Spicy Black Bean Burgers

Beans and salsa turned into delicious veggie burgers.

Cherry Sherbet

A fruity and refreshing treat for hot Texas summers.

Lavender Earl Grey Lattes

Floral notes in an agave sweetened, creamy iced latte.

Summer Harvest Pizza

A summer-friendly pizza made in a jiffy!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Have I ever learned the value of hiring a wedding planner!

As our pending nuptials draw near, I am more and more grateful that I have found the love of my life and that we are only going to get married once. There are so many things still left to be done, even though my last two weekends have been spent almost entirely devoted to "the wedding."

A couple of weeks ago, some coworkers and I celebrated my impending nuptials by going to Painting With A Twist. We fittingly painted sugar skulls wearing bridal ecoutremant. Take a looksie.

This is my finished painting. I smudged it at the top of the skull by accident. Oops! One of my coworkers was generous enough to paint hers to match and she gave it to me as her wedding gift. It's not identical, but we did both paint the Star Trek symbol in the center of the skull. Not our idea, lol, the instructor threw it out there during the tutorial. We both gasped and got all over that.

Here's hers.

The two of them are gazing fondly at one another above my entertainment center now. 

Everything for the wedding has officially been taken care of. Phew! Oh, except I'm being a major bridezilla regarding my apparel. I just can't seem to get it the way I want it. Today I'm heading to the craft store after work to get some glass pearls for jewelry and will hopefully be making something heftier than the oak leaf and vintage brass jewelry I ordered from Etsy. I just don't feel like it matches anymore.

I abandoned the handmade photo booth after failing at my attempts to create woodland creature masks. I ordered supplies from Oriental Trading again, which is where I ordered our plates and custom napkins.


I think it looks pretty stellar. 

We've ordered three dishes from Whole Foods; wraps, pasta salad, and quinoa salad. We'll also be getting green salad ingredients, chips and salsa, and maybe bread and hummus. We also ordered a lemon raspberry cake from Treehouse Pastry Shop in Santa Fe. I am most excited about that, lol.

I placed my order for candy through Natural Candy Shop online and was pleased with everything that came. It will be the perfect amount of candy for our 23 guests. I'll also be making peanut butter rice crispy treats which will be served on a 3-tier dessert tray I crafted from rough cut wood and glass candlesticks.

Our Honeyfund is still not 100% funded, but we've garnered enough support to have a perfectly wonderful honeymoon.

I'm excited to share photos from the "big day" and from the honeymoon! Next week! Bye!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Never before have I understood why there are such things as wedding planners.

The past couple of months have been absolutely full of wedding planning, shopping, and scheming. And we're still not done with everything. It's less than one month now, people, and we're definitely feeling the pressure.

Which is why we packed up our bags Saturday morning and hit the road toward Fredericksburg.

Chris decided that all she wanted for her birthday was a tent. She's a big astronomy nerd and she has about reached the maximum of what she can see in the city with her telescope. The light pollution is just so terrible in Austin. Our hope was to spend some time stargazing at Enchanted Rock this weekend, but as the clouds rolled in and the chance of rain increased we realized that would not be part of our trip.

We did, however, go anyway.

The two of us started our day by puttering her Volkswagen up to the dealership. Even though the car had been there a few days before, it had started making a rattling noise inside the engine and definitely needed to be looked at. Chris has been struggling with cars for the past couple of years. Her baby, a 1998 Mustang, finally reached a point beyond repair last year. We traded her in for the VW. The price was right. But apparently that was because there were a bunch of things wrong with it. We've got $1700 left to pay on it, but depending on how the car does at the dealership we may be about to part ways. Yes, it is that bad. We won't know until Tuesday (hopefully). Until then we'll be getting practise as a one car family.

We hit up HEB afterward in order to procure camping supplies and groceries for the rest of the week. Home was next. We loaded the car, grabbed the poodle, and headed to REI for a lantern. And then, we were off!

Just as the rain started coming down!

Like in most instances, the weatherman was off in his estimate of when the rain would cease. The two of us scrambled to assemble the tent between showers once we arrived. Rather difficult without any practise, you know! When finally in a tent-like shape, the three of us huddled inside waiting for the drops to subside. They finally did, around dinnertime.

The two of us grilled a couple of zucchini and a bunch of vegan hot dogs. We happily ate them while we grilled a pineapple for dessert. It was at this point that Rusty made it quite clear that he did not enjoy camping. He either sat or stood and watched us quizzically as if asking us what on Earth we were doing, eating outside, sitting outside, doing nothing outside?? Who were all these people he could hear and not see?? Why was it so cold? And so forth. Eventually, he wound up in Chris's lap and fell asleep. Then, the two of us humans read until the sun began to set and then played an easier version of 20 questions in the dark.

Sleeping was troublesome. A large church group with many, many teenagers remained loud into the night. We also had neighbors close to us chopping wood very late and shouting swear words for no apparent reason. Oh, and the cement under the tent? Extremely uncomfortable. I awoke every few hours out of pain and had to turn over. Tent pad in our future? I think, yes.

We took turns eating granola and drinking cold brew coffee for breakfast. We loaded the car and drove to the Enchanted Rock trail.

I very much enjoyed photographing the local flora and fauna. Most visitors seemed to as well. There were, in fact, many, many visitors today. Enchanted Rock is so popular they sometimes have to close for a couple of hours to prevent there being too many people on the site itself.

It took us awhile to reach the top. Chris is still suffering from a foot injury she obtained while training for her 5k. She did a great, job, though, and so did our adventure poodle. Mr. Rusty enjoyed hiking a lot more than he enjoyed camping, that's for sure.

Now that looks fun to climb, no?

Considering the time of year, the rain really was a good thing. Otherwise the heat would have been oppressive and neither of us would have wanted to climb the Rock at all. Even with it being cooler the humidity made for a challenge.

It's almost like being on the top of Texas. Hahaha.

And at this hour in one month we will be wife and wife. Now that's one adventure I'm really looking forward to!

