Monthly Archives: August 2011

Is Portland for real?

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Hey y’all! I am loving Portland right now, it is 30 degrees cooler then in atx, stumptown coffee and hazelnut lattes galore and almost every restaurant has nooch shaker…

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Help Sunny Day Farms!

Earlier this year I was able to volunteer at Sunny Day farms and meet some of their wonderful rescued animals, like Betty Lou the horse that was a pet until she went blind and the owners dumped her at an auction. If it wasn’t for an act of compassion she would have been shipped to Mexico where the animal slaughtering regulations aren’t has tight. I also pet Barnaby the goat who had been first rescued by animal control when they found he him chained to a tree starving, where he’d been his entire life. There were so many wonderful sweet animals and each one had a sad story with a happy end: being rescued to live in a farm animal paradise.  That is why it was even more distressing to learn that Sunny Day, which saves so many lives, is in big trouble because of the drought and onslaught of 100 degree days.

Since all the grass has dried up at Sunny Day, they are buying more hay than ever–and it was already their biggest expense. And due to the drought, the cost of hay has doubled, making an already bad situation almost impossible. The vet has already had to put one very sick horse down, and we are so worried that there will be even more casualties.

The Good News!

Texas vegans and animal-lovers have banded together with bake sales, hay bale challenges, and even a marathon fundraiser to raise whatever money we can to help these animals and there are lots of ways you can participate.

Several of Texas’ most amazing bloggers, restaurants, animal lovers, companies, and even a cookbook author donated recipes to the Sunny Days in Texas cook zine which has 30 recipes (including a world famous popcorn tofu recipe) to the zine which is going to be available at the Vida Vegan Convention, and online soon. The Black and White Version will be available soon on Etsy but an adorable color version- that includes a digital download- is on sale now. It is a little more expensive because of the cost of prinying and shipping, but I got one and I love it!.

The zine is chock-full of more than 30 recipes from ever aspect of Texas vegan cuisine, from ranch dressing to raw tacos. I am so excited to try every one of the recipes like the Blackened Ceaser Tempeh wrap, Jackfruit Brisket, King Ranch Casserole (with food for lovers queso baking in the flavor), and homemade Oreos!

It will also be sold at the vegan bakesale this Saturday at Monkeywrench books which is also benefiting Sunny Day. During the bakesale the Sue will also be donating a portion of her sales at Counter Culture so eat please join us in eating a lot of tasty vegan food to save animals!

 If you can’t make it to any of the events or want to help more check out Sunny Day’s hay bale donation program.

And thanks to everyone that donated recipes  Wes AllisonKristen Blackmore, Natala ConstantineKristen DavenportMolly FrisingerKrys KaganAriane LeverettAnjanette MartinChristy MorganSue Purr, Margot Rochon, Chris & Chrystal TateThe Spiral Diner, and Wheatsville co-op.

Best iphone apps for Vegan travel

Back in the day my friend Sandra and I used to drive across the country quite a bit. She had  a little book that had every vegetarian restaurant in the USA listed. We had so much fun cruising around places like Kansas City or Boulder comparing the atlas with the guide. It was so much more interesting then stopping at the same places along every single highway. But, invariably, places would be closed down forever or have moved to other locations or have inconvenient open hours.

Things have really changed. I used to always talk about opening an interstate franchise called “The Vegan Oasis” where you could get healthy food and there was even a fenced in spot place for your canine traveling companion to stretch his legs. I still think it is a great idea but now it isn’t nearly as necessary because of that magical technology that we can’t imagine living without: the internet. For me, my iphone has made traveling as a vegan about a bazillion times easier then even a couple years ago when I would research a town before heading there and then print out a google map. Now it is all so acceseible because of my wonderful device. Since I have been on the road a lot this summer, and just about to head out to the Vida Vegan convention I thought I would share with you some of my favorite apps for traveling because they make life so much easier.

