Vegan Food & Drink Festival

The vegan food & drink festival finally came to NYC! I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to see what other cities have been able to experience. I was not disappointed.


The festival was on Randall’s Island, a place I had only driven over in a taxi or bus to the airport. I had seen countless others walk along the bridge to other events on the island and decided to ride my bike and take a pedestrian bridge on the southern end. Good choice. A very easy route that gave me stunning views of the East River.


There were many local vendors at the event and many I had never heard of. I skipped long lines for places I knew, like Cinnamon Snail. Other long lines snaked out of vendors offering fried goodness. Tempting, but I would rather explore more.

The deliciousness seemed endless.


We finally tried the Impossible Burger, which was a total trip and weirded me out. It really does smell, taste, look, and and have the texture of a medium raw burger. Hubby gobbled, I tried a bite. I also got a Nashville sauce tofu sandwich that was amazeballs.

But it was more than food!


I had great fun exploring all the signs and information.

There was music too, but nothing live while I was there. Just so many people enjoying vegan goodness.


If you get a chance to go to one of these, I recommend it. I got early bird tickets that were only $10.

Advertisements

Savory Bites

My cousin has been living in the city all summer and goes back to Texas this week. I have been lucky enough to see him almost every week. Last weekend, I invited him and other family over for dinner so we could all share more time before he leaves.

My apartment, like many apartments in NYC, is small, so a sit-down dinner is a challenge. I decided, instead, to have a finger food meal to make things easier and normalize the idea of sitting on the couch while eating. The dinner went great and I invented a new yummers finger food for the occasion, Savory Bites.


The idea comes from using filo dough, but I dislike using that dough. It can be a lot of work and my approach remains easy cooking. Instead, I used crescent rolls. The kind that come in tubes.

I made two different kinds. One that was like pizza and another with pesto. To do the exact same thing, you will need:

  • Two rolls of crescent roll dough, in the tube, check the ingredients to make sure they are vegan
  • Spaghetti sauce, I used a garlic heavy one
  • Black olives sliced into thin circles
  • Shredded vegan mozzarella 
  • Vegan pesto
  • Small onion, diced into small pieces 
  • Small red bell pepper, diced into small pieces 
  • A few button mushrooms, diced into small pieces
  • Tablespoon of olive oil

Start by sautéing the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms in olive oil. Sauté on medium heat until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool. Take the first roll and open onto parchment or wax paper. This will let the dough be more easily removed later. With your fingers, mash together all the seams to make one sheet of dough. Using a rolling pin (or label-free and cleaned wine bottle), roll out the dough a couple times in each direction to flatten and even everything.

For the pesto bites: Use a spoon to add a thin layer of pesto to the dough, then a thin layer of the cooked veggies, and a thin layer of cheese. There will be left over filling. The layers should be thin because the dough is delicate and won’t roll well if too thick.


Looking at the longest edge of the dough, begin to roll that edge towards its opposite edge. Don’t be afraid to help the dough off the parchment paper. If the original seams reappear, this is okay. Try to carefully mash them together again and keep rolling. Soon you will have a long roll of dough with filling. Take a sharp knife and slowly cut into circles of about an inch thick. I got about 12 circles from each roll. Place each circle on a pan with at least one inch between each.


They won’t look perfect, and this is okay. Flavor is most important.

For the pizza bites: Follow the same dough preparation process of making into sheet. Add a thin layer of speghetti sauce, a thin layer of black olives, and a thin layer of cheese. Follow the same roll and cut process.


Cook the bites at 375 for 10 minutes or until the edges are golden.

So yummy! Everyone ate as many as they could and kept going back to grab another one. The process can easily be used for other savory or sweet ingredients.

I hope you try these and let me know how it goes, especially if you try different ingredients. I will absolutely be making these again.

Feeding a 9-Year-Old

My adorable 9-year-old nephew came to visit last month and I thought long and hard about how to feed this picky eater. I asked my brother which vegetables he liked and made sure to have those handy; baby carrots, broccoli stems, steamed spinach, and avocado. But what would I make for him, other than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? He had two of those during the visit.

I made pancakes, of course, and he ate more than anyone else at the table. Score! I also made him grilled cheese with smoked tofurkey slices. He liked this so much he asked for it instead of the one meal he didn’t like. I also made pigs in blankets with steamed broccoli stems. He devoured these, along with hubby who only likes the tops of broccoli. They make a great broccoli team!


