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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crickets / Planning / Around the World in 5 Minutes

There's been a lot of this on the blog lately.

So what the heck have I been up to lately? Well, in a nutshell // asterisked list:

* hula hooping

* researching guerrilla art

* dreaming about garden gnomes

* working on articles for other sites

* planning a vegan cooking class AND vegan food swap with a friend

* dabbing tea tree oil on all my mosquito bites from last week's trip to the Upper Tampa Bay Park

* loving the mild temps in Tampa lately

* making silly youtube playlists

* clearing out space on my hard drive YET AGAIN

* trying to read for book club

* marveling at how quickly the polish chips from my nails so soon after painting them (like, 5 minutes!)

* restraining myself from licking Lush's Cupcake mask off my face (looks AND smells like chocolate frosting! Crikey!)

* chopping off my hair

... and other vegan superhero badassery.

Between my full-time job and all of that (and then some), I haven't had much time to get out and visit any new places. Having so many exciting, creative projects going on is, well, exciting! But also overwhelming at times because there just aren't enough hours in a day, nor days in a week.

I have several travel goals for this year, not counting my in-state travel plans. This means lots of planning and saving and, unfortunately, a second job. I'd been trying to put off the second job thing for several months now, budgeting tightly instead, but that's not going to cut it for what I want to do. So, in the near future, you can expect to read more about my planning and budgeting for travel.

In the meantime, maybe watching this video every day will hold me over.

Ha, yeah right.

Are you currently planning and saving for travel?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Guest Post: Plant-Based Pharmacist Gets Zen

My buddy, Dustin of Pursue A Healthy You gives food blogging a try! Check out his birthday meal at Zen Forrest Pan Asian Restaurant in New Port Richey, Florida.

Birthday At The Zen

Reaching the ripe old age of 34 calls for a celebration! Now, making it to 34 isn’t all that special or even some sort of grand milestone but it’s a birthday none the less, and birthdays are always a great excuse to celebrate. After all, what else could be better than making someone else slave away preparing and cooking a fabulous meal while you sit and enjoy time with a great friend. Aww yes… a delightful meal and no dirty dishes for once, a little slice of heaven.

This birthday would be spent at Zen Forrest cafe in New Port Richey, FL. Zen Forrest is a hidden gem tucked away in a small strip mall but don’t let that fool you. It’s a perfect mix of classy and trendy with moderate prices, excellent service, and delectable cuisine. The earth tone colors and scaled down lighting make for a very peaceful yet spirited environment as you can see.

Zen Forrest is the place to be if you’re looking for Asian food. They serve dishes from numerous countries including Japan, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, and even Malaysia. While not a vegan cafe, they do have a few options on the menu that can be made vegan if you ask. They also pride themselves in being MSG and trans-fat free.

My friend and I started off our dinner with a succulent plate of Japanese edamame lightly flavored with ginger, spice, and course sea salt. This appetizer really hit the spot and kept us asking for more.

House salad topped with sprouts and red cabbage was next on the menu. The black sesame seed dressing was amazing and really made the salad stand out.

My friend choose the popular Tofu Zen for her dinner selection. This dish was comprised of tofu steaks lightly dusted with rice flour and pan fried. In addition, the steaks were served with a variety of fresh vegetables (sprouts, red bell pepper, baby corn, shitake and straw mushrooms, and cilantro) and a bed of steamed jasmine rice. I stole a bit of the tofu steak and was glad I did. It tasted delicious!

For my birthday entree I chose the Zen Forrest fried rice dish. This entree certainly didn’t disappoint either. Since I’m not only vegan but also very health conscious, this was the perfect dish for me. It included a mountain (literally!) of fresh herbs and vegetables served on a bed of jasmine and red rice. I really enjoyed the red rice as this gave the dish a little extra something to set it apart from most rice based dishes I’ve eaten at other establishments.

The best part about this entree was the amount of fresh vegetables it contained. For every one cup of rice there were three cups of vegetables included. I was in heaven as my taste buds soaked up nature’s ultimate confetti of crisp sprouts, shredded carrots, baby corn, red & green onions, sweet peas, and a handful of other vegetables/herbs incorporated into “Mt. Veggilicious” as I called it. This dish made my day. What a perfect birthday meal!

Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better dining experience. The company of my friend made it all the better. I’d highly recommend a trip to the Zen for anyone celebrating a birthday or just needing an excuse to get out of the house and enjoy a fantastic meal. I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Dustin Rudolph, also better known as The Plant-Based Pharmacist, prefers produce over pills when it comes to helping his patients prevent and reverse their chronic diseases. He is currently writing a book on how to achieve optimal health by using plant-based nutrition and a vegan diet. He also maintains a website ( and a health blog ( in his spare time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Love Kansas City

If you are at all familiar with Kansas City, Missouri, you know that this city rocks.

If you've never been to KCMO, do NOT let this article deter you from visiting. In A.G. Sulzberger's NY Times article, "Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival," the writer clearly failed to embrace all of the vegan splendor to be found in Kansas City.

Hey A.G., have you never heard of Happy Cow?!

Amber over at Almost Vegan posted a fantastic response to the article, which you can read HERE. And even though I addressed this on Facebook, I feel a need to address this here on the blog, too. Although I do not live near Kansas City anymore, that city will always have a piece of my heart. It is an underrated city full of hidden (and not-so-hidden) treasures, a city that I love and miss. And let me tell you, all my days spent in KC were NOT lacking in delicious food. Here are some links to past blog entries about some of my favorite Kansas City eateries.

Malay Cafe in North Kansas City

Amazing nachos at FuD, KC's ALL-VEGAN restaurant

No other Mongolian BBQ place compares to Genghis Khan

At least Blue Koi was mentioned in that NYTimes article

Here's my recap from 2010's Bliss Fest, a green, earth-lovin' veg-friendly event

Lunch at Eden Alley (I'm a bigger fan of their desserts, though)

In my Most Memorable Meals of 2010 post, you'll find pictures from a vegan dim sum at Bo Ling's on the Plaza

And that's just a sample of the vegan offerings in Kansas City, Missouri. Since I left, the metro area has opened a Trader Joe's grocery store and an all-vegan bakery/coffeehouse, and a Cafe Gratitude is coming in 2012. Veganism is not a brand new concept in Kansas City, and it is extremely easy to live and visit KC and eat like a vegan queen. Just ask Amber or myself.

** Remember, folks -- No matter where you travel, do a little research ahead of time, and always check

Monday, January 9, 2012

Vegan Sh*t

Let's kick your week off with some humor! Surely you have all seen the popular "Shit Vegans Say" youtube videos. Just in case you're out of the loop, here they are. (The second one is my favorite!)

"I left my leaflets in the car!"

"Casein?! SHIT!"

First thing I saw on my Facebook feed this morning was this "Shit that Meat Eaters Say" video. I swear, I've heard almost every single one of these! In fact, just a few days ago, a co-worker actually said the "People Eating Tasting Animals" line to me! SERIOUSLY?!

Update: Look! More Meat-Eating Shit!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ending 2011 Deliciously

On new year's eve eve, a former co-worker of mine was in town for the holidays and she and I went out for lunch and chat at Ciccio's in South Tampa. I had never heard of this place before, but my friend felt confident that I'd be able to find something vegan there. Being a trendy-looking restaurant on South Howard, I was greatly amused to hear White Zombie's "More Human Than Human" playing as we walked in.

At first glance of Ciccio's menu, it looked like the only vegan offerings "as is" would be the edamame and the Asian guacamole. A salad minus at least half of the ingredients would also be vegan. Even their sushi menu listed zero veggie options. Right off the bat, I inquired what made the Asian guacamole Asian. Our server said that it was made with rice wine vinegar and "Asian spices," and it was vegan, so we ordered it. Next I asked if there was a vegetarian/vegan menu, and there wasn't, but the server was knowledgeable and helpful and gave me a few tips on how and what to order. She said an all-veggie sushi roll could be made, and many of the stir-fries and rice bowls could be made vegan by swapping the meat out for portobello mushrooms. There's no tofu or tempeh here, so if you hate portobello mushrooms, you'll be eating a much lighter meal at Ciccio's. Luckily, I love portobello mushrooms, so I was in luck. When she suggested the lettuce wraps with this alteration, I quickly made my decision.

I wish I had taken a picture of the Asian guacamole, not that the picture or my words would do it justice. It was AMAZING. The rice wine vinegar gave the guac this amazing sweetness. I'm not sure what spices they used, but it gave it another dimension of flavor to this amazingly creamy guacamole. Garnished with black sesame seeds, this was a flavor explosion. The Asian guacamole alone will bring me back to Ciccio's! (And also the top hits of the '90s, which they kept churning out the whole time we were there. It was like playing "Name That Tune," and I was totally winning.)

