Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween & Goodbye MoFo

Happy Halloween everyone! Halloween is definitely one of my favorite holidays. I love dressing up, I love Fall weather (if we ever get any in CA), I love the creepy factor and most of all I love all the pumpkin recipes that pop up around this time of year.

Sadly today marks the last day of Vegan MoFo, but I've had so much fun participating this year and discovering tons of new blogs to follow!

Yesterday I decided to bake some pumpkin muffins on a whim. I used Isa Chandra's recipe for The Best Pumpkin Muffins from ThePPK. The only thing I did different was add 3/4 cup of vegan chocolate chips. I'm not usually the best baker in the world but these turned out perfect! So pumpkiny and delicious!

This year for Halloween I had my awesome friend Mara from Indiscretion make me a Daenarys costume from Game of Thrones. What are your costumes??

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vegan in Italy

Back in late April/early May my mom and I traveled to Italy to visit my brother and sister-in-law who live in Bologna. It has taken me way too long to post about this but better late than never :)

Mom and I on the plane ready for our adventure!
My vegan food experience started with the airplane meal. I requested a "western vegetarian" meal which is as close to vegan as it gets. It was decent. Steamed veggies, squash ravioli, fruit and salad.

Mmmm, airplane food.
This was my first real traveling experience as a vegan and I was very worried that I wouldn't be able to find much to eat in Italy.  I packed a lot of Clif bars, nuts and trail mix just in case. Luckily my brother & sister-in-law have some vegan friends so they knew of a few places and they love to cook which made things fairly easy. They were also very sweet to stock up on some vegan products in the freezer & fridge.

Our gracious hosts for the week.
Bologna is BEAUTIFUL, so colorful and filled with history. This is the view from the apartment.

Via Saragozza
I don't remember the exact order of meals anymore but I ate a lot of really good food. Fra (SIL), made some really delicious pastas. The first was a bean pasta with penne. I admit the thought of beans and pasta together seemed strange to me at first, but it was SO good. I'm not sure I can recreate this at home and have it taste as good because Italians seem to be magical in the kitchen :) She also made a broccoli pasta that was just as delicious.

Pinto bean pasta.
Broccoli pasta
I ate A LOT of pizza. There was a place downstairs from their apartment called Pizzeria Lo Squero that we ordered take out from a couple nights. I got cheeseless veggie versions and the sauce and crust were so amazing I didn't miss the cheese at all.

With pizza this pretty, who needs cheese??
One night we ventured over to a yoga center, Centro Natura, in Bologna where they have a vegan/vegetarian buffet. We got there close to closing time so I think the selection wasn't as good as it normally is, but I had a huge plate of yummy vegan food including: breaded seitan, mixed veggies and a tofu concoction.

One of the best days in Italy is when we drove to the coast for a family gathering and Fra's dad made an amazing meal, including a vegan risotto for me. Even though there was a huge language barrier it was so much fun to meet everyone and share delicious food and wine!

Homemade risotto
The family :)
While waiting for everyone to arrive we took a short walk to the sea where we enjoyed a glass of prosecco and a gorgeous view of the Adriatic.

During the week we took a day trip to Venice and I was able to get pasta marinara for lunch at Ristorante Pedrocchi. The waiters were very sweet and the pasta was amazing. Again, it was just noodles and sauce, but it was magically delicious.

Venice is breathtaking, it almost doesn't seem real.

Ponte di Rialto

I was lucky enough to find some dairy free sorbetto in Venice as well at Il Pinguino. I got a mix of lemon and raspberry and it was AMAZING. 

Amongst all the delicious food Italy had to offer there was lots and lots (and lots) of wine to be had. 

Awesome (the dog) was allowed everywhere, so cool!

Italians are very friendly :)

Mimosa with fresh squeezed OJ!

Mom had had enough wine at this point :)
Fra happens to be a piercer and tattoo artist, and since this trip was close on the heals of my one year vegan anniversary she gave me this awesome tattoo to celebrate.

All in all I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to eat, and eat well, as a vegan in Italy. I cannot wait to go back to visit and explore more cities this beautiful country has to offer. 

