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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dr. Feel-Good-Neal Barnard


Sunday night I met one of my vegan crushes: the studly and knowledgeable Dr. Neal Barnard, that fella behind The 21-Day Vegan Kickstart and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (And Sexy Veganism). I made sure to don my Sunday Best for my visit with the doctor.

Dr. Barnard was speaking at USF about the benefits of plant-based nutrition, specifically its ability to potentially reverse diabetes. There was a pretty decent turn out, as well as some snackage from Whole Foods.




Soon it was time for Dr. Feel-Good-Neal to take the stage. Let me just say, that there are few finer things than a knowledgeable, educated, and attractive vegan man in a suit.

Dr. Barnard started out with sharing some of his past work and studies he's done with diabetics on a plant-based diet. He talked about the results of some of the participants in his studies, who not only lost weight and went off of their medications, but cured other ails increased their energy, and were just happier people in the end.


He also touched on food addictions, the government's involvement in food marketing and advertising, and how to begin a healthful diet. The only part of that last segment that I didn't like was his encouragement to use mock meats, which are overly processed and full of sodium and shouldn't be the focus of a plate or diet. However, he later explained that mock meats are great as "transition foods," which may be true, but I still felt like he put too much emphasis on them as part of a daily diet.

And of course, he mentioned the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart program, which starts again in April. After hearing and reading a lot of mixed feedback on it in January, I'm curious to find out how the program will have changed, if at all, for this next session.


It seemed like just about everyone in the audience took something away from Dr. Barnard's talk. There were plenty of vegans and vegetarians in attendance, but also a lot of on-the-fencers and people who are driven more by science and research, rather than just that "hippie" feeling of compassion toward animals. Dr. Barnard definitely had everyone's attention and I wouldn't be surprised if several people in the audience that night turn vegan in the very near future. Also, I think he got some long-time vegetarians and vegans to really think about their diet and maybe improve upon it in some areas.

And then dessert was served! (All vegan, of course.)




And then I was sucked in to dessert and conversation with nice people and gushing about how stinkin' cute Dr. Barnard is, that I almost didn't get a chance to meet him! By the time I tracked him down, he already had his briefcase and was saying his goodbyes. I politely asked for a quick picture and wanted to comment on some things afterward, but several other people came up and I was lost in the shuffle.


Oh well. I liked his talk, and I was excited about the reaction of other people from his talk, too, and at least I snapped one (kind of lousy) picture of him. And there was dessert.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Linky-Dinks

It's a gorgeous day in southwest Florida, folks, and I'm having a lovely day. Interneting outdoors, sipping iced green tea out of a Tervis Tumbler (the official beverage holder of Florida), jamming along with Pandora, wearing a skirt and bare feet... Life is good.

Because the weather is so perfect, I'm going to do a cheater post and share a couple of videos and links with you so I can get back to drinking in this day. Some of you that follow on Facebook may have already caught this one about receiving compensation for not just lost luggage, but "delayed" luggage as well. This is a great tip for travelers.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



I watched this ad this morning and appreciated its honesty. Hopefully it will get people to think more about what they're putting into their mouths and bodies. What do you think about it?


A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my first visit to the Kalamazoo Olive Company in St. Petersburg. I was disappointed to read via their Facebook that they were robbed last weekend! Feel free to send them some kind words.

I was amused when I read today that SunChips are releasing a new "quieter" compostable bag. The original noisy bags didn't bother me at all; in fact, I thought they were kind of funny and perhaps even endearing. (I also don't eat SunChips, so the noisy bag affected my life even less. I just heard and read about other peoples' complaints.) Plus, who cares how noisy a bag is, when it's clearly better for the environment? I was annoyed that SunChips actually stopped making those bags because of "noise complaints" (seriously, people?), but I'm happy that they're bringing them back, a little more quietly. (I hope all those whiners are happy now!)

Before I wrap this up and embrace the day, I want to remind you of my CSN gift code giveaway, happening right now, right HERE. Go forth and enter and cross your fingers.

Have a beautiful weekend, everyone. Do something new and awesome and spread some kindness while you're at it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Give(it)away now!

