Category Archives: Travel

Happy Vegan New Year!

I hope all you vegans have a wonderful 2011, full of kabocha, tempeh, kale, quinoa, mashed cauliflower, and a hell of a lot of peanut butter. :)

Omnivores, vegetarians, and other non-vegans: I hope you go vegan this year! What could be a better new year’s resolution? Seriously.

We’re busy preparing for our “New Delhi New Year” party tonight, which is basically my attempt to spread the pyaar (“love”) for India that I gained on my adventure there in October.

My mom made Chana Samosas with peas; I plan on making Cranberry Cashew Biryani and 2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma (from Isa’s new Appetite for Reduction book). Oh, and there will be rum-spiked mango lassis.

I can’t wait to ring in the new year with bright colors, bindis, and Bollywood. How are you greeting 2011?

Happy Halloween, Babycakes

I can’t decide which is scarier: Halloween, or how long it’s been since I last posted.

For once, I have a valid excuse though. I’ve only just returned from a two-week long adventure (and I mean adventure) in India – the first trip organized through the cooperation of VegNews and VegVoyages!

Of course, I have an epic Indian food post in the works, but in the meantime, allow me to show you how magical gluten-free vegan bakeries celebrate everyone’s second favorite autumnal holiday. (We’re all on the same page about Thanksgiving, right?!)

Like most of you, I celebrated “All-Hallows-Even” with my friends on Saturday night; I mean, Sunday’s not exactly the most convenient night to have a ghoulishly good time, is it?

Come the evening of true Halloween, I found myself facing a lonely six-hour drive back to Tempe (did I mention that my friends live in LA?). Being the strict observer of holidays that I am, this plan posed a bit of a problem. I wasn’t about to let a long drive get between me and a good time.

So, I did what any self-respecting, gluten-hesitant vegan would do. Donning my baby-pink piggie hat, I headed over to Babycakes NYC in downtown LA to stock up on sugary treats for the road.

A chocolate “cake ball” here…

A powdered blueberry donut there…

And a few spookies (spooky cookies, of course!) to bring home to share…

By now, you probably have an image in your head of me, sitting in my car, wearing a pig hat, and stuffing my face with a dinner’s worth of gluten-free baked goods. That is actually a pretty accurate description of how I spent my 385-mile-long Halloween. I assure you, the irony of the situation was not lost on me.

Oink oink oink.

Sweet Treats

Just a little Friday afternoon pick-me-up!

If you live within a reasonable distance of any vegan donut and milkshake vendors, I highly suggest that you stop reading and promptly head over to such a place. If not, I hope my photos of these Pacific Northwest treats will suffice. :)

Sip. The infamous vegan milkshake cart that beckons weary grocery shoppers on their way in and out of Portland’s People’s Food Co-Op. There’s nothing cuter, really. My sister opted for the classic Cookies & Cream shake…

While I–somewhat predictably–got Chocolate Peanut Butter. Technically, it was chocolate coconut peanut butter because I decided Coconut Bliss ice cream was worth the extra $1.50. There’s something about an overflowing milkshake in a old-school diner glass that really tugs at your heartstrings, isn’t there? Or maybe that’s the peanut butter…

In my humble opinion, shakes > donuts, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t a veritable kid in a candy shop when I stepped into Seattle’s Mighty-O Donuts. Actually, I was a 22-year-old in a donut shop; but my eyes lit up the same way, I swear. I think my sister could attest to the truth of that statement.

Not only is that a French Toast donut; it’s an organic French Toast donut that was thoroughly enjoyed alongside a wonderful soy latté on a cloudy Seattle day.

Chomp. Chomp. Chomp.

Breakfast at Babycakes

Recipe for a good morning downtown:

Step outside into the crisp morning air, surprisingly fresh for LA.

Stumble into Spring for Coffee for soy cappuccinos. Don’t forget to dust them with cinnamon.

Oh, hey, you’re just two blocks from Babycakes NYC! What up, wheat-free, vegan pastries? All hail, coconut oil!

