Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Birthday Brinner!

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and my mom sent me an email asking what I wanted to do to celebrate... a family dinner, or maybe a family brunch? Well, I love brunch food more than just about anything in the whole world, but that particular weekend, I was busy both mornings. Shucks. Just when I started to feel the possibility of delicious brunchy goodness slipping away from me - I had a stroke of genius: Birthday Brinner!

We already know that Breakfast for Dinner is one of the great privledges of adulthood, and so I guess demanding that the whole entire family have Breakfast for Dinner is one of the great privleges of turning 42. Ha! 

 my contributions!

So, my wonderful family assembled and together we ate pancakes and OJ, and Field Roast breakfast sausages... Some non-vegan items were also eaten, but not by me, and we shall not speak of that.

Here are the goodies I brought along: 
~ A big bowl of delicious stone fruits from the farmers' market. I am just such a nut for stone fruits. Cherries, peaches, nectarines, pluots, I love them all. 

~ A giant quantity of the Garlic Tofus from The Oh She Glows Cookbook. I love this recipe so much. I think it has become my favorite way of preparing tofu. I've reduced the oil a bit, and added a heaping spoon of nutritional yeast... and the whole thing comes together in about 10 minutes. Those little tofus are so damned tasty!

~ Lastly, I also brought a huge batch of the High Brow Hash from The Great Vegan Protein Book (book review coming soon!). I absolutely love this recipe! Since I was already bringing the tofus, and I knew my mom would be making veggie sausages, I actually left the seitan out of this hash, and added in extra veggies instead.

My aunt and her partner are also vegans, but they eat no-salt and no-oil, so they brought along black beans, salsa, avocado and corn tortillas for some special breakfast tacos that were yummy and not salty or oily.

giant bounty of Field Roast breakfast links!

Check this out! My mom made a giant plate of Field Roast breakfast sausages! Whooo HOoo! Happy birthday to me! I love these little sausages, and I especially love having an endlessly huge plate of them on the breakfast-for-dinner table.

foreground: banana pecan pancakes / below: plain puffy pancakes

The main course was pancakes! Of course, my mom is cool and already has a copy of Isa Does It! in her kitchen, so I suggested the Perfect Pillow Pancakes. Just look at how gorgeously these came out... They really were seriously pillowy and puffy!! We made half of them with sliced bananas and pecans mixed in (my favorite!!), and half of them plain (for people who don't know what they're missing).

It was a bit of kitchen chaos cooking up so many pancakes for so many people at the very last minute -- we had all four burners going, with four different pans, and the back door open from something that burned in the oven ... ha ha! Somehow it turned out that I had the most familiarity with pancakes, so I was the one sweatin' bullets and flipping flapjacks like a mad woman. In the end that just added to all the fun of it!

Here's my beautiful birthday brinner plate: Banana-Pecan pancakes, fresh fruit, OJ, veggie hash, tofu cubes, veggie links, and loads of love and appreciation!! Of course, I actually ended up eating more of just about everything, because I was quite overjoyed about this glorious meal. This really was such a perfect way to celebrate.

My actual birthday was kind of a weird, crappy day. Mr VE&T and I were having a weird misunderstanding, and so my heart was all heavy and confused and my energy was just weird. Happily, we more or less resolved it by the end of the day... but it was still pretty much a bust. So, on the day of family brinner, I declared it a Birthday Do-Over! I had a meet up with a friend, a fun walk with Mr VE&T and the dogs, and this wonderful family breakfast-for-dinner. It was a totally satisfying do-over day! Three cheers for the healing power of brinner.

If you don't follow me on FB or Instagram, you may have missed the news about my fun bday present that I got for myself: I went to a proper salon and got my hair dyed blue!! I've wanted blue hair for soooo long, but I had never dyed my hair at all before.  I absolutely love it! I'm also open to any and all "how to take care of colored hair" tips that you crazy, colorful vegans might have for me. 

ps. I still have a few more posts about VidaVeganCon that I will be sharing, but I didn't want the rest of life to pass me by. Keep an eye out for more VVC fun recaps coming down the line. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

VidaVeganCon ~ The Official Zine of VVC 2015 Giveaway (& digital copy for you!)

One of the two sessions I presented at VidaVeganCon this year was called "Let's Make a Zine!" The idea was that each person in the group would prepare one page of a collective VVC recipe zine, and then would receive actual copies of the printed zine before the conclusion of the conference.