Nephew kept verifying that everything was vegan. At one point he asked what the cheese was made from if not cow milk? Before I could answer, he suggested chicken milk. This made my brother laugh very loudly.

Nephew ate well and I enjoyed our visit. Woo hoo!

Plant Based Bushwick


I was lucky enough to go to the first, annual, Plant Based Bushwick Festival. Very fun! Decent sized place with speakers in an upstairs open space. Not sure how well speakers could be heard because it was loud. But I got to meet new vegans and try new foods. Like an empanada encased in plantain. Mmm… Also got a fresh juice to order and all the money went to support the local farmers market. Winning!


I picked up several new things that I still need to try, like a vegan nutella.


If you get a chance to go to a vegan, vegetarian, or plant based festival, do it. The people are always great and the food fantastic. I had one of the best beet burgers ever at this festival. Yummers!

NYC Vegetarian Food Festival


I have dreamed of attending this event for years. When I moved to NYC last year, I arrived a few weeks after the event and was sad to have missed it. This year I made it!


I was overwhelmed by the number of people and booths to visit. I tried to hear one talk and couldn’t, so I tasted chocolate instead.

It was incredible. Several vendors I have seen at other events participated, but many that I had never met were happy to share their products. It was great fun and, like I said, overwhelming.


Despite having bought a ticket in advance, I stood in a line that wrapped around the block for about 45 minutes before getting in. Thank goodness we had a break in the rain that day. Upon entering, there were so many people that deciding where to begin was a challenge. First I stood in a line to try gluten free and vegan brownies while a friend stood in the DF Mavens line. We promised to get each other samples. Next, we each bought a ticket for the raffle to support the organizing group. That was easy. Then it becomes a blur. A delicious blur where I was able to pick up a new vegan mascara to try. In addition to multiple bites of samples I got a grilled cheese sandwich from Riverdell and sushi from Beyond Sushi. My bag coming home was full of my favorite kombucha, I normally dislike kombucha, nut ricotta, coupons, mascara, lotion samples, and, of course, chocolate. I cannot pass up vegan chocolate.

If you ever get a chance to go to a vegan festival, take it. What fun to be surrounded by other vegans and ideas. There is another festival in Bushwick in a couple weeks and I will be there too!

Bryant Park in NYC

Bryant Park transforms for winter. An ice skating rink takes over the grass and little pop-up shops sprout the perimeter. It’s very fun. And 12 different food vendors are completely vegan. It’s worth an afternoon and, especially, a chimney cake!

   
    
    
   
I tried something from eight of the 12 vegan places. In the future I will skip the sushi, just seemed old. I have circled all the vegan places on this map.

 
Yummers! 

Tasting Yumminess Part II

2015-04-02 19.22.32

I was thrilled to be able to host a second tasting party. My friends happily returned to try a variety of yummy foods.

2015-04-02 18.39.25

We began with a cheese course. Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet sent me coupons to pick up anything I wanted to share. At the Winter Fancy Food Show I got to try several of their new products like Provolone and they are yummy. Since the newest items are not yet available in Omaha, I picked up a few other things I thought my friends might not have tried yet.

2015-04-02 17.53.47

Cream Cheese – I have always felt this cream cheese has a strong tart flavor and so I served it on crackers with slices of dried fig or date. Everyone loved the flavor combination. For the cheese, some thought it should be tangier, so totally opposite of my opinion. As I have written before, it’s good to try things for yourself. Unless, of course, I really don’t like something.

2015-04-02 17.37.21

Monterey Jack Cheese – This was cut into cubes and served with toothpicks and cucumber slices. I wanted everyone to experience the flavor. Friends thought the texture was a bit mushy, but liked the flavor.

2015-04-02 18.37.45

Fiesta Blend Shreds – Served melted over tortilla chips. Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet has a reputation for melting well and these shreds followed that pattern. Friends like the spicy kick.

2015-04-02 19.06.51

The next course was five different soups from Smart Soup. Locally, I found Smart Soup at Costco and I hope it becomes more widely available. I know in Chicago they are offering a one-for-one, like Toms Shoes or Warby Parker. If you by a qualifying soup, they give one to someone who needs it. Very cool.

