Sunday, July 05, 2015

VidaVeganCon ~ The Red Hot Vegans Scavenger Hunt!

One of the highlights of the VidaVeganCon experience for me was definitely the ridiculously fun and quirky Scavenger Hunt, put together by Marie & Daniel of the Red Hot Vegans. I signed up for the scavenger hunt as soon as I heard about it. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I knew that I wanted to experience as much of the VidaVeganCon fun as possible - so I was IN LIKE FLYNN.

It turned out to be soooo much fun and such a great part of my (already totally great) VidaVeganCon experience. If you're ever looking for a fun ice breaker activity for friends or a party (or a vegan conference), this was really a great idea. You can see their whole plan (and all the funny challenges) on their blog here.

just a few of the  fun challenges from Day 1:
Make Jazz hands with two people who've never been to a VidaVeganCon -- and then do the can-can with three people who've been to all three VVCs. Interact with some of Austin's amazing public art. Get pictures of tattoos that only a vegan would ever have...

As soon as our plane touched down at the Austin airport, I turned on my phone, checked my email and found the first official email from the Red Hot Vegans -- with 15 amazing challenges for the very first day! Each challenge was a fun and zany thing that you had to take a picture of and then upload the pictures to Flickr. Bonus points were awarded for uploading pics the same day that the challenge was issued! 

We got straight to work and took our first picture before we even left the airport. Game on! 

Two fisted taco time; Yoga-bombing someone at the Miyoko cheese tasting; airborne with Jojo & Nick!; and enjoying a fine TopoPipo sparkly water (a special thing in Austin - and deservedly so!)

my mom is serious about getting the right picture! 

By the end of Day Two of the scavenger hunt, my mom and I were completely obsessed. I must say - my mom was particularly great. She was ever vigilant for the opportunity to snap more pics! The challenges were delightfully odd and silly and fun. Before this trip, I didn't know Daniel and Marie ~ but I could tell from this zany scavenger hunt that they were the kind of people I really needed to be friends with! 

The challenges were great because they really incorporated the events of each day, or fun things about being in Texas, or silly things about being surrounded by vegans - it was so much fun. 

Swimming through a sea of my swag bag; posing with the state capital as my top hat (we actually talked the gal at the hotel reception to let us into a presidential suite so that I could get this picture, mwahahaha!); Having Sayward - a fellow VVC speaker - sign my arm like the celebrity she is; eating a kolache into the shape of Texas; Making hook 'em horns with a stranger who is also wearing the Univ of Texas orange color; and also (I loved this one) asking a stranger to write down on a piece of paper what they think Nutritional Yeast tastes like - and then take a picture with that person and their description. My gal wrote "bland" - ha ha ha. I set her straight. 

a scavenging vegan alliance is born! 

By the end of day two, another thing happened -- my awesome pal Jojo (the traveling wonder of Vegan in Brighton) and I realized that we were in competition with each other for the top spot! Uh oh! That night, I was laying in bed, worrying about this, and I thought - maybe we should team up. The next morning, as soon as I saw Jojo, I proposed this friendly alliance and she said that she had the same idea! Great vegan minds think alike! ha ha. So, we decided to come together and form a friendly alliance -- to take the first and second prizes and then split them 50-50 between the two of us. It was so much more fun this way! 

In the end, Jojo came in first place, and I came in second. She beat me by a whole 12 points! The prizes were awarded at the VVC after party, held at a super fun bar called Cheer Up Charlie.

Jojo, Marie & Daniel, and Me.
heart explosions of friendship!!!!

Here's the thing: The top two prizes were equally outrageously wonderful. First place was $200 at Rabbit Food Grocery (a totally great vegan grocery & gift store in Austin), and second place was $100 at Lagusta's Luscious (a super upscale all-vegan chocolate shop in upstate NY). Neither Jojo nor I had ever had a chance to try Lagusta's chocolates before, so that was really fun! I really want to give a major shout out to these fantastic vegan companies for supporting such a fun vegan experience.

