Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Night pizza night!

This week's pizza is made with homemade marinara sauce that we canned several weeks ago. I made the dough from a recipe out of Vegan with a Vengeance, and affixed the whole pie with:
- Daiya vegan mozzarella and cheddar cheeses
- Tomatoes
- Green bell peper
- Black olives
- Onion
- Zucchini
- Yellow squash

 I've always loved pizza, especially when I wasn't vegan or vegetarian. But when I gave up eating cheese, my obsession with pizza didn't it stop; I just had to adapt the traditional Italian dish to my dietary restrictions. For a while I would simply order a vegetarian pizza without cheese. Even though it tasted good, it never truly satisfied my craving. So I tried making my own pizza.

When the homemade pizza idea first came about, we just used store bought pizza dough (from Trader Joes or Whole Foods). Once I felt more comfortable with the whole pizza making process, I found a pizza dough recipe in a vegan cookbook we already owned. I'm sure there are tons of similar recipes all over Pinterest, but I'm happy with the one I've been using, so I'll stick with it. Eventually, I started substituting some of the white flour with whole wheat know, to make it a little bit healthier. My favorite "cheese" to use is Daiya; I find it tends to melt and taste the best.

The work week always tends to drag on, so we came up with Friday Pizza Night as something to look forward to at the end of a hard, busy week. It's also a good way to use up the last of our produce in preparation for the farmers' market on Sunday. Even if some of the vegetables are getting a little squishy, it won't make a difference once they're cooked on the pizza. It's a win-win; I get to eat pizza and I'm also eating some vegetables.

It's finally starting to get pretty windy and the weatherman says there's a chance of rain tomorrow...bring it on, Autumn! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

The other day I noticed we had two very ripe bananas lying on the counter; obviously no one was planning on eating them. So instead of letting them go to waste, I searched Pinterest for a vegan muffin recipe that calls for bananas. I had a very limited supply of flax (used as a substitute for eggs), and I wanted the muffins to be a tiny bit healthy. They're not cupcakes after all. I stumbled upon this recipe from One Green Planet.

I also didn't have any chocolate chips on hand, but I did have a semisweet vegan chocolate bar that didn't taste so good by itself. So, I cut up the chocolate bar into smaller chunks and used this in place of the chocolate chips. The recipe calls for 1.2-2 cups of chocolate, but I only used 1 cup and it was still a little too chocolate-y for me.

I'm not a big fan of bananas, but I actually really like these muffins. You can't even taste the banana...just the way I like it!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hooray for Saturday

It's Saturday and I couldn't be more happy that it's the weekend. Although I do wish it was Friday afternoon so that I could have an entire weekend again.

I started the weekend off right with homemade vegan pizza, followed by some vegan brownies. The brownies were pretty good, although I think they need more vanilla. I do love vanilla.

This morning I woke up when it was still dark outside. I hate waking up so early. It reminds me of having to wake up super early every Saturday morning for swim meets. Fortunately I didn't have to jump into a cold pool today though. I ran the Lake Natoma loop with SacFit today, and ended up completing 13.1 miles. This is the first time I ran a half marathon without doing so for a medal. Despite my lack of new hardware, I enjoyed it. SacFit set up aid stations about every 4 miles stocked with Pringles, fruit, Gatorade, candy, potatoes, and PB&J sandwiches. I love Pringles and orange Mike and Ikes. Food makes everything better. After our run, I went to Sunflower for lunch...YUM.

Tomorrow will be a day filled with chores and errands. It's going to be laundry central over here. Thankfully though, I love doing laundry. My only wish is that the washer and dryer weren't in the garage. I want a real indoor laundry room! But one day I will own a house with a laundry room, so everything is okay. Then it's off to the farmers' market, Costco, and Red Robin. Did you know Red Robin has pretzel buns now? They're delicious. Try one. Seriously.

