Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Jambu Shoe Review & Giveaway!


Most days you can find me wearing flip flops. Since I teach yoga and practice yoga everyday, I feel like I'm always just about to take my shoes off -- so what's the point of lacing up? Now that I ride my bike so often, you might also find me in my highly unstylish (vegan!) clip-in bike shoes. Not to mention the fact that I am also almost always wearing yoga clothes.

I know most people spend the day looking forward to getting home, taking off their work clothes, and slipping into their yoga pants. Well, for me it's the exact opposite. Ha ha. I always love an opportunity to kick off the flip flops, put on some non-stretchy fabrics and some fancier shoes, and feel like a real grown up!

My first-ever pair of Jambu shoes. I found these at a local shoe store years ago, and I still love them 
I couldn't believe that such cute and comfortable shoes were all vegan.

A few years ago, I started to feel like I was living my whole life in my PJs and I felt like slob. So, I embarked upon a "Wardrobe Improvement Project" (aka WIP) -- an effort to supplement my non-yoga clothes options. In addition to a few skirts and a few nice tops, I was gonna need some cute vegan shoes. Turns out, that's a bit more easily said than done. I looked high and low before I finally hit paydirt! I discovered a super awesome pair of dressy shoes with cute detailing and strappy straps ~ made by a new-to-me brand called Jambu Shoes. They had great-looking shoes, and many (though not all) of their styles were vegan. Since that first discovery, I have owned, worn and loved many pairs of Jambu shoes.


My second pair of Jambu shoes were these excellent and comfy little sporty shoes. 
They were perfect for dog walks and bike rides.


  
on the bed, chewing happily                                              tragedy strikes

 I am forced to talk about these shoes in the past tense because a couple of years ago Miss Dottie Bonkers chewed the straps off of the left shoe -- and despite multiple efforts, I was unable to repair them. Taking these pictures made me realize that I had actually held on to these shoes all this time just because I liked them so much. Finally, it was time to let go. I took my photo with Dottie (the perpetrator of this heinous crime against vegan shoes) and finally tossed my destroyed shoes. 
*wipes tear from eye*



By far my most favorite pair of Jambus are the pair of lovely little brown Esmerelda boots that I found on Zappos a couple years ago (Zappos even has a vegan search filter!). I fell in love with these comfy, warm, stylish and snazzy shoes. Plus! They even have a super easy Velcro open-close, so they aren't a hassle to take on and off over and over again during the course of the day. That's a nice convenient touch for a yogi like me.


I gotta tell you something about these boots. They put such a Pep In My Step! Every time I put them on, I feel a little more sassy, a little more daring and saucy, a little more take-on-the-world. Even my mom noticed that I walk differently when I wear my Jambu boots! It's like they're magic little confidence-giving mood lifters. 



Since I love them so much, I featured these little brown boots in my vegan Christmas gift guide last season -- and to my total delight, I got an email from Jambu asking if I'd  like to receive a new pair of Jambus and do a review. Heck, yeah!! They have quite a few vegan styles - as you can see here - some are more dressy and some are more sporty. It sure was hard to pick, but I decided that my life would be greatly improved by a sweet little red pair of boots.


so cute!!

I was right! Somedays I want to feel fancy and elegant and sophisticated - and my brown boots are perfect for those days. Other days I need a little more sass in my step, a little more flair on the feet - and these red boots really bring it!

These boots are SO comfortable. They have a slight heel, but they feel really stable to walk in. The soles inside are cooshy and super comfy. The shoes are lined, but I still feel they are more comfortable when worn with socks. They are also pretty warm, so they're better for days or nights when you want cozy feet and not for hot days. But, you should probably be wearing your flip flops on hot days anyway!


Stevie-approved!

Even though I usually wear a size 9 or 9 1/2, my brown pair of Jambu boots are actually an 8 1/2. In fact, all my old pairs of Jambus  seemed to run a size or two higher than standard sizing. So, when I first wrote back to Jambu, I asked for a red pair of Esmerelda boots in size 8.5, figuring they would be the same.  

Jambu seems to have resolved these sizing issues though, because it turned out that the 8.5 were just a bit too small for me. Feeling confident about the sizing, I wore them out to dinner for one night before realizing they really were too small for my feet to keep wearing them. I felt so sheepish about writing back to Jambu to let them know that my sample shoes were too small. The folks at Jambu were super gracious about it and sent me another pair that fit perfectly! My new pair is a size 9 and fits perfectly with a thin pair of socks on my feet.


