I had an awesome day. Chris and I only spent about three and a half hours at the Texas VegFest
but I needed a nap when I got home! My belly was full of wonderful vegan noms and the great Texas heat reached the high 80's, maybe even low 90's, while we were there. Fiesta Gardens was full of hot stuffed vegans, but all I saw were smiling, friendly, and happy faces.
The festival was laid out perfectly. Upon entering, you paid your "suggested donation" and received swag bag tickets if you donated the recommended $5 per person. A few more steps and you were at the swag bag booth, which was right next to the official Texas VegFest booth. They had some nice t-shirts. I thought about getting one. But I found something I wanted more. You'll see later.
The building that the speakers and demonstrations were in was off to the left while the food, music, and vendors were to the far right, over a bridge and behind some trees. There were a lot of booths and a lot of attendees eager to see what they were offering as samples as well as things to sell.
The place I was looking forward to eating at most was the Sweet Ritual Booth. It was one of the last vendors Chris and I passed as we made our first circuit of the food/vendor area. When she saw the exquisite soft serve sundaes Sweet Ritual
was serving, she couldn't pull herself away. We had to make our first purchase of the day, and it was Sweet Ritual's "Caramel Crunch" sundae in a waffle bowl. Even though I had known about their amazing vegan soft serve since they opened last year, I had not yet dragged our butts down to their setup in the Daily Juice Cafe. I'm not sure why. And after consuming our first bites, we felt really embarrassed by that fact!
I never planned to be so candid here, but- holy shit, this is the best vegan ice cream I've ever had. This sundae is probably the best vegan dessert I've ever had, period. It's astonishing. For realz. The ice cream itself was smooth, creamy, and full of in-your-face vanilla flavor. The pecans on top were nice and soft, not stale and not full of crunchy shell pieces like you often get when you buy them from the grocery store. Even the chocolate chips were amazing. Despite being in and on ice cream, they weren't frozen or hard to chew. And the waffle bowl was very flavorful, crisp, and thin, though it held the ice cream without breaking or getting soggy. I think I have to add a visit to Sweet Ritual to the itinerary I made for my mom while she's visiting next week. Go to Sweet Ritual. If they're open, go there now. Trust me.
So, after we had Sweet Ritual for breakfast, Chris and I spent some time relaxing under the pavilion and listening to the live music. We had some more samples and then sought out our next foodventure.
The Mac'n Food Truck
caught my eye as soon as we passed. Maybe it's in the name (if it's "mac'n" it has to be good?) or in the fancypants paint job the truck had. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that it had "Miami's original vegan food truck" painted on the side. Miami vegan food in Austin? That's exciting. These guys drove that far just for VegFest. I had to show some respect.
And they had so many things to choose from, it was so difficult to pick one. We ultimately decided to get their "Margarita Mac'n Cheese," which was made with basil, fire roasted tomatoes, and Daiya vegan mozzarella. It was creamy and flavorful and some of it even got burnt during cooking. YES! Just give me more burnt cheese, please. Check out that fancypants paint job I was talking about.
We were both excited to see the Daiya
and Post Punk Kitchen booths. I had the chance to try samples of Daiya's new vegan wedges (I got a couple $.50 off coupons, too!). The pepper jack wedge had a nice spiciness to it while the cheddar was flavorful and a bit sharp. Both were a lot softer than I expected, but I anticipate them being absolutely delicious when sliced and used in panini.
The Post Punk Kitchen booth was selling cookbooks by the PPK
crew. I intended to bring my Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar
book to get Terry Hope Romero or Isa Chandra Moskowitz to sign, but I didn't remember this plan until I was on the highway avoiding a fender bender in my path. Oh, I-35. But I digress. We flipped through a copy of Vegan Brunch
and knew it had to become a part of our collection. They were also selling their girly aprons with PPK logos screen printed on them. We bought both. Terry Hope gave us change (squee!).
Anyway, here's a list of things we sampled or saw that I recommend you also check out:
If you'd like to see the rest of what few photos I took, head on over to the Texas VegFest album
I made on my Facebook page.
My mom is coming into Austin on the 4th. We're going to go eat a lot of local food while she's here. Be on the look out for some delicious photography this week!
Can you tell I'm excited?
Austin is known for having a million festivals. Chris and I have been to a few since we moved here in 2010. We went to the Old Pecan Street Festival in the fall after we first arrived. When SXSW came the following spring we wandered around downtown and went to the little video game exhibition they had at the convention center. Last year we spent a day at the Dragon Boat Festival, but we haven't been to another one since then.
