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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quality Over Quantity

Folks, I tried.

I tried to blog on the daily for Vegan MoFo this year, but I just cannot do it. I know that most of my recent posts have been pretty sucky, and I hate posting BS entries just for the sake of posting. It isn't enjoyable for me, and it certainly isn't enjoyable for you.

I'm not giving up on Vegan MoFo entirely, and I'm DEFINITELY not giving up on blogging, but I am no longer going to post these worthless entries every day, just so I can say, "I did it! I blogged every day!" Quality over quantity, right?

And I just need to be real with myself. I have way too much going on in my life to manage posting juicy, worthwhile posts every single day. Plus, dealing with a lack of internet (that's right -- no interwebs at my current dwelling, which means schlepping my 80-pound laptop to the nearest wifi hot spot, which is sometimes more difficult than it sounds) just adds to the frustration.

So, no more fluff pieces. Just the good stuff. From here on out.



PS. Did you check to see if you won the Tampa Bay VegFest Swag giveaway?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vegan Halloween Resources

Halloween is a-comin'! Here are some resources to make your Trick or Treat less tricky.

Links

VegNews' Official Guide to Vegan Halloween Candy - Airheads, Chick-o-Sticks, Blow Pops, Cracker Jack, Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, and more are easy-to-find candies that happen to be vegan!

One Green Planet also has an extensive list of vegan candy

Veg for Life (part of Farm Sanctuary) has a nice page of Halloween recipes

Have you heard of Reverse Trick-or-Treating to raise awareness of child labor, forced labor, trafficking, poverty, and the environmental damages related to cocoa farms?

Recipes

Chef Chloe's Haunted Halloween Layer Cake sho' es PURDY!

Turn falafel into something a little spookier with Veggie Belly's Halloween Falafel Spiders

You can find heaps of Halloweeny recipes on VegWeb


And who doesn't love a cute and funny vegan cooking video? The chocolate-pumpkin truffles look super-fab!


What are your Halloween plans?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I've Come A Long Way, Baby

I stopped eating all meat in November of 1995. For several years, I never, ever thought I'd go vegan. Back then I thought, What's the harm in cheese? There's no blood or flesh in ice cream. It's harmless! But toward the end of my high school years, I learned about the nastiness that is milk (pus?! WHAT?!) and started phasing out dairy products.

Still, it was 2003-2004 that hosted the bulk of my true transition to a cruelty-free diet. I learned more and more online, not just about the yuck factor of dairy, but also how horrible it was for cows. I hated all of the soy-based alternatives that were on the market back then, but I kept plugging along. Several months had passed where I ate little to no dairy. Then one night I went out for ice cream sundaes with friends. It was the first time I had eaten dairy for a long time, and it didn't take long for me to realize I had made a mistake. I became SO SICK shortly after eating the ice cream that, after a long night of stomach cramps and other unpleasantness, I went vegan. I declared Valentine's Day of 2004 my official start of being vegan, as it was the first V-Day that I didn't eat Hershey's (another weakness of mine).

So there I was: a young, freshly-vegan woman, the only vegan in her family or circle of friends, someone who never spent much time in the kitchen. 2004-2005 was one hell of a learning experience.

I've heard many people say that they lost "so much weight" when they first went vegan. This was true for me, too, but not because I was healthy -- it was because I was hardly eating anything. I knew for sure what I did NOT want to eat, but that left me feeling lost and confused about what was left. Because I was intimidated by cooking, I depended on overpriced, prepackaged food items (Enter: Amy's products) and crap like veggie subs from Quizno's or flavorless pizzas with no cheese from the pizza place near our house (this was long before I realized wheat products didn't sit well with me and was the cause of some other health maladies during that time). I hated most of the food I was eating and hated how many of those foods (wheat) made me feel, so I ate very little. Looking back at pictures of me during that time, I looked incredibly pale and very thin.

I found heaps of information and support in online vegan communities. Right from the beginning, I am thankful for all of the vegan people around the country with whom I connected. We commiserated, we swapped recipes, we referred each other to different websites and books and events. Without that support system online, I probably would not have survived!

And then I ended up moving to a very small town in Missouri, with no health food store in sight, and not even a full-size supermarket the first year I was there. I was forced to overcome my hesitations with cooking, and this is when things started looking up. I figured out how to cook rice, got creative with tofu, and experimented with different ways to prepare vegetables. It was still very basic cooking for a couple of years, but I wasn't scared anymore. As time passed, I fully embraced beans, loved leafy greens, and explored different grains. I read cookbooks like novels, lingering over the photos, marking the recipes I would (eventually, some day) cook. I finally started listening to my body and, through an elimination diet, discovered that wheat products destroy my insides.