 My gorgeous loot from Rabbit Food Grocery:
Bright pink socks with a Bunny saying "I love you" / darling little heart stud earrings / 2 packets of Phoney Baloney tofu scramble seasoning packets / 5 delicious flavors of NuGoDark Bars (these were very yummy!) / Yellowbird Habanero sauce - this biz does not mess around / WayFare PigOut Bacony bits - i love these so much that I ate them all straight out of the packet / a beautiful and super cozy giant scarf with stylized oranges on it / Snazzy sky blue & cork fancy-lady purse from Pixie Mood - this bag is so gorgeous, it has sparkles all over the cork that you can't see in this picture. Plus, inside it's bright purple and has super useful pockets. My first-ever fancy purse. 

On my last day in Austin, Jojo and her husband Nick and I made a date of it, and we went on a super-fun shopping spree together at Rabbit Food Grocery. This was SO FUN. We ran into friends from the conference who were still in town, and had a high ol' time carefully inspecting every single item in the whole store. Jojo has a new YouTube channel up and she put up a fun video about our shopping spree. Check it out!

 look how fancy and beautiful they are when they arrive. 
You will feel very special when you open your package. 

look how fancy they are when you open the boxes.
You will feel very special again, once you open your package.

Once I got home, the fun continued, as Jojo and I emailed and discussed the purchases we were planning to make from Lagusta's. It also turns out that Jojo and I have our birthdays one day apart from each other (!!), so we were happy to be ordering fancy chocolates in time for our big days. I had a hard time picking -- but I am a true and devoted lover of all things caramel-y, so in the end I ordered Cardamom Caramels, The Peanut Caramel Bar, The Turtle Bar, and the Maple Pecan Caramels. All totally, totally wonderful.

Huge thanks again to the Red Hot Vegans for organizing such a fun and silly and playful scavenger hunt, to Jojo for being the best-ever scavenger hunt alliance pal, and to the companies who sported up such amazing and enticing prizes to make all that silliness worthwhile! This was a really special part of my VVC 2015 experience!

ps. VVC Zine Winners! 
With the help of the Random Number Generator, we have 3 Official Winners for my giveaway for the official VidaVeganCon zine...
Congratulations to:
Courtney, Bianca, and Ann
I hope you enjoy your crafty zines! 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Birthday Brinner!

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and my mom sent me an email asking what I wanted to do to celebrate... a family dinner, or maybe a family brunch? Well, I love brunch food more than just about anything in the whole world, but that particular weekend, I was busy both mornings. Shucks. Just when I started to feel the possibility of delicious brunchy goodness slipping away from me - I had a stroke of genius: Birthday Brinner!

We already know that Breakfast for Dinner is one of the great privledges of adulthood, and so I guess demanding that the whole entire family have Breakfast for Dinner is one of the great privleges of turning 42. Ha! 

 my contributions!

So, my wonderful family assembled and together we ate pancakes and OJ, and Field Roast breakfast sausages... Some non-vegan items were also eaten, but not by me, and we shall not speak of that.

Here are the goodies I brought along: 
~ A big bowl of delicious stone fruits from the farmers' market. I am just such a nut for stone fruits. Cherries, peaches, nectarines, pluots, I love them all. 

~ A giant quantity of the Garlic Tofus from The Oh She Glows Cookbook. I love this recipe so much. I think it has become my favorite way of preparing tofu. I've reduced the oil a bit, and added a heaping spoon of nutritional yeast... and the whole thing comes together in about 10 minutes. Those little tofus are so damned tasty!

~ Lastly, I also brought a huge batch of the High Brow Hash from The Great Vegan Protein Book (book review coming soon!). I absolutely love this recipe! Since I was already bringing the tofus, and I knew my mom would be making veggie sausages, I actually left the seitan out of this hash, and added in extra veggies instead.

My aunt and her partner are also vegans, but they eat no-salt and no-oil, so they brought along black beans, salsa, avocado and corn tortillas for some special breakfast tacos that were yummy and not salty or oily.

giant bounty of Field Roast breakfast links!