It came to my attention that a lot of people don't know what a "zine" is! It's pronounced "zeen," like the second half of the word "magazine." There's an interesting page about zines on Wikipedia, if you're interested. Zines had a big role in some of the punk and riot grrl and vegan movements -- as a way of self-publishing perspectives that weren't being heard in mainstream media or published by mainstream publishers. So, making a VVC zine is very much in keeping with the movement!

For my workshop, I asked people to bring a recipe from home that was either a family recipe or an original recipe of their own (so that we wouldn't have any copyright infringement issues with using other people's recipes.) I brought along all the crafty supplies -- blank paper, lined paper, pencils, erasers, pens, gluesticks, white out, and lots of fun clip art for people who didn't want to draw.

I also made everyone a surprise giftie: a small zine called "How to Make a Zine" (so meta!!) We spent a little time going through the basics of getting started with a zine project in general, and then we got straight to work with crafty fun.

hard at work!

This was such a lovely experience! I had prepared a play list of songs -- mostly old-timey country songs about Texas, with a few songs about cooking or veggies thrown in for fun. We had the music playing, some chit chat, and lots of focused crafty concentration together. Getting together with friends and working on crafty projects is something I've been doing All My Life, but not nearly as much lately as I used to. Being at this table with all these great people, laughing and forming friendships, and being silent together was just wonderful. It made me feel like a kid again! As Joanna said, "This is so calming!" It really was great.

Turn around and Smile!
pics by my mom! 

This workshop took two whole sessions, because crafting takes time! At the end of our time together, everyone turned in their own personal hand-crafted recipe original.

At that point, my mom and I flew into action! 

I don't think I've mentioned yet that I got to bring my mom along to VidaVeganCon this year, for the second time. It was so wonderful to share the whole VVC experience with her! It was especially great to have her with me for this workshop -- because my mom is my life-long crafty inspiration. She's also my zine inspiration, because she was involved with a self-published zine way back in the late 1970's. It was called "The Zucchini Cookbook," and was a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood of Santa Cruz County, where my mom worked for 40+ years. 

It was also great to have my mom along because she is a seriously trust-worthy crafty teammate and we trust each other wholly on crafty matters. She and I skipped the next session and spent that time very efficiently assembling all the pages into the proper order, crafting up the index, figuring out the page numbers, and getting the whole original ready to go off to the printers!!! 

By the very next day -- as promised! -- every person in the zine workshop received four copies of the printed zine: to share or trade or give away. (*special thanks to Michele and Daniel & Marie for doing the runs to the printer and back, so that my mom and I could enjoy a few more of the other sessions!!*)

the finished product!

It was really great to have such a quick turnaround and to be able to deliver the completed zines to everyone by lunch the next day. Hopefully now all those zinesters will feel confident and inspired to go forth and create more vegan zines in this world! 

Zine Giveaway!
Here's the fun part: I have three copies of the zine we created in our workshop, called "A totally Awesome, Fun & Inspirational Zine!" to giveaway! If you'd like to win a copy, just leave a comment on this blog post. Be sure to use a login or email address so that I can contact you if you win. This is open to everyone in the whole entire world! 

On the other hand, if you're just as happy with a digital copy... I made a digital pdf of the zine that you can download here:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

VidaVeganCon Recipes from Chef Brad! (& what we ate at VVC)

The food at this year's VidaVeganCon was absolutely fantastic. I really can't rave about it enough. Happily, even if you weren't able to come to the conference, you can experience some of the eats because Chef Brad from the AT&T Conference center was gracious enough to share a few recipes with us!! 

Now you can create your own mini-VVC by cooking up a few dishes and then going online and reading vegan blogs or Periscoping or just reading the PPK message boards while you eat. :) 

What the VVC organizers and Chef Brad did especially well was to provide an array of foods at every meal, so that everyone of every vegan persuasion would be delighted with the options. The foods were fresh and abundant and flavorful, and there were always LOADS of various sauces and toppings and condiments that you could add to personalize your meal up the wazoo. I have never experienced anything like it. 

~ Breakfast! ~ 

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I always wake up hungry, and I love the process of considering all my various options. Most days, I practice restraint and only go with one thing. But on special days like birthdays or VidaVeganCon, I really go hog wild. 

left: Vegan Dollhouse and Zak makin' breakfast tacos! 

The breakfast buffets were totally spectacular and pretty much my idea of heaven on earth. There were two huge long tables with all the fixin's for Breakfast Tacos. In case you didn't know, the good people of Austin are obsessed with tacos, so there will be a lot of taco information in all these VVC posts!

