Posts Tagged potluck

Two Amazing Potlucks: Dumplings and Rainbows

My friend Amey has the BEST potlucks.  Whenever Amey hosts, I’m happy to make the drive down to Santa Cruz because I wouldn’t want to miss it!

Back in July, the Santa Cruz PPKers had the brilliant idea for a Dumpling Potluck.  Anything was fair game, as long as it was in dumpling form.  The turnout was smaller than usual, but the food was great.

My contribution was “chicken” and dumplings, a reinvention of a dish I used to enjoy every year at Thanksgiving with my very southern family.

I based the soup on this recipe, and used a baked chicken seitan recipe for the chicken part.  I wasn’t thrilled with how the seitan came out, but the dumplings and broth were dead on.  Fantastic.

Mini Empanadas

Chinese Barbecue Seitan Buns with a Spicy Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce

Some sort of tasty, doughy dumpling with a German name and delicious tomato herb gravy.

Mini Farmer’s Market Tamales with Pico de Gallo

Savory plate.  I liked that everything was mini-sized.

With some chicken and dumplings and blood orange soda.

Mini Cherry Pies with Marzipan

Mochi Daifuku with Red Bean Paste

Lavender Berry Cream Pie.  The crust on this pie was so good!

Dessert plate, with vanilla ice cream.

For a more timely and detailed account, check out Amey’s post here.  While all of the food was supremely delicious, we quickly realized that it was all very beige and didn’t exactly leave us feeling light in our loafers.  Someone came up with the idea of a rainbow theme for our next potluck, with the goal of more colorful and less carby food in mind.

So, a few weeks ago we got together at Amey’s house again to taste the rainbow.  We tried to go for a double rainbow of both savory and sweet, in tribute to the double rainbow video.  I came to the color-claiming party late, and accepted a challenge by choosing a blue savory dish.  I wasn’t really sure what blue foods I could use other than blue cornmeal, and then I learned that you can dye foods blue with red cabbage water.  Red cabbage basically acts as a pH indicator, and turns colors depending on its pH.  Fun with science!

I decided to make blue pupusas, with hopefully blue curtido.  First, I cooked some small white beans in the red cabbage water.

Then I refried the beans with onion, garlic, cumin and coriander.

Then I used cabbage water for the liquid in making the pupusa dough.  I tried to make the curtido blue as well by cooking red cabbage in baking soda water, and it turned the cabbage a beautiful teal color.  Unfortunately, when I added the vinegar-based dressing the acidity turned the cabbage back to purple.  It was actually kind of fortunate, as the violet portion of our rainbow would have been lacking otherwise.

Amey decorated the table with construction paper and color-matched beverages.  From left to right:

Red – Borscht and berries
Orange – Annato-coconut soup

Yellow – Mini Corn Muffins with Maple Frosting, Mac n’ Cheese, Mini Lemon Bundt Cakes

Green – Green Tomato Bruschetta (on a snail plate!) and Basil-Coconut-Lime Ice Cream

Blue – my Pupusas, which actually turned out kind of blue, and Blueberry Cocoa Cupcakes

Violet – Red Cabbage Curtido and Lavender Simple Syrup hiding in the back.

Gorgeous Rainbow Salad to finish things off.

All together now, with rainbow steamer.

I made less pupusas than there were people, so I cut them in half to reveal the pretty blue insides.

Savory plate, with both soups.  Everything was so fresh and tasty!  We definitely had more veggies than usual due to the color requirements.  The mac n cheese was based on the VegNews recipe, and it was one of the best I’ve ever had.

Dessert plate, upon which everything was awesome!  The standout was the basil-coconut-lime ice cream, which was outrageously good.  The lemon bundt was also intensely lemony and wonderful.

Sadly, I don’t have any people pictures from either party, because once I sat down with all the delicious food I just wanted to eat and enjoy the company.  Amey has more details and some people pictures on her blog post here.  Can’t wait for another Santa Cruz potluck!

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Potlucks & Parties

This is gonna be another long one, so I’ll keep the text concise!  I present to you a collection of all food-centric events I have attended in the last few months.

In early September we celebrated Dave’s birthday.  We invited a bunch of people over and made a bunch of food.

The usual pretty veggie tray.

Tasty guac.

I usually like to go a little crazy with birthday cakes, but Dave requested vanilla with vanilla, so that is what he got.  Not my best decorating effort, but it tasted really good!

The next day I headed out to Dolores Park in San Francisco to meet with some PPKers for a Labor Day potluck picnic.  I had spent most of my time getting ready for the party, so my picnic donation was non-labor intensive – chili cheese dog casserole.  It was literally layers of hot dog bun, sliced veggie dogs, veggie chili and cheesy sauce baked in the oven, and it was actually quite good!  I didn’t get any individual food pictures cause it was kind of awkward since everything was on the ground.