Sample each and every kind of gluten-free teacake sitting on the counter. That includes banana bread, pumpkin bread, cornbread, and cranberry-apple toastie, by the way.

If you’re feeling feisty, maybe have more than one of each. We won’t tell.

Order a spelt biscuit, flaky and “buttery,” unnamed jam and vanilla sauce oozing from its center.

Enjoy every last bite.

Leftover jam, we’ll let slide–but there better not be any crumbs.

Adventures of Nic and Nora Continued…

Sorry I’ve been so slow getting to Part II of the Nic & Nora installment. Considering there are only seven days until I’m officially done with all college work (and eighteen days until I graduate!), things have been pretty hectic around here! Plus, I’m sure you’ve all already read Nicole’s summary of our time together! :)

The second day of her visit, we decided to lay low and chillax at Pomona before making our way back into the city the next day. We went out for a leisurely brunch (well, lunch since we missed tofu scramble hours!) at Full of Life Café in the Claremont village. Then I took Nicole to the village gluten-free shop as well as my favorite local natural foods store, Ecoterra! From there, we headed to Pomona’s organic farm because I obviously had to show off California’s produce-producing prowess (say that five times fast!) to my East-coast friend!

Then, Nicole decided to be completely and totally awesome and take my senior portraits for me! I’ve been shooting a lot of senior portraits for my fellow graduates-to-be in the past month, so it was weird–and fun!–to get on the other side of the lens for a change. I think Nicole appreciated shooting someone who knew what it’s like to have awkward subjects who don’t know how to pose, so it went pretty smoothly! Here’s my favorite one:

Thanks, Nicole! I love them. And don’t worry, fashion-conscious readers, I have since gotten my roots touched up.

After a meal at the dining hall with my friends–hey, I had to give her the full Pomona College experience!–we spent a lazy evening planning out the next phase of our adventures, which began bright and early the next day! We met Alix (of Cute and Delicious), her boyfriend Shawn, and some of their friends at Pure Luck Restaurant in LA for lunch. After being greeted with a Tupperware of gorgeous, fresh-baked cupcakes (Alix, you’re too sweet!), we sat down to experience la comida de LA.

There are many reasons that Pure Luck has always been on my list of must-visit restaurants, but one of them is their insane selection of fried appetizers! I generally avoid fried foods, but I always make exceptions for special items–like, um, let me see, fried pickles and gnocchi?

Fried Dill Pickle Chipssliced dill pickles, dusted with cornmeal and fried in peanut oil–and Potato Palssmall potato dumplings (gnocchi), lightly fried in peanut oil.

Both were served with a special veganaise-based barbecue dipping sauce. Crispy AND cute–who can resist anything called a “potato pal?!”It just wants to be your friend and pop into your mouth.

If fried appetizers are the first reason I’ve always hungered for Pure Luck, jackfruit is definitely the second! Fruit…that’s used as a substitute for meat…what?…

In order to wrap my mind around this concept, I ordered the Tacos, one with jackfruit and one with grilled tofu to hedge my bets. I was served a plate of soft corn tortillas, each with their respective filling, topped with diced onions, cilantro, and fresh tomatillo salsa. Nicole gave me her extra cilantro because she’s one of the unlucky few who think it tastes like soap. Turns out, unripe jackfruit, like tofu, really has no flavor of its own and easily absorbs taco seasonings. In other words, it was delicious, and had a texture that others have described as being similar to “pulled pork” (I wouldn’t know!).

After lunch, we walked across the street to Scoops, then sadly parted ways. Nicole and I decided to spend the rest of our afternoon window shopping on Melrose (and walking off all that fried food!). Okay, so maybe we actually shopped a little. But we mostly just strolled along the iconic street taking photos. I nabbed this shot in a flower shop before the owner kindly told us to stow our cameras:

All of a sudden, it was dinner time! Funny how that happens. Good thing Melrose Ave. was also home to M Café, a macrobiotic, mostly-vegan gem. M Café has a mouth-watering menu, but they also have a wonderful salad bar display, so that’s what I opted for. Kale with Spicy Peanut Dressing? I’ll take it.

