Archive for July, 2011

Back to School

July 29th, 2011

So, the Kid starts school on Monday. Once again, we have to go through educating a new teacher about our diet. I guess the one semi-good thing is that her teacher this year is a little younger than I am and maybe, just maybe, has heard of the vegan diet. I was truly amazed last year when her teacher had never had a student with an allergy before. The dairy allergy is the easy part. She cannot have any dairy or dairy derivative or she will be sick. So how far do you go? “She cannot have any animal ingredients” does not seem to suffice. Last year, we thought about giving a list to the teacher, but didn’t want to insult her. We just told her what candies she could eat and also sent some snacks to keep in the room. The Kid is old enough to know what she can eat and not eat, but she can’t read ingredients, you know? But, I don’t want her to eat junk food either. We try our hardest to keep processed foods out of our house. But I hate to tell her no, you can’t have those Pringles (even though they are her favorite) or no, you can’t have smarties or Skittles every day. So what do we do? We teach her to ask questions of the food that is given her and make the right decisions.

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St. Augustine Vacation

July 19th, 2011

Another Summer vacation is behind us. Each year we make a trek to St. Augustine, Florida so Mrs. Nashveggie can veg-out on the beach. It’s her one annual requirement.  Sand, the sound of waves and a book pacifies her.  St. Augustine is the city she went to college in and where she lived when we first began dating so returning there is based on the fact we know the area quite well. That and the fact there’s a beach. The beach is important if I didn’t emphasize that enough already. We like the fact the beaches aren’t overrun with nutty families with coolers in tow and it is highly preferred over the Redneck Riviera which so many from this area attack every year. You know where I’m talking about, that strip of beach that runs from Mobile, Alabama to an area just east of Panama City Beach, Florida and where you’ll find every beer-gut, Budweiser-swilling, SUV-driving, camouflage-bikini wearing redneck in a 500 mile radius. Yes, the Redneck Riviera, not what this post is about nor where you’ll find me. As I said, we head to St. Augustine on the East coast of Florida where the beaches are clean and relatively free of crowds if you know where to look. We have our own little beach few know about or at least few choose to go there and that makes us all the happier.

St. Augustine has a few places to find a vegan lunch. I’ve written on them before and the choices have not changed. If you’re looking for a big vegan dinner you’re best moving up the road to Jacksonville or south to Daytona as the choices aren’t the widest in St. Augustine. You could try The Perfect Moment, a raw vegan cafe serving what I lovingly refer to as “pretty food” but I can give you no pointers on that as it is “pretty food” and I don’t typically partake of that. You could go to The Manatee Cafe, a great vegetarian restaurant that serves mostly things I make easily at home. The do have great vegan breakfasts and sandwiches but we didn’t visit this trip. We did visit Stir It Up, a small walk-up lunch counter serving wraps and smoothies as well as Mango Mango’s where it’s not easy to order vegan off the menu and if you ask for what can be made vegan you’ll still have a slim selection. Mango Mango’s does, however, have a killer Black Bean Soup. I know, soup isn’t exactly what you might want for dinner on a hot, humid beach vacation but it really was exactly what I wanted. The black bean soup was heavy on the jerk seasoning and contained small chunks of one of my favorite fruits, plantain. Mrs. Nashveggie had the Caribbean Mango Island Salad, a mix of greens topped with peppers, oranges, coconut, almonds and mango. The salad looked great and tasted fresh. Heavy on the mango and sweetness. We ate at Mango Mango’s a couple times and had the same each. We also made a few trip to The Spanish Bakery. Cheap lunch awaits! Two fresh bowls of gazpacho, a big hot loaf of bread, six cookies and drinks for $10! Seating is all outside under big shade trees and on a hot day gazpacho is perfect. Most of our time in St. Augustine was spent on the beach as it usually is and meals were relegated to fresh fruit and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

