First off I wish I could take the credit for these beautiful tofu steaks. They’re essentially blocks of tofu marinated in something like an “Emeril’s Original Essence” and then I bake them for about 20-25 minutes in the stove or about 10-15 in our toaster oven. However, they are a “deli” delight from a local whole foods type store called Rollin’ Oats and they are a wonderful store with amazing and awesome employees and owners. If you’re local to St. Pete or Tampa I highly recommend visiting them!

Anywho they are the focus protein of my beautiful little meal but kale is the Rockstar. Chef Tal Ronnen is an amazing vegan chef and inventor (gardein & Kite Hill) and wrote a beautiful and delectable cookbook called The Conscious Cook. I highly disagree with a simple 4 star review of his book though, I would say it is 5 stars all the way. Some very challenging and gourmet recipes but most I feel any vegan could make.

He has a braised kale recipe which I sort of altered to make my own. I always use Lacinato, or dinosaur kale, as I prefer the texture to “curly” kale. I take a full bunch of organic Dino kale and about 1 cup of Not Chick’n Broth (lower sodium) and I cook it on fairly high heat with the lid of my pot on in order to steam and soften the leaves. When I see it is starting to wilt I add nutritional yeast. And when I say I add it I ADD as much as it takes to make the sauce creamy. Sometimes that’s a cup sometimes two. Remember for vegans it’s a GREAT source of B vitamins. Just 2 tbsp give you a daily source and let’s be honest it tastes pretty awesome!!

So once my tofu is cooked and my kale done I top it off with a couple of caper berries courtesy of the “olive bar” at my local Whole Foods.

Easy and super fast meal and it seems pretty gourmet with the beauty of the caper berries on top!

So for my baby shower, I really wanted to keep everything vegan and let my friends and family enjoy some genuinely good vegan treats. Gigi’s Cupcakes in Tampa is very well known for their delicious cupcakes. Back in January I called to ask if they had any vegan options. Thankfully they did!! They said as long as I gave them a few days’ notice they could do vegan cupcakes. So we set up a cupcake tasting.

First of all, let me say that I had done a tasting at another Tampa bakery which promised me they would provide me vegan options and then delivered cakes to taste with dairy in them. Needless to say I was ill for several hours afterward. I didn’t want to get sick or waste my time at Gigi’s so I called them before the tasting to tell them about my other experience and make sure they knew what “vegan” was. Stacey and Jessica told me that they had almond milk, soy milk, Tofutti cream cheese and vegan butters. They had it DOWN! I was thrilled.

Now what Gigi’s is known for is the delicious cupcakes they have…but they are also BEAUTIFUL. I was thrilled to go to the tasting!

They prepared vanilla and chocolate cupcakes for us, as well as their pumpkin spice cupcake, and then we had chocolate avocado frosting as well as plain vanilla. We devoured the cupcakes (my mom, husband and I,) and my mom who NEVER likes cupcakes (she always complains how sweet they are or they are too dry, too moist, too “cakey,”) LOVED them. She said they were THE best cupcakes she had ever had. And that they were much better than any vegan cupcakes I had made. (well plfffff to her!) But I definitely agreed. We then were chatting about different frosting flavors and Jessica overheard us and asked if we wanted her to make us any other frostings. On the spot she made us lemon and raspberry! BOTH were phenomenal. But for a pregnant woman, citrus cravings are crazy, so I was obsessing over the lemon!

When the ladies asked us what we thought we said we’re ready to order! They did chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, and then we had the chocolate with chocolate avocado frosting, raspberry frosting as well as chocolate hazelnut butter frosting (made with Justin’s Nut Butter – which is vegan. And another side note on the hazelnut is that Gigi’s didn’t have any Justin’s to use, so they let me bring them a tub of Justin’s Hazelnut Butter and they used it since it is vegan, instead of Nutella! I was thrilled just because they were going the distance to make a very happy customer! ) We also had vanilla cupcakes with: lemon frosting, raspberry frosting, their signature “Wedding Cake” frosting which is just white frosting with pink sprinkles and it is SO pretty, their signature “Birthday cake” frosting which was pink with circle sprinkles (since it was a shower to celebrate my soon to be born baby girl!)

Now let me tell you, we decided to order the mini cupcakes, which you order by the dozen. So we had 7 dozen cupcakes lol. They package them in these great boxes, that hold them very still and we had GIANT boxes of cupcakes to take with us when we finally picked them up a few months later. My shower ended up having about 30 people…and 84 cupcakes…not quite 3 per person, but hey. So we had 0 cupcakes left. EVERYONE loved the cupcakes. The lemon & chocolate avocado were two of the favorites. Raspberry was a close 2nd to the chocolate avocado. We were absolutely thrilled at these gorgeous cupcakes and Gigi’s attentiveness to their perfection! I told Stacey that we will DEFINITELY be ordering MANY more cupcakes from Gigi’s and that our daughter’s first birthday cupcakes will come from them!