Jambu Esmerelda Boot Giveaway!


it could be YOU snapping your heels in these fancy red boots! 

Luckily for any of you with size 8.5 feet - After my ordering snafu, I just happen to have a super snazzy pair of size 8.5 red Esmerelda boots from Jambu! After talking with the folks at Jambu, they suggested I put my too-small-for-me shoes to good use and feature a give away on my blog. Like I said, I did wear them that one time, but they are essentially brand new and they want a happy home on your feet. 

To enter - just leave a comment here and tell me about your favorite shoes ever, or your favorite pair of vegan shoes, or whether you are a fancy shoes or a flip flops person, or really just say anything nice. I'll pick a winner on Thursday, April 30th.

Sorry international friends, this giveaway is open to USA readers only.


**Free Two-Day Shipping!**

Happily, even if you aren't a size 8.5, Jambu has offered a code to receive free 2-day shipping 
if you order from their site: "jambuvegan"

Also, in honor of Earth Day, they will be planting a tree for every pair of shoes ordered, 
and giving away tote bags. Pretty cool! 


Stevie & Amey : friends for life
I know it's silly, but one of my favorite things about these boots is how cute they look when I look down at my own feet. This can most definitely not be said of every shoe style in size 9


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Springtime Brunch Glory


I'm not totally sure why my family celebrates Easter, since not one of us is religious -- but someone a few generations back must have been? Anyhow, it's made its way down through the generations to the present day in the form of "an excuse to get together" -- which is certainly good enough for us. Plus, it gives me a chance to cook up yummy brunch food (my favorite!) and draw doodles of bunnies. This year we had such a wonderful morning together - perfectly low-key, full of happy chatter and conversation, zero fuss, lots of warmth. Then everyone left and Mr. VE&T konked out on the sofa and all the pets fell asleep and I did all the dishes and cleaned up the after-party. Very peaceful. 

 Fresh Fava & Dill Mini Quiches

One of my favorite things about a proper brunch gathering is the joy of having both savory and sweetie options. For years, I've had my eye on a Fava Bean & Dill Crostata recipe in "Silk Road: A Vegetarian Journey," so this year I saw fava beans at the farmers market and I seized the moment and veganized it. I used the Mini Muffin Omletes recipe from "Isa Does It" as a base, added in a dab of yellow miso, a dash of umeboshi vinegar, and a bit of "leftover" cashew chevre. From there, I prepared a big batch of fresh favas (about two pounds still in the husks), about a cup of fresh dill, and a bunch of caramelized leeks. The recipe calls for using lavash bread as the crust, so I cut up a piece into little squares and had a perfect excuse to use my fancy and frivolous square shaped muffin tin.

Boy, these were AMAZING. First of all, the fresh favas are just so special and spring-timey. They're quite a bit of work, so that makes it feel extra special when I actually do commit to cooking them. These little quiches were super rich and flavorful, and I also loved the lavash crusts for mini quiches. I'll definitely use that trick again.


 Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal

I've made the apple baked oatmeal from the "Oh She Glows Cookbook" a handful of times, but I've been looking for a reason to make the Carrot Cake oatmeal from her website for a while. Carrots and Easter go hand-in-hand, right?! This was SO good, and luckily there was lots left over, so I got to enjoy it for leftovers for days. It's really good reheated with a dollop of homemade yogurt. Mmmm. I plan on making more soon for a week's worth of tasty breakfasts.


 Fresh Strawberries & Fresh-Squeezed OJ

Around these parts, no brunch-time gala is complete without an abundance of freshly-picked local organic strawberries. Miracle gems of yumminess. Also, I'm delighted to report that the oranges on our very own orange trees are finally beginning to sweeten and are actually quite good nowadays - they make especially good OJ. So, the night before Easter, I spent a good 45 minutes or so twist-twist-twisting and juicing a ginormous box of oranges to make some OJ. After that I borrowed my aunt's electric juicer to give that a go. My wrist was tired!


 Roasted Potato & Asparagus Salad

This recipe is from the Oh She Glows Cookbook and it is SO GOOD (you can find the recipe online here). As you know, during asparagus season, it is mandatory to eat as many asparagi as possible. Also, you must make this amazing salad at least once per asparagus season. The potatoes and asparagi are chopped up and roasted and then tossed with a totally fantastic creamy avocado dressing, and then a big mess of scallions. Just thinking about this recipe makes me want to make it again. I really recommend it.


