Quick Weeknight Meal: Tempeh Skillet Salad

Let me start with a confession. I don't really know what to call this dish. Because it's all vegetable, some might be inclined to call it a salad. However, it starts in a skillet. Does that make it a stir fry? Can a dish be both a salad and a stir fry at the same time? What is our obsession with categorizing dishes, anyway?

Because I had to call it something, I settled on Tempeh Skillet Salad. I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments if you have other ideas!

What I do know about this dish is that it cooks up in mere minutes, using a lot of ingredients you probably already have on hand. I also know it's high protein and relatively low carb, and could easily be gluten-free depending on the ingredients you use. This dish is a great solution for a busy weeknight, when you feel like you have no time to cook, but can't bear the thought of eating a cold salad for dinner. Oh, and did I mention it's super tasty? It is.

For simplicity's sake, this recipe is written for one healthy serving. Feel free to scale it up to feed a pair, a group, or even an army. The cooking time won't change. Promise.

Tempeh Skillet Salad 
Yield: 1 serving

1 tsp olive or coconut oil
4 oz tempeh, cut into bite-sized chunks
4-5 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 green or red bell pepper, cut into strips
1/4 c cooked chickpeas
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
pinch red pepper flakes
handful of mixed baby greens

  1. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add tempeh, mushrooms, and bell pepper. 
  2. Cook 3-4 minutes before stirring with a wooden spatula, so that everything gets nice and brown on one side.
  3. Stir in chickpeas, garlic, and soy sauce, then cook 1-2 minutes until garlic begins to soften. 
  4. Remove from heat and toss in red pepper flakes. 
  5. Serve over mixed baby greens. 


Vegan Food Swap Reveal! October 2012 edition

Typically, Vegan Food Swap reveals are posted on the last day of the month in which the swap occurred. I broke my own rule for this, the final swap of 2012, by slacking off and waiting to post the reveal two weeks late. Why? No special reason. Just life. We've all been there, right?

First off, I'd like to thank everyone who participated in the Vegan Food Swap in 2012. It was an amazing project, which I began in April, and I had no idea how popular it would become. I'm grateful to everyone who jumped in enthusiastically and stuck with the swap month after month. As the swap participants know, I've decided not to organize a swap for November and December because people will be pretty busy with end of year holidays and, frankly, organizing the swap is a lot of work and I could use a break as well. We'll start back up again in January, so feel free to register now.

My swap partner for October was Alan of The Classy Scavenger. I was excited to be paired with a member of the male minority of the Vegan Food Swap, but also because I already knew of Alan. I started following him on Instagram a while back because he's buds with Sam of The Nail That Sticks Up, who I met at Vida Vegan Con in 2011. It's a small world thing. (Also, they're also both total vegan eye candy... Did I say that out loud?)

So, I knew that Alan gets a portion of his "groceries" from places like dumpsters and salvage grocery stores. I realize that some people might think it's "gross" but I think it's true that one man's trash is another's treasure and, honestly, few things upset me more than wasted food. And many people don't realize how much food is thrown away in this country, especially by grocery stores, that is still perfectly good. This happens with produce just as much as with packaged food. Sometimes, a store just has too much stock. Other times, they dump product because it's been discontinued and the distributor isn't willing to pay to take it back. Obviously, some produce is thrown out because it's started to turn or rot, but I was amazed when I first learned that the rotten stuff makes for a pretty small percentage of the food "garbage" in the US.

I know you're all wondering, now, about what Alan sent to me in the Vegan Food Swap box! I did let him know at the beginning that I had no problem with dumpstered or salvaged foods, and gave him free license to send me whatever he wanted. Ultimately, Alan settled on a fantastic combination of packaged items from the salvage grocery, local vegan wings, and some scones that he made from dumpstered ingredients. Because Alan shopped thriftily for my package, he was able to include a LOT of different products without blowing the $20 spending limit. It's awesome to see how far a vegan dollar can stretch, if you know where to shop.

Here's the proof:

This doesn't even show everything. The vegan wings are still in the freezer! (Yes, those are vegan cupcakes in the background, waiting to be frosted.)