Everyone loved all the soups and had difficulty picking a favorite. The soups do not taste salty and instead taste like actual vegetables. One friend said, “I like the chunks of things” and hubby said they make “an easy meal.”

Thai Coconut Curry – Has a nice flavor combination and the coconut is not at all overwhelming. There is a nice spice to the soup.

French Lentil – This soup has a very nice subtle flavor and is hearty. One friend said it has “great veggie textures.”

Greek Minestrone – Does not taste like Italian minestrone, but is very yummy. It combines a sweet and spice that goes well together.

Santa Fe Corn Chowder – This one is my favorite, and not just because I love Santa Fe. I am always partial to southwestern flavors. Two friends noted this as their second favorite. A third friend is not drawn to southwestern flavors and noted this as her least favorite.

Vietnamese Carrot & Lemongrass – No overwhelming carrot flavor. The lemongrass balances the carrot nicely. Two friends noted this as their favorite and one said it has a “bright and zesty flavor.”

2015-04-02 19.42.27

After stuffing our faces with soup, we moved on to trying different chocolates.

2015-04-02 18.05.20

Zimt Sweet Orange Nib’d – I had no idea what I was in for with this chocolate. I had tried the plain chocolate with the owner of the company, but this nib’d was a real chocolate experience. The nibs give it intermittent moments of tart that are balanced with sweeter chocolate and a very subtle orange flavor. I enjoyed the unique combination. One friend felt this was “very satisfying” while another noted a “pithy” finish.

2015-04-02 18.04.01

Le Belge – Everyone felt this was the smoothest of all the chocolates we tried. Velvety was noted several times. One friend wrote that eating it is “like licking a kitten without the hairball.” Another wrote, “everything a dark chocolate should be.”

2015-04-02 18.10.11

Scharffen Berger – We tried three different chocolates from this brand and everyone was surprised at their sweetness.

Bittersweet was my favorite of the three. It would be great in s’mores and I was surprised by its sweetness. Everyone agreed it was not as bitter as the name suggested.

Extra Dark was less sweet, but not as tart as expected either. One friend noted this one was “almost savory” and another noted it as her favorite.

Signature Dark doesn’t taste like dark chocolate. It reminded me of milk chocolate, even though it’s been 17 years since I had milk chocolate. One friend noted, “so melty in my mouth.”

Another great tasting party and fun time with my friends. Thank you Smart Soup, Follow Your Heart, and Zimt for going out of your way to share your yumminess. I know my friends are already looking for your foods at the store.

Tasting Yumminess

2015-01-29 18.02.59

I mentioned before how I got to go to the Winter Fancy Food Show in January. It was great fun and the number of vegan options was astounding. So many delicious options and I got to talk to people that work with some of my favorite vegan foods. But being introduced to new foods not yet available in Omaha was the best. I was so excited that several people offered me additional samples to share with friends and others still offered to send perishables. In return, I promised to host a tasting party and collect opinions from my friends. We had such fun and were totally stuffed.

2015-01-29 18.44.35

The evening began with non-perishable grab-and-go foods.

2015-01-29 18.03.13 2015-01-29 18.03.51 2015-01-29 18.04.00 2015-01-29 18.04.13

Kettlepop Kettle Corn – Everyone tasted the salty sweet they expected. One friend felt that each kernel had its own salt or sweet. He said he would eat one kernel and be surprised by its salt and then another to verify and surprised by its sweet. This corn must need to be eaten two kernels at a time and my friend was happy to do so. Another friend felt it had a nice crisp mouth feel. Others noted the wholesome ingredients as a plus. I found it salty and soggy. Just goes to show how important it is to try things for yourself.

Way Better Snacks – I have enjoyed this brand for at least a year now, but they have crackers coming out that I enjoyed at the show. The person I spoke with sent me home with two of the corn chips I had not yet tried, siracha and sweet potato. Everyone expected more spice from the siracha chips. The flavor was there, but mild and sweet then faded quickly. I liked the mild and felt the mild allowed me to eat several chips. Everyone else wanted more spice. The sweet potato was a winner. Friends loved the crunch and flavor, not too sweet potato.

Two Moms In The Raw Gojiberry – These are wonderfully nutty. They are sweet, but not overly so. One friend noted a bit of salt and cinnamon that balanced the sweet. Another friend felt this was a winner for the night in the snack section of noshing.

