Monthly Archives

August 2011

travel and restaurants

Vida Vegan Con, the Eats – Portland, Part 2

Vida Vegan Con, the very first vegan blogger conference, went by in a crazy whirlwind of great food, meeting folks and informative panel discussions and presentations.  I’m not the first to recap the events, and I certainly won’t be the last, but here are some highlights of the trip.

Lunches – I can seriously eat everything?!

Corn and roasted veggies, looking all colorful and alluring.  Speaking of colorful, check out that purple cauliflower hummus!

Giant hunks of tempeh, served with plenty of bbq sauce.  I’m not one to usually buy tempeh, but this was damn good, and shall I say meaty.

A creamy, yum-tastic pesto potato salad.

Kale, beautiful kale!  I nearly jumped for joy when I saw two gigantic bowls of kale for the lunch spread – only at a vegan conference.

And my plate, part one.  There was definitely a second plate, but it was not nearly as lovely, since I just piled things on like a crazy caveman on the loose.  Or something.

Check out that long table filled with droolworthy vegan food!  The second day was a free-for-all burrito affair, with more toppings than you could reasonably pack into just one.  So naturally, I had two.

There were three meats to choose from, and I went with some sort of soy curl thing (I think), and walnut meat.  Roasted veggies and yellow rice were mandatory on both, and then I topped the left one with guacamole and black olives, and the one on the right with sour cream and fresh salsa.  Heaven.

Dessert – Ice Cream Partay
Since the conference was sponsored by none other than Coconut Bliss, we enjoyed tons of ice cream for dessert.  Here’s my friend Kiley, hanging out at her booth of happiness:

Throughout the weekend we got free ice cream samples, and some t-shirt and water bottle handouts – not to mention decadent desserts at the conference!

During the Saturday night gallorama, not only were we given ice cream for dessert, but also at least 10 delicious toppings to choose from, including sprinkles, chocolate syrup, ricemellow cream, peanuts and smooshed sandwich cookies.

Logan and I were clearly thrilled about the noms.  Spoon attack!

And Breakfast, Too!

Of course the breakfasts deserve mentioning.  This plate features tofu scramble, a pancake, roasted ‘taters and chia pudding, my fave.  Oh yeah, and Earl Grey tea, too – the convention started early!

In the next post, I’ll talk more about the panels and people, but for now, I’m going to provide a quick link round-up of those who have also been posting about the conference.

VVC Link Roundup:

Erin over at Vegan Homemade was posting pictures as she went, using her fancy smartphone.  I happen to think any smartphone is fancy because I don’t have one.  She has pictures from day 1, day 2 and day 3 – lots and lots of yummy foodstuffs!

Dynise of Urban Vegan collected a whole bunch of images all into one comprehensive photo essay post, full of awesome vegan folk and food.

Gena, mastermind behind Choosing Raw, has so far posted pictures of day 1 and day 2, along with her typical eloquent musings and thoughts.

JL has been chronicling her entire Portland adventures, including a post on the opening reception of the convention.

And last but not least, Jen from That Pain in the Ass Vegan has checked in with a report of breakfast.

I’m excited to see (and share!) more posts from these guys, as well as from others who haven’t yet had time to post about the weekend, like myself.  Take care and see y’all tomorrow!

travel and restaurants

Portland, Part 1: Vegan-Friendly Food Carts

I had heard of food carts, but I had no idea what to expect upon actually seeing a real, live one.  Sure, we have a couple food carts in my city – a hot dog one here, a popcorn one there.  What I’ve come to realize, though, is that these aren’t carts so much as they are little mini junk food stands.  Portland, home of hundreds of small-trailer-sized carts serving everything and anything you can imagine, is akin to a revolution.

