Silence is golden...

Please pardon my relative quiet, dear friends. Life's taken on some interesting twists and turns recently and although I do have several nice blog posts waiting in the wing for you all, I'm just having a little trouble finding the time to put them together. I will promise at least one new recipe before the week is over, as well as some comments from yours truly on the slow rise of "food awareness" in the U.S. Next week, I hope to return to our regularly scheduled blog programming, but in the meantime, please rest assured that I didn't mean to leave you waiting......

Lorna Simpson, from "Call Waiting" video installment


My shopping spree!

Recently, I displayed my gross knowledge of stoner film trivia and won a $50 shopping spree at thanks to the lovely snarkful folks at Vegansaurus. (It's an SF-based website but incredibly useful for vegans everywhere, plus they curse like sailors so I <3 them!) When I got the news, I was beyond stoked! As you probably know, I was sick a ton in January and I've been dying to get my mitts on a few things to help get and stay healthy for the rest of this wicked cold-flu season. The budget's tight around here, so this win was quite helpful!

First things effing last: the website is 100% ungussied up, but don't let that fool you. The time and money they're not spending on a fancy site with a crapload of graphics is going straight into making sure they can offer you top quality products and super fair prices. Plus, first time buyers (including me!) get a 5 bucks right off the bat by using a coupon code (read on!) at checkout. How sweet is that??

With my $50 limit in mind plus my additional first-timer $5 off, I cruised around the website for the better part of an hour before I settled on the final contents of my shopping cart. They have SO many great products at fantastic, fair prices that it was a challenge to narrow it down. I finally managed to do it, though, and ended up with a nice selection of healthy supplements, tasty ingredients, and even a few things to help health-up my skin. Toss in a freebie pen made from recycled cardboard, and you've got yourself a jackpot.

I made $55 go a loooong way. Check out my bounty:

Because it's yummy, I scored a 12oz tin of Now Foods Cocoa Powder and a 16oz bag of Navitas Naturals Raw Cacao Nibs. Both are certified organic and make great additions to everything from my homemade soy yogurt to coffee drinks to smoothies and baked desserts. Because they're good and good for you, I grabbed a 1-lb canister of Now Foods Alfalfa Powder to add to my breakfast smoothies and a 13oz bag of Nutiva Organic Shelled Hempseed to sprinkle on my yogurt or sprinkle on top of salads. To help combat the wicked SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) we both suffer from, I stocked up on Biochem 5-HTP supplement which is a plant-derived amino acid that increases serotonin in the brain and acts as a mood stabilizer. The last two shopped-for items might be more about beauty than health, but it's all the same to me: 18oz bottle of Nature's Gate Fragrance Free Moisturizing Lotion for the perfect after-shower treatment and 4oz Kiss My Face Peaches & Creme Moisturizer for mah face.

I also scored a couple of other freebies in my package, like a sample packet of Source Naturals Wellness Formula, an herbal immune booster, and an pen made from recycled cardboard. I also snagged an iHerb weekly pill organizer for free (not pictured, oops!) and plan to use it when we travel to keep all my daily supplements organized without taking over my bag.

Ready to go shopping? Head on over to and start browsing! When you're ready to place your order, tell 'em I sent you by entering coupon code DIS168 to get $5 off your order. Also of note: ground shipping is a flat $4 or free with a minimum $40 order. They ship fast, too!


Viva Vita! Vita Cafe in Portland, that is.

Lee and I trekked down to Portland on Friday  night to help our longtime friend Micky, a new Portland resident, celebrate her birthday. On Saturday morning, we met up with another Portlander friend Shannon for brunch at Vita Cafe.

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Vita is in the Alberta Arts district and they've been around since 1999. Their menu is comprised largely of vegetarian and vegan fare, but they also made my carnivorous companions happy with free range eggs and hormone-free meats. One look at the menu and I knew this was THE perfect brunch spot for our group. Their social agenda makes them even more appealing to me, as they adhere to sustainable business practices and seek to protect the earth as well as our bodies.

And, by the way, the place smells AMAZING and that's how you know when you're really in breakfast heaven.

Lee and I had been warned by our Portland friends that brunch is a big fat deal in town and that we might have a long wait for a table. We arrived at Vita around 11am, expecting to circle the block for parking and pace the sidewalk while we waited for a table. Not so! We scored a sweet parking space right across the street and waltzed right in and sat down. The place was hopping, but the line didn't start forming at the door until about 11:30am. Take note, folks!

