Posts Tagged travel

Home & Away for the Holidays

I showed you parts of my Christmas dinners last time, so I figured I’d write about the rest of my holiday eats.

We were eating fairly early in the afternoon on Christmas Day, so I made one light appetizer, mini quiches.

I used FatFree Vegan’s Mini Crustless Tofu Quiche recipe for the base, with red bell pepper and fresh basil for Christmas colors, and baked them in phyllo cups.  I also added a bit of kala namak to make the flavor more eggy.

Dave made steak for our guests, and I handled the side dishes.

Wild Mushroom and Cipollini Salad with Horseradish Dressing, from the Candle 79 Cookbook.

For the obligatory potato dish I sauteed a LOT of garlic in a good bit of Earth Balance, then tossed in halved cooked potatoes and sprinkled with fresh parsley.  These were some of the best potatoes I think I’ve ever made!

My plate, with Gardein Beefless Tips and corn.  I though the flavor of the beefless tips was good, but that the texture was a little soft inside to eat them on their own like this.

I had Candy Cane Jo Jo’s on the mind (and a box in the pantry), so for dessert I made a chocolate mint pie.  The crust is your typical cookie crust, made with the Jo Jo outsides.  The filling  used the recipe for Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding Pie from Vegan Pie In The Sky, with chopped up bits of cookies mixed in.  For the topping, I used a box of Healthy Whip and mixed in some pieces of the cookie filling which were left over from making the crust.

The pie set up quite nicely, and was both very chocolatey and minty.

A few days after Christmas, I flew to Florida to hang out with my family in Anna Maria Island.  Of course, I did the requisite research before going by googling “Anna Maria Island vegan”, but…there really wasn’t much info available.  I wasn’t too worried through, because the  house we were staying in had a kitchen and there was a Publix on the island, so I knew I’d at least survive.

Upon picking me up from the airport though, my dad told me that he had seen a sign outside of a restaurant that actually said vegan on it.  And it was a barbecue restaurant!

Mr. Bones is a really interesting little restaurant; they had a coffin full of beer, odd masks all over the walls, Asian specialties in addition to their barbecue menu, and a whole separate page of vegan food!

I started with the appetizer sized peanut noodles, which surprised me by being served cold.  The flavor of the sauce was really nice and a little spicy.

While the veggie burger sounded really good, I couldn’t pass up the General Moe’s Watercress, sauteed with garlic and ginger and served over curried rice.  The dish was a little oily for my tastes, but I was really happy to be able to eat a giant plate of vegetables.

Mr. Bones even had a vegan cobbler on the dessert menu, but I was far too full to give it a try.

The next morning, I ate overnight oats that my mom had made.  Mom’s the best, she brought chia seeds on vacation!

Lunch was a nice wrap with hummus, peppered Tofurky, cucumber and greens.  I ate a few of the Terra Chips on the side before I read the label and realized they weren’t vegan…oops…I guess I wrongly assumed all Terra Chips were vegan.

That afternoon I walked down the dock to the river and hung out with some fish friends, and that evening, as a present, I cooked a four course dinner for my family.

First, I spent a few hours making a giant mess of the kitchen.

I went with kind of a Moroccan-spiced theme for the meal.  The appetizer was Tangy Morrocan Carrots, pita chips and hummus.  The little dish in the upper left was for my sis-in-law, who I found out doesn’t like cilantro.  The carrots are steamed then left to marinate in the fridge, and I thought they were a nice, light way to start the meal.

Next up was the Wild Rice Salad with Oranges & Roasted Beets from Appetite for Reduction.  To go with the spice story (should I trademark that phrase?), I added ground cumin and coriander to the dressing, which was a nice touch.  I really liked the texture contrast between the wild rice, crisp lettuce and buttery beets.

For the entree, I chose Moroccan-Spiced Chickpea Cakes with Red Bell Pepper-Curry Sauce and Apricot Chutney from the Candle 79 Cookbook, which I talked about in this post.

Lastly, dessert was spiced chocolate fondue with bananas, strawberries, and pretzel rods.  I used this Rachel Ray recipe as the base, basically heating soy creamer and adding chocolate chips until it was the right consistency.  I also added some ground cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper to spice it up.  This was the perfect dessert to have right at the end of a meal, because it only took a few minutes to prepare.  Through rigorous trial and error, my brother and I figured out that the best bite was strawberry and banana together.

The next day was my sister-in-law’s birthday, so we headed to Sarasota to hang out at the Mote Aquarium.  The first order of business was lunch at The Old Salty Dog, which has the cutest mascot ever.

I was surprised to find a salad on the menu that was vegan as is, no modification needed!

The Chickpea & Edamame Salad came with corn, dried cranberries, cucumber, tomatoes and Greek dressing, and it was mighty tasty.  It was going to be a long afternoon, so I got some fries too to fuel up.

At the aquarium, I got to see this ugly mug.

…and learned that manatees have gas.

Dinner that night was the ol’ side salad and baked potato at a local bar and grill, but afterward we got to the good stuff.

A Candy Cane Jo Jo cake for sis-in-law’s birthday.  I added mint extract to a basic chocolate cake recipe, and mixed cookie crumbles into a can of vegan Duncan Hines frosting.

And just like that, my trip to Anna Maria Island was sadly over.