So Tampabay Vegans…if you need vegan cupcakes go see the WONDERFUL girls at Gigi’s. They have vegan cupcakes DOWN!

Well my hubby and I got to do a baby moon back in early March (clearly blogging is up on my top to do list ;)) And we went to Gourmet Pizza Company in Hyde Park. We have ALWAYS loved GPC and oh do my little girl and I LOVE carbs!

We got the vegan Daiya mozzarella cheese breadsticks (which were AMAZING as always) loaded with cheese, moist and crunchy. Delish! I of course ordered the Mediterranean pizza, my favorite, done vegan with Daiya mozzarella. The other toppings included tomatoes, banana peppers, black olives, basil, spinach and capers. MMMMMM…it was absolutely delicious. Every single time we’ve gone the pizza is cooked just right, fresh and colorful toppings and a great all around experience.

Thank you GPC for letting me have a delicious vegan pizza to be able to enjoy while on my baby moon 🙂

So a few weeks ago, we went to brunch at a really amazing little Café in Ozona, FL called Café Ohana. I ordered this Quinoa bowl with brown rice, quinoa, black beans, a Hawaiian tomato salsa like yumminess, and avocados.

Well, we were short on time, and long on hungry so we tried to recreate it. Well, we did recreate it, but we made the Clements’ version! Jasmine rice, quinoa, black beans, mixed vegetables, and garlic roasted tofu. Mmmmmmmmm…SO incredibly delicious! 31.5 grams of plant based protein if you do it this way, and so full of flavor!

The garlic roasted tofu is reason enough to want to eat this at least once a week. I have found that every vegan has their ‘go to’ ingredient. Ours is garlic. Annie Shannon (my vegan superhero idol) of is liquid smoke  Kind of like the one ingredient you will absolutely find in every one of our recipes…(I don’t bake with it so don’t worry! And Annie doesn’t bake with liquid smoke!) So to make garlic roasted tofu, just visit here and you can recreate this fabulous protein rich lunch, dinner OR even breakfast!

Quinoa, Rice, Avocado and Black Bean bowl

Café Ohana located in Ozona, Florida has become a new LOVE for me. First of all, I think most of us who are Disney fans, know that Ohana means “family” and you definitely feel like family when you walk into this cozy and quaint place. We were greeted with Aloha’s and hugs from each person we saw. The owners and staff are lovely people who are also kind, and loving. You will feel like a part of the family when you show up!! The décor is Hawaiian and simple. Great atmosphere, and for a Sunday brunch get there BY 11am…we did and reserved a table and boy were we glad we did! It was packed within 15 minutes of our arrival!

Since went there for brunch I ate off of the breakfast menu and my hubby ate off of the lunch menu and we were famished so we started with the lomi-lomi tomoto bowl served with organic tortilla chips that they make in house. Oh wow was it good!!!!

My breakfast was a warm bowl, which was brown basmati rice, with quinoa, black beans, lomi-lomi and avocado. It was a perfect size, full of protein and good nutrition, and absolutely delicious! Lomi-lomi is what they describe as a “side dish in pacific island cuisine that was introduced to Hawaiians by early western sailors. It is typically made with salmon but ours is a delicious vegan variation.” It is reminiscent of a salsa, lots of fresh tomato, cilantro, red onion (I think I remember…) and absolutely delightful.

Dave had the Aloha Avocado Sandwich. It was avocado, tomato, sweet onion, spinach, vegenaise, Dijon mustard all served on a toasted sprouted wheat bread or multi-grain ciabatta. Dave chose the ciabatta. I got one little taste of his sandwich, and it was also delicious. I was so in love with my breakfast bowl that I couldn’t share it, so I only got a bite since that was all I would share!

We definitely plan to go back again, as they simplify the menu by having a blue flower by each “vegan selection” a pink flower by everything “Gluten Free” and a green leaf by anything “Vegetarian Friendly.” There are plenty of delicious options for a vegan on the menu, loads of delightful and healthy dishes to try, so we know we have to go back. If you’re in the area, St. Pete or Tampa even, it is well worth the drive. The prices are all great and there is enough selection for carnivores and vegans alike! So my suggestion is get there, get your hug on, and give it a try!