Check this out! My mom made a giant plate of Field Roast breakfast sausages! Whooo HOoo! Happy birthday to me! I love these little sausages, and I especially love having an endlessly huge plate of them on the breakfast-for-dinner table.

foreground: banana pecan pancakes / below: plain puffy pancakes

The main course was pancakes! Of course, my mom is cool and already has a copy of Isa Does It! in her kitchen, so I suggested the Perfect Pillow Pancakes. Just look at how gorgeously these came out... They really were seriously pillowy and puffy!! We made half of them with sliced bananas and pecans mixed in (my favorite!!), and half of them plain (for people who don't know what they're missing).

It was a bit of kitchen chaos cooking up so many pancakes for so many people at the very last minute -- we had all four burners going, with four different pans, and the back door open from something that burned in the oven ... ha ha! Somehow it turned out that I had the most familiarity with pancakes, so I was the one sweatin' bullets and flipping flapjacks like a mad woman. In the end that just added to all the fun of it!

Here's my beautiful birthday brinner plate: Banana-Pecan pancakes, fresh fruit, OJ, veggie hash, tofu cubes, veggie links, and loads of love and appreciation!! Of course, I actually ended up eating more of just about everything, because I was quite overjoyed about this glorious meal. This really was such a perfect way to celebrate.

My actual birthday was kind of a weird, crappy day. Mr VE&T and I were having a weird misunderstanding, and so my heart was all heavy and confused and my energy was just weird. Happily, we more or less resolved it by the end of the day... but it was still pretty much a bust. So, on the day of family brinner, I declared it a Birthday Do-Over! I had a meet up with a friend, a fun walk with Mr VE&T and the dogs, and this wonderful family breakfast-for-dinner. It was a totally satisfying do-over day! Three cheers for the healing power of brinner.

If you don't follow me on FB or Instagram, you may have missed the news about my fun bday present that I got for myself: I went to a proper salon and got my hair dyed blue!! I've wanted blue hair for soooo long, but I had never dyed my hair at all before.  I absolutely love it! I'm also open to any and all "how to take care of colored hair" tips that you crazy, colorful vegans might have for me. 

ps. I still have a few more posts about VidaVeganCon that I will be sharing, but I didn't want the rest of life to pass me by. Keep an eye out for more VVC fun recaps coming down the line. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

VidaVeganCon ~ The Official Zine of VVC 2015 Giveaway (& digital copy for you!)

One of the two sessions I presented at VidaVeganCon this year was called "Let's Make a Zine!" The idea was that each person in the group would prepare one page of a collective VVC recipe zine, and then would receive actual copies of the printed zine before the conclusion of the conference.

It came to my attention that a lot of people don't know what a "zine" is! It's pronounced "zeen," like the second half of the word "magazine." There's an interesting page about zines on Wikipedia, if you're interested. Zines had a big role in some of the punk and riot grrl and vegan movements -- as a way of self-publishing perspectives that weren't being heard in mainstream media or published by mainstream publishers. So, making a VVC zine is very much in keeping with the movement!

For my workshop, I asked people to bring a recipe from home that was either a family recipe or an original recipe of their own (so that we wouldn't have any copyright infringement issues with using other people's recipes.) I brought along all the crafty supplies -- blank paper, lined paper, pencils, erasers, pens, gluesticks, white out, and lots of fun clip art for people who didn't want to draw.

I also made everyone a surprise giftie: a small zine called "How to Make a Zine" (so meta!!) We spent a little time going through the basics of getting started with a zine project in general, and then we got straight to work with crafty fun.

hard at work!

This was such a lovely experience! I had prepared a play list of songs -- mostly old-timey country songs about Texas, with a few songs about cooking or veggies thrown in for fun. We had the music playing, some chit chat, and lots of focused crafty concentration together. Getting together with friends and working on crafty projects is something I've been doing All My Life, but not nearly as much lately as I used to. Being at this table with all these great people, laughing and forming friendships, and being silent together was just wonderful. It made me feel like a kid again! As Joanna said, "This is so calming!" It really was great.

Turn around and Smile!
pics by my mom! 

This workshop took two whole sessions, because crafting takes time! At the end of our time together, everyone turned in their own personal hand-crafted recipe original.

At that point, my mom and I flew into action! 