And for your enjoyment: TOP THAT

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Glamping: Day Four

Check out time at Schoolhouse Canyon Campground was at 11 AM, so we had to set an alarm on the last day. We woke up at 8 and after showering, packing up the tent, and cleaning our site, we were ready to hit the road by 10. But we didn’t go straight home. There were a few places we just had to visit. 
Our first stop after leaving the campsite was Korbel Winery, just a few miles west of Schoolhouse Canyon. We made it there in time for the first tour of the day. After sampling several champagnes, I ended up buying two bottles: one for me and one for a gift. Korbel also had an amazing deli, so we decided to dine there for lunch. I decided to try the roasted eggplant sandwich and share the Asian slaw with Lauren. The Asian slaw was pretty good; I was just so thankful it was vegan! The sandwich on the other hand…well, it turns out I’m not such a big fan of eggplant. I ended up picking all of the eggplant out, leaving me with a lettuce, onion, and tomato sandwich. I will say though, the bread was really good!

Continuing our journey home, we stopped at the Petaluma Premium Outlets. A glamping trip wouldn’t be complete without some shopping, right? We spent several hours shopping, and I managed to be very selective in my purchases. I bought a pair of jeans from Gap which I love the fit of, and a pair of leggings and a maxi skirt from Cotton On.

We were back on the road for about an hour when we got hungry and needed to find a place for dinner. Heather suggested Vegan Paradice in Fairfield, but sadly it was closed by the time we would have gotten there. So, we opted for a Thai restaurant, Bangkok Paradise. We shared spring rolls, both fried and un-fried for starters. I ordered the vegetarian pad thai with tofu and no eggs for dinner. The spring rolls were delicious; the best spring rolls I’ve ever had! The pad thai was pretty good too; I just wish the sauce was thicker and that there was more of a peanut-y flavor to it. The service was really good and the people there were very friendly.

Shortly after dinner we made it back home to Sacramento. This trip opened all of our eyes to our new-found love for glamping. Before this trip, I had only been camping once. While I do enjoy cooking, I love trying new restaurants when I travel even more. The campsite fees were pretty inexpensive, so we splurged on eating out. I think we’re trying to plan another glamping, perhaps even camping trip for next month, so we’ll see if that happens.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Glamping: Day Three

We woke up without any real plans for the day. Because we didn’t bring that much food and we were planning on eating many of our meals out, we knew we better start figuring out where we wanted to go for lunch so that we could plan the rest of our day around that. Yes, my life is organized around food…sad, but true. We all agreed on Indian food, and Heather, being the queen of Yelp, found a restaurant in Windsor.

It turns out the restaurant we planned on going to really wasn’t Indian, which we should’ve been able to figure out by its name, “Himalayan Restaurant”. Thankfully Himalayan and Indian cuisines overlap one another quite a bit. We decided to share several appetizers and entrees. Their menu was nice because they labeled which items were vegan, facilitating the ordering process. We ended up ordering vegetable samosa, vegetable pakora, and dal (lentil soup) for starters. I’m not a big fan of samosa, but for a dish I don’t normally like, it was really good. Pakora on the other hand is my all time favorite Indian/Himalayan food. Their pakora was excellent, awesome crispiness and flavor! The dal was also really good; together we demolished all of the appetizers. For lunch we collectively ordered: chana saag, tofu saag vegan, aloo cauli vegan, and garlic naan. Even though naan isn’t vegan, I have a really hard time passing it up. I enjoyed everything we ordered, especially the chana saag. The service was also superb!  

 Vegetable Samosa

Vegetable Pakora


Chana Saag

After lunch we walked around downtown Windsor. We stopped at Powell’s Sweet Shoppe where they sell every candy imaginable. To my surprise, I escaped with only a bag of sour jelly beans. Lauren was really looking forward to visiting a yarn store on our glamping trip. Oddly, we couldn’t find any yarn shops in Windsor. Luckily though, we found a few on Yelp in Santa Rosa. So off to Santa Rosa we went!