I haven't been a size 5 since those early days as a sickly new vegan. While I would love to be that small again, I wouldn't trade in the way I felt back then to the way I feel now. I am NOT a perfect vegan. I do not eat balanced meals that include all colors of the rainbow every single day. I wish I had the time and resources to create beautiful meals each day, but I'm too busy to make edible works of art. I eat pretty well, though, and much better than in the beginning.

I've come a long way, baby.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Links to Click

I'm finally over my cold and ready to blog like a baller, and then I discover that my C: drive is totally and completely full. I've been on a bittersweet mission to sort through almost 5 years' worth of photos on my laptop, deleting many and uploading others online for safekeeping.

In the meantime, please check out these pre-MoFo 2011 entries, either for old times' sake, or because you're new around here.

Gainesville, Florida - Round One (during MoFo 2010)
Gainesville, Florida - Round Two (that's part one, click HERE for part two)

Wild Cow in Nashville, TN (during MoFo 2010)

The reason I created this blog: Food Fa Life in Jamaica

Taking Iowa by storm: Part One // Part Two

And while you're at it, enter my Tampa Bay VegFest Swag Giveaway!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Win Some Tampa Bay VegFest SWAG!!!

Hey folks!

I'm really coming out from under this cold now. HOORAY! Time to make this Vegan MoFo fun again! Let's start with a giveaway.

Since I was volunteering at this weekend's Tampa Bay VegFest, I was pretty distracted by all the critters and people and speakers and activity going on, but I still managed to scoop up a decent bundle of swag for you.


One winner will receive a package of goodies from the Humane Society of the United States (buttons and stickers!), Mercy for Animals (including a DVD of "Farm to Fridge"), Action for Animals (cute stickers and recipes!), postcard prints of art made by the residents of Save the Chimps, coupons from So Delicious, some info from GMO-Free Tampa Bay, and a sticker and pencil made from recycled materials from Hillsborough County Recycling, and more.




How to Enter

* Comment telling me about your favorite vegetarian/vegan festival that you have attended. When and where was it? Did you volunteer at it? What speakers were featured?

Additional Entries
- Follow Hungry Vegan Traveler with Google Connect
- Like Hungry Vegan Traveler on Facebook
- Post about this giveaway on Facebook and link back to the HVT Facebook page

Be sure to leave a comment for each additional entry that you make. If you already follow and/or like, then just leave a comment stating that you already do!

I will randomly select a winner on Thursday, October 20th at 12pm/noon (Eastern Time).

Looking forward to reading about your own vegfest experiences!


THE WINNER HAS BEEN DRAWN! Random.org says comment #2 is the winner: Murdercake! Please email your mailing address to HungryVeganTraveler (at) GMAIL dot COM. The sooner I receive your address, the sooner I can mail your goodies! Thank you, everyone, for participating! And stay tuned for another giveaway after the weekend.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I Survived Tampa Bay VegFest

WHEW!

What a day! The 2nd Annual Tampa Bay VegFest today was huge! The weather was great, the turn-out was fantastic, and all of the vendors were fun and interesting. (My favorite being the Pug Rescue group!) I have a ton of pictures, but I'm too worn out to even upload them yet.

I sat in on Carol Leifer's talk, which was fun and pleasant. I also FINALLY watched Forks Over Knives. FINALLY!

Sadly, the remnants of this past weeks' cold + running around the festival for 10 hours + being in the sun for long stretches of time = me not eating that much, so I don't have much in the Food Reviews department.

But yes, so I'm wiped out, and I don't know if this counts as a Vegan MoFo post or not. Well, to be on the safe side, here's a picture of a salad I ate a couple of weeks ago.

Mixed baby greens, chopped Gardein Chik'n Tenders, smoked almonds, and roasted red pepper dressing.

Oy -- I hope to have more interesting posts soon. This past week has been PITIFUL around here!! Go any requests? I want to make it up to you somehow.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Everyday Gourmet Vegan Bakery

A couple of months ago, the fine folks over at Everyday Gourmet Vegan Bakery sent me a package of new goodies from their bakery. Needless to say, I was very excited to receive it!

The vanilla chai were my favorite. They were soft and kind of snickerdoodly.


The coconut-chocolate chip was pretty good, but very crumbly.

You really can’t go wrong with anything “double-chocolate.” These were soft & rich.


The mint-chocolate drop was a decadent little treat. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate + mint, but this was REALLY good.