Until next time!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Well, we passed the three month countdown until our wedding day. It really does not feel like October 12th will be here in about 2.5 months. Chris and I have been so busy with things here that it has been very difficult devoting time to wedding planning. She has been especially distracted by work. Life in Texas has gotten rather complicated for us recently. In fact, the two of us have spent a lot of trying to figure out if we could afford to purchase a foreclosure house in rural northern New Hampshire on our current budget. One of the reasons we moved to Texas instead of New Hampshire after leaving West Virginia was because the cost of living here was so much lower than it was up there. Now it seems to be the same, even the reverse in some cases. It may not end up being better for us and/or our finances, but we'll take more comfort in knowing we have family very close by if we need help. The price on the home we were looking at went down by 16% recently. I am having my mother (a real estate agent!) take a look at it for us sometime this week.

My bridal ring set.
In the meantime, the crunch is really on now (for the wedding) and I've been trying to focus on all of the things we need to do. We've got most of the basics covered; the venue, officiant, hotel, my attire, and rings. We're trying to accomplish a few things while we're planning. While we want our wedding to be special we don't want it to cost a fortune nor do we want it to be terrible for the environment. We've ordered custom printed napkins and paper plates and straws. We'll be buying compostable plastic cups and bamboo cutlery to use while we're there. We bought non-diamond rings from a southwestern artist/designer. And we'll be having vegan food. The majority of it will be purchased from Whole Foods, mains, sides, salads, and potentially the cake. I'll also be making sweet treats like cookies and puffed rice treats for a candy/dessert buffet. That is the thing I am most excited about! I am ready and rearin' to order the candy from an online natural candy website but due to it being July I figured I should hold off for fear or the chocolate melting in the mail...

Because the two of us are quirky, Chris and I are coming up with some unique activities to make the day more memorable. She's learning how to DJ and we'll be having a dance contest for our guests. One of them will win a trophy. Also, I've printed "Wed Libs" to entertain everyone for at least a few minutes. And because we can't afford a photographer I have made a photo scavenger hunt game, too. This will also help us make sure we have photos of everything, in case we're too busy and forget to photograph something ourselves. And if that isn't enough things for me to craft, I am going to erect a DIY photo booth with forest themed backdrop and masks for everyone to play with!

Yesterday we went over the venue layout and determined where everything would be positioned. We also planned out the order of the day and determined how the ceremony will go. Like many same-sex couples we have decided not to include anyone else in the actual ceremony. While I asked my brother to be my Best Man, Chris's sister, her Best Man equivalent, is no longer coming and we were at a loss to come up with an alternative. So it'll just be the two of us and the officiant for now.

Our wardrobes still need completion. We ordered a suit for Chris from an online retailer based in India. No word on the progress! Hopefully it won't take too long. We both need shoes and accessories, though. But it seems like right now most of what needs to be done is to purchase things. Hooray! Oh, except for one very important thing.


In fact, I dance like a grandpa.

Any recommendations on good instructional videos would be appreciated!

Over the next two months I will be sharing with you all photos of my many various craft projects currently underway. Right now I am assembling a three tier dessert tray. I bought it at Hobby Lobby many months ago and am redecorating it to match our forest theme. That involves covering it in wood grain scrapbook paper and adorning it with artificial moss, flowers, critters, etc. This will be used for desserts. And I'll have to create owl or fox or little deer cake toppers if Whole Foods can, in fact, provide us with a vegan cake.

At some point throughout this process I'll try to remember to give you some recipes. Can't make any promises, though :-)

Thanks for reading! Y'all are the best!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When I first moved to Austin, Kerbey Lane Cafe was my favorite place to eat. I tried nearly every vegetarian thing on the menu. Then I went vegan, limiting my options a bit. Vegan pancakes and the breakfast platter became my usual picks. I have always been intrigued by their seasonal menus, which unfortunately don't usually have vegan options. The highlight of the summer menu is their Tomato Pie. I have never tried it but have always been intrigued.

So I decided to make tomato pie at home.

For starters, I used the all-knowing master of knowledge, Google, to see if any copycat recipes had been shared for Kerbey Lane Tomato Pie. Surprise! The KLC blog posted a recipe themselves. How about that?

I have made two versions of this pie since discovering the recipe online. The photos are from the first attempt, which I felt worked the best.

I'm not really good with pie crust... I made a traditional pie crust from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook with regular flour and vegetable shortening. It was quite flaky and pleasant but it didn't roll very well at all and barely came to the edge of my pie plate. But it looks pretty darned good, eh?

Of course I was pleased to discover how incredibly tasty tomato pie is. In fact, I loved it. And it didn't really take that long to make, either. I typically shy away from dishes that require a lot of prep, but this baby was absolutely worth it. We were having seconds by 7:30.

The only challenge I really had was interpreting the instructions provided by the KLC blog. I'm not sure they're accurate... Maybe it's more like user error. Who's to say? The original recipe called for four tomatoes. It didn't specify which kind. It didn't indicate what size pie crust or pan to use, either. So, perhaps my pie plate was a bit too small for the original recipe, though I don't know how you could have fit that many tomatoes in a deep dish sized pie plate, either! Anyway, I used their recipe to inspire mine and I hope my version inspires you!

2 ripe hothouse or beefsteak tomatoes, cut into thick slices
Salt, divided
10 fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu, pressed for at least 20 minutes and liquid drained off
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1-2 tablespoons plain Vegenaise
Pre-made vegan 9-inch pie crust or your favorite recipe (see note)
Vegan Parmesan, optional
Kalamata olives and fresh basil, for garnish

Note, the second time I made this dish I tried my hand at a whole grain crust. I used 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, 1/8 cup refined coconut oil, and 1/4 cup water. I mixed it in a food processor until crumbly, then added an additional 1/8 cup water until the dough became soft and stretchy. I rolled it out on a well-floured surface and then transferred to the pie plate. I poked the bottom with a fork a few times and then baked it at 400 degrees for 11 minutes, until it started to look golden. It was crisp on top and had an excellent flavor! Anyway, moving on.

Place your sliced tomatoes on a wire rack over the sink. Sprinkle them with salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, then flip and repeat. You're trying to drain out as much liquid from the tomatoes as possible! Don't go too crazy with the salt, but sprinkle them evenly.

In a small bowl, combine the fresh basil and onions. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly squish the tofu with your hands until it resembles ricotta cheese. Add the white wine vinegar, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, Vegenaise, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well with a fork or a wooden spoon.