A selection of snacky items, including two kinds of kale chips and my favorite teriyaki sprouted sunflower seeds!

Yes, this bag is empty. I may have ripped it open as soon as I saw it. 

Some Asian sweets. I can't wait to try these!

Rice stick snacks.

A selection of Hail Merry goodies... the lemon thyme pecans are my favorite! (Yes, the almonds were consumed first.)

From savory on to sweet... Some chocolatey goodies and some carob nut butter cups. 

Fine ground black salt for vegan omelets! 

Go Raw is one of my other favorite brands. 

Alan sent several homemade scones (and posted the method here).

Vegan wings made locally in Indiana. These were frozen, so Alan carefully packaged them with a cold pack! I wouldn't normally suggest sending frozen goods, but since we are only 1 state away and he used USPS Priority Mail, we decided it might work. Luckily, the weather was pretty chilly also, so they arrived still frozen! 
I'm really enjoying my explorations through the goodies Alan sent to me, but more importantly, I hope that this helps to illustrate how it can be possibly to eat some really amazing treats without breaking your bank. Maybe you're not adventurous enough to go dumpstering yourself, but many areas have salvage or discount grocery stores that carry all sorts of vegan foods. You can end up saving a ton of money just because a manufacturer decided to redesign their packaging, or discontinue an item that wasn't selling enough, or by buying discounted products that are close to their stamped expiration dates (which I think we can all agree are pretty much irrelevant).

Thanks again to Alan for this amazing swap package!

If you want to participate in the Vegan Food Swap in 2013, we'll start again in January. You can sign up now through January 5 by filling out the registration form here.

For those who swapped in October, please link up your reveal posts below:


Vegan Food Swap Reveal! September 2012 edition

Thanks to everyone else who continues to make the Vegan Food Swap a big success! September was our SIXTH month and I can't believe how excited everyone is to participate month after month. Each month, our group steadily grows in numbers, and I have received a lot of feedback from participants who love trying new products that challenge them creatively in the kitchen.

My package for this month came from Heather at Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes. Aside from having one of the longest blog names I've ever encountered, Heather also takes beautiful photos of her culinary creations. I've been reading her blog for some time, so I was thrilled to be randomly matched up with her this month!

Heather sent me a combination of sweet and savory treats.

Everybody's favorite, Biscoff cookies... Although, truth me told, I got more excited about the Chimes ginger chews than the cookies.

This toasted Israeli couscous with mushrooms and tomato should make for a great dinner sometime. I'm thinking about pairing it with fried broccoli and tempeh. Yum? I think so!

I love nut clusters like this for a quick pick-me-up at work, so these went right into my office drawer.

Heather also included some canned garlic scapes. I've only ever had scapes fresh (well, and then cooked) so I'm interested to try them like this!

Stuffed grape leaves like this, also called dolmas, are actually one of my favorite Mediterranean snacks. Since these come in a tin, they're great for road trips, so I might have to save these for my next trip!

There are now Vegan Food Swaps in the US (this one), Canada (this one), and the UK (this one). There has been some talk of starting up vegan food swaps in other parts of the world as well, and I'll keep you all updated if that happens!

Word of the vegan food swap is continually spreading. Just a few days ago, Vegan Mainstream did a podcast on the joys of participating in food swaps, and Stephanie posted examples of the items she's sent and received over the past couple of months. If you're curious about what people receive, you should check out the podcast, as well as my previous reveal posts, where participants link up their reveals so you can see what everyone got.

If you want to participate in the Vegan Food Swap in 2012, October is your last chance! Due to the holidays in November and December, I've decided that October will be the last month this year, and then we'll start back up again in January 2013.

So, sign up before October 5 to partake in the Vegan Food Swap for October 2012!

For those who swapped in September, please link up your reveal posts below:


Vegan Food Swap Reveal! August 2012 edition

Is it really the end of August already? Wow!

I didn't even manage to post any new recipes in August, which makes me feel like the lamest food blogger on the planet. But don't worry, dear readers, because you didn't actually miss anything exciting. I lived August without a working stove, so I really just ate a lot of salads and almond butter sandwiches, for the most part. It was good food, but not very exciting.