They look innocent enough, lined up on the street like teeny little shops.  But they’re everywhere, and could satisfy virtually any craving you could have.  Sushi, Thai, Mexican, burgers, super healthy stuff, juices and smoothies, waffles, desserts of all kinds – you name it, there’s a food cart for it.
We’ve had the time and inclination to visit several food carts on our (too short!) journey to Portland – here I’ll share the vegan-friendly food carts we visited.
Homegrown Smoker Natural Barbeque
This is *the* cart worth mentioning for any vegan folk.   Homegrown is in the University area, run by younger dudes and is entirely vegan.  As I was ogling over the menu, I mentioned to Logan that you can always trust a guy to make delicious comfort food.
Logan was intrigued by the Macnocheeto, a burrito with their homemade mac n’ cheese, baked beans and vegan sausage.  It was a yummy, carby bbq affair:
I ordered a special they were having, a Fufish Po’boy, because I’ve always wanted a po’boy.  It’s basically a Vietnamese sandwich on a baguette, usually with fish, layered with crunchy coleslaw and pickles with a spicy mayo.  Subbing in for the fish was tofu, which was perfectly battered.
With so many good-lookin’ choices on the menu, I would go back again, and again, and again, if I had more than a couple short days left here in Portland.  So much great food to eat, so little time!
The Whole Bowl
This vegetarian food cart, located downtown, had a teeny little menu – a main dish with all the fixins, and then dessert (not vegan).  But I had heard something about the sauce in this Mexican-ish rice bowl being like crack, so we had to try it.
The bowl was full of cilantro, olives, black beans, avocado, salsa and rice, generously topped with the mysterious, and hella delicious, yellow sauce.  I don’t even know what this sauce was made of (it’s vegan though!), or why it’s so vivid yellow, but it did live up to the crack claims.  So despite the lack of choices on the menu, what they do have is very, very good.
DC Vegetarian Cart

Another legendary food cart, we had to check out DC.  Mainly what I was attracted to was the vegan “steak and cheese” sandwich they have, made with their own homestyle seitan.
Image from Food Cards Portland [source]

It was gigantic – though I tried my hardest, I had no hope of completing this tasty, tasty beast.  It was also very messy, so if you get this thing, do make sure to get some napkins!  Logan got himself a veggie burger, which he loved – he said it was like getting fast food, if fast food was half-decent.
Native Bowl

Our last stop was Native Bowl, Julie Hasson’s food cart.  She offers a variety of rice bowls, with lots of fresh crunchy veggies, tofu (or other plant protein), and different sauces.  After random selection, I decided on the Broadway Bowl, which had a peanut-ginger sauce, tofu, and lots of veggies.  Logan chose the esteemed Mississippi Bowl, which was a bbq-style rice bowl with soy curls, ranch and veggies.
All of the food carts we visited were both delicious and inexpensive.  I only hope the movement starts spreading up to Canada!

Catch you all later with more Portland goodness.

travel and restaurants

Vegan Food in Victoria, BC

For the last five days, Logan and I have been eating vegan food in Victoria like there’s no tomorrow, as well as enjoying the company of friends and loving the natural beauty of Vancouver Island.  It’s a little bit of a hike to get to Victoria, but once you’re there, it’s so worth it.  As a first-timer to the west coast, I’ve distinctly noticed how different the vibe is from other places I’ve traveled to – very laid back and soft.

And the food – oh, the food!  Finding vegan food in Victoria was super easy, and I can’t wait to visit again to enjoy more epic noms.  In this post, I’ve laid out the six places we visited – none are straight-up vegan establishments, but all are very vegan-friendly and delicious.  In fact, I didn’t have a single bad meal the entire time I was in Victoria.

1. Hernande’z on Yates St.


When we heard that Victoria had a Mexican place to eat, and that vegan cookbook author and resident Victorian Sarah Kramer loves their food, we knew we had to go.  There were a couple of easily veganized options on their quick lunch menu – the Burrito “Clasico”, filled with seasoned black beans, yellow rice, greens and salsa, and thBurrito de Calabacita, which had all of the above in addition to slow-cooked zucchini.  

Burritos never look like much, but this was probably the best burrito I’ve ever eaten.  Ever.  It was perfectly seasoned and super flavorful.  My only minor complaint was its lack of spiciness – I like me some fire in my Mexican food!  But this was a great, quick meal for veggie folk.  Score one for Victoria.

2. The Reef Caribbean Restaurant

The Reef is a mainly omnivorous restaurant, but they have several menu items that are vegan, and which were fantastically delicious.  We all ate Trini Roti, the Ital version, with yummy curried veggies like potatoes and carrots.  Here’s my plate, which doesn’t quite convey the scale of this food – I was full after eating half of one, along with some yam fries, plantain chips and vegan coleslaw.

T’was a fantastic meal, made complete by the yam fries (not pictured), plantain chips and beer.  And Rowan’s being all mystified by water in the background.

