Saturday, September 21, 2013

Visiting Vegan ALWAYS on the Go

I'm a liar.  I told you I was done with the traveling & glad to be home, but guess what? I'm on the move... AGAIN!  This visiting vegan cannot be stopped!

First: A much-needed relaxing weekend in my favorite city in the world: Key West!!  This is a gorgeous view of the sunrise from my balcony at Ocean Key Resort overlooking Mallory Square right on Duval Street.

Right on the water!  Now I normally jam-pack my Key West weekends, but this one was all about the do-nothing-and-enjoy-it program.  My itinerary was blank & lounging was the only thing on the agenda!

So I was genuinely surprised when I was told I had to check out "Help Yourself" - an organic & vegan-friendly restaurant that I walked way too far too find.  Turns out, it was well-worth the walk!

The menu was awesome, the choices expansive & the service just perfect!  The only thing missing was cocktails & I put my idea in the suggestion box - I mean it's Key West people! Drinking is a sport down here & everyone thinks they are Olympians!

After my own heart, (since I am a tried & true treehugger) I loved the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle program implemented at the restaurant/grocery store!  I am a fan of anyone doing their part to leave this world a better place & less ruined by humans.

Can you tell we liked our food choices?  We polished our plates clean so that we could make room for the national pastime of the Keys... 

Drinking!  Which is done best with great friends & honorary Conchs!  These are my favorite boys - Stephen & Johnathan - & I do NOT go to KW without visiting them.  We always have the best time & they are the most wonderful hosts!  When we went to happy hour at their house, they made sure all the snacks were vegan!  Who does that?  They do!  I love these guys & I can't wait to see them on the next trip down south... Hopefully that will be very soon... Fantasy Fest anyone?!?

By the way, during our "Duval Crawl," I thought it was fitting that the Animal Advocate spotted this pup working the tourist circuit.  Of course I threw him some cash... I just hope he's got a health plan!  Does Obamacare cover doggies?!?

From one West to another...
Goodbye Key West & Hello West Virginia?!?  How did that happen?

Because my little cousin was getting married!!!  First up: the rehearsal dinner.

Isn't she a beautiful bride?  I was so happy to be a part of her special day & she made my days special by making sure there was ALWAYS a vegan meal for me!  And that's not a frequent request in the mountains of West Virginia!

Spinach salad with black eyed peas, mushrooms, tomatoes & avocado.  This salad was perfection & proof that feeding a vegan isn't THAT hard!

What is hard?  Planning a wedding... Which thank goodness, I didn't have to do.  My cousin was a busy bee making gorgeous gift baskets while I was given the equally important task of brewing the Starbucks coffee.  Hey now, weddings are stressful & tiring, so people need to be awake, alert & energetic, which means they need caffeine: ergo my job was VERY important ;)

The wedding weekend was at Snowshoe Resort in the Allegheny Mountains.  So that gave me a chance to do some hiking with my other little cousin.  He's an amazing amateur photographer that's looking to turn pro very soon!  Mark my words... Jacob Goodale is going to make a name for himself as an artist & I'm going to buy his first photograph!  I'm so proud of him & I believe in him. 

He may only be 15... But he was one dapper gentleman when he put on his groomsmen tuxedo!

But back to the Bride... Can you tell that she's my cousin?  We sure do look A LOT alike & we should because she is my Mom's sister's daughter.

That's her Mom - my aunt - who spent the last 6 months of her life making sure the whole wedding went off without a hitch!  You did such a great job Lori!

And it did! Pure perfection! I wish the newlyweds a million years of happiness!  And I was so happy that their celebration of marriage allowed me to visit with my Nanny.

You've heard me talk about her plenty of times before, in fact, I dedicated a blog to her.  But I sure have missed my Nanny ever since she left the sunshine state to live in wild & wonderful West Virginia with my Lori & Jacob.  However, since I was out of town for 5 days, there's someone else I missed too...