Kunachia Chia Shot – No one really understood this product. When I received the sample I asked what I was supposed to do with it. Eat it from the package? The right size for a smoothie? The representative said it could be eaten from the package or used as desired, with the benefit of a smaller package. I was surprised since my favorite Chia needs refrigeration and I don’t eat it straight. We all tried it like this and most people found the chia not worth eating. The seeds got stuck in teeth and lost in the folds of hands. The package held too much to be the perfect size for a smoothie.

Zouq – Puffed lentils with seasoning. Everyone loved the Golden Lentils and started to think how they wanted to use them. One person wanted to mix with vegan marshmallows and make a crisped lentil treat. Another friend wanted to add them to all her salads for a crunchy texture. The high protein content was also a winner. The Jubilee Mix was less popular, but several people liked it and compared the flavor mixture to a Chex Mix.

Bare Coconut Chips – These were a big hit. The crunchy texture with a subtle sweet, not too coconut, flavor was something everyone wanted more of. I feel the sweetness made them more of a dessert than a snack, but others were happy with the idea of the chips as a snack.

Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites – I felt these were too heavy on the pistachio flavor and too sweet, but others really liked it. Two friends noted the bar is very sticky and could not be eaten on the go. Several noted the cranberry was a nice touch to the overall flavor.

California Pistachios – These tasted like pistachios. Nothing special to them except in a 100 calorie serving. One friend was surprised how many pistachios made 100 calories.

Sea’s Gift Roasted Seaweed Snack – Several friends would not try this. I usually enjoy dried seaweed snacks, but found this one not as crisp as I like and very salty. Hubby really enjoyed it and ate the entire thing when no one else would.

2015-01-29 18.44.44

The next course was foods that needed some preparation.

2015-01-29 18.26.51 2015-01-29 18.29.54

Made In Nature – These come in ready to heat packages intended as side dishes to larger meals. The packaging even offers pairing options. We got to try two different ones.

Moroccan Bazaar was determined to be bland. The name got everyone excited for a more flavorful side dish and then let us down. One friend felt the calorie content was especially high for a side dish. I liked the grains the dish utilized and could see it easily used as a base for a really spicy seitan.

Cuban Mojo was voted more flavorful and less obvious as “healthy.” But, the flavor was still considered mild.

2015-01-29 18.28.37

La Pasta Vegan Cheese Ravioli – La Pasta shipped these overnight for our tasting and we were thrilled. The raviolis were a big winner of the evening. One friend said, “my kids would eat these!” Everyone wanted to know where to buy these and get more. The texture was perfect and the filling mild. Notes left by friends included the different sauces they wanted to have with the raviolis, like pesto or garlic and olive oil. I felt these were much better than the vegan raviolis I have had access too thus far and that the cheesy flavor reminded me of some of the earlier vegan cheese flavors, but would be difficult to determine as soon as a sauce was added. We all definitely want these in Omaha!

2015-01-29 18.22.05

The Chia Company Blueberry and Lemon Oats – This is an instant oatmeal with chia. Certainly the healthiest instant oatmeal I have ever tried. The lemon was strong and the chia absolutely changed the oatmeal texture. One friend compared the texture to cream of wheat another said it was gummy and gelatinous. She also wrote, “the lemon and blueberry combo is great up front, but the flavor dies into a bland oatmeal taste.” I would agree, but others really liked the flavor and texture.

The penultimate course was desserts eaten at room temperature.

2015-01-29 19.10.35 2015-01-29 19.14.06  2015-01-29 19.27.45

Divvies – We got to try two different chocolate bars and a brownie, all of which were big hits.

Benjamint Crunch is definitely minty with a nice crunch. It was a big winner in the chocolate category. People liked how it melted in the mouth.

Crispy Rice Crunch was also enjoyed, but one person felt a bit chalky.

Chocolate Brownie was tasty, if not quite what I expected from a brownie. One friend wrote, “it doesn’t taste packaged.” Another wrote, “I would eat it for breakfast.”

2015-01-29 19.15.53

Two Moms in the Raw Cayenne Cacao Truffle – One friend felt this was perfect for a snack attack. One friend felt this was more Lara Bar than truffle because she expects truffles to melt in her mouth. Another friend loved the simple ingredient list. I described it as a nutty, chewy, mound and I liked the flavor.