I do highly recommend packing lots of snacks though, they were certainly needed during long periods between meals. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Who Dat Vegan? repost from Veganville

I love GiGi from Veganville! She has a great blog and an Etsy shop where she sells amazing baked goods! I ordered her JoJo cupcakes for my husband's birthday and they were some of the best vegan cupcakes I've ever had!

GiGi was nice enough to interview me for her series Who Dat Vegan? and here is a repost of the inteview!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hugo's Tacos

Hugo's Tacos is a taco stand in Studio City that is part of a bigger L.A. group of restaurants that are extremely vegan friendly. The husband and I often go to the Hugo's in West Hollywood for their great vegan breakfasts, but I heard that the taco stand had vegan soft serve, so I had to go.

All the Hugo restaurants have great menus and items are clearly marked if they are vegan or can be veganized. The taco stand menu is fairly simple offering tacos, burritos, nachos, etc. The husband and I opted for soy chorizo taquitos, mixed vegetable tacos, chips & guac.

The tacos were really good, mainly because they had potatoes in them (YUM!). The taquitos were pretty amazing too, crispy and spicy, just what I like! Even though I was pretty stuffed I could not pass up the ice cream and it was so worth it. Just thinking about it right now, I may need to make a trip to Studio City soon!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vegan Interrogated: Geoff

Name: Geoff (a.k.a. the husband)
Location: Los Angeles
A little about yourself:
Geoff is a semiconductor sales guy by day and an aspiring photographer by night. It's kind of like a super power. He enjoys short walks on the beach and talking in the voice from movie previews. Follow him on Twitter @gsouder or his photographer fan page

What made you decide to go vegan?
There were a few things that happened all at the same time that led me to the vegan bug.

First, I would try to control the quality of my food by limiting trips to Burger King and In n Out but it would never last very long. I weighed too much and I felt generally bad all the time.

Second, my wife went vegan and showed me that I wouldn't have to live off of grass clippings and mud. The places we ate and the food she cooked was really good! Her strength was a huge inspiration to me.

Third, I watched a movie called Forks Over Knives. There was a lot of compelling information in that movie and I took it all in. The thing that stuck with me was an off the cuff remark in the movie. They said that we could feed every mouth in the world with the food that we give to livestock. It stuck with me.

Finally, I love my dogs. How can I continue to let an animal so similar to my dogs get slaughtered so I could eat it? All of these things combined in my head and made the decision easy. I went cold turkey and I've never intentionally slipped (there was a butter-in-bread situation before I had the the guts to speak up at restaurants with work people).

Favorite meal to make:
My favorite meal to make is when I make my way to my car and drive to Mohawk Bend.

Favorite restaurant & why
Um.. Mohawk Bend. It's a cool place, with great vegan food with great service and the occasional celebrity to spice up the night.
Who/what inspires you?
I know this might come off as cheesy, but my wife really inspires me. She has been a great influence and supporter of my veganism without being pushy or aggressive. Also, Jay Z. He's not vegan, but he does inspire me to be better at life.

Dumbest question someone asked you about being vegan:
More of a statement, at a restaurant: "Oh, you're VEGAN? I think the only thing we have on the menu that you can eat is the Sashimi". I also think it's really interesting that everyone becomes a protein expert once you tell them you are vegan.
Favorite organization/cause & why:
I love the Gentle Barn. I want to say it's for altruistic reasons but really I just love hugging cows.

What was the reaction from your friends/family?
Some were cool, others quiet. I'm sure there was some discussion with me not around. One person told me it was gross that I don't eat eggs or cheese. I think that's very strange... NOT eating unfertilized chicken babies is gross? I don't get it.

Do you find going out/social situations difficult?
I did at first, but then I decided that I don't care what people think. Work is a little tougher because I end up in places like steak houses and sushi bars - I have to, it's part of my job. In situations like this a salad and a cliff bar get me through to when I can get something better for me.

What changes have you noticed in yourself since going vegan?
I lost about 15 pounds over the first 3 months or so and I have a lot more consistent energy. Also, I had long term- erm- stomach issues that have been significantly reduced. Also also, I'm a little more awesome.

What is the biggest misconception people have about you being vegan?
That I don't eat "real food" or that I am unhealthy because I'm not getting my protein.

