Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Raspberry chocolate chip blondie coma

Oof. I just gorged myself on a big hunk of raspberry chocolate chip blondies from "Vegan With a Vengeance".

Raspberry chocolate chip blondie

They are sweet, melty, tart, creamy, crumbly, magnificent divine things, delicious enough to make me do unspeakable things.

Raspberry chocolate chip blondies

I made them because I'm having coffee tomorrow with a woman I'm interviewing for a story. When we set up the appointment she said, "Oh, I heard you on a radio show the other day, and I was sad to hear you say you're vegan. I'm quite a baker, and I was hoping to bake something for you. I'm really sad you can't have yummy baked goods."

So I baked delicious vegan goodies for her instead! Wait until she gets a load of these.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The big O: Vegan!

Whoa. Oprah Winfrey has gone vegan. For a little while, at least.

Maybe she'll enjoy the delicious food, extra energy and good karma enough to make a lasting change. I'm totally rooting for her.

This is blowing my mind. I still remember when Oprah was low-carb.

You can go here to see what Oprah is eating and how she's doing on her detox plan. It looks great so far, although her plan is much more restrictive than most vegan diets. Still, it sounds yummy. I wish I had her chef.

(Found via this post on nerve.com. I also couldn't stop myself from leaving a comment on there ...)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A bunch of meals

I'm falling way behind on posting here, so I need to cram a few meals together in one post. Sorry.

Here we go.

Before I went vegan, I never liked alfredo sauce. And then, for whatever reason, I had the strangest craving for a vegan version the other day. I basically used this recipe from Vegan Dad, with a few minor tweaks in the spicing.

I think no matter what you do, alfredo will never be healthy, not even if it's vegan. I compensated for that by dumping a pound of steamed greens on top of everything. (No, really. It's a pound of greens. Those suckers cook down like crazy.)

Vegan alfredo

Over the weekend I made eggplant rollatini for the first time, using a recipe from "Veganomicon." It was marvelous. It took some time, but it was well worth the effort.

A couple friends joined us for dinner, and I was nervous because some people just aren't tofu people, no matter how fabulously it's made. Well, my friends cleaned their plates, which says a lot about the recipe. The roasted asparagus and the side of quinoa (made with mushrooms, white wine and artichoke hearts) were both pretty wonderful too.

Sunday dinner

I'm getting hungry just thinking about the eggplant rollatini again. Here, look at them even closer ...

Eggplant rollatini

Then I tried my hand at Southern vegan fare. These are steamed collard greens, stuffed with black-eyed peas and chopped greens, topped with homemade BBQ sauce, served with an ear of corn from the farmers market. It tasted decadent, but was extremely healthy.

Plus, I love finding new ways to get greens in my diet.

Collard roll-ups

Oh, speaking of the farmers market, I've been making the best salads from local, seasonal goodies. This week I picked up some shockingly sweet carrots, then used them to make a big, fresh meal with some greens, sprouts, green onions and mustard flowers.

Farmers market salad

A Tale of Two Veggie Wraps

My friend Judi and I sampled the goodies at "Ditch Friday," a new promotion at Agua Caliente Casino and Resort. For a few hours every Friday afternoon, the resort encourages people to ditch work and hang out by the pool and enjoy food and drink specials.

It was packed and people were having a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the place was sorely understaffed and it took a very long time to get our drinks and meal.

I was pleased to see a veggie wrap on the menu, which was vegan if you ask for it without the aioli.

It was OK. Nothing extraordinary, and not really worth $10.50. (And if that was the special price? Holy cow.) I'm a little concerned about the Kermit-colored tortilla, though.

Veggie wrap

My co-worker Judi ordered the salad, which probably was the smarter choice.


Today I had a veggie wrap again, this time at Jennifer's Kitchen, a small gourmet deli/food and wine shop in Rancho Mirage.

The grilled veggies were served cold, but they were very flavorful and peppery. They were mixed with a garlicky hummus inside the tortilla. It was a tasty wrap and just $6.50.

My only criticism isn't a criticism exactly -- more of a personal preference. The pieces of wrap were too big for one bite, but too squishy to take a bite without everything falling out all over the plate. Next time I'll try to remember to ask for it whole and unsliced.

Grilled veggie wrap

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Vegan Disneyland


At one point during our trip to Disneyland, Marilyn and I stared at a duck on a fake body of water.

MARILYN: Is that duck real or fake?
ME: I have absolutely no idea.

And that right there is the problem with Disneyland. It's difficult to tell what's real or what's not, and that feels overwhelmingly creepy. Everything is very contrived, which automatically makes me suspicious. It was like Stepford -- with life-sized cartoon characters.

I don't want to sound like a complete sourpuss. There were good parts, too. Space Mountain was really fun. And of course I was ridiculously amused by all the sullen goth kids trotting around the park in Mickey Mouse ears. (It's ironic, see?) And it's hard to not get swept up in the giddy, ultra-hyper, happy vibe of the place.

Also, I have to admit: I was completely impressed by the food options.