First plate, clockwise from noon:  tofu noodle salad, bread with spinach dip, purslane potato salad, grilled tofu with pesto, chili cheese dog casserole, bbq black eyed peas, empanada, tempeh salad sandwich and corndog nugget with sweet and spicy mustard.

Dessert plate:  on bottom, orzo salad and chicken fried tempeh that weren’t there my first time through.  Cinnamon bun, apple pie, chocolate thumbprint cookie, banana bread, baklava, pear crisp and an oatmeal cookie.

It was a beautiful day with great food and great company.  Dolores Park is a very interesting place, full of interesting people.  We definitely saw one person get arrested!

We went to the Niners season opener, which meant tailgating.  Dave was making carne asada tacos, so I made a roasted corn coleslaw with chili lime dressing to go along.  The frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe’s was really good in it.

I also made marinated portobello tacos with grilled onions and peppers, hot sauce and cilantro.  This was a great tailgating meal.

I felt like doing a thematic dessert, and the best I could come up with was “Gold Rush Blondies”.  I forget which recipe I used now, but these tasty blondies had both chocolate and butterscotch chips.

The next weekend we were invited to a potluck birthday party for Dave’s uncle’s partner.  I wanted to take enough so that I would have a full meal if there wasn’t anything else I could eat.  I made Hannah’s Sesame Noodles, adding edamame.

I also made Fat Free Vegan’s Mini Crustless Tofu Quiches, but now I forget which veggies I used.  Some people said they couldn’t tell that it wasn’t “real” quiche.

The hosts have working on their house for years, and they have really great style and throw fun parties.  I joke with them that every time I go over there they’ve rearranged their furniture or bought something new.  Here we are hanging out in “the lounge”, which used to be a second bedroom that they’ve turned into a 70’s style hangout.  You can’t really tell from this picture, but this is a really cool room.

That’s me and Dave in the back and our friends Tom and Hope in the front.  They had some mighty powerful mai tais!

Last weekend I went down to Santa Cruz for a harvest-themed potluck at Amey’s house, again with the PPK crew.  The food was phenomenal, and I took lots of pictures!

Pretty salad

Pumpkin ziti

Stuffing

Persimmon spice pretzels

Potato coleslaw with cumin seeds

Buttercup gnocchi with mushrooms and butternut squash

Cranberry braised tempeh, and my terrible handwriting (recipe below)

First plate

Dessert!  Harvest pie with mooses

Amey’s beautiful caramels

Chocolate chip peanut butter banana bread

Puppy chow

Apple cake

Dessert plate, also featuring “Emporer’s Pie”, this amazing pie with vanilla-scented rum custard and satsuma curd.

Cranberry Braised Tempeh

The tempeh turns an interesting mauve color after marinating, but it is very moist and flavorful.  I adapted the recipe from the Bauman College Cookbook that we use at school, where it was adapted from the Delicious Living website.

16 oz tempeh
1 1/2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cups apple juice
2 shallots, chopped
1 orange, zested and juiced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cinnamon stick
2 Tbs maple syrup
2 Tbs tamari
1 Tbs fresh ginger, grated, or 1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 pinch cayenne pepper

1. Cut each block of tempeh in half horizontally, creating two thinner rectangles of equal size.  Cut each rectangle into quarters, and each quarter into two triangles.  Place the tempeh in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, place the cranberries in a small pan and add apple juice, shallots, orange zest and juice, sea salt and cinnamon stick.  Bring to a boil and cook 15 minutes or until cranberries are soft.  Remove cinnamon stick.  Carefully pour the cranberry mixture into a blender and add the remaining ingredients (maple syrup through cayenne).  Blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
3. Place tempeh in a baking dish and pour cranberry sauce over the tempeh.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake the tempeh, covered, for 20 minutes.  Remove the cover and continue to bake for another 20 minutes.
5. Using tongs, transfer the tempeh to a serving platter.  Carefully pour the cranberry sauce into a saucepan.  If you wish, you can pour it through a strainer.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook until reduced to a saucy consistency, about 30 minutes.  Pour the cranberry sauce over the tempeh and serve.

Servings: 6

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (11.6 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 317.7
Calories From Fat (23%) 71.63
% Daily Value
Total Fat 8.57g 13%
Saturated Fat 1.76g 9%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 440.3mg 18%
Potassium 910.97mg 26%
Total Carbohydrates 48.3g 16%
Fiber 2.72g 11%
Sugar 13.18g
Protein 18.31g 37%

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August Cleanse: Days 22-30 & Wrap-up

I’ve been putting this post off because I knew it was going to be a monster, and also between preparing for a friend to visit, said friend’s visit, and preparing for Dave’s birthday party this weekend I’ve been a very busy girl.

