Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day Trippin' Vegan Style

Sam and I go on a lot of day trips-- sometimes they are an opportunity to eat yummy vegan food that I don't normally get and sometimes they are a bit of a challenge in the food department. A couple of weekends ago we went to Fort Worth for a mini-vacation and the weekend after that we went to my cousin's wedding in Missouri. Both trips offered some really good vegan food (although I did get some strange looks sometimes). The pic at the top is a lovely little produce market on the way to Fort Worth where I found some delicious tomatoes and something I'd never tried before-- an Israeli melon. It was like a really sweet honeydew and was really yummy!

We went to an Imax showing of Born to Be Wild at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. It's a movie following the separate stories of two amazing women who have worked with orangutans and elephants for the past several decades. They take animals orphaned by human poaching and rainforest destruction and raise them to be released into the wild. It was a fantastic movie and the Imax experience was really fun! We ate lunch outside-- this was our view of the polar bear booty right inside from our table.

Like I said, it's sometimes difficult to find vegan food on the road-- it was a little tricky at the museum but I found a delicious-looking build-your-own nacho bar-- score! They had a veggie burger listed but the staff didn't know if it had egg or dairy in it-- I really appreciate it when they say they don't know rather than just telling me it doesn't only to find out it did by an internet search and a nasty stomach ache later! From the nacho bar I had multi-colored chips topped with black beans, salsa, pico de gallo, black olives, and lettuce. I only wish I hadn't gotten the black olives-- I love them on their own but I don't usually have them on nachos so it tasted weird to me.I also piled my little tin a bit too high and didn't finish it all. The guy who portioned out my chips thought it was pretty strange that I didn't want cheese but all of the ingredients were super fresh and I didn't even miss my normal "nacho cheese" sauce! I also had some Very Vanilla soymilk, which seemed like a treat since I usually buy mine unsweetened!


This was my dinner from Pei Wei. We love it there and they don't have one here so we always have to go when we go into the city. I had the Honey Seared Veggies and Tofu (which doesn't actually have any honey in it) with the fried rice (just make sure to ask for the fried rice without the egg!) It's always so good and I always bring the leftovers and chopsticks for the car ride home.

One thing I really love about going into the city is Whole Foods! So many beautiful veggies and so many products I don't have access to at home! We really got a kick out of this sign that asks "What's a-peelin to you today?"-- so cute!

I love, love, love that all of the vegan options are clearly labelled! From the fresh food bar I got this beautiful artichoke salad with asparagus, red and yellow bell peppers, grape tomatoes, and red onion, and a delicious vinaigrette-- I wish I'd gotten more of it!

I also got this udon noodle dish-- when I got into the car and tried it, Sam reminded me that I don't like udon noodles-- duh! I'm sure a lot of people would find it delicious, but this one really didn't do it for me.

Also at Whole Foods, we bought a ton of organic juice that was on sale (I haven't gotten to try any of it yet because our fridge has been too full to chill it), coconut water, veggie broth cubes, pink salt (yum and so pretty!), curry powder (amazing on popcorn!), cardamom, fresh nutmeg, vegetarian beef broth that I still need to check the vegan-ness of, endive, golden beets (which just made a delicious soup, along with the broth cubes!), a HUGE avocado, some Spectrum vegan mayo-- so yummy!, and some ginger chews for my MIL. I may have left something out, I don't know! I'll be posting recipes with some of these ingredients over the next few weeks!

Next came the trip to Missouri. Since Sam had to work, we went up there, attended a wedding and reception, and had some quality family time, all before driving back the same night (morning). About 25 hours in total. Thank goodness I wasn't driving, but I felt so bad for Sam! Especially those last 30 minutes or so seemed really difficult. At times like that I really wish I could drive, but a couple of years ago after many accidents and panic attacks, I realized that if I ever do drive again I'll need considerable work on skill and calming first. When it comes to road trips, my jobs are to pack the snacks and keep Sam entertained!

The picture above this one is an old peanut butter jar filled with celery and carrot sticks-- this is such a good way to pack veggie sticks-- it's plenty tall enough and keeps them fresh and crispy for days! I also brought some Tribe red pepper hummus-- I really love this stuff! The baggy there has craisins, dark chocolate chips, and salted almonds-- my perfect trail mix blend!