Each day had slightly different offerings... but this will give you a general idea: corn or flour tortillas, black beans, potatoes or tofu cubes or tofu scramble, fresh kale, Sweet Earth bacon, chorizo crumbles, SO MANY AVOCADOS cut in huge thick slices, bowls of nooch, mutlitudes of salsa & hot sauce choices, house-made coconut bacon, vegan cheddar shreds,  fresh herbs for garnishing... Swoon. Just thinking about it is making my heart flutter all over again.

Left: Miyoko of Miyoko's Creamery at the Artisan Toast Bar
Right Sarah of Queer Vegan Food at the glorious coffee bar

Each morning there was also a long table with the Artisan Toast Bar -- with many different kinds of breads and spreads... enough to keep everyone happy.

The coffee and tea bar requires special mention. Happily, this table of hot beverages was up all day long. Hot water for tea, Hot coffee, and decaf coffee. Plus about 6 different creamer options (!!!!!), simple syrup, stevia, and all sorts of sweetener choices. Plus an abundant bowl of mini marshmallows for sprinkling in your coffee (or... uh... for eating). Every time I went back for more coffee, I ran into Sarah there. I think she and I are on the same coffee wavelength. Seriously, this coffee station was the thing of dreams.

top: fruit salad, hot coffee, chia pudding, breakfast taco with black beans & baked tofus & salsa & avo, Sweet Earth brand bacon (yum!), and lemony raw kale. I went back for more.

bottom: Chef Brad's *amazing* cashew yogurt and chia pudding. Plus a giant tray of melon and bowls of granola and Manitoba Harvest Hemp Seeds.

Even with all that, guess what I really fell in love with? It was that crazy-good chia pudding and cashew yogurt! I've made chia pudding for myself many times, but it has never turned out this yummy. And the cashew yogurt was totally fantastic: thick and tangy. My fave was to make a little parfait with some chia pudding and some yogurt, and then sprinkle on some of the granola and hemp seeds. I went back for seconds of this stuff both days.

i love you, little chia pudding & cashew yogurt parfait.

~ Lunch! ~ 

Kale & Chard Salad bar ~ with quinoa, hummus, loads of avocado and coconut bacon, Sweet Earth Seitan, and noochy abundance. Plus a guava tapioca parfait cup with candied ginger - that dessert was weird and fun and delicious! 

Taco Bar: There were options for corn tortillas, flour tortillas, or big butter lettuce leaves. Plus, kale, guacamole, fried tofus, cabbage slaw, seitan and/or raw chorizo, Heidi Ho cheese (I love that stuff!), and Chef Brad's totally delicious Mac n Cheese. Everyone was absolutely wild for that that mac n cheese. I don't even usually like vegan mac n cheese, but I went back for seconds. Happily, this is one of the recipes that he so graciously shared with the VVC community, after everyone was going on and on about how good it was. Check out the recipe on the VVC blog here. 

What a fun scene of contented vegans piling their plates with all their own choices and options! I think Lisa's beaming smile pretty much sums it up. And I love that shot of Jess with the ladle of Heidi Ho Spicy Chia Cheeze. Oh man, that was like a dream come true!

~ SNACKS! ~ 

You can't go through a whole day of conferencing without a little snack or two... and the kind folks in the kitchen provided us with tasty snacks during the various breaks. There were some delicious cookies and bars, and also big plates of fruit (which I also partook of with great enthusiasm). 

On the last break on the last day of the conference, we had some very special snacks delivered to us by Kristen at Capitol City Bakery. CCB is a totally stellar, all-vegan bakery in Austin that makes top-notch, beautiful, creative and delicious treats. Kristen was a panelist and an attendee at the conference, and she brought in copious amounts of huge heart-shaped cookies covered in colorful sprinkles. Within seconds, there were at least 45 pictures of these cookies on Instagram, because they were just that special.

I would especially like to mention how exceptional this food was, given that it was prepared by Chef Brad and his kitchen staff, who (as far as I know) are not vegans or even vegan-food specialists. The food was hands-down the best vegan food I've had prepared for me by non-vegans! The variety and quality spoke volumes about this kitchen team. I was so impressed that I actually came right home and wrote Chef Brad a thank you letter. It's obvious that he is a creative, open-minded foodie who enjoys the challenge of cooking delicious food for all people. 

In addition to thanking him in my letter, I also confessed to my surprising love for his chia pudding and cashew yogurt. I was too sheepish to ask for both recipes, so I asked for his chia pudding recipe. Happily, he responded right away and included both recipes -- and gave me the go-ahead to share them both with you all. What a guy! 

Vida Vegan Con Recipes!

