Sweetpea Baking Company

Well I was thoroughly excited for vegan brunch at Sweetpea on a Sunday at noon…I saved my appetite JUST for brunch.  I was hungry!!! For some reason the brunch was not available, but there were still plenty of vegan treats to try and yummie sandwiches galore!  I ordered a latte with hazelnut milk, as I had never had hazelnut milk before, and it was delish.  For lunch I got the P. Cole.  It was field roast, daiya cheddar, sliced pickles, onions, tomato,  homemade remoulade on a grilled Panini.  I LOVED it.  It was delicious, especially the remoulade.  I have no idea what that is or was but it was awesome.

My husband and I, and this is a benefit of marriage, each ate a half of one another’s sandwiches so he got the Wilson Brothers, which was thinly sliced roast beef style seitan and grilled onions on their house baked bread served with Au Jus.  Now I am a very salt sensitive person…the au jus was nice but FAR too salty in my opinion.  I had one dip of it then ate the rest of my half without it.  I did really enjoy the sandwich without the Au Jus though!!

Then Mom ordered the Bendishaw which was Fresh basil, vegan mozzarella, and tomatoes with fresh pesto grilled on house made wheat bread.  That I could have also eaten the entire half of.  Their pesto was phenomenal. 

My heart does long for Portland.  And when we move I fully plan on checking out the vegan brunch, until then I will savor the memories!

Portland food-gazm.  THE BLOSSOMING LOTUS:

Well, I am not sure there is anything more accurate than the statement the seller at Arcane Wines  on 09/15/12’s Portland Farmer’s Market said to me.  She was a gluten free girl, and Portland food enthusiast.  When I told her I was vegan, she asked if we knew of many local places, and I said of course I did my homework!  I rattled off the names of some places, a few which I was very excited about and she told me to skip…and then she said it.  She dropped a bomb on me.   I didn’t know it at the time, but she spoke the words of truth.  She said “Once you have food from The Blossoming Lotus everything else will disappoint you.”  I thought yeah right…how could EVERYTHING else be sub-par?  I have eaten at some GREAT Vegan joints in other states like Karyn’s on Green  in Chicago, IL  and Sublime in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Both of these were on anniversary trips like this one…where we were gearing up for some awesome vegan food.  Both times we had some AWESOME vegan food.  Well, the first night we were in the neighborhood and starving, so we decided what the heck…we’ll go to Blossoming Lotus

Well, the menu, divine. SO many exciting things to choose from.  SO many.  Vindaloo Masala, BBQ Tempeh Plate, Wok Tossed Tofu & Greens, Live Sampler (cheeses, pizza, falafel  &  kale & wakame salad,) Live Falafel Wrap, etc. 

 We ordered an appetizer of white bean dip.  My hubby picked it and I really didn’t want any, but when I tried it I had to have a carrot with it AND a piece of their rustic bread.  It was AWESOME.  Well I had eyes FAR bigger than my stomach and got the Live Sampler.  It has tahini-cilantro pate (to die for,) almond cheese (divine,) live pizza (delish,) kale-wakame salad (I died and went to heaven…especially the croutons oh my!,) and live falafel served with seasonal fruit & cucumber slices.  DELIGHTFUL.  I ate the pizza, salad & was DONE.  I didn’t have room for anything else lol.  Our awesome server suggested we try the 2010 Crios Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina, and we were only too obliged to do so.  It was AWESOME. 

My Mom, who is about as far from vegan as you can get, ordered the summer trio which was zucchini & squash salad; potato salad & a corn salsa.  I tried them all and they were awesome!  My husband ordered a Thai Peanut Salad.  It was MASSIVE.  LOL.  Now I hate peanut flavored things.  I LOVE peanut butter and I love peanuts.  But I didn’t like the flavor of the salad with peanut oil.  I know I am weird.  He & my Mom both LOVED it. 

Even though our meals were SO filling.  I took half of mine home, and my hubby took about half of his as well.  We ordered the German Chocolate Brownie a ’la mode.  Oh fantasticness.  It was absolutely wonderful!!!!  Both my husband and Mom declined dessert but they ate more of it than I did…the ice cream tasted just like chocolate soft serve.  SO good. 

So that woman was right in the end…Blossoming Lotus did set a VERY high standard.  We loved it and when we move to Portland, we will be regulars.  Their food was phenomenal.  Every flavor exploded when it hit the palette, pairings were done superbly and the food was top notch. Fresh, flavorful and perfect.  NO complaints other than that they are not located next door to where I currently live.  As a side note…if you are a fan of GrimmThe Lion and the Rose, the B&B used in a season 1 episode is literally about a  block away.  And it is even more beautiful in person!