This picture is just to show you that we get excited by the little things-- 3 brand new, shiny, 2012 pennies-- yay!

This is me and my little brother (Can you believe he's in high school? He's been taller than me since he was about 10 years old!) at the wedding. It was really great to see everybody-- Dad, the most amazing step-mom in the world, 4 brothers and sisters (well, 2 of each), aunts and uncles, and of course, my cousin who got married (I didn't get to see much of her though, you're always so busy on your wedding day!). I really miss everyone and I wish we could get together more often!  I don't have any more pics right now since I need to get on my family to email them to me. 

At the reception I was a little worried about what my food options would be since, let's face it, southwest Missouri isn't the most vegan-friendly place in the world. To be honest, most of the fare was gravy-covered meatballs and tons of ranch-based dip but I was pleasantly surprised with some yummy fruits and veggies (even with no dip they were still yummy!) and chips and also some roasted potatoes, that to be honest I'm not sure what they had on them, but they seemed innocent enough and were really yummy! The fruit was so good I wasn't even sad about not getting any cake!

Afterwords I went to Denny's and had a double portion of their fruit cup, and some black coffee-- those were some of the sweetest grapes I've ever had! It goes to show that even at totally non-vegan restaurants and events, you can usually find something to enjoy! (Note to readers though, when I'm going to a bar-b-que, I always bring something-- at the last one I went to, all I had was the black bean salad I brought and Oreos-- even the potato chips had dairy in the onion flavored coating! I really enjoyed those Oreoes though, and had way too many!) On a different note, I had black coffee at three different places over this very long day, two iced and one not, and I would rank them as such: McDonald's was not great because I wanted it iced and they only had hot black coffee so it turned out luke-warm and it was kind of bitter. Denny's gets second for being less bitter and having refills! And Dunkin Donuts get top prize for being black and iced and very smooth!

So my advice is this: get creative, ask what's in stuff, pack snacks, and try not to mind if people think you're a little weird for only ordering fruit at a down-home breakfast place-- you might be pleasantly surprised at what you find! I hope this was informative, or at least interesting to read, and I hope all of you have some amazing road trips in your future!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Poppy Apple Salad in a Jar

Sweet, creamy poppy seed dressing, smooth edamame, crispy apples, bright spinach, and toasty sunflower seeds make for an amazing (and filling) salad.

With all of the salads-in-jars floating around the internet these days, I thought I should try it out! I made two different kinds, but only one turned out so that's the one I'll share-- it's the one on the left. Lucky for you guys, the one that did turn out was uh-maze-ing. This one also packs a whopping 13 grams of protein-- quite a bit for a salad, which makes it filling enough for a meal. Without further ado, here's the recipe!

Poppy Apple Salad in a Jar
serves 1

Ingredients in order bottom to top:
  • creamy poppy seed dressing (Briana's is good, and so is Ken's lite)
  • 1/2 cup shelled edamame (the kind I get is in the frozen section-- just run under warm water in a colander to defrost)
  • 1/2 red delicious apple, diced
  • 1-2 crimini mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 T minced red onion
  • about 1 cup spinach, torn
  • 2 T roasted sunflower seeds
  • Just layer everything in order in a 32 oz. mason jar (I reuse ones that salsa and peanut butter come in).
  • Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. If making this ahead of time, you can easily make as many salad jars as you want and save in the fridge for later in the week-- just make sure the jars don't get tipped over or you'll have soggy lettuce!
  • When ready to eat, just shake it up and enjoy!

cals: 325kcal | fat: 17.77g | carbs: 29.32g | prot: 13.09g

Friday, July 6, 2012

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pie

 Check out that ooey-gooey caramel layer!

Bubbly, warm caramel

I've already mentioned my love for Pinterest here. Ask my husband, it borders on obsession. Well this is another Pinterest find-- veganized! It by no means falls into the "low-calorie" category, so find many friends to share this with- or don't and pretend it's your birthday, whichever. The top of this pie would have looked a million times better if I had had room in my fridge to use the lid that came with the pie crust and not just covered it with foil, which stuck to the chocolate filling. The parts that weren't stuck came out shiny and smooth, just so you know.

