanbe Teahouse for a late breakfast.  I had the Teahouse Garden Wrap, minus the goat cheese.

Excellent!

It wasn’t the spring break we expected, but it turned out amazing!

The Epicurean Vegan Gets Crafty

Well, I’ve always liked to do crafty stuff—it’s that domineering right side of my brain. Somehow, I found the time to get a couple things done this weekend. So first, I’ll share with you a card I (sort of) made for fellow writer and jewelry-maker extraordinaire, Michelle Mach of Beads and Books. Michelle makes incredible and unique jewelry, much of it related to readers, writers and writing, like these fabulous mini book pendants.

Michelle also does beautiful embossed cards and sent them out to lucky readers of her blog—with a challenge. Decorate them, send her a photo of it, and enter to win an Amazon gift card! I got my card in too late for the drawing (because I procrastinate really well), but be sure to check out the amazing cards other readers made.

I really liked the simplicity of the alphabet card, so I just added some cut out hearts from some handmade paper.

To see more of Michelle’s wonderful jewelry, stop by her Etsy shop and have a look!

My second crafty endeavor of the weekend was a DIY bulletin board. I really needed one for my office because I kept losing my Post-It notes among all the other junk on my desk. I have to send props out to my mom who gave me this idea.

Materials:

An artist canvas (found in craft stores)

Fabric

Staple gun

Basically, wrap the fabric around the canvas, pulling tight on the edges, as you staple it to back of the wooden frame of the canvas.

It really is that simple.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to fabrics and there are a so many different sizes of canvases that you’re bound to find one that will fit your needs.

:)

Pay it Forward . . . Please

I just returned from the grocery store and I wanted to share with all of you something that occurred. A young woman in line next me could not afford all of her groceries. Her cart held a few leftover items like produce, eggs, toiletries. It broke my heart. I edged over and offered to pay for the rest, but she refused to let me, saying, “It’s ok, really.” When the woman left, the customer who was in line behind her, said to me, “Maybe you shouldn’t have done that; it just embarrassed her.”

Ouch! Well of course that wasn’t my intention and I apologize if I did that, but is that the new excuse for not helping out a fellow human? “Oh, I might embarrass them.” If that’s true, what a depressing state of mankind. I told the woman this and she shrugged. If it wasn’t my turn in line, I would have found a box to stand on, grab the intercom and said, “Can I get a reality check at register 12?” I said I wouldn’t ever apologize for offering to help someone out and that perhaps by seeing me extend a hand, someone else will offer help to a person in need.

This woman had a small child with her and I found it sad that she’d rather teach her child to be apathetic, than show him the importance of paying it forward.

Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for what I have. I live a pretty comfortable life that allows me to stay at home, write, cook, buy my kid nice clothes, etc. I don’t offer to help people because I want a pat on the back. I do it because it’s the right thing to do. Plain and simple. When I was 21, I stood in the Medicaid/Welfare line carrying my newborn son in a car carrier. I was a single parent and I know how difficult, if not impossible it is to get ahead when you don’t have money. I was lucky that my parents could help, but if I didn’t have their support, I would hope someone would at least offer to help—whether I was willing to take it or not.

This incident reminds me of a documentary I saw a few weeks ago called “I Am.” It asks the questions, What is wrong with the world and how can we fix it?

It is a powerful movie with an incredible message that I think we all need to hear.

Maybe I overstepped my societal boundaries at the store today—I don’t know. I hope not. And I hope we haven’t come to that as a community, as a society, or as a race.

What do you think? 

Another fun cooking class . . . and a contest!

It was another fun cooking class last night where participants learned to make several appetizers and the Creamy Macaroni with Cashew Cheese. My good friend, Carolyn from Hooked and Happy came–have you checked out her blog yet? Now’s a great time! Head over to her site and tell her your best “good-gifts-gone-bad” experience and you could win a $25 Amazon gift card–just in time for the holidays.

Thanks to everyone who came to the class last night!

My First Cooking Class

Last night I hosted my first vegan cooking class for fellow members of Fort Vegan, a vegan and vegetarian meetup here in Fort Collins. Many of the attendees were vegetarian, but looking to go vegan and needed ideas of how to cook without cheese and eggs. I enjoyed meeting everyone and getting a chance to “talk shop” and learn a few things myself. I put together a packet of information regarding protein, calcium, and ten different things to make with tofu. I also included the recipes for the vegan goodies we ate. I’m sorry to say, I completely forgot to serve the vegan brownies–although the recipe was included. The Seventh Grader was thrilled with my oversight.

I served four easy-to-make appetizers: Avocado Bruschetta, Crock Cheez, Hummus, and Field Roast Stuffed Phyllo Cups. I then showed attendees how to make the best mac n’ cheese ever.

Hopefully, everyone came away with lots of helpful information and full stomachs. I had a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to class number 2 next Sunday. I’m not sure what I’ll be whipping up for that class, but since Thanksgiving is coming up, I may focus on vegan holiday dishes. Thanks again to everyone who attended!

Halloween Shenanigans

I’m a little slow in getting this post up—I’ve been swamped, but here it is. I LOVE Halloween—behind Christmas, it’s my favorite holiday. It’s The Husband’s least favorite holiday, but he puts up with it for me. (Thanks, hon). He’ll even don a costume . . .

The Husband, on the left, after getting fed up with the (cheaply made) Headless Man costume and our good friend, and neighbor, Chris.

I decided to go as a witch . . .

(No, I’m not drunk, just hamming it up for the camera)

I’ll make this quick . . . I threw together some appetizer favorites along with a pot of Vegetable-Barley Chili. On the menu were Stuff Phyllo Cups, Mushroom/Spinach Truffle Oil Tart, Hummus, and my mom’s famous Party Cheese Ball.

For dips, I used Tofutti sour cream with vegan veggie mixes, had some olive out, as well as cider and punch. For something sweet, I decided to make Cinnamon-Sugar Pita Chips:

So easy! Preheat oven to 425. Cut each pita in half, then each half into 3 pieces, then pull each piece apart; place on a baking sheet.  Heat about 4 Tbs of Earth Balance in a saucepan and combine 2 Tbs sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon in a bowl. Brush each pita triangle with Earth Balance, then sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake for about 4-5 minutes. Once they cool completely, whip up some icing by combining about 2 cups of powdered sugar with 2-3 Tbs of almond milk; drizzle on the chip. Enjoy!

Can you guess what my friend, Jessie is?

 

Win a Copy of Peas and Thank You!

I wanted to take this chance to introduce a friend of mine. Carolyn and I met many years ago during a novel-writing class and we’ve been (writing) pals ever since.  Over at Hooked and Happy, Carolyn is giving away a copy of Peas and Thank You, a vegan cookbook! Click HERE to enter for your chance to win.

Spend some time at Hooked and Happy—it’s full of fun, witty, and practical ideas, recipes, and musing!

Fort Vegan & The Sustainable Living Fair

(That’s the Seventh-Grader helping set up)

I had a fantastic time at the Sustainable Living Fair here in Fort Collins over the weekend. I volunteered with Fort Vegan, a local meetup. We handed out information and vegan samples, thanks to VegFund. I got an opportunity to meet lots of great people including Mike and Dan of Cruelty-Free World. They are a wonderful couple! They sell vegan products and cookbooks and donate 100% of the profits to animal and human rights organizations. How noble/admirable/kind/awesome/selfless is that?

