A Few of My Favorite Things: Portland

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of returning to Portland, Oregon for the second time to visit my best friend, Danielle, and her precious new baby, Devlin.  I absolutely love Portland:  the people, the culture, the lifestyle, and most importantly, the food!

Portlanders are a health-conscious people, frequently opting for a vegetarian/vegan diet.  Even in just two trips to this green city, I was able to see that no matter where I went, there would be plenty of plant-based options available.  Danielle jokes that you can find kale anywhere; she even found a small pile of it outside of her car in a parking lot one day!

When it comes to plant-based eating in Portland, restaurants, bakeries, and even Bob’s Red Mill are all on board.  Bob’s products are essential in my vegan kitchen.  In particular, I purchase his whole wheat graham flour to make homemade graham crackers and hulled hemp seeds to add to baked goods, salads, and smoothies.  In addition to selling his wide array of products, Bob’s also serves good ole country style food in house, including a variety of vegan options.  Honestly, I think that Portlanders expect it and I’m thrilled that it’s a standard here.

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Looking for something fresher?  Head over to the Laughing Planet Café.  The LPC—serving fresh, high quality ingredients on a menu that includes vegan, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly options–has many locations, so you’re not limited to Portland to dig in.  The atmosphere at the LPC is bright and eclectic and made me excited to try the food before it arrived.  I chowed down on this totally vegan grains and greens salad; it was delicious!  Maybe there really is kale everywhere in Portland…

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Lastly, who wants to skip dessert?!  Not this preggo!  Both times I’ve been to Portland I’ve stopped into the famous Voodoo Doughnut.  Voodoo is well-known for many reasons, from its pink exterior to eccentric decor to, of course, its classically scrumptious doughnuts.  Naturally, I gravitated toward the plentiful vegan selection.  When in Portland the first time, Travis tried both the regular and vegan doughnuts and confirmed that they were equally tasty; as I’ve been preaching for years, vegan doesn’t mean sub-par flavor or quality.  Would you believe that Voodoo even has a peanut butter and jelly doughnut?!  Only my #1 preggo craving.  I was in heaven.  🙂

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There are a million reasons you should visit Portland, but the fantastic eats top my list.  I hope you enjoy eating your way through the city as much as I have!

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Plant-Based Entertaining for Everyone

I have many times had friends or family over for dinner and prepared an entirely vegan meal with great success. This was only my second time, however, throwing a large party with an extensive plant-based menu that needed to please guests all of all ages and diets. In attendance, I had several vegetarians, one gluten-free eater, and a whole bunch of standard omnivores.

I tried first, to think of foods that it seems everyone likes to eat: fruit, chips, and sweets. Then I thought about how I could make all of those items vegan (and some gluten-free, too), but tasty enough that my guests would never know it…or at least never miss the animal product varieties.

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Here’s what I served:

Chocolate peanut butter truffles: A play on my power ball formula, I used extra cocoa powder and rolled them in unsweetened shredded coconut. Guests said that they were delicious and rich: exactly what I was going for with a truffle!

Mini-fruit kabobs with cinnamon coconut whipped cream: As you know, I’ve been recently delighted to make and try coconut whipped cream in conjunction with my nice cream formula. I added ground cinnamon to this batch – yum!

Mini-chocolate chip cookies: A variation of my chip cookie formula, these were tasty, but a bit crumbly. I was surprised since I’ve made them many times before. Maybe my preggo brain forgot an ingredient?! Very possible. 🙂

Tahini dip: My creamy dressing formula kept extra thick for dipping. It was a crowd favorite.

Roasted fennel hummus: My hummus formula with fennel as the star vegetable was a gamble…and I won (or, I should say, my guests won)!

Lemon raspberry cashew mousse: Remember that failed attempt at vegan cheesecake turned mousse? I served these delightful little cups at my party and several people asked me for the recipe. I’d say they worked out ok after all.

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In addition to fresh fruit, I also served raw veggies, organic blue corn tortilla chips, and two different types of pretzels for dipping. I adorned the tables with small bowls of trail mix for extra munching and had beer and white sangria flowing. Guests seemed happy and full.

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As I mentioned when I threw Nolan’s second birthday party, I’m done serving food that I no longer regularly eat. I hate the idea of potential meat and dairy-based leftovers that threaten to throw me off the wagon (I don’t waste food, ya’ll). Stick to your guns in designing the menu for a party. Remember, guests don’t have to eat your food, but they would definitely be missing out if they didn’t!