And then this was brought to the table.

This GIANT platter held portobello strips, sprouts, black bean salsa, shredded carrot-zucchini-yellow squash, and shredded cucumber. It came with three different sauces for dipping: red wine vinaigrette, balsamic vinaigrette, and - my favorite - Thai peanut sauce (which the server made sure to go back and check that it's vegan). This was super delicious and tasted very fresh. I loved all the colors and textures and flavors, all brought together on a crispy lettuce leaf. Although Ciccio's doesn't seem vegan-friendly at first glance of their menu, they are actually quite accommodating. I think they should put these vegan suggestions on their menu for all to enjoy!

Later that night, Lisa and I went to Pizza Fusion downtown to cash in her Creative Loafing deal coupon (kinda like Groupon). Parking downtown is always an ordeal, but since we didn't get down there until 8, street parking was free (woo hoo!), but we still drove around in circles several times, trying to find the actual Pizza Fusion location, and then finding a parking spot in that vicinity.

Ahead of time, Lisa inquired for me about Pizza Fusion's gluten-free crust, and yes, it is vegan! Yay! AND they offer iced black tea AND green tea, both unsweetened, but they have agave nectar upon request! Yay again!

Lisa ordered the Very Vegan with daiya cheese.

I ordered the Farmers Market with daiya on the gluten-free crust.

I was VERY impressed with this gluten-free crust. It was soft and chewy and had a very pleasing texture. Next time I'll get a larger size! And for all you daiya-haters, they also offer Follow Your Heart's Vegan Gourmet cheese. Pizza Fusion also offers a vegan brownie, but we were too full to try it this time around.

On New Year's Eve, I closed out 2011 and rang in 2012 with my vegan friends. I LOVE my vegan friends -- we always eat like royalty at these get-togethers! I didn't get pictures of everything, but here's a portion of our spread.

These are Loving Hut's seasoned "passion fries," which are pretty good, but made AMAZING by whatever dipping sauce comes with them. Wow!

These seitan skewers are also from Loving Hut. I didn't try them because seitan ruins my guts (although I did eat other wheat things that night, bad girl I am).

We had two different kinds of chili, chips and Veggie Booty, corn breads, a Chinese noodle dish and a stir-fry, a fruit tray, and a veggie tray.

And Dean brought cheesecake! Ahhh! Banana-nut and gingerbread, served with a glop of Healthy Top.

All that food fueled us for a night filled with amber Woodchuck; lots of dirty, That's What She Said-type jokes; Guesstures and Taboo, and watching the ball drop AT MIDNIGHT! (When I lived in Missouri, we always watched it at 11pm. Stupid Central time.)

I rang in 2012 with the exact same people I was with to ring in 2011. Only this time, I'd known these people for over a year, instead of just a month. The only difference is that we've only gotten more crass.


Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Most Memorable Meals of 2011

Ah, yes. My favorite recap post to write - my favorite meals of the year!

In January, I had a particularly delicious work-trip in Gainesville, Florida. There were so many great meals that week, but my favorites were the taco salad at Boca Fiesta

these AMAZING Thai Peanut Tempeh wraps from The Jones Eastside

and finally, Gyro Plus, where they had SEVERAL varieties of vegan baklava and some heavenly falafel.

Also in January, I ate at Taco Bus for the first time (where they aren't kidding about the broken English) and also visited the vegetarian food festival at the Southwest Florida Buddhist Temple.

In February, I shouted from the rooftops/blogged about my love for boiled peanuts.

Other highlights that month include meeting the gorgeous Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and Dr. Hotstuff Neal Barnard.

In March, I spent some time in the kitchen with my buddy, Amber. We made this beautiful strawberry pie and fell in love with this simply delicious crust made from dates and nuts.

There were quite a few awesome cooking sessions with Amber, as evidenced HERE and HERE.

In April I participated in my first vegan bake sale as part of World Wide Vegan Bake Sale Month. It was pretty freaking epic. Check out that post HERE.

Also in the spring, Amber and I organized a vegan care package swap. I received some AMAZING homemade peanut butter cups!