I made a contribution by purchasing Color Me Vegan and the Seventh-Grader bought a vegan wallet.If you haven’t already, visit Mike and Dan at The Gay Vegans.

In addition to nearly 200 exhibitors, the fair boasted several large areas dedicated to renewable energy, natural heath, green building, green living, and local produce. I also had the pleasure of volunteering with fellow Fort Vegan member, Sara Jelley, who is a personal trainer and recently began her own business, Curvy Fitness. If you are in the area, hate the gym, and want a practical, holistic approach to fitness, contact Sara on her site—she’s a sweetheart!

Fort Collins Sustainable Living Fair

400th Post!!


This weekend, I will be volunteering at the Fort Veg*n –Northern Colorado’s Vegan and Vegetarian Meetup booth at the Sustainable Living Fair here in Fort Collins and I’m really excited. I’m not, however, excited about the forecast—Saturday is shaping up to be rainy. It should still be a fantastic time with lots of great venders (excluding the Weston A. Price folks who will be 2 down from us :( ) But, hey—that’s ok.

In addition to lots of venders, the fair has several keynote speakers lined up including actress Sheryl Lee (she played the unfortunate Laura Palmer on Twin Peaks), as well as Alec Loorz, a 17-year-old non-profit founder.

I’m getting my postcards printed out so that I can hopefully pursue fair visitors to check out Epicurean Vegan and give recipe or two a try.

And . . . a HUGE thank you to VegFund for providing us with some moolah!! Thanks for them, we’ll have some fabulous vegan food samples.

If you are in the area, please stop by. The fair is open 10-6 on Saturday and 10-5 on Saturday. Also be sure to stop at the Cruelty-Free World booth out of Denver. Hope to see you there!

Restaurant Review: Larkburger

Yes, you read that right: Larkburger. When my friend suggested we go there, I said, “Excuse, me? Did you forget who you were with?!” She assured me that they offer a mushroom burger and that basically I need to shut up and eat. I will like it. Hmpf. Ok, fine.

Larkburger is a Colorado-based burger joint with stores in Boulder, Edwards, Denver, and Fort Collins. So sure enough, on the menu is Amy’s Burger, a portabello mushroom burger with lettuce, tomato and grilled onions. Larkburger is also famous for their truffle oil fries, so as you can imagine, I didn’t need much convincing to get those (just sans Parmesan). As we waited for our food, I got a good look around . . .

So get this: the very woodsy interior is made of all reclaimed timber. Not only that, but 100% of the restaurant is run by wind power. How cool is that? It doesn’t end there. All of the cups and containers are made from a biodegradable corn-based product and the “Spudware” is made from potato and/or cornstarch. Everything is compost-able. They use energy-efficient commercial equipment, and even their leftover canola oil is used for automobile fuel. Pretty impressive. (So impressive, I can overlook the fact that the beef industry is one of the BIGGEST contributors to global destruction). You don’t see many businesses and restaurants doing their part like this, so I have to commend Larkburger. So on to the food!  (which they say is made with 100% natural ingredients and no additives or preservatives). Oh, and they also offer gluten-free buns. So . . .was this mushroom burger really any good?

Yes. I was hungry, but I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything so fast. Plus, it was hard to put down since they come in a little pocket—you have to pretty much scarf it down with one hand, while stuffing the delicious fries in your mouth with the other hand. Best $9.89 I’ve spent on food at restaurant of this type. The service was great, too. My friend had only gotten half a cup of iced tea before the machine went on the fritz (must have been a low-wind day). ;) So they gave her a free milkshake. Nice . . . if you’re into that kind of thing.

Thanks Larkburger for your environmental work and for a fabulous mushroom burger!

Review: Luscious Nectar Juice Lounge

Me and my hegans ventured downtown recently and as I was going through a local coupon book, I came a across Luscious Nectar coupon for a free smoothie. We had never been there, so we really had no idea what to expect. Turns out, it’s a bar/nightclub specializing in boozed up smoothies. They also have a list of non-alcoholic concoctions as well—which is what we were after that day. It’s located at 253 Linden Street here in Fort Collins. We went around lunchtime and it was pretty dead except for some people at the bar.

There is some pretty crazy photography/artwork on the walls, much of it very unkid-friendly. We had to find a table where the Seventh Grader didn’t have a clear view of womens’ breasts or horror movie-like images. Anyway, there was only one guy working this afternoon—apparently, an employee didn’t show up, so our order took quite a while.

We started out with three smoothies: The Acai Chill, Amazon Jungle, and Luscious Peach.

Acai Chill: acai berry, strawberry, banana, and apple. Amazon Jungle: Organic Amazon cherry, blueberry, and pineapple. Luscious Peach: Peach, banana, apple, and Madhava agave. We each thought our smoothies were delicious.

Since the wait on the food was going to be a while due to lack of kitchen help, the server/bartender brought us some tortilla chips and salsa to munch on.

The guys ordered vegetarian pizzas and I went with the Garden Spring Rolls with quinoa, carrot, cucumber, purple cabbage, and sprouts wrapped in rice paper with a wasabi-peanut sauce.

Even though it took 45 minutes (plus, we were the only ones eating food in the place) it was well-worth the wait. I was really impressed with them. I enjoyed the quinoa and cabbage—a change from rice noodles. The guys loved their pizzas, too.

And since The Husband forgot to use the coupon when he paid, it’ll be a good excuse to head over there again for a mid-day smoothie the next time we’re downtown.

Backpacking, Made (Vegan) Easy

I have so much vegan amazingness to bring you today! We just returned from a 3-day backpacking trip and I have lots to share, so hang in there with me, ok?

I recently picked up Another Fork in the Trail: Vegetarian & Vegan Recipes for the Backcountry by Laurie Ann March and I was anxious to give some of the recipes a try for the trip. You will need a food dehydrator for most of the recipes (which I don’t have yet) so I went with a few recipes that didn’t require one. I’ll be bringing you 3 recipes from the book:

  • Blueberry Hazelnut Quinoa (pg. 42)
  • Roasted Nut and Mango Energy Bars (pg. 137)
  • Lime and Black Pepper Roasted Chickpeas (pg. 132)

We also picked up organic, vegan freeze-dried meals from MaryJane’s Farm Outpost, so I’m including pictures and reviews of their products as well. The Husband also tried a new Backpacker’s Pantry vegan variety as well . . . the Katmandu Curry.

When we go hiking for the day, when all I have to lug is a bottle of water, I’m off. The Husband complains that I leave him and the Seventh Grader in the dust, but I can’t help it. Once I get going, I let the momentum carry me. The sure-fire way to slow me down is strap a 35-40 lbs pack on me . . . and give me a camera. I took almost 200 pictures. (Don’t worry, I won’t post them all here). But I do have to show you one of my favorite parts of the trail. A mile into the 4 mile hike, the trail meanders through a forest of aspen trees; it’s absolutely gorgeous.

My dad first brought me to this area in 2003. This was his favorite place to backpack, so it has a lot of special meaning to me. He passed away nearly five years ago, but we continue his legacy by returning here once or twice a year. The Seventh Grader got to experience it for the first time.

We arrived at camp around two in the afternoon and got things set up. As we took shelter from a brief rainstorm, we thoroughly enjoyed the (no bake) Roasted Nut and Mango Energy Bars I made the day before.