Curried Tempeh Salad? Sure, why not!

Kale, peanut butter, and tempeh are pretty much the three keys to my heart, so M Café had me at hello. If they’d had kabocha squash, I might have gone into foodie shock–close call!

I also tried one of the Inari Sushi. I hate nori seaweed, so sushi made with dried tofu skins (a.k.a. inari) is an exciting alternative that I didn’t want to pass up. Stuffed with brown rice and topped with lotus root, this little bundle was good looking, but a little bit dry. Still, it was fun to try.

Bellies full, we schlepped off to our downtown LA hotel that my darling mother was generous enough to book for us, watched Saturday Night Live, and fell asleep with visions of babycakes dancing in our heads…

Nic and Nora Do Santa Monica

And by Nic, I mean Nicole from Another One Bites the Crust, everyone’s favorite New Haven vegan blogger! I picked up Nicole bright and early Thursday morning outside the West Hollywood Buffalo Exchange, and we headed straight to Santa Monica for a lovely lunch at Real Food Daily. This was our first time meeting each other in person, but we’ve been blogging/Twitter/Facebook/Gmail/Flickr (yes, basically every social media platform possible) friends for so long, that it was more like picking up an old friend–nothing could be more natural!

Sitting at a lovely inner-balcony table overlooking RFD’s juice bar, Nicole and I enjoyed some damn good salads.

The East coaster got her SoCal on and ordered the Mexicali Salad, while I, being the peanut butter fiend that I am, ordered the Yin Yang Salad: Cabbages, romaine, carrots, cucumbers, edamame, cilantro, sesame seeds, peanuts, and peanut dressing (I also added blackened tempeh!)

From there, we headed to the Santa Monica Beach and Pier. Besides her general awesomeness, the best part of having Nicole here was that I wasn’t the only one walking around with my DSLR glued to my face (in and out of restaurants)!

Taken of each other crossing the bridge to the beach.

If there’s one place that’s exemplary for taking random portraits of interesting strangers, it’s the pier. Kids, cyclists, beach bums, fishermen, artists, straight up creepy men…


Forgot to mention the ever-present dogs on music stands in that list…

This guy was such a ham! I usually try to sneak my people-watching portraits, but he couldn’t get enough!

After a grueling afternoon of window shopping, portraiture, foodie chatter, and walking with the sand between our toes (ha!), these two vegan bloggers needed some coffee. And not just any coffee–good coffee. Intelligentsia coffee. Silverlake is kind of on the way back to Claremont? Maybe?

Oh, what a soy cappuccino it was. The microfoam! The latte art! The humanity! Just kidding. Funnily enough, it was cheaper than Nicole’s $4.00 cup of specialty joe.

Silverlake also happens to be a hot spot for vegan restaurants. After debating between nearby Flore and Cru, we went with Cru. I guess we were more in the food for fancy schmancy than comfort food.

(Nicole’s photo)

We ordered the Bruschetta Rustica (Sunflower bread with traditional chopped tomato and basil spread and cashew cheese) to share, but it turns out Nicole really can’t do cashew cheese, so I may or may not have gotten a whole raw appetizer to myself! Sorry, Nicole, but I loved it! Not quite as good as Better Life’s raw bruschetta though…

For entrées, we both ordered the Body Ecology Bowl:

Sautéed kabocha squash and spinach over quinoa with homemade sauerkraut and salad. The kabocha was phenomenal (but what kabocha isn’t?), but it didn’t really seem to go well with the strange mélange of pickled vegetables. Next time, I’d order one of Cru’s classy raw entrées. Also, I think their desserts might use honey, so beware, vegans!

So much for day ones. Days two and three to come!