The good news is that I'm cooking again, and I'll have some new stuff up for you soon. In the meanwhile, it's  Vegan Food Swap  time again! I've been hosting the US Vegan Food Swap for 5 months now and it's been a blast. Membership has been growing a little each month, and a lot of folks seem to be having a great time with it, so I'm thrilled to make it all happen.

This month, my box of goodies came from Kim S. in Charlotte, NC, who doesn't currently have a blog. Maybe if she decides to keep swapping, she'll start one. (Let the peer pressure begin!)

Kim went with a "Southern Foods" theme for this box and sent me a unique collection of "accidentally vegan" items that represent Southern food culture.

She sent some *very* Southern things, like grits and canned greens, hoppin' john, and boiled peanuts.

As well as tea bags and lemonade, so I can make my own Arnold Palmers:

And then she went off-theme a bit and included a package of spinach channa (an Indian spinach and chickpea stew):

And a collection of tea, including a couple different varieties of green tea and chai, plus some instant black coffee:

Thanks, Kim! My Southern mom would be very happy - and perhaps a bit surprised - to see all these goodies in my house!

If you're itching to be a part of the food-swapping good times, sign up for the September Vegan Food Swap by September 4! Instructions will go out the following day for Month #6 of the Vegan Food Swap!

For those who swapped in August, please link up your reveal posts below:


Guest Post: Vegan Food Swap Reveal Bonus!

This month, as part of the Vegan Food Swap, I was matched up to send a box to Kyleigh of The Only Vegan I Know. I hope she won't be calling herself that for very long, because she lives just north of Seattle and I know a lot of my Pacific Northwest vegan peoples would be happy to make a new friend! Kyleigh was kind enough to do a little write up on the goodies I sent to her this month, and I'm sharing that here.

Photo courtesy Kyleigh
I was lucky enough to be receiving a gift from the gal that puts this whole amazing vegan shin dig together! And I sure got some yummy new pantry additions! I came home from an extended weekend vacation on the beach and saw this waiting for me on my porch. 

Of course, I dropped everything (okay, so I didn't have to drop anything because my boyfriend did all the hard unpacking work) and opened my package from Cat! And lucky enough, I had never tried any of the items she sent me! So this was a completely amazing box of unknown goodies! 

I have never really had Larabars, so I opened up the Coconut Cream Pie (coconut is my favorite thing ever!) and munched on that while looking over everything and reading my sweet card Cat sent! I'm in love with the Bragg's Organic Sprinkle seasoning and have used it at multiple times since I received it. The Sea Tangle Snacks were delicious and are on my weekly grocery list. Cat also included some [harissa] chili paste that I had never ever tried before. I love that she sent this because this makes me venture out for recipes that this can be used. This package was amazing and had a little bit of everything, which is what I LOVE!

Thank you so much Cat, you really outdid yourself with putting together yummy treats that I had never gotten to try until now! I can't wait till August!

If you're interested in signing up for the August Vegan Food Swap, you can still do so until Sunday, August 5 11:59pm EST. Click here for details and to register. 


Vegan Food Swap Reveal: July 2012

We're into Month #4 of the US Vegan Food Swap and I'm so pleased to report that it's still going strong! I love bringing together vegans from across the US to share goodies from their necks of the woods. 

This month, I was matched with Mariam of Birdie's Health Chatter. She sent me a nice collection of vegan snack treats: 

I don't think Mariam knew it, but apple chips are one of my favor snacks! 

Vegan jerky. Am I ashamed that I've never tried it? You decide.

I love sesame snacks and seaweed crackers, so I can't wait to try this! 

The icing on the cake. Porcini & truffle oil. I might put this **** on everything.

Mariam did a bang up job putting her box together, and I hope everyone else who participated in July was half as stoked about their goodies as I am. If you haven't signed up yet for August, there's still time! Sign up by Sunday, August 5 at 11:59PM EST in order to participate in August. Be prepared to confirm your participation within 48 hours, and the match list will be sent out on August 8!

For those who participated in July, it's time to link up your reveal posts below...