3. Blue Nile East African Restaurant

This Ethiopian restaurant looks totally unassuming on the outside, all small and modest and hidden in the midst of a little strip mall.  The all-you-can-eat buffet inside, however, was bold and delicious.  There were plenty of vegan options on the menu, with various lentil, split pea and vegetable dishes abound.  My favorites were the Bursen Tumtumo, red lentils in a spicy berebere sauce, and Hamli Zebhi, flavorful spinach with garlic and ginger and other “exotic spices”.  However, everything was amazing and I was disappointed that my stomach filled up so soon.  I envied John, who went back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths!

Logan’s plate, heaping and emanating yum, with some injera hanging out off to the side.  Injera, a spongy sour bread made from teff flour, is what you use for cutlery in Ethiopian cuisine.  Rowan, meanwhile, was eyeing up everyone’s plates and certainly ate his fair share.

4. Cafe Bliss – Raw Food Restaurant

I just had to visit Victoria’s own raw food restaurant.  Their menu has many tempting offerings from juice to smoothies and mylkshakes, to entrees like pizza, noodle bowls and “BLT” sandwiches.  They also have a gorgeous dessert display, though at least half of them were made with honey, including the chocolates and cakes, so I was sadfaced about that.

I had a lovely salad with a mix of greens, pea shoots, cucumber, beets, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, olives and an orange miso kelp dressing.  It was as good as it looks – I figure you can always trust a raw restaurant to serve you up a snazzy salad.

Along with the salad, I had a raw cracker and a tomato-based vegetable soup.  It was served in a tiny little mason jar, which is a great way to cut down on plastic.  If you return it when you’re done, you get $1 back.  The soup was flavorful and spicy and got an A+ from me.
Logan had a pizza with tomato marinara, cashew “cheeze” and brazil nut parmesan, with greens and veggies.  Though he wasn’t too keen on the crunchiness of the crust, he said the whole package was really tasty.
Natalie met up with us for lunch and had the “BLT”, which was served on their soft homemade onion bread, and had marinated and dehydrated zucchini to stand in for the bacon.  She let me try a piece and it was chewy and flavorful – I didn’t know you could get zucchini to do that!
Later in the afternoon, we came back for a snack – an orange creamsicle “mylkshake”, made with their homemade cashew ice cream and almond milk.  It was as tasty as it sounds, and if I lived in Victoria, I would be prompt about sampling their other mylkshake flavors like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

5. Pink Sugar Cupcakery

An *almost* all-vegan cupcakery beckoned us on our downtown adventures…

Called “Pink Sugar“, it was super girly and stuff, but that didn’t deter Logan.
Look at that cute little display!  The only non-vegan cupcake was the mancake selection they had, made with honey.  But with flavors like the Elvis Banana Cake and the Toasted Coconut Cream Cake, Logan wasn’t too choked up about not being able to get the more manly of cupcakes.
I ended up getting the Lolla Lee Lou Cupcake, which was a vanilla cupcake filled with a coconut lavender cream, topped with a lemony cream cheese frosting.  Logan had the cupcake of the month, which was the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake.  Both were very generous on the frosting and incredibly sweet, but delicious.  And come on.  I come from Regina, Saskatchewan – being able to buy cute vegan cupcakes is such a novelty.

6. Solstice Cafe

Since we were full from our raw food lunch at Cafe Bliss, we didn’t get to enjoy Solstice Cafe in all of its vegan-friendly glory, but we did make sure to visit for dessert, where they had plenty of options in the form of cookies, cakes, muffins and bars.  I’ve heard they also have good vegan lunch items – maybe next time we’re in Victoria we’ll check it out.

Deciding what to get was a tough decision, but I came down on the side of good ol’ carrot cake.  Logan went for the chocolate espresso brownie – don’t they both look awesome?  They were glorious.  I’m not going to get over the sheer awesomeness of easily finding vegan treats anytime soon.
My impression, after hanging out there for five days, is that finding vegan food in Victoria is easy peasy.  There are tons of choices everywhere, and the best part is that even conventional establishments seem to know what veganism is.  If you say, “hi, we’re vegan,” the typical blank stare is nowhere to be seen – at least where I went.  Instead, we received, “Okay, so you don’t want butter on the pita?  And our fries are cooked in the same oil as fish – do you still want them?”  
Also, food aside, it’s just a really nice, pleasant city.  Downtown is fun, lively and safe, and it’s got lots of natural beauty both in the city and outside of it.  It’s pretty much a Canadian hippy paradise.
High five, Victoria.  High five.
travel and restaurants

How to Travel from Vancouver to Victoria

Our adventure to get from Saskatchewan to Victoria was nothing short of a lengthy, all-day adventure.  I found planning it all – plane, skytrain, bus, ferry and then bus – to be a little confusing, so I want to simplify the entire trip into little easy-to-understand blurbs.  With pictures.