Los Animales de Costa Rica

Un poco más Costa Rica comin’ atcha today! This time in the form of animals.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m more of a food/people/pets/street photographer–landscapes and wildlife are NOT my forte. Partly because they generally don’t hold a lot of interest for me, and partly because I don’t have a telephoto lens. My Canon 50mm f/1.2 L prime lens hardly ever leaves me camera, and even when it does–as it did for the following wildlife pictures–I’m still only using my basic zoom lens at its maximum 75mm (with my crop sensor, 75mm equates to about 115mm). So that’s just my warning not to judge these photos too harshly; they’ve been majorly cropped, and the quality is, well, let’s just say I had trouble posting them and my photographic integrity suffered as a result. ;)

The majority of the animals we saw were on our guided tours. Whereas you, as a tourist, might walk two miles through the jungle and not see a thing, more practiced eyes can spot camouflaged wildlife 100 yards away in a treetop, so that’s what you’re paying for! My whole family did a canopy tour (which included zip-lining!), and my dad and I did a mangrove boat tour. My photos are from the latter tour because…would you bring your most treasured possession on a zip-line?!

On the mangrove tour, we saw a lot of camens, which are sort of like small crocodiles. In the water:

And out:

Also, toucans! It’s unreal how colorful they are.

Another bird we saw a lot of was the blue heron. I think I scared our tour guide, Oscar, when I started firing off 8 frames per second as this heron took flight. My camera sort of sounded like a machine gun. Photo poaching?

And my mom’s favorite (NOT): bats! The spotlight you see is our guide’s reflector, which he used to help point out animals.

The coolest animal sightings by far were the monkeys! From our boat, we saw three groups (tribes?) of monkeys swinging through the trees: howler, spider, and one I can’t remember! I couldn’t even tell you which kind this one is, but check out that epic jump!

Monkeys are one of my favorite animals (I feel like one every time I eat bananas and PB, which doesn’t really make sense now that I think about it…), so it was amazing getting to see them in the wild!

I know this sounds weird, but I’m not sure the following sloth is even real. This photo was taken in Manuel Antonio, one of Costa Rica’s national parks, and our tour guide was definitely a scam artist! He was really aggressive in getting us to purchase the tour despite our lack of real desire to do so, and everything he said was of doubtful veracity. He also “knew” in advance exactly where all the animals would be. My dad thinks I’m silly, but I almost suspect this sloth to be a fake–a sloth robot/replica, if you will. Fine, it probably isn’t, but look at how it’s “waving!” I just don’t know…

Of course, Costa Rica is know for its exotic wildlife, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of adorable pets hanging around, jonesing for their portraits to be taken! A.k.a. back to my photographic comfort zone…

This is Cockie! (Nice name, right?)

Immediately after we were shown to our room at the Margarita B & B in San José, Margarita’s dog Cockie plopped down on my pillow. Now that’s my kind of B&B: cuddly friends included!

Here’s one of Margarita’s other dogs! Look at those angel eyes.

Tito, Rancho Pacifico’s owners’ pup, was definitely our favorite though!

This guy’s ego was inversely proportional to his size. Yes, he had quite the attitude. We spent a lot of time with him poolside.

Instead of a tennis ball, Tito played with this spiky rain forest seed pod. These pods were everywhere. Man, this dog is livin’ the life, isn’t he? Organic dog toys falling from the sky, a mountain-top resort for a playground, a constant train of guests cooing over him!

Tito was our favorite, but he wasn’t the cutest. That award goes to these puppies, who belonged to Alex, one of the hotel staffers:

I think Alex is only going to keep the brown one, so unfortunately, they’re going to be separated. Still, I’m sure the black one will find a great casa! :)

Back to food next time!

Primavera en Costa Rica

¡Hola amigos! Lo siento que…Oh, wait–I’m not in Central America anymore! I mean: I’m sorry that I’ve been absent so long (it seems like I start a lot of posts like that, which probably isn’t a good thing!), but I have a good reason. I spent my spring break in the lovely country of Costa Rica with mi familia!

Luckily, we found this article on Jeff Probst’s travel “must-haves” our first day there, so we were prepared!

Okay, just kidding, but my family does love Jeff Probst and Survivor (we’ve watched all twenty seasons!), so we were pretty tickled when we found this.