Day 22

This breakfast smoothie had banana, strawberries, peanut butter, flax, cocoa, agave, coconut milk.  This is probably my favorite smoothie combination, and for that reason I don’t let myself have it very often.  Saturday mornings are a good excuse!  I also took my multi and coQ10 and had coffee with coconut milk.  After breakfast I headed to the farmers market with no particular plan in mind.

kale, spinach in the back, persian cucumbers, celery, corn and okra

blueberries in the bag, peaches, baby eggplants, carrots, shallots, zucchini (they’re yellow and light green!), multicolored potatoes and a canary melon

When I returned home I had napa cabbage salad with spicy peanut sauce and smoked tofu.  I skipped my morning and afternoon snacks to keep it light in preparation for the evening’s activities – a vegan potluck housewarming party hosted by Megan and Kelly, The Sisters Vegan!  I decided in advance that I was going to cheat on the cleanse a little bit (how could I resist trying everything at a vegan potluck???), so I tried to make my contributions as healthy as possible.  I made my Potato & Fava Bean Salad with Miso-Mustard Dressing, except there were no favas at the farmers market so I went with lima beans instead.  A good substitution, but not at all the same as favas.  I didn’t get to snap a picture of the dish because I was running late.

I also wanted to make a wheat- and sugar-free dessert, so I consulted Diet, Dessert and Dogs and found a good looking recipe for Jam-Filled Turnovers.  Of course, I didn’t have any sugar-free jam at home, so I made my own and it probably wasn’t quite thick enough.  I also didn’t have coconut oil and couldn’t get any without driving almost an hour round trip, so I substituted canola oil and hoped for the best.

They didn’t turn out so well.  I could tell when I rolled out the dough that it was much too oily and soft, but I tried to put together some cookies anyway.  They were edible for sure, but not potluck party worthy, so I bagged ’em up and left ’em at home.  I don’t think this is the recipe’s fault at all – I think it’s a good recipe and I just made bad substitutions.

Oh, did I forget to mention that while I was baking and cooking I had two vodka tonics?  Yeah?  Well, there it is.  Again, that’s what Saturdays are for!  I had a great time at Megan and Kelly’s place, their house is super-cute!  Here’s my plate o’ food.

Sorry for the crazy redness, I couldn’t get my camera to take it any other way.  From top left going clockwise, this is hummus and some jalapeno sauce with pita chips, a delicious bagel bite with the new Daiya cheese made by Melisser, fruit salad, pesto pasta, my potato-lima bean salad, part of a sundried tomato scone, part of a blueberry muffin, and TWO types of corn dog nuggets with an awesome spicy-sweet mustard.  (Thanks for sharing wheat products with me Melisser!)  This was a really great meal, and far more than I should have eaten.  Now I see why people rave about those sundried tomato scones – so good!  I didn’t take a picture of dessert, but if memory serves me I had a snickerdoodle, a small chocolate thing (truffle?), a brownie, and there may have been another cookie involved.  This is why I shouldn’t wait almost three weeks to write blog posts.  Aaaand I had a few beers at the party too.

Day 23

Sunday morning, I didn’t have anything I wanted to put in a smoothie, so I made fruit salad.

Strawberries, banana and grapes with flax meal.  I also had coffee with coconut milk, a multivitamin and b complex supplement.  Lunch was napa cabbage salad with spicy peanut sauce and smoked tofu, along with spirulina and (four) jam turnover cookies.  Afternoon snack was a grapefruit.  I was planning on leftovers for dinner, but when I went to pick Dave and a friend up from bart and he suggested that he might pay for taqueria if I took them…

…this happened.  Rice, beans, salsa and chips.  It’s technically cleanse friendly, except for the rice not being whole grain.  It was also technically delicious.  Along with dinner, I had a beer or two.

Day 24

I woke up with a raging headache Monday morning and decided to stay home from work.  I don’t get migraines or anything, but I could tell this was the kind of headache that was going to stick around all day.

Luckily, I had already prepped my smoothie with spinach, banana, raspberries, chocolate hempshake, udo’s oil and coconut milk.  I also took my multi and coQ10 and had blueberry green tea.

For a snack, I cut into the canary melon from my CSA.  I had never had canary melon before, but apart from the bright yellow rind, I’d say it’s really similar to honeydew.

Lunch was the last of the napa cabbage salad with spicy peanut sauce and smoked tofu, as well as a probiotic, two blueberry jam turnovers and wild sweet orange tea.  My afternoon snack was also what I had prepped to take to work – carrot sticks, squash slices, red bell pepper and cucumber with white bean pesto dip.  Dinner was the last of the sesame tofu scramble with greens, yams, mushrooms and dulse over savory oat bran, two blueberry jam turnovers and camomile tea.  I was feeling much better by the end of the night and was able to work on some food for the next day.

