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Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Second Vegan Bake Sale

Saturday, April 21st, was the day of our second bake sale for World Wide Vegan Bake Sale for 2012. Last year's was such a great success, we naturally had high hopes for this year, and we were not disappointed! Amber and I spent Thursday AND Friday baking in preparation, up to our ears in flour and sugar (hence no teaser posts). We whipped up chocolate chip cookies, wheat-free chocolate chip cookies, no-kill puppy chow, not-so-mad cowboy cookies, lemon-blueberry muffins, peanut butter blondies with peanuts and PB blondies with chocolate, raspberry chocolate chip blondies, and apple-pretzel cookies. As an after thought, we whipped up three dozen savory biscuits: pizza, cheddar-jalapeno, and cheddar-garlic, all using Follow Your Heart's Vegan Gourmet cheeses. We were barely opened for business and we had quite a crowd. It was about two hours before we could get everything labeled and get our literature/freebie table set up! We were off to a phenomenal start, but that resulted in me not getting pictures of every single thing we had. Here are the goodies that Amber and I made.
Peanut butter blondies recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I love this recipe. It's simple, only requires one bowl, and at the end you get to mash the "batter" (more like a dough) with your hands. It's an easy, fool-proof recipe that everyone LOVES. As mentioned above, we made one batch with crushed peanuts on top, and another batch with chocolate chips.
We followed the wheat-free chocolate chip cookie recipe from Veganomicon, making our own oat flour by whirring some oats in the Magic Bullet. Easy! The whole recipe is easy and the results are AMAZING. I loved the toothsome texture. They're ever-so-slightly crumblier than a classic chocolate chip cookie.
Lemon Blueberry muffin recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking. These smelled AMAZING as they were baking, and we were amazed with how beautiful they turned out. I said they looked like coffee shop muffins. Eat your hearts out, Starbucks!
Raspberry chocolate chip blondies from Vegan With a Vengeance
Here's what was left of the pizza rolls and cheesy biscuits by the time I could take pictures. These were the first items on our tables to sell-out! They FLEW outta there!
Our cookie platter, featuring classic chocolate chip cookies, cowboy cookies, and apple-pretzel cookies, plus some chocolate cupcakes that someone donated (and we whipped up an amazing peanut butter frosting for them).
We used Rice Chex for the no-kill puppy chow, making it another gluten-free option. I use this recipe here, using Earth Balance in place of butter. Lisa spent her Friday night baking up a storm, too. Here's what she brought to our delicious, colorful table:
Pecan pie! This was a hit last year and was a hit again this year!
These amazing peanut butter bars, reminiscent of a Reese's cup. Lisa used crunchy PB, so it had an added, fun texture. Also, wheat-free! These were amazing and crazy-indulgent!
And THEN, she went and made baklava. Like a baller. Fo real. The baklava really Wowed a lot of people! Lisa also made brownies, but I never got a picture of them. More donations came in from friends and fellow volunteers/activists.
These mini cheesecake bites (made by Myriam) were a HUGE hit! Made with Follow Your Heart cream cheese and tucked into little phyllo dough cups, most people bought one and promptly put them in their mouth. For several people, this was their first time having vegan cheesecake, and they LOVED it!
We also received some lovely chocolate and strawberry cupcakes, both with cream cheese frosting (made by Kim)...
energy cookies (Gasp! Something healthy!), made by Maria
Jojo donated cute kitty cookies
and some AMAZING peanut butter fudge (my personal favorite of all the items on our bake sale tables)
and Lorelei brought some cinnamon rolls that went FAST! She also brought a loaf of sweet cinnamon bread and some mini baguettes.
We also sold Throwback sodas, but we kept forgetting about them, therefore they didn't sell very fast.
We had plenty of information on TNR (Trap Neuter Return), spay & neuter, and the Save 90 movement in Hillsborough County, as well as vegan recipes, veg starter kits, and stickers (Thanks for hooking us up, Action for Animals!). And then, a crazy storm rolled in and we got hit with the sideways rain. Thankfully we still had a couple of friends hanging out with us, so we had three extra helpers as we carried our baked goods into Mojo, cleared off the tables, and set them on their sides, like barricades from the rain. It was a mad rush and my pants were soaked from the knees down. Danny and Melanie were super accommodating and let us set up shop on a table in the center of the store. There was a band playing, so it was very loud and we couldn't hear or talk to people very easily, plus there were a lot of shoppers digging through stacks of records, so it wasn't the best place for our bake sale.
Within an hour, though, the rain let up and we were back outside on the sidewalk. We were able to consolidate all of our goods and literature onto less tables.
We hung out until long past dark. After 13 hours, we gave the remaining baked goods to Mojo to sell in their cafe and continue to collect donations on our behalf. During the 13 hours we were there, we raised... (drum roll, please.) $915!!!! And every penny of that goes toward spay & neuter surgeries and medical care for stray/feral/homeless cats! We had so much fun sharing delicious vegan baked goods, hanging out with our friends, and chatting with new friends. Thank you to Mojo for hosting us again, and thank you to EVERYONE who supported our bake sale! Special thanks to Florida Voices for Animals and Silverback Peace Group for sponsoring our event and providing literature materials.
Did you participate in World Wide Vegan Bake Sale 2012? Where did you host it and where did your funds go? Tell me all about it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Recent-ish Eats