These were delicious and so easy to make. The recipe makes 10 bars, but I don’t recommend packing all of them–at least not one person packing them in, as they are kind of heavy. Individually, they’re fine.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 C raw almonds and peanuts, coarsely chopped

1/3 C agave

1/4 C brown sugar

1/4 C peanut butter or almond butter (I used PB)

2 C strong cereal flakes, crushed (I used Special K with sliced almonds)

1/4 C dried mango, finely chopped

1/4 C carob chips (I used Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet chocolate chips–they’re vegan!)

DIRECTIONS:

Make sure you have all your ingredients chopped and ready to go before starting.

In a small skillet, dry toast the almonds and peanuts until fragrant and browned. Let them cool. In a medium to large saucepan, heat the agave and brown sugar and let simmer for 1 minute–just don’t boil it. Remove from the heat and add the peanut butter; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add the crushed cereal, nuts, mango and chocolate chips; combine well.

Coat the bottom and sides of an 8″ baking dish with vegetable oil. Scoop the mixture into the pan and press down so that it is even.

Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. The recipe then says to transfer the pan contents to a cutting board. Well good luck getting those contents out of the pan right away. I had to let it thaw on the counter for about 20-30 minutes, before loosening the edges with a knife and using a metal spatula on one side to get it out. No big deal, just don’t expect the bars to pop right out.

Cut into 10 bars:

Wrap each one in waxed paper and store in a ziplock bag. They’ll also keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Source: Another Fork in the Trail

Yes, that’s snow. This lake is about 8500 feet in elevation, so there are lots of places where there is snow year round. And you may be wondering why the trees are gray. That’s not a usual Colorado thing. Unfortunately, that’s the result of the pine beetle. They’re killing lodgepole pines throughout the United States and Canada. It’s incredibly sad to see.

But there’s still much beauty to be had:

That’s Mount Ethel. Ain’t she a beaut at nearly 12,000 feet?

MaryJane’s Farm Outpost Organic Freeze-Dried Meals

(note…the Red Pesto Pasta is vegetarian, not vegan)

For the first night, I chose the Ginger Sesame Pasta ($8) The Husband had had this one before on a earlier trip, so he recommended it.  Unlike most freeze-dried meals, this one serves one, not two. So, tear off the top of the package . . .

 . . . and pour in 1 cup of boiling water. Stir it really, really well. I noticed I didn’t do a very good job because later, there was some unmixed seasonings on the bottom of the bag. Fold down the top and let sit for 8-10 minutes.

It really tasted great. I’m not a huge fan of black beans, but I didn’t mind them at all in this. It was also just the right amount of food for one person. You’d never know this meal was freeze-dried. After a long day of hiking, this was ideal.

Ingredients: Organic Instant Durum Semolina Pasta, Organic Black Bean Flakes, Organic Powdered Soybean Miso, Organic Red Bell Peppers, Organic Sucanat® (dehydrated cane juice), Organic Sesame Seeds, Organic Orange Peel and Organic Herbs & Spices.

For the second night, I had the Wild Forest Mushroom Couscous ($8.75) This was even more delicious than the sesame pasta. LOVED it!!

Add 1-1/2 cups of boiling water, stir really well, then seal it up. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir again.

Ingredients: Organic Couscous, Organic Powdered Soybean Miso, Organic Pine Nuts, Organic Oyster Mushrooms, Shiitake Mushrooms, Organic Garlic and Lovage.

For the first night, the hegans went vegetarian with Mountain House Pasta Primavera ($6.50). Each pouch serves two, but they’re guys and they eat a lot; no need to split one. The second night, The Husband went with Backpacker’s Pantry Katmandu Curry ($6).

This one definitely serves two–he couldn’t finish it all. Plus, it had a bit of kick, so beware if you’re not into spicy food. It also took longer than most–about 20 minutes. It also requires 2-3/4 cups of boiling water. He thought it was very good, but we’ll just have to keep in mind that it easily serves two people.

Ingredients: lentils, precooked parboiled long grain brown rice, potatoes, carrots, peas, sauce (salt, garlic, turmeric, coriander seed, cumin seed, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, cayenne pepper, parsley, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, dill weed, fennel seed).

Enjoying their freeze-dried delicacies

During some hikes the second day, we discovered this amazing waterfall and another small lake at the base of it.

It was so incredible! The day was gorgeous and I spent much of it exploring and carrying around my portable, fold-up seat, a notebook, pencil and a book.

The book that I wanted to bring, The Ledge, is a hardback–not a good choice for backpacking–but an excellent read! One of the authors, Jim Davidson, is a fellow NCW member and his story is amazing. I settled for The Red Tent.

So far, it’s all right. The first 60-some pages are pretty much all about childbirth and it got old. Fortunately, it’s picking up . . .but I plan on finishing The Ledge first. I also have to show off my New Belgium coin purse, made pf recycled bicycle tubes:

It’s perfect for stashing my ID, ipod and of course money. (You never know where a Starbucks will pop up next–could be at mile 3)

For a snack, I made some Lime and Black Pepper Roasted Chickpeas the day before we left.

These were great to snack on and had lots of flavor. I had always wanted to roast chickpeas, but never found the time. I also doubled the recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

4 C canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

4 tsp olive oil

1/2 – 1 tsp black pepper

3 Tbs lime juice

2 tsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 425. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, pepper, lime juice, and cilantro. The recipe says to line the pan with the chickpeas (removing any loose skins from them) and pour the sauce over them. I opted instead to pour the chickpeas into the bowl with the sauce and combine them that way.

I then poured them onto the pan. Bake for 35-50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

They should come out crispy and dried through. Sprinkle with the salt. These were light enough to pack and offer some much-needed carbs after all of the hiking.

Source: Another Fork in the Trail

Breakfast

When I saw this recipe in Another Fork in the Trail, I knew I needed to make it for this trip. It calls for hazelnuts, but the store (a major grocery chain) apparently only carries them during the holidays and I didn’t have time to hit another store, so I went with pecans. No problem. This easy to make, light-weight cereal was one of my favorites meals. Loaded with protein, it kept me going all morning.

INGREDIENTS: (doubled)

1 C quinoa

1/4 tsp salt

2 Tbs sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 C dried blueberries

1/4 C hazelnuts (or pecans)

Brown sugar, to taste

Powdered soy milk (enough to make 1-1/2 cups)

DIRECTIONS:

At home, rinse the quinoa under cold water for at least 3 minutes. Drain and toast in a dry nonstick skillet until the quinoa begins to pop. Let it cool and place it in a large ziplock bag. Add the salt, sugar, cinnamon, and blueberries. Toast the pecans until browned and fragrant. Place the cooled nuts and brown sugar in a snack-sized ziplock bag. Place it into the larger bag and in another small bag, add the powdered soy milk. At camp, I placed about a 1-1/2 cups of the quinoa mixture in the pot with about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

In a small cup, I mixed some soy milk powder with water and served with quinoa with the milk, and topped it off with the brown sugar and nuts. Outstanding. I would make this at home, not just when we’re camping. It’s quite good. Source: Another Fork in the Trail

For lunches, I found these heat and serve options that also happen to be vegan:

Bombay Potatoes from Tasty Bite. One bag made 4 small servings. Just pour into a pan and heat. Tasty, indeed! If you’re going for ultra light backpacking, these are a bit on the heavy side, but for a quick lunch at home or camping, they’re ideal.