Day 25

I was running late for work, so no picture of the smoothie, but it had spinach, banana, strawberries, berry pomegranate hempshake, udo’s and coconut milk, and I took a multi and b complex.   Morning snack was canary melon, a nectarine and black tea.  Also no picture of my lunch salad, which had leaf lettuce, baby romaine, mexi-millet from Veganomicon, black beans, guacamole and salsa.  There’s a picture below under Day 26 of basically the same salad.  I also took a spirulina with lunch, and my afternoon snack was carrot sticks, red bell pepper and cucumber slices with white bean pesto dip.

For dinner, I made a curried stew with many of the veggies I bought at the farmers market, plus some stuff hanging around the fridge.  This stew included onion, garlic, ginger, red jalapeno, curry paste, zucchini, eggplant, okra, corn, swiss chard, coconut milk, tofu and cilantro.  I was really happy with how this turned out and kind of wished I had written down a recipe.  After dinner I had two blueberry jam turnovers and wild sweet orange tea.

Day 26

This very tasty smoothie included spinach, banana, raspberries, vanilla rice protein, almond extract, udo’s, almond milk and agave.  I really liked adding the almond and vanilla flavors, and also took my multi and coQ10.  The morning snack was a peach, canary melon and black tea.

Here is a picture of the salad mentioned above – leaf lettuce, baby romaine, mexi-millet, black beans, guacamole and salsa, with bonus cilantro and green onions.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the mexi-millet, but I quite liked it.  It was nice and flavorful and moist.  With lunch I took a probiotic, and had almonds for an afternoon snack.

The curried stew thickened significantly sitting in the fridge overnight, but still tasted great.  After dinner I had the last four blueberry jam turnovers and sugar plum spice tea.

Day 27

Thursday was a great day, if only because I was taking Friday off to hang out with our friend Mike who was visiting from Florida.  This smoothie was made from spinach, banana, strawberries, chocolate hempshake, udo’s and almond milk, and I took my multi and b complex.  At work, I had coffee with almond milk and more canary melon.  Lunch was a similar salad to the day before, with leaf lettuce, baby romaine, mexi-millet, black beans, avocado, salsa and lime juice, and I had almonds for an afternoon snack.

After work I headed downtown to pick up Dave and Mike, who had been afternoon-bar-hopping, and went straight home to have time to prepare for our first fantasy football draft.  I always get really nervous before drafts for some reason, so I cracked open a beer pretty soon after arriving home to sooth my nerves.  After a few beers and what I consider a pretty good draft, I had more of the curried summer veggie stew.

Day 28

Friday morning I slept in, and we were too busy chatting and planning our day’s activities for breakfast.  To introduce Mike to the taqueria experience, we went pretty soon after they opened for what would have to be considered brunch.  I had chips and salsa and a taco salad (lettuce, tomatoes, rice, beans, guacamole, salsa).  I took only a few nibbles of the fried tortilla taco shell.  We stopped by the grocery store to pick up tailgating supplies for the Giants game, and upon returning home I had coffee with almond milk.

We left for San Francisco in the early afternoon to meet Dave’s bandmate Brendan at Anchor Brewery, where he works.  He was finishing up a tour, just in time to give us a few samples and our own private tour!  It was very cool to see the inner workings of Anchor.

My food at the tailgate and game weren’t nearly as interesting as the game itself.  For a snack and dinner I brought a peach, a banana and leftover curried summer veggie stew.  In the game I snacked on some peanut, pistachios and a few garlic fries, and of course I had a few beers.

Photo essay on the wonder that is Tim Lincecum:

I love watching Lincecum pitch, but I’ve gotta say that the kid needs a haircut!

Dave and me after the game.

Day 29

I was seriously running out of fresh fruit by Saturday morning and had no time to shop, so this smoothie included baby romaine, banana, blueberry jam leftover from making the turnovers, mango pomegranate amazing meal, udo’s and  almond milk.  We were leaving for the whole day, so I took all my supplements in the morning too – multi, coQ10 and probiotic, and had coffee with almond milk.

The reason we were leaving was to go to our second fantasy football draft, at Dave’s cousin’s house about an hour away in Manteca.  Manteca also happens to be home to Taqueria Menteca, the sister restaurant to Taqueria Ripon, which is my second favorite place for Mexican food in the world next to Las Margaritas in Gainesville, FL.  I had had enough with taco salads and just went for the burrito.  However, I still tried to be good by cutting it in half and saving part for later that night.  It was nice to have leftover burrito, but that didn’t stop me from grabbing some handfuls of pretzels and tortilla chips.  We had some beers during the draft, and afterwards headed to a luau party also going on in town.  I did the limbo, tried to hula hoop, and had two veggie spring rolls prepared by the hostess for me and the one other vegetarian there.