We stayed in the small town of Uvita, on the Southern Pacific Coast, about 15 minutes from the surfer town, Dominical. The small resort we stayed at–Rancho Pacifico–was absolutely gorgeous, sitting atop an extremely steep hill, er, mountain. We got stuck driving up the first night in our non-four-wheel drive car, and had to be rescued by the staff in their SUV! Oh, and this was just after we’d driven a couple of densely foggy hours on what we later learned is called “the ridge of death.” But the important thing is that we made it, and were promptly greeted by a tray of strawberry smoothies. :)

This was our bathroom at Rancho Pacifico. Check out that view!

The plunge pool had a similarly breathtaking view:

If you’re looking for an easy place to be vegan, look no further! Beans, check. Avocado, check. Plantains, check. Papaya, check. I’m pretty sure 80 percent of my diet consisted of those four foods while in Costa Rica, which, believe me, was NOT a problem.

A typical breakfast in Costa Rica is gallo pinto, a dish of sautéed seasoned rice and beans, often with onions or peppers. In fact, gallo pinto–which means “painted rooster,” referring to the speckled appearance of the rice when colored by the black beans–is Costa Rica’s national dish!

Gallo pinto was my first meal in Costa Rica, at our Bed & Breakfast in San José (okay, that’s only if you don’t count the Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered pretzels I ate while we argued with the people at Thrifty Car Rental the night we arrived…):

Here’s a slightly more upscale version from Rancho Pacifico, complete with avocado, fried pantains, homemade tortillas, and a spicy dipping sauce:

¡Qué delicioso!

And if you thought appetizers were just for lunch and dinner, think again! At Rancho Pacifico, every breakfast starts off with appetizers: mini muffins, sadly not vegan. But don’t worry–I wasn’t left out! Actually, I think I came out on top, as I was served my own specially-made vegan empanada each morning. These cornmeal pastries were filled with whatever the jam of the day was. This particular day, it was spiced papaya. Perfect with a steaming cup of café costarricense!

On days when I desired lighter fare, fruit it was! Pineapple, papaya, mango, banana, watermelon, cantaloupe, you name it!

Always served with a glass of fresh juice, of course. My favorite was papaya-mango. This was watermelon, I believe:

I only had one lunch at Rancho Pacifico, but it definitely hit the spot. They replaced the mayo in their vegetable wrap with hummus, and voilà!

Avocado, onions, olives, lettuce, and mango, all nestled in a homemade tortilla. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Alright, so you’ve seen some plantains already, but the best kind were the ones that were fried into fritters. Like these ones my dad and I had for lunch after our mangrove boat tour in Sierpe:

Served with refried black beans, naturally.

If you haven’t noticed yet, many meals in Costa Rica–or the best ones, at least, in my opinion–are those served casado-style, which basically translates to a medley of small dishes, such as beans, rice, plantains, salad, tortillas, etc. Think of it as the Central American version of the mezze platter.

Such was the style of one surprisingly good meal we had in San José. I say “surprising” because the restaurant was a chain called RostiPollos, a.k.a. “Roasty Chickens.” I know, I know.

We got the buffet, which included chicken and a few dairy-containing items, but I made out pretty darn well as a vegan (I’m pretty decent at Spanish, so I had no trouble telling people I don’t eat “productos lácteos”). I ended up with refried black beans, seasoned rice (there was a separate chicken rice), shredded lettuce, salsa, yuca wedges, and sautéed plantains.

I really like that fries/chips in Costa Rica are more often made with yuca than potatoes. What a nice change. I piled all the elements of my casado onto a corn tortilla, and ate it like a soft taco.

For a chain, semi-fast food joint, I was really impressed with this meal. Never thought I’d say this, but score one for RostiPollos.

That’s pretty much it for food. We found a great, mostly vegetarian restaurant in Dominical called Maracatú. The food was great, and we ate there twice, but it was too dark for decent photos. They even had vegan-tailored drinks. I got an “orange creamsicle” vodka-based drink made with soy milk there, and if I wasn’t so sensitive to late-night caffeine, I would have ordered the “vegan mistake maker,” a vanilla-vodka, espresso, soy milk concoction. If any of you end up in Dominical, please do yourself a favor and hit up Maracatú!

But of course there’s more to Costa Rica than food! There’s also great beaches.

