Monday, August 31, 2009

My East Coast Travels, Post Two

So, of course, now I'm starting to forget exactly what I did next....But it was something like this:
I got on the train on Friday to head to my next destination: Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 

My dad and his twin sister had their 60th birthdays on July 19 and they were celebrating with a big family gathering on Aug 1. My dad has 9 brothers and sisters (one sister is now deceased) and most of them have at least 3 kids and then those kids have had kids, so, yeah, large family. When I was young, we would take family trips to Ohio (where my mom has family) and Pennsylvania. But that seemed to stop around age 15 or so and since then I have rarely seen first cousins or aunts and uncles on my dad's side. One of my uncles, Mel, lived in the same Florida town as we lived so I'm somewhat close with his three boys. When I went each summer I normally would hang out with Susanne, a cousin about 6-8 months older than I. When I stopped going, we grew apart. She's now married with a couple kids and we don't keep in touch. My sister Kim and I were worried that we would have trouble knowing people's names, but fortunately my aunt Elma had already thought of doing name tags with everyone's name and what family they were a part of. Apparently, we're not the only ones who don't keep track of everyone's families....

I should mention that my dad's family is on the conservative side of Mennonites. Most of them wear conservative dress, such as women in dresses and with their hair in braids (little girls) or pulled back with a covering on top. I grew up with this, so it's not strange, but it's still intriguing and Kim and I spent the day taking pictures. My sister has dreads and so was very much of interest to them. The little girls would crowd around her, touching them and asking questions about them. They also had a lot of fun checking out her iPhone. 

Of course, we had to check out Intercourse along with the towns Blue Ball, Paradise and Lititz before leaving.

I was dropped back off at my friend Niff's in Philly when we dropped off my sister at the airport there. It was great hanging out with Niff one more night before heading to Harrisonburg, Va. We ended up going to Cantina Los Caballitos for dinner. I had heard a lot of good things about them and my friend was also a big fan. Plus it was right down the street from where she lives...
I ended up getting the vegan fajitas, which I sorely wished came in half orders. I didn't ask though, next time I'm there I'll ask. $14 is expensive (my dad and mom had just given me money...i was feeling a little rich. plus chicken-style seitan and tofu!! yum!) and also, I wasn't terribly hungry. They also feed you chips with TWO delicious salsas and I totes scarfed them before our meal came. We ordered a pitcher of blood orange margaritas as well. 

I, sadly, was only able to eat one fajita before asking for a doggy bag. So sad...It was real yummy and I wish I had been able to eat the leftovers the next day. We spent the evening walking around and we stopped at Tattooed Mom for a drink. That place is really cute. It's got great ambiance (rockabilly a little, but not terribly so) and it looked like it had some good vegan eats. All the tables had Dum-Dum lollipops and cheap toys, the kind you get from your dentist. Like the plastic leaping frog...

The next morning Niff dropped me off at the bus stop and I was on my way to Harrisonburg, Va (via D.C.) for my friend Amanda's wedding. I had a good time catching up with Amanda. We've been friends for about 7 years and met through InterMenno, a program we did where they put you in placements in Germany, Switzerland and Holland. You work at various types of places, such as nursing homes, family homes/businesses, etc. We were in Bad Oldesloe together and were pretty much our only companions, not a lot of youth there....

She took me to The Little Grill Collective. It's like our Red & Black here. Worker owned, community minded, etc. I had a terrible experience here. Bad service, undercooked food. I wanted to love it and my friend said she's never had such a bad time here.

The bread here looks toasted, but do not be deceived!! It was actually soggy. The $1.50 extra fries were undercooked! You know, when the fries have just started to brown but are still light colored and not crispy and weird textured insides? gross! I didn't even attempt to eat them all. 

Sad face...

The outdoor wedding was great and no major problems except for the electric going out twice when someone tripped on the cords.

Me and the beautiful bride
After the wedding, I got a ride to D.C. to hang out with my friends BK and Becca. I wound up at Sticky Fingers Bakery, of course. Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of my eats there. Sometimes I just get bashful about pulling the camera out....I got a iced vanilla soy latte (which was HUGE! I don't think they asked me what size, but yeah...maybe 20 oz, if not more) and the English Muffin Tofu-egg and Sausage sandwich. They have them in their fridge and then you can self-heat them up in the microwave if so desired. It wasn't the best thing ever, but I love that kind of thing and would love if my dear Sweetpea would do something like that. I also got a Toasted Almond cupcake to go and ate that while at the airport. The cake itself was a bit dry, but altogether I enjoyed it.