Day 30

We got home really late Saturday night, and I slept in far past breakfast time on Sunday.  I was really, really out of fruit anyway.  I skipped straight to lunch and had another mexi-millet/avocado/black bean salad, as well as my multi, b complex, spirulina and coffee with almond milk.  Even though our guest was still in town, I needed to go grocery shopping to prepare for the coming week.  He wanted to go shopping for souvenirs, so we headed to Berkeley and he explored Telegraph Ave while I went to Berkeley Bowl.  When I picked him up we were both hungry and feeling too lazy to cook, so we picked up some Japanese food from a place just north of campus.  I had inari sushi and soba noodle soup with tofu and veggies.  It was quite bland, but I was hungry enough to not care much.

Conclusions

I figure I’ll report some conclusions, for anyone who might want to do a cleanse like this, or just for anyone who is curious.  I gained a bit of weight the last week (I suspect it was the lack of exercise and extra beers while our friend was visiting), but overall I was still just over three pounds down which is pretty good for a month.  After going back to “normal” with exercise and eating I dropped back down a bit fairly quickly.

Energy-wise, I didn’t feel any difference.  This was one area I was hoping to see a difference.  I get a good amount of sleep and have decent energy all the time, but I was hoping between the b complex and coQ10 supplements, healthy eating and exercise I would feel energized.  Not so.  I still needed my caffeine every morning and had those evenings here and there where all I wanted to do was sit on the couch.

Digestion.  I thought for sure my digestion would be great on this cleanse.  In reality, my digestive system was…ahem…unhappy the whole time.  Soon after starting the cleanse I noticed my…ah…number two was not in a good state, and this continued through the whole month.  For someone who normally does well in this area, this was a definite negative result.  I also had digestion pains a few times, probably from increasing the amount of raw vegetables I ate.

The other negatives were the amount of time spent prepping food, and the amount I spent.  My grocery bill was a full 30% higher than normal for the month.  I’m sure this was due mostly to buying supplements and a ton of fresh, organic fruit.  I felt like I spent a LOT of time prepping, especially for my daily lunch salads.  I was very happy when I could go back to taking dinner leftovers for lunch.

One positive was that cutting out wheat forced me to try new grains.  I tried buckwheat for the first time ever and liked it, and gave millet another shot after having it only once and not being a fan.  I will keep these grains, as well as spelt flour, regulars in my diet.  I was also shocked to find out how many products I was eating regularly had sugar.  All types of soy yogurt, for instance, are made with sugar.  So is soy creamer, and a few other products that I regularly consumed.  I’m going to stay off yogurt and take a probiotic supplement every once in a while instead, but I’m going back to creamer full force.  Coffee is just no good to me with “regular” milk.  Creamer is a deal breaker.

One rule I will continue to stick with for weight loss purposes is alcohol on weekends only.  It’s a good policy for me that keeps me from having a glass of wine on Tuesday here, a beer on Thursday here…it certainly aids in keeping my calories down.  I’m also continuing to exercise four to five days a week, and have started weight training again in addition to cardio.

Overall, I’m happy I did the cleanse (even though I “cheated” more times then I would’ve liked to), if for no other reason than to prove to myself I could do it!

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Vegan Weekends (or, The Post of Many Pictures)

Against my predictions, June was just as crazy for me as May, if not a bit crazier.  Almost every day of every weekend was booked, and then some.  So without further ado, here’s what I’ve been up to for the last five weekends…

The first weekend of June we had some friends join in on our tailgating for an A’s game and bf and I kind of went all out.  BF has been interested lately in making our own buns for hamburgers, which translates into ME making our own buns for hamburgers.  I had seen some loaves of Easy French Bread from La Dolce Vegan floating around the blog world, so I made some buns using that recipe.

I forgot to add the sesame seeds until after the second rise, and in adding them and trying to make sure they didn’t fall off I basically pressed all the rise out of the buns, so they were a little flatter then I wanted.  They tasted good though, and were definitely sturdy enough to stand up to burgers.

I don’t know what got in to me, but I had a mad desire to make Ramen Slaw, which is a dish commonly found at southern pot lucks and the like.  I found and followed a recipe online, but for the life of me I can’t find it again.  I’ll post up the link when I get home.

Ramen slaw, up close and personal.

Post-almond topping.

Here’s my plate:  veggie burger on homemade bun, grilled corn that I accidentally set on fire (like for real, flaming husks and all) and ramen slaw.  I went back for seconds on the slaw, so good.

It was bf’s cousin’s birthday, so I made dessert too.  I had a hard time deciding but in the end wound up trying the Black Bottom Blondies from My Sweet Vegan.