My munchkin Jagger!!  So guess what I did?  I FaceTimed with my chihuahua!  Now I KNOW that I have solidified my title as the crazy dog lady but I missed him & this FaceTime thing is genius - you gotta try it - with your pets!
Speaking of pets... I know what my next blog is going to be about!  I can't wait ;)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Traveling Vegan Glad to be Home!

After traveling non-stop for the last 2 months... Imagine my sadness when I am back at home & making my green shakes when the horrible happens... My blender burns out! Aaaahhhhhh really? I mean, I knew it would happen eventually since I stick full stalks of kale & parsley into a regular cuisinart blender, but I'm still in shock that I killed my faithful friend on this green-drink-making-morning! :(

My girl in happier days...

She used to blend me 3 smoothies at a time...

And I would share her "labors" with my friends at work.  She was a great smoothie-maker & I'm going to miss my girl... Goodbye Miss. Cuisinart... 
After the appropriate mourning time... I hope to say Hello to Mr. Vitamix!!!
(Stay tuned for more on that!)

Onto happier meal-making!  A lot of you have been asking me to blog about my vegan recipes, so I need to make this painfully clear... I'm not a chef, I don't cook, I can barely read a recipe without my eyes glazing over & I am as low-maintenance as one can possibly be, in the kitchen.  So having said that... I LOVE this "homemade" soup "recipe":

Which is basically: just throw everything leftover in your pantry & fridge in a pot & simmer!  I tossed in tomatoes, corn, green beans, spinach, red kidney beans & lentils.

I'm an instant-wanna-be-chef!  I have to say that this "recipe" could not be easier & the soup was actually good!  I'm not just saying that, (because I'll eat any veggie, prepared any way) my coworkers actually enjoyed a few nights of my soup dinners that I brought to work!

Another way I enjoy "cooking" is by steaming veggies.  For those of you not familiar with this very complicated cooking style, steaming means putting said veggies in a steamer with water, boiling them in water or the tried & true method of: microwaving them.

Have I told you that my favorite vegetable in the entire WORLD is the artichoke?!  I've been eating these yummy labor-intensive veggies since I was a little girl - thanks to my Mom - who kick-started the addiction!  Don't ask me why, but while all the other kids were begging for happy meals, I was requesting artichokes for dinner.  Anyway here's my "recipe": steam for an hour & DONE! 
(Serve with olive oil as a dipping sauce)

Ok this might be my "hardest" recipe becaus it actually required work: Marinating! I've already told you how obsessed I am with "meaty" & "beefy" portobello mushrooms because they are delicious & they seem to take the place of a protein dish.

So after I slice them up & throw them in a container, (I seem to do a lot of "throwing in the kitchen - very odd!) I douse the shrooms with olive oil & balsamic vinegar.  Now for all my raw vegans, if you let these guys marinate long enough, you can eat them raw.  But for those of you who like to heat your food, like I usually do, you can throw them directly into a pan for a quick sauté.  There's that "throwing" again!

PS... You can also use the baby bellos for this "recipe" as well - they work exactly the same.  The oil & vinegar provide so much flavor & the shrooms are shockingly filling!

I eat at home & at work plenty, so this dish is an example of absolutely zero preparation.  I bought the falafel balls from Costco & just stuck them in the toaster oven so that they would come out "toasty."  Then I "steamed" some peas & finally, I made quinoa.  To make quinoa, all you have to do is boil water & scoop the quinoa into the pot.  Seriously, does it get any easier?!?

This dinner is just as difficult.  Once again, "steamed" spinach AND corn & then a veggie burger popped in the toaster oven.  Do you guys think I should write a cookbook?  I mean, this stuff is GOLD!! ;)

Now I have to say, A LOT of people don't really understand what it means to be vegan or what we are "allowed" to eat.  Case in point, I was at my 3 year old nephew'a house bringing him souvenirs from San Francisco & his Mom & Dad wanted to feed me, but they didn't know how, so in a hysterical tongue-in-cheek move, they handed me a cooked potato & a bag of lettuce!  That works... I guess!!