SO…Texas isn’t for vegans they told me.  Food isn’t for vegans when people are ignorant in ordering and preparing.  PERIOD.  So I have 3 wonderful friends and their families who live in Dallas/Fort Worth area.  I was in town for 3 days for client meetings.  Normally, if I don’t know where I can eat I look for 3 types of places: mexican, sushi & mediterranean.  I can almost ALWAYS eat vegan there.  The first night we went to an Italian restaurant in the area we were staying, and they assured me the food was vegan.  Somehow I felt uncomfortable about it, but my co-worker who I traveled with was really not in the mood for discussion on food matters.  SO, I stayed and ate there.  Well, my stomach told me guess what?!  That wasn’t vegan…there was dairy of some sort in it.  NOW I am certain of dairy in products because I end up spending a lot of time in the restroom and have a horribly painful tummy ache.  Anyway…the next morning I at least managed to get up early and head to Starbucks.  I walked to SB & got a vegan coffee at least.  My coordinator at the office was supposed to include a vegan lunch for me…well that ended up being bread, tomato, romaine lettuce and a huge chunk of chicken.  Well, that ended the lunch for me…and I had a luna bar.  Thank GOD for those things…at least I had some food!

That second night I was over the moon since my local friends said we would go to Esparza’s for mexican food.  I had loved it when I visited Dallas many times before and hadn’t been in years!  Well, it was nearing 6:30 before we made the 30 minute drive to meet my friend (two of my friends picked me up…love them!)  And we were all starving.  They picked a place called Spiral Diner instead.  I didn’t really know anything about it, nor did they, they said it was all Meredith’s idea since it was really near their house.  So I could have cared less, I knew it had vegan food and I was ready to eat.

We rolled up to this quaint little building and walked in and I was in love!  Love at first sight!  It was a 50’s feel and lots of ‘retro’ everywhere.  I loved it!  Then Meredith told me that the WHOLE menu was vegan!!!  I was like wait WHAT?!!!!  So first we got our drinks, and I got the agave limeade…which I am absolutely HOOKED on now.  Haven’t found any as good since Spiral Diner, but I am still searching.  And going to try my own soon.  So onto the menu I could have honestly eaten everything because I was SO hungry.  But I was drawn to the ‘Breakfast all day’ section and drooling right away.  I caved in and had the breakfast quesidilla.  We had hummus & pita appetizer and when my food arrived I was like a rabid dog to a squirrel.  I devoured my quesidilla delicately, enjoying the flavor and taste and texture of all the veggies and food and cheese.  Oh heavenly!!!  Absolutely everything was SO good. 

Spiral Diner I profess my love to you!!!  Come to St. Petersburg, FL!!!  We need you here!  I need you here!

Sorry I didn’t get food pics…I was too hungry 😉  Next time!

And does anyone know what a mcnut burger is??

SO…my new favorite place to eat out: Meze 119 in downtown St. Petersburg.  We kept meaning to have brunch at Meze, but kept missing it.  Well one Saturday morning we got up super early and finally said okay, let’s roll.  Headed to Meze & well, they said Sunday is brunch.  I wanted to cry.  Well, that was okay, because I love their dinner/lunch menu anyway so we stayed and I enjoyed something new!  I had a curried chikk’n salad sandwich.  Yummies.  So much flavor and texture and color.  And you could never imagine that it was vegan with so much meaty taste and the flavorful curry!  Everything at Meze, every single time, has always been fresh and flavorful.  So curried chikk’n salad was excellent.  And had to have my T’zips on the side since I LOVE their thick cut fries, which are lightly seasoned with fresh herbs and a touch of salt.

We actually came back the very next day for Sunday brunch and I tried the Belgian Waffles with berry compote.  TO die for.  I am very very picky with anything sweet…because you can totally overdo the sweetness in the compote AND in the powdered sugar topping.  Both were done perfectly.  The berry compote did not taste like any sugar was added, and I appreciated that since I really find most things over sweet now.  The powdered sugar was not over done either.  Just a light dusting.  And again, had to get some T’Zips on the side.  YUMMERS!  My hubby actually got the Tofu scramble with smoky tempeh bacon and T’Zips…I thought it was pretty awesome too but would need to try a full meal of it the following week so that I could weigh in.

So the following week, and every weekend since (barring the 24th of June…thanks to Tropical Storm Debby) we have been back for Sunday brunch.  I get the Tofu Scramble with a bloody mary with LOTS of hot sauce and we share a side of T’Zips.  This is now our Sunday tradition: get up early, go exercise, grab a quick shower and head to Meze for Sunday Brunch at 11am.  I don’t feel guilty at all for indulging in a bloody mary at 11am…it’s Sunday and I enjoy the meal, and then relax the rest of the day!