One of my co-workers is gluten-free, but not vegan, and whenever she tries gluten-free products that happen to also be vegan, she always brings some in for me to try. (She’s super-sweet.) I was happy to return the favor by bringing in some of these cookies for her to try (and she loved them, too).

Have you ever tried any of Everyday Vegan Gourmet’s cookies? What is your favorite package cookie?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A VeganMoFo Kitchen Sink-Style Entry

I'm still sick, so today's entry is going to be as jumbled as my thoughts and movements this week.

Have you tried these Tempt frozen dessert bars? I've only had the coffee flavor, but it's good! They're SUPER creamy, which I love.
I don't like coffee as a drink, but I make exceptions for certain coffee flavored foods from time to time.
I wish I had some of these right now. This cold has me craving cold, sweet foods. (With my last cold, all I wanted was hummus. HUMMUS ON EVERYTHING!)

When I spotted these dark chocolate peanut butter cups at Laguardia airport earlier this month, I did not hesitate to snatch them up. Chocolate + peanut butter = crazy delicious


I don't feel the need to really describe these, as they are pretty much perfect.


I don't buy into the whole "SOY IS EVIL" argument. I love tofu and many other soy products. However, I'm not married to soy, and I'm always eager to try new things, such as this almond-based yogurt.
I admit, I was also drawn to this product because it kind of sounds like my name. And also because of this...
:)

Let me forewarn you that this food requires a LOT of stirring.

Keeeeeeeeeeep stirring...

There you go!

It looks chunky, but it's actually little almond bits and raspberry chunks. Good stuff!

Well, folks -- this is the best I can do. I promise, more interesting entries are on the way, as I am on the mend. Big stuff is still ahead for this month, so please stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Simon Says, Eat Fudge

Just a few weeks before my best friend's baby was born, I met up with her and her husband in Sarasota (about an hour-ish south of Tampa) for dinner. We started out at Bangkok for some delicious Thai food. I ordered the tofu in brown garlic sauce.

(I was the only vegan at the table, so no other meals were photographed.)

After awhile at Bangkok, we migrated our chit-chat session to Simon's Coffee House. I had heard that this place was vegan-friendly (and even offered raw options), but I never made it over there to check it out in person. We got there just an hour before closing. I ordered the iced matcha green tea

and the amazing, chocolaty and so-very-decadent vegan fudge.
I especially loved this with little nibbles of fresh orange and mint.

Along the left-hand side of their website, you'll see their different menus, which includes a vegan/vegetarian and a raw section. I look forward to returning to Simon's to check out their other vegan options.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Late Night Taco Bus Stop

Earlier this year, I blogged about my visit to Taco Bus, a well-known and much-loved taco establishment in the Tampa Bay area. (Click that link for pictures and my story of barely crossing the language barrier.) This past July, I was helping a friend/former co-worker clean and pack up for her big move out West. At 4am, tired and hot and sweaty, we found ourselves hungry as well. 4am is a wonderful time for a ride to the Taco Bus!

The first time I ate at Taco Bus, I had my hands full with a giant, filling tofu burrito. I hadn’t been to Taco Bus for several months at this point, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a big sign on the bus, declaring that they now offered tempeh. I had to try something tempeh-esque, so I went with a tempeh tostada and their butternut squash tostada.
The tempeh was crumbled, where I was expecting strips (much like tempeh bacon or something similar). I was hoping it would be saucier, but this was still a fun option. The butternut squash tostada was a beautiful specimen. Look at the colors! It tasted colorful, too – nice and light and flavorful. It was like a taste of autumn in the summertime.


Taco Bus will be at the 2nd Annual Tampa Bay Veg Fest, THIS SATURDAY!

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Vegan MoFo Miracle!

Just yesterday, I broke the sad news to you that my beloved Kaleisia Tea Lounge added chicken to their previously all-veg menu. Some friends and I had expressed our disappointment on their Facebook page, and Kaleisia had reassured us that they would keep the chicken stuff away from the veg stuff. Then this morning, I received texts from both Lisa AND Amber that Kaleisia had taken the chicken off their menu! Kaleisia posted this on Facebook:

Thank you for voicing your concerns. We greatly value our community's input and have removed the grilled chicken sandwich. Our menu will continue from now on as 100% vegan/vegetarian.

HOW AWESOME IS THAT?? Kaleisia has totally earned their cool points back. Kaleisia is such a fun, unique, welcoming place that stands apart from any other tea or coffee place in Tampa. I love their atmosphere, I love the events they host (they're behind the recently-formed Tampa Free Skool), and of course, I love their veg*n menu. I was so disappointed when I heard they added meat to their menu because it felt like they were kind of selling out, when all along, they stood above the rest in their awesomeness.