A week ago, my veg-blogger-buddy Jen was in Florida! (You may recall her guest post from last year.) This was actually the first time we'd met in person and, as I suspected, she's a hoot! We strolled around Eureka Springs (pics to come) and then had lunch at Taco Bus, a must-visit if you're only in the Tampa area for a short while.

I got a tempeh taco and the butternut squash tostada. I forgot to photograph the tempeh taco, but here's the oh-so-pretty tostada. I know I shared a picture of this about a year ago, but who cares. It's beautiful!

After last Friday's photoshoot, I went out to dinner with two friends at Lemon Grass Thai Kitchen.

I ordered the tofu & veggie saute' with cashews.

Goodness, I love fried tofu. And all vegetables!

Also on the table was a dish of tofu & veggie saute' with extra-hot garlic sauce

and pumpkin curry (with tofu & veggies).
Yums all around.

After Saturday's Save 90 conference in Tampa, a group of us descended upon the nearby Rollin' Oats health food store to clear out the vegan dishes in their cafe. I had never been to Rollin' Oats before, but I have had their kale salad a number of times at get-togethers and potlucks. The store itself is adorable and they have a lot of products that I've never seen sold in any other health food store, including Whole Foods. Their prices seem to have no rhyme or reason to them, but there were a few good deals to be had.

I was excited to find that a little over half of their chilled case in the cafe was vegan! I went with...
[clockwise from the top] kale salad (with tomatoes and avocado), eggplant rolletini (divine!), sesame green bean salad (needed more green beans, less cabbage), and curry tempeh salad (very good!).

One of the products at Rollin' Oats that I'd never seen anywhere else before were these tarts from Hail Merry. I remember when Amber at Almost Vegan would gush about Hail Mary on a near-daily basis, so naturally I was intrigued when I finally spotted Hail Merry-anything in the Sunshine State. It was hard to choose flavors, but I went with the chocolate-almond butter (because I'm a sucker for anything resembling a peanut butter cup) and Persian Lime (because it reminds me of key lime and I like Florida).

The coconut flavor is almost overwhelming in this little tart. I could handle it, but if you're kind of on the fence about coconut (or you just don't care for it), you might want to bypass this little treat. I also felt that it could have used more almond butter to better balance the extreme decadence of the raw chocolate, but it was still a fabulous indulgence.

I ended up liking the Persian Lime tart more than the raw chocolate almond butter (which is surprising because of my deep, deep love for chocolate). The coconut flavor is clearly evident in this, but nearly as overpowering as in the chocolate one. The lime center was smooth and delicious.