Again, this heat and serve product is great for camping and backpacking. Eat with a tortilla or by itself—a great protein and carb option while backpacking.

One day, we even went with good old Ramen. Because the spice packets aren’t vegan, we just used the noodles and seasoned them with salt and pepper.

You may be sick of Ramen from your college days, but they’re incredibly lightweight and cheap, making them ideal for backpacking. Besides, everything tastes good when you’re camping.

When we go camping/backpacking we always stock up on Larabars. They’re vegan, gluten-free and have 3-9 ingredients.

Wow . . . am I finally done? Thanks for sticking with me on this journey—I know it was a lot!

Blogger/Boulder Meet Up & Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant

A couple of weeks ago, I got the great opportunity to meet Angela, The Veracious Vegan, who happened to be traveling through Boulder from her home in Washington, D.C. Angela and I had gotten to know each other just through the blogger-sphere over the last few months and so when she mentioned she’d be in Boulder, I invited myself on her vacation! ;)

Being near the beautiful Flatirons, we decided to take advantage by going on a hike in the morning.  We started at the trail head at Chautauqua, and spent a couple of hours enjoying the cloud cover and conversation. We were ready to nosh after that and drove the short distance to downtown Boulder where we scored a parking spot just outside Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant. As  you may recall, The Husband and I were here in June and had their off-the-menu 3-course meal, so I was anxious to see their regular menu.

2010 16th Street, Boulder, CO

First, I went with their minty lemonade that was so refreshing, not too sweet, and just right. After much debating . . . I chose the beer-battered tofu sandwich for $8.50. It’s made with silken tofu, so we weren’t sure just how they were going to do that, but those Leaf folks must have some tricks up their sleeves, because Oh. My. Goodness, was it good! The vegan tartar sauce was outstanding, too. It was comprised of organic green lakes ale, silken tofu, cole slaw, tomatoes, onion, vegan tartar sauce, on bolillo bread.

For $12, Angela went with the Jamaican Jerk Tempeh made with forbidden black rice, sautéed greens, coconut plantain sauce, and fruit salsa. Look at that! It’s a piece of art!

Angela said she had had this dish before and it was so delicious, she went with it again. And look at how perfectly molded it is . . . which led us on a search for rice molds which we found at Peppercorn, a kitchen specialty shop on Pearl Street. We discovered that it is quite possible to mold rice into just about any shape of size you’d like. Have you tried them out yet, Angela? :)

It was wonderful getting a chance to meet Angela and talk shop. Be sure to visit her at The Veracious Vegan for great restaurant reviews, product reviews and giveaways!

A Look Back

When it’s time to plan meals for the week, I sometimes rely on some old favorites of mine. When looking back on my recipes, I always come across yummy ones I’ve forgotten about. I thought I’d bring these oldies, but goodies to you.

Appetizers

Party Cheese Ball

Stuffed Mushrooms

Mustard Greens and Cheeze Filo Pie

Avocado Bruschetta

.

Breads

Pesto Potato Bread

Blueberry Muffins with Crumb Topping

Home-made Pita Bread

Chive-Flecked Spud Muffins

.

Side Dishes

Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts & Parsley

Easy, Creamy Pasta Salad

Baked Fries with Sea Salt & Truffle Oil

Easy Cole Slaw

.

Soups

Eggplant Parmagiano Stew

Vegetable-Barley Soup

Vegetable-Barley Chili

.

Lunch

Smoky-Miso Tofu Sandwiches

Garden Wrap

BLTA with Tempeh Bacon

Green Tea Rice with Lemon, Snowpeas & Tofu

.

Breakfast

Quinoa-Couscous Cereal with Dried Fruit

Colorful Kale and Potato Casserole

Hash Brown Casserole

Home-made Granola

.

Dinner

Sweet Chili-Lime Tofu

Breaded Zucchini with Lentils and Rainbow Chard

Angel Hair Pasta with Mushrooms & Ricotta

Spinach & Tofu Calzones

Spinach & Pesto Lasagna

Fresh & Healthy Soft Tacos/Burritos

Pecan-Crusted Seitan

Field Roast with Fresh Blueberry Sauce

.

Desserts

Glazed Chocolate-Avocado Cupcakes

Chai-Spiced Berry-Oatmeal Cookies

Cheeze Danishes

Sunflower-Cherry Oatmeal Bars

Reboot Wrap-Up

So I did about 6.5 days of the reboot and I feel GREAT! I won’t lie . . . it wasn’t easy, but it was well-worth it. I’ve lost about 6 pounds, too. This reboot is a great way to jump start you into healthier eating habits. As much as I loved my vino, I actually didn’t miss it since there were so many other things I couldn’t eat. I discovered new foods and learned to love those green smoothies every morning. I also really loved this mango-strawberry-pineapple-avocado smoothie:

This morning, we headed over to one of our favorite restaurants, The Rainbow.


Restaurant breakfasts can be tough since most items have egg, milk and meat in them. But The Rainbow offers some great vegan items.

As you can see . . . about 98% of the vegan items on the breakfast menu are under “Light & Healthy.” Hmmm . . . what does that tell you? ;) Anyway, I usually get Dan’s Groatmeal. It’s amazing! It’s a bowl full of oatmeal, granola, fruit and you can order soy milk to go with it. I highly recommend it! Oh—and they also make a vegan coffeecake that is to die for!!

One thing this reboot taught me, was that I needed a new blender. Mine sucked. I had an old Hamilton Beach and the only good thing about it, was the pitcher was glass. That’s how old it was. Anyway, I went shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond and after talking with the electronics guy who went through all the specs of all the blenders, I settled on the Ninja.

This thing is amazing and highly satisfying to use. For $80 (I used one of their 20% off coupons), it comes with a 1000 watts and features a vertical 3-blade system. It crushes ice like nobody’s business. When I fired it up to make smoothies for a picnic this afternoon, The Husband remarked that it sounded like a jet plane taking off. The Seventh Grader joked, “I thought ninjas were supposed to be quiet.”

Mango-Strawberry-Cherry smoothies

For the picnic, I also made some hummus and crock cheez and instead of eating them with bread or crackers, we brought cucumber slices, celery, and yellow & red bell peppers with us.

We also picked up some noodles with sesame oil, cucumber, and cilantro from Whole Foods.

It’s been a delicious day . . . and Moe enjoyed the picnic, too.


Day 5 of Reboot, Plus More Recipes

It’s the morning of day 5 of my Reboot and I feel great, especially since I’m even down 5 pounds! I definitely don’t feel as weak and tired as the last few days, not as hungry either. Mentally, I feel clearer and less foggy–able to concentrate longer. Last night we went and saw Harry Potter and we usually go for some popcorn . . . I know, terrible (btw, did you know (according to the latest VegNews mag) that a large movie popcorn–without butter–is 1,050 calories?!) Anyway, the boys finished a vat of popcorn before the movie even started, but I wasn’t tempted to eat any. Wow. That never happens! I’m determined to continue this reboot through Sunday and after that, I plan on making a lot of changes, such as no alcohol, little oil, little gluten, and very little processed foods. That’s the goal at least.