Good think my little Kenji is soooooo cute that I'll eat whatever "vegan" meal he makes for me!  Heck, his "cooking" isn't so bad compared to mine! :))))

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Vegan on Vacation in Cool Cali Part #2

Hello San Francisco!  It has been my dream to go to this city ever since my grandmother told me it is her favorite city in the entire world!  The Golden Gate Bridge was massive & quite impressive & exactly what I expected it to be as we cruised by on a cold day in a convertible!

Now I knew this city by the bay is known for it's foggy days but it still took me by surprise everyday when the fog rolled in & the temperatures dropped by at least 10 degrees!  I definitely had to add & strip layers all day long.

But the fog did NOT take away from this stunning city full of steep hills & bay views.  Like most of California, there are so many organic farmer's markets, healthy people exercising everywhere & recycling & composting is commonplace!   This feel of this city hit me straight in the heart!

And I left my heart in San Francisco! Ha ha he he :)  Not really!  But I did fall in love with so many things like...

Pier 39 with all the loud seals sunbathing their fat, blubbery bodies!  It reminded me of all the seals I would always spot in Santa Barbara!

The view of Alcatraz was really a sight to see.  It was really windy with choppy seas the day we were there so we didn't take the tour but it was cool even seeing it off in the distance.

And the convertible was put to good use once again when we drove down the famous-crooked-filled-with-hairpin-turns: Lombard Street!  Nothing like this in flat-flat-flat Miami, Florida.

Cable Cars!  This is one of the things I was most looking forward to doing in San Fran!  A little bit of history rolled up into Eco-friendly public transportation - love it!  This was a must-see or rather "must-ride" but the $6 price tag was a tad bit steep... But I was a tourist all the way!

Shopping in Chinatown was a highlight for us!  After hitting all the high-end expensive shops, Chinatown was a blast because everything was fun & affordable & the tea shops were amazing!

For all of my foodies out there... I discovered the best Vegan restaurant in the city, maybe in the state!  This place is special... Millennium was out of this WORLD!

I started off with a summer squash, basil cashew purée soup that was so decadent & rich - you would think it was cream based!  You know I'm a soup freak!  I could eat soup every day of the week & I'm still dreaming about this soup!

 Heirloom tomato & melon salad with red leaf lettuce & almond cheese.

Pistachio-crusted roasted eggplant with zucchini, butter beans & artichoke with Israeli couscous.

Coconut curry with Asian eggplant, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, griddle cake & sprout salad.

After ALL that amazing specialty vegan food, the next day required a run on the beach at Half Moon Bay in Venice Beach.  But the Pacific Ocean is toooooo cold for this Atlantic Ocean girl!

Time for tree-hugging in Big Sur!  The hiking in the mountains was so inviting & spiritual... You really do feel so close & connected to nature.  We hiked for hours, it seemed never-ending, but the views were just breathtaking!

But the highlight of my whole California extravaganza vacation may have been staying at Post Ranch in Big Sur because we stayed in a treehouse!!

If you ever get an opportunity to visit this resort, JUMP at the chance, because the grounds overlook the ocean, there is a vegetable & fruit garden on the premises & they are devoted to eco-sustainability through recycling & repurposing. I told the workers that they may have to drag me out of my treehouse kicking & screaming at check-out! 
(And I really wasn't joking!)

Look at this restaurant built into the mountain overlooking the Pacific!  Sierra Mar is NOT known for being Vegan but any great chef worth his/her salt can accommodate & dinner here was NOT a disappointment.

After spring salads & tons of red wine, we dug into roasted veggies: mushrooms, brussel sprouts, asparagus & green beans.  This was better than any surf & turf dish in the place!

And the after-dinner relaxation was just as perfect as the meal.  Heaven.

The beaches in South Florid sure don't look like this!  There was actual purple sand here!  We had another one of our picnics with wine AGAIN, right here in this spot before it was time to say goodbye to my newly adopted utopia & head home.  I could not believe how much I connected to California!  This trip will NOT be forgotten... In fact... It will be repeated very soon!

Aaaahhhh... These are my California Dreams!!