What good eats have you had recently?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Linky-Dinks & What-Nots

Happy Friday everyone!

The weekend is here! Before I get into some fun and interesting links, I have to make two local announcements.

1. Any Tampa folks here attending the Save 90 conference tomorrow, Saturday the 14th? If you want to get involved in making Hillsborough County animal shelters no-kill, please attend this free conference tomorrow at Hillsborough Community College on South Dale Mabry Highway. 1pm. It's free to attend and all the info can be found HERE.

2. One week later, on Saturday, April 21st, I'll be at the badass vegan bake sale at Mojo Books & Music in Tampa, peddling cruelty-baked goods for a worthy cause: spay & neuter and medical care for stray and feral cats. This is part of World Wide Vegan Bake Sale, and also part of Mojo's World Record Store Day celebration. If you're in the Tampa area, come on by between record stores and Earth Day celebrations for some sweet treats!

Now onto the links and other random stuff for the rest of yas!

Have you had the chia kombucha from Synergy yet? I didn't expect it to be so AWESOME! I knew that chia seeds gel when they get moist, but with the kombucha, the result is like Jell-O. Drinkable Jell-O that's good for you and doesn't contain random animal parts. I tried the Cherry Chia and LOVED IT.

These "mini peanut butter cups in a jar" by Oh She Glows look AHH-MAZING and I can't wait to make 'em! (No stove required!)

I enjoyed this little post by Just a Titch about making things happen for yourself. From that post: "And the thing about making things happen for yourself is that once you do it a little, you want to do it more."

We all know about the Dirty Dozen when it comes to fruits and veggies, but have you seen the Dirty Dozen for cosmetics? Check it out here.

Gainesville, Florida is so surprisingly vegan-friendly. You've read my posts about G-ville before, and I'm ready for another visit after learning they've opened a new vegan and gluten-free-friendly cupcake shop! Check out Sarkara Sweets Cafe.

via Ecorazzi - 20 Bands That Care About the Environment

via Our Hen House - Got vegan or animal rights books collecting dust on the shelf? Pass 'em on to make a greater impact.

via VegNews - big thanks to my blogger buddy Amber at Almost Vegan for giving Kansas City the vegan shout-out it deserves!

For all my wanderlusters -

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Save 90

Would you like to help Hillsborough County animal shelters move toward a no-kill status?

I took all of these pictures while visiting Hillsborough County Animal Services last weekend. It was my first time in an animal shelter in several years, and it affected me deeply. I spent a lot of time in the dog rooms and my heart melted and broke after each and every visit to each cage. The dogs that stole the most of my heart were the pitbull mixes. They leaned up against the bars of their cages so they could get scratched and pet. One stuck her paws out from under the cage door so I could play with her toes. They didn't bark or growl or jump. You could see nothing but love in their eyes. Amazing how people have given pits such a bad name.

I still can't shake the image of the small boxer who was so scared and nervous that his whole body was visibly trembling. Or the beautiful white pitbull whose owner neglected to take care of her, and she had mange all over her body, leaving her looking more red than white. My heart ached when I thought about the fear these dogs were feeling, and for the owners who couldn't find them yet. And then anger thinking about their owners who didn't want to find them, who abandoned them and didn't care, and I felt angry for the time limit on each of these precious creatures.

Save90 is "A newly formed organization that is leading the way to do what we all know is not only the right thing to do, but the right time to do it here in Hillsborough County. It's time to defy the old ideas that killing of stray and abandoned animals is necessary and inevitable. It’s time to defy the gravity of the old beliefs and the status quo that continues year after year. It’s time to stand together to say we have the voices and the votes to make it stop!"