In May I caught a glimpse of the artsy beach town that is Dunedin and ate at Consciousness Blossoms with some friends. I also ate at Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City for my best friend's birthday. You can read reviews of both places in this entry HERE.

In June I ate at Ella's Folk Art Cafe, the Brick in Ybor City, and then I had my amazing, unforgettable trip to the Hostel in the Forest in Georgia. My two dinners there were made with such love. That weekend was the highlight of 2011.

In July I kicked it at the beach with some friends for a lovely sunset. Before the sun went down, we chowed down on grilled Smart Dogs on buttered buns and a variety of chips. It was totally unhealthy, and I certainly went off the rails on the gluten train, but it was a fun time and the sunset filled me with happiness. I love living here.

In September, I drove down to visit my best friend and her new baby and her husband prepared this beautiful meal. (You may recall the blog post about that HERE.)

About a week later, there was more figgy business at SONO Cafe at the Tampa Museum of Art. This time, in the form of a "mixed melon salad."

In October I experimented with a food dehydrator with my cousin, which was fun. My favorite was the pear rings.

Volunteering at Green After Dark means delicious, comforting meals from King Natural Catering.

I loved my meal at Etho's Vegan Kitchen after the Central Florida VegFest in Orlando.

And of course, there was Thanksgiving.

In December I had a delicious reunion with Mi Pueblo in Sarasota.

And then I had a crazy-delicious Christmas eve dinner!

Yeah, 2011 was a great year, for so many wild and wonderful (and delicious!) reasons.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Guest Post: Vegan in Boston's Harvard Square

I'm still compiling my Most Memorable Meals of 2011 post, and this sudden cold snap in Tampa Bay certainly has me moving slower (probably because I'm wearing multiple layers and not moving too far away from my space heater). While I finish up the year-end post, please enjoy this guest post from Mackenzie, who blogs (adorably) over at Whatever, Gatsby.

as a born-and-raised floridian, i have to say that moving to boston was quite lucrative for my taste buds. i always had time finding things without dairy, and my lactose intolerant self often grumbled over the meager options in orlando. homegirl over here could not find a seitan loaf in sight, and that was pretty tragic for a while. until i moved to boston, i saw things i never saw on menus in my hometown.

vegan chocolate cupcakes?! seitan loaf?! lavender lemonade?! falafel platters?! coconut ice cream milkshakes?

i could cry, really. i blinked whenever i saw these enticing words. but nope, seitan loaves were still on the menu. pinch me, i’m dreaming.

since i moved to boston/cambridge in june, i’m happy to say i’ve become a one-woman eating show. these are a few of my favorite places to gorge myself eat daintily at in harvard square, specifically:

veggie planet and veggie galaxy:

veggie planet is just beyond brilliant. it’s all vegetarian, but can be made vegan upon request. you can basically order anything and put it on coconut rice, brown rice, or a pizza crust. ANYTHING. my favorite? peanut curry on coconut rice, anything with their tofu ricotta on a pizza crust. it’s heaven. at night they also have live music at club passim next door. need i say more?
veggie galaxy is their newest addition (in central square, just a quick subway stop away). it opened up over the summer, and it changes my life on a weekly basis. their “kendall square” burger is just beyond awesome. onion rings on a black bean burger tends to do that for me. they also have coconut milk ice cream milkshakes! i am trying to suppress my squeals as i type this.

l.a. burdick chocolate:

okay, so burdick’s is not vegan specifically. but it is the only place i know of in boston that offers a completely vegan dark hot chocolate. and i think that’s all that matters, right?

clover food lab:

oh, clover has so, so much of my money. and i might go in there so often that i am now on a first name basis with their employees. and for good reason. falafel plates? bbq seitain sandwiches? hot cider? homemade popovers? everything is local? sometimes they give you free cupcakes? and it’s all under 6 dollars? what is there not to like? my favorite is the falafel plate, which they cover with tahini and it takes me to my happy place.

sweet cupcakes:

i will admit my bias for sweet cupcakes. i used to work here. i loved it, plain and simple. another thing to love? vegan chocolate cupcakes! sadly, it’s only on mondays, and sometimes tuesdays, but still worth the trip to sweet! they play old movies in the background and french pop music fills the store and they have the best coffee in all of boston (little known secret! and it’s only $2!)

and that’s that for harvard square. it certainly is a pretty scrumptious place to live.