First of all, you need to get to Vancouver.  For most, this involves flying.  For a few, it also means angrily eating a sandwich during the long, long wait.

Once in Vancouver, you gotta follow the Canada Line symbols in the airport – they lead you to the skytrain.  First, however, it is essential to re-hydrate from all that flying with good ol’ vegetable juice.


Beets, carrots, green pepper, celery, cucumber, spinach and ginger.  Yum!

Take the skytrain from Vancouver Airport to Bridgeport station – it’s a really short trip, probably under 10 minutes.  From there, you’ll hop down and catch a bus, the 620 Tsawwassen.  If you find yourself waiting a while, doodling is always an option.

Though do make sure you use the bathroom in the airport, or else you might find yourself doing some last-minute running through crowds, and barely make it on time for the bus you’ve been waiting around for.

The bus shuttles you down to the ferries, and takes about 45 minutes to get there.  But the ferrie is easily the most fun stretch of the trip.  Hop on the ferry headed to Swartz Bay and you’re good to go.  Roam, eat food, and spend time outside catching a beautiful ocean breeze for the hour and a half journey.

Once the ferry lands, catch either the 70 or 72 bus, both of which take you directly to downtown Victoria.  Don’t forget to request a transfer if you need one!  And if you’re lucky, you’ll get to ride in style on a double-decker bus:

The ride is under an hour, and it stops right in downtown Victoria for five minutes or so, making it very difficult to miss your drop-off spot.

From there, you can navigate to your final destination.  And then, as a weary traveler, you can rest.

Ahh.

appetizers, recipes

How To Make Roti (Indian Flatbread)

Roti (Indian Flatbread)

Roti is awesome.  It is one of the tastiest cheap foods ever, and there is pretty much no ingredient list – whole wheat flour, water, salt.  Hardly a recipe, but I’m posting it because making it is a bit of an (easy) process.

I’m trying to think of what to compare them to – tortilla shells, perhaps, but lighter and with air pockets, sort of like a pita, but thinner.  It does bear a slight resemblance to naan bread, though roti is simpler to make and is less dense.

I love roti on a plate of Indian food as a final touch for a simple and inexpensive supper.  If you’re in the mood to go all out, make naan bread, but if you want something a little more everyday, roti is where it’s at.

How To Make Roti (Indian Flatbread)
Makes 6 roti

Ingredients:

1 and 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. water
1/4 tsp. salt
Margarine (optional)

Directions:

1. Combine the flour, water and salt in a bowl and stir.  Knead for a few minutes until it becomes more smooth, adding more flour if necessary.  Roll into a ball and put back in the bowl, and cover with a tea towel for 30 minutes or so.

2. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  If your skillet isn’t non-stick, you might want to add a little oil to the pan.  Divide the ball of dough into 6, and roll out a piece thinly and about 6 inches:

Roti (Indian Flatbread)

Put it on the skillet and let it hang out until it starts to form bubbles, usually about a minute:

Roti (Indian Flatbread)

Flip and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Flip again and press down on the roti with a tea towel, and it should fill up with air!  It’s kind of a magical experience, actually.

Roti (Indian Flatbread)

Now it’s done!  You can put it aside on a plate, and give it a pat of margarine if you desire. Serve it up with lots of other Indian foodstuffs, like basmati rice and the aloo gobi from the previous post!

Aloo Gobi (Indian Potatoes and Cauliflower)

5 more days until I’m officially a nomad for nearly two months, and one last TCK performance coming up Saturday night at the Exchange!  I’m secretly calling it my going away party.  🙂  And until next time, eat lots of amazing food!

mains, recipes

Aloo Gobi – Indian Potatoes and Cauliflower

Aloo Gobi (Indian Potatoes and Cauliflower)

Every now and then, I just crave Indian food like crazy.  I love the rich smells of the spices, warm and sassy the way they are.  I love the depth of flavor, and all the little nuances in each bite.

Another definite bonus is the affordability of a lot of this food.  Rice?  Wheat?  Potatoes?  That there’s some of the cheapest stuff you can buy.  Logan and I did some basic calculations, and we came to the conclusion that our plates each costed us under a dollar.