The fine folks at CSN Stores have generously offered to host another giveaway to one of my lucky and lovely readers! This giveaway is for a gift code worth $35, which you can use toward anything -- kitchen gadgets, bedding, office doo-dads, even swingsets!

How to Enter
* Comment with what item you would use the $35 gift code toward off the CSN site

Additional entries
* follow Hungry Vegan Traveler with Google Connect
* "like" Hungry Vegan Traveler on Facebook
* "like" the Facebook update with this blog/giveaway link
* spread the word about this giveaway via your blog and/or facebook

Make sure to leave a separate comment for each thing you do (or are already doing). The winner will be randomly chosen using Random.org on Monday, February 28th.

Please note: This giveaway is only available to participants in the USA or Canada.

So enter now so we can GIVE IT AWAY, GIVE IT AWAY, GIVE IT AWAY, GIVE IT AWAY NOW! (Well, not "now," but on Monday the 28th.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Recent Eats

It's been awhile since I've done a recent eats post, and it's honestly because I've been too busy to cook and there just wasn't much to share. I'm only somewhat ashamed to admit that for many days in the last few weeks, I would just eat Larabars or mixed nuts throughout the day. But whatever -- I'm an imperfect person and Larabars are awesome.

Speaking of Larabar, they sent me some of their new Blueberry Muffin bars to sample. They sent them to my old Missouri address, so it took a little while to get to me. They are seriously delicious, though. Definitely in my top 5 Larabar flavors now.




Another Larabar flavor that could very easily rank as #1 for me is the peanut butter chocolate chip.

A bit too decadent for breakfast (most days), but the PERFECT dessert.


Those of you who are fans on Facebook may recall a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned cooking up some tri-colored quinoa. I was pretty excited: I had had white and red quinoa before, but never black, and never all three at once. I cooked it up with unsalted vegetable broth (my favorite way to cook grains) and it was delicious!

I whipped together a quick meal to go with the quinoa, adding in roasted broccoli and peppers and baked Gardein chik'n strips (I typically shy away from mock meats, but I had a coupon for a Gardein product, and these are actually pretty good!).


I was also on a Van's "Free" waffle kick for awhile (wheat- and gluten-free). At first, I ate them with Whole Soy yogurt and real maple syrup (seriously, if you're still using the crap with high fructose corn syrup, you're missing out).

The "flax" variety is quite crumbly.

See what I mean?


Last week I had a phenomenal salad at the Mellow Mushroom. (Unfortunately, their gluten-free crust isn't vegan, so no pizza for me.) This was their smaller-sized portion of the field salad, and I added their TOTALLY AWESOME TEMPEH and roasted red peppers.


A little more recently, I made something along the lines of the Polenta Stuffing from Appetite for Reduction by my vegan hero, Isa Moskowitz. I made some substitutions here and there (carrots instead of celery, used sun-dried tomato polenta, added kidney beans, served it with brown rice cous cous), and it was quite successful. I freakin' loved it.


And that's pretty much it. Pitiful, eh? And I still have a stack of cookbooks from the library, and I flip through them, usually at bedtime so I can fall asleep with visions of vegan sugarplums and other deliciousness dancing in my head, but I have yet to knuckle down and get my cook on. *sigh* One of these days.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Trang Double Feature

The first time I visited Trang Viet Cuisine was while I was visiting in Tampa a year ago, following a tip from someone online that they had an impressive vegan menu. They sure did! Four pages of vegan options definitely qualifies as "impressive," in my book. Since becoming a Florida resident again, it still took me a few months to make it out there again.

Following the Colleen Patrick-Goudreau speaking event was Trang's monthly vegan buffet. I had heard so much about this since moving back to the area, but this was my first time partaking. The monthly buffet draws a large crowd of hungry people. Look -- I even spotted a vegan roller derby girl!


As far as buffets go, I can't say I was over the moon about the selection at Trang. I'm just not crazy about buffets. I'd say half of what I put on my plate was good.

The summer roll was good, the stuffed pepper was mostly okay (the squishy texture took me by surprise), the stir-fry was decent (though a bit too bland), and I didn't care for the shredded salad at all. The best part of all the offerings was the coconut soup.