Travel

VeganXpress – At first, I thought this app was pointless for me since I live in a vegan friendly city and avoid chain restaurants whenever possible. Then I left my fabulous town by auto and was super happy to find out exactly what I could order at Taco Bell.
  Happy Cow – The happy cow app has a nice map feature and will tell you all the veg restaurants in town with ratings. I have found a lot of things are out of date so remember to cross reference.
  Yelp – I like the app a lot more than the site. The other day I was in Chicago at 11 pm and I just searched “vegan” and could easily see every place around me and what time they were open. The reviews can be incredibly annoying but Yelp seems to be the best way to find newer restaurants in strange cities and non-vegetarian restaurants from other cultures where you can usually find something fantastic.
  Maps – Once I realized that I could use public transportation from the directions in the maps app my life changed forever. How cool is it to be in a city you have never been, tell the app where you want to go and it tells you where to walk, which bus to take, how much it’s going to cost and maybe most importantly, when to get off the dang bus! You can just watch your little blue dot travel along your route, I love it. I also like dropping a pin at places that I am going to have to come back to, like where I park my car at the airpot.
  My Maps I usually make a google map if I am traveling to a city with all the places I want to go and stay marked along with all the vegan restaurants I want to go to. My Maps let’s you save these offline so if you can’t access 3G or wi-fi you can still figure out where you need to go. Love it!
  My TSA – Yes, this is the official app of the TSA which makes me feel a little scared even having on my iphone. What if it spies on me somehow? Or takes nude pictures of me. I can only hope that the app isn’t that advanced yet. What I love about it is the database that tells you wheater you can bring something on the plane or not. I will never again get into another argument about whether peanut butter is a liquid or a solid! You can put just about anything in the search (peanut butter and jelly sandwhich? YES Hummus? YES but only if it is less then 3.4oz) and it will give you a solid answer. It also tells the wait times at the airport but I haven’t found that to be terribly accurate since it relies on others who use the app inputting the data.
  TripIT – This app is so awesome if you are traveling with someone else and you are both making different parts of the arrangements but it is handy just for one as well. Basically it keeps your itinerary and confirmation numbers all in one spot. If you are going somewhere where you have scheduled a flight, a rental car, and a hotel you can just forward the confirmation emails to your account at trip it and it will automatically populate your trip. It was so handy when my friend and I were in Hawaii because she could see what flight I was on and that I got there super early so she was able to make arrangements. Plus you don’t have to go searching through your email for every little thing.
  Gate Guru – Have you ever been at the airport and eaten some pathetic garden salad with no dressing only to later realize that there was a fantastic looking burrito place right by your gate? I have! It sucked. This app is so cool because you can call up any airport and it will tell you every single restaurant, bar, and shop in the airport and what gate they are in including what terminal. It starts the search right where you are standing so if you need a quick bite you can instantly find something en route. If you are stuck at O’hare for 3 days because of wind you can explore those far flung restaurants at K-93, because don’t worry, you aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
  Kayak – This is my favorite flight planning aggregator, I like the way the site and the app are set up. You can easily see which is the cheapest way to go. Southwest airlines isn’t on any of the aggregators though and I usually find the best deal there. And they are nice. And you can check two bags for free where the other airlines will charge you 50 bucks!
  Southwest etc – The airlines all have apps and some of them are nice because you can check in on the app. Don’t let them fool you though with the mobile boarding pass. I’m sure it works sometimes but I almost missed a flight once because the scanner wouldn’t work, always get a paper back up just in case.

Photography

  Instagram – I love this app for taking pictures, the filters are not always great for food but fun foreverything else and it makes sharing so easy with everything from flickr to foursquare
  PS Express – Photoshop for iphone is super easy to use if you want to change the levels saturation and things like that
  Flickr – If you keep your pics on Flickr this app is great to have, you can upload right to the cloud which I really like because my phone is always filling up so quickly (you can probably see why). I like that I can make sets and rename pics with ease. I also like that I can look a pics on the site on my camera and it works exactly the same as when I look at them on phone.
  Camera + This one is really cool to play around with, it is like Instagram mixed with PS Express with even more functions. It isn’t as simple as either of those and it isn’t free but a nice one to have if you love to take pictures.

Fun

Foursquare – I love using this app to “check in” to places when I am traveling. You can add pictures and then when your trip is over you can have a nice record of everywhere you have been. It was really helpful in Hawaii to spell places like Waiʻanapanapa and tell the different beaches apart. If you use it a lot don’t publicize every check in on twitter or facebook because that drives people crazy. And don’t befriend people you don’t know in real life because you don’t want to end up with a stalker or someone robbing your house.
  Qrank – This my favorite game on the phone. It is a daily trivia game that interfaces with your facebook & twitter so you can see how you compare to your friends and celebrities. You also get different badges when you play in other states and countries which makes me really happy for no reason.
  Scrabble – This one is nice on a trip because you don’t need the internet to play. You can play against the computer or pass and play with a friend which is super nice if you are waiting in a long line somewhere.
  Smurfs – I would be a liar if I didn’t admit to playing this game every day. I guess it is a lot like farmville (which I have never played) but with adorable smurfs. Just don’t buy any smurfberries and it’s slow moving fun to build up your smurf empire. And check out Smurfs village Guide along a community website that will help play the game.
  Netflix – I always thought the Netflix app was silly, why would I want to watch movies on my phone? That is, until I was staying at my Grandma’s where everyone goes to sleep by 9 am and my room has no TV. I was so happy I could watch Star Trek all night.
  Twitter – I know some people hate twitter but it is the best way I have found to get recommendations in other towns. Just two weeks ago I was in Chicago and I asked if anyone knew a good vegan friendly happy hour and minutes later someone told me about a mostly vegan bar right around the corner from where I was staying. If you don’t have a lot of followers feel free to ask me@veganLazySmurf to retweet, usually someone will write back pretty quickly!