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In case you were wondering, the party was a diaper party for Baby #2. Since it isn’t customary to throw a second shower, I wanted to have a more laidback celebration for our family’s final installment. Offering food, booze, and a good time in exchange for diapers was a win-win for all involved…and baby is stocked up for the first year or more of his/her life. Just an idea if you’re looking for a fun and easy way to celebrate a second baby or beyond. 🙂

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The Pomegranate Cafe

Today, I’m sharing with you my review of a vegetarian/vegan restaurant called The Pomegranate Café here in Ahwatukee, Arizona.  In a part of the country known primarily for its authentic Mexican cuisine (which I also love), it isn’t always easy to find healthy eats that cater to our plant-based lifestyle.  When I have the chance to try something new here in the valley, I really relish the opportunity to eat high-quality food that will ultimately inspire me in my own kitchen.

TPC, a mother/daughter created concept, is located in a bustling strip center in the east valley of Phoenix.  It is a charming establishment—as I’m finding many vegetarian/vegan restaurants are—with reclaimed wood tables, mason jar lights, fresh flower centerpieces, and images of plants displayed on the walls.  I could hear Bad Religion playing in the kitchen and the young people on staff appeared to really embrace the way of life that comes with plant-based eating.

The menu at TPC is lengthy and diverse.  I really appreciate choices, especially when it comes to plants.  I was happy to see that they indicated when an item was raw (not cooked above 118 degrees) and even when an item’s proceeds went to charity.  While just about everything looked absolutely delicious, after watching a powerful documentary called An Apology to Elephants, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to play a small role in helping the elephants in need; I ordered the Elephant Bowl Curry.

The curry was a little spicy for me, but I’ve admitted before to being a total wimp.  🙂  This rendition had a variety of vegetables and sat atop one of my favorite super foods, quinoa.  It wasn’t much unlike my own curry formula.

FullSizeRenderTravis ordered a Macro Bowl, which I don’t see here on their online menu.  It was also fantastic and a harmonious pairing between raw and cooked elements, from tofu to black beans to kale to seaweed.  It came with a zesty lime macadamia pesto that reminded me of my pesto formula; I now have a new combo idea!

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In case you were wondering, Nolan had an almond butter sandwich on whole grain brain with fresh fruit and a vegan cookie.  Once we saw his cookie, Travis and I knew we needed dessert for ourselves.  All of the pastries at TPC are vegan, but don’t taste like it.  Rich, sweet, buttery, and filling, I needed to take the rest of my “cheesecake” home.  That’s a raspberry vanilla slice below, along with Travis’s selection, a play on an Almond Joy candy bar.  Both were, in a word, impressive.

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What was not so impressive, however, was the service.  While the staff was friendly and knowledgeable, they were inattentive to detail, bringing our dinners out at three different times (Nolan, me, then Travis) and messing up simple orders (green tea instead of mint, Almond Joy instead of Snickers).  Being that we were one of three tables occupied on the 4th of July, I wouldn’t have expected it too much of a challenge.  You win some, you lose some; I’d come back for the food any day.

TPC:  Take out rather than dine in, but definitely try it.  Double check the bag and enjoy eating green.

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Must-Haves from the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival

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When the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was at its peak, I decided to take the act of charity to the next level and complete weekly acts of charity for an entire year. This weekend, my personal IBC led me to the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival in Scottsdale to benefit Evolve for Animals.

The festival was teeming with eager vegans, vegetarians, animal rights activists, and environmentalists. While typical festival/carnival/state fair crowds tend to damper the experience for me, this time, I was thrilled to be surrounded with like-minded people who care about animals, sustainability, and of course, their health.

Various booths with information and most importantly, free samples (woo!), peppered the perimeter of the Scottsdale Civic Center Amphitheater. The first booth that my husband, Travis, and I stopped at, Arizona Microgreens, featured an assortment of organic baby greens, which are easily my new favorite salad base and sandwich filler. I had had microgreens before, but didn’t realize just how many varieties existed. As you can see, they look adorable when compared with something like iceberg lettuce (I do believe that presentation matters when it comes to eating) and taste absolutely delicious. Many samples and $15 later, we walked away with broccoli and pea shoot micros.

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Up next, we stopped at a clothing booth that specializes in tops made from organic cotton and bearing catchy vegetarian and animal-friendly phrases. Geeky for some, but I was smitten and had to have one of Herbivore Clothing’s creations. Like many things organic, the long sleeve shirt I selected wasn’t cheap, but $30 well-spent to advocate for causes that I believe in without even trying.

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Who doesn’t love a soft pretzel?! As if being 100% vegan weren’t amazing enough, these pretzels were shaped like mustaches! Scrumptious and fun to eat, I now understand why the line was 30 minutes long at Mustache Pretzels. After all, “great mustaches aren’t born – they’re bread.”

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Lastly, Travis and I hit up a tortilla chip booth that had really long lines when we first arrived. By this point in the festival, it was raining, so we were able to make it to the front of Beanfields in just a few minutes. These tortilla chips–which were fantastic–are made from beans and brown rice. I’m not a big proponent of processed foods, but there are some gems out there are these are one of them.

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They were the perfect snack to end a fulfilling day doing one of the things I love most: living a plant-based lifestyle. Good for me, good for animals.