The look innocent enough from the top…

Bonus chocolate layer!  These were tasty enough, but honestly I didn’t like the texture.  It was kind of gummy and dense.  I’m thinking I may have overbeaten the batter, but the instructions say to beat it!

The next Saturday I was invited to a picnic at Tilden Park to celebrate the marriage of my friends Becca and Steve.  They got married in New York, so this was a nice was for us to get together.  I was completely blanking on a good picnic food to bring, so I asked Becca and she suggested the ranch dressing that she had at my house once.  Easy enough!

The food was good and simple, perfect for a picnic.  First plate:  veggie burger, chips & hummus, veggies & ranch.

Second plate:  fruit salad, pasta salad, tofu and tomatoes and more cucumbers.

Third plate, just because the roasted red peppers and grilled zucchini were done.

Lucky for all of us, Melisser of Sugar Beet Sweets made cupcakes!

Gluten free strawberry shortcake and peanut butter cup.

La la lemon and chocoate chocoalte.  I had a lemon and a pb cup.  Oink oink!  You can’t only have one of Melisser’s cupcakes.

Tilden Park is kind of amazing in an it’s-huge-and-you-will-get-lost kind of way.  There is a great old style carousel, and after lunch a group of us decided to act like children and go on it.  There are all sorts of beautiful, detailed animals.

Deer, zebra and kitty.

Lion, rooster, frog and horse.  There was also a dog and a panda and lord knows what else.  I chose the frog.  Becca didn’t want to ride because of motion sickness, so she tried to snap pictures of us.

My head is on the left above the rooster head.  Good times!

The next day I drove down to Santa Cruz to meet the NorCal PPK crew at Amey’s house for a potluck.  This was a vegan potluck of a magnitude never achieved before, and quite possibly never matched again.  Here’s the table when I got there, and food seemed to flow in continuously afterwards too.

Overflow area:

My contributions were a layered salad bar-style salad with iceberg, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, red and green bell peppers, carrots, peas, red onions, seitan pepperoni, bacos, sunflower seeds, croutons and choice of ranch or balsamic vinaigrette.

And Fatfree Vegan’s Southern-Style Banana Pudding.  This was a big hit – really delicious and very easy to make.  I used EcoPlanet vanilla cookies because they were all I could find, and it worked well.

Obviously, I had to try a little of everything.  Plate 1:  empanada, mini bagel with herb spread, pirogi with caramelized onions, crackers with walnut miso dip, bread with yellow pepper dip, a spring roll with garlic scapes and mandarins and other crazy stuff, and grilled tofu on baguette with some sort of delicious spread.

Plate 2: pasta salad, salad with ranch, chips and guacamole,

I was stuffed at this point and put off dessert as long as I could stand, but it all looked so good!  Some more non-dessert arrived in the meantime, so that’s why there’s green on my mostly-dessert plate:  brussels sprouts with pistachios, braised peach and fig salad, swedish cinnamon roll, raspberries, key lime pie with white chocolate mousse, rice krispy treat, apple coffee cake and banana pudding.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Melisser made a ridiculous dessert.  If I remember correctly it was pie crust, cookie dough, cake AND meringue.  Here she is torching the meringue.

Inside shot.

Group shot!

There were SEVEN doggies at the potluck (three of which were Amey’s), and surprisingly enough I liked them all!  All the doggie owners tried to wrangle them in for a picture.

Here’s the ever-popular Strummer, sunning herself on Megan’s lap.

Our gracious host Amey with Snoopy the cutie-pie.

And my favorite pittbull, Fiona.

After pigging out we all sat around and chatted for a while, then Megan, Melisser, her husband Ryan and I went to downtown Santa Cruz to walk around and check out some shops, so at least I worked off a FEW calories.  Check out Amey’s blog post here, she has more detailed pictures of most of the food.

The next weekend we went to Vegas!  BF’s sister is graduating from her master’s program and wanted to get together to celebrate so a group of 13 of us went, mostly bf’s family and his sister’s boyfriend’s family.  Whew.  We scored an amazing rate at Paris, and really enjoyed staying there.  It’s a comfortable hotel, and the kind of place you wouldn’t really have to leave the whole weekend if you didn’t want to.

We got in late afternoon on Friday, settled in, and ate at a cafe in Paris that really isn’t worth writing about, except for the fact that I got a whole bottle of wine for $8 when most of their single glasses are more than that.

HERE is what Vegas means to me.

Ronald’s Donuts, my friends.  The donuts are out of this world good, they have soy milk for coffee, and I will happily make myself sick eating their apple fritters.  Here I am, slightly hungover and unshowered, in apple fritter heaven.