Hot Cross Bunnies

For the last several years, I've had a pretty reliable hot cross buns recipe, but as I am unable to leave well-enough alone, I wanted to try a new recipe. Specifically, I wanted to make hot cross buns that kinda stick together as they rise and bake, and then you have to pull them apart. I like that phenomena, and the way it leads to golden tops and soft doughy sides. So, after much web-surfing, I settled on this recipe from King Arthur Flour. It was easy to veganize. Following the Hot New Thing in Veganism*, I used the liquid from my can of chickpeas as egg replacer. (I used 7.5 Tbsp of the goo, to equal 2 1/2 eggs).

(*If you are unaware of the chickpea liquid egg replacer phenomena, check out this Facebook page and be prepared to have your mind blown!!)


 All the comments on the recipe page said that the dough would be very sticky, but that the end result would still be good. Indeed, my dough was SO wet and sticky that I couldn't even "knead" it as much as "stir" it, and even after one hour, I couldn't perceive any visible rise. I forged ahead with trepidation. I had to put some coconut oil on my hands just to shape the "rolls." I had prepared the dough and the first rise the night before, and when I took them out of the fridge in the morning, you could barely tell one roll from the next, because the wet dough was so smooshy. I was not optimistic. I was doubting my decision to try a fancy new recipe and a fancy new egg replacer technique all at once. 


Hot Cross Muffins

So...fearing an imminent HCB disaster, I kinda freaked out and about 20 minutes before everyone was about to show up, I busted out a batch of emergency Hot Cross Muffins (using this recipe). These weren't yeasted, so they were quick to bake, but the flavors and spices were very similar to proper Hot Cross Buns. These muffins were still in the oven when everyone arrived, and as soon as they cooled off a bit, I used my leftover icing to X-up these guys too.


As you can see, though -- the final result of my Hot Cross Buns was actually quite lovely. I used dark raisins, golden raisins, chopped dried apricots, orange zest, and a little bit of candied lime peel for the dried fruit. The dough was just barely sweet, but the thick icing X gave just enough sugar blast to satisfy. Actually, after all my fretting and fussing, these were really really great and were exactly what I had hoped they would be. Success!

I make Hot Cross Buns every year for Easter because I really love them. But the real reason is because I know my mom and dad really love them too, and (of course) I love my mom and dad. So, once my mom took a bite and declared her HCB to be delicious, I felt a sigh of Easter relief. But when my dad went back for seconds, I knew for sure that Easter brunch was saved after all. Of course I sent a couple extras home with them, and now I've got a bunch of not-necessary-after-all hot cross muffins in my freezer waiting for a special breakfast moment.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Dinner With Jane

farmers' market cherry tomatoes for snacking

A while back, my friend Jane and her wonderful husband and daughter came over for dinner. It was so great. First of all, it's obviously just fun to have friends over for dinner. But Jane is one of my favorite people and we both have full lives, and we don't get to hang out together nearly as often as we would both like to. A whole evening to eat and visit together feels like such a gift. Plus, her husband and her daughter are wonderful and interesting and kind people - bonus friends! Spending time together with them, talking, sharing stories, continuing to get to know each other ... feels so good. They are the kind of people whose companionship leaves you feeling full and happy to be alive. 

Also, possibly on a related note, they always bring really good food.

Some sort of amazing farro salad with roasted winter squash and fresh tomatoes, over lettuce. 

Jane is such an inventive cook (and person in general!) and she just loves to fly by the seat of her pants and adapt and innovate and go with the flow. It is one of her most wonderful and exceptional qualities. According to her, she was just winging her way around the kitchen with this salad, and the result was a perfect autumn dish - with hearty grains and roasted squash combined with fresh tomatoes and lettuce. I love dishes that have this nice balance of warming and fresh, and I always love grains and cooked veggies in salads, though I often forget to do it!



Jane also brought this dish: peas and beets with pea shoots and avocado... I think there was a citrusy dressing. Practicing great personal restraint, she told me that she actually followed a recipe to make this (gasp!). ha ha. I don't know the name of the dish, but it's from Yotom Ottolenghi's new vegetarian book and it was crazy good. Mr. VE&T was totally in love with it! I'll have to get the recipe just so that I can make it again for him. I have Ottolenghi's book "Plenty," and I like it quite a bit, but when I flipped through the new one it seemed as though every recipe was loaded with cheese and eggs, so I put it back. Maybe if I ever see it at a garage sale, I'll pick it up. This dish was certainly great!