VegFest is taking place in the same location as the Dragon Boat Festival; Fiesta Gardens down on Town Lake. It's a beautiful outdoor location and, so long as it doesn't rain, I think the whole day will be real fun.
Cookbook authors Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero will be speaking and/or giving cooking demonstrations. I really don't know how this is going to pan out considering the venue is outside and the amount of people bound to show up, but I'm looking forward to it anyway.
Of course, the highlight of the event will be the FOOD. You should check out the very long list of vendors
that will be in attendance. I'm particularly looking forward to eating at the Vegan Yacht
and Sweet Ritual
. There will also be live music and meditation throughout the day.
I hope to see you there!
I haven't been happy with a vegan cupcake in a very long time. The ones I make at home are either too dense, taste too much like extract, or are too crumbly. Last week, though, I made some that I think are absolutely delicious. Four of my coworkers have also asked me when I'm going to put the recipe online, so I guess that they liked them as well!
Aren't they cute!? I made mini cupcakes so that there would be more to go around (I have a lot of coworkers) and I knew that they would probably be prettier that way. I used gold foil wrappers and dyed my frosting green in honor of St. Patrick's Day. That one in the back is a full grown cupcake. It seems a bit out of place now that I'm looking at it. Oh well. I made four of them to keep for Chris and I to eat at home...INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup evaporated cane juice (or sugar)
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (or brown sugar)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups soymilk
2 teaspoons vanillaDIRECTIONS
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients well. Add your liquid ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Line your cupcake pan with your wrappers. Use your favorite method for transferring batter to the cupcake foils. This time around, I used the Dessert Decorator Plus
made by Wilton. I had to fill it several times, which was awkward and sticky, but it made for perfectly sized cupcakes without any drips on the wrappers or the pan. I think it even helped them bake more evenly, too. You can spoon the batter, use an ice cream scoop, or fill a plastic bag with the batter, poke a hole in it, and squeeze the right amount of batter into each little foil.
Fill each liner 2/3 to 3/4 full and bake on the center wrack for approximately 10-12 minutes for mini cupcakes or 15-17 minutes for full sized ones. Test the batter by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out "clean" without any dough on it, the cupcakes are baked all the way through.
Let cool for 3-5 minutes before removing the cupcakes from the pan using a fork or knife and your fingers. They'll still be a bit warm so be careful! Let them cool COMPLETELY before attempting to frost. Even slightly warm cupcakes will make frosting separate and/or run.
Use your favorite frosting recipe or a storebought variety. The recipe I used is from the delightfully famous cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.
You can find the recipe on CHOW by clicking here
I very frequently make lentil soup. Chris's mother gave her a family recipe years ago and I've been toying with it ever since. It's really easy to do because lentils taste great without any help whatsoever from herbs or spices (although I do add them, obviously). But this is how I made it most recently.
As a side note, I have been SUPER CRAZY BUSY with all kinds of projects. Summertime Sippers
is coming along very nicely. I made a fantastic sangria last week that I can't wait to share with friends and family. My mother will be coming to visit on April 4th so I've been trying to come up with a list of things to do and places to bring her. She seems most excited to eat at our local food trucks, many of which are entirely vegan, so I'm looking forward to sharing that with the interwebz as well.
Chris and I are also planning a trip to California, where she considers herself to be from. Her grandmother also lives there. Funny story, a few months ago when we were looking into when would be a good time to go, she received an email newsletter from the Artichoke Aficionados Club
telling her about the annual artichoke festival in Castroville. Well, we forgot all about it, requested time off from work, and when we started making our itinerary realized that we're going to be there the weekend of the festival! Go figure! We are particularly excited
just for that. Artichoke nerrrddsss.....
Anyway, it's time for a recipe!INGREDIENTS
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced onion
4 carrots, sliced thinly
1 bag dry lentils
1 cup sauce
8 cups water
1 bullion cube (to make 2 cups broth)
1/2 tsp each salt, pepper, paprika, parsley, oregano
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped black olive
1/4 cup vegan white wine (consult Barnivore
in order to find one for you)DIRECTIONS
In a large, non-stick pot, sauté the garlic and onion in a small amount of olive oil and on medium heat until the garlic begins to brown and the onion turns yellow or translucent. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook on low heat for 45 minutes to one hour, until the soup has the consistency you prefer. I like it to still have liquidity to it. Chris prefers it to be really thick. To each their own!
Makes 6-8 servings.