My mom, looking as young as ever! (And she’s only gonna get younger given that, after reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer on our trip, she has dropped her pescatarianism and become a full vegetarian! Congrats, mom! Even though you’re only just now a true vegetarian, I owe my veganism and love of healthy food to the values you’ve always held and instilled in me as I grew up!). My sister, Olivia, is in the background, picking at her peeling skin from the awful sunburn she contracted our very first day. Poor girl. She really was purple by the end of the trip.

My dad coated himself in sand. He was really proud of himself. Good job, dad.

And of course, the lovely Lauren–or as I’ve always liked to call her, Laurenzo!

One of the highlights of the trip was playing soccer on the beach with four Costa Rican boys, who had jammed some sticks into the sand as goal posts, and were playing two on two. My sister, Lauren, my dad, and I joined them, making it four on four (we split up so that there were two of them and two of us on each team). It was a pretty evenly matched game! I played soccer for ten years (my first year in college included), Liv and Lauren played club together their whole life (and Liv plays DI now at Colgate), and my dad played in college as well, so we all loved getting out there, just playing in our bathing suits and bare feet.

There go nuestros amigos, walking off into the beautiful sunset!

Other adventures we had include zip lining through the jungle (um, if you think I brought my camera with me for that, you’re INSANE), and a mangrove boat tour that I went on with my dad. Our tour guide, Oscar, and the boat driver (¡se me olvidó su nombre!):

Here’s Oscar showing us a mangrove seed!

The tour included beers. :)

It’s hard to ask for more than being with the people you love in an exotically gorgeous place, so I won’t!

I hope this post was enjoyable enough to make up for my extended absence! In my next post (soon, I promise!), I’ll be introducing you to some of the animals of Costa Rica!

Blame Apple

Um, yeah, blame Apple that you’re about to see way more photos than you’ve ever wanted to see.

This picture sums up our vacation. EVERYONE in my family on their computer except for me. :( Good thing I had my trusty camera to occupy me.

Since the hard drive on my brand new MacBook Pro peaced out a couple weeks ago, I obviously haven’t been able to blog, and consequently, I have an insane buildup of photos. A rational person might just forget those photos, and start blogging from the current moment, but my holiday photos are so much fun, I can’t bear not to share them!So here it goes. Expect way more photos than text. :)

When my semester ended (well, my semester personally just ended this morning at 3 am when I emailed my English prof my Austen seminar paper that I had to take an incomplete on, but I’m talking about Pomona’s semester), my sister, mom, dad, and I headed off to Philly to visit my dad’s family for a belated Hanukkah.

Our first night there was the giant blizzard (second biggest in Philly history?)

I think we got 23 inches. My uncle even went out to measure it!

Some Hanukkah action:

My wittle cousins, Nir and Tal.

Gorgeous (and incredibly classy) sister!

My mom made Dreena Burton’s Chocolate Banana Pudding Cake because it was my grandma’s birthday too!

My cousin Matt and my dad played some pattycake…

Tal and my uncle Adam made a snow (wo)man complete with a nice rack:

And then, Tal and I took a wee nap.

My aunt Donna made some delicious vegan chipotle chili. It was so spicy, it took me like an hour to eat and my eyes were watering the whole time. ;)

Oh, and this is my dad. Embarrassing.

Fortunately, my family is very supportive of my veganism. Take the following photo as an example. There was a tomato mozzarella salad at our big Hanukkah party, and someone was kind enough to provide me with this alternative:

I’m sorry, I was very touched that they thought of me, but really? Is this a dish that’s really worth veganizing? That was maybe the funniest thing ever.

To be fair, that wasn’t the only vegan option. My grandma ordered a feast from Whole Foods, which included General Tso’s vegan chicken and tons of roasted vegetables.

My mom kept cozy in her socks.

After we were all Hanukkah-ed out, we headed to Long Island, NY to visit my mom’s family for Christmas (yes, my family’s a bit of a cultural hodgepodge).