When the tomatoes have sat long enough, press them each between two paper towels to remove additional liquid. Press firmly but don't mutilate them! Then dice the tomatoes into small pieces.

If your pie crust isn't pre-baked, bake it in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. It should be light brown.

To assemble the pie, layer half of the onion and basil mixture on the bottom. Then add the diced tomatoes. Top with the remaining onion and basil mixture. Pour the tofu mixture (effectively, the tofu cheese) over it. Push down with your fingers or a fork to ensure the tofu is pressed well into every nook and cranny. If you're using a smaller pie dish, like I did, you may have a little extra. If able, use a deep dish pan. If not, that's okay. If you want to use the extra tofu in something else, go ahead. Be creative!

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with a nice layer of vegan Parmesan cheese. I used a homemade recipe from the Non-Dairy Formulary. Bake for an additional 15 minutes until the Parmesan is nice and browned! If not using the Parmesan, bake for 45 minutes altogether.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Garnish with chopped olives and fresh basil. We ate ours with fresh green beans lightly sauteed in grapeseed oil and minced garlic!

Makes 4-6 servings. Depending on how much you love it. ;-)

Dont' forget to Pin It! Just click here to add it to your boards:

By the way, did you know that Tuesday is also known as Tofu Tuesday?? I have been sharing tofu recipes with readers via social networks where tofu is the main ingredient. If you'd like to join in on Twitter, click here to tweet about this recipe. Also be sure to check out some of my other tofu-centric dishes, like my Tofu Shawarma and Veganized Paula Deen Collard Greens (with tofu bacon bits).

Sunday, July 6, 2014

So this is super crazy, you guys, but it's just over three months until my wedding! I cannot get over how close we're getting, not to mention how much stuff the two of us still need to do before the big day. I am beside myself with giddiness, glee, and excitement. This weekend will be all about the food. Yes, I'm a crazy whackjob and am trying to devise a way to cater the thing myself. It's not that unrealistic, okay? For starters, we're expecting less than 30 people. It's also going to take place midday. I'm also going to have lots of help from my family setting up, if push comes to shove. I'm all about getting my hands dirty in order to get things done. That's actually how I have fun. But anyway! Fun times this weekend.

It's been almost two months since Chris and I headed to Santa Fe to scope out our venue, catering options, and hotel. Of course, we were also excited to go on a mini-vacation. Vegans are no different about travel than anyone else, you know? I absolutely needed to visit the vegetarian restaurants there. The two of us had dinner at Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe that Friday night. The ayurvedic vegetarian eatery boasts an extensive menu with daily specials and an ever-changing bakery case. A lot of the items are not only vegetarian but are also vegan, can be made vegan, or are also gluten-free.

For dinner, I ordered the lentil-based Veggie Burger. 

I expected something spicy but the lentil patty ended up being 100% palatable and not frightening to someone with a low heat tolerance like myself. I particularly enjoyed the bun! Light and fluffy. I may have tasted a bit of potato starch or flour in there. It had a sweetness to it I found to be quite pleasurable.

Chris, meanwhile, ordered the South Indian Sampler.

The combo plate featured a savory pancake stuffed with vegetables, a soup with dumplings, and a savory doughnut.

Of course, she loved everything.

I adored my masala fries. They were the spiciest portion of my meal and even though I had difficulty fitting all of this food in my belly I made sure that I finished them. And yeah, I ordered dessert.

The last time I had pecan pie it had been made by my grandfather. I wasn't really fond of it, but I wanted to give it another chance. After all, vegan and gluten-free pecan pie had to be different, right? Well, it was most definitely different than my grandfather's but I can't say my mind has been changed about this type of dessert. I enjoyed it, but I probably wouldn't order it again. It's a texture thing. The flavor was great; delicate cinnamon and spice filling covered the chewy pecans while the doughy gluten-free crusty supported everything without getting mushy. I ended up eating mostly just the pecans and the crust. Gooey filling just isn't up my alley, I guess.

Chris indulged in a giant biscotti covered in chocolate. Now THAT was good. Also gluten-free. Soft and flavorful, definitely delicious.

I enjoyed the atmosphere the most. I mean, look at the light coming in through the window! The decor is exotic and inviting. Very soft music can be heard overhead. Outdoor seating is available, too. The deli style ordering is a bit of a challenge, especially if you want to add something on to your order. My advice is to make sure you order everything you may want when you get there so you won't have to wait in line again for dessert, or for another drink.

We had originally wanted Annapurna's to cater our wedding, but if all goes to plan I'm going to save a lot of money while being able to offer all of my guests food they're more familiar with. We'll see this weekend. At any rate, interested persons wishing to dine at Annapurna's can do so at any of their three locations; two in Albuquerque and one in Santa Fe. For hours and directions, visit www.chaishoppe.com.

If you'd like to read more about our weekend in Santa Fe scoping things our for our October wedding, take a look at this post here. You'll get to see photos from our venue! If you're interested in more vegan options in Santa Fe, you can also take a look at my Thai Vegan write-up

Monday, June 30, 2014

Last year I shared with you the story of a stray cat that wound up on our porch. We nicknamed her Porchy as a result. This poor little dear was emaciated and pregnant. We started feeding her and set about finding her a foster family that could take care of her while she was carrying her kittens. She had 6 adorable fluffy babies, all girls. They named them after princesses and found them all homes. Afterward, they brought Porchy to a feral cat colony, but a few weeks later she miraculously appeared on our Porch once more.

Porchy and her babies
We were told that she wasn't indoor cat material. She had been dubbed "Shredder" by her foster family. But we continued to look after her and she continued to faithfully sleep on our porch each night. As winter approached, we constructed her a cat house from a large plastic container. As temperatures plummeted, we purchased a heated bed for her, too. She started following me on my walks with Rusty, hiding in the bushes mostly but attending to us nonetheless.