Fall in Love with Salad: Part 2

This is the second part of a 4-part series on falling in love with salad. To read about adding variety with different salad greens, check out Part 1 of the series here.

When real hunger strikes, many people think that a salad just will not do.

If that salad is a limp, fear-inducing, iceberg-laden monstrosity like I mentioned in my previous post, then those people are right. Luckily, there's a cure. Actually, there are quite a few.

Falafel Salad with Savory Yogurt Sauce
Chunky Southwestern Bean Salad
Designing a hearty, satisfying salad is incredibly simple. How? Add some protein. Whether in the form of legumes, nuts, or protein-packed grains like quinoa, any salad can feel like a meal when you add a little protein. Protein helps tell your body you're full, and can stave off hunger a lot longer than raw veggies. 

Some ideas for adding protein (choose 1-2): 
  • 1/2 cup cooked and cooled chickpeas 
  • 1/2 cup edamame, steamed and cooled (or simply defrosted, if frozen) 
  • 1/2-3/4 cup cooked and cooled quinoa 
  • 1/2-3/4 cup cooked and cooled brown rice 
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts 
  • 3 Tbsp chopped raw almonds 
  • 1/4 cup crumbled tempeh bacon 
  • 2 Tbsp hemp seeds 
Although having protein-rich add-ons on hand can make your salad-making experience easier, some of them do require a little advance prep. But, rest assured, that's pretty easy too.

Here are some tips for my favorites:

Chickpeas and other legumes
Although canned chickpeas can be fine, cooking dry chickpeas is quite a bit cheaper and is very simple. I use a slow cooker to cook them on low overnight. You could also set them to cook in the morning before you leave for work, and enjoy them for dinner. Simply drain and freeze any that you won't be using within the next couple of days. This method applies to almost all legumes, even lentils.

Quinoa, Brown Rice, and other grains
Larger batches of grains can be prepared in advance. This is a great activity for a lazy weekend afternoon, or even a weekday evening. Since most grains don't need a lot of active attention during the cooking process, it's easy to tackle this task while catching up on Mad Men or revisiting old episodes of The West Wing. Or whatever. Cooked grains will keep in the fridge surprisingly long, but I like to bag up smaller portions to toss in the freezer as well. Another tip: cook your grains in vegetable broth to impart more flavor.

Nuts and Seeds 
I keep mine in quart-sized mason jars and try to keep them close to full at all times. I just keep my favorites on hand, which are whole raw almonds, walnuts, pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds), and hemp seeds. Since they are always "in stock" and easy to see in glass jars, I never forget about them.

Ultimately, as you learn to add-on to your green salads, you'll realize that a salad doesn't actually need to consist of any greens at all in order to be called a salad. Pasta and grain salads are a great way to mix up your salad regime, or provide a slightly heartier dish. They're also the best candidates for potlucks and picnics, and pretty much guarantee that you'll bring home an empty bowl.

For instance?

Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Grapes
So far in this series, I've covered how to change up your greens to invite non-salad lovers to partake, and given suggestions on add-ins to increase a salad's staying power. In Part 3, I'll share with you some of my favorite homemade salad dressings, including both sweet and savory, as well as tips on creating your own signature salad dressing recipe. Stay tuned!


Fall in Love with Salad: Part 1

I've fed many an omnivore in my time. I never set out to make anyone love salad, but time and again, I've done it. This is me, doing a little victory dance for greenery, right here. 

Since I've learned a thing or two over the years about how to make people fall in love with salad, I thought it was high time I shared my tips with the public. After all, I don't want to take these secrets to the grave. In fact, I think everyone should try them out, regardless of your dietary persuasion. 

Making a "salad hater" into a "salad lover" is no simple task, so I have a lot of tips to share. For ease of reading and better blogging, I'm breaking this into a 4-part series. Here in today's post, it's all about greens.

All About Greens

In my experience, most people who complain about or profess to dislike salad are being completely honest. It's likely that, in their lifetime, they have encountered salads that mostly consisted of iceberg lettuce, pink tomatoes, and slimy cucumbers. Top with dry, flavorless croutons and overly generous portions of Italian or Ranch dressing, and you've got the typical American side salad, right?