As two soon-to-be travelers, cheap home meals are where it’s at.  Then we’ll have more money to spend on awesome vegan restaurant food on our adventures!

Aloo Gobi – Indian Potatoes and Cauliflower
Adapted from No Recipes

Ingredients:

1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 tbsp)
3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
1 medium onion
3 large potatoes, chopped in small 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 – 1 c. water
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 tsp turmeric
Big pinch of asafoetida (optional)
1 small head of cauliflower, chopped (about 4 c.)
1/2 c. green peas
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Chutney or jam, for serving (optional)

Directions:
1.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes or so.  Add the ginger, garlic and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

2.  Add the potatoes, 1/2 c. water, garam masala, coriander, hot pepper flakes, turmeric and asafoetida.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.

3.  Add the cauliflower to the pot and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the veggies are really soft.  Stir in the peas and salt and remove from heat.  Serve with roti and basmati rice and chutney!

Aloo Gobi (Indian Potatoes and Cauliflower)

I didn’t have chutney, so I used an apricot jam sitting in the fridge and it was amazing with the potatoes and cauliflower!  Any sweet chutney or jam, such as pineapple or mango, would also be great.

Now that I’m officially one week away from my extended vacation, I’m getting all excited – go figure.  And I’m also realizing that I have a huge list of stuff I need to get done before then.  Ahh, reality.  So without further ado, I bid you adieu!

recipes, Soups and Stews

Raw Gazpacho with Avocado

Is it redundant to call a gazpacho “raw”?  Like saying “cold ice”?  Ah well, we’ll go with it anyway.

Raw Gazpacho with Avocado

I love cold soups.  Actually, I love all soups.  In fact, since I love soup so much I composed an ode just now:

An Ode To Soup

Whether ’tis scorching in summer or withering in winter,
Spitting in spring or furrowing in fall,
I will always ramble about you on Twitter,
Oh soup, you are the greatest meal of all.

You can be brothy and thin,
Hearty and full,
Or creamy and thick.
At every meal you will win
Since you’re never dull,
And in my stomach you are not a brick.

Oh soup, my dear BFF, always full of surprises,
I promise not to make you bland.
And though you wear a zillion disguises,
Never again will I eat you canned.

Here’s a gazpacho I’ve made three times already, I love it that much.  It’s filling because of the avocado, and I love the creamy base with chunky veggies for full textural awesomeness.

And “Gazpacho with Avocado” just has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?  They ain’t no perfect rhyme, but I think they’re meant to be together.  Just try to rhyme anything with either of those words. (Jazz nacho?  Bravo Raw Joe?)

Raw Gazpacho with Avocado

Raw Gazpacho with Avocado

Ingredients:
Serves 2

3 medium tomatoes
1 avocado
1/2 a medium cuke, peeled
1/2 a large bell pepper, red or yellow or orange
1 small clove garlic
1-2 tbsp yellow onion, minced
1-2 tbsp fresh herbs (I use basil, rosemary, oregano and thyme)
1 generous tbsp lime juice, fresh-squeezed (about 1/2 a lime)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt, to taste

Directions:

1.  Seed the tomatoes by cutting them in half and scooping out the seeds with a spoon.  But don’t chuck ’em!  Put them in a fine mesh strainer or a nut milk bag, and squeeze out all the juice.  Reserve this juice, usually around 1/4 – 1/3 c., and put it in your blender.  Then you can throw away the seed pulp.

2.  Place once and a half tomatoes in the blender, reserving the rest – we’ll use that for garnish.  Peel and seed the avocado and place half of it in the blender, reserving the other half.  Same goes with the cuke and bell pepper – half in the blender, half reserved.  Add the garlic, onion, herbs, lime juice and salt to the blender, and blend until smooth.  You don’t even need a fancy blender for this to turn out nice!

3.  Chop the reserved tomato, avocado, cucumber and bell pepper into small pieces.  Pour the blended soup into the base of two bowls, and then divide the chopped veggies into each bowl.  Serve and enjoy!

This gazpacho, like pretty much every gazpacho I’ve ever known, is best enjoyed cold.  Therefore, you might want to throw your soup in the fridge for 30 minutes or so before om noming, unless your veggies are cold to begin with.

Even Logan was cool with this soup, and he’s not a fan of cold soups.  Unless we’re talking about this cold soup – it’s his fave and he always asks for it.  But otherwise, it has to be a pretty hearty stew (like chili) for him to even consider it as real food.  Bah!