We were planning on going to Cast Away to look at yarn, but once we arrived we discovered a carnival was taking place and we would have to pay the carnival entry fare just to look at the store… at $10 a person with no desire to participate in carnival activities, no thanks. Back on our phones we went in search of other yarn stores in Santa Rosa. We found several, but after calling the shops to verify their hours of business, we learned that they had either gone out of business or they weren’t open on Sundays. Double fail! After more searching we located a yarn shop in Sebastopol. Even though we spent the entire previous day in Sebastopol, we decided to go back…the things we do for yarn.

It took us 20 minutes to get to Balls & Skeins, but it was well worth the numerous phone calls, Yelp/Google searches, and miles of driving. The owner was very nice and helpful. Lauren bought two skeins of MadTosh, and I bought a skein of Nichole yarn in the “Janice Joplin” colorway. I wanted to get something unique to Sebastopol or at Least Sonoma County. I couldn’t find anything made locally, but I’d never seen Nichole yarn before, so to me it was still unique, and I love the colors and weight of the yarn!

After driving around Windsor, Santa Rosa, and Sebastopol all day we were exhausted, but it was our last night before having to go back home, so we didn’t want to waste it by napping. Once we got back to the campsite we started a campfire. We used the remainder of the Duraflame logs the previous night, so we had to start a fire and keep it burning using only matches. It took a few tries and a lot of matches, but we did it! I found it worked best to gather a bunch of small twigs and make a nest of them in the center of the fire pit. Using several matches, we lit various areas of the twig nest until the majority of it caught flame. Slowly, we added larger logs, making sure not to accidently put the fire out. It was a very proud moment for all of us :)

Even though we weren’t able to find vegan marshmallows, a glamping trip would not be complete without s’mores. Because Marissa isn’t vegetarian/vegan, she still roasted regular marshmallows. Despite the lack of vegan marshmallows, we made vegan s’mores with graham crackers and rice chocolate. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to partake in any roasting activities, but I still had a blast eating my chocolate! For dinner, we polished off the rest of the bean and rice burritos and grilled the leftover pizza from the previous day’s lunch. (The pizza was much better grilled.)

Day four of glamping coming up…     

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Glamping: Day Two

Before we left for Guerneville I looked up various vegan restaurants around the area. The one place that I just had to try was Slice of Life in Sebastopol. The majority of their menu was vegan and they offered a wide variety of food, so I was really excited to go there. We planned to spend the second day of our trip in downtown Sebastopol walking around and browsing cute shops.

When we woke up in the morning, we took our time getting ready. One of the best parts of the entire trip was the fact that there were no alarms forcing us to wake up at a certain time. The muffins and energy balls that we baked beforehand were awesome to have on hand, as we didn’t have to worry about cooking breakfast. Also, this way each person was able to eat whenever she wanted, without having to wait for everyone else.

We left the campsite en route to Sebastopol in the late morning. It took us half an hour to get there which wasn’t bad as the various vineyards were pretty to look at, but Marissa started getting car sick so it wasn’t that fun. We spent the day touring a small area of downtown; we walked around a main street encompassing several blocks full of shops and unique eateries. Best of all, or so I originally thought, we got to have lunch at Slice of Life! We were starving by the time we got there. After looking at the menu for quite some time, we decided to share a large pizza with vegan cheese, “pepperoni”, olives, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes. I ordered the nutburger, Heather ordered blueberry pancakes, Lauren ordered the meatball sub, and Marissa just wanted pizza. My nutburger was pretty good, especially since I added “bacon”. However, the meatball sub and pizza could have been better. The sandwich had way too much “meat” and not enough marinara sauce. It had good flavor, but the proportions were off. The pizza crust was good, but it seemed like they didn’t even attempt to melt the cheese. I do admit it is a lot harder and more time consuming to melt vegan cheese than dairy cheese, but for a restaurant that specializes in vegan cuisine, I expected more.