They're doing it all wrong.

I've found that it's much easier to introduce someone to salad by using heartier greens. I steer clear of the iceberg entirely, and instead, look to base my salads on one of the following greens, depending on what's in season (and possibly on sale): 

  • Kale (curly or lacinato) 
  • Swiss chard
  • Arugula
  • Baby spinach or spring mixes 

Merely substituting one or several of these greens can improve a salad's enjoyability factor by several fold. (Yes, I'm so serious about this that I just made up a word!)

Why do I think this works? 

One of the primary complaints I hear about salad is that it's not filling, or that the person is hungry again soon after eating. Water-heavy greens like iceberg don't really take a lot of work to chew or digest, which leaves people with that "still hungry" feeling. Hearty, darker greens require more chewing, and take a little longer to digest, which help keep you feeling fuller longer. 

If you're wondering, dark greens also offer a wide variety of benefits that old iceberg just doesn't. Although iceberg has slightly fewer calories and is a good source of a few vitamins, it really can't compare to the darker greens. Kale, for example, packs so many vitamins and minerals that I can't keep track. It's like a multivitamin in leaf form, really. See for yourself.

If you have a real skeptic on your hands, try a mixture of greens. Use a 50/50 mix of dark greens with romaine lettuce, which has a satisfying crunch without being quite as boring as iceberg.

Now that you've got a handle on the green situation, you're well on your way to making anyone fall in love with salad. The real trick, of course, is the other ingredients of your salad. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where I share some hints about what to mix in with your greens for the most irresistible salads you'll ever taste.


Vegan Food Swap Reveal: June 2012

June is the third month I've hosted the monthly US Vegan Food Swap, and it's rolling right along!

The Vegan Food Swap is a program where bloggers and readers alike sign-up to be matched with two people: one person to send a box to, and one person to receive a box from. We all collect items specific to our recipient's tastes and dietary restrictions, and ship the goods around the middle of the month. At the end of each month, the bloggers in the group post a reveal to show you what they scored that month. This is mine.

This month, I was matched up to receive a box of goodies from Cobi Kim of Veggietorials, who is all the way out in Hawaii. Cobi's blog is always entertaining - chok full of bright and amazing photos of her island adventures, her cute pug, and of course, tons of food. She also makes cute video recipe blogs (like this one for Not Yo Mama's Meatloaf).

Cobi sent me a Vegan Food Swap box packed with tasty treats.

Cobi says the vegetable chips above are her favorite. I loved the sweet potato chips!

A full selection of sample-sized sweeteners from Wholesome Sweeteners.
Cobi uses this Kona Coffee rub in her veggie burgers. I'm excited to try it!
If you want to get in on the Vegan Food Swap madness, sign up by July 5 to be included in the July swap.

For a look back on past Vegan Food Swap reveal posts, check here and here.

June participants: Please link up your reveal posts below.


It's Just a Salad

When summer comes, the temperatures soar, and I begin to yearn for a nocturnal lifestyle more than ever, one other important shift occurs in my daily habits. I lose my appetite.

I blame the heat, primarily, for this wicked punishment. These days, I'm still dreaming of freshly baked bread, hearty casseroles, and savory warm dishes. I just don't really feel like eating them. So, naturally, I will turn to salads for most of my meals from, say, now until the scorching summer heat begins to wane.

But I'll never relegate myself to having "just a salad." I'm far too interesting for that, of course. Creative salads are one of my specialties, and I'm working on a series of blog posts to share with you, dear readers, my secrets for turning anyone (really!) into a salad lover.

In the meantime, I just wanted to share this snapshot of a recent thrown-together salad I snarfed during a working lunch. It consisted of baby spinach, mixed fruit (blueberries, strawberries, and fresh apricots), hemp seeds, tempeh cubes, and a simple maple-cider dressing (recipe to come soon!). I constructed this fresh treat from items on hand in my fridge, with essentially no prior planning. It was easy, delicious, and (best of all) required no cooking. Perfect for hot summer days!

Stay tuned for my salad series starting next week!