Yesterday, I had a class at the NCW and then worked in the studio for the afternoon, so I needed to come prepared. With salty snacks and soda in the fridge just ten feet from me, I had to arm myself with good food. I made a salad, packed some jicama, yellow bell peppers, and mushrooms and dipped them in dressing. The dressing recipes are from the JointheReboot site. Having both dressings changes things up—it’s great so that you don’t get sick of one.

Ginger-Honey (Agave)-Soy Dressing  and  Agave-Mustard Dressing

Ginger-Agave-Soy Dressing

INGREDIENTS:

2 Tbsp. Minced Fresh Ginger
2 Tbsp. Minced Fresh Garlic
2 Tbsp. Raw Honey (I used agave)
4 Tbsp. Nama Shoyu or Tamari
4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Combine all ingredients in a shaker.

Mustard-Agave Dressing

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Agave Nectar
1 Tbsp. Honey (I used agave)
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
1/4 Tbsp. Sea or Celtic salt
1/8 Tbsp. coarsely Ground Black Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a shaker.

For dinner, I made sweet potato “fries” also from the Reboot site. They were delicious!

INGREDIENTS:

1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut into sticks or crescents

1 tsp olive oil

A couple pinches of sea salt

A couple pinches of black pepper

A couple pinches of cumin

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425. Combine the sweet potatoes with the rest of the ingredients and coat well.

Layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

I also made lettuce wraps:

INGREDIENTS:

1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

5-6 mushrooms, diced

1 avocado, diced

1/2 a large tomato, diced

2 Tbs diced green chilies

3 scallions, sliced

Large lettuce leaves

Ginger-Agave-Soy Dressing

Optional: fresh mint, basil, or cilantro

Combine all the veggies and top the lettuce leaves with a couple of spoonfuls of them. Drizzle with the Ginger dressing. So good!

So this morning . . . I find that fruit smoothies are the easiest way to start the day. I blended up a mango, 1/2 a cup of fresh cherries (I removed the pits first) and about a cup of water. Awesome.

So, I’ll keep going and continue to try different recipes. I’ll keep you posted on my progress—thanks for traveling along with me!

Day 3 of Reboot, plus Potato-Spinach Soup

So the first three days of a reboot are usually the worst. You’re hungry, tired, and usually suffering from headaches. You may even feel like biting someone’s head off. Just remember, feeling lousy is actually a good thing when detoxing—it means your body is expelling toxins (just try to refrain from murdering anyone).

Today’s been a good day. Yesterday . . . not so much. The Husband was ready to force feed me a burrito or two, but I mashed up an avocado with some lime juice and ate it with a handful of jicama. I admire folks who can do the all-juicing fast—I think I’d keel over after two days of it. Luckily, the reboot I’m doing allows me to eat fruits and veggies in addition to the juicing. I am also allowed to use small amounts of oils and spices. My mid-section is noticeably smaller and I’ve dropped two pounds already. No complaints there!

I started the day off with a kale-strawberry-mango smoothie. The reboot does not include nuts, so when I’m fully rebooted, I think some chia seeds would be ideal in this.


Ok, it may not look appetizing, but it is truly my favorite smoothie! Give it a whirl: 5-6 kale leaves, 5 strawberries, 1 mango, and 3/4 cup of water. Blend until smooth. :)

After munching on salad mid-morning, for lunch, I needed something with some girth. A warm meal sounded great, too. I remembered my Potato-Leek Soup recipe, but it’s not quite acceptable for the reboot as it is . . . so I gave it a reboot of my own.

The original recipe calls for Earth Balance margarine and milk, so I needed to get creative. I added mushrooms to give it that thick and creamy texture and I also threw in some spinach. I incorporated a sweet potato and used a tablespoon of coconut oil instead of butter. LOVED it! It was exactly was I was needing to fill me up and satisfy my comfort food cravings—all with staying within the reboot guidelines!

INGREDIENTS:

1 Tbs coconut oil

1 large sweet potato

1 tsp garlic, minced

3 medium russet potatoes or 6 small Yukon Gold potatoes, diced

2 large leeks, sliced thin, then halved

2 cups mushrooms, quartered

1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh spinach leaves

5 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth

salt and white pepper, to taste

fresh chives

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot, melt the coconut oil and add the garlic. Saute for a minute. Add the leeks and saute 5-7 minutes, or until they soften.

Add the potatoes and broth/water; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes soften.

Working in batches, ladle into a food processor and add some mushrooms and spinach. Puree until smooth-ish. Transfer to a large bowl. Continue to puree the rest of the soup, adding mushrooms and spinach. Season with salt and white pepper and top with some freshly chopped chives. This was out outstanding and I didn’t miss the milk, cheese, or sour cream that the original recipe uses.

Layer, I threw together another tasty smoothie: 4 kale leaves, 1/2 a small cantaloupe, 1 pear (peeled and chopped), and 3/4 C of water.

I snacked on some salad, munched on some jicama and cherries, and for dinner, I had some more of the leftover potato-spinach soup and decaf herbal tea. I have several more recipes geared up for the next few days, so I’ll be bringing those to you soon. All in all, I feel pretty good and its get easier as I go. The key is planning. Be armed with recipes and ingredients. I recommend planning your meals in advance and spending some time chopping vegetables up ahead of time so that it’s a matter of just grabbing them when you need them. Lack of planning can easily derail you from the reboot!

Time for a Reboot!

I recently watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, a film my Joe Cross, who documented his 60-day juice fast. This documentary is fabulous and I recommend it to everyone. Check out the film’s site and watch the trailer. Cross also started Reboot Your Life, a fruit/veggie/juice program to detoxify and energize your body. Who can’t use a reboot once in a while? I sure could. For the last couple of months, I’ve been feeling mentally sluggish and I know I haven’t been eating as well as I could have.

I just got a publisher for my book, so now is not the time to be feeling mentally fatigued—I have a lot of work in front of me and I’m thinking this no-caffeine-no-alcohol-no-processed-foods-all-fruit-and-vegetable reboot is exactly what I need to jump start my drive and motivation. Lucky for me, I love my fruit and veggies.

The Reboot site tells you everything you need to know to get started and includes tons of recipes to help you. My hegans won’t be partaking in this challenge and I promised last week to make them a tater tot casserole, so it will be a true test for me: to not sneak a tot! However, the recipes on the site look amazing: Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Mushrooms and Sage, Lettuce Wraps, and Pear Squash Soup. Off to the store I went:

Each one of these bags is filled with fruits and veggies. I don’t think I’ve ever bought this much produce in one shopping trip before. And you know what? It felt great. Not one processed, packaged, item to be had. I’m not sure how long I plan on rebooting, but I’d like to set a goal of 7 days and then see where I’m at. So stayed tuned for some new recipes as I take this veggie voyage to Reboot Land!

Green Monster and Carrot-Ginger Juice

Vegan Vacation: Boulder, CO II

Is it Monday already? Geesh, the weekend went fast! It was The Husband’s birthday on Friday so I planned a weekend trip to Boulder for us. After an online search, I found two restaurants that we hadn’t eaten at before and quickly made reservations.

Black Cat

Black Cat is an all-organic, farm-to-table bistro that offers a vegetarian/vegan 5 or 7 course tasting menu. They had me at vegan. I immediately booked the reservation on Open Table and specified that we were interested in the 5-course vegan tasting. Black Cat is located at 1964 13th St., just off of Pearl St.—a great location. We had no idea what to expect, but judging from various online recommendations, it promised to be a great dining experience.