We had plans for dinner but needed to have a late lunch somewhere, because one cannot exist on apple fritters alone.  Enter Le Burger Brasserie in Paris.  I took a chance that this place would have something I could eat, and I won!  Upon inquiring of the waiter if their veggie burger had any dairy or eggs, he cringed and said “Yeah, I think it does…it has mushrooms, grains, vegan cheese…Wait!  Vegan cheese has no dairy!” and checked with the kitchen to be completely sure.

This was a good, good veggie burger.  The patties are made in-house, and are at least an inch thick and very tasty.  It comes with two topping, but I added one and chose portobello, avocado and caramelized onions.  Seriously, this was one of the best veggie burgers I have ever had and I’d recommend Le Burger Brasserie over the meal I had at Burger Bar easily.

The one caveat about this place is that it’s not cheap.  The burgers don’t come with fries, you have to order them separately.  But I would recommend that you do.

Because their fries are really good, despite the blurry image.  They have steak fries, shoestring fries AND waffle fries and you can get a three fry sampler if you want.

Sometimes when the waiter forgets to ask whether you want an orange or lemon slice with your Widmer and they bring you both, you put them both in.  It’s Vegas, you gotta get a little crazy!

Dinner that night was at The Wynn Buffet, where the lighting apparently does horrible things to my pictures.  Like last time I visited, I didn’t get to check that anything was vegan, but when in doubt went the cautious route.  So don’t take my word for it on this stuff…

Plate 1:  salad with vinaigrette, asparagus and pea salad, strawberries, dried fruit, marinated artichoke, pickles and a little piece of bread.

Plate 2:  pita with hummus and baba ganoush, rice pilaf, curried chickpeas.

Plate 3:  Asian slaw, spicy cucumbers with citrus, sushi, seaweed salad, and the most amazing miso udon which I tried to replicate after the last time I had it but didn’t really come close.

I also had a few bites of sorbet for dessert, but it was nothing picture worthy.  For the life of me I can’t remember where or if we had lunch the next day.  Maybe I just ate a bunch of donuts?

For dinner, we had a date with Hoffbrauhaus, a full-on German-style restaurant like in Beer Fest.  You sit at a long table with other parties, there is a band with an accordion on stage, and the waitresses can carry multiple mugs of beer in one hand.  Look at this perfect pour!

The menu includes two vegetarian entrees, but they’re both laden with cheese or cream, so I asked about a few side dishes and ended up getting three.

Yummy pretzel with sweet mustard.

Cucumber salad, which was good but not worth the $7 it costed.

Red cabbage.  The flavor was good, but they somehow managed to make the cabbage HEAVY.  I couldn’t even finish this small bowl.

I would recommend the Hoffbrauhaus if you’re into that sort of thing, but warn that it is not really within walking distance of the strip.  It may look like it is on a map, but please take a cab!

After dinner we went to Cirque du Soleil Mystere at TI.  It was quite a show, but overall I think I liked La Nouba in Orlando better.  Not that Mystere was bad, it just wasn’t better than La Nouba.  It was also really expensive; our discount tickets were more than I really wanted to pay, but I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity.

That was it for us in Vegas, but on the way out of town we stopped off at Ronald’s again.  I had asked around in the Bay Area to see if anyone wanted donuts brought back and had a large response.  So I bought ten half dozens, which didn’t include the donuts I bought for the ride home, or the donuts that the sweet people at Ronald’s GAVE to me!  Here are the donuts I distributed, with my pepper grinder for size reference (and bonus grease spots).

The next weekend, in addition to going to two baseball games, I baked a donation for the San Francisco Worldwide Vegan Bakesale.

These are Chocolate Chip-Raspberry Blondies from Vegan With A Vengeance, but made with Blackberries instead.  They are super-duper good and I can’t believe I waited this long to try them!  I did have a tricky time getting the blackberry filling to work, it kind of seized up and got stringy.  The recipe calls for tapioca powder and I used tapioca flour because I thought they were the same thing.  Anyone know if they’re the same thing?  I added some extra water to the filling and despite being really sticky, it worked out.

Seeing as SF is not a short trip exactly, and I had a hard time getting going that morning, I was a few hours late for the bakesale.  They had already sold out of a lot of items, but had enough to keep going.

We did really well with foot traffic due to our fantasitc location in front of Ike’s.  Ike’s has pretty much the best sandwiches ever (with extensive vegan options), so of course I had to get one.  I really wanted the Paul Reubens special but they had run out of Tofurkey, so I had a “Not So Sloppy” – meatballs and bbq sauce.

So friggin’ good!  And if you order a vegan sandwich they give you a vegan lollipop.

The bakesale was a HUGE success.  Between the two days and locations they raised $3,000 dollars.  Three thousand!  The proceeds were split between Animal Place and East Bay Animal Advocates.  I feel proud to have been a small part of such a great event.  Thanks to Melisser and Laura for organizing!

