My Life as the Alphabet

I discovered this little survey on the Graceful Fitness blog and thought it might be fun!

A is for age: 35 and still a kid at heart!
B is for breakfast today: Cocoa Goji Berry Granola with Almond Milk
C is for currently craving: Tortilla chips
D is for dinner tonight: Quinoa with spinach, toasted almonds, dried cranberries, avocado, shredded carrot, and lemon dijon dressing
E is for favorite type of exercise: backpacking

F is for an irrational fear: spiders and water over my head are tied
G is for gross food: meat
H is for hometown: Fairview, PA
I is for something important: compassion
J is for current favorite jam: homemade strawberry-orange with locally picked berries

K is for kids: I don’t like ‘em
L is for current location: Portland, OR

M is for the most recent way you spent money: on my weekly groceries
N is for something you need: confidence
O is for occupation: freelance photographer
P is for pet peeve: people who walk too close behind me (especially if they have loud shoes on)
Q is for a quote: “Live simply so that others may simply live.”
R is for random fact about you: I still suck my thumb
S is for favorite healthy snack: hummus with carrot sticks
T is for favorite treat: cupcakes

U is for something that makes you unique: the huge birthmark on my left arm (and the one on my knee, and the one on my bottom, and the other zillion that cover me from head to toe)
V is for favorite vegetable: kale, if leafy greens count as vegetables, and carrots if they don’t
W is for today’s workout: a bike ride in the rain!
X is for X-rays you’ve had: teeth, upper gastro-intestinal
Y is for yesterday’s highlight: talked to my parents on the phone
Z is for your time zone: Pacific

Wanna play too? Copy the template from here and post on your blog!

The Vegan Burger That Wasn’t + A Giveaway!

Several weeks ago I was contacted by a representative from Quorn, a company known for their line of meat-free vegetarian products, and was asked if I would be interested in taste-testing their new vegan burger. How could I say no?! It’s always exciting when a new vegan product hits the market. Plus, with summer just around the corner, it is the ideal time to start thinking about (vegan) barbecues!

I should start by mentioning that I rarely purchase packaged vegan burgers because it’s much more fun (and less expensive) to make them at home from scratch. When I do opt for the convenience route, my standards are pretty high: clean, wholesome ingredients; thick patty; full of flavor; good texture; and organic if possible. More than once, I have found myself choosing Amy’s California Veggie Burgers because they are pretty tasty and meet the above requirements. I had high hopes for Quorn’s first vegan product!

Unfortunately, I was disappointed with these burgers. They come packaged (4) in a box, as most burgers do, but the patties themselves aren’t wrapped in anything. My patties had a mild case of freezer burn upon their arrival. This certainly could be blamed on transport, but it seems likely that even in a grocer’s freezer, the patties could fall victim to freezer burn. I do appreciate the lack of plastic wrapping for environmental reasons, but some frozen foods need the extra packaging to protect the product.

Secondly, these patties are THIN! I have a hearty appetite and expect a bit more oomph from a burger. My homemade burgers are monsters in comparison!

Thirdly, when paired with a homemade bun, toppings, and condiments, the flavor of the burger (and the burger itself) is completely lost. I don’t put much on my burger, usually greens, avocado, mustard, and ketchup. I was really hoping to taste the burger in my first bite! I had to pluck a piece off the patty so I could get a good taste. In all honestly, it reminded me of a hotdog in flavor. I wasn’t impressed. But, the texture is great: chewy and firm.

Lastly, the ingredient list isn’t necessarily healthy. The only vegetable listed is onion. Roughly a third of the patty is made from mycoprotein, which is made from a member of the fungi family. It is high in protein and dietary fiber, which is certainly a bonus. But, the rest of the ingredients are flavorings, extracts, oils (including palm), starches, and stabilizers. I need my veggies-even in convenience foods!!

Maybe I am terribly fussy when it comes to vegan burgers? I don’t know. I’m sure that plenty of folks will enjoy these vegan burgers. In fact, I’ve read several other reviews that are more positive than mine. I think I will stick to homemade burgers though.

But, let’s not end this review post on a negative note! The kind folks at Quorn included two free product coupons with my package and I would love to give them away to two lucky readers!!! If you are interested in trying Quorn’s vegan burgers for yourself, leave me a comment telling me about your favorite veggie burger. That’s it! I will choose the winners on Monday, April 2nd. Good luck!!!

