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.

Cider Press Logo.png

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?









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.


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.


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.







Me vs. Them

I haven’t done every day’s assignments but I am still following along with the Writing 101 class.  Here’s today’s writing challenge /  assignment:

Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.

Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue.

This is another kind of writing I haven’t done since I was a kid, but it lends itself perfectly to me expanding on my last post about trying to feed my kids healthy food, or get them to do anything else healthy…

“So, Mad, you want to help me make dinner?” I asked my daughter through her closed door.  I had to ask loudly as she was blasting screamo (we used to call it punk and I like it but won’t admit that to her) AND watching Supernatural on her tablet)

“I’m good”

“I didn’t ask if you were good or not, I asked if you were going to help me make dinner” I helpfully reminded her.

“What are you making?”

“I’m trying out this new vegan recipe I found” I told her.

“Ewww, I’m good.”

OK, seriously?  I opened her door. “I was just pretending to give you a choice, come out and chop a tomato.”

Much eye rolling, dragging of feet, and asking if everyone could make their own dinners tonight ensues.

Finally we were both in the kitchen and she watched me pull the ingredients out of the fridge. Cue predictable teen enthusiasm.

“I hate mushrooms.”

“I hate dill”

“I don’t like soy sauce”

“What is that even?”
I told her “rice noodles, it’s something different.”

“I don’t like rice.”

In a voice I was pretty sure (but not totally sure) the neighbors couldn’t hear “It’s NOT RICE, it’s rice noodles.  You can’t hate it, you’ve never even tried it!”

“I hate rice.”


Me, “Oh good god I’ll make it myself. I should have just made a frozen pizza.”

The worst part of all?  None of us liked it.  It was a cool recipe but we all found out we only like dill when it’s part of a pickle.  Even worst?  I made myself eat everything on my plate to prove a point.

Even knowing that I don’t care too much for dill I think it looked dang good halfway through making the sauce.


On the plus side I think with some modifications (no dill, maybe some hot peppers) this could be pretty good.

Do you have your kids help cook?  If so do they enjoy it or not so much?  My kids can actually all 3 cook better than I did at their ages, but they prefer to cook when it isn’t considered helping.  Especially if I foolishly say the V word!




VMM 12 – Crock Pot Rice Pudding

Earlier this month I wrote that my ulcerative colitis had flared up leaving me doing a whole lot of not much.  I’ve been feeling a LOT better and I kind of thought I was in remission the last day or two. Today wasn’t the best but colitis is always a roller coaster, never a straight line. I’m OK with that, I still see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I haven’t been eating totally vegan, that lasted a full week.  I have not strayed much though.  One thing about colitis is when I have a flare up I get obsessed with what I can and cannot eat, just because I know I can’t eat whatever I want. As soon as I start to feel better I want to eat everything I wasn’t able to before.  Happily salads and fruit are the biggest draws. Unhappily a bowl or two of ice cream was slipped in too. Is what it is.

Two things I can eat unless I’m really sick are rice and bananas.  That’s just great but after a while it does get a wee bit boring.  Maybe it’s because of all that obsessing over food and rice but last week I started to really crave rice pudding. Like, CRAVE.

So I looked up the recipe, but all of them I could find had a full cup of sugar in them.  Sugar is not on my short list of foods I can tolerate, so after much thought I came up with the (now) obvious – substituting the sugar with bananas.  I wasn’t sure how it would work but it is awesome!  Nothing in it is off limits and it tastes good enough to have everyday for breakfast (and maybe lunch) without having to force myself to eat.  Win and win.

So long story short, you don’t have to be sick to make this and love it – and you don’t have to feel a bit guilty about eating it because it’s pretty much health food.  Yay.  🙂

Rice Pudding:

  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 1 box coconut milk (1 quart)
  • 1 1/2 over ripe banana, smashed with a fork
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Throw it all in a crock pot on high for 4-5 hours.  And done.  How easy is that?  I like it cold with cinnamon sprinkled on top.

The first time I made this I used a full cup of rice and cooked it the full 5 hours, it was good but I wanted to try and make it not as thick. So the next time I used 3/4 cups rice and only cooked it 4 hours.  Looks perfect!

I’d love to have you try this and let me know what you think.  Do you have any suggestions for healthy, real food sugar substitutes?

VMM 11 – Time to go All In?

As I mentioned yesterday due to health reasons I’ve decided to try and eat vegan and unprocessed for the remainder of July.