The cozy restaurant also features a bar and you have a full-view of the kitchen as well. Unlike many restaurant kitchens, it didn’t emit loud noises from the chefs yelling at one another, or dishes and pots clanging together—the kitchen staff seemed to have everything down to a science. It was enjoyable to watch. We were then greeted by our server (and fellow-vegan) who (thanks to our vegan-note on Open Table) requested to be our server for the night. Her name is Zina, (Warrior Vegan Princess, as I think of her) and whether you are vegan or not, make sure you request this lovely, engaging and delightful server who showed such a genuine interest in us and our experience in the restaurant.  Of course, the rest of the staff were just as friendly–you can’t go wrong! We learned from Zina that 80% of the food comes from Black Cat’s organic farm in Niwot, CO—just a few miles from Boulder. The owner and chef, Eric Skokan, even offers tours of the farm, something I’d love to take advantage of. He also was a vegetarian/vegan chef for about 6 years prior to opening Black Cat, so we were in good hands. Zina said that everything that comes out of the kitchen is made with such care and tastes as if they made it just for you. She was right. With that in mind, we also had no idea what to expect, as the menu is constantly changing. So as planned, we ordered the 5-course (plus dessert) vegan tasting. The Husband and I figured we’d spend the dinner chatting about life while lovingly staring into one another’s eyes (which we did a couple of times), but instead, we could only talk about the food!

Carrot soup made with coconut milk, spices, and topped with green onion.

I could have eaten this soup the entire night and been happy. It was absolutely delicious; like vegetable velvet. I’ve never made carrot soup before, let alone eaten it before, and I certainly plan on trying my best to replicate this soup.


Arugula-fennel salad with grapefruit, pickled beets and pistachios

This salad literally tasted as if it had just come off the farm truck, washed and arranged on the plate. The freshness of it was unlike any salad I’ve ever had before.

Tempura mushrooms (I believe shiitake) in a kombu broth with green onions

Absolutely outstanding. I’ve never had anything remotely resembling this dish before and was instantly smitten. Full of flavor!

Roasted cauliflower with carrot puree, asparagus puree, and radish flowers

The Husband swooned when he saw this dish; he loves cauliflower. If you’re wondering what a radish flower is, it’s those long green spear things—the shoots of the radish. They have that spicy radish taste and ideal for salads. The purees were the perfect accompaniment to the cauliflower.

Risotto in a tomato-based sauce with arugula, English peas, flowers and fresh herbs

This was one of my favorites. I love risotto and like the previous dishes, this tasted incredibly fresh and full of flavor. I had to refrain from licking the bowl.

The palate cleanser: Passion fruit-pineapple with coconut sorbet

Awesome.

Strawberries and kiwis with a strawberry-rhubarb puree over a lemon sorbet, topped with fresh mint

For the final dish of the night, we received this amazing dessert. Those little tiny strawberries on top came from the farm that day. It was the perfect end to a perfect dinner. In fact, we both agreed that in all honesty, this was the best dining experience we’ve ever had. Between the food, service and atmosphere, it is our favorite restaurant to date. It was hugs all around with Zina with an invite to come visit us for vegan eats up here in Fort Collins. You can visit Zina, a yoga goddess, at Zina Diva Yoga.

Dushanbe Tea House

We always make time to stop at this popular local favorite. It’s usually pretty darn busy, so be prepared to wait, but it’ well-worth it. The Dushanbe Tea House offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, but we have only ever eaten breakfast there. In fact, it’s just a great way to start the morning, particularly because of their vast tea menu. It’s located at 13th and Canyon, just down the street from Black Cat. We ate from the brunch menu which states that not all available ingredients are listed on the menu, so ask your server for specific ingredients, like tofu. There are a few vegan and vegetarian options so I went with the Szechuan Tofu Scramble with red onion, peppers, broccoli, Szechuan sauce served with rice. I forgot to ask for no won-tons, as they most likely contain egg, but I just pushed them to the side.

This was so delicious! The Husband went vegetarian with the Indian Masala Dosa, a cumin and fennel crepe filled with curried potatoes, cauliflower, onions, tomato, peas and dahl with raisin chutney, cucumber yoghurt and an onion fritter.

The tea house is such a visual treat as well with it’s hand-carved and hand-painted ceilings. If anything, drop in for some tea and enjoy the views.

We spent the day walking Pearl Street, browsing the shops and people watching. We didn’t want to fill up too much before dinner, so we stopped at Paradise Bakery and Cafe where we split the Paradise Vegetarian, a sandwich loaded with roasted red peppers, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and guacamole. I took the cheese off my portion. It was quite good and hit the spot.

Leaf

For dinner the next night, I had made a reservation for Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant.

Much of the menu is also vegan. In fact, one night a week (I think it was Tuesday . . . can’t remember) is vegan pizza night. Soooo many of the menu items sounded incredible, including the vegan enchiladas.

The quaint restaurant has a fresh and airy atmosphere—loved it. I had my eye on those vegan enchiladas until our server tempted us with their Summer Solstice Menu. It happened to be the last night they were offering this 3-course menu and it looked to good too pass up. First up, they served us some homemade vegan foccacia bread. It was soft and delicious.

For the first course, I went with the Three Leaf Farm Salad with field greens, radishes, green apples, pecans, and a raspberry vinaigrette.

The Husband went with the other salad choice of grilled white Asparagus and vegetables, served with creme fraiche. He loved the asparagus.

For the main entree, I went with the Pistachio Tempeh with fingerling potatoes, broccolini in a red pepper saffron sauce with crispy apples. Outstanding! The tempeh had a horseradish-mustard flavor that was incredible. Paired with the potatoes, it was the best tempeh dish I’ve ever had.

The Husband went with the vegetarian option again with the Mushroom Strudel: wild mushrooms, risotto, leeks, greens wrapped in filo dough. It came with marinated tomatoes and a truffle garlic oil. Again, he loved it.

For dessert, I went with the grilled fruit served with soy pound cake croutons. I couldn’t have asked for a better dessert!

The Husband had the other dessert option: a vegan Almond Panacotta with almond extract and a basil strawberry coulis–another winner.

From start to finish, this meal was outstanding. I highly recommend Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant. As you can see, the presentation was amazing. The other dishes coming out of the kitchen were nothing short works of art. You could tell  a lot of care and pride went into the meals.

For our final day, we stopped at Whole Foods and spent a small fortune on food for a lakeside picnic. We decided to hit up Boulder Reservoir, a place we’ve never been.

It actually didn’t have a lot of grassy/tree areas for a picnic, but we managed to find a great spot along the shore under a tree. We packed our handy-dandy picnic basket . . .

. . . with lots of vegan goodies: crackers, seaweed crackers, and tortilla chips . . .

. . .and hummus, salsa, fruit, vegan cheddar spread, a wheat berry and quinoa waldorf salad, an edamame-orzo salad, and an edamame succotash.

So good!

Thanks for hanging in there with me for my vegan Boulder vacation!

Got a Juicer! Contest Time!!