Springfield Springfield, it’s a hell of a town!

After an intense trip to Chicago I was excited for the short cruise down I-55 to get to my hometown Springfield Illinois where my Mom currently resides. Since my sister, my Dad, and my extended family all live in Chicagoland I rarely get to go all the way down to Springfield so I was really excited to spend the better part of the week at my Mom’s for a couple reasons.

Number 1), Mom’s glorious pool.I spent all day, every day laying in the pool soaking up the non-threatening midwest sun  and watching big fluffy clouds move across the sky. It was ideal. Since my foot is still non-functioning my Mom and my friend Keil made me delicious lunches like this barbecued eggplant sandwich with amaranth greens and sweet onions (inspired by a post on i eat trees).  Homemade pizza with garden picked tomatoes & basil

I also had my Chicago Whole Foods haul that kept me happy throughout the week, especially the green olive bread.

Number 2) Favorite restaurants

Besides getting to hang out at my Mom’s house there is another huge benefit to trips to Springfield, I also get to go to my all time favorite the restaurant, the Magic Kitchen.The magic kitchen is out on the North end of Springfield in a shack and it is a place that nearly all of my friends and family hold dear to our hearts. I checked on facebook and I got comments from friends that live in New York, Utah, Chicago, and Texas all jealous that I was at our beloved restaurant. I thought maybe I had built up the food in my head a little bit, after all, it is the first place I ever tried tofu. It is probably the first place I ever even heard of Thailand for that matter. 20 years later, nothing compares to the spicy, salty, tangy, sweet food at the Magic Kitchen. One bite made me start loving humanity all over again and I had just about given up. I love the Sweet and Sour Tofu the best, pineapples, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and mushrooms all fried to perfection in their non-sticky sauce. It is what Sweet and Sour should be.If you are ever driving through central Illinois or stopping in Springfield to check out the Abe Lincoln museum, stop in (they are closed Mondays) and let me know if you think I am being overly nostalgic or if you think it is the best Thai in the US.

We also tried a new Japanese – Thai restaurant called Osaka. It was a cute place and the Japanese menu and sushi menu both had vegetarian options but I really wanted Thai food again and was happy that they use the big fat rice noodles. Love!

I also saw that they had a martini called the “Lake Springfield” which I couldn’t resist. The lake is a hot button issue in town. We used to all swim in it as kids but it was always really polluted. At some point when I was in school there was a leptospirosis outbreak from people who were swimming in a triathlon and many people stopped swimming in it and eventually even the public beach closed. I remember even as a kid you wouldn’t dare wear a white bathing suit because it would end up green after swimming in the lake. Yuk! Even though it is all really depressing I thought it was hilarious that Osaka named their cocktail after the lake, it is good to know that someone in town has a sense of humor. It was surprisingly delicious….and definitely resembled the lake.

Number 3) Driving around

Growing up in Springfield our top activity was always driving around so I was really happy that my Mom indulged me in this activity. We went to a lot of farmstands and picked up different kinds of sweetcorn, tomatoes, peaches and anything else that looked good.

We even went to one farmstand where you can just pick out whatever you want and leave the money in a dropbox. My Mom wanted me to go though all these boxes of things from my childhood and decide if there was anything I wanted to keep. My favorite was this poem I wrote in kindergarten.I still wish all the hamsters in the world loved me and that I could talk to them.

There was a lot of stuff I just couldn’t get rid of that made it back to Austin. 

It was a good trip.

Chicago – Summer in the City

Foster Beach in Chicago

Travelling to Chicago in the summer time always makes me want to live there. Walking around the city, riding the El while listening to Sufjan Stevens, visiting with my friends and family, and eating glorious food always makes me stop and say “I could live here”. Then I try to buy a cocktail or walk around at Christmastime and realize I could never live here. Well, maybe I’ll be able to do it after global weather change. God knows it is getting pretty hard to live in Texas right now with this serious drought and heat wave. It seems practically apocalyptic in Austin these days, everything is dying. Sunny Day Farms can’t even feed their rescued farm animals because they can’t grow grass so please donate if you can, they need hay for the piggies. All the poor critters out there are suffering the most.

Compared with Texas, Illinois kept blowing me away by how lush and green everything was, it was just gorgeous! We were supposed to start the trip with my Mom taking my sister and I to the fancy vegetarian restaurant Green Zebra but my flight was late and we took a wrong turn and ended up at Handlebar which is a mostly vegan bar and restaurant that is open until 2 am. I got a Buffalo “chicken” wrap which had vegan ranch, fried seitan and vegetables along with some mashed potatoes. It was pretty much the perfect thing to get at a bar if you had been drinking all night. I took the worst picture of my blogging career. It is so bad that I have to share it. Hey, it was bar lighting.

