Trick or Treat: Moria says, “Treat, please!”

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Happy Halloween & happy end-of-MoFo, y’all! Goodness, this month has been a busy one. I’m pretty happy with my MoFo experience this year; planning and prepping make all the difference in the world – who knew!? However, I have to admit that my past couple of posts haven’t been particularly inspiring. But I hope to make up for it with this one. It’s not super exciting, but it will feature a cute dog photo, so that pretty much guarantees that it’ll be worth your while… right?!

As a childless chica who lives in an apartment in suburbia, I sadly don’t get to experience the joy of taking a kid trick-or-treating or handing out candy to adorably dressed little kids (along with way-too-old-to-be-trick-or-treating teenagers wearing hoodies and ski masks). So I propose that we expand the scope of Halloween and allow dogs to go trick-or-treating. Just imagine it – the streets full of dogs of all sizes and breeds, running around chasing treats while decked out in the most ridiculous costumes their pampering humans can find. IT WOULD BE SO CUTE. However, this is sadly not a reality yet, so instead I will just spoil my own puppy with lots of delicious treats. She doesn’t have a costume, but she already looks like an Ewok, so maybe that’s good enough. Because I want only the best for my dear little girl (…), I will feed her homemade treats, free of preservatives and icky chemicals. And they will be Halloween-shaped:

A mason jar tipped on its side with small yellow-orange dog biscuits spilling out; they're in the shape of pumpkins and ghosts. In the background is a pumpkin.

Pumpkinlicious!

I used this recipe from Melody over at Little House on the Vegan Prairie; it features pumpkin and peanut butter and is perfect for cutting into cute little shapes. Following my Halloween theme, I made little pumpkins and ghosts for my doggie. They looked good to me, but what did Moria think when she tried them?

A small, grey, furry dog taking a treat from my hand.

Puppy-approved!

She loved them! Pumpkin and peanut butter are a no-fail combination for most dogs, I think. I actually halved the recipe, then halved the dough and baked one of those halves and froze the other. That way, I can refill her treat jar at a moment’s notice! Genius!

So even if my Halloween is lacking in sugary sweets, Moria at least will enjoy some yumminess. Have you ever made treats for your pets? Do you get to give out candy (or take your own kids trick-or-treating) tonight? How was your MoFo experience?!

And with that, I’ll say goodbye to Vegan MoFo 2011. Expect a few days’ break as I recover and catch up on Google Reader… it’s so full I’m scared to look! Ciao!

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Somewhat Simplicity Sunday: Roman Candle Pizzeria

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Oh dear! I’m sneaking in right under the wire for this one. I’m just jumpin’ in with a quick review of Roman Candle Pizzeria, a vegan-friendly local pizza joint. Their make-your-own pizza option is great, as they have a variety of delicious toppings and a really tasty spicy fireworks sauce that livens up any creation you come up with. But my go-to option for those times I’m too lazy to create my own concoction is the Vegan Destroyer, which is topped with spinach, toasted pine nuts, mushrooms, red onions, red pepper puree and fresh basil.

Three stacked slices of pizza on a plate.

Pizza 4 me!

I usually get it with the fireworks sauce, but my most recent encounter with the Vegan Destroyer (pictured here!) featured their regular sauce because the spicy sauce always make my nose run, and  S and I were dining out with another couple and I didn’t have a Kleenex with me. :) It was good, but not quite as tasty as it is with the fireworks sauce. Still, I enjoyed my dinner last night and my lunch leftovers today. That’s the best part of ordering pizza, isn’t it?

Do you have a vegan-friendly pizza place near you? What’s your favorite pizza topping?

What I Ate (or, drank) in Italy

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Hello, all! I’ve returned from Italy, but you’ll have to wait for a big food recap post. Instead, here is a one-photo summary of my Italian eats:

A bottle of red wine next to a small mason jar filled with wine.

Heh heh.

Yes, that is grocery store wine from a mason jar. Yes, I’m joking; that’s not all I ate in Italy, but I surely did enjoy the wine! :) I’ll be back with more soon.

Product Review: Candle Cafe’s Tofu Spinach Ravioli

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As a brown-bagger lunch-boxer who brings a lunch to work 90% of the time, I’m a big fan of leftovers. Rarely do I prepare a sandwich or salad for lunch; instead, I just take whatever dinner leftovers are hanging out in my fridge or freezer. Sometimes, though, I like to take a turn down Lazyface Road and buy a frozen meal for lunch. My company makes it easy; our on-campus “general store” stocks a plethora of Amy’s frozen foods, a few of which are vegan. They’re my go-to option when I forget my lunch or didn’t have a chance to prepare anything. But last month I forewent the ease of purchasing my lunch at work and instead went grocery shopping with a meal in mind. I’d heard buzz in the blogworld about the new line of Candle Cafe frozen entrees, and I was intrigued.

