Sunday, June 9, 2013

Blueberry Banana Green Smoothie (with a shot of Chia)

This week, organic blueberries were on sale, so I took full advantage and bought two pints. My plan to make blueberry buckwheat pancakes with some of them never came to pass, so I made up some luscious fruit smoothies for breakfast instead.

Here we have:

2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 large banana, frozen
3/4 cup organic blueberries
1 1/2 cups baby spinach
1 package of chia shots*, from my Vida Vega Con swag bag!
*ice cubes, if you like it extra cold

*What's nice about chia seeds is that they pack all the omega 3s, fiber and protein of flax seeds, but they do NOT have to be fully ground in order to digest or reap the nutritional benefits. So these cute little packs are great for on the go to add into yogurt or salads, too.

Add ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth and creamy. This makes a fantastic breakfast on the go. And, considering the blueberries have now doubled in price, this was a nice treat while it lasted! ^_^

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Millet Salad with Carrots and Kale

So, I went a little overboard with the free samples from Bob's Red Mill at Vida Vegan Con 2013, and have now found myself overrun with MILLET (which is not necessarily a bad thing)!

As part of the new packaging on their Grains of Discovery series, the lovely representative from Bob's Red Mill was armed and ready with simple size packets of several unique and interesting ancient grains which have nourished many of the world's civilizations since the dawn of time.  Some were quite familiar to me such as quinoa and farro, others like amaranth and kamut, were not.  Millet I had heard of, but had never cooked with it before now.

For those of you unfamiliar with millet, it look like quinoa's cousin, tiny pellets without the quinoa "tail". You might also recognize it as the #1 ingredient in most bird seeds...  (I kept that part to myself, as this might be a tough sell for my better-half). I have read that millet is highly nutritious, expands quite a bit when cooking, and has the tendency to become mushy if overcooked.

So what to make with this "rediscovered" ancient grain...

One of my favorite talks at Vida Vegan con was Terry Hope Romero's Recipe Creation and Testing, where Terry discussed, in depth, her recipe development process. One of her tips was to let yourself be inspired by food and food trends, and not just VEGAN food trends.  She takes inspiration from Sauveur, Bon Appetite and the Washington Post, publications not know for vegetarian or even vegan dishes.  So instead of typing my usual:  "MILLET RECIPES VEGAN" into Google, I left the 'vegan' out, and found this:

  -from the New York Times Website.

With a little tweaking I came up with this adaptation, which I veganized, and added some ingredients I had on hand

Millet, Carrot & Kale Salad

12 kale leaves, stemmed and washed thoroughly
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup millet
1 cup vegetable broth
1-2 tsp Tandoori Seasoning (Penzey's)
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound carrots, peeled halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup pickled red peppers (leftover from Indian take away)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 TBSP nigella seeds sesame seeds, toasted, plus onion powder to taste

For the Dressing:
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
2 TBSP seasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp sweet curry powder (Penzey's) 
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
2-3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup buttermilk sunflower milk, plus 1 T Tofutti Sour cream

Now because I was making this on a weeknight, I decided to skip the kale prep. TWO ways from the original recipe, and just go for blanched (or in my case, steamed) kale. Chop kale leaves into strips and steam for about 5 minutes until bright and vibrant green.  Rinse in a colander under cold water and set aside, drain and squeeze out excess water. Kale can be chopped a bit more, at this point (especially nice if you have a kale hater in your house like I do)!

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat in a heavy 2- or 3-quart saucepan. Add the millet and Tandoori seasoning and toast, stirring, until it begins to smell fragrant and toasty, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of vegetable broth and salt to taste, and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 25 to 30 minutes, until the liquid in the saucepan has evaporated and the grains are fluffy. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  At this point I also added the sliced carrots and my leftover pickled red peppers from Indian takeaway the previous night.

 Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a measuring cup.  At this point, the original recipe had suggested reheating the whole mixture with the dressing in a skillet, but I thought it was just warm enough.  Add the chopped kale to the millet and carrots, add dressing (I only used about 3/4 of the dressing) then stir to combine.  Mix in the sesame seeds and  chopped cilantro, (I like to save a bit of each to top the final salad) and serve!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Veganize This PDX-Style - The Greatest American "Gyro"

I must say, the sheer abundance of amazing vegan food in the city of Portland is quite impressive. I'd even go as far as to say it is mind-blowing.  I had the pleasure of having two very distinct sandwiches that are predominantly animal based, Gyro Pocket and Crab Cake, and I have to say, I'd stack these vegan versions against the real thing any day. 

Let's begin with my night out at The White Owl Social Club.