Naturally there were carts shilling buttery popcorn, cotton candy, french fries and all kinds of other junk food. It is an amusement park, after all. But in addition to that, there was definitely a fresh fruit presence.

It actually seemed like it would be more difficult to NOT find fresh produce. I swear there were fruit stands every few steps, all selling sliced mango, apples, bananas, oranges, watermelon chunks, pineapple and grapes. It was all rather pricey, yes, but it was still very cool to see.

Marilyn and I were actually at Disney for work. This assignment was part of the follow-up story about Natalie, a baby recovering from brain cancer. The family had a wish fulfilled by a local non-profit, and so they were sent to Disney for five days of rest and relaxation.

Here's the gorgeous and spirited Miss Natalie:


And here's her brother, Carson. These huge hands of his cracked me up, even when he was pouting:


Because Marilyn and I were trailing the family around the park and had to meet up with them soon after lunch, we grabbed our meal at a random spot in Frontierland. My vegan options were looking slim, because I didn't see anything around us but fast food and burger stands. I thought I was going to have to make do with an apple from the fruit stand.

Surprisingly, the burger stand had a vegan veggie burger on the menu.

Veggie burger

With the texture of a urinal cake and the flavor of plywood, it was not the greatest veggie burger I've ever had. But I was thankful and grateful to at least have that option.

With some advance planning, I have no doubt I would have ended up with a creative and satisfying meal at Disney. (The Blue Bayou had a mushroom/couscous dish on their menu that looked amazing. I wish we would have had time to make reservations there. That's on my list for next time!) The park was also less restrictive than I thought they would be; I easily could have brought in my own food.

For dinner, Marilyn and I had dinner with Natalie and her parents, Andrew and Kristen, just outside the park in downtown Disney. The restaurant was called Catal, but we ate outside at their UVA Bar, which had a nice tapas menu.

The server couldn't answer all of my questions, but he did know what vegan was, and he brought out a little book from the kitchen that listed all the ingredients in all the dishes.

It was wonderful. I absolutely pigged out on olives, baba ghanoush, plus this lovely artichoke:


And then I couldn't resist this beet salad. In addition to the root veggies, it had chunks of orange, shaved fennel and fresh herbs. Yummy.


Overall, I'm still not 100 percent sold on Disney as a vacation spot for people in my age group, but I will happily eat there any time.

Mouse balloon

World's Sexiest Vegetarian

Sadly, I am not on the list. But yummy short guy Jason Schwartzman is. So is sassy Joss Stone, funny guy Kevin Nealon, Chelsea Clinton, Natalie Portman, Andre 3000, Kristen Bell, Pam Anderson and scores of others ...

Cast your vote now by clicking on the square below.

Sexiest Vegetarian

Monday, May 12, 2008

Music festival madness

The Coachella Music and Arts Festival turned out to be more than a feast of music -- it's also a feast for vegans.

I was covering the festival for the newspaper, spending 12 or so hours at a time at the polo grounds. Initially I was worried about finding enough vegan food on site to keep my energy up over three days, especially since you aren't allowed to bring any food into the venue.

It turned out to be an absolute feast: I had tempeh wraps, grilled tofu burgers, baby mixed green salads with shredded beets, fresh fruit smoothies, fresh coconut water, even a platter of African food that included black-eyed peas, spinach, rice and candied plantains. One of my friends raved about a spicy coconut soup that I never had a chance to find.

Smoothie lovers

It was expensive, yes. But I would rather pay $10 for a great salad than spend the same amount on inferior festival foods.

Veggie eaters

My favorite was the blackened tempeh wrap, which came with a lemon tahini sauce.

Tempeh wrap

I also drank a lot of Olade, which was a refreshing alternative to traditional lemonade. It's organic, sugar free and just five calories -- nothing but lemons, water and stevia. Plus, it was created by the diabetic drummer of Rage Against the Machine, so it has street cred too. (Personally, I think he should have called it RageAde. The label makes it look more like Jack JohnsonAde.)


Then, just a few days later came the Stagecoach Country Music Festival, which I also covered. The website clearly said there would be vegetarian and vegan food -- but the reality was far different. I would even say it was horrific.


Smell My Butts

Road Kill BBQ

Here were my options for dinner:

* Something called a veggie burgerito. It was a crumbled veggie burger with lettuce, tomato, french fries and condiments, all INSIDE a tortilla. But the people working the booth couldn't tell me if the veggie burger was vegan.

* A veggie corn dog. Even if the batter was vegan (which it probably wasn't), I didn't really want fried food at a hot festival.

* A plate of peppers and onions -- cooked on the same grill with meat. No thanks.

I ended up getting a sauerkraut sandwich, which was my own genius invention. Basically, it's a hot dog bun filled with sauerkraut and spicy mustard. My friends were completely grossed out, but it wasn't the worst thing I've ever eaten.

My friend Matt wrote about it here.

Luckily, I also snuck in some of my own BBQ:

My kind of BBQ