Chunks of sweet potato, white potato, carrot, pumpkin, string beans, and peanuts in a creamy coconut-veggie broth. Next time I think I'll skip the buffet and just order a bowl of this.

I ended up returning to Trang on Valentine's Day to dine with a group of single ladies. This time I had the menu in front of me, all four pink pages of vegan offerings staring back at me. It's kind of a shock to the system to be faced with so many options in a restaurant for a change! I knew for sure that I needed more of that soup.


I decided to go with something different for my meal and, after much debating, went with the vegan Happy Pancake. With a name like that, how could I say no?



One girl at the table accurately said it when, upon tasting it, declared, "Wow, that is surprisingly flavorless." The sparsely-spiced rice flour pancake was stuffed with tofu and bean sprouts, but mostly it just tasted greasy. The Happy Pancake is a process -- it comes with a little plate of lettuce leaves and herbs. Chunks of the pancake go into a lettuce leaf with some herbs, and then dipped into a sauce, which comes on the side, if so desired. The dipping sauce didn't lend much flavor, either.

Meh.

I didn't completely give up hope, though. Since the prices at Trang are beyond reasonable, I grabbed a slice of vegan chocolate and rum cheesecake to go.

This was not a disappointment. It was creamy, not overly-chocolatey (not a "Death by Chocolate" situation), and it had just a hint of fruitiness/floweriness (perhaps from the rum?). Either way, this was pretty good.

So at this point, my recommendations at Trang are the summer rolls, the southern coconut soup, and the cheesecake. With four pages of vegan options, I intend to return and do some more exploring around their vegan menu and, of course, report back with my findings.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Meeting the Queen of Compassion

When I heard that Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was coming to Tampa, I thought, Oh, cool. I have one of her books. Even though I followed her on Facebook, I honestly never really thought of her as much more than a vegan cookbook author.

I just had no idea.

A sizable crowd gathered to hear her speak, and again, I just thought, Wow -- a lot of Tampa people like her cookbooks! When she arrived, I thought, Holy cow -- she's even prettier in person! And then she spoke, and I listened, and I thought lots of things.


Let me start out by saying that this woman honestly GLOWS, and I feel quite certain that it's the result of much more than a vegan diet and her California sunshine. It's her unending compassion for veganism and animals and life in general. She spoke with such love and knowledge and passion for all of those subjects, and she was so eloquent and articulate that you couldn't help but feel like you yourself were glowing a little bit, just from listening.

Colleen spoke about vegan cooking a bit, but mostly talked about activism, promoting change, and speaking to non-vegans about being vegan (which tends to be a touchy subject, for whatever reason). She said some beautiful things about veganism also being a human rights issue, which I honestly hadn't given a whole lot of thought in the past, and she made some amazing points about a cycle of violence with animals flowing into a cycle of violence with humans. When she touched on the traumatizing effects that slaughterhouse workers feel, and how that trauma bleeds into other areas of those peoples' lives, I honestly choked up ever so slightly because I just never made that connection. After all of these years of being veg*n (starting in 1995 for me), Colleen gave me more reasons to not only BE vegan, but to be PROUD of being vegan. And for that, I say a heartfelt thank you to Colleen.

Photobucket

Colleen singing my copy of The Joy of Vegan Baking

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Touch of Romance

Okay, I'll bite and make a little Valentine's Day post. It just so happens that I'm a TOTAL sap, and I would love to post sappy crap like this all the time, but it's irrelevant to the ultimate message of this blog, so today I'm going to use Valentine's Day as my excuse. And I also won't get extra-sappy, because I don't think most of you can handle it.

For starters, let's get some silliness out of the way. I haven't kept up with Saturday Night Live since I was 14 or 15 years old, but I LOVE this Stefon character they have lately. Thank Hulu, I can catch his clips. This might be the best Stefon appearance yet.


This is my first Valentine's Day as a single lady in several years. (And I refuse to post the "Single Ladies" video.) My heroine, Liz Lemon, words it best.


I'm not bitter, though, I swear. I'm actually and honestly quite content with mostly ignoring Valentine's Day this year. (I say mostly because, look at me, I'm addressing the "holiday" right here!)

Now I shall share what is (arguably) the best love song in the history of love songs.


And that infamous scene (well, one of them) from one of my favorite movies of all time.