My go to meal this last week has been simple – throw a cup of rice, 2 cups water, and a bag of southwest frozen vegetables in the rice cooker, wrap some in a small tortilla with a little salsa, and ta-da, dinner is served. Easy to make and easy on the stomach, it’s even OK without the salsa though it’s dry.

My goal for this week was to find easy meals so good that I’d crave them.  And I found some!

First I wanted to try making cashew cream sauce as I’ve seen it used as a base for mac and cheese, nachos, and even whipped cream.  The base recipe is this easy:

Cashew Cream Sauce:

  • raw cashews
  • water

Rinse the cashews, soak them overnight, rinse them again.  Put them in a food processor, cover with water to about an inch over the cashews, and blend very, very well.


Since it’s a base for so many things and freezable I made too much and froze some in mason jars to be used later.  After all, easy as it is to make it’s even easier to pull it out of the freezer to defrost.

I’m hoping to try an alfredo sauce with it, I’ll let you know how it works out.

I found a recipe with great reviews to use cashews as a base for a nacho dip, so I made some of that too, modified slightly (I really over bought the cashews…).

Nacho Dip:

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 juiced lemons
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (heaping)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (heaping)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast

Basically you throw everything in the food processors and blend until it’s liquified.  I stopped at this point and stored the liquid half in the fridge and half in the freezer.  I’m guessing if cashew cream freezes well so will this.  We shall see!

At this point it is the consistency of water almost. I still dipped a chip in it and this stuff is amazing tasting!  The end product is definitely more than the parts.

To finish it up it should be heated up for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. As I said I didn’t get this far and I’m already addicted to the taste. If I can have this for my burritos and such vegan just got a whole lot easier!

My other big win came from The Simple Veganista, mashed chickpea salad.  The name does not do it justice at all. I made it and thought well, it’s healthy looking.  Then I tried it on a cracker and wow, delicious.  I had the 13 year old try it, win.

I made a couple modifications as raw veggies are out at the moment.

Chickpea Salad:

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/4 cup scallions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup cashew cream (I just happened to have some in the fridge so…)
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • pinch of paprika

Ground up the carrots, scallions, and garlic pretty small in food processor

Pan fried them to soften

Throw everything but the cashew cream in food processor and pulse.  Leave the garbanzos chunky, not smooth like hummus.

Stir in the cashew cream (hummus or vegan mayo was suggested in original recipe)

Eat with crackers or on a sandwich. It’s really, really good on crackers!


I had some plain on spelt bread. It would be great with lettuce, tomato and onion. Also, it would have made a better picture that way!

Bread Maker Spelt Bread:

  • 1 1/4 cup rice mik
  • 2 Tbls. agave
  • 2 Tbls. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups spelt flour
  • 2 tsp. ground flax seed
  • 2 1/2 tsp. yeast

Warm the milk slightly, add all ingredients in order to bread machine, and set on basic.

My bread fell somewhere in the final bake cycle, as it always does. It’s still soft, nutty and delicious!


VMM10 – Baked Chili Relleno

I haven’t posted for (vegan) Meatless Monday in a while, it’s about time to get back into the habit! Here’s a super-easy recipe for vegan chili relleno.  I was going to make a more intricate filling, but I was running late, Trader Joe’s black refried beans were already flavored with jalepenos, and replacing the cheese in the typical chili relleno with whole beans and stuff doesn’t sound like the right consistency anyways.  Though I may do it anyways the next time.

Here’s how I put them together:


  • 8 pablano peppers
  • 1 can Trader Joe’s refried black beans with jalapenos  (refried beans mixed with a can of green chilis would be good too!)

That’s it.  Not much of a recipe, huh?

Part 1, which I did the day before but of course you could do it all in one day if you are less lazy and/or don’t tend to forget to go back to something after it’s cleaned up and hidden in a paper bag:

  1. Place pobalano chiles on a cookie pan covered with tin foil.  I didn’t grease the pan at all, but I would the next time because they stuck a little.
  2. Move the oven rack up if needed so it’s 6-8 inches below the broiler.
  3. Broil the peppers until blackened, about 10-15 minutes each side, then place in a paper bag to finish.
  4. After the peppers have cooled enough peel off the outer skin.  I found this to be a bit of a challenge, mine were only about 2/3 peeled but I didn’t even notice in the end.

20140526_165759Ya, they don’t look that great blackened but the kitchen does start to smell pretty dang good.

Part 2:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Slice an opening from almost the top to almost the bottom of each pepper and clean out the seeds from the middle.  I pushed them a little inside out and rinsed the seeds out in the sink.

Fill center with about 2 tsp of the refried beans, close the pepper and place on pan.