But first, we stopped in NYC for the day to see a musical–In the Heights–and do some fine (vegan) dining. My mom had made lunch reservations at Candle 79 weeks ago at my request. :)

We shared two appetizers. Polenta Fries

And the Guacamole Timbale: Chipotle black beans, caramelized onions, cucumber-jicama salsa, tortilla chips, ranchero sauce.

I made my dad get the Seitan Piccata because I’d heard so much praise for it, and it seemed like something he’d love (no, I don’t always order for my dad…)

Creamed spinach, grilled potato cake, oyster mushrooms, lemon-caper sauce.

My mom got the Live Celeriac Ravioli: Spinach-cashew ricotta, pine nut pesto, sundried tomato sauce, citrus marinated broccoli raab, olives & capers, which was super annoying because I had originally wanted to get lunch at One Lucky Duck, a raw restaurant, but my mom had said that she didn’t want raw food in the winter. Then, she orders this–the one raw entrée–at Candle 79. What gives, mom?!

Liv got the Burrito 79: Chili-herb grilled seitan, caramelized onions, sautéed greens, chipotle black beans, brown rice, cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream.

My entrée was obviously the best though. ;) The Wild Mushroom Stuffed Tempeh.

Wild mushrooms, sautéed spinach, brussels sprouts, sweet potato sauce, apple-pomegranate salad. They had me at sweet potato sauce.

Finally, we shared a dessert–Chocolate-Peanut Butter BlissChocolate mousse, peanut butter mousse, chocolate shell, berry coulis.

It was good, but 12 dollars for a dessert the size of a pill canister? Really?

While in the city, my dad and uncles and I also visited High Line Park, a mile-and-a-half long elevated park on the West side that’s built on former freight train tracks. It was pretty deserted given that not many people are crazy enough to take a stroll on an elevated, exposed platform on a blustery NY winter day, but I’m glad that we did.

And no holiday trip to NYC is complete without a stop at the Rockefeller Tree!

After a great day, we left the big city (calling it the big apple would be overkill in this post, wouldn’t it?), and headed to Long Island for a quiet(ish) Christmas.

Our first night in Huntington, we were greeted with hugs and heaping plates of pesto pasta made by our uncle Mickey! Walnut pesto, broccoli, and peas on TJ’s brown rice spaghetti. Heavenly!

It was sad not to be with Rupert for Christmas, but luckily, my two aunts had their dogs there to soften the blow. Tucker:

And Chickie:

Despite some minor–but expected–family altercations, Christmas went smoothly.

Can you see me? ;)

We had our traditional Christmas Eve Chinese take-out, but, not so traditionally, my aunt, uncle, and I got ours from a different place: the all-vegan Green Melody! I’m always a little skeptical of the veganness of food at non-vegan ethnic places, even when assured of it, so getting our own separate feast was a huge relief.

My favorite thing was the Rainbow Bowl! Roasted root vegetables in a beautifully carved and steamed kabocha squash! :)

I left PB cookies and soy milk out for Santa, like a good vegan.

And even roasted some chestnuts–though in a closed oven, and not over an open fire…

I got some great gifts this year. Tons of kitchen things–a spoon rest, a spiralizer, a cutting board (my sister got me a personalized one with a picture of us on it!), vintage salt & pepper shakers–and some new cookbooks–The Candle Café Cookbook, Raw Food Real World, and Sweet Freedom (by our own Ricki Heller!). Plus, the cutest Anthropologie dress in the world. Thanks, mommmmm.

My grandma got a Celtics Snuggie to match her pillow. Don’t let her sweet looks fool you–this woman is an avid and competitive sports fan. :)

And a trickster. Every year, she gives my mom the same gift as a gag. A 30+ year old box of petit fours. It’s disgusting and very Miss Havisham-ish, but hilarious.

Chickie got bored watching everyone else opening their gifts…

And then I had wayyy too much fun with my camera, shutter speed, and Christmas lights…

I call this one, “Donnie Darko’s Christmas Tree.”

And then we time warped to next year’s Christmas. ;)

Last, but not least, our decadent Christmas Dinner!