A few days after we returned from Santa Fe, she started favoring one of her front paws over another. Within a matter of days her condition visibly worsened. I thought about bringing her to the vet constantly and ultimately did so the same week. They were scared of her at the vet since she was technically a feral or stray cat, but she behaved perfectly while they handled her. The vet determined that she was in a bad cat fight. She had bitten her lip really bad. It swelled up and made her start drooling a lot. She also appeared to have a bad cat bite on the paw that was swelling up. He gave her a steroid injection and a slow release antibiotic and sent us home.

Dr. Hardy, our new vet, suggested that we keep her inside for at least 24 hours. Chris and I emotionally struggled over whether or not we should add a new cat to our household. We live in an apartment and were at our two pet maximum currently. Our current cat was also very spirited. And we also feared that keeping Porchy inside would make her depressed. After the 24 hours, the two of us opted to try keeping her inside long term. We brought her to Emancipet to be tested for feline diseases that weekend. After she received a clean bill of health, back home we went and she the integration process began.

She seemed to improve a lot within the next week. At the end of week two, though, she had stopped coming out from her cat house voluntarily. She seemed to be getting depressed and lethargic. I was worried that she missed going outside and that we had hit a brick wall with incorporating her into our family.

Then, one evening, I was petting her while she ate. Suddenly, an abscess on her chest we were unaware of burst all over the floor. It was possibly the grossest and scariest thing that had ever happened to me. The cat seemed fine, of course, but having never had this happen to me before I quickly freaked out. After calling several veterinarians for advice and to schedule her a visit, I calmed down. We brought her back to Dr. Hardy the next day, despite having been told by friends that it would cost a small fortune to fix her up.

Porchy was dropped off at Dr. Hardy's office. They examined her, cleaned her wound, gave her more medicine, sent us home with ointment, and only charged us about $40. I was amazed.

For about a week and a half I have been giving her a warm compress each night followed by ointment. Her wound is drastically improved and she is once again very social. She is still very skiddish, she is wary of Chris, but she comes out of her cat house and even ventures into the bedroom and living room on occasion. I am beyond thrilled. She is a doll. All of the animals are getting along quite well. Porchy is on the mend. Life, in general, is good.

Friday, June 27, 2014

It's been a few weeks since Chris and I returned from our weekend in Santa Fe, NM though it seems like it has been ages. We went there in order to get our marriage license well in advance of our wedding date. As obsessive planners, neither of us could resist the opportunity to do so. We left during the wee hours on May 15th. Approximately 12 hours later, we were checked into our hotel, poodle in tow, tired and hungry and eager to enjoy the local vegan fare.

Our first destination in Santa Fe was Thai Vegan. The quiet and welcoming atmosphere treated us upon our arrival. After a 12 hour drive the two of us weren't up for anything loud or crowded and Thai Vegan ended up being relaxing and satisfying. A number of other two person parties sat in the main dining room. The nice men sitting next to us swapped stories about vision quests and spiritual experiences. Very Santa Fe.

With so many options on the menu I found it extremely difficult to choose my entree. Ultimately, I went with the Pineapple Fried Rice with the pepper steak soy “beef.” In dishes like this, I usually fawn over the pineapple. In this rendition, though, the cashews were my absolute favorite part. They were flavorful, crunchy, and abundant. I loved, loved, loved them. Maybe they were roasted beforehand. I'm not really sure, but zomg amazing.

Chris, meanwhile, tried out the Pad Thai. It just made the most sense to her. This is the woman who made a point to eat KFC in Kentucky and watch Indiana Jones in Indiana, so eating Pad Thai at a Thai restaurant was something she felt genuinely compelled to do. While she enjoyed the flavor and the portion size (it was huge!) she wasn't very fond of the texture. She expects that perhaps on the weekends or during busier hours it would taste more fresh. Ultimately, though, she seemed to enjoy it.

The two of us liked our dishes so much that we ordered dessert, even though we were absolutely full. When our server brought us our Green Tea coconut ice cream, it was topped with two types of beans and some jelly candies. Neither of us had any idea what our dessert was made from. Yes, I was hesitant at first. I do, however, consider myself to be foodventurous. I dove in and… yum! I ate almost the whole thing by myself.

There are a number of things I like about Thai Vegan and would definitely recommend them because of. First, the flavors are great. Second, the portions are hefty. Third, the atmosphere is wonderful. I felt like the prices were a tad on the high side, but then we went to four other restaurants throughout our trip and found high prices there, too. Can’t hold that against them, I guess! Santa Fe is just expensive.

I liked Thai Vegan a lot. I am very much looking forward to going there again in October. They also have two locations in Albuquerque. Information and full menus are available at www.thaivegannm.com. The Santa Fe location is at 1710 Cerillos Rd. Santa Fe, NM 87505. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 11am to 9pm and Sunday 5pm to 9pm. Also, they cater. And we may use their services for our wedding.

Speaking of the wedding, this weekend is devoted to determining our budget. We've booked our officiant at last, by the way, and really just need to focus on food and decorations now. There are less than four months before our nuptials. I can't believe it. I'm also nearing my 2nd anniversary at my current job. Which is crazy! They say as you get older time goes by more quickly. I didn't use to think that was true. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I'd like to think what's more accurate is that I'm enjoying myself more than I was a few years ago. Time flies when you're having fun. I like that saying a lot more. :-)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Make no mistake, my favorite vegetarian restaurant is +Green Vegetarian Cuisine  in San Antonio, Texas. That's why I was so excited to hear that they had decided to expand. They now have two locations in SA and one in Houston. They also recently opened their first +Earth Burger, a fast-food burger and sandwich joint that is 100% vegetarian.

I had been following this project since they started promoting it last year. I backed their Kickstarter, too. I just really wanted this project to come to fruition. Mostly because I want them to open a location in Austin, hahaha. When word came that they would be open at the beginning of June, I excitedly asked my partner if we could go there for my birthday. And, as I am spoiled, she said, "of course," and we celebrated my 32nd day of birth by going to San Antonio during Earth Burger's opening weekend.

First, the two of us biked along the San Antonio greenway on a portion of the Salado Creek Loop. The temperature averaged 90 degrees but a cool breeze and a steady speed kept us from burning in the Texas heat. Absolutely dreamy! Take a look.

Big skies, vibrant colors, peace, and serenity.

I should mention, however, that this photo was taken just after I fell off my bike. True story! My shoelace got caught in my pedal, I braked, and proceeded to fall onto my side. So graceful. We tucked my laces into my shoes and moved on!