When I first heard about the Save 90 campaign here in Tampa Bay, naturally I was in support of it, but I didn't know where I personally fit into the movement. Before I visited the animal shelter last weekend, I asked my friend Amber, who is deeply involved with TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) and helping stray cats, what I - someone who is not nearly as involved as her - could do or would get out of the upcoming Save 90 conference. She said the conference would be great for anyone who wants to help in any way possible, not just people who are already active with shelter pets, etc.

And then I visited Animal Services. And I looked into the eyes of all those abandoned dogs with a needless and unfair expiration date hovering over their heads. And I knew I had to do something. I registered for the Save 90 conference that night.

"Two decades ago, the concept of saving 90% of all animals in shelters was little more than a dream. Today, it is a reality in over 30 cities and counties nationwide and the numbers continue to grow. And the first step to making it a reality, is a decision, a commitment by the community to reject the kill-oriented failures of the past. SAVE 90 starts as an act of will. The next step involves putting into place the infrastructure to save lives.

"And that is where SAVE 90 and YOU come in. To make this happen right here in Hillsborough county we need your help and your voice. Why? Because the single most important factor in reducing the kill rate is having an animals shelter that is committed to embracing this method and rejects excuses for killing animals as a means of animal control. Unfortunately, that will not happen without the voice of the community demanding it to happen."

If this resonates with you, if this is something you want to support, and if you want to learn more about the movement and how you can help, please attend this free conference on Saturday, April 14th at the HCC Dale Mabry campus at 1pm. You can can learn more about the conference and register HERE.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fun, Food-Filled Weekend

Whew! What a weekend!

The fabulous Nikki Benoit, Vegan Outreach Superstar, was in town for the weekend and there was a whole lotta celebratin' goin' on. Friday night's shin-dig had the most amazing spread of vegan food that I've seen since ThanksVegan. Our friend Kim is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen! I didn't get pictures of everything, but here are the highlights.

This cheeseball was one of my most favorite things that night. Kim said she made it with Daiya and cashews...and I can't remember what else. I never had a cheeseball like this in my non-vegan days, so I couldn't tell you how it compares to that, but I CAN tell you that this was absolutely amazing.

My other favorite offering that night was Kim's 7-Layer Dip. Taco crumbles, refried beans, Daiya, lettuce, salsa, Tofutti sour cream, and tomatoes with a few different chips to choose from. This isn't the best pic, but trust me when I say it was amazing.

My friend Amber made a cookie dough dip, inspired by a recipe from Chocolate-Covered Katie.
Served with apple slices and graham cracker sticks. You'd never guess there were chickpeas in this! Everyone was raving over this dip. One girl said she wanted to "take a bath in it." How's that for a compliment!

There was also a roasted cauliflower dip, a southwestern quinoa salad, and jelly donut cupcakes (with blueberry jelly filling). I made some no-bake chocolate balls, following a recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.

On Saturday, we all gathered again for a fun lunch at Khun Pim Thai House in Largo. Nikki picked the restaurant because apparently this place has a phenomenal peanut sauce that she just cannot find out in Los Angeles. (And here I thought LA would have everything!)

Due to heavier traffic caused by that fact that it was Saturday AND a holiday weekend, this ended up being a late lunch. I ordered the dish that Nikki raved about, Pharam Delights, with tofu and vegetables. It did not disappoint!

An ever-so-slightly sweet and perfectly savory peanutty sauce, tofu fried to absolute perfection, and a generous garnish of cilantro to add another layer of flavor... The only thing that would have made this dish better would be more veggies, but as a lunch portion, this was just right.

After lunch we all had a great discussion about activism and outreach. Nikki is a super-activist with Vegan Outreach. She's currently a full-time leafletter in the LA-area. She recently passed out her 400,000th booklet! She's also known as "the girl who asked Obama the vegan question," back in 2008.

Nikki is beautifully optimistic and insightful and has such a positive outlook on life. She talked a bit about keeping that positive outlook, especially as an activist, as activism can really weigh a person down. Nikki said a lot of things that resonated with all of us and I know we all walked away from that lunch with delicious food for thought rolling around in our minds.