The Vita menu is literally to die for. I had to comment to my fellow brunchers, "I wish I was hungrier because I want to order half the menu!" I already knew what I wanted though: vegan french toast. It had been calling to me since I read Vita's menu on their website on Friday and there are few things better in this world than french toast, in my completely unhumble opinion. Based on the sights and smells of this cafe, I knew I wouldn't be disappointed, so I ordered up.

Another "must note" item on the menu: almond gravy. I'm not really a gravy girl, if there is such a thing - or at least I wasn't until I met Vita's fanfreakingtabulous vegan almond gravy. Shannon gave us the heads up that the gravy at Vita was incredible so I was a little sad that I hadn't ordered something that would be gravy-worthy. Fear not, because my foodie partner in crime Lee ordered the Country Comfort platter which included a hefty portion of vegan biscuits and that wonderful almond gravy. Everyone at the table had a bite - and I had more than a few - and it was decided that we need to crack their recipe code and make that gravy at home. Somehow. Isa has a pretty great Smoke Almond Gravy recipe in her Vegan Brunch book but, no offense, girl, it doesn't hold a candle to Vita's gravy.

So, yes, the food at Vita is absolutely amazing. The coffee is damn good, too. Service was quick and attentive, without being overbearing. Although we were brunching, nobody at our table ordered an adult beverage so I can't comment on them except to say that their drink menu is mouth-watering, if a little pricey. The food, however, came at fair prices with huge but not too huge portions, and we all left stuffed and happy.

We'll be returning to Vita Cafe on our next Portland trip, no questions asked.


Have your cake and nom nom nom

My birthday was on Sunday. In the couple of weeks leading up to the big day, I scoured my memory bank to figure out when was the last time I had a birthday cake. I came up pretty empty handed, so I'm guessing it was somewhere way back in the single digit birthdays - i.e., a long dang time. To celebrate this somewhat monumental birthday occasion, I decided to bake myself a freakin' cake.

I also realized that it's been a while since I shared a new recipe with you folks, so I felt like I needed to make it up to you. Forgiveness cake, anyone?

Since we spent part of the weekend in Portland, getting all sugared up on Voodoo Dougnuts (more on that trip in a later post), I didn't want a sugar-laden cake. I've also never really been "into" frosting either. So, I turned to a classic Italian favorite that I'd never made before: olive oil cake.

I had zero luck finding an already-vegan recipe to use, so I took a few seconds and veganized the Olive Oil Citrus Cake recipe in Rustic Fruit Desserts. The cake is very simple - mostly flour, citrus zest and olive oil - and I knew I'd love it. I even put a candle on it, because that's what you do on birthday cakes!

For this job, I zested a Meyer lemon, a Minneola tangelo and a Rio Star red grapefruit - all organic, of course, and scrubbed of debris. The original recipe also calls for lemon oil, but our bottle has mysteriously vanished, so I used sweet orange oil instead and was plenty happy with the results.

Olive Oil Citrus Cake
Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts

1 1/4 cups (5 oz) unsifted cake flour (I used organic whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
3 Ener-G egg replacer eggs (4 1/2 tsp egg replacer and 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp water)
1 Tbsp sugar (for the pan) plus 1/2 cup for batter
Zest of 1 grapefruit, 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sweet orange oil (optional)
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch x 2-inch round cake pan with olive oil and dust with 1 Tbsp sugar. (You CAN use flour in the pan if you prefer, but the sugar gives it a nice sweet crunch!)

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. Then sift it again. Set aside.

In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, beat the egg replacer/water mixture, sugar and zests on high for 3-4 minutes or until thickened. Add vanilla and orange oil. Beat on medium-low speed and drizzle the olive oil into the batter, pouring slowly along the edge of the bowl. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. (It's going to look pretty thick, almost like brownie batter, but worry not!)

Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine actually went for about 32) or until the cake is golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature before removing from the pan.