I really recommend this trail. And I wish they had something remotely as wonderful in Austin. I mean, really.

The portion of the trail we traveled is near the San Antonio International Airport. Seeing the planes fly by made us feel like little kids again. I have very fond recollections of getting French fries from McDonald's and driving out to the Manchester airport in New Hampshire with my brother and father, staring up through the front window of the car watching the jets land. It's rare that you can get so close to planes like that these days!

Needless to say, as a beginner biker I was pooped after our nearly 8 mile adventure. We couldn't get to Earth Burger fast enough as far as I was concerned. Thankfully, it took us less than 10 minutes to get there!!

I feel odd saying it this way, but unfortunately by the time we arrived there weren't any seats available, inside or out. I'm definitely glad to have seen it so busy. Immensely so. I just would have preferred some air conditioning! Instead, Chris and I pulled up a patch of grass and enjoyed our meal.

Pictured above is Chris's "Spicy Chik-n Sandwich." It came topped with tomato, onion, lettuce, and Sriracha vegan mayo. She loved it.

And I ordered the "Chopped BBQ Sandwich" made from TVP and drowning in a sweet barbecue sauce. It came with onions and pickles. The bun was so light and fluffy. Really flavorful. It paired excellently with the seasoned crinkle fries and Dr. Pepper. Hey, it's Texas. Kind of required.

We had ordered desserts and were told that we could come back in to pick them up when we were finished. I had a concern for the well-being of my ice cream sitting outside. I wanted coconut soft serve not coconut soup. I gobbled it up in the car on the drive home. I just love the texture of their soft serve. Thick, creamy, and smooth. The coconut flavor was light but strong enough to put off a coconut hater for sure. 

There are a number of reasons why you should visit Earth Burger. First and foremost is obviously that the food is delicious. Then there's the fact that everything is affordable. A combo is $8 and that includes the burger/sandwich, fries, and a drink. It filled me up so much that I didn't eat dinner until 8 o'clock later that day. Also, the concept is a long time coming. We need more vegetarian fast food restaurants. We also need them to be locally owned and vegetarian operated, just like Earth Burger and Green. This family goes above and beyond, too. Did you know that they use biodegradable plastic cups and straws? Brilliant.

Let's all make sure we support Earth Burger. While no plans have been announced to expand into other cities, the best way to plant that bug in their ear is to give them your business. You can find them at the Park North Shopping Center, 818 NW Loop 410 in San Antonio open Sunday to Thursday 10a-10p and Friday 10a-8p. CLOSED SATURDAY. Visit www.EatAtEarthBurger.com for more information and for a complete menu!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

At the beginning of this year I decided to step it up a notch when it came to blogging. As a member of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance I am exposed to a number of amazing blogs on a daily basis. They're extremely active, well photographed, and full of varied content including recipes, reviews, giveaways, and so, so much more. I wanted to be like these blogs. Who wouldn't want to be that awesome?

So I signed up for a couple of PR directories so I could get regular offers from companies that were supposed to align with my blog's purpose. I also started sending out monthly newsletters to readers, each containing a new recipe with personal notes on what's been going on with me. Around this time I also signed up to create recipes once per month for the website All About Vegan Food.

Everything went really well for a few months. And then, what seemed like all of a sudden, I just did not want to blog about anything anymore. I started thinking about why I felt this way. Here's what I came up with.

  1. The powers that be typically recommend that you post a new blog entry at least once per week to keep generating new and return site traffic. While I had been able to maintain this for a couple of years before, I was somehow struggling with it now. Probably because I have additional hobbies and interests now. And I had the added tasks to creating my newsletter and contributing to another website. The weekend would creep up on me and my brain screamed, "Ugh! I have to write another blog post!"
  2. My inbox was inundated with offers for free content and interview requests. And then follow ups to those emails I did not dignify with a response. And they were mostly for providing me with content like recipes that my "readers will love." You know, for like bacon bowls and great barbecue. Right up my alley! A very small percentage of offers were related to actual vegan-friendly products. I would say that most PR groups don't even look at a blog or their description in the directory they use before sending out offers.
  3. The hostile atmosphere of blogging has reared its head on me more than once in the past six months. I've experienced this in times previous while running other blogs before I started Lizz Delicious. Essentially, while I have tried to foster a spirit of community, encouraging vegan bloggers to work together through offering guest posts on my blog, trying to organize blog parties, and searching for content to use in my recipe roundups, the majority of writers are only concerned with their own content, seeking likes and plus ones and re-tweets and not reciprocating. They want to know if you'll write about them on your blog, or if you'll review their book. But they never have any option to cross-promote. Because, I would presume, they're more focused on being successful than they are on interacting with the rest of the community.

These three things were stressing me out so much that I really thought about just not blogging anymore. Why keep doing it if it was no longer fun? After a couple of days, though, that seemed kind of drastic. I therefore contemplated how I could remedy my fractured relationship with blogging. I've consequently come up with a new premise for Lizz Delicious, though the only thing that will really change is my attitude toward, blogging, hahaha.

Basically, I'm going forward operating under the concept of being a "cookbook author with a personal blog" as opposed to being a "food blogger." I feel like this will suit me better. Of course, I'm still going to write 1-2, maybe 3 posts per month, but they're going to be about me, or they'll be for a new recipe, or about a restaurant I just tried out. I'm not going to do product reviews, giveaways, or shared content anymore. I just don't have the time. I would rather provide my readers with quality content as opposed to frequent syndicated nonsense. And my true passion is recipe development. I am in love with the new cookbook I'm working on. That's the only thing I really want to focus on right now.

I just wish I figured this out earlier. I feel like I would be further along developing my next cookbook, or I would have been able to share more recipes with you. This is a lesson I feel like a lot of bloggers could benefit from, which is why I'm sharing my story here. Don't try to make your blog into something it's not. We're raised being told to be ourselves and your blog should be no different. Do your own thing. Write what makes you happy. Don't conform. You will lose that battle!