So there. I got some lovey-dovey crap out of the way. But honestly, whether you're tied to someone today or not, remember that Valentine's Day should really just be a reminder of expressing your love of others, which is something we should be doing much more often than once a day. Tell your significant other you love them, tell your friends you love them, remind your family members how much you love them, too. It's often difficult to express love and gratitude and appreciation, I know, but there are many creative ways to do it.

And since I'm yammering about love and appreciation, I'm just going to take this opportunity to thank YOU, my darling readers, for reading and appreciating and supporting and sharing my blog. I've made a couple of lovely friends through this blog, I love knowing that I have an audience, and I love learning from all of you bloggers and readers. You're awesome and if it weren't for all of you, I probably would have lost interest in this blog a long time ago. So thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kalamazoo Olive Company


While trying to escape the rain while schlepping about downtown St. Petersburg the other day, an acquaintance and I ducked into the Kalamazoo Olive Company, not realizing how absolutely awesome it would be.

When we walked in, a man greeted us heartily and asked what brought us in. The rain! He gave a little background on the store and said we had walked into their olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting room.

Um, come again?!

Small stainless steel barrels are located throughout the cozy store, holding amazing and delicious varieties of balsamic vinegars and olive oils. I was familiar with flavored and infused olive oils, but had no idea there could be so many kinds of balsamic vinegar!





I had a field day tasting all the different balsamics and a few olive oils. The walnut, black truffle, and blood orange oils stuck out the most for me. They would make such fantastic salad dressings! I don't know where to begin with the balsamic vinegars. They were all amazing! Especially the sweeter ones, which were suggested they be paired with fruit/desserts, which sounds amazing and classy.

The two staff members working that day were very knowledgeable and friendly. One employee custom mixed a sample of some cinnamon-fig-something-or-other balsamic-and-oil mixture, and it was awesome!

Don't live near Tampa Bay? That's okay -- you can order from their website and they'll ship the deliciousness right to you! But sampling is a huge part of the fun, so if you're in or around St. Petersburg, make sure you duck in for a tasting! Kalamazoo Olive Company is also on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Village Health Market

Between belly dance and Burlesque* last week, I stumbled upon the Village Health Market in downtown Tampa and instantly fell in love with its cuteness. (Don't let their poor choice of signage font mislead you!)


As soon as I walked in the door, I walked right into their large marked-down section, which had a little bit of everything: food, beverages, hygiene items, baby products, cleaning items, etc. I appreciate a good deal, and I especially appreciate that this place didn't make me hunt them down.

Village Health Market is bigger than I assumed it was judging by its outside appearance. The further I walked into the store, the more labyrinthine it became. I kept hoping I'd round a corner and bump into David Bowie in those infamous snug pants, but luck was not on my side this time. (Click that link at your own risk!)

Village Health Market has a cute little cafe toward the back of the store. The man behind the counter felt uncertain about whether it was allowed for me to take pictures of the cases, so I only have a picture of my own plate to share with you. Everything that was vegan was clearly labeled, and there was actually an entire vegan case (though I'm not sure if that's always the case - ha! case! - but it was on this night). There were a couple of vegan cookies and muffins, loads of veg*n dishes, and a smoothie/juice bar, as well.

After lingering over all of the options for awhile, I went with the roasted veggies and the sweet potato moussaka.

The food was delicious and flavorful, even though it was chilled. (There was a microwave in the sitting area, but I'm kind of anti-microwave and opted out of that option.)


Every layer of that sweet potato moussaka was delicious, especially the sundried tomato layer. The roasted veggies were perfectly crisp and spiced, just how I like it.

I look forward to taking advantage of Village Health Market again the next time I'm in the downtown area.

* FYI - I thought Burlesque would be one of those so-bad-it's-good movies (like Showgirls, for instance), but it's just straight-up bad.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meeting Moe's & My First Dose of the Derby Darlins

I had a pretty rockin' Saturday! I spent my morning volunteering, then met with a new friend to hike around Lettuce Lake Park. By the time we got there, it was raining, so instead of "hiking," we just did laps around the boardwalk, which takes us around the "lake"/swamp. (This is Florida, after all.) Because of the rain, I don't have any pictures from the park, but I plan on returning. It's a pretty neat place! We spotted baby alligators, egrets, ibises, and pugs!