Sweet, Sour, Whiskey

I think the word you're looking for right now is "yes."

But wait! Even if you're already a fan of the whiskey sour, you may want to hear more before you belly up to my bar.

This here concoction is no ordinary whiskey sour. This is a grapefruit sour, made with intense juicy ruby red grapefruit. I juiced the grapefruit myself with my citrus juicer, and found that 1 grapefruit yields roughly 1/2 cup juice. You could substitute store-bought juice but, if you must, at least make sure that it's not from concentrate.

Now, the words you're looking for are "heck yes."

I adapted this simple cocktail recipe for a refreshing take on an old favorite. In flavor, it's not wildly different than the traditional whiskey sour, except that it's slightly fruity. And, since grapefruit brings all the sour to the party, there's no need to mess around with any nasty, fluorescent-hued sour mix. A small amount of agave syrup (or other liquid sweetener of your choice) balances the sour grapefruit juice perfectly, and doesn't overpower the best part of the beverage: the whiskey, of course!

Grapefruit Sour 
Yield: 1 drink

1 oz ruby red grapefruit juice
1/2 oz agave nectar
2 oz Irish whiskey

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and, well, shake. Serve on the rocks, or neat if you prefer.

I'm looking forward to making this drink a summer staple, and already dreaming about fancying it up with herbs and spices. You could also use flavored agave syrups to make things more interesting. Vanilla Grapefruit Sour, anyone? I'm game.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my ice cubes are melting...


Guest Post: Hungry Vegan Traveler at the Airport

Amanda Just
(photo by Sonal Creates Photography)
Let’s face it: traveling can really mess up your appetite. This is 
especially true for air travel, where there are more rules to follow. Still, in my experience of schlepping from one airport to another (why are one-way flights so hard to find?!), I’ve picked up a few helpful tips.

Pack what you can. Being a budget traveler myself, I cannot remember the last time I checked a bag. This means my carry-on bag is stuffed and weighs a ton. Still, it’s possible to wedge a few goodies into your 80-pound duffel or your feed bag of a purse. Fresh fruit is great (and allowed!): no packaging, wash it before you leave (if necessary – no need to scrub the bananas), and it’s a no-fuss, whole food. Peanut Butter & Co. and Barney Butter both makes little squeeze packets of nut butters in various flavors, if you want to get fancy. And as always, there’s Larabars to the rescue! (Or whatever your favorite vegan bar may be.)

Bring an empty water bottle. You cannot bring a bottle of water with you through the security check, but you can bring an empty, reusable bottle. After you’ve redressed yourself, put your shoes back on, and collected all of your stuff, stop by the water fountain and fill ‘er up. It’ll save you a few bucks.

Scope out the airport in advance, if you want.  I can’t say I’ve ever done this (I’m just not that organized), but you can look up the food offerings at your airport in advance. This could be helpful if you’re bouncing back and forth between multiple airports or you have a lot of long layovers. Just Google the airport you’ll be stuck at and the food courts should be visible on their website. You may stumble upon some blogs that tell you what’s up at an airport, too. (I’ve been known to blog about such things on Hungry Vegan Traveler.)

Take a walk. This is what I usually end up doing, time permitting. If there’s enough of a gap between my connecting flights, I walk a few laps around the concourse, or walk from one to the next, and maybe even the one after that. It gets the blood flowing and stretches my legs, I get to scope out the food offerings and other little shops, and I usually catch what sets that particular airport apart from the others (the popular row of rocking chairs in Charlotte, NC; the trippy lightshow in Detroit, MI, etc.).