Thanks for reading, you guys. I appreciate each and every one of you. I couldn't ask for a better audience :-)

Monday, June 9, 2014

This guest post was written my beloved Christine, my partner in all things. As I've written before, she encouraged me to get fit at the beginning of this year. She is an inspiration to me and I wanted to share her fitness story with you. These are her words! And she has all of my pride :-)

When I signed up to run my first ever 5K race I was not at all prepared to run one. For the past several years up until the beginning of 2014, I had been leading an entirely sedentary lifestyle.  The longest walking I did on a regular basis was during our weekly trip to the grocery store. As a vegan I told myself that I still had better health than the people who weren't, and though I was still a little overweight, I didn't feel like I needed to do anything else to be healthy.

Well, people tell themselves all kinds of things to justify their bad choices. The signs were there, and I tried to ignore them. Such as the pain and fatigue I felt after we participated in the Walk for Farm Animals, and an inability to climb stairs without losing my breath. I don’t believe in New Years resolutions, and I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but in January I decided it was time for a change.

I started out with walking for 30 minutes every day on my lunch break. It was cool that I would come back to work not tired, but instead invigorated. Not only did it make me feel good, but the good feeling seemed to last for the next several hours, not just until the end of the day. My co-workers seemed to think I was weird for doing it, but I didn't let that get in the way.

In February while Liz and I were enjoying the Olympics on TV, I felt inspired to step it up. I guess I saw the irony of watching people do awesome stuff while I sat on my tuchus and drank beer. Liz agreed to exercise with me, and we bought a digital copy of a workout book.  The book had us doing 20 minutes of cardio daily, and lifting weights every other day.

At first I saw the cardio as some miserable thing to suffer though before I could get to the good stuff, the weights. It had us on a treadmill fast walking 2 minutes at a steep incline, running for 2 minutes, and walking for 2 minutes before starting it all over again.  In the beginning It was so hard!  I couldn't run for 2 minutes at all, and my run speed wasn't much faster than my walking one. It was embarrassing.

As I continued with the program, I was amazed at how quickly was able to see improvement.  Within a few short weeks I was able to run the whole 2 minutes, and I felt like I had to speed up the pace just to keep myself from running into the front of the treadmill. I felt great after my time on the treadmill, not just for the rest of the day, but into the next.

This was particularly amazing to me because I've always hated running. I was never good at it, was always slow, and always felt like I couldn't breathe. Fourteen years ago I was in the Army and learned to HATE run days.  I was the slowest person in my unit, and always got so much crap about it, just the thought of running made my stomach feel like it was full of lead bricks.

But here I was, running and enjoying it!  Visibly and quickly getting better at it! This is when I signed up for the 5K.  My goal was just to finish, but mainly I wanted to be the kind of person that runs 5K’s! I chose a race that was still two months out, and threw myself into training for it.

Like many first timers, I found the Couch to 5K (or C25K) program, which is a free online training program, that does just what the name implies - turns a couch potato into a runner! It was very easy at first, alternating walking and running.  It gradually decreases the time you spend walking until by the end you’re running about 35 minutes non-stop. The transition is amazing, especially in how fast it seems to take place.  It’s easy to remember when running 8 minutes straight was excruciating, and just a few weeks later I checked the time while running and thought to myself “Sweet!  Only 8 more minutes to go!”

My training wasn't without its hiccups though. What felt too easy in the beginning became very hard, and sometimes I wondered if it was too hard for me.  After buying an expensive pair of running shoes I realized I had made a mistake, and had to go buy a different kind of shoe. I also developed a foot injury I had to struggle with. Thankfully it didn't keep me from finishing the program in time for the race.

When race day finally rolled around, I was excited but not nervous because I knew I would finish, and I also gave myself permission to be slow. Yes, it’s called a race, but as any runner will tell you, the only person you’re racing is yourself. I also figured if I had a not-so-great finishing time, It would be that much easier to improve on it!

The race itself was harder than I thought it would be. It was warm out and very humid. Much more humid than anything I had trained in.  While training I could run a mile at an easy pace before I started breathing particularly hard, but on race day I was gasping for air after probably the first quarter mile.  I also had to navigate around other runners for the first time ever, and the course had more hills than the area where I live.  I ended up walking more than I wanted to in the second half of the race, but i finished and I survived.  I gave it my all, and that’s what counts.

In the end I placed 117 out of 182 participants.  My official time was 37:42, almost two minutes slower than I thought I would do, but it was my very first race and now I have something to aim for. I’m currently taking a break from running to make sure my foot heals completely, but I’m eager to get back to it. Running made me feel better, look better, and gave me a sense of accomplishment long before I ever ran in a race. It’s also inspired me to eat better, sleep more, and generally take better care of myself.  I feel like becoming a runner is one of the most positive changes I've ever made.

A lot of fit, skinny, energetic people bounce around and say things like “Anyone can become a great runner!”, and like most people I used to roll my eyes at that kind of thing, but I've come to realize that they’re right.  You just have to start small. Be slow. Walk as much as you need to. Because if you overdo it, you’ll quit.  If you just do what you can and have fun, you’ll keep getting better.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A couple months ago, Christy Morgan from the Blissful & Fit Chef launched an awesome magazine for "plant-powered ladies who lift." I gobbled up the first issue! It is beautifully designed and is full of advice and resources for women, just like me, who are both vegan and into weightlifting. It's called Definition for Ladies. If you haven't already, be sure to check it out.

This post is my entry to the Definition Magazine Summer Salad Redux Recipe Contest. It is also the first recipe I've entered into a contest, believe it or not! I typically bookmark recipe contests and then quickly forget about them. Not this time, no, I knew I had to throw the hat into this competition. Why? Because I love salad.

When I first went veg, greens were not my favorite. To be fair, though, I grew up a pretty picky kid and if my parents had even offered me a plate of anything but iceburg lettuce I probably wouldn't have tried it. Oh, how times have changed.

I thought about what I might like to submit for the contest and I ultimately elected to feature tofu in this dish. Tofu can be intimidating but it is very good for you and can take on a lot of flavors when combined with other ingredients. It's a mission of mine to make more people into tofu lovers. Homemade tofu-based cheeses are easy to make and can be extremely flavorful with the right recipe. My tofu cheese is very soft, tangy, and a perfect substitute for goat cheese.

