Friday, July 31, 2015

Vegan Road Trip, Day 1

Greetings from Idaho Falls! We're headed East to spend the summer in New Jersey before we head overseas to Tel Aviv.  Over the past few weeks we've given away most of our belongings; we loaded what we had left into a Ford Expedition and hit the road earlier this week.  We'll be on the road for a week.  Pups has the whole backseat to himself and is a happy camper.

Pups has his stuff and his spot, he's ready to roll.
AP and I road-trip quite a bit, and we always break the Rule Numero Uno of vegan road-tripping: we never pack food.  I mean, we aren't savages, we bring pretzels and a few Lara Bars for snacking, but we don't drag along a cooler with hummus and snack packs and sandwiches.  We scavenge as we go.  Life's to short to eat pb&j for 5 meals straight.

We started our trip with a late-night haul to Carson City, Nevada.  The next morning we woke up bright and early to hit the road.  We stopped in for breakfast at LA Bakery.

Vegan Baklava OMG!
They have two kinds of vegan cookies each day, and their baklava is vegan!  They also have assorted bagels, wraps, salads and smoothies.  They were very sweet and allowed me to sub hummus for cream cheese on my breakfast sandwich.

Hummus, avocado and tomato on a bagel.
We drove for 10 hours today, so lunch was a pit stop in Elko, Nevada.  There is a large Basque population there, so we ended up at a Basque deli, Ogi.  There were many veganizable options, but it was so hot out that I was craving something light.  I had a California veggie wrap with extra veggies in place of the cheese.  It was just what I wanted, light and fresh.  AP picked up the food while Pups and I explored a park nearby; if I'd have been the one ordering I would have gotten a side of their balsamic dressing for dipping.

Craving veggies?  I never would have guessed it.
An aside shout-out to these focaccia bites that we picked up for snacking on the road- a light crunchy texture with a punch of garlicky flavor.

Driving through Idaho, how can you pass up a visit to the potato museum??

Pups doesn't give a crap...
But I'm freaking ecstatic!!!!
We camped out in Twin Falls, Idaho.  Dinner was late, so I picked up Noodles & Company.  Thanks to Cadry's Kitchen for doing vegan reconnaissance for me; I went with the peanut saute while AP got the Japanese pan noodles, both with tofu.

Huge portions, pretty tasty in a pinch.
I've gotta say, Idaho Falls is pretty cute.  There are walking paths along Snake river with some man-made falls and lots of local art.

We stayed at the Shilo Inn, and I won't lie, I panicked when we pulled into the parking lot.  It looked like a dump.  I was pleasantly surprised when we entered our room to find it newly remodeled and spacious.  We were in a pet-friendly room on the first floor, so our back patio opened up into a private yard area with access to the walking trails.  I definitely recommend it for anyone passing through town with a Pup or two in tow!

One handsome Pup!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Acai Bowls - Healthy Vegan Fridays

**Linking up to Healthy Vegan Fridays this week with a fast, easy summer meal!**

Living in California means that I am very up-to-date on the latest hipster health and foodie trends.  I've seen the kabocha squash phase, the chia seed craze, the brief foray into offal and bacon (blech!!), and the kale revival.  San Francisco hipsters love to find a "superfood" from another culture and promptly overhype it, jack up the price and eat it at every meal.

The latest mainstream superfood is the acai berry from Brazil.  This is mostly seen in the form of the acai bowl, which is the newest breakfast craze.  Which is basically a smoothie in a bowl topped with granola, fruit and other goodies.

Me at Samba Rock Cafe in Santa Cruz

Alleged health benefits, according to Samba Rock.

How to eat it! 
From Vitality Bowls in Redwood City

Acai bowls are so simple, but I was intimidated to try making them at home.  That was silly of me- they are so simple and come together in ten minutes!  

The nice part about acai bowls is that, in my opinion, the acai part is optional.  If you can't get your hands on the special berry, substitute blueberries and you're still down to clown.

Basic Acai Bowl (Serves Two)
1/2 cup milk (I use vanilla soy)
1 frozen banana
1 packet frozen acai (or sub 1/3 cup frozen blueberries)
3/4 cup frozen strawberries (or any combo of strawberries plus raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.)

Combine everything in a food processor or high speed blender until smooth. the mixture should be very thick.  Layer with granola (I make my own) and fruit in a bowl, and gobble up!

The brand of frozen acai I use.

Keep it nice and thick like ice cream!

Layer 1: fruit and granola

Layer 2: acai smoothie

Layer 3: toppings! I used granola, bananas, strawberries, blueberries and a dollop of peanut butter.
Here's out breakfast this morning; this recipe makes two regular sized servings, or one small serving and one jumbo serving if you're a pair like us.  You can top it with whatever you like; a dollop of nut butter is a delicious addition.  I actually prefer mine with just peanut butter and bananas, but that looks boring so for this tutorial I added in more fruit to keep it colorful.

His and hers acai bowls.
None for Pups, but I did toss him some fruit while I was chopping, so he was a happy camper.

Ready and waiting in case a rogue banana slice drops on the floor.

These aren't just for breakfast- they are great for any time you want a light meal!  We don't have air conditioning, so these bowls are becoming a quick and easy dinner on days where it's just too hot to cook.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Vegan in Guerneville

It's our last summer in NorCal, possibly forever.  I'm getting in my last bit of exploration before we hit the road.  It' been fun, but it's also a bummer knowing that there is still so much we won't be able to experience.  Even after eight years here, we have not even come close to uncovering all of the beautiful secrets that this state has to offer.