Bake peppers for about 25 minutes

Serve alone or with a sauce.  I personally always chose to use a sauce or dip when it’s an option!

20140527_191505OK, so maybe you are wondering what the heck happened to that top chilli.  What happened was…  I tried to recreate a ‘fried coating’ type thing.  It actually tasted pretty good but looked ugly enough to be a fail anyways.  If you are curious and can maybe tell me how to improve the look here is what I did:

3 Tbls water (and a splash) mixed with a about 2.5 Tbls ground flax, whipped to dip the chiles in first, then 1 cup spelt flour with pepper, cumin, and garlic powder mixed in to dip the chiles in second.  This was much more experiment than recipe, I just sprinkled the spices in.

I used a tomatillo sauce I found on the food network, mostly because I didn’t know what it was really and figured it was past time to find out. It was really good and I’d definitely make it again.  My son liked it on the rellenos, but next time I’ll make a red sauce for them, probably with chilpote peppers in adobo sauce.  I’m going to try a sauce like that next week to go with vegan tamales if I can pull it off.

That said, the tomatillo sauce is pretty dang good.  It was strangely sweet and I’m determined to find something that it would fit better with.  I did use it as a chip dip too but it’s such an interesting taste it need to be the star of some other show.

tomatillo sauce


1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 Anaheim chile, seeded
1 white onion, quartered
1/2 jalapeno chile, seeded
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Juice from 1/2 lime


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the vegetables with the oil, salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables until the tomatillos turn a dark-green color and the onions golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Let the vegetables cool, peel the garlic and blend everything together with the lime juice in a Ninja or food processor.

20140526_154259Have you ever tried a tomatillo sauce? Did you like it and what did you serve it with?



VMM9 – Smoothies

I’m a fan of smoothies, they’re like having dessert for breakfast with none of the the nutritional downfalls.  I’ve always used yogurt in them though, the few smoothies I’ve had made with ice just didn’t have the flavor I like.  Of course since I decided that I haven’t tried all that many different recipes using ice so it’s not exactly a fair assessment.
Anyways, I decided to forgo the yogurt AND the ice and see if I could find a vegan recipe that I like.  This simple recipe is so good I may not go back to using yogurt in my smoothies!  🙂

Strawberry Banana Green Smoothie

  • 1 c vanilla almond milk
  • 1 c packed kale
  • 1 cup frozen sliced strawberries
  • 1 frozen banana

I just put them in the Ninja in the order listed and blended.  I did break the banana in half so it would fit. Easy, delicious and vegan, what else could I ask for?  It is unfortunate that they look kind of brown… but even my youngest son was singing it’s praise, definitely try this one.

I made several and froze enough in mason jars to bring with me for breakfast the rest of the week.  That way I know I’ll have a quick and healthy breakfast every day this week!


I’ve been in the mood for salads lately so that’s just what I’m doing for lunches this week.  I cut up, washed and spun a head of green leaf and I’ll bring that with some cucumbers, tomatoes and radishes every day. I just pulled the first radishes of the season form the garden this morning, I”m going to throw the leaves in the salads too.  Waste not want not and all.

Radishes to pickI’ve recently seen that you can fry or roast radishes, I may try that soon just for fun.  Anyone every try cooked radishes?



VMM8 Buffalo Burgers

I haven’t been writing, running, or doing much at all the last couple weeks, I guess I took a mini vacation from all the little things.  It would have been very cool except for the part where I am now kind of behind on everything.  Oh well, now I have plenty to write about in the coming weeks!

I have a super simple (this does seem to be my thing) vegan recipe to share for Meatless Monday, this one is just as good as it is easy!

3 Ingredient Buffalo Burgers:

  • 1 cup dry lentils, cooked according to package and strained
  • 1 1/2 cups oatmeal, run through the food processor (after measuring)
  • 1/2 cup Red Hot hot sauce
  • oil to fry in


  • Sliced onion, tomato and pickles
  • Lettuce torn into bun sized pieces (I used red leaf)

Mix the first 3 ingredients, make into patties and cook in the frying pan with a bit of oil. I used a 1/3 measuring cup and scraped off the top to measure them into patties, then squished them down a bit with a fork.  This worked perfect since I served them on dinner rolls from the bakery.

Serve on buns or rolls with toppings of your choice.

Vegan Buffalo Burger

We didn’t use any condiments and they were really good.  My kids even asked for seconds which is a minor miracle since they saw that I made them with beans, they both originally asked if they could just have rolls for dinner.  Yes, they are THOSE kids that automatically equate healthy with oh-my-god-gross.  Lucky me!