Greek-Inspired Dinner Salad with Tofu "Goat Cheese"
Makes 2 to 4 servings

Crisp baby greens drizzled with a homemade oregano infused dressing and topped with chunky veggies. Pair with homemade tofu "goat cheese" for a complete meal.

For the "goat cheese:"
1 (14 ounce) package extra-firm tofu
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

For the salad:
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 (5 ounce) bag of baby spring mix
Freshly ground salt and pepper
1 green bell pepper, sliced into rounds
1 large tomato, cut into wedges
Kalamata olives, to taste

The tofu "goat cheese" needs to be prepared the night before. Press the tofu for at least 30 minutes. I use my Tofu XPress for this. Otherwise, place the block between to plates and set something weighty on top. The water will slowly exit. Drain the water off. Crumble the tofu into a food processor. Add the lemon juice, miso, salt, onion powder, basil, and vinegar and blend until thoroughly combined. Then add the coconut oil and continue blending until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. You may have to scrape down the sides once or twice.

Line a container with plastic wrap. Pour the cheese into it and the place in the refrigerator, uncovered, until ready to serve, at least 8 hours.

To make the salad, combine the grapeseed oil, white wine vinegar, oregano, and a few cranks of freshly ground salt and pepper. Whisk to incorporate. Slice the pepper and tomato. Then, in a large bowl, combine the spring mix and dressing and toss to coat.

Plate by starting with a bed of greens. Then add the sliced peppers, tomato wedges, and olives. Top with gobs of the tofu cheese as you see fit. Note, if you're preparing this in advance and will be traveling before consuming it, keep the cheese separate until ready to eat. It's very soft.

Don't forget to check out Definition for Ladies! You can also check out other entries in this contest by using the hashtag #definesalad on Instagram. There are a bunch of other entries that look super tasty! If you try my recipe, be sure to come back and leave me a comment with your feedback!

EDIT: The second issue of Definition is available now at this link. Also, I won "runner up" in the Best Everyday Category in the contest. Woo hoo!

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Last Thursday, Chris and I hopped into our car at 7am and began our very long journey to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We spent approximately 11 hours in the car with minimal breaks. It was a long, tiring day but I had been awaiting the experience for months.

Chris and I decided to get married in Santa Fe after the local New Mexico government started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples there. The two of us had contemplated getting married out of Texas for some time. Other options included California, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Canada...

New Mexico seemed sensible. All I had seen of the state prior had been through a car window. It would give us the chance to have a destination wedding we could afford and have our honeymoon within driving distance, too.

Considering the amount of time it takes to get there, we thought it may be prudent to get our marriage license in advance, prior to the weekend of our wedding. Licenses do not expire in New Mexico. How exceptional! We also wanted to scope out the venue we had chosen and reserved online. And try out our catering options.

On Friday morning we legally obtained a marriage license from the city of Santa Fe. Walking up to the building was nerve-wracking for me. I'm easily worried and paranoid about things I needn't be concerned with. Nevertheless, a part of me feared being turned away, whether for bigoted reasons or for having the wrong forms of ID. You name an instance and I can find something to be paranoid over! But we did it!

This piece of paper says we can get married, y'all!
The gentleman who helped us shook our hands when the process was finished. And a nice lady standing next to him gave us her congratulations. I actually felt appreciated. I felt like our relationship was appreciated. It was amazing. Texas could learn a thing or two from these folks. 

With that out of the way, Chris and I readied ourselves for the rest of our day. We made a picnic lunch and left the hotel with Rusty, our adventure poodle, for our wedding venue in the mountains. The winding road that lead there offered us beautiful scenery. A friendly park ranger greeted us upon our arrival. He was, however, the only person there at the time. The visitor center was closed. But we were able to go inside of our venue, take photos, and contemplate things to do with it.

Some photos of our venue.
I found this venue online. It's a small, quiet park lodge that's full of bright light. It's very quiet and secluded. It's rustic and woodsy, which is why we ultimately decided for our theme to be "foresty." It's going to be really pretty. I'm envisioning lots of greenery and wood. In fact, I'm going to print up these images and doodle on them for inspiration :-)

Once our curiosity was sated we took our backpack and found a nearby trail to hike. The higher elevation made things a bit more challenging, but we managed. All three of us had a great time. I grew up hiking in New Hampshire. It felt wonderful being surrounded by tall trees again, meandering down a winding trail with a cool breeze swirling about you. Yep.

Me and the fam, getting some fresh air.
As mentioned a few wedding posts ago, we had some family members react negatively to having to eat vegan food at our wedding. Another reason we wanted to visit Santa Fe was to try out some of the vegan catering options. I'll post photos and write-ups for the sit-down restaurants later. I can, however, say that one of our biggest challenges is going to figure out what to do about the cake or desserts.

On Saturday morning we went to Revolution Bakery, a gluten-free bake shop with vegan options, to investigate cupcake options. They didn't have any vegan cupcakes in stock. The clerk informed us they only really make cupcakes on special order now. Then we tried the Tree House Pastry Shop, who also advertised having vegan cupcakes, and they didn't have any that day either. Same deal.

And while I'm mentioning it, it seems like Santa Fe has vegan options but very few vegans. For instance, it has two Whole Foods locations within walking distance of one another. They carry vegan products but have little in the way of vegan take-away. They don't even have vegan cheese at the pizza bar. No vegan muffins, scones, or cookies in the baker's case, either. So, regardless of what we decide for the cake situation, we won't be able to taste test beforehand.

As one would expect, we indulged in a lot of take-out and restaurant food. By Saturday night both of us were feeling a bit gross. I don't know if no longer being able to eat an excess of junk food without feeling horrible is related more to growing older or to becoming more sensitive to certain ingredients after limiting ingestion of them, but oily and sugary stuff just does not sit well with either of us anymore. It made us realize that unless we want to feel disgusting on our honeymoon we'll actually have to plan our meals better when we return. We'll need to bring a cooler, have big salads for lunch, make sure we eat whole grains for breakfast, and I'm even contemplating bringing our damn juicer to make sure we get enough fruits and veggies. Call me extreme, but if that small amount of effort is what's going to stand between me feeling good and the alternative you can bet I'm going to do it. Oh, and nasal spray. Maybe a humidifier. It was extremely dry and our noses were unhappy campers.