I don't think I've mentioned yet that I got to bring my mom along to VidaVeganCon this year, for the second time. It was so wonderful to share the whole VVC experience with her! It was especially great to have her with me for this workshop -- because my mom is my life-long crafty inspiration. She's also my zine inspiration, because she was involved with a self-published zine way back in the late 1970's. It was called "The Zucchini Cookbook," and was a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood of Santa Cruz County, where my mom worked for 40+ years. 

It was also great to have my mom along because she is a seriously trust-worthy crafty teammate and we trust each other wholly on crafty matters. She and I skipped the next session and spent that time very efficiently assembling all the pages into the proper order, crafting up the index, figuring out the page numbers, and getting the whole original ready to go off to the printers!!! 

By the very next day -- as promised! -- every person in the zine workshop received four copies of the printed zine: to share or trade or give away. (*special thanks to Michele and Daniel & Marie for doing the runs to the printer and back, so that my mom and I could enjoy a few more of the other sessions!!*)

the finished product!

It was really great to have such a quick turnaround and to be able to deliver the completed zines to everyone by lunch the next day. Hopefully now all those zinesters will feel confident and inspired to go forth and create more vegan zines in this world! 

Zine Giveaway!
Here's the fun part: I have three copies of the zine we created in our workshop, called "A totally Awesome, Fun & Inspirational Zine!" to giveaway! If you'd like to win a copy, just leave a comment on this blog post. Be sure to use a login or email address so that I can contact you if you win. This is open to everyone in the whole entire world! 

On the other hand, if you're just as happy with a digital copy... I made a digital pdf of the zine that you can download here:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

VidaVeganCon Recipes from Chef Brad! (& what we ate at VVC)

The food at this year's VidaVeganCon was absolutely fantastic. I really can't rave about it enough. Happily, even if you weren't able to come to the conference, you can experience some of the eats because Chef Brad from the AT&T Conference center was gracious enough to share a few recipes with us!! 

Now you can create your own mini-VVC by cooking up a few dishes and then going online and reading vegan blogs or Periscoping or just reading the PPK message boards while you eat. :) 

What the VVC organizers and Chef Brad did especially well was to provide an array of foods at every meal, so that everyone of every vegan persuasion would be delighted with the options. The foods were fresh and abundant and flavorful, and there were always LOADS of various sauces and toppings and condiments that you could add to personalize your meal up the wazoo. I have never experienced anything like it. 

~ Breakfast! ~ 

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I always wake up hungry, and I love the process of considering all my various options. Most days, I practice restraint and only go with one thing. But on special days like birthdays or VidaVeganCon, I really go hog wild. 

left: Vegan Dollhouse and Zak makin' breakfast tacos! 

The breakfast buffets were totally spectacular and pretty much my idea of heaven on earth. There were two huge long tables with all the fixin's for Breakfast Tacos. In case you didn't know, the good people of Austin are obsessed with tacos, so there will be a lot of taco information in all these VVC posts!

Each day had slightly different offerings... but this will give you a general idea: corn or flour tortillas, black beans, potatoes or tofu cubes or tofu scramble, fresh kale, Sweet Earth bacon, chorizo crumbles, SO MANY AVOCADOS cut in huge thick slices, bowls of nooch, mutlitudes of salsa & hot sauce choices, house-made coconut bacon, vegan cheddar shreds,  fresh herbs for garnishing... Swoon. Just thinking about it is making my heart flutter all over again.

Left: Miyoko of Miyoko's Creamery at the Artisan Toast Bar
Right Sarah of Queer Vegan Food at the glorious coffee bar

Each morning there was also a long table with the Artisan Toast Bar -- with many different kinds of breads and spreads... enough to keep everyone happy.

The coffee and tea bar requires special mention. Happily, this table of hot beverages was up all day long. Hot water for tea, Hot coffee, and decaf coffee. Plus about 6 different creamer options (!!!!!), simple syrup, stevia, and all sorts of sweetener choices. Plus an abundant bowl of mini marshmallows for sprinkling in your coffee (or... uh... for eating). Every time I went back for more coffee, I ran into Sarah there. I think she and I are on the same coffee wavelength. Seriously, this coffee station was the thing of dreams.

top: fruit salad, hot coffee, chia pudding, breakfast taco with black beans & baked tofus & salsa & avo, Sweet Earth brand bacon (yum!), and lemony raw kale. I went back for more.

bottom: Chef Brad's *amazing* cashew yogurt and chia pudding. Plus a giant tray of melon and bowls of granola and Manitoba Harvest Hemp Seeds.