Last week, I decided to go all out for dinner. Earlier in the day, I made vegan chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Then I made a gluten-free vegan focaccia bread to accompany our lentil soup entree for the evening. Unfortunately, I didn't pay as close attention to what I was throwing into the standing mixer as I should have... But I got the original inspiration for the recipe from this website
I'm pretty sure I didn't change it too
much, but I know I used some oat flour instead of all rice flour. I also used baking powder instead of xanthan gum. I ended up adding apple cider vinegar instead of agave (I was out). And the final result was really, really good. A lot better than I expected.
In the days since it came out of the oven, though, the cider has overpowered the rest of the bread's flavors. I'll be experimenting with making gluten-free focaccia more in the future, and I'll be sure to keep better notes on what I did when I do! But look how pretty....
I couldn't stop taking pictures of it!!
If you need a gluten-free vegan recipe for focaccia in the meantime, definitely check out Manifest Vegan's version
like I did.
I have to admit, I am the type of person that cooks for fun. For instance, yesterday, on the first day off of "my weekend," I spent my afternoon making vegan chocolate chip cookies, gluten-free focaccia bread, and lentil soup. I had to do the dishes three times, but it certainly made me feel accomplished!
Cooking is something that I absolutely love to do. Well, scratch that. Food is something that I absolutely love to eat. Ha ha! As someone who loves food so much, it means a lot to me, personally, when I can create or concoct something that makes my tastebuds go "wow!" And, if you're reading this, I expect you have a similar understanding of this feeling.
I may have mentioned this before (I have a terrible memory), but I am currently a waged slave with aspirations of writing full-time. I helped my mother, Carolyn, publish a cookbook of her company's recipes back in 2009. It is currently in revision, otherwise I would include a link.
In any case, I have been intending to publish my own, vegan cookbooks since that time. Obviously, many things have hindered me from doing so. I could blame work, money, and a lack of inspiration, but doing so would be dishonest. I just hadn't had the determination or follow through- until now.
I am nearly done testing recipes for a book I am calling Summertime Sippers. A little, digitally published cookbook for wonderfully refreshing and ice cold drinks, it will be online and available for download to your Kindle, Nook, iPad, or PC no later than May 1st. Recipes will include those for traditional favorites (like lemonade and sweet tea) but also more interesting, unique creations including "Hibiscus Fizz," orangeade, blackberry tea, and pineapple punch. And, as a preview, I'm sharing my recipe for orangeade with you today. Think of it as being similar to Tang, but made from actual juice...
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cups sugar
Water and ice
Heat the one cup of water in an appropriate container in the microwave for two minutes. Add the sugar to a 2-quart container and pour the hot water over it. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Fill the container no more than halfway full with ice. Add your juices and fill the rest of the container up to the 2-quart line with cold water. Stir. Ensure that the orangeade has chilled completely before serving.
Makes 2 quarts.
This delightful little drink is perfect for your Memorial Day cookout or relaxing summer barbeque. You could even serve it with tiny sandwiches at a garden club meeting or little girl's tea party! I hope you enjoy it!
So, if you follow me on Facebook you would have seen that I set up a photo studio on my dining room table last week. Well, I've been taking a lot of pictures over there, but I haven't shared any with you yet. Until now!
Food photography can be challenging if you don't have the right equipment. I'll get into the setup I'm using as I continue to experiment with it. It isn't perfect, but I'm working on a budget and I think most other people are as well. You have to work with what you can get (ie: AFFORD!).
In any case, I made these "quesadillas" a little while ago. You may recall that I got a panini press for Christmas. I hadn't used it in awhile. The whole gluten-free diet thing makes it one of those appliances that doesn't get used much. I wanted to grill up something tasty and after thinking on what to use, I came up with this recipe. I'm calling it "Spinach Sin-Quesadillas" (as in quesadillas minus queso...), otherwise known as "how two people can eat a bag of spinach in one night."
1 6 ounce package fresh baby spinach
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon chopped black olives
1 green pepper, diced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup tomato sauce
4-6 6-inch whole wheat tortillas
In a large, non-stick pot, warm 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and diced green pepper and cook for a few minutes, until the pepper begins to soften and the garlic starts to brown. Add all of the remaining ingredients, increase the cooking heat slightly, and cook until the spinach has wilted completely and the water from the vegetables and sauce has reduced almost entirely.
Microwave your tortillas for 45 seconds. Spread a few spoonfuls of the spinach mixture to one half of each tortilla shell. Fold the other half over the spinach mix. Grill on a preheated panini press for 3-5 minutes. Serve with frozen or homemade oven fries. I drizzled lemon juice and olive oil over mine and sprinkled them with paprika and garlic salt before cooking. Yum!
Makes 4-6 tortillas (2-4 servings).