Saturday was extremely long but we did SO MUCH STUFF. We woke up ungodly early. There's a time difference and on top of that Rusty kept barking at everyone outside of our hotel room. We went out for breakfast and then retrieved him from the hotel. We headed down to the farmer's market at the Railyard and were very disappointed to discover that dogs are not allowed even in the outside area of the market. I may not look it in the photo below, but I really was aghast with disbelief. I suppose we are just spoiled in Austin. An artisan market set itself up across the street so we went there instead. Unfortunately, it was so small we were done in about three minutes.

Me and my guy at the Railyard in Santa, Fe. So much love.
With a whole day left and nothing to do, we improvised and walked down to the historic plaza. We found another art show on the way and did the stereotypical tourist thing of buying art in Santa Fe. We bought some prints from a very nice woman. We couldn't pass up her one and only Texas-inspired print. I mean, it had bluebonnets in it so of course we bought it.

We also stopped in a western store. They let the dog come in and wouldn't hardly leave him alone. It was actually pretty cute. The store sold a number of different items but was primarily filled with women's clothing. Lots and lots of flowy skirts and lacy tops. I wanted to buy something but the amount of options overwhelmed me. I could not decide so we opted to come back in October.

Another great stop was located right next door. Where, you ask? A shop called Dinosaurs and More. It sold artifacts, fossils, gemstones, geodes, original dinosaur paintings, meteorites, and a ton of other nerdy things. Also hard to decide on something there. Again, we'll be back in October, lol.

I enjoyed the atmosphere of the historic plaza. Adobe buildings, street vendors, and old-fashioned storefront architecture could be found there. We "window shopped" at the Palace of the Governors where Native American craftsmen and craftswomen sold handmade jewelry on blankets in front of the building. It inspired us to consider turquoise wedding rings. While we didn't find anything we really pined for at the market, I found some bridal inspired sets online. I am considering them as an option...

Even if we don't, I expect I'll buy some turquoise jewelry when we go back. The vendors were very nice and especially talkative. At one point, the foot traffic cornered me in a small space with the dog. One of the vendors spotted my Beatles t-shirt and made some comment about remembering when the album for it came out.

We got some boring vegan food at a non-vegan restaurant before heading back to the hotel. Then there were naps. And after that, salads. And then TV and sleep. Sunday brought the drive. And we had buckwheat pancakes for dinner. Definitely a worthy end to a successful trip.

Less than five months until we do it all again :-)

Thanks for reading, everyone. I know a lot of you are curious about our wedding plans and challenges. I want to publicly thank everyone who has offered us gifts, but we don't need anything, really. We don't need any more stuff, which is why Chris and I have opted for an alternative "honeymoon registry" through Honeyfund. If you really want to share your generosity we're asking that you help us with our honeymoon as opposed to getting a gift. It's kind of like Kickstarter but for a trip instead. Thanks again!

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Chris ran her first 5k this morning and I couldn't be more proud. :-) She inspires me with her determination. Did I mention I started running again a couple of weeks ago? Well, I did. And she's the reason. There's another 5k coming up in June... We'll probably be running it together!

Working a full-time job and getting into weight-lifting and fitness has consumed a lot of my time recently. There are so many things I want to share with everyone through my blog but considering how exhausted I felt last night after work, writing a blog post, and brainstorming new content, it has occurred to me that I need to settle down a bit. As much as I want to share everything I'm doing with the world, I am starting to realize that I don't have the time or the energy. So what's in store for Lizz Delicious? Tasty, healthy, easy-to-make food is going to continue to be my focus. And I will keep the world abreast of my other pursuits when I share new recipes a couple of times per month.

On the agenda today is my recipe roundup for juice recipes... and more. I've shared 5 with you already this week. Here are a few more, including recipes for using your juice pulp and even using juice as a cooking ingredient.

New Juices to Try

Juice Pulp Recipes

Using Juice in Cooking

I hope you've enjoyed my week of juicing. Next week, Chris and I are traveling to Santa Fe to scope out our wedding venue. I'll be back with photos from our dining experiences, for sure. I'm sure you'll see some content from them beforehand if you follow me on Instagram and Twitter. Oh, and you can always be updated by signing up for my monthly newsletter.

Thanks so much! <3

Friday, May 9, 2014

Well, it's Friday and that means I'm sharing my last juice recipe brought to you by Foxy Produce and their Rejuicenate campaign. Today's recipe combines two of my favorite edibles!

For this recipe, simply juice:
2 medium red beets
2 medium oranges, peeled

Simple, eh? But doesn't it sound wonderful??

Tomorrow I will be ending my week of juicing in honor of National Salad Month with a recipe roundup featuring some more fantastic recipes for scrumptious and healthy juices.

That is, after I watch Chris complete her first 5k! I am extremely excited for it and I can't wait to proudly cheer her on in her endeavor. On a related note, she's preparing this evening by having some beet juice... Lol.

In the meantime, more recipes for fruit and vegetables juices can be found right here on this blog. Also, be sure to check out the rest of the recipes on the Rejuicenate website. There are even inventive ways on using your juice pulp on it, as well.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

There's not much I can say about green juice that hasn't been already said. It's a wonderful beverage capable of restoring and refreshing us like nothing else can. I love juicing greens and that includes kale. This refreshing drink combines kale juice with the juices of cucumber, apple, and lemon and the result is a less sweet green lemonade. Just lovely.

7 ounces of fresh kale leaves
1 large cucumber, peeled
2 golden delicious apples
3 lemons

Using your machine, juice everything but the lemons. Manually press the lemons with a traditional citrus squeezer. Centrifugal juicers bring out the bitterness in citrus peels and masticating juicers don't like the peels at all. Juicing the lemons separately will give the final result a smoother, more enjoyable flavor.

Strain and then stir to mix.

Serve over ice.

Makes 2 servings of 16 ounces each.

I've been posting juice recipes every day this week! My inspiration is National Salad Month and Foxy Produce's Rejuicenate initiative. If you'd like to know more, check out my original post. Then check back for another recipe tomorrow. And click for more posts about Juice and Juicing.

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