That brings us to this past weekend, which was the Fourth of July.  We kept it small and just went to a friend’s house to grill, hang out and play board games.  I decided to make a fancy grilled portobello sandwich, and started by marinating some big mushrooms according to this recipe.

During the veggie grilling session (after the grill had been cleaned of any remaining meats) we cooked the portobellos along with pattypan squash and corn.

I served the mushrooms on storebought ciabatta with lettuce, caramelized onions and avocado-horseradish sauce.  Delightful!  The portobellos weren’t the best I’ve ever made, but I think that had more to do with me cooking them over high heat for a few minutes too long than it did with the recipe.

In keeping with my one year tradition of making a red, white and blue dessert, I put together a trifle.  The layers are lemon pound cake from Veganomicon, strawberries, blueberries and coconut whipped cream.  I was going to do a simple silken tofu whipped cream but couldn’t find silken tofu anywhere, so I bought two cans of coconut milk, remembering that I had read somewhere that you could whip it into cream.  I followed the technique of this recipe, using all the cream from the tops of both cans (about 1 1/2 cups), 6 Tbs powdered sugar, 4 Tbs soy milk powder, 1 tsp almond extract, and a pinch of salt.  It did whip up and turned out nicely.

While I was carefully layering the trifle, bf asked me “Why are you arranging it so carefully if you’re just going to cover it up?”.  Well, this is why:

Trifle’s are supposed to look pretty from the side!

And from the top.  It tasted really good too.  There were lots of flavors going on between the vanilla and lemon in the pound cake, the coconut and almond in the cream and the berries, but it came together well and the pound cake had the perfect squishy consistency.

Lastly, here is how Jake likes to spend his time while I’m out galavanting and running around.

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VeganMoFo: Halloween Potluck

Yeah, so VeganMoFo technically ended on Friday, but I’m counting this as my last MoFo post cause it happened on Friday and I didn’t have a chance to post until now.

I was very excited to be invited to Melisser’sHalloween potluck party!  I’d seen posts about her parties online before and they looked like fun, so I was looking forward to it all week.  I had a great time, and the food was fantastic!  It was so nice to look at a whole table-full of food and know that I could eat any of it.

(It looks like Melisser just beat me to posting about the party, so go check out her post too!)

I’ll start with what I made:  corn crackers (bats and black cats), wheat crackers (skulls and ghosts), and two kinds of uncheese cut into pumpkins, acorns and leaves.

The corn crackers are from this recipe.  I couldn’t find any blue corn meal anywhereso I used regular corn meal and added black food coloring.  I rolled them out a little bit thick, but they were very tasty.  Kind of like a thick corn chip.  The wheat crackers are from How To Cook Everything (not to be confused with How To Cook Everything Vegetarian), and they need work.  They were lacking in flavor (although the recipe does recommend adding herbs and such), and they puffed up and were chewy instead of crunchy.  Maybe I just didn’t bake them long enough.  The uncheeses are from The Uncheese Cookbook, Gooda and Pepper Jack.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, recipe here.  These were soooooo good.  BF said they are the best thing I’ve ever baked.  Make them!  I used the cream cheese icing from VCTOTW.

Caramel apples and faux Butterfingers (chocolate covered Chick-O-Stics), made by Melisser.

Buffalo tofu and blue sheese dressing, also by Melisser.  The dressing was out-of-this-world good.

Becca’s favorite baked beans.

Awesome molded mound of rice, tempeh taco meat and avocado, potstickers, and eggplant dip.

Mummy dogs!

My plate.

My bowl, also with pumpkin soup.

More dessert:  Candy Cane Jo Jo’s, faux Butterfingers, chocolate covered pretzels and a pb chocolate chip cookie.

Plateful of caramel apple pieces so we could all share.

There were lots of great costumes, but I think Melisser and her husband Ryan took the prize – they were Peter Pan and Captain Hook, and their itty bitty doggie Strummer was supposed to be the crocodile, but she kept shaking off her outfit.

She’s so ridiculously cute.  And small.  After she shook off her costume again, Melisser put on her hat which was knitted by Kittee herself!

Although I was never on the official participant list since I started late, I’m glad I did VeganMoFo.  It definitely got me back into blogging and cooking.  I started my new job yesterday, so I’m not really sure yet how much time I’ll be able to dedicate.  I’ll probably be back to blogging a couple times a week.  But, the good news is I’m back to packing laptop lunches every day.

P.S. Obama won!  Woohoooooo!!!  Now we’re crossing our fingers, waiting to hear the results of the prop 8 vote.  If it passes it will take away the right of same sex couples to marry, and I will not be happy about it.

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