I made another casserole from Julie Hasson's book "Vegan Casseroles." This was the "Boozy Baked Penne with Caramelized Onions" - one of many mac and cheese type dishes she has in the book. So far I've tried 3-4 different variations. They all have something in common as far as the foundation flavors and sauces, but each is slightly different, and I want to gradually try them all -- mostly just so that I'll know which couple recipes are my top favorites. I liked the crunchy buttery topping on this one a lot.


Kitchen Sink Cookies from "Isa Does It"

I wanted to make a quick and easy dessert - and in my book that means one thing: Cooooooookies. I love cookies. Flipping through my various cookbooks, I noticed this recipe for "Kitchen Sink Cookies" in Isa Does It. I already had all the ingredients on hand - oats, raisins, chocolate chips, roasted peanuts, cocoa powder, coconut oil... YUM. They're like trailmix cookies! And, I guess I always make my cookies smaller than everyone else because I got a lot of cookies out of one recipe. These cookies were chewy and filled with all sorts of exciting tidbits of crunch and texture. I'll definitely make them again! 



Monday, April 06, 2015

Beyond Tofutti Cuties ~ Yours Truly Cones

Most of us vegans (at least those of us in the United States) have enjoyed a Tofutti Cutie or two in our time. Tofutti Cuties are those delicious little mini ice cream sandwiches that you can find in a surprising number of grocery stores. They come in quite a few flavors and they are tasty and fun. But did you know that Tofutti also makes a bunch of other vegan frozen treats? Where I live, they are not readily available, but by some magical stroke of good vegan fortune the mainstream grocery store closest to my house* carries Tofutti "Yours Truly" ice cream cones. I love these little treats so much. (*Nob Hill, for any local readers)


a Tofutti "Yours Truly" cone
the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow


The other night, after a fully physically exhausting day (workout with trainer, two-hour yoga practice, 3 hours of gardening, dog walk)... I was ready for a big pasta dinner. After dinner, Mr. VE&T asked "Is there anything else I can get you?" -- so I said "Yeah! Go get me those little Tofutti Ice Cream Cones." I was just joking, or fantasizing, but that sweet fella jumped right up off the sofa, drove to the store, and returned home in minutes with a box of chocolate-dipped vegan ice cream cones. Huzzah!!

they aren't huge, but i think they are perfectly-sized


Boy, did we have a good time eating those little ice cream cones! In all honesty, I don't buy them all that often, but when I'm in the mood for a special treat, this is pretty much as good as it gets.



Each Your's Truly cone has 220 calories, which isn't too much for such a satisfying experience. I think I love these so much because they are totally tummy-satisfying and emotionally-satisfying all at once. When I was a little girl we didn't have sweeties very often, but I loved those "Drumstick" frozen cones. Who would have ever guessed that I could still have something like this as a vegan?! As for nostalgic satisfaction, these Tofutti cones totally deliver. The chocolate topping has some crunchy little bits on it, which are a super fun combo with the creamy ice cream inside. And the inside of the cone is coated with chocolate, which is pretty much mandatory for a treat like this.

I'm really grateful for companies like Tofutti that make such fun and tasty treats that resemble the foods I loved as a child. These days I eat a lot of raw veggies and protein powder and steamed kale and stuff like that -- but being able to enjoy a vegan chocolate-dipped ice cream cone like the ones I loved as a kid makes being a committed vegan feel that much easier, more rewarding, and accessible.


as magical as a unicorn with a Tofutti horn





the goodies I was sent to review ~
actual ice creams sent to my doorstep!

All of this got me thinking that a loooong time ago, Tofutti actually sent me some frozen treats to review and I never got around to it. It was right when some big things came up in my personal life, and I didn't have much energy for my blog. Ever since then, it has been weighing on my conscience that I received those treats and never reviewed them. Especially since I had enjoyed them so much. One of my barometers for doing reviews on my blog is whether or not I would actually buy the product again. Clearly, in this case the answer is a resounding "yes." Pictured above are the treats they sent - a box of Yours Truly cones, and some fun little sugar-free ice cream pops called "Hooray! Bars." I was skeptical of those stevia-sweetened bars, but I recall that I really liked them. If they carried those at my grocery store, I'd definitely buy them again too.

My local store only carries a couple flavors of Cuties and these Yours Truly cones. According to the Tofutti site, they make a load more of amazing-sounding treats -- a triple chocolate cone (!freak out!), chocolate dipped ice cream bars, fudge bars (only 30 calories!), and even coffee-flavored frozen bars! Phew. I wish I could try them ALL. That said, I feel super fortunate to have these fun ice cream cones available at a grocery store just a few blocks from my house. No complaints, for sure!

good times!