Ain’t she purdy? The Husband surprised me for my birthday by giving me this gorgeous juicer. I had been wanting one for a while so I can get the most of my love of fruits and veggies. Maybe I’m just feeling overly excited, but I think it’s time for a contest. :) Considering I’m new to the juicing world, leave a comment with your favorite juicer recipe and/or juicing tip by 12 p.m. EST Sunday, May 8th. I’ll randomly pick a winner on Monday to receive a $25 Amazon gift card!

I can’t wait to start juicing and I’m looking forward to your recipes and tips!! Good luck!

Conference and Vacation!

For the last few months, I have been part of the NCW’s Conference Creative Team—helping with all those fun details of a conference that my right brain just loves; none of the hard stuff like getting agents, editors, presenters, venue, etc. During all this, I also had to carve out time to fine tune my book proposal so that I can pitch to an agent on Saturday. Wish me luck!

 

Then the fam and I are off to the mountains for some well-earned time off!

The rest and relaxation will be short lived. When I get back on Wednesday, I’m going to have my work cut out for me. I was asked to be a preliminary judge for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. I am super excited and looking forward to the task. By the time I get back, there ought to be close to 30 entries for me to judge! Whew!

Oh, and of course, I’ll be getting back to the food. I plan on trying a new meal during out snowy stay and I’ll post the results at the end of next week. So in the meantime, have a great weekend (and Spring Break) and catch up with all you soon!

Vegan Vacation: Northern California & Sac-A-Tomato

Wow, been a while–hope I still know how to blog. I have quite a bit to share with all of you, so bear with me as I try to throw together nearly two weeks of dining (vegan-style) in California. The first few days, we spent with my sister and her family in Windsor, CA. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my new niece:

One day, we went on a picnic and of course, Trader Joe’s makes that pretty easy. I got some tofu spring rolls that were delicious.

Especially paired with the Chardonnay we picked up at Francis Ford Coppola Winery the day before.

One beautiful, sunny afternoon (a far cry from the frigid temps in Colorado), we sat in the patio of Healdsburg Bar and Grill where I had the most amazing garden burger with avocado and mushrooms. I scarfed it before I realized I didn’t take a picture of it! They have amazing fries and sweet potato fries as well. But I’ll share a picture of the boys as we waited for our food:

We only had a few days with the fam, so one night my sister made some outstanding garbanzo bean and zucchini curry burritos, using a mix from Trader Joe’s.

We also picked up some Thai food one night. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long and had to head to Sacramento. The Husband and Sixth Grader would be spending just one night in Sac with me before heading back home. We were determined to find Sugar Plum Vegan for lunch and after walking the several blocks to get there, they were closed. Didn’t know they were closed on Mondays. (Our local vegan joint is also closed on Mondays—what is that? Do Mondays have a special vegan significance)? We had trouble locating an alternative so we settled for The Old Spaghetti Factory. Should be easy enough to find several things we can there, right? Wrong.

The only entree on the menu a vegan can eat: pasta with mushroom sauce.

We all got the same thing. The salad came out with the wrong dressing—drenched in balsamic vinegar instead of Italian. We never even saw our waiter between getting our meals and the bill. We were famished, so it hit the spot, but it was nothing to write home about. I hate having to settle for the one vegan item on the menu. There are several vegetarian items on the menu though. Needless to say, I wouldn’t go back.

We wanted to hit up P.F. Chang’s China Bistro for dinner and it was in walking distance to the hotel. We love this place. In fact, I think I ate there two more times during my visit. My favorites: Curry Vegetables, Ma Po Tofu and the Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps:

The next day, just before the boys took off, we stopped at Pronto, “Real Italian, Real Fast.” And it was. Tasty, too. The Husband and I got the Portobello Panini sans the blue cheese and aioli sauce.

The Sixth Grader had the spaghetti, just having to forgo the garlic bread that was clearly slathered in butter.

I was then on my own. I was there, after all, to finish up research at the California State Archives for my book, Folsom’s 93. You can read about my bra-less adventure at Folsom prison. Without a car, it was fabulous to be in walking distance to everything I needed. I spent 6 1/2 hours a day (excluding the weekend) at the archives and had to make lunch a quick trip so that I would make the most of my time. Here’s the low-down on my vegan finds in Sacramento:

 

California Pizza Kitchen

I was highly impressed with CPK. They even list vegetarian/vegan information on their website so that you know exactly what you can eat and what items can be veganized. It made it so easy.

I wasn’t starving one night, so I had the Tuscan Hummus. If you order it with the thin crust pizza instead of the pita chips, you’re in the clear. The service was excellent, too.

Other items I tried:

Asparagus Soup–never had before and I LOVED it.

Asian Lettuce Wraps–just ask for them without chicken.

Bagel Time

For a quick lunch and right around the corner from the archives, I went to Bagel Time, a tiny little place advertising in their window that they have veggie burgers.

With lettuce, tomato, onion and mustard, it was delicious.

Dragon House To Go

This seems to be a local favorite, so I thought I’d give it a try. I got the chow mein with tofu and vegetables. It was to die for. Full of flavor, it didn’t take me long to devour it.

Capitol Garage

I stopped in here for breakfast and was blown away. I had looked up their menu online beforehand and they had me at “tofu scramble.”

How gorgeous is this? I was a little surprised that I had to scramble the tofu myself, but it wasn’t a problem. It was a lot of food, but I’ll tell you what, it kept me going all day. The potatoes are amazing—not sure what they’re seasoned with, but they’re delish.

Paesano’s (they also own Pronto)

I had their Penne Roma (without Parmesan)–yummy, and on another night, their Polenta Fries and Risotto (again, without Parmesan). Both were outstanding!

I never had polenta fries before. Now I’m hooked. When I got back, I picked up some polenta to try making my own.

Ambrosia

This is just my favorite coffee shop—I used to stop here each morning during my first trip to the archives in January of 2009. I stayed in a different hotel this time, so it was a little out the way for me. I did make sure I stopped once.

Sugar Plum Vegan

I couldn’t wait until the weekend when I would have time to walk to Sugar Plum Vegan. They start serving lunch at 11am, but you can still purchase bakery goods before then. The BLT and Artichoke and Spinach Dip were recommended, so that’s exactly what I ordered.

Made with Daiya cheese, this dip was pure heaven. The flavors were unlike anything else–so rich and creamy. This alone would make a meal. I’m still dreaming about it. I am definitely going to try to recreate it!

The sandwich was good, but I still had the dip on my mind. I ended up taking the rest of the dip and half the sandwich back to the hotel which thankfully had a fridge and microwave. I had the rest for dinner that night. This is a CASH ONLY eatery, so stop at the ATM beforehand.

Above the restaurant is Never Felt Better Vegan Shop where I was like a kid in a candy store. What a cute little shop!

I ended up buying 2 scarves, some vegan jerky (review coming soon), a herbivore sticker and a cute vegan pin.

Amy Chun’s Noodle Bowls

I didn’t want to eat out every night, so I picked up a couple of noodle bowls. I actually had time for a product review!