Meze 119 is a MUST for anyone who enjoys Mediterranean food and a carnivore could find a delicious meal there just as easily!

Enjoy the photos, they do the food no justice!  (and did I mention the prices are GREAT?!  You get a lot of food for a small price tag!)

So when I want a salad, I want a SALAD.  I need lots of spinach, bell peppers, onion, tomato, pepperocini, some kind of nut, crispy chipolte lime Gardein topped with our home made vegan ranch dressing.  I admit that E2 diets do not smile on processed meats, or vegenaise, but both are sometimes okay.  I ADORE the Gardein products, as they are SO flavorful and absolutely easy to cook and season, etc. 

The vegan ranch recipe we found on, you guessed it, Pinterest.  I cannot for the life of me remember where I originally found it.  But we altered it, to our taste and it’s SO easy to make.  SO…put in a half a cup of vegenaise, and enough almond milk (I prefer 365 brand Almond Milk as it is unsweetened and doesn’t alter the taste…their soy milk works well too but I am through and through an Almond Milk girl.)  to make it a dressing like texture (not too runny, but not thick and goopy…) you can do this to your taste.  Then I add at least 2-3 tablespoons of dill, 4 garlic cloves and stir it up and taste until you’re happy with the flavor.  I also add a few dashes of garlic salt to add to the flavor.  You can do as much or as little of these ingredients, but so far, people who are non-vegan LOVE my ranch dressing!  And oh yeah, it’s SO good. 

Check out my mighty salad below!

Mighty salad

I am an absolute fanatic for Pinterest and one of the posts by Engine 2 was about a guy in Texas, who was a meat eating, overweight, barbeque fanatic who went cold turkey onto a whole foods plant based diet after watching Forks Over Knives.   Well I had to click on it and read the post, which Engine 2 had put on their website.  The guy has a blog called www.sickcrazycarnivore.blogspot.com and I read every single post.  He’s not wordy, but taking you through his journey from a carnivorous barbeque junkie to a whole foods plant based, healthy guy is really awesome.

I got excited again about plant based foods and nutrition just by reading his posts, and was hugely encouraged by his conviction and outlook.  I suggest you take a trip over and read on.  And if you haven’t yet watched Forks Over Knives it’s one of the best films about nutrition and plant based eating that you can watch.  It’s nothing short of amazing.  I loved it, it renewed my mindset about why I do what I do and also gave me the outlook of living a full healthy life without pills and heart disease down the road.

Well, this is just a short post to say get on over and do some reading, and some educating of yourselves.  Take care and remember real men eat plants!  (and women!)

Okay, so one afternoon hubby and I were absolutely starving and couldn’t agree on anything, so we decided to head to our local smaller version of Whole Foods.  (I am not mentioning their name because it’s truly a last resort as they are rude, difficult to deal with and slow slow slow…its the opposite of Whole Foods in every way.)  Anywho…hubby got his brown rice sushi and I headed to the frozen section.  Not sure what I ended up with that night, but I decided to grab some Rising Moon Organics ravioli as they make some killer vegan raviolis.  I also LOVE that they label very clearly, with the pretty ‘V’ in a heart on the front of their packages.  This saves me time, and disappointment in shopping.

So, as I was grabbing this, I saw ‘Organic Stuffed Shells: Made with Organic “Primacotta” Soy Ricotta  & Organic Pasta.’  Well let me just say that when I saw the happy pretty little ‘V’ in a heart on the front I snatched that bad boy up.  My hopes were very high, especially since I had not delighted in any kind of ricotta or stuffed shells with ‘cheesy-ness’ since prior to being vegan.  I was super excited, and though they were a bit pricey, I think it was $5.99 and it’s pretty much just a microwave meal, I couldn’t wait to endeavor on these.

One day I was running late for work, days later, and had totally forgotten about my shells.  I grabbed them, along with a Whole Foods Whole Wheat Mini-Pita, and I headed to work.  By lunch time, I was not only hungry, I was anticipating my stuffed shells.  I had serious doubts that the texture, flavor and general truly deliciousness of non-vegan stuffed shells could be replicated.  People…Rising Moon Organics did it.  Oh yeah they did.  Not only was the texture spot on, the flavor was so incredible.  I honestly don’t care if they are $10 each I am having this once a month.  It is SO good.  And the sauce that comes with it, delish.  I am SUPER picky about tomato based sauces, and pasta sauces, because my Mom made THE best sauce and I always felt like any microwave meals or restaurants always disappointed compared.  This did not.  The flavor was fresh and without some chemical aftertaste.  It is more than worthwhile, I am telling you NOW go find this stuff.  Go try out the brand.  I have had everything vegan of theirs that I can find, and it’s all been well worth it!