I went to other places, like Lancaster Brewing Company (with my friend Jared, who I also did InterMenno with...i had a fruit beer. it was good) but perhaps I'll end up mentioning them later....I don't feel like it right now.

It was a good trip and thanks to everyone who hosted me and fed me!! I was so happy to come back home where it was no longer ungodly hot. I will end this post with one last picture...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Amy's Wraps

Picture taken from Ally

So I made a spontaneous buy when I was at New Seasons the other day. I was doing what you're not supposed to do, hungry whilst grocery shopping. Selected Amy's frozen wraps and burritos were on sale for 2/$5. I remember back in the day when Amy's pockets were priced under $2 and now you can't even find them on sale for that. At the time I worked at a small natural food store and the tofu pot pie pocket or tofu scramble was my back up lunch. The pot pie pocket is the tastiest pot pit I've ever had. (Whiffies is a close second.) 

Anyways, back to my review....The sale signs caught my eye and I saw the Indian Spinach Tofu Wrap. It didn't say "nondairy" on the front, which made me curious because what would be nondairy about that kind? So I looked on the ingredient list and it says in parenthesis "vegan" first thing. I brought it home and ate it right away. The filling is almost 100% spinach, which is fine by me. Some tofu chunks are thrown in for a protein kick. I microwaved it and next time would probably do the microwave/toaster oven mix. I did have that unfortunate lukewarm center, though both ends were nicely hot. The flavor is really excellent in these! I think it I like it better than the pot pie. The spices are just so right on.

Nutrition facts: 310 calories, 14 g fat, 11g protein, 70% Vit A, 25% Vit C, 15% Calcium, 15% Iron. 

My East Coast travels, Post One

Written whilst on journey:

I am currently on a bus, headed to D.C. No, there's no wifi, I'm just writing something now to blog later. I may get nausea from doing this, so I'll probably have to stop. All my electronics are starting to be really bad at keeping a full battery. When I turned on my computer it was at 97% and 5 minutes later it's at 88%. I am playing iTunes while I type (I forgot to charge my iPod last night so I was very low on power when I got on the bus.) so that's got a little something to do with it. But my battery has just been going wonky...

Anyways, so here's how my "vacation" has been going: Last Tuesday I got to the Portland airport at the butt crack of dawn, known to some as 6:30. I arrived in Philadephia at midnight, where my friend of 8 years, known as Niff, picked me up. Before going to her house, we stopped at Center City Soft Pretzel Company. Every night at midnight they start pumping out fresh, hot pretzels that the sell wholesale or retail. They used to be $0.10, but now they're the spendy (pick up that sarcasm?) price of $0.35. Ridiculously cheap, am I right?? Niff checked with some of her veganlike friends to confirm their veganness, which was awfully nice of her. Straight from the huge oven....mmm....salty, bready, deliciousness!

The next day we went downtown after getting latte from her favorite coffee shop (I don't remember the name...Altera, Altima? something with an A...they had one vegan sandwich option, I didn't get it, but it sounded nice). We walked around downtown, stopping in at Urban Outfitters, H & M and various stores. I was in awe of all the old buildings/churches. I love old architecture and Philly is just full of it. I could spend a lot of time, just walking around Philly and taking photos....Eventually we got to be starving and we decided to go to the Reading Market (something like that...), which is an inside market with many different booths and eateries. We came across Basic 4, which is an all vegetarian stand run by some Asian ladies. The service was slow as all get out, but I did end up getting free vegan cheese on my Philly "Steak" Hoagie ($7.76 with add on onions and peppers). You order and pay them and then you take your food to the food court area or take it to a park or something. We ate inside. My friend got the Carrot Tuna sandwich, which doesn't actually have tuna in it. It's finely shredded carrot (it looked like what you find in the juicer after you juice carrots) with lettuce, tomato, cayenne and other stuff i don't remember. I thought it was a very refreshing summer sandwich and would definitely get it if I went again. That's if I didn't get my Philly steak sandwich again. I really liked it! It was on a just-right toasted multi-grain hoagie with seitan, the added on sauteed onions and peppers and then the vegan cheese had been melted and kinda gave everything that gooeyness. I loved cheesesteaks growing up. Mom and I would go to Vandy's in Sarasota just about once a week. The mouthfeel was very reminecent of those Vandy's sandwiches. $8.50 (what it would've cost with cheese had I paid for it) is pretty steep for just that sandwich, but it is big and it is yum.