Cashew Yogurt

1 cup water
1 cup cashews
1 teaspoon Probiotics

Blend cashews and the water until smooth in a food processer (robot coupe)
Add the probiotic and blend on low speed until incorporated
Place the mixture in a clean mason jar and cover loosely
Let the mixture sit in a warm location for 24 hours

Chia Seed Pudding

Chia gel:
½ cups chia seed
2 ½ cups water

Put chia and water into a container and mix thoroughly
Allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight (at least 12 hours)

*Once the chia gel is made, add the following ingredients:

2 cups fresh nut or seed milk (I used hemp)
2 cups blueberries
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ cup cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom
Stevia for sweetness (to taste)

Stir in all of the ingredients and garnish with additional berries

recipes by Chef Brad Turner

Monday, June 08, 2015

VidaVeganCon: The Swag & Merch Report!

Well, VidaVeganCon Takes Texas has officially come to and end, and what a glorious time it was. I ate, I learned, I reconnected with old friends and made lots of new friends, I had many new experiences, and came home feeling all puffed up.

I've decided to break up my blog reports about VVC into thematic posts, rather than approaching it day-by-day. If you were lucky enough to be there with us, this will be a fun walk down memory lane. If not, you can live vicariously through all these fun pics! 

Imagine walking into a beautiful room with two long tables inside -- and upon each table is arranged the entire range of cheeses from Miyoko's Creamery. The cheeses are each set on lovely fresh fig leaves and there are classy little cheese knives with each wheel. Then, there are artfully arranged vegan crackers lining the center of each display. Finally, there are swarms of hungry, joyful, overstimulated vegans swarming around the cheesetables - giddy with abundance and enthusiasm. YES. You are amongst your people. You have arrived at VidaVeganCon 2015.

This was the scene that kicked off the first official activity of the weekend: The Vegan Bazaar. This event was open to the public, but (happily) the Hour of Cheesy Abundance was only open to people registered for the whole conference. My goodness that was lovely. It was great to have a chance to actually try all of Miyoko's cheeses without having to buy each one first. Previously, I had only ever tried two different varieties. I loved most of them, but in the end, I was quite surprised by my top two picks: The Winter Truffle (creamy and spreadable and both tangy and earthy. my new fave for sure!), and a special seasonal one that was essentially a cream cheese with strawberries and with beautiful flowers pressed on to it. Before the tasting, I would have never guessed that those would be my top choices! Now I know how to direct my cheesy budget.

The Great Hall of Vegan Vendors & Exhibitors!

The Vegan Bazaar event featured a few vegan food trucks outside and pop-up shops inside, a number of great talks and discussions in the auditorium, and an entire room filled with vegan vendors with merchandise for sale, samples to nom on, and occasional giveaways and contests.

A few of my favorite finds of the day! 

I really enjoyed having the whole afternoon to stroll through the room and meet people and learn about how each person there was committed to supporting veganism in a different way. There were big companies like Earth Balance, and many small companies (like the ones above), food & clothing vendors, non-profit organizations, and so much more. It was absolutely uplifting to be around such a vibrant group of vegans who were acting in line with their values. 

Top row: Yoga antics with Nicole and the Upton's Naturals' giant jackfruit; two delicious cheesies from Punk Rawk
Bottom row: Free nachos from Heidi Ho; a Texas Peach Donut from Red Rabbit; watermelon + lime juice + chia drinks.

my jackfruit experience - from wonder to delight!

Upton's Naturals was handing out tacos with two new jackfruit lines: BBQ and Chili Lime Carnitas. I was really curious about this product, because I have only ever had fresh jackfruit, which is quite tasty but also quite sweet. Their carnitas are made with immature fruits, which lack the sweetness and can happily absorb the spices and flavors of the sauce they come with. It turns out that I'm a fan, and I look forward to finding this taco-ready product in stores soon.

They also just happened to have a giant (mature) jackfruit on hand for display and novelty. Nicole and I had more fun trying to do yoga with that enormous jackfruit. It was really heavy! In case you're wondering, I totally did not succeed at balancing that thing on my legs in headstand. It started to fall off right away and Nicole caught it right before it crashed in front of my face! ha ha.

There were a few different cashew cheese vendors at the Bazaar, in addition to Miyoko. My top picks were the Herb-Garlic and the Scallion from Treeline Cheese, and the Smoked Nutmilk cheese from Punk Rawk Labs. I really wish I could find Punk Rawk cheeses in my area, because I can't stop thinking about that smokey cheese - it had coarsely ground pepper around the outside and was absolutely YUM.