2015-01-29 19.21.18

Taza Chocolate – I reviewed Taza once in the past and did not like it. At the show I asked if the chocolate has an expiration date and we talked about how Taza is a stone ground chocolate. So it delivers a different texture experience that could be described as gritty. On top of that, the chocolate I tried they no longer make because it could not deliver on the flavor they wanted. Due to the poor review, they asked me to try their chocolates again and offered three flavors. I shared this story with my friends to prepare them for the different experience. They loved the chocolate for the flavor and unique texture. Knowing the texture would be different helped overall enjoyment.

Salted Almond delivered on the salted and friends loved it for that.

Raspberry Nib Crunch has a strong raspberry flavor and was described as rich.

Cinnamon was noted as pairing well with the chocolate. I felt it has a banana flavor.

2015-01-29 19.25.21

Chocolate and Love is a brand that is not yet available in the United States. They would like to be and so would my friends. These chocolates were the winners of the chocolates. Everyone loved the rich texture and flavor. We tried Orange and Filthy Rich. One friend wrote, “it hurts so good.”

The final course was four pints of ice cream from DF Mavens. DF Mavens also shipped the ice cream overnight for our tasting and everyone was in heaven. DF Mavens is not yet available in Omaha and everyone was sad for this fact. Overall, the texture was a wonderful surprise for everyone. Creamy like the ice cream they remember.

2015-01-29 19.50.42

Key Lime Cream made with coconut is a little tart and that complements the coconut base nicely. “Fresh and light” was noted by one friend and another loved that the graham cracker crust is in the ice cream.

Peanut Butter Fudge Mash made with soy has a taste of actual peanuts. Friends wanted more fudge in the mix, but really liked the subtle flavors.

Mint Almond Cookie was my personal favorite. The mint is strong and the chocolate pieces are soft and chewy. Two other friends voted this their favorite too.

Del Lago Chocolate made with coconut has a very subtle coconut flavor and instead is just a creamy chocolate that everyone loved. “Best chocolate ice cream ever” was noted by one friend.

We had such a fun night trying everything. I am incredibly grateful to all the representatives that went out of their way to help us try new things: DF Mavens, La Pasta, Made in Nature, Two Moms in the Raw, Taza Chocolate, Divvies, and Chocolate and Love. I still have several foods to try and will be scheduling a second tasting soon. Keep your eyes open for more group inspired reviews.

Thanksgiving

file-936

It’s Thanksgiving again and I feel compelled to share my thoughts related to being vegan in this time of year. My family is not the most functional, but no one has the perfect family. They try to connect on major holidays and the photo is of me cutting up fresh baked soda bread for Thanksgiving many years ago. I love to cook and I love my family. When I lived closer to them, I would invite everyone over to share the day with me. They knew they would be eating vegan and I am certain some would have loved a giant turkey, but the ones that came were always happy to share the day.

I can’t go to a traditional Thanksgiving meal anymore. Because my veganism began due to intolerances and years of begin sick, all I remember is being sick. In fact, turkey was one of my bigger sickness triggers. Even smelling it today makes me nauseous and want to run screaming from the building. I try to be respectful of other peoples choices so they will be tolerant of mine. It doesn’t always work out this way, but I try. The end result is finding ways to enjoy the holiday that don’t make me sick. Now that I live far from my family again, I just don’t travel during this busy weekend.

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the love of food and family for me. My very best friends are my family too and I will be spending the day with some of them. We will have a big vegan brunch and stuff ourselves silly. On Sunday, Modern Love, our new local vegan restaurant, is having a brunch event for Vegan Omaha, our local vegan social group. I will be there too. The rest of the weekend will be filled with decorating my home and improv comedy. I can’t think of a better way to fill four days.

I hope you can find the happy vegan space this weekend that is also full of love.

Cold Quinoa Salad

2014-08-19 20.17.45

 

An upcoming potluck after work required me to think ahead on what to take that would be easy to make and transport. Looking around my pantry and fridge, I came up with a cold quinoa salad that was a big hit. What you will need:

1 cup uncooked red quinoa

2 bell peppers of different colors, I used red and yellow, diced

10 oz sweet corn

1 can artichoke hearts, sliced thin

3 green onions, sliced into small circles

1 TBS walnut oil

2 TBS rice wine vinegar

1 tsp liquid aminos

1/2 tsp black pepper

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well combined. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Yummers!