Now if you’re a skeptic, I encourage you even moreso…go…now…find you some of these shells.  Just look at them.  Oh they are GOOD!

Let me first begin by saying I have a wonderful and passionate romance with Kale.  We are buds.  High up on the ANDI scale, tasty, so many ways to eat it, so wonderful wonderful Kale…

Oh sorry, I got sidetracked.  Right, Kale.  So I found this recipe via Pinterest and it was for Kale butter…it looked easy enough to do and we were getting on the Engine 2 Diet so I needed a plant based, oil free butter substitute.  When I saw kale butter…I said, that’s for me.  Yes sir.  So I went to the website and followed along, roughly, to the recipe.  Now she used a ‘bunch’ of kale…I think I may have used about 3…then I added (of course) Louisiana Hot Sauce, additional crushed red pepper, a bit of nutritional yeast…and more water and walnuts than she did.  So essentially I really didn’t follow the recipe much except to get a sense of what was in it.  Something like this I have to taste and have the texture I want.  SO…kale butter was made.  And boy did I love it.  Instead of a few servings though, I had at least 2 pounds.  So…I was putting it on everything.   This particular Saturday morning I was itching for a yummie breakfast scramble, but I didn’t want the same old same old Tofu scramble.

So…I decided to kind of throw in left overs of whatever I found in the fridge.  We had some left over black beans from the Black Bean Burgers, some Gimme Lean sausage that needed eaten, a small amount of tofu and I got to work.  I basically threw it all on in to my lovely and wonderous cast iron skillet.  Added some crushed red pepper, Louisiana hot sauce and then popped two slices of my dear Ezekial Food for Life bread in the toaster, topped those two bad boys with some kale butter and had me an open faced breakfast scramble.  BOY did it taste good.  And when I input all the nutritional info into my loseit app it was also really healthy and low cal!  So, see below, drool away and get to cooking.  I am guessing you can use any combo of beans and seasoning that you prefer.  I tell you, it’s delish.  And filling!  Enjoy!

 

So my absentee father, who I hadn’t seen in over 5 years, decided to grace me and my hubby for dinner.  He, along with a lot of other uneducated people, made the comment of ‘so what do you eat?!’ Oh, we eat yummie food…and we won’t die of heart disease because of cholesterol and nonsense in our food.  But oh, I digress.  We decided to be flashy and try the Meet the Shannons Beef(less) Stew with herbed dumplings.  I was craving a meaty delicacy, and since I only do cruelty free, we settled on this delish stew.  It was a lot of work.  And I mean a lot.  I don’t consider an hour of prep and cooking a lot of work…but it was.  Hot kitchen 2 cooks…not enough red wine.  But man oh man was the end result delish.  I haven’t eaten anything yet from Meet the Shannons that I haven’t liked.  Betty Crocker aint got nothing on Annie Shannon.  To take this meat focused recipe and make it vegan, and taste AMAZING I applaud her.

If you want to impress some meat eating friends, I highly suggest the Beef(less) Stew with herbed dumplings.  No one can snub you for this.  It’s just awesome.  And I know that meat eater or vegan you’ll have a satisfied crowd.  It’s worth the work and the wait!  Photos below folks.

oh yeah...it's that good and then some

my pimped out black bean burgerI will start this post by saying these are the fastest, easiest vegan burgers you will ever make.  For pete’s sake the Happy Herbivore made these in a hotel room using ingredients only from the hotel!  So we eat these often now.  Because they are quick, easy, hearty and healthy.  Oh, and did I mention they’re only 109 calories each…yeah.  So basically amazing.  The first one I ate 1 burger on an Ezekial brand bun, topped with red onion, Koop’s horseradish mustard, 365 Organic Ketchup, avocado, sunflower sprouts and plenty of Louisiana Hot Sauce.  Holy filling and really really tasty.  Something weird to me was this: when I was a carnivore, I loved my meat (red) bloody and nearly alive still.  Thinking about it now is somewhat nauseating, but I liked it rare…the rarer the better.

Well something amazing happens when I put this burger onto a bun, topped as listed above…the hot sauce gives it the red color like a ‘bloody burger’ and the texture is darn near a rare burger…and then my twisted mind makes me feel like I am eating one.  Except my happy heart knows it’s not that of a living being, but that of a bean 🙂  That makes me smile.  So ladies and gents, go cook yourself up a wonderful Black Bean Burger courtesy of the lovely Happy Herbivore.  Just click on the link and you will find a wonderous burger recipe…and check out the rest of her recipes.  They are the pretty darn great!

Again…drool worthy photos below!