I am a fan of wine, but never really ate a meal at The Wine Exchange in Hyde Park because it appeared the only thing ‘vegan’ on their menu was the pita & hummus appetizer.  I planned to enjoy that with some wine on a date with my hubby.  Well our server was absolutely amazing, and I totally apologize because I can’t remember her name, but told me that most items on the menu they can veganize for me.  I ordered a pasta dish I used to eat as a non-vegan called the “Neopolitan” that has: mushrooms, sun dried tomatos, black olives, walnuts & artichoke hearts in pesto olive oil sauce tossed with fussili and topped with ricotta.  Instead, our server took out the olives, ricotta, and pesto olive oil & added some portabello mushrooms for me, everything sauteed in light olive oil & garlic.  Oh my gosh it was TO DIE for.  SO incredibly good.   I am a huge garlic lover, so I told them to not hold back.  And they didn’t.  The dish was delectable, beautifully colored between the tri-color pasta, tomatoes, walnuts, artichoke hearts and portabello and so hit the spot.  I was also very excited to know that the Wine Exchange would go out of their way to accomodate a vegan eater.  That is also top notch in my book. 

Not only did I dine on some very fine wine and very much enjoyed the recommendations of the server, we then had fresh mango sorbet for dessert which was presented so beautifully and was absolutely delightful.  Sweet, but not overbearing, and the mango chunks inside were a treat to me as I ADORE mango!

If you’re a vegan, or wine lover, or both, and are in the Tampa Bay area, I highly recommend the Wine Exchange in Hyde Park you will not leave disappointed!  Thank you so much for your hospitality and food to the staff and kitchen of the restaurant!  Now on to the beautiful photos!  (taken with Hipstamatic for iPhone4)

Hungry Tiger Too left me feeling well, hungry and unsatisfied.  I am all about second chances, and because this place was recommended to me by QuarryGirl I will definitely try it again during my next visit to Portland.  We arrived slightly before 7pm, and outside service ends at 7pm.  It was a warmer day, and inside was unquestionably too warm for us.  SO we decided to get takeout.  Mind you, it was a 15 minute ride back to our hotel, so everything was pretty cool and soggy by the time we got back to the hotel.  THAT said, I found the food just okay.  There was nothing exceptional about the flavor or taste and I thought the prices were high for what you got.  Having eaten at places like Prasad and Blossoming Lotus I was really disappointed.   AGAIN, I said we will try it next time we’re in PDX AND dine in because QuarryGirl said it’s one of her favorites. 

I ordered Biscuits & Gravy with vegan sausage patties on the side.  For $6 I got the picture below of 2 biscuits (they are cut in half so you see 4…) and the sausage patties were literally two tiny patties for $3.  Maybe it’s because I am from the south, and I know what Biscuits & Gravy should taste like as I ate it OFTEN at Cracker Barrel when I was not vegan.  And these were a far cry from real biscuits & gravy.  Not enough pepper in the gravy, the sausage wasn’t spicy enough and the biscuits were really dough heavy instead of fluffy.  I am no restaurant owner, but I could have done a WAY better job on these myself.  In fact, we do our own biscuits, thanks to a recipe from Annie Shannon which  is identical to the Red Lobster ‘Cheesy’ Biscuits.  We use those, make our own sausage gravy and any southerner would appreciate our dish.  TRUE biscuits & gravy.  LOADED with sausage and quality fluffy biscuits.  BIG thumbs down there. 

My hubby ordered the Cougar Club, which was firm local tofu, tempheh bacon, vegan cheese sauce, jalepeno with lettuce, tomato and onion on a Kaiser roll.  That was $9.75 and he got a side of fries with it.  That was pretty good.  I will definitely try that again as we microwaved it and it was good, but I bet fresh at the restaurant it would actually be pretty darn good. 

I was told on day 1 to skip Hungry Tiger Too and I probably could have, but I will give it another shot when we are next in PDX.  But if you’re a true southerner like me…from the ‘deep south,’ skip the biscuits and gravy because you’ll just be sad afterwards!!!

Oh Prasad how I love you.  Let me count the ways…2 visits in 2 days in Portland.   And I have replicated your meals for lunches for myself back home.  Now I just need the garlic tahini dressing recipe because I LOVE that stuff.

We had the pleasure of stopping at Prasad a few times while in Portland, OR.  We thought that it would be a great lunch to take on the road the first day, when we went to Seaside and Cannon Beach, Oregon.  It turned out we were absolutely correct.  I ordered the Dragon Bowl and it came with quinoa, red beans (my favorite,) wakame (sea vegetables,) avocado, kale sesame seeds, scallions and red cabbage.  And I opted for the garlic tahini dressing.  Not only was this a huge and filling meal, but it was protein packed and left me feeling energized and great as we enjoyed a beautiful cool day outside.  I did try my hubby’s meal, and he got the Chili Bowl with brown rice, roasted garlic chili, steamed kale, avocado, scallions, cilantro, green chili and garlic tahini sauces.  It was lovely as well but I preferred mine. 

Mom got a salad and ordered up the Bliss Salad (we don’t have pictures of hers,) with dried currants and figs, walnuts, quinoa, beets, carrots and mixed greens with lemon ginger dressing.  She said it was awesome, flavorful and delicious. 