Boardwalkin' worked up an appetite and we went to Moe's Southwest Grill, which is a Chipotle-esque chain that I have spotted around the city, but never tried their food until that afternoon. I knew they were vegan-friendly, though.

I have to say: Moe's trumps Chipotle! They have better, fresher ingredients, and going by my bowl, they aren't as onion-heavy as Chipotle, which I appreciate.

I'm now realizing that these pictures aren't very wow-inducing, and I apologize for that. The ingredient highlights for me: spiced rice, black beans, fresh cilantro, grilled mushrooms (HECK YES!), and, of course, the grilled tofu.

Good stuff. Me gusta Moe's.

A little later that day, I got my first taste of Tampa roller derby -- The Tampa Bay Derby Darlins! They were playing against the Sarasota Roller Girls, so I felt a little torn, because as some of you may know, Sarasota has a place in my heart, too. I decided to go in neutral.

My best roller derby watching experience was in Kansas City. I was (and still am) very impressed with the Kansas City Roller Warriors. They put on an amazing show (especially compared to my very first roller derby bout, which was in Iowa).

Anyway, we're not in Kansas (City) anymore, so let's focus back on Florida.

The Derby Darlins aren't as big as the Roller Warriors, but they're still tough and put on a great bout. To be fair, the Sarasota Roller Girls are tough, too. I was impressed with the strength and power behind all of these badass women. (That's what I love about roller derby. That fierce woman power!)

Two gals left on stretchers that night, if that gives you an idea of how tough these derby-ers are. (And it was that that made my friend point out a wise observation: one should not join the roller derby unless they have good health insurance.) So yeah, I won't be trying out anytime soon!


But honestly, even if I had the Cadillac of health insurance, I probably wouldn't try out for roller derby. I can only dream of being the kind of gal who is tough (and coordinated) enough to do something like that. Plus, my biggest fear with roller derby would be knocking my teeth out. Teeth don't grow back, folks!

I also wish I was the tough kind of person to be a truck driver, but that's a different story.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Me Gusta Taco Bus

Maybe it's my love of public transportation, but food just tastes better coming out of a large multi-passenger vehicle. My first piece of evidence: Taco Bus.


Despite hearing and reading about Taco Bus when I first got to Tampa, I didn't visit them until a couple of weeks ago. I was pleased to find a decent crowd gathered around the bus's window on a week night. That's always a good sign.

Taco Bus has a small vegetarian menu and accommodates vegan diets, as well.


Since this was my first visit, I figured I'd start simple and go with the tofu fajitas. When I shouted my order up to the bus window (I'm short), the man said, "Tofu burrito?"
Me: "Tofu fajitas."
Man: "Tofu burrito."
Me: "Tofu fajitas?" and pointed at its listing on the menu.
Man: (incomprehensible explanation of something)... "Tofu burrito."
Me: "Yeah, burrito. Okay."

They do have a warning message painted near the window for such reasons.


It was a lovely, breezy evening and I sat in the outdoor eating area in front of the bus. Another option is eating in the small restaurant, built next to the bus. But honestly, if you had a choice of receiving a taco from a building or a school bus, which would you choose?!

Alright, let's cut to the burrito chase here.


Perfectly grilled tofu, too many onions (I'm an onion-hater, for the most part), classic pico de gallo, and crisp shredded cabbage with just enough cilantro to please my taste buds (I love cilantro!). I added some green salsa for extra sauciness (we are what we eat, after all) and thought the burrito could have been greatly improved with some avocado and grilled red pepper.

Still, how could I complain? I had a big vegan burrito that was given to me out of a BUS. (I love novelties, don't you?)

And if you feel weird about eating food prepared and served out of a bus, don't think for a moment that cleanliness is not of utmost importance here.

Cleanliness next to godliness... godliness next to burritos... that's how the saying goes, right?

Anyway, I think Taco Bus is awesome and adorable and I look forward to returning, especially on the weekends, for the following reason (and I don't mean the stomach soup).


PS. Taco Bus is open 24/7! Another thing to love about this bus!