Wednesday, June 26, 2013

California Lovin'!

A few weeks ago, I flew to LA to visit a college friend who lives in Long Beach.

I had no agenda; I simply wanted to get away from the endless Portland rain that seemed to occupy the entire month of May. And I'm SO glad I did. There is nothing like catching up with an old friend and exploring a new town. Long Beach is absolutely adorable, the beach is serene and there were TONS of fun vegan spots. Not to mention the weather was BEAUTIFUL every day (while it rained non-stop back in Portland).

Every morning I ran on the beach and every day we had a new adventure. From kayaking to wine tasting to visiting the Getty museum to just throwing the frisbee on the beach - every day was total bliss!

On one lovely afternoon, we decided to compile a vegan appetizer tray to pair with the beautiful Rose' I purchased at the wine shop where we wine tasted.

Thanks Brad and Angie!
This Rose was super special - lemme tell ya. Apparently, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt bought the Chateau Miraval estate in Provence and teamed up with one of the most famous winemakers in all of France to produce this absolutely stunning Rose. I'm a huge Rose fan in the summer, and this wine did NOT disappoint. To celebrate it in all of its glory, we paired it up with some Jalapeno Garlic Harvati Daiya, grapes, carrots, asian pear, Back to Nature Stoneground Wheat crackers, and Trader Joe's crunchy curls.

Talk about an amazing summer snack. The Daiya wedges are incredible - even if you don't like the shreds, I highly recommend the slice-able stuff. It has a great flavor.

The first day that I got into town, Davis and I walked around to all the adorable shops and checked out the bar/restaurant scene at the main strip of Long Beach near his house. As we walked by an unassuming looking bar/restaurant, Davis remarked that it had his favorite brussel sprouts dish of all time. That's a big claim and since there are few things in the world I love more than brussel sprouts, I insisted that we stop and see what these sprouts were made of.

Drenched and roasted in oil and balsamic vinegar and tossed with fresh herbs, capers, salt and (what tasted like) a bit of maple syrup, these sprouts definitely lived up to Davis's hype. They were perfectly crisped and so flavorful. We split the appetizer and it was the perfect amount for a mid-morning snack. My first vegan food in California did NOT disappoint :)

I'm not in California very often but when I am, I always make sure to indulge in one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasures is In-N-Out.

I can honestly say I haven't eaten fast food (with the exception of Subway maybe once or twice) since I was last in California and ate In-N-Out.

I know what you are thinking: " are can you possible find anything to eat and In-N-Out."

I know it sounds crazy, but I just order the "veggie burger" sub ketchup for sauce, add extra tomato and onions. And fries of course. I don't know how, but I promise this fast food combo still satisfies! Davis, the friend I stayed with, and Colin both thought I was nuts but agreed to try the patty-less vegan option instead of the regular burger and both were shocked by how much they liked it. Plus it's like...a dollar (instead of 4)...meaning you can even have 2 or 3 if you are really hungry and it is still much healthier (by fast food standards I suppose) and cruelty-free! Everyone wins!

Speaking of guilty pleasures...I almost never drink hard alcohol, but every once in a while I love a good Bloody Mary. Especially in California where - I swear - hard alcohol is as cheap or cheaper than beer (and where they don't truly understand what an IPA is), I think drinking a mixed drink is appropriate (even while watching a soccer game - near blasphemy!)

I was worried about finding a bar in the vicinity that was playing the match, but fortunately for me, a bar within walking distance of Davis's house was not only playing the match but also had this mind-blowing BLOODY MARY BAR.

Don't get me wrong, I've seen bloody mary bars before. And I've loved them. But this was a new level of Bloody Mary goodness. The bar was about 15 feet long and covered with every assortment of tomato-based bloody mary concoction in addition to various hot sauces, lemons, limes and other citrus, a plethora of pickled vegetables and at least 10 different varieties of olives. There was also a large plate of fresh veggies and herbs. It was like a delicious, alcoholic salad in a glass.