This funky, hip new place in town is just over on the East side of the river and was easily found by bus. It was still raining that evening, so I tucked my hair up under my hoodie and headed out!  The "Unofficial" Meet & Greet for Vida Vegan con began at 3:30 and because I had basically skipped lunch in favor of coffee and Voodoo Doughnuts, I was ready for a bite to eat.  I walked in, and saw the "special" board with some sort of Pineapple Mango Rum Punch cocktail (YUM), and "The Greatest American Gyro" made with Greek spiced seitan strips and vegan tzaziki. Whaaat?!? I was sold.  I usually "falafel-it" when I go to Mediterranean sandwich places (East Side Pockets) but, my other-half has had many a GYRO, and I was curious what a vegan version would be like!  
Well, let me tell you, this did not disappoint, and the fries kicked butt, too

One of the not-so-exciting things about going to a conference like this, with out knowing a single person, is walking into an event such as a "meet-and-greet" wondering if anyone will talk to you...  I was fortunate enough to bump into a familiar "online" face right away: my blogger buddy Jojo, aka Vegan in Brighton,  and her lovely pal from down-under, Mandi, aka the Bookish Manicurist. Now we are all Instagram buddies, and can keep up with what we are doing, eating, cooking, traveling to, and painting (nails, that is).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

First time in Portland for Vida Vegan Con!

Portland, Oregon.  A city most vegans only dream about.  Where nutritional yeast is sprinkled liberally on everything, (even sushi), where seitan hot wings and vegan ranch adorn the menu of most pubs and bars, and where vegan doughnuts can be found 24-hours a day, and melt in your mouth like some magical spell.

It is here we set the stage for the second annual Vida Vegan Con, Vegan Lifestyle and Blogger conference.  A place where vegans from around the globe come to meet, greet, and devour all the fabulous vegan food the city of Portland has to offer.  Oh, and attend some pretty kick @$$ classes and seminars, too!  When the announcement was made that the 2013 conference was going to be held in May, rather than the end of August, I jumped at the change to purchase my ticket. I would be traveling alone, and I had never met a single person going to the event (not in real life, anyway), but I was so thrilled to see the conference being held at a time that wasn't my black-out time at work, that I jumped at the chance to go this year.  So, if the powers that be read this, here is one enthusiastic blogger's vote to NOT have the next conference during the last week of August!

Now, because it takes almost an entire day to fly to Portland from the East Coast, I decided to give myself an extra day on either end of the conference. I flew in to LAX on Wednesday, and got to Portland late Wednesday night.  I wanted to have the better part of Thursday free to go explore the sites of the city. I was sad to see it was pouring rain when I landed, but that did not get me down. Armed with my trusty iPhone app, PDX Bus, I went from train, to bus, to motel in about 50 minutes, where I promptly crashed after a long day of travel.

PDX Bus iPhone App

Day 1.

Thursday morning, I awoke with doughnuts on my mind.  It was still raining, so I hopped on the bus, which brought me about a block away from Voodoo Doughnuts!

Now it's been a while since I've even had a doughnut, so I was eagerly anticipating this monumentus occasion! There was a minimal line (which I hear, is RARE). The lines at Voodoo Doughnut have been known the snake right out the door, and there were ropes where customers should form a line just to prove it. 

I entered and was blown away by the atmosphere and decor, and eclectic explosion of crazy pink fun!

So, if a vegan gal is to choose only ONE of all the fabulous vegan doughnuts on the "This Level is All Vegan" display, I would go head-first, balls to the walls with this glorious item below.

Behold, The Dirty Old Bastard:

This is a raised yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, Oreos, and peanut butter. (Whoa!)  I must say, I have never in my LIFE tasted any sort of vegan baked good that even compared the this. The doughnut itself was light and airy, yet rich and decadent.  It literally melted in my mouth.  And the toppings... chocolate, OREO, drizzled with peanut butter... I can't even...  It honestly took me about an hour to get through half of this monster, and I enjoyed every, over-the-top, delicious bite.

Rewind a bit:  There was no indoor seating in Voodoo Doughnuts, so I quickly paid for my treat, (cash only, please), carefully slipped my doughnut into my bag, and went out in search for a warm dry place to sit and partake of my breakfast.

A few doors down was Stumptown Coffee Roasters, which, I had never heard of, despite being an avid coffee drinker (go figure?!?)

This is my poor excuse of a panoramic shot of this cool, sleek and modern coffee shop.

I really loved the exposed brick as well as the super long service counter.  And, here is the perfect accompaniment to my Voodoo Doughnut.  A perfectly topped soy double latte:

I'm already enjoying every moment of this trip, and it's only Day 1! ^_^