Do you have any advice for people toying with the idea of becoming a vegan?
Try it for a month. What's to lose? Just have a plan put together so you don't end up chewing on lettuce and celery while starving for a month. Know where you are going to go and what you are going to cook. Also, keep in mind that your body is used to dense foods like meat and you might find that you are unsatisfied with with how full you feel after a meal. You might get hungry between meals. Just eat dense food snacks: nuts, clif bar, etc - and this should go away in a week or so. Avoid smelling meat for a while.

Do you think a vegan diet could be universally adopted?
Yeah, it could, but it won't. People seem really determined to keep their diets the way they are. The only way things will change is if something major happens - mad cow spreads, extinction of farm animals or deep social changes for example. I don't know why this is such a polarizing issue but a lot of people believe they can't survive without meat. The truth is that they can't really survive all that well WITH meat. Ironic, huh?

Do you think your veganism has an impact on something greater than yourself?
No, I'm just a guy that doesn't eat meat or dairy. I don't expect that to change anything other than myself.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Vegan Taco Cups

I saw a recipe for these great little taco cups on Pinterest and thought they could easily be veganized! These would be awesome for a party or to bring to a pot luck!

What you will need:
1 pkg wonton wrappers
1 pkg meatless crumbles, taco flavor
Muffin pan & non stick spray
Your favorite taco toppings: vegan cheese, chopped onions, salsa, avocado, cilantro, etc.

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat muffin pan with non-stick spray. Press 1 wonton wrapper into each spot forming little cups

2. Heat crumbles in pan (or microwave) until warm and scoop a couple spoonfuls into each cup and sprinkle with vegan cheese.

3. Bake for 8 minutes or until cups start to brown on the edges. Remove from oven, let cool for a minute and then top with whatever toppings you fancy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spicy Garlic Spaghetti

This is a super easy but very flavorful pasta dish that you can whip up on those nights when you don't want to put a lot of effort into dinner. The red pepper adds the perfect little kick and if you can, use a really good olive oil, it makes a world of difference.

What you will need:

7 ounces of spaghetti
2-3 lrg garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp of chili pepper flakes
1/4 - 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp of sea salt
1/2 tsp of ground black pepper

1. Cook spaghetti until it is al dente. Drain & rinse and then return to pot over low heat.

2. Add minced garlic, chili pepper flakes, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and stir continuously until all the ingredients are combined evenly.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vegan Pumpkin Latte: Regular & Chocolate

Nothing says Fall to me like a pumpkin spice latte. Even though it's still in the 90s here in L.A., I am determined to wear sweaters and boots and drink as many pumpkiny coffee drinks as possible. The Starbucks version of this drink is not vegan (BOOO to you Sbux!), but Whole Foods and Peet's both make a pretty decent version. These options are great when you're out and about or in a hurry but I wanted to figure out how to make my own version at home for those lazy Saturday mornings when I'd rather stay in my pajamas.

I looked through recipes online and decided to go with this one from Averie Cooks. It looked good and simple enough for me to tackle. I tweeked her process a bit, and I made one regular cup and one chocolate cup.

Coffee - brewed strong, about 2 cups
1 c almond milk
1/4 heaping cup pumpkin puree
2 tbsp organic sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend, or to taste
1 tsp cinnamon, or to taste
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cocoa powder (for the chocolate version)
Vegan whipped cream, cinnamon & chocolate chips for garnish

1. Brew your coffee. We don't own a regular coffee maker, so I use a French Press. I think it tastes better that way anyway.

2. While your coffee is brewing, combine all other ingredients in a sauce pan. Over low heat, whisk until mixture is smooth. Spices will not disolve completely, so you just have to live with that :)

3. Take out two large mugs and add the cocoa powder to one (or both if you don't want a regular latte). Fill each cup 1/2 - 3/4 with coffee and then top off each with the pumpkin/milk mixture. Stir, stir, stir! *This is the kind of latte that you'll have to stir often, even while drinking, just the way it is!

4. Top with whipped cream. I sprinkled cinnamon on the regular cup and chocolate chips on the chocolate cup.

I really liked how this turned out, even though you do have to keep stirring it otherwise the pumpkin mixture tends to float to the bottom. I look forward to making these more often on the weekends if the weather ever actually cools down!