One common denominator in all of our items was FRESH.  The food was SO fresh and perfectly cooked.  We had it cold by the time we ate it but we all felt that the flavor and quality was awesome nonetheless. 

Day two of Prasad I wanted to try something new and I got the Mighty Bowl with quinoa, steamed kale, red beans, and garlic tahini sauce.  Oh man was it good.  I think I liked the Dragon Bowl better only because of the wakame and cabbage.  But this was excellent.

My hubby tried the Urban Bowl with mixed greens with olive oil, steamed kale, cabbage, sea vegetables, avocado, carrots, scallions sesame & hemp seeds and got jalepeno cashew cheese dressing.  That was also awesome.  The dressing was great and such a wonderful flavor combination!

And Mom ordered Pasta Fresca with zucchini noodles tossed in sun-dried tomato pesto, with carrots and spinach, topped with cashew ricotta.  For a non-vegan, she really really enjoyed that as well.  And for me, it was a really nice tasty treat!

Prasad we love you.  I so wish that there were something remotely close in FL, but alas, Portland awaits me.  I sure did leave my heart there.  The other thing I loved about Prasad was its friendly and kind staff.  Each time we were there we interacted with several staff members, all of whom were extremely polite and they seemed to work together as a team flawlessly.  GREAT place to eat and I can’t wait to hang out more when I become an Oregonian!

Nicholas Family Restaurant in PDX  is a local ‘chain’ Lebanese restaurant.  We got a Google Offer for $15 for $30 worth of Lebanese cuisine.  Now if you’ll check out the menu, you can see that there are MANY vegan options and they are clearly marked.  Can I just say AGAIN how much I LOVE PDX?!  My husband ordered the Arabian Breeze Mezza and for $12.50 got an awesome (already vegan) meal of:  Tahini, Falafel (2 balls,) Garlic fried cauliflower, Roasted eggplant, Caramelized onions with tahini, and Hamara (roasted red pepper, tomato walnut paste.)  Wow…it was delicious, I love options and sharing, which my husband and Mom and I all were able to share as I had PLENTY of food to choose from. 

I ordered the Mjadra and for $10.75 he got a jasmine saffron rice and lentil dish.  Brown lentils carefully cooked with jasmine saffron rice olive oil, and their “secret spices” then layered with carmelized onions and a sprinkle of cumin.  I don’t know what was so awesome about this dish, but I honestly did not want to share it.  It was so flavorful and just tasty. 

Mom ordered the Lentil soup, which was vegan and AWESOME.  Delicious and filling! 

The other highlight from our visit was the bread that they bring out at the beginning, it is like a MASSIVE pita.  And just delightful.  I love the photo of my husband taking a giant bite…lol.  A fun atmosphere and awesome food.  And not to mention totally inexpensive as well.  We were not disappointed at all!

Oh vegan pizza how I love you.  I have to be honest, there is only ONE place in the local area I can go for Vegan pizza.  When I was in Portland, OR…Sizzle Pie Pizza  is not only everywhere, but they do vegan pizza by the slice OR made to order. Whoa.  Happy times for me!!!

My hubby was starving so he ordered the by the slice option.  I chose to be adventurous and order a made to order personal pizza.   Yes please!  My hubby got ‘Spiral Tap’ which is carmelized onion spread, house marinara, red sauce and a dusting of nutritional yeast.  And he also got ‘Bad Reputation’ which is Daiya Mozzerella cheese, mushroom, onion and black olives and a slice of ‘Thunder and Lightning’ which is Daiya Mozzerella cheese, and pepperoni (vegan of course.) 

I was feeling adventurous so I ordered a vegan pizza with: Daiya Mozzerella vegan pepperoni, vegan seitan chorizo, crushed garlic and jalepeno.  Oh baby was it good.  I enjoyed mine far more than my hubby’s slices, but his were quite nice as well.

He loved all three of his.  No complaints whatsoever. 

Because we loved Sizzle Pie Pizza SO much  we decided to head back again during our trip.  This time I had the ‘Spiral Tap’ slice and a slice of ‘Vegan Angel of Doom’ which is Daiya Mozzerella cheese, jalepeno, pineapple, shaved almonds and fresh cilantro.  I have to say, I had BIG doubts about it.  The Spiral Tap was awesome, loved it…delicious.  I was a little scared/ponderous on how to approach the other slice.  I gingerly took a bite…and flavors exploded in my mouth!!  Sweet, spicy, cheesy deliciousness.  I have to say that ‘Vegan Angel of Doom’ is my favorite pizza now.  I am going to have to try to recreate it when I get home to FL.  But I am not sure I can find the deliciousness that I had on my own.  I cannot wait to move to Portland and become a Sizzle Pie regular!