Recently some friends and I were discussing where to go for a girls weekend.  One of us had been to Guerneville in Sonoma County, and suggested it as a nice low-key getaway, so away we went!

As you can see from my sweet Solar Shields, I am ready for adventure.
Sonoma and Napa are full of little towns like Guerneville - one cute block of downtown nestled along the river amongst a smattering of wineries.  Each town has its own flair, and Guerneville was right up my alley.

One thing that makes it stand out is that there is actually a nightlife.  We didn't roll into town for dinner until about 10.30pm on our first night there, and were wondering if anything would be open besides the Safeway- it's not uncommon around here for everything to shut down at 9pm.  Hell, even in San Francisco nearly all the bars close at 2am.  Guerneville, however, was still hopping.  Most places are open til 10 or 11, but will stay open as late as there are customers. We finished dinner at midnight and plenty of places downtown were still going strong.

We ended up eating at a funky place that's an american-style diner during the day, and a Korean place (Dick Blomster's) in the evenings.   The food was amazingly good, seasoned and spiced perfectly, with generous portions at a shockingly fair price.  We shared some fries and chrysanthemum greens as appetizers, then for my main course I had the tempeh and rice cake dish. 

The portion looks small in this bowl, but that's because the bowl was the size of a basketball.
View from our patio- wineries to the right, mountains to the left.  We took it easy on our first morning there and enjoyed some fruit and mimosas while taking in the scenery.

Mimosas are the true breakfast of champions.
In stereotypical girls weekend fashion, we headed out for brunch and ended up at Boon Eat + Drink.  There wasn't anything listed on the menu that looked completely vegan, so I went ahead and checked with the server.  Everyone in Guerneville is familiar with what "vegan" entails, so it was no problem.

We started off with truffle fries and roasted brussels sprouts.  You can't go wrong with either of those.

Nice and garlicky, with plenty of crispy parts!

Truffle fries + homemade ketchup = YUM
I had a hankering for breakfast potatoes, so I ordered them topped with the ratatouille.  This was a simple dish but it was prepared excellently.  I licked my plate clean.  Or rather, wiped it clean with a truffle fry.

Another deceptively large bowl.
 There are a number of small art studios in town, and a good number of the people who love there are artists.  Walking around town you'll notice multiple koi fish paintings on the streets.  

Wonder where they are swimming to?

Bridge over the Russian River

View of the river from the bridge.

After wandering around downtown, we headed to the river for some sun and swimming.  The water was not nearly as cold as ocean water, and the current was light enough that we were able to dive in and splash around at our leisure.

Secret beach.

High five!
On the way home we stopped for ice cream at the Guerneville Bank Club, a renovated bank building that houses ice cream, pie and boutique shops all merged into one.  Nimble & Finn's provides the ice cream, and they always have at lease two vegan flavors on tap.

I love a town that appreciates dogs!  Where's the husky pup, though?

They will let you try every flavor in the store! I liked both flavor options but went with the coconut caramel.

Just looking at this pic makes me hungry again.
For our final dinner in town, we drove down to the town of Jenner.  It's super tiny- no downtown at all, just one really awesome restaurant, River's End.  Again, nothing obviously vegan on the menu, but the server was able to rattle off everything that she could veganize.

FYI- all of their salads can be made vegan.  I'm picturing all three here.

Duck breast salad without the duck!  Wilted spinach, lentils, roasted cherries and almonds

Orzo salad with roasted veggies and pickled fennel.  They veganize this by leaving off the cheese.

Beet salad!  This one has cheese on it but they'll leave it off for vegans.
For my main course, they veganized the vegetable napoleon.  Farro topped with roasted vegetables and tofu, with balsamic glaze on the side.  This was good, but I was already pretty full from the salad.  I'd say that any one of the salads would make a fine main course.  Everything is very fresh, and prepared to let the natural flavors of the veggies shine.

More brussels, obvi.
The next morning, we grabbed coffee and headed back to the real world.  On the way out I noticed a cute smoothie place.  I wish I had been hungry enough to grab a smoothie- maybe next time!

Strawberry signage!

Green smoothie menu!!
If you're looking for a weekend trip, Guerneville is highly recommended for a vegan/pup/LGBTQIA/family friendly vacay.  I wish I had enough time to go back with AP and Pups, but for now we are moving on to other adventures.

That's good advice for us all.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Healthy Vegan Fridays - Zucchini Pita Pockets

As I type this, I'm falling into the first episode of Penny Dreadful and am completely distracted.  It's the night before a long weekend and I most definitely need a break. We are starting the packing process this weekend for the big move and it's overwhelming.  We are totally not "stuff" people and yet our apartment is jam packed with so much crap that needs to be sorted through.  It creeps up on you!

It's going to be hot and stuffy this weekend, so this week I'm submitting to Healthy Vegan Fridays with an easy, light lunch.  It's a shortcut recipe if you purchase the pico de gallo instead of making it from scratch.  Pico de gallo is a meal maker for me, I always have it on have for sandwiches, salads, tacos, etc. and it makes any meal a little more special.

Zucchini Pita Pockets
One medium zucchini
1/4 cup pico di gallo
1/2 tsp dried mint or a handful of torn fresh leaves
salt and pepper to taste
(Optional) 1-2 tablespoons of vegan sour cream, plain yogurt or coconut cream

Grate the zucchini and sautee in a nonstick pan until soft.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and stuff into a pita once warned through.  Then chow down.

So simple, but so tasty.