The old reliables. As popular and more widely accepted as veganism has become in the last few years, there will come times when you just can’t find a hot meal in an airport. (Atlanta, I’m looking at you!) If your personal stash of fruit and Larabars are wiped out, you may find yourself in a sorry situation of eating plain potato chips and a bag of nuts. If that won’t cut it for a few hours, there are some things you can find at just about any airport. Smoothies or juices (look for Jamba Juice or Starbucks) and overpriced boring salads (look for a grab-and-go case or one of the fancier, sit-down eateries) are the reliables. Chinese places are hit-or-miss because many of them cook their tofu and veggies in chicken stock, so you’ll have to ask. Same goes for beans and rice at the lone Mexican joint, as they might have lard in the beans. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, though, especially if you’re starving or starting to feel woozy from a blood sugar crash. (I speak from experience here!) And don’t be fearful. I’ve eaten pretty darn well at many an airport, as well. Sushi, taco salads, hummus-and-veggie wraps… You may be surprised! I did a happy dance when I found Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups in NYC. (Not that that’s a healthy meal, but I love all things PB + chocolate.)

Bottom line.  Make like a Girl Scout and BE PREPARED. Pack whatever snacks or little meals you can wedge into your carry-on bags. Don’t forget the empty water bottle (otherwise you’ll be paying $3-4 for Aquafina). Scope out the airport before you leave and/or take a stroll through the concourses while you’re there. Ask questions. And above all: Don’t starve. 

Amanda Just has been blogging over at Hungry Vegan Traveler since 2010. While she has not completed her Round The World trip yet, she enjoys exploring her home state of  Florida, checking out the cheesiest roadside attractions around, and working through her To-Visit and To-Eat lists. When not exploring, she can be found teaching a vegan cooking class, hula hooping in the park, and petting nearby dogs. 


Vegan Food Swap Reveal - Month #2!

I can't believe that my little side project, Vegan Food Swap, is rolling along into its third month already. I love all the positive feedback I'm hearing from people who are enjoying shopping for new local vegan treats as much as they love receiving their swap boxes. Vegan food love all around!

May was the second month of the swap, and as the organizer, I'm still very much cutting my teeth. When I launched the Vegan Food Swap at the end of March, I thought it was such a simple concept: just collect a bunch of names and pair them up. As time went on, however, I learned what a silly assumption that was. I'm learning on the job, though, and thankfully, most of my participants have been incredibly understanding of the "behind the scenes" work I have to do to get this thing to run.

Because of one of my organizational flubs in May, I ended up taking on two swap partners for the month. I sent out two boxes and received two back, so it all worked out to be fair.

My first swap box arrived from Adriana Pope of Vegan Corner. Adriana sent me a diverse box including both sweet and savory treats. She even included a copy of her vegan zine Hungry Monkey, which I really enjoyed reading.

My favorite item in her collection were these raw vegan macaroons. As a diehard lover of coconut-meets-chocolate treats (evidenced here and here), these babies didn't stand a chance in my house. Although one package only contains 4 servings (2 macaroons each), I did manage to stretch these treats out over 5-6 days. I'm dying to have them again, but also nervous about having such a deliciously decadent treat on hand!

My second swap box came from Kiley at Coconut Bliss. It may surprise you to learn that there wasn't a shred of coconut to be found! Kiley and I originally met at Vida Vegan Con and subsequently bonded over beer, dogs at the beach, and all things salted. Kiley gifted me a set of seasoned salts from one of my favorite companies, Mountain Rose Herbs. She also sent a masala chai tea mix that has officially made all other chais in my life completely useless. Thanks, Kiley. :)

If you're interested in joining the Vegan Food Swap for June, there's still time. I'm accepting new registrations until Monday, June 4, so sign up now!

May participants: please link up your reveal posts below.


The Big 5-0-0

Although I've been busy and away from the blog a bit this month, I've still been active on The Verdant Life's Facebook page. That's where I usually share interesting links, random food photos, and burning questions generally related to what's for dinner.

Over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, when I wasn't connected umbilically to my computer, a great thing happened on the page. The Verdant Life reached 500 Facebook fans!

I'm lucky that The Verdant Life has so many subscribers to the blog (far more than 500) but I'm pleased and honored that 500 people have chosen to follow me on Facebook as well. I thought this made for a great opportunity to thank all my readers, regardless of how my posts come to you. Whether you subscribe via RSS or e-mail, like the blog on Facebook, or simply visit via a bookmark, I'm so glad to have you here. After all, I really am writing every post for each of you.

Thank you for your continued support. If you're not yet following the blog on Facebook and you'd like to see updates from The Verdant Life in your feed, please join us today.