So THANK YOU, Kaleisia, for continuing to be veg-friendly, for truly listening to your customers, and for continuing to stand apart from the mainstream. It is truly appreciated.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's my birthday today! This means I am not promising a very substantial MoFo post. Not only am I sick AND working today, but it's raining like crazy outside. I actually don't mind the rain, though. When I was growing up in Connecticut, most of my birthdays were rainy. The only thing missing are the autumn leaves, but I'm quite fond of palm trees, too.

On Friday I cashed in my free birthday meal at Moe's Southwest Grill. I got the usual: the tofu rice bowl. Not the prettiest dish you've ever seen, I'm sure, but free food is automatically beautiful, amirite?
The green tomatilla salsa is the BEST. Chock full o' cilantro-y goodness.

Yesterday, Lisa and I met up for tea at Kaleisia. We split a carafe of their PHENOMENAL iced soy pumpkin chai latte. You can taste and feel and SEE the pumpkin in it!

I have some sad news about my beloved tea lounge, though. What I always loved about Kaleisia is that they're super veg-friendly. Their small food menu was all vegan, and they offered cow's milk (as well as soy) for their drinks and the majority of their baked goods had dairy and eggs, but they were always a meat-free cafe. Until recently. Now, all of a sudden, they're serving FRIED CHICKEN. I was so disappointed when I read this on their Facebook page, and I'm still disappointed. They lost a billion cool points with that decision. I realize that they are still veg-friendly, but now they're not as friendly.

Moving on.

Next was the monthly vegan buffet at Trang Viet Cuisine. I totally forgot to take pictures, but the offerings were pretty much the usual. For me, the soup and rolls are the best. My dinner at Trang was also free, as they do complimentary meals for your birthday, and they're closed today. Score! My buddy Amber (who blogs at Zombie Cats Eating Plants) and I share a birthday, so we both scored free birthday meals last night.

From there, a group of us went to the Improv theater in Ybor City, as a friend had free tickets. Little-known stand-up comics can be a little iffy -- they're often a bit too sexist or prejudice for me to find funny, but other than a couple offensive (to me) jokes, the opener and headliner were pretty funny. There were a few moments when I could barely breathe because I was laughing so hard, so that's always a good sign. Plus, the headliner - Godfrey - has been on 30 Rock, so this brings me a little closer to Tina Fey.

After the show and parting ways with the group, I dashed over to the Orpheum and was able to catch the last half of the Mates of State show, which was lovely and made me feel warm and fuzzy, which was nice after scurrying through the rain.




I'm so glad I didn't miss this song, as it holds a special place in my heart.


And then this morning, I woke up barely breathing, this time from congestion, so I just laid in bed for awhile, listening to the rain. I pushed myself out of bed and made a birthday cake for myself because I'm pretty sure it's bad luck to NOT have cake on your birthday. I used this basic Gluten Free Pantry brand of cake mix that I had on hand and added chocolate chips.


Batter up!

While it cooled, I whipped up just enough peanut butter frosting: peanut butter, melted Earth Balance, trickle of vanilla extract, and some confectioner's sugar. I didn't use any precise measurements; I just added until the consistency was right.

And here's my quick and easy birthday cake / breakfast!

And since it's my birthday, I'm going to shamelessly plug my blog's Facebook page. Go ahead and give it a like! It's another way to stay up to date on my blog posts (another option is following with Google Connect), plus I share other fun links, videos, pictures, and other goodies from time to time over there.



What did you do over the weekend? Who else has a birthday during Vegan MoFo?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Petra-fied Vegans!

The same day Lisa and I checked out the vegan offerings at Mojo, we also stopped by Petra, a Middle Eastern restaurant and grocery on Busch Boulevard. I'm telling you, distributing VegFest fliers really works up an appetite! (Or maybe that's a cover up -- I just really love food.)


Lisa and I split the vegetarian platter (which happens to be all vegan).

Falafel, dolmades, cucumber-tomato salad, hummus, and babaganoush. While the textures of both the hummus and babaganoush were delightfully creamy and smooth, they were lacking in flavor. The cucumber salad added a nice, cool crispness to the platter, but the stars of the show were definitely the dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and falafel.


We already decided that next time one of us will order the dolmades platter and the other will get the falafel.

Middle Eastern restaurants are super veg-friendly! What is your favorite Middle Eastern dish?


Psst... Tonight (October 8th) is the Monthly Vegan Buffet at Trang Viet Cuisine. The buffet offerings are usually hit or miss, but it's always fun to gather with a bunch of local vegans and veg-food lovers. I highly recommend the soups and rolls, though.