The original recipe pairs this cake with a simple glaze made from powdered sugar and grapefruit juice. Still wanting to ease off on the sugar factor, I opted to skip the glaze and instead went with a small schmear on my cake slice (about 2 tsp) of Chocolate #9, a thick gel made from organic agave and cocoa. It's rich and delicious, but because it's made without sugar, it's low on the glycemic index and won't lead to a sugar crash. We had already planned to freeze half the cake (you know, for later) so I didn't ice the whole thing. But you could. Go ahead. The most important part is that you eat the cake, with or without icing, because it's really yummy. I thought so, at least.


Meatless Monday feature: Ginger-Agave Carrots

I looooove carrots but for years, I was pretty bored by the typical ways to prepare them. Then, completely by accident, I developed a recipe that would serve me well for weeks on end without getting boring. Enter, the ginger-agave carrots!

The kind folks at the Meatless Monday campaign are featuring my simple recipe for sweet and spicy carrots this week in their Eater's Digest e-mail newsletter and on the MM website. You can visit the website and leave comments on the recipe as well as rate it (ahem, 5 please!) to help other readers select their next meatless dishes.

The Ginger-Agave Carrot recipe also debuted here on the blog back in November as part of Leftover Gourmet, along with Mock Tuna Salad, Parsnip-Carrot Soup and Dressed Butterleaf Greens. Nom!


I'm taking a vacation!

Ok, so I'm not going anywhere exotic, but believe you me, if I had the opportunity to plant myself in a scene like the above shot, I'd be there in a heartbeat! No, no jet-setting or international travel for me this time.

Instead, I'm "only" going to Portland, hello, the vegan mecca of the universe as we know it -- or at least of the Pacific Northwest. And it's not exactly a vacation either, although I'm trying to put myself in "vacation mode" anyway. We're going down this evening to help a long-time close friend & new Portland resident celebrate her birthday (today) and also have a little early celebration of a monumental birthday of my own, which lands on Superbowl Sunday this year. I think there might even be cake!

So, I'm giving the blog a bit of a kiss off for a few days, taking it easy, relaxing with good friends, and I promise to come back early next week with some spectacular new eats and tales to tell from PDX.


On TV: Food Jammers

During the recent changes in digital television broadcasting, our cable company added a bunch of channels to our line-up. I'm not a huge TV-aholic, but there are a few shows I like to watch (or DVR and watch) with regularity, such as Good Eats. Flipping through the section of "new" channels the other day, I stumbled upon what might just be my greatest discovery of the year to date: Food Jammers.

Food Jammers is a Canadian-produced show in which three foodie-type dudes design and create all kinds of crazy culinary contraptions using junkyard and recycled materials. Three seasons of the show are in the can, so I'm astonished that I'm just now finding out about it. That's why I couldn't resist sharing this find with all of you!

So far, I've caught about half a dozen episodes and highlights have included: a centrifugal force pancake cooker, an edible art show, and making bagels from scratch without electricity (including a wind-powered wheat grinder and baked in a wood oven).

The hosts/co-creators of the show are Chris, Micah, and Nobu (L to R in the photo). Together, they have a loft in Toronto in which they build all these contraptions and create many an interesting meal. Chris describes it as, "a MacGyver meets Bob and Doug McKenzie food show" and that assessment sounds right on to me. Although these guys aren't vegan, they are focused on quality, sustainability and health. The food they make is also very diverse and often includes ingredients from a range of culinary cultures--something that appeals to me a great deal.

And, being the artsy kinds of guys they are, almost every episode includes some kind of art project. A common theme is for one of them to start a piece (say, a drawing) and cover up their work before passing it along to the next dude. Dude #2 starts where the first drawing ends, adds his share, and covers it before it goes to the last guy. After the third dude makes his mark, they uncover the rest of the paper to reveal a crazy and truly unique piece of art. This method comes into practice for the edible art show episode (Season 2: Gallery Eats).

Best of all? Although the contraptions are designed in advance of filming, the show doesn't feel contrived. The guys are laid-back, socially-conscious, whip-smart and hungry for creative adventures. The show is also beautifully edited for time without sacrificing continuity. They're also pretty funny.

Better than that? These dudes post the recipes from their shows on their website.

If you live in Canada, it's probably easy to catch this show on one of the 5 networks that carry it. In the States, I discovered it on the Halogen TV network and I haven't been able to determine if it's aired on any others. I highly recommend that you all check your local listings, or give your cable company a holler and ask for the show!

You can even become their fan on Facebook.

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