So, it’s pretty easy to make–that is, if you have a kitchen with proper utensils. I was assuming there’d be a fork included in the packaging, but there wasn’t. No problem. I just had to go to the hotel’s breakfast area for a fork. Once the fork issue was resolved, I needed to add hot water to the provided bowl along with the dry spices and noodles. Ok, hot water in a hotel room. . .hmmm. There was a hot water thing in the room—like a coffee pot. So I fulled ‘er up, and held one of the hotel plastic cups under it and filled it with about 8oz of hot water. As I did this, I realized the cup at a slit on the side—not good. Luckily, I could tilt the cup away from that side. Then you add the water to the noodles and dry spices and microwave for about 90 seconds. It really needed about a 2 minutes. Drain any water and mix up. Add the package of peanuts. It wasn’t too painful of a process, but trying to prepare it in a hotel room isn’t that easy.
Aside from that though, it was quite delicious. The flavors were great and it even had a bit of a kick. The noodles came out perfect and I was pleased with the results. In a pinch, this was a good option for meal-while-traveling–but just make sure you have access to hot water, microwave, and a fork! I like that the front of the package clearly marks (bottom right) ingredient information such as, dairy-free, vegan, etc. Takes the guess work out. For nutritional information, click HERE. (100% natural, no preservatives and no MSG). I liked this one better than the Kung Po variety.

I guess that sort of concludes my dining experiences while in California. I loved that I could walk every where I went and that being in the downtown area, there are a ton of restaurants to choose from. In fact, there were some I wanted to try, but I just didn’t get a chance to check out. I’m thrilled that The Sixth Grader was able to see the Capitol and take a tour before they left, too.

Now, it’s time to buckle down and finish my book! You can read about my research and trip to Folsom prison at Folsom’s 93.

I’m Headed to Prison! (sort of)


I took this picture in January of 2009 when I made a trip to northern California to visit my sister and her family. I’m headed out this way again and I can’t tell you how excited I am to leave snowy, below zero Colorado! (I’ll get to the prison part). The Sixth Grader and I will be meeting The Husband (who’s already in San Francisco for work) today then up to Windsor to see the fam. I am looking forward to getting my hands on my new niece who was born in October and spoiling her five-year-old sister. After a few relaxing days there, we head to Sacramento where my guys will fly back home and I’ll stay for another 9 days to finish up my research at the State Archives:

This will hopefully be my final trip to the archives as I aim to finish my book, Folsom’s 93, a nonfiction account of the men executed at Folsom prison. I know, real uplifting. ;) This has been a two year process so far and I hope to be finished this summer with it. As a writer and history buff, I am so excited to get there and finish up.  Since it’s my second trip to Sacramento for this, I’m pretty familiar with the lay of the land, but plan on doing some more exploring. Luckily, most of what I need is in walking distance, including a church where one of my Folsom fellow’s crime took place. I also get to walk right by the Capitol building every day, which is quite beautiful.

However, the most exciting event on my schedule is a tour of the prison itself—still in operation, by the way. Folsom is located about 20 miles outside Sacramento and my mom will actually be meeting me in Sacramento and together, we’re headed to prison. She’s a little nervous. For me, after two years of Folsom on the brain, I’m thrilled.

Folsom has been in operation for 130 years and houses so much history, well, in addition to the roughly 3500 inmates. Part of the long list of instructions for taking the tour, is to not wear certain fabrics (denim), certain colors, and especially, no blue, orange, red or gold jumpsuits. Hmmm . . . so I told my Mom that her new catsuit might be inappropriate. :)

So needless to say, I’m anxious to head out there, for both vacation and work. There are lots of restaurant options, plus I will have a small fridge and microwave in the hotel room, so I’ll report back with my California Vegan Finds. If you know of any veg-friendly restaurants in downtown Sacramento, let me know! Until then, have a great couple of weeks!

Cheers!

Anniversary & Reflection

Epicurean Vegan Turns 1!

That’s me with the largest acorn squash—ever.

I began my vegan journey when I gave up dairy in June of 2007, then finally giving up meat in December of 2009. I always felt I couldn’t digest meat and dairy very well, which is probably why I also was never a huge meat-eater. I picked up The Kind Diet and suddenly, things made sense. I loved the taste of dairy, but it made me feel crummy later (and did nothing good for my waistline). It was no wonder I had a love/hate relationship with food. I finally discovered that food can taste amazing and not make me feel lousy afterward. Oprah would called that my light bulb moment. I couldn’t wait to start on my new culinary adventure.

But then . . .  an appendicitis struck and thus, my world of food blogging. A year ago this week (on a very cold and blizzardy night–of course) I ended up at the ER with a very cranky appendix. Long story short—it was successfully removed, but the ordeal definitely knocked me on my butt. So I made my home on the couch, bloated belly and all, and an open laptop staring at me. I decided to start a vegan blog. I had no idea how to even blog, or if anyone would even find me, but I was loving my new plant way of life, that I just  wanted to share it with others.

I don’t remember what my first post was—for some reason, I have about 25 posts from January 21st. Not sure what happened there. So my first month of blogging may have been a little rocky, but over the last year I’ve had so much fun sharing recipes, what I’ve learned about vegan food, and meeting so many great foodies along the way.

I’m lucky to have a supportive family who has happily joined the vegan world with me and has been obliging guinea pigs for my recipes. Not everything I’ve made has turned out edible, but it’s all  been a fun learning process. I have been introduced to ingredients I never knew existed and have now become favorites. Kale, miso, tempeh, tofu—love them all!

My very patient, loving, and supportive husband had some fear when I announced my new “diet”, especially when I said that he wanted meat—he had to cook it, but after a month or so when he realized he wasn’t starved he thought he could probably do this too. You have to understand The Husband. He was a devoted chicken man. Chick-fil-A was his absolute favorite restaurant, but now, he can’t even imagine eating it. (I’m pretty sure Food, Inc., and Fast Food Nation, helped push him to go veg). He feels great, noting that those slowly, creeping pounds are not longer creeping up. One of the things I’ve noticed is my energy level. I actually took up running this last summer, participating in two 5Ks.

I never would have had the energy before—meat and dairy weighed me down. Literally. Weight gain is hardly an issue anymore. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that things run so much smoother!

Eating out and traveling as a vegan has been an adventure, but I don’t stress about it. I have found that restaurants are becoming more and more veggie-friendly and even if we have to put a little more effort into planning our meals while on vacation, it’s always worth it. We have found some vegan-havens in Boulder and Jackson Hole (well, everywhere, actually)!

(Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder)

(Nani’s in Jackson Hole)

Even camping is easy to veganize. There are lots of vegan options for the camper and hiker—which is a big part of our summers!

Anyway, I wanted to share my thoughts on my first year of veganism and all its positive effects it has had on us. Even though some friends and family think we’re a little nuts, that’s okay. I’ve learned a lot from some great cookbooks, but mostly from other vegan bloggers who have made this endeavor interesting and fun. Thank you to all my readers and fellow bloggers—I couldn’t continue this without all of you!

Tasty Harmony

Vegan MoFo, Day 18

Doesn’t that look wonderful! They are Asian Lettuce Wraps that my favorite restaurant makes (and they happen to be the only vegan restaurant in town). They are amazing! Tasty Harmony is a fabulous restaurant downtown that seems to always be packed when we go there. Thanks to them, I’ve discovered jackfruit tacos, sea vegetables, and an incredible nondairy raw key lime pie!  I love to bring meat-eaters there because it’s impossible not to love their food!

Photo: Feasting Fort Collins

So if you ever find yourself in Downtown Fort Collins, CO, hit up Tasty Harmony. If not, try my own version of Asian Lettuce Wraps.