P.S. Thank you, Quorn, for the opportunity to try your new product :)

Let Them Eat Vegan, A Review

A few weeks ago the most exciting package arrived in my mailbox: a copy of Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton. I have long been a fan of Dreena’s recipes. They are wholesome, healthy, creative, and downright delicious. I am particularly keen on her hummus, gravy, and sauce recipes because there is rarely an absence of tahini. You do know that I love tahini (snicker, snicker, snicker…), right?!

Let Them Eat Vegan is much heftier than Dreena’s previous books, and I am not complaining. It is literally packed with plant-based recipes (including an entire chapter dedicated to sauces and dips!). There are gorgeous photographs, helpful tips/guidance, and plenty of allergy-friendly recipes. What I love most about this book is that processed foods, Earth Balance, and Tofutti products are non-existent. This is a whole foods, pure ingredients, only-the-good-stuff kind of cookbook. In other words, the cookbook of my dreams.

But, don’t fret! There is a dessert chapter and it has frosting recipes! Your sweet tooth will definitely be satisfied. I haven’t made any of the desserts yet because Tim is out of town and it’s dangerous territory when I am left alone with treats. But, I did make a super satisfying, energy-packed granola that makes breakfast exciting:

Cocoa Goji Granola: very lightly sweetened, crunchy, and a nice change of pace from my usual granola

I also made a raw kale salad that I devoured by myself in less than two days.

Kale Slaw with Curried Almond Dressing: Kale, apples, carrots, bell pepper, cranberries, and almonds are tossed with a creamy curry dressing to make a fresh, crunchy, tangy, sweet meal

Yesterday, I made the Goji Strawberry Smoothie for breakfast and it kept me full for a LONG time!

Finally, last night I made the Sunshine Fries with Rosemary and Coarse Sea Salt:

I made these after the sunshine went down so the picture doesn’t do them justice. These sweet potato wedges were super fast and simple to make. I admittedly ate two whole potatoes worth on my own. A bonus for me: there are massive wild rosemary bushes growing all over Portland, so I was able to walk down the street and clip fresh rosemary for free! Gotta love Portland :)

Made but not photographed: Dj’s Hummus Salad Dressing, Gingered Broccolini, and Creamy Carrot Miso Dip. On my recipe agenda: Triple-Threat Chocolate Coconut Macaroons (!!!), Rich Coconut Caramel Sauce, Nutty Veggie Burgers, Oven-Sweetened Beets with Sage, French Lentil Soup with Smoked Paprika, and Cashew Chive Spread. To be honest, I have marked at least 2/3 of the recipes in this book that I want to make in the next few weeks. It’s crazy difficult to make a decision on what gets priority.

I have been reading this cookbook like a novel over the last several days and I cannot recommend it enough. A big, gracious thank you to Dreena and Da Capo Press for sending me a review copy. Thanks!!!

Next week I will have a new vegan product review and giveaway, so keep checking back!

Hope the sun is shining wherever you are-it was snowing in Portland a few days ago but today it is sunny!

Recent Eats and Happenings

Time keeps prancing along ahead of me, and I simply cannot keep up. These last few weeks have been busy, adventurous, and challenging. Most recently, I finished my first freelance photography project with a series of wedding/celebration cakes. It is so much fun to photograph pretty things that I didn’t have to create myself!! Here is one example:

Isn’t that a beautiful cake?

Tim and I also went on a day hike last week and spotted this waterfall hidden in the trees:

We had to step over a lot of fallen trees and slippery rocks (click the link, that’s where I went to university!!!) in order to get close, but it was worth it. We hiked a mile further down the trail and had lunch in a dwindling patch of sunshine that eventually disappeared.

I also photographed some recipes for the Food Empowerment Project website. This is an absolutely wonderful organization that “seeks to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. They encourage healthy food choices that reflect a more compassionate society by spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, and the unavailability of healthy foods in low-income areas.”

The Food Empowerment Project website has a small, but growing recipe database. If you have vegan recipes (preferably with an accompanying photograph) you would like to share, definitely contact them. They would appreciate it so much!

Hazelnut Pesto (one of my recipe submissions!)

Champagne Risotto with Tofu & Portobello (I actually made this recipe without the alcohol since I don’t drink, and was still delicious!)

Next week I will have a new vegan product review, and quite possibly, a new vegan cookbook review too!!! Happy Spring (almost!)!!