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VeganMoFo: Vegas

I’ve been to Las Vegas a few times now, and I’m comfortable enough with the lay of the land that I’m not too worried about finding decent food.  We went for three nights last month, and I made it my mission to try some restaurants that I’d never been to.

We got into town late Friday night, and it was around midnight by the time we arrived at the hotel.  I was starving, and this was the only time on the trip I had to settle since most places were closed and we were exhausted.  We ate at the 24 hour coffee shop in TI, where we stayed, and I had a blt with no b and french fries.

The next morning I went for an early run on the strip, which I would highly recommend for anyone who likes to run.  Just make sure to get out there before 9AM so that the sidewalks aren’t too crowded and it’s not too hot.  Breakfast was a Larabar, a banana and iced coffee.

For lunch we decided to check out The Wicked Spoon Buffet at Cosmopolitan.  Looking around online I had seen that it was rated as well as or higher than the Bellagio and Wynn buffets, which are both excellent.  I had no idea what kind of vegan food might be available, but you can always at least find something at a giant buffet.

The line for the buffet was very long, but they had cool food art on the walls.  I really liked this purple and green asparagus photo.  (As with most buffets, I didn’t get to verify that this is all vegan, but used my best judgement.)

First plate:  watermelon gazpacho, heirloom tomatoes, cucumber salad, grilled asparagus, cantaloupe, pretzel roll, green gazpacho.  This was all tasty, and the green gazpacho was the stand out dish.  It tasted like it had tomatillos and jalapeno, and was really bright and fresh.

Second:  seaweed with plain tofu and hot sauce, curried tofu and fall vegetables, veggie sushi.  There wasn’t any veggie sushi on display but the sushi chef was right there making more rolls, so I asked him to make it for me.  I had another little pot of the curry after this plate to make sure I got my money’s worth.

The dessert section had a whole case of gelato, and luckily for me the fruit-based ones were dairy free!  These are pink grapefruit and mango flavors.  The pink grapefruit was really delicious, tart and not too sweet.

That night we hung out at The Wynn.  I think by now all good vegans have heard that Steve Wynn is vegan and made sure that all of his restaurants offered vegan and allergen-free menus, but in case you didn’t know until now – every restaurant at The Wynn has vegan options!  And good ones, too, not like token vegan options that nobody actually wants to eat.

I can’t resist a vegan pizza with “cheese”, so I grabbed dinner at Pizza Place.  This beauty included red onion, red bell pepper and mushrooms, and what I believe to be Daiya.  The crust was really delicious, both chewy and crispy.

Breakfast the next morning was another protein bar, an apple and coffee.  Breakfast seems like it’s usually the hardest thing to find as a vegan, so I always travel with protein bars and fruit.

In addition to its proximity to The Wynn, TI is also right across the street from The Fashion Show Mall, an unlikely source of delicious vegan food.  However, it pays to do your research!

The Red Velvet Cafe is nestled between two escalators in the mall.  Their original location is way far from the strip, and I think this location is fairly new.  Their menu isn’t strictly vegan or vegetarian, but there are plenty of savory options and most of the desserts are vegan.

While waiting for my meal, I enjoyed this dry lemon grass soda.  It was like a less sweet, natural version of Sprite.

For my lunch I ordered the vegan version of the Cuban Press sandwich, which included vegan turkey and cheese, pickles and mustard on hearty sliced wheat bread.  It was hot and melty and wonderful.

The “turkey” was thickly sliced and grilled, and it seemed like a soy product.  It had that meat-like graininess that Tofurkey has, and I really liked it.  I asked the waitress what brand it was, and she said that she thinks they have it specially made.  Too bad, I would love to be able to buy some!

Dessert was a difficult choice considering how many of the cakes, breads and cookies were vegan, but in the end I went with the signature red velvet cake.  The display case was filled with chilled desserts, but this cake came to the table warm.  The icing was surprisingly crumbly yet sweet, and a tasty counterpoint to the rich cake.  I would definitely visit the Red Velvet Cafe again.

For dinner that night we went to the pho restaurant in TI.  This is the vegetarian noodle bowl, which came with fried tofu and onions, a few kinds of mushrooms, peanuts and lots of raw veggies.  I don’t know what they put in this business, but it was fantastically tasty and filling.

Walking back to our room, the v word jumped out at me where I least expected it, on the steak house menu.  It certainly seems that Vegas has become much more vegan friendly over the past few years!  Tal Ronnen and Gardein are taking over.  Fine with me.

For brunch the last day, we headed to The Wynn buffet.  I had heard a rumor that vegan buffet items were actually labeled as such.

The rumors were true!  The downside of food being labeled vegan was that there was sort of a gray area for things that should have been naturally vegan.  The fruit was an easy call, but I was less sure about this cream of wheat, which I think should have been cooked without dairy.

For my second trip through I picked up buckwheat pancakes and rice and bean enchiladas.  I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture before chowing down.  Here is the proof.

Every good breakfast needs dessert!  Grapefruit with mint and a small chocolate chip cookie.

Brunch kept me full for a long while, so I got this burrito in the airport just before boarding.  I was pretty excited to see tofu and broccoli on the menu, but in honesty this burrito was BLAND.  Bland but filling, at least.

In summary, do not be afraid of trying to find vegan food in Vegas.  It is seemingly everywhere!  We’re going back next month and I hope to try out even more restaurants, maybe even a fancy one at The Wynn.

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