Now I know why they give you mini pitchers...gotta have enough room to hold all that stuff!

And, naturally, I went back to get seconds of veggies and pickles. Looove me some pickled green beans!

Wonderful :)

I would be doing all of my readers a huge disservice if I didn't mention Paradis ice cream.

Portland has a bevy of amazing vegan frozen yogurt places, but sometimes I just want an ice cream cone. And as much as I love Coconut Bliss, I get a little tired of the hardened, coconut-milk based ice creams.

So when I saw this adorable little ice cream shop's sign that said "Vegan flavors!" I was a little skeptical. But let me tell you, whatever Paradis is doing behind the scenes is pure magic. This was hands-down the best vegan ice cream I've ever had. Smooth and creamy and light and fluffy, it tasted like frozen baby angels.

We went down to this shop every night that I was here because I just couldn't get enough. The flavor (badly) pictures was the strawberry chocolate chip. They also provided a regular chocolate, banana, banana chocolate chip, and a couple of other flavors but the banana and strawberry were my favorites.

If you are in Long Beach or anywhere near a Paradis, you need to get on this vegan ice cream, STAT. You won't be disappointed.

Those were the vegan highlights of my trip! I love being able to travel and explore new vegan options. Everywhere I go it seems like I don't have enough time to explore all of the amazing vegan options available. It's so exciting!

Like here, eating some edamame and vegan sushi and drinking Sake at a sushi restaurant in Hermosa Beach.

Another amazing experience - thanks in large part to my wonderful friend, Davis. Can't wait to go back for more!!

Live long and prosper. And travel vegan.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cauliflower Wings Revisited

Back and better than ever!

One of my all time favorite posts was my Cauliflower Hot Wings post a couple of months ago. Since then, I have made this satisfying appetizer numerous times and have perfected the recipe.

As such, I thought I would update the recipe and post some new pictures to get your mouth watering ;)

This last batch was made while visiting one of my very best college friends down in LA. He had seen them on my blog and asked if we could make them! So we did. Twice.

Paired with Follow Your Heart Ranch dressing, these "wings" were hands-down the best yet. They are crunchier, chewier, more flavorful, and - best of all - even healthier!

A couple important lessons I have learned through trial and error:
  • The buffalo sauce that you use is CRUCIAL. The better the sauce, the better the wings (this should be obvious but, of course, it wasn't)
  • The wings turn out best when baked at a relatively high temperature, broiled until just crispy, tossed with sauce and served immediately. This way they are crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and warm when served.
This time around we used the Wing-Time Buffalo Wing Sauce (the HOT version) and it was absolutely amazing. Favorite wing sauce yet, hands down. It had the perfect level of spice, creaminess and kick for these wings - plus it is sugar free, gluten free, all natural and preservative free! Also, instead of adding earth balance when heating the sauce, I just added in a bit of unsweetened almond milk and it seemed to do the trick!

OK - enough talk, here's the recipe:

Cauliflower Wings
  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3/4 bottle of Wing-Time Buffalo Sauce
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp non-sweetened, plain almond milk
  • 3/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Lightly spray a large non-stick baking sheet with oil.

Separate/chop the cauliflower into florets.

Combine the flour, spices and nutritional yeast in a bowl and stir until well combined.

Coat a handful of cauliflower pieces in soymilk and then with the flour mixture. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until crispy.

While the cauliflower is in the oven, heat the Wing-Time sauce in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Whisk in 2 Tbsp of almond milk.

When the cauliflower is looking crispy, turn it with a wooden spoon and heat the oven to broil. Allow the cauliflower to broil with the oven open for 5-7 minutes or until beginning to brown. Pull it out of the oven and place it in a large bowl. Pour the hot sauce mixture over it and toss to coat.

Serve immediately!

Isn't that beauitful!
We made it two nights in a row :)
Live Long and Prosper! And enjoy the beautiful bounty of summer!