Even with all that, guess what I really fell in love with? It was that crazy-good chia pudding and cashew yogurt! I've made chia pudding for myself many times, but it has never turned out this yummy. And the cashew yogurt was totally fantastic: thick and tangy. My fave was to make a little parfait with some chia pudding and some yogurt, and then sprinkle on some of the granola and hemp seeds. I went back for seconds of this stuff both days.

i love you, little chia pudding & cashew yogurt parfait.

~ Lunch! ~ 

Kale & Chard Salad bar ~ with quinoa, hummus, loads of avocado and coconut bacon, Sweet Earth Seitan, and noochy abundance. Plus a guava tapioca parfait cup with candied ginger - that dessert was weird and fun and delicious! 

Taco Bar: There were options for corn tortillas, flour tortillas, or big butter lettuce leaves. Plus, kale, guacamole, fried tofus, cabbage slaw, seitan and/or raw chorizo, Heidi Ho cheese (I love that stuff!), and Chef Brad's totally delicious Mac n Cheese. Everyone was absolutely wild for that that mac n cheese. I don't even usually like vegan mac n cheese, but I went back for seconds. Happily, this is one of the recipes that he so graciously shared with the VVC community, after everyone was going on and on about how good it was. Check out the recipe on the VVC blog here. 

What a fun scene of contented vegans piling their plates with all their own choices and options! I think Lisa's beaming smile pretty much sums it up. And I love that shot of Jess with the ladle of Heidi Ho Spicy Chia Cheeze. Oh man, that was like a dream come true!

~ SNACKS! ~ 

You can't go through a whole day of conferencing without a little snack or two... and the kind folks in the kitchen provided us with tasty snacks during the various breaks. There were some delicious cookies and bars, and also big plates of fruit (which I also partook of with great enthusiasm). 

On the last break on the last day of the conference, we had some very special snacks delivered to us by Kristen at Capitol City Bakery. CCB is a totally stellar, all-vegan bakery in Austin that makes top-notch, beautiful, creative and delicious treats. Kristen was a panelist and an attendee at the conference, and she brought in copious amounts of huge heart-shaped cookies covered in colorful sprinkles. Within seconds, there were at least 45 pictures of these cookies on Instagram, because they were just that special.

I would especially like to mention how exceptional this food was, given that it was prepared by Chef Brad and his kitchen staff, who (as far as I know) are not vegans or even vegan-food specialists. The food was hands-down the best vegan food I've had prepared for me by non-vegans! The variety and quality spoke volumes about this kitchen team. I was so impressed that I actually came right home and wrote Chef Brad a thank you letter. It's obvious that he is a creative, open-minded foodie who enjoys the challenge of cooking delicious food for all people. 

In addition to thanking him in my letter, I also confessed to my surprising love for his chia pudding and cashew yogurt. I was too sheepish to ask for both recipes, so I asked for his chia pudding recipe. Happily, he responded right away and included both recipes -- and gave me the go-ahead to share them both with you all. What a guy! 

Vida Vegan Con Recipes!

Cashew Yogurt

1 cup water
1 cup cashews
1 teaspoon Probiotics

Blend cashews and the water until smooth in a food processer (robot coupe)
Add the probiotic and blend on low speed until incorporated
Place the mixture in a clean mason jar and cover loosely
Let the mixture sit in a warm location for 24 hours

Chia Seed Pudding

Chia gel:
½ cups chia seed
2 ½ cups water

Put chia and water into a container and mix thoroughly
Allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight (at least 12 hours)

*Once the chia gel is made, add the following ingredients:

2 cups fresh nut or seed milk (I used hemp)
2 cups blueberries
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ cup cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom
Stevia for sweetness (to taste)

Stir in all of the ingredients and garnish with additional berries

recipes by Chef Brad Turner