Stay tuned tomorrow to the blog for the big reveal of my May Vegan Food Swap goodies and a run-down of posts you can expect to see coming up in June!


Giveaway Winner, Pizza, and Sexy Vegan Food

First up, a winner! Congratulations to Jordan Dunne for winning my giveaway for a box of 15 PureFit protein bars! Jordan's comment was selected by the Random Number Generator at random.org.

If you're wondering why I haven't been posting a ton of original recipes lately, there's a good reason. You see, we've been eating a LOT of pizza lately, as I test recipes for Julie Hasson's upcoming vegan pizza book. I think you all know how near and dear to my heart the art of vegan pizza is, and it's been really interesting to try out someone else's take on the whole pie thing. Here are a few of the test pies I've been noshing on:

Mushroom and Potato Pizza -  Mmmm, shroomy goodness.

Korean Pizza - a new favorite!

Pesto and Asparagus Pizza - a celebration of spring asparagus.
Pizzas are not the only new recipes I've been testing around here.

Last month, I received a review copy of The Sexy Vegan Cookbook, which has received stellar reviews across the web. The author, Brian L. Patton, is a bit of a web-celeb, mostly due to his YouTube videos. Patton's videos largely how-to recipes and cooking methods, with a few bad jokes and ukelele songs mixed in.

Now, back to that cookbook. Touted (via the book's subtitle) as "Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude," most of the recipes in the book are what I'd call, let's say, less than extraordinary. Relying heavily on soy products and meat analogs, Patton's dishes consist mostly of veganized versions of classic comfort foods, like spaghetti and meatballs, sliders, bacon, and nachos. Since I was never in love with those foods, I found it challenging to decide which recipes to try. I enlisted the help of my own resident "ordinary dude" and we decided to make the following:

My Balls (p. 26)
New England Blam Chowder (p. 62)
The Portly Fellow, a marinated portabello sandwich (p. 107) which also uses Sun-Dried Tomato and White Bean Spread (p. 108)

My Balls - These are baked tempeh and walnut balls, intended to go with spaghetti or in a faux meatball sandwich. They tasted good, but they were a huge mess and somewhat time consuming to make, and ended up being much more crumbly than I anticipated. My aforementioned ordinary dude liked them and requested that I make them again in the future, so I probably will, but with some modifications. I neglected to photograph mine, but you can see them on my friend Bianca's blog in her review.

The Sexy Vegan's New England Blam Chowder
New England Blam Chowder - This soup is a riff on clam chowder, which my omni dude loves. I prepared the recipe as written and ended up with a bland milky bowl of liquid. On its own, I wouldn't call this recipe "sexy" in the slightest. Luckily, I was able to doctor it up with the addition of some thickener, additional herbs, some acidity, and an additional 15 minutes of simmering. The result was completely edible, but unremarkable.

The Sexy Vegan's Portly Fellow portabello sandwich (shown with sweet potato fries)
The Portly Fellow - This is a recipe within a recipe, as it requires you to first make Sun-Dried Tomato and White Bean Spread. The spread is quite tasty, and the recipe makes more than you'll need for the sandwiches, so you'll have leftovers for other sandwiches, wraps and (my fave) pizza. I would absolutely make the spread again. However, the whole sandwich as assembled wasn't that exciting. I adore portabello mushrooms in sandwich form, but I didn't find anything special about this one. The white bean spread even gets lost in the sandwich and both I and my dude found it difficult to discern its flavor against the meaty mushroom, spicy arugula, and raw red onion.

Aside from being underwhelmed by the recipes, I found myself a bit frustrated by the instructions at times. The preparation instructions are often vague, especially where time and doneness come into play. Although it wasn't a problem for me, a veteran cook, to work my way through a recipe, I think that someone with less experience in the kitchenor who was new to vegan foodmight get into some trouble. That's a shame, because I think these vegan versions of comfort food classics are best targeted at new vegans with little cooking experience. For that reason, I think Patton missed the boat just slightly, and I hope to see more complex flavors, detailed instructions, and sharp wit in his next book, should he pen one.

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