We went back for brunch another day and I took a picture that was a little better on their cute bike friendly patio. My sister had a bloody mary garnished with a deep fried pickle.

I had a hard time deciding what to get on the brunch menu because the biscuits and gravy were softly whispering “Lazy, you know you want us” but I pushed the voices aside this time and ordered the pepita tofu scramble which had roasted red peppers, sweet potatoes, kale, poblanos, and a pepita pesto even, I was not disappointed. The creamy pesto mstched really well with the crunchy fried onions.

Another day we checked out Mana Food Bar for happy hour and had an array of salads and delicious cocktails. It was hot out so the cold dishes were perfect and I felt like I was eating how people imagine vegans eat all the time. I think our favorite was the top one, a jicama and mango dish with cucumbers, cilantro, and chile lime salt. I should try and make that at home because it was perfect for 90 degree weather. The middle dish was a quinoa salad with tomatoes and kalamatas with sage. It was ok but probably not worth seven dollars for a small. Finally, we had a seaweed salad which had cucumbers and a bright lemon sesame dressing. The sampler was pretty good but my watermelon and mint sake cocktail was the definitely the best part.

Later we went down the street to Crust for pizza and Trivia, and our team, “The Springfield Isotopes” was robbed of victory. The food at Crust was well done overall, I had an olive tapenade, chips and mango salsa and a fabulous but teeny brushetta with white bean hummus, capers, and preserved lemon, and another one with roasted woodland mushrooms and truffle oil. I would have gotten the pizza too but it was 5 dollars to add soy cheese, tempeh or seitan and which seemed a little excessive, overall everything was really delicious and probably worth the price. Another Day we went to Foster Beach which was just beautiful. The water was warm and it was almost perfect….almost because the City of Chicago doesn’t allowed floaties in the water! Blasphemy! I guess the fear is that people will float off to far. For some reason this is a concern in a lake but not a problem in other places like the OCEAN in Hawaii or Florida. Bullshit. If I lived there I would be emailing Rahm Emanuel disgruntled letters all summer long. Later my sister took me to Falafill which was probably my favorite new find of the whole trip.The brilliant concept behind this awesome little falafel stop is that you get either a falafel or hummus sandwich or bowl and then you get to go to the self service bar to put on whatever of the 30 toppings you want and can fit! The falafels were perfectly seasoned and fried up crunchy and the toppings were overwhelmingly good. I would eat there every day and just get salad. Almost everything on the bar was vegan and clearly marked. My protip if you go, put your cilantro chutney on first, my falafel was a little dry because I put all the sauce on last. And do get the cilantro chutney. Unless you are a hater. The bazerghen, the Armenian salad, the olives with morrocan spice, and toum (garlic sauce) were all fantastic. Every bite was a new sensation of wonder and delight. They have guides for the timid so you don’t go mixing un-mixey things.

By the way, if you are traveling to Chicago I would recommend staying in Wrigglyville because all my favorite places are right around there, The Chicago Diner, Falafill, and all sorts of others. And you could see a game which people in Chicago are really into. There are lots of vegan options at the park. PS, if you are going to Chicago I have several posts from other trips to the Chicago Diner and Irazu (and even Milwaukee), and Soul Veg.

I checked out another Spanish tapas place kind of nearby Wriggly with my Dad called Bull-eh-dia. I thought I would be able to find something at a tapas place and it turned out they had a lot! We started with peach sangria and then I couldn’t resist the Paella Vegetariana which was surprisingly vegan.It was delicious and chock-full of mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, peas and peppers. It was creamy and comforting and a huge portion. I didn’t try the other tapas but they had a changing menu with items like artichokes in a citrus dressing, and aceitunas aliñadas and many different kinds of sangria.

Finally it was time to say good-bye and my Mom and I headed out of town. Before we left, though, my sister told me to check out the Whole Foods in the South Loop. Even though it was out of the way I was so glad we went. They had all kinds of things that our Whole Foods doesn’t carry, and I always thought ours was the best! The difference is that Chicago has such great local companies like Soul Veg and Uptown’s seitan that make a ton of prepared food for the store. They just had a giant rack with vegan mac and cheese, sandwiches, chicken salad, pies and barbecue. What a travesty that the Texas Whole Foods doesn’t carry vegan barbecue!

They even had a vegan chicken bacon ranch wrap! It was madness.

We loaded up with supplies and headed downstate.

Illinois

I am on vacation in Illinois having the best time, it is beautiful and green here with huge wide open skies

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I was in Chicago for a few days then drove to Springfield and now am heading up to Indiana. Lots of farms stands and sweet corn along the way. Today we are going to make a peach pie and swim in the pool. I love summer vacations.