When I saw this on Pinterest, I knew I had to make a vegan version. I love anything caramel and anything with extra salt, and the chocolate on top and the shortbread crust just pushed it over the edge. The method of caramel-making I used is different that the original recipe, but it's one that I find easier, even without a candy thermometer. We should all thank David Lebovitz for his incredible tutorial on caramel, without which this post would have been impossible, or considerably more tricky. Once you learn this technique, there are a million things you can do with it, including making an absolutely amazing salted caramel ice cream inspired by another of Lebovitz's recipes, which I'll share with you all later. His website is incredibly inspiring, and though most of his recipe are in no way vegan, many could be adapted and there are a few that are including some sorbets and a lovely strawberry ice cream (which I haven't actually tried yet, unfortunately, and does include honey, but that can be replaced), and some of his techniques are quite useful.

I took a shortcut with the crust for this pie and bought a pre-made one-- I can never get my cookie crusts to be anything but extremely crumbly, but if you have better luck, then definitely substitute your favorite shortbread or graham crust! So without further ado, the recipe:

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pie
Makes 1 pie plus just a little chocolate leftover. I did 8 slices, but really, I think thin 16ths would be perfect.

  • 1 can coconut milk, divided
  • 1.5 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons maragarine
  • 1 ready-made shortbread crust
  • 1.5 tsp coarse salt
  • 1.5 cups sugar


For the caramel: 

Melt the sugar-- I used this tutorial as a guide, and I always use a cast-iron pan for this technique-- any heavy-bottomed, even-heating pan will work though. It always seizes up on me, but just keep stirring with a whisk and it will melt eventually.

When it's melted, add the margarine (watch out for popping and spattering and wear long sleeves!) and whisk, then 1/4 cup coconut milk, whisking until combined, paying close attention to the edges since it will cool there first. Once combined, pour into the crust and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes-- I had to run it through the blender because it was a little lumpy, but if yours isn't just skip that step and go straight into the crust. 

 Also, feel free to just skip the pie altogether and eat the salted caramel by itself off a spoon, on ice cream, on apple pie, or in any number of other ways-- use your imagination! You could also omit the salt for a normal caramel sauce.

To make the ganache:

Combine the rest of the coconut milk with the chocolate and melt, either in a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second intervals.

Pour over the cooled caramel and chill 4 hours to overnight. I had a little extra ganache leftover and next time I won't fill the crust quite so full. This ganache is also quite good on it's own-- really simple and not too sweet. It would be perfect piped on a cake, in a tart crust of it's own, or swirled on strawberries and oatmeal.

Note: Due to the gooey/spready/sticky nature of the caramel layer, I would recommend cutting each piece directly before serving-- the caramel stays solid for about a minute before it starts "melting".

cals: 514kcal | fat: 24.41g | carbs: 77.74g | prot: 4.06g

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blueberry Pancakes

Wow, these are good. My sweet husband satisfied my craving for blueberry pancakes the other day-- he's the resident pancake-cooking expert in our house. The batter comes from one of my favorite blogs-- Maple Spice. Here's her recipe for pancakes and waffles. They are pretty perfect on their own, but I added blueberries for their beautiful burst of flavor and color. I think next time, I might try a little more liquid because I prefer my pancakes a little less puffy. These also freeze beautifully-- I froze 3 per baggy and then used the toaster or microwave to heat for a near-instant breakfast.

Blueberry Pancakes
makes 12 medium pancakes

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (powdered or granulated-- agave or maple would probably work also)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cups almond or soy milk
  • 1/2 cup sparkling water
  • 1 3/4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  •  Combine the first 4 ingredients (the dry ingredients), then add the next 3 (the liquid ingredients). Toss the blueberries on top.
  • Stir gently to combine without beating the air out of the batter.
  • From here on the directions are according to Sam: Heat a skillet to medium heat, add 1/2 the margarine, and allow to bubble for a minute.
  • Then scoop batter into the pan by 1/4 to 1/2 cup and wait until the pancake starts to bubble up on top.
  • Flip over and cook until golden, adding more margarine if needed.
  • To freeze, cool completely and freeze in baggies for up to a month.
1/12 recipe: cals: 126kcal | fat: 3.39g | carbs: 21.55g | prot: 2.41g