Mango Mangos - Caribbean Mango Island Salad

Mango Mango's - Black Bean Soup

On the drive back we stopped off in Atlanta for a couple of days. My mother-in-law lives there so life wouldn’t be pleasant if we passed through without stopping for a visit. We decided on a new place for lunch, Urban Pl8. I had read good and bad about it but the food always came out good in reviews. Our arrival was during brunch on Sunday about noon. A 40 minute wait and we were seated outside near the small garden where some of the ingredients in this “local food” restaurant are sourced. Looking over the menu and reading between the various Paleo selections and after asking which selections could be veganized I decided on the Vegan Breakfast Plate. It included a pinto bean cake that was just a bit spicy but lacked much else on seasoning or salt leaving it very bland. It was accompanied by braised kale that was very good and maple sweet potatoes which I could have eaten a second serving of. Overall, not a bad meal but something should be done about that pinto bean cake. Dress it up in some flavor-love. Mr’s Nashveggie had the same and my mother-in-law had Lily’s Nut Burger, a patty of walnuts, cashews, brown rice and cheddar cheese topped with sour cream on a whole wheat English muffin. Of course, it’s not vegan but is vegetarian so add that a choice if that’s your way. It was on the small side and I would have needed at least 4 of them to consider it lunch. It was served with a mixed greens salad that was drenched in a very spicy dressing. Again, on the small side but I guess hangovers need small eats for brunch. The Kid had tofu scramble and the same maple sweet potatoes included with the vegan breakfast. The scramble looked very good and had subtle flavor. It contained a mix of red peppers, zucchini and onions and seemed to be cooked in an abundant amount of oil which was served along with in the bottom of the bowl. The food was nothing outstanding and I’ve had worse but the service was really bad. It took 10 minutes to get our drinks after ordering and 20 minutes for a refill of my sweet tea. The Kid’s tofu scramble was served with shredded cheese on top, which was not even mentioned in the description, and was replaced with a fresh dish when we brought it to the server’s attention. I’m not sure on the exact breakdown on the time but we arrived at the restaurant at noon and left after eating, no floundering after finishing, at 3:20. Most of this time was spent waiting for our meals. Everything seems to be prepared fresh when ordered and to order by one cook. The restaurant wasn’t extremely packed. If you do plan on visiting Urban Pl8 be sure to give a good amount of time to get in and out.

Urban Pl8 - Vegan Breakfast

Urban Pl8 - Lily's Nut Burger (Vegetarian, not vegan)

Dinner that evening was on the mother in law’s suggestion. She had decided we should go to Nicola’s. No argument from me, Nicola’s is great. A Turkish restaurant on LaVista, Nicola’s makes anyone feel like family. Everyone is greeted by the owner upon entering and kept entertained by the length of the visit by him and one or all of the staff. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night you’ll be able to enjoy belly dancing. Be ready to be asked to join in. Everyone is and at some point in the night the entire restaurant is on their feet in the center of the dining room dancing to Middle Eastern pop tunes and sloppily belly dancing the best they can. I can only guess I might have better falafel and fried artichokes if I visited a Middle Eastern country and ate them locally. No, I take that back I’m sure these would beat anything I would get if I traveled thousands of miles. This is the absolute best Middle Eastern munchies I’ve ever had and the personal attention you get just adds to the experience.

Nicola's Restaurant - Hommos, Baba Ghanoush, Falafel with vegan sauce, Artichoke Heart, Tabbouleh, Fattoush, Grape Leaves (vegetarian), Spinach Pie (vegetarian)

It’s peach season so we made sure to have enough room in the car on the trip home for extra cargo. If you’ve bought peaches locally you know they’re not cheap. They might seem cheap until you buy a sufficient quantity to do something with then you realize that $1.49 a pound adds up. Grocery stores and local farmers markets are not the place to buy peaches if you’re looking to save money. To do that you find the growers selling their product. Being able to haggle helps, as well. Instead of that $1.49 a pound we got 60 pounds of big, plump, sweet, juicy, delicious smelling peaches for $20. That comes out to about 33 cents a pound. That’s the way to buy peaches! Look soon for a post on various peach concoctions. I’m looking to try something peachy new. Any ideas?

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Blackberry Picking Time

July 1st, 2011

Prime blackberry picking area somewhere in southern Middle Tennessee

One of my favorite things about Summer is the availability of fresh berries and fresh blackberries are my favorite. I’m not talking about those large tame blackberries you get from CSAs and grocery stores. Those fakers are so light on flavor that it’s not worth the hassle of making anything with them. You may have to wade through tall grass, repel chiggers and keep an eye out for a napping rattlesnake but I can assure you it will be worth it in the end.  Those tame blackberries may look huge and juicy but they lack the flavor and the fun of the hunt.

Late June is prime blackberry season. You have to be sure to get them before the birds, June bugs and Japanese beetles get to them. As they ripen all three will take these tasty morsels from you before you can reach them. The best course of action is to find a good spot with plenty of bushes and keep an eye on the berries and plan to pick the moment the ripen. This may mean walking a good distance through tall grass and brush to check on them daily as it gets later in the month but you’ll be glad you did. Those pesky birds know how good these things are, too.

After scouring our regular spot for picking these delights we came away with nearly a gallon of small delicious berries. I already had in mind what I wanted to create, a blackberry cobbler, the perfect blackberry concoction. All of that changed when we picked up a few peaches and blackberry peach pie was as good as in the oven. With enough blackberries left over after the pie there was blackberry ice cream, vegan of course, churning to go with the pie. Still this used less than half of our berries. I’m sure to get that cobbler over the weekend and maybe even some blackberry jam.

If you have the opportunity to pick wild blackberries do so and taste what a blackberry is meant to taste like.

Watch the thorns and grab one of the best things you'll ever taste.

A basket of delicious.

Vegan Blackberry Peach Pie

Vegan Blackberry Peach Pie with Vegan Blackberry Ice Cream

Vegan Blackberry Peach Pie with Vegan Blackberry Ice Cream

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