The Cider Press Cafe

Being vegetarian forever and vegan-curious for a couple of years when I first saw that The Cider Press Café was opening in St. Petersburg I was inappropriately excited to go try out their food.  Everything on their menu is raw vegan, which may sound more healthy than tasty, but that’s only if you haven’t tried it yet.

After eating at a couple of raw vegan places during a trip to North Carolina I was hooked and wanted to try The Cider Press Café even more, seeing how it’s about a thousand miles closer to home. So, of course, I did.

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I went the first time a few months ago and started with the Florida Roll – tamari infused watermelon ‘tuna’, mango, riced jicama, avocado; ginger, wasabi & tamari sauce. Sounds so strange, tasted so wonderful. This is the only one of their ‘starters’ I’ve tried but I want it again.  The problem with that is they have a few other items on their starter menu I really, really want to try too.  Cauliflower buffalo bites, coconut spring rolls…  everything either sound totally delicious or totally so far outside of anything I’ve tried that I HAVE TO try it.

I’ve tried a few of their main dishes (if you eat out with me you share with me) and my favorite two so far are the Garden Lasagna and The Three Amigos – spiced dehydrated corn tortillas (3), walnut-sweet potato picadillo, cabbage, guacamole, pico de gallo, poblano cream, pickled jalapeños, corn maque choux. Heavenly.

For the record, the deserts are the bomb as well.  I tried the pineapple sorbet and will definitely be having that again.  The person I was un-guiltily stealing food from had key lime ice cream and there is no way you could go wrong with that choice either. And yes, I’m like that. The people at the tables next to me are lucky I didn’t try their food too.

Final piece of advice – drink the Pearly Pear –   it’s an apple & pear cider and seriously, what else is there to say about that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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VMM13 Squash and Lentil Casserole

I haven’t done a vegan meatless Monday in a while, so I decided it’s time to get back to it.  I think the fact that Ben & Jerry’s now has 4 vegan ice creams INCLUDING CHUNKY MONKEY maybe got me motivated.  I am super excited to try those, but they aren’t yet in my area.  The guy at Whole Foods (I figured they were the best bet) said it could be about 2 months before it’s offered widespread and I may be able to find it.  Boo, but probably worth the wait!

Anyways, back to meatless Monday.  I couldn’t decide what to try and make today, but as it was 4:30 Sunday evening and I still had to figure it out and go grocery shopping, I voted for something quick and easy.  What’s quicker and easier than a casserole?  Decision made.

I thought squash sounded appropriate for January, and decided to add some beans to make it more of a main dish and less of a side dish. Being short on time I went with lentils as they don’t have to soak before cooking.  Plus, I really like lentils.

So lo and behold, spaghetti squash and lentil casserole was born.  And I have to say, is was pretty dang good and very comfort foody. Plus my two teenagers even liked it and you KNOW how teenagers are if you aren’t serving pizza.  My son even took a second helping and he’s one of those that would typically be going to try something, find out it’s vegan and change his mind.  My favorite thing to tell him is “You probably shouldn’t eat that apple (or whatever), it’s vegan”.

Here’s the ingredient list:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 cups thin sliced zucchini
  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 diced white onion
  • 1 diced bell pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I used the ones with basil, garlic and oregano)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (heaping, of course)
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 6 servings instant mashed potatoes (it’s what I had)

Start by cooking the lentils in the water.  Just bring them to a boil and then simmer covered for about 40 minutes, until they are tender.

Cut the spaghetti squash in half, seed it, and put it in a dish with about an inch of water. Microwave until tender, 10 to 15 minutes and them scrape the flesh out into a large bowl.  As each thing (besides the mashed potatoes) is finished just throw it all into this bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Pan fry the onions, peppers, garlic and zucchini.  I don’t use oil for this, the onions put off enough liquid to get the job done.  When the onions are translucent and the zucchini is a bit tender add this to the big bowl.

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Cook the mashed potatoes according to the package directions.  I used Earth Balance butter(ish) and Rice Dream milk and they came out great.

Mix all ingredients except for the mashed potatoes in the bowl and then turn them out into a greased 3 quart casserole dish.

Spread the mashed potatoes over the top, and rough them up a bit so that they will get nice brown spots on them.

No need to cover, just put the casserole dish I the oven for half an hour and you are done.

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I have to admit, I used a lot of pans and it took a bit more time cooking from scratch and cutting all the veggies, but this was totally worth it and is going to be a part of our regular cold weather meals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Vegan Tweets of the Week

So, two things.

First of all, I joined NaBLoPoMo this month which is a challenge to post every day in November.  I already took last weekend off, so there’s that.  But I’ve still already got further than any challenge thing I joined before. So I feel obliged to post something. Sorry.