I made Swell Vegan’s Vegan Haggis, and it was a huge hit. Seriously, I knew it would be good, but I had no idea that my family would finish off this baby as fast as they did. :)

Since it was akin to a nut loaf (it also had oats, mushrooms, and root veggies), my mom started calling it a hagloaf. Hahahahaha.

I whipped up some extra-peppery PPK Mushroom Gravy to go with it (though I think a sweet, fruity sauce–like the one A-K made in her post–would be even better).

My sister made some sweet potatoes from Vegan Comfort Food, my mom made some green beans with almonds, and I made Ricki’s Quinoa, Roasted Beet, and Walnut Salad as well (seems random, but with the beets and cilantro, it’s Christmas colors, y’all!)

Mine turned out a lot redder than Ricki’s, but everyone thought it was beautiful and it got gobbled up. My uncle Adam even requested the recipe so he could make it for his New Years party a few days later.

Whew. I’m done. I hope this is the longest post I ever have, and regularly scheduled blogging shall recommence shortly. Book review coming up, too! :)

Thanks for all your kind words on my last post, and for your patience as I got my life back on track! I’m so glad to be back.

A Full Vegan Runs a Half Marathon

Couldn’t resist the hokey title.

It actually kind of reminds me of the subtitle of my blog – “Former English Major, Forever Vegan” – which, coincidentally, I’ve wanted to clear up! I’m not a former English major in the sense that I’ve already graduated; rather, I switched from being an English major with a minor in Environmental Analysis (EA) to an EA major minoring in English. This clarification being made, I thought any Austenites following my blog would be happy to know that I am currently taking my English senior seminar for my minor. A seminar by the name of “Austen and the Reader.” Best. Class. Ever. Not least because I didn’t have to buy any books for it since I own an engraved anthology with gold-dusted pages, naturally. :)

The funny thing about this semester is that, on the one hand, I’m freaking out about the veritable novel’s worth of writing ahead of me in the form of my thesis and English seminar paper, but on the other, it’s a thesis on veganism and a seminar paper on Austen. And if you haven’t noticed, those may or may not be two of the dearest things in my life. So maybe I should try to enjoy myself? Just maybe?

Contrary to what I presume to be your current suspicions, this post IS in fact going to discuss that which its title promised: my half marathon!

On September 6th, my friend Chelsea and I kicked the Disneyland Half Marathon‘s butt (Obviously the picture below is the “before” shot). The end.

This was my first half marathon (before I started training this summer, I’d never run more than 5 1/2 miles at a time, and before the actual race, I’d never run more than 10!). The experience completely lived up to the hype. We started out just outside the park, then ran through California Adventure and Disneyland, wherein we were cheered on by numerous mascots and princesses. Then came the streets-of-Anaheim portion of the race that would have been somewhat tedious had the course not been lined with marching bands, cheerleaders, Hawaiian dancers, Mariachis, and the like. Finally, around mile 9 we got to run into and through Dodgers stadium and see ourselves on the jumbo-tron as you passed the camera. I ran the race with a Clif Bar pace team – which I definitely recommend for the camaraderie and security it provided – shooting for 2:15, but thanks to a final surge in the last mile or so, which I was surprised I had the energy for, I clocked in at 2:10:47.

But seriously, the race wasn’t that hard! I know it sounds crazy, but those 13.1 miles went by like THAT – even having woken up at 3:00am that morning for our 6:00am start! Race day adrenaline is one of those things that everyone tells you about, and you’re like, “um, okay, that’s comforting,” but it really is a key factor! Plus, being around so many (10,000 +) equally energized people, you really don’t notice your body or feel the exhaustion until afterwards. You’re too distracted by the new scenery, your fellow halfers, the amazing supporters lining the streets, and your own sense of determination to finish, and gratitude to be there, healthy as you are – an opportunity that a lot of people don’t receive. I didn’t even turn on my iPod.

Here’s the moment I’ve been working towards all summer! Please notice Pluto to my right:

I looked pretty good for nearing the end of mile 12, didn’t I?

A full marathon is definitely in the cards at this point, but not for a few more years. I want to get a few more halfs (halves?) under my belt.