Philly Cheesesteak deliciousness...
Niff and her Carrot "Tuna" Sandwich

That night we went to South Philly Tap Room, where they have many vegan options, but, alas, I wasn't hungry after snacking on leftover pretzels. I got the fries which totes weren't worth the $5! I was pretty disappointed in them. Maybe they cost $3.....either way, they kinda sucked and I was sad. 

The next day we went again to Niff's favorite coffee shop with her friend Eleanor. Then we went to her friend Liz's house where I met Liz and her adorable 8 month old Elzie (spelling?). Liz made a tasty vegan taco salad for our lunch. Niff and I spent the afternoon just hanging out at her house, where the hot weather couldn't get us down. The day before had just about killed me with it's mugginess. It had been so gross. That night we went to Royal Tavern. I got the Tempeh Club, which was layers of bread, vegan mayo, tempeh and tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato. It came with tots and a pickle spear, all for $8. The sandwich was really good. I had to take a layer of the tempeh and the center slice of bread b/c it was too tall.

POM Wonderful

For awhile there vegans and vegetarians were not so happy with the POM people. It had been discovered/made known that they were testing on animals for research on how their product effects health. According to the PETA write up the tests included balloons being inflated in live rabbits to study erectile dysfunction and baby mice being suffocated to the point of brain damage. So when I was contacted by a POM rep and asked if I would like to give their juice a try I was, for a moment, hesitant. I quickly realized they must not be doing the testing anymore, otherwise why would she contact a blatantly vegan blog? I had never heard what had happened with PETA's boycott, so I asked the rep about it just to make sure and she sent me a link to the PETA article that talks about POM quitting all animal testing. I suppose someone could defend the testing saying that knowing that information is beneficial, but really, why do we need to know how it helps erectile dysfunction in rabbits? I think human research would be more beneficial and less cruel. If you know something about this that I don't, let me know...

Anyways, so I was sent 6 of the baby 8 oz bottles POM Wonderful. I was hoping for a variety of flavors (cherry, blueberry, mango, tangerine), but, you know, beggers can't be choosers...or something. They were free, yo! I don't have a lot of knowledge of other pomegranate juices so I can't rightly compare the flavor. It's a bit like cranberry juice in that it's a very strong flavor that begs to mixed with other liquids....say, vodka or gin...I took a couple bottles over to my sister's house and we mixed it with gin, ginger ale and lime. So yum! I like the size of the bottles because they were just the right size to make 3 mixed drinks. If they don't advertise these at liquor stores, they should. It's always nice to feel like you're mixed drink is actually doing something healthy for your body. 

Sadly, I don't have a picture of any of the drinks I created. Also, sadly, one of my bottles has a lid that won't open. I took it camping with me this past weekend and none of the other 7 people (3 boys, 4 girls) there could make it budge. I'm thinking of taking a knife to it...I'll keep you updated...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Taste Above...Olive Garden

I was at Grocery Outlet the other day and came across Taste Above's Tuscan Marinara Sauce with Veggie Chicken and Penne Pasta. It's a frozen dinner product and I had never seen the brand before. As I always seem to do, I didn't think to check the nutrition facts, which are high in fat (19grams) and calories (320). But there is 26 grams of protein (holy assload of protein, Batman!) and 20% of your suggested daily iron. I did do my usual ingredient check to verify that it was vegan and it passed inspection. They use Gardein for the veggie chicken, a product I had only read about. 

So the taste: It grew on me, but it's not knock-out delicious and it take me eating half of it before the growing on me started. As always in a frozen dinner, the pasta is a bit on the mushy side. The "meat" had an odd mouthfeel and has a bit of a strange flavor. The sauce was watery. But with all that negative-sounding stuff, I will say that I liked it. 

The brand suggested retail price is $5.99, which wtf? I would never pay for such a small portion. Granted the calories and fat are so high you wouldn't want a bigger size. I paid only $2.49, because Grocery Outlet is the shiz. 

So, really, if you're needing protein, try it out, if you're on a diet, skip. If you're me, if I'm desperate...

oh, man

i totally plan on doing a lot of updating soon, but today is just not the day! i already started writing about my trip and it's super long and only half way done so i assume i'll be doing that in a couple parts. Plus there's 2 different products (POM and Vega) that i wanted to post much to do, so much time. Yet i still don't get it done. i didn't have great internet connection when i was travelling so i hadn't been able to post. 

soon, my lovelies...soon. i leave you with a picture of me and my friend of vegan friends (and top Cake Bitch at Sweetpea), Katie.