Second of all, after going to the Tampa Bay Veg Fest last weekend I got motivated to try the 30 day vegan challenge.  It sounds so easy since I’ve been a vegetarian since forever, but not so much. I’m actually going to write a separate post about that. See, once I start writing I tend to just keep going and going and going….  Again, sorry.

Anyways, I thought it would be fun to share some Twitter tweets (not that there are any other kind) from some of my favorite tweeters.

The Gay Vegans don’t post a lot of recipes, but they do post a lot of things that make you think.  I like following them because in addition to blog posts they tweet a lot about whatever they happen to be doing so you get to virtually know them.  I think they’d be great people to get together over a drink and philosophize with.

 


Broke Vegans, on the other hand, post a ton of recipes.  The vast majority of them look amazing and are not usually recipes that I see everywhere else.  For sure follow them for the food, vegan or not. This recipe is cool because it seems like the vast majority of vegan cheese recipes involve nuts, this one is based on garbanzo beans.


I have to admit, I haven’t actually looked at 50 pizza recipes, but since deciding to try vegan for a bit I have been pizza obsessed. OBSESSED.   That is not an exaggeration. Those stupid Totino’s 99 cent pizzas are tempting me. I know. So sad.

 

 

Tampa Bay Vegfest

Last Saturday I went to the Tampa Bay Vegfest in Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park on Riverwalk. It’s their 6th annual festival, but the first I’ve been to. I think last year I had a run at the same time. My loss, it was a lot of fun. Actually, my partner in crime went last year and said this year was much bigger.  I guess that means I better go next year because it’ll likely only be bigger and better.

So, what do you even do at a Vegfest?  Well, I think it depends of the fest.  I went to one in San Diego in like ’89 and it was a total hippy fest.  Reggae music, a haze over the crowd that was not tobacco smoke, a lot of girls in skirts that had not bought a razor maybe ever (I had never heard of women not shaving at the time and was a bit mystified.  Still not my thing but to each their own and all). This was not that.

Fast forward 26 years (writing that makes me feel old, but lets go with wise, shall we?) and vegetarian is pretty much main stream.  My 16 year old daughter is vegetarian (my sons are not), she has friends that are vegetarian that went to the festival, and my son (22) has dated like 3 vegetarians.  Apparently, it’s a thing now.

The Tampa Bay VegFest had all ages from kids, to high school and college age to  retirement age people. I have to admit that last one surprised me.

Anyways, what was there to do?

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Well, there were lots of vendor booths. Some where selling things like t-shirts (the Hail Seitan, Go Vegan t-shirt was one of my favorites), soaps, jewellery, snacks, pretty much a bit of everything. There were also some great vegan samples. My very favorite was Treeline nut-cheese (that sounds so bad, I know). It was a spread for crackers that all by itself made a case for the deliciousness of vegan food. I had to take a picture that was too bad to share but enough that I could go buy it. There was also a coconut ice cream sandwich that was amazing, which surprised me because I have bought the same brand of vanilla ice cream in the past and didn’t love it.  I’m going to have to try it again.

It was a lovely 90 degree fall day so even wearing a tank top I was happy to hear they had speakers and movies playing at the history center. We only made it to listen to one speaker, but wow was she great.  We got to listen to Jo-Anne McArthur speak about animals she had met during her photojournalist adventures. Adventures sound like great things but in this case not so much. She has traveled the globe to bring us the faces and stories of animals whose lives have been hidden. She has photographed minks and foxes being raised for fur in horrific conditions, factory farm victims, a bear whose life of suffering cumulated in having his paws removed for soup (but was rescued), all sorts of things.  But it’s all tempered with visits to a farm sanctuary full of happy, healthy animals and other sanctuaries which if nothing else allows you a glimpse into lives of people who dedicate themselves to good instead of evil. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that these places do exist.

There was also a food truck circle (yay, food!), bands and a cooking demonstration. I attended the Thai Tacos and Caribbean Rice and Beans demo. The demos were done by the people at thefoodpharmacy.com. Check out their web site, they have all kinds of recipes and videos on how to cook vegan recipes.  Their theme seems to be good, healthy food now instead of drugs and doctor visits later. Radical, right?

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Then there was the mandatory circle of animal rescue groups with dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, even a great big real pig.  I’m a sucker for this section and the partner in crime even put an application for a great dog there.  Should hear back some time this week. A photographer and a blogger and we were so into the dog we forgot to take a picture of her.  FAIL.

All in all a great time. If you’re on Facebook follow them here so that next year you’ll have all the info you need to attend. Bring your compassion and a huge appetite.