Sugar Detox Questions (and the Color Me Rad Winners)

First things first as always,  the winners for the Color Me Rad entries are Lori, Kaili, and Dylan Bukowczyk.  Email me at and I will send you your codes, congrats!

I didn’t post for Meatless Monday this week because honestly I just ran out of time – I haven’t even done my weekend grocery shopping yet and it’s already Tuesday.  Ever have weekends so busy you feel like you need to recover from them?  Ya, next weekend I am doing NOTHING.

But food is on my mind, especially since I read this Tweet Monday morning.

I’ve had the idea of trying a sugar detox for a while, but all of the information about it seems to be Paleo, which I think of as including lots of meat though I know I’ve read that there are vegetarians that follow it.  But it also cuts out the majority of grains.  I don’t see any reason to cut out whole grains because I think they’re healthy if you’re not gluten intolerant, which I’m not. The problem is I know perfectly well that I’m not a food expert so I keep thinking there must be some reason for it, although I couldn’t find anything on Google except for 1 person’s comment on an article (I already forgot which one) that grains eventually break down into sugar.

So I’m curious.  What’s wrong with including whole grains while trying to cut out sugar?  I’d like to try this with my own modified plan in the next few weeks and if there is a reason to eliminate grains then whatever, it’s temporary!  As long as that doesn’t include oatmeal.

Anybody have an opinion on this or know the reason?

Vegan Meatless Monday 7 – Not so Thai

A few months back I was wandering about the grocery store and picked up a little jar of red curry paste.  I’m a pretty frugal person and I don’t make a habit of picking up random seemingly useless things and buying them but it  sounded interesting.  That jar has sat and taunted me ever since, because I haven’t had a clue of what to do with it.  But it did make my spice cabinet look that much more international.

Anyways, to get to the point I decided to try and make Thai food for dinner because I think that’s what you do with red curry paste.  Now I have to admit up front I’ve only ever ate Thai food twice in my life and both times it was in the same restaurant.  But it was good and it was spicy, so although that doesn’t make me an expert it did make me a fan.

To get back to the point AGAIN I made a Thai-ish dinner which involved Japanese Buckwheat Noodles (they happened to be in the cabinet) and probably is as anti-authentic as it gets, but it was good so who cares?

I have no name for this, let’s just call it Thai-ish Japanese noodles:


I very slightly modified the sauce from this post on Tasty Yummys.

  • 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
  • 3 Tbsp. red curry paste
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. chunky peanut butter

The stir fry:

  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 large white onion, cut into strips
  • 3 peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely diced
  • Baby bok choy, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 little can water chestnuts (they too where taunting me)
  • Snow peas (they came in a full strawberry basket, not sure of the weight)
  • 12 oz. box Japanese Buckwheat Noodles, cooked according to package

Since I again picked up some unnamed pepper at the market here’s a  picture of the veggies before chopping them up.  The peppers smelled and tasted like bells, 2 regular bells would be about the same thing.


  1. Heat up the oil at medium high heat in wok (a really big frying pan would probably work, but any excuse to use the wok!
  2. Add onions, garlic and peppers and stir often for 4-5 minutes
  3. Add snow peas and water chestnuts, cook an additional 3-4 minutes
  4. Add bok choy and stir until wilted
  5. Turn off heat and stir in the noodles and sauce

Serve with soy sauce

This was pretty good with soy sauce.  I had really expected it to be spicier, I thought the red curry paste had a major kick but it really didn’t.  I’ll have to aim for a super-spicy Thai dinner another time!

I also made a very simple fruit salad to have both as breakfast and as a snack for the week.

  • 1 cantaloupe, cubed
  • 1 honeydew, cubed
  • 1 very small watermelon, cubed
  • 1 large bag of red grapes
  • Sweetened coconut

Mixed in a large bowl and sprinkled with the sweetened coconut when served.  I think I’ll slice a banana into it too next time I have a bowl, it makes it feel more breakfast-y!

The easiest way (that I know of) to cut a cantaloupe or honeydew:

First cut it in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon, then cut each half into strips. Cut the melon into bite size pieces without taking it off of or cutting through the skin and then peal off the skin with a small knife. I’m not sure I’m explaining it very well, so here’s a picture before the last step.  🙂

CantelopeBoth of these recipes make quite a bit for my little 3 person household, but I like to eat leftovers for breakfast and lunches all week. I package the extra in meal size portions to bring to work so I don’t have to think much about it for the rest of the week.

Yay to thinking less early in the morning!