Vegan nutburger with "bacon"
Vegan "meatball" sub

Pizza with vegan mozzarella, "pepperoni", olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic

After lunch we walked around downtown for a few more hours. We stopped in a shop dedicated to herbs and teas which was pretty interesting. Because I didn’t have any ailments that I needed a remedy for, I picked up a bar of orange coconut scented soap. I love the smell of citrus and coconut, so when they’re combined it’s really hard for me to pass up a good product. After, we stopped at Copperfield’s Bookstore that had a large table of clearance books. I bought the largest, most interesting novel I could find, “The Lonely Polygamist”. It ended up being a book that I got hooked onto, so it was well worth it. A few shops down from the bookstore was Sebastopol Cookie Company. They offered two vegan desserts: a coconut chocolate bar and an amaretti cookie. I chose that latter, and surprisingly I loved it. I had no idea what amaretti was nor tasted like, but it was delicious and I wish I bought more than one.

 On our way back to the campsite, we made a quick pit stop to Target to pick up some necessities. We needed tongs for grilling leftover pizza and burritos, and Marissa forgot her shower shoes. I also bought a sweater…completely non-camping related, but it was on sale!

We ended the day with another campfire and our notorious bean and rice burritos for dinner. The night wouldn’t have been complete without several hours of card games as well. Pounce is the best card game ever invented!

Day three of glamping coming up…

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Glamping: Day One

Two weeks ago I went camping, or should I say glamping. Yes that’s right, “camping for glamorous girls”. Lauren, Marissa, Heather, and I headed over to Guerneville for a few days. While we did sleep in a tent, we ate the majority of our meals out at various restaurants in nearby cities and spent a large part of the days outside of the campsite. We left for Guerneville Friday morning and returned to Sacramento Monday evening. I decided to blog about my glamping experience as a short series, one blog post per each day of camping.

Lauren found Schoolhouse Canyon Campground online, and noting its proximity to larger cities, we all agreed to camp there. I really liked the campground; I could not have asked for a cleaner campsite with all of the necessary amenities. Even though Schoolhouse is family friendly, they have an adult-only area that’s usually kid-free throughout the day…very much appreciated! There were several bathroom stalls with full plumbing and coin operated hot showers as well.

Everyone agreed that we would go out to eat a lot so that we wouldn’t have to cook while we were there. We already had a car full of people and camping gear, and didn’t really have room for cooking supplies. We did make sure to bring lots of snacks though. Marissa and Heather were in charge of bringing individual boxes of chocolate soy milk and vegan muddy buddies. I’ve never had muddy buddies before, but they’re so good! Lauren, Lauren’s mom, and I spent the night before our trip baking blueberry muffins, bean and rice burritos (homemade tortillas too!), and energy balls. We ended up eating the muffins and energy balls every morning for breakfast before venturing out of the campsite.

We had spent the day before in a desperate quest for vegan marshmallows to no avail. The last time I checked, Whole Foods carried two brands: Sweet & Sara and Dandies. But all of the Whole Foods in the greater Sacramento area didn’t have any in stock. So on our way to Guerneville we stopped off at the Whole Foods in Santa Rosa praying that they had a bag left…no such luck. Apparently there’s a problem in Dandies production; that’s the rumor anyway.

While at Whole Foods in Santa Rosa we decided to have lunch. I love buying premade food from there; there are always so many vegan options to choose from. I ended up getting the lentil soup and a salad, as I’ve been wanting to try their vegan Caesar dressing. The soup had a really weird flavor that I didn’t really care for, and the Caesar dressing was alright, but I still definitely prefer Annie’s Goddess dressing.

We got to the campsite around 4 in the afternoon. It only took the four of us girls half an hour to set up the tent, followed by the guy across from us mentioning, “I had my doubts, but it looks like you girls were able to set up the tent”. Yes sir we did! After setting everything up, we walked across the street to a private river access. This point in the river was really shallow and we had no desire to wade in the water, but the access point did offer a nice view and a half of a mile of nice “trails”. We ended up playing cards for the rest of the evening (after napping of course) while sitting around the fire we built (thanks Duraflame!). Each campsite has their own fire pit too…how cool is that? For dinner we devoured some of the premade burritos, which instantly became a popular nightly occurrence.  

Day two of glamping coming up…