Every summer a group of us take a road trip down to Tampa to watch the Rays (formerly the Devil Rays) play a couple weekend games. We chose Memorial Day weekend so that we could recuperate on Monday, as one definitely requires a full day of rest afterwards. This is my fourth year going, and every year the celebrations grow a little larger and a little wilder. You can tailgate at Tropicana Field, so we show up a couple hours early and do it up right.
As most of my friends are quite content to eat hot dogs, burgers, and chicken wings all day long, I made quite a bit of food to take along and share.
First we have Joanna’s Beer Brats (the March 16th entry, currently at the top). The recipe says that she made 10, and for whatever reason I decided to make them really big, and ended up with 8. These guys were HUGE. I selected a few bun-sized dogs for the road trip, and put the rest in the freezer. A few of them were so large I’ll definitely have to chop them up small in order to use them in anything. These were really tasty. The texture is distinctively seitan-y, but the flavor as far as I can tell is dead on. Very similar to Tofurkey’sBeer Brats which I really like, but about a million times cheaper. Here they are posing with the beer from whence they came. Next time I’ll use a nicer beer, this is just what I had in the fridge.
I made a big batch of my favorite pasta salad, Wolfie’s Fiesta Pasta Salad from La Dolce Vegan. The dressing on this stuff is unreal. The original recipe is a little heavy on the pasta and light on the veggies for my taste, so I added extra peppers, peas and blanched broccoli. And I used mini bowties instead of macaroni, just because they’re cute.
I also made a “fixings salad”. The recipe is from the Food Network site, but I can’t seem to find it now. I’ll post a link later if it’s still there. All that’s in it is lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, olive oil and red wine vinegar, to go on burgers and sandwiches. I thought it was a really cute idea, and nice since we wouldn’t have to cart all those things individually, but it didn’t go over too well. It could be my friends just aren’t fixings kinds of people, or that the lettuce had wilted by the time we ate it (it tasted fine though), or that their burgers were mounded so high with mushrooms, bacon and cheese that there just wasn’t room. Either way, I liked it and may make it again sometime for a cookout. Just don’t mix it till right before you want to eat it!
Here we have VCON Chocolate-Chocolate Chip-Walnuts Cookies. These got rave reviews. They’re delicious and stay soft for days, and the recipe makes a ton so I’m still working on leftovers and have a stash in the freezer. I can see myself making many variations on these in the future.
I wanted to take something for breakfast other than a Luna bar, so before we left Saturday I made FatFree Vegan’s Banana Coffee Cake. I wanted to make it soy-free so soy-intolerant Janeen could partake, so I had to adapt the recipe. My first instinct for soy yogurt replacement was mashed banana, but as the recipe already contained two bananas I was wary. I asked Susan of FFV and she replied “you can never have enough banana”, and I tend to agree. Because I’m a little insane, I made two variations.
For the first I subbed mashed banana for the soy yogurt and added 1/4 cup chocolate chips.
The other variation was peanut butter, because peanut butter and banana is the best. I subbed 1/2 cup pb for the soy yogurt, flax and water, and added an extra 1/4 cup rice milk to keep the wet mixture at the right consistency. I also added 1/4 cup peanuts since my pb was creamy, but I would definitely prefer to use crunchy pb in the future, as the peanuts got a little soft once baked inside the cake. You can see the layer of bananas nicely in this one.
I forgot to sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the banana layer both times. It would’ve been nice there in the middle, but the cakes were fine without. My favorite was the peanut butter kind, although it was a bit more dense and crumbly. I think everyone else gravitated towards the chocolate chip variation. 15 seconds in the microwave was the perfect fix to warm it back up after sitting overnight.
So yeah, I did all this the night before and the morning that we left. I packed it all up to go in the cooler…
…and THEN we finally left. The amount of food and drink (read: beer) that we took for nine people was a little insane. It filled up five coolers. We got through most of it before the weekend was over though.
After the 2 1/2 hour drive, we were happy to find a nice spot in the shade. Here is what I would look like if I regularly wore things like “hats” and “sunglasses”. And I even remembered to put sunscreen on the first day!
It was HOT that afternoon! The forecast was for scattered thunderstorms and we brought a big tent just incase, but of course because we were prepared there wasn’t a drop of rain in sight.
For my tailgate meal before the game I had one of the brats on a bun with sauerkraut and mustard, my pasta salad, and another pasta salad Janeen made. Hers had artichokes, roasted tomatoes, olives and cilantro and was delicious, as always. She’s got me rethinking my stance on olives, just a little bit. I also had too many chips, a couple beers, and probably a cookie or two.
Here’s the view of Tropicana Field from our area. This place is large and white and you can see it from very far away. A lot of people don’t like going to games here because it’s enclosed and all artificial turf, but I like it just fine, mostly because it’s climate controlled.
It was “70’s Night” at the Saturday game, which involved handing out blue afro wigs to the first 10,000 fans and an after-game show by The Commodores, which we didn’t end up staying for. It also involved ridiculously photoshopped pictures of all the players.
The Rays (along with the rest of the world) are going green! Any car with four or more people parks for free (which we did with two cars), and look at this cup our beers came in.
Although I don’t think that sentence is gramatically correct…
We stayed at our friend Nate’s parents’ lovely house in Tampa. They live on a lake, have a pool, and don’t seem to mind if Nate’s friends come in and trash their house while they’re away on vacation. We’re good kiddies though, we cleaned up before we left. Saturday night we watched BJ Penn win his UFC fight, and the party lasted long into the night. I layed down in this hammock for a couple minutes before I realized I had better get to bed, lest I spend the whole night in the hammock.
Here’s the view I had the next morning while I enjoyed my coffee cake.
My eats at the Sunday tailgate, along with the requisite chips and beer, was a veggie burger with grilled mushrooms and onions, and a marinated portobello, both topped with the fixings salad.
I also may have drank some champagne straight from the bottle with the aforementioned Janeen. Well, we didn’t have any cups and it was the classy thing to do.
There is a tank of live rays inside the stadium, so Sunday we went to see them first thing. You can pet them, and you can even pay a few dollars to feed them, but none of us wanted our hands anywhere near there mouths. Sea creatures and I don’t get along in a phobia type of way, so petting their wings was quite enough of a thrill for me. These guys were hard to catch in a good picture, they’re fast!
We had some debate about whether they like being in the tank and having people pet them all day. They zoom right up to the side of the tank and let you pet them with no problems, although they might just be hoping for food each time.
Courtesy of Adrian, a picture of me taking a picture of the rays. Adrian’s camera has some neat-o function that singles out colors or something.
Hope you enjoyed reliving my weekend through pictures. Tonight it’s back to exercise and healthy eating.