Heidi Ho was also there, with a vast supply of their delicious spicy chia cheese. If you follow me on Instagram (@ameyfm), you already know that I eat this stuff on the regs. But Heidi was there herself dishing out free nachos and I was All. Over. That.

free vegan ice cream samples... uh, yes please!

I'll also cop to hovering around the NadaMoo! table, so that I could try all three of the flavors they had on display: Vanilla Cha-Cha-Chai, Bananas for PB & Chocolate, and Gotta Do Chocolate. NadaMoo has a coconut-base, but isn't overly dense like some coconut ice creams. I'd had (and loved) their ice cream before -- but I hadn't ever tried that Bananas for PB & Chocolate flavor before. TRUE LOVE, friends. True love. 

My haul!

At the end of the day, I came back to the hotel with a bevy of purchases, samples, freebies, and coupons. I made several purchases, and it felt good to know that I was supporting all these enterprising and compassionate vegans in their business endeavors! 

My #1 favorite of all is that darling grey tee shirt with frolicking animals and the word "freedom," from Meaningful Paws. So cute, so on point. 


No doubt you have heard about the legendary VidaVeganCon Swag Bag. First thing Saturday morning: we signed in, got our badges, and each received a giant blue bag stuffed to the brim with vegan goodies. Let the good times roll! 

Here's my swag all laid out, once I returned home. Plus a few random things I purchased snuck their way into this picture too... and also my aunt's juicer, which photobombed my picture. Obviously, there's a lot here, so I'll just highlight a few favorites below:

 Michele's Granola.
Oh yea! Pretty much everyone is raving about this stuff, and with good reason. It was one of the first products I busted open once I got home. Topped on some homemade yogurt, it is just so good. Not too sweet, and perfectly crunchy. Lucky me, I found an extra baggie of on the Swag-Swap Table, so I came home with two -- but they are both long gone by now!

That's right. 
There was a special "Swag Swap" table where you could leave behind things that didn't appeal to you, 
and find goodies that others had traded out. What fun!

The president of PureFit included the sweetest letter inside each box of their gluten-free & vegan protein bars, about how committed the company was to supporting the cause of animal rescue, and what a meaningful presence his own adopted dogs had been in his life. So touching, y'all. That's doing it right.

The swag bag came with some hemp hearts, then I got a small baggie of Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts at the Bazaar (before I realized I would be getting more), and then I won a trivia question during lunch one day at the conference and won even more hemp goodness. I am all set.

Each of us got a beautiful little cheese knife from Miyoko's Creamery (so classy!), a fun pack of playing cards from MailChimp, and assorted other goodies. Of special note is my new favorite deodorant that came in the Vegan Cuts Beauty baggies: Schmidt's Natural Deodorant. I'm not gonna lie -- with all my cycling and yoga and dog walking, I really put my deodorant to the test and I can get pretty smelly. I'm happy to report that this stuff absolutely works. Like, 100%. It's not a roll-on. Instead, you roll a little bit of the paste into a ball the size of a pea and then rub that in your pits. I got Cedarwood & Juniper scent, which smells quite lovely, and once this little tub runs out, I look forward to trying their other varieties as well. 

 savory swag!

I really loved this baggie of the new Garlicky Green Parma (vegan parm) from Parma. I've had their original parm before, but hadn't heard about this new flavor. It's more heavily spiced (as you'd expect), and I think I prefer it to the original, since I usually use vegan parm when I'm looking to add a good savory kick to my dinner. This is definitely a product I'll search out and buy again.

I also loved that tiny little packed on Nacheez nacho sauce and wished it was 100x bigger. 

Each swag bag had a giant bag of Earth Balance popcorn inside, but a lot of folks didn't seem to have room in their suitcase for a giant bag of popcorn. Happily, this isn't my first VVC, and I knew to travel with an extra duffle bag. So, I scored myself an extra bag of popcorn and stuffed it right on in that duffle bag. 

sweetie swag! 
The folks from Dandies included small bags of their mini marshmallows AND their upcoming new pumpkin mini marshmallows! I haven't actually tried these yet, but it won't be long. Give me time.
I also still have yet to try that Chocolate Hollow Hazelnut Gianduja Bar you see up there, but that little guy is getting the most attention of anything in the whole darned swag bag. So far I have heard nothing but rave reviews. By which I mean, nearly manic reviews in which multiple people have already written to the company inquiring how they can buy whole cases of these chocolate bars. Wowsers!
Last but not least, we each got two bags of Tasty brand fruit gummies in our swag. For some crazy reason, these were in some abundance on the swag-swap table, and I'll just say that I practiced great restraint in only taking two of them... because I seriously love gummy candies.