So, armed with a Whole Foods LivingSocial voucher (woo!) and a $1-off coupon from the Whole Foods Web site, I perused the frozen foods aisle and eventually choose the Tofu Spinach Ravioli. I’d already decided against the mac and cheese after reading a review at The Noochy Noodle and discovering that the cheese was basically Daiya, of which I am no great fan. The other options (Seitan Piccata and Ginger Miso Stir-Fry) sounded tasty, but I make stir-fries fairly frequently and I wasn’t in the mood for seitan. Ravioli it was! Based on the packaging, it looked pleasant enough:

Image from the Candle Cafe's Tofu Spinach Ravioli packaging. A pile of circular ravioli are heaped high on a white plate. Each ravioli has a light coating of red sauce, and the plate is garnished with basil. No Daiya cheese shreds are visible.

Image courtesy the Candle Cafe Facebook page.

I lunched on the ravioli on a Tuesday, and I’ll admit to feeling slightly shameful as I quickly scurried from the kitchen back to my office – I pride myself on eating healthy, homemade meals, and I felt a little silly walking around with a microwave-cooked bowl of pasta. Once I reached my desk and was in the clear, I went to town with an open mind, ready to enjoy and appreciate my nearly effortless lunch. Unfortunately, things didn’t shake out that way.

The ravioli itself was just okay. The pasta was perfectly tender, but the filling lacked luster – I could barely taste the spinach, mostly because it was overwhelmed by the marinara sauce. And by “marinara sauce,” I mean Daiya cheese. Mislead by the frozen meal’s packaging (see above) to expect a humble sprinkling of Daiya shreds atop a judicious serving of sauce, I was disappointed to instead discover an underwhelming red sauce covered in a patchwork blanket of squishy, half-melted cheese. Although that image might appeal to the Daiya-lovers among you, it gave me a faint feeling of pre-eating queasiness. But I persevered, and the few ravioli I found that weren’t drenched in Daiya-infused sauce were unobjectionable.

Unfortunately, most of the ravioli were bathed in cheesy sauce, and I just found the greasy, fatty flavor of Daiya to overwhelm all the other flavors in the dish (such as they were). My attempt to eat around the Daiya was a spectacular failure, so – much like with my previous Daiya experience – I ended my lunch with an unsettled stomach and a lingering distaste for the meal I’d just finished. Outraged by the misrepresentation of their product on its packaging, I modified the image I showed you earlier to more accurately depict the package’s contents:

Same stock image as before, except this one's been Photoshopped with little yellow lines and a haze of yellow to represent cheese.

Appetizing!

Heh heh. Clearly I wasn’t a fan of this meal, and I can’t see myself ever buying it again. Nor will I try the plain mac & cheese, especially if it’s basically Daiya + pasta. I might give the other cheeseless meals a chance, but only if they’re on sale or I have another coupon – their size (and, as far as I know, quality) doesn’t justify their price.

Have you tried any of the Candle Cafe meals? Have you eaten at the real Candle Cafe? I can only assume that their in-house meals are much, much better than their frozen options!

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently in Italy. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!

Recipe Showdown: Mac & Cheese

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A few weeks ago, I pitted three brownie recipes against one another in a battle for the title of Best Brownie. Joanna Vaught’s aptly named All-Time Very Best Vegan Brownie recipe handily defeated its foes, what with its fudgy, rich results. But what if you’re (gasp!) not in the mood for chocolate? What if you want something more savory, something carb-laden and creamy? What if you’re craving… mac & cheese?

Fear not! My second recipe showdown puts three rock-star mac & cheese (henceforth known as M&C) recipes to the test. First, my criteria – I think a stand-out M&C recipe must be…

  • Creamy. I want creamy, smooth sauce that perfectly coats my noodles. Too little sauce results in dry noodles, while too much sauce is more like cheese soup with pasta.
  • Neutral-flavored. Now, I don’t mean “bland;” I just mean that I don’t want to taste vegetables or potatoes in my sauce – I want it to have a unique flavor all its own. I know that a vegan M&C won’t taste like dairy cheese, but I don’t want it to have a recognizable flavor that is distinctly not cheesy.
  • Not incredibly heavy. This is where I might differ from many of you, and this is why I can’t do Daiya-based M&C. Basically, my body doesn’t tolerate fatty foods well, and I don’t want to feel sick and stomach-pained after eating a bowl of M&C. However, I still want my M&C to satisfy my comfort food cravings, to fill the creamy, cheesy pasta-shaped void in my tummy.

A tall order? You bet. But I tried the three recipes that people suggested as their favorites and that hold spots of reverence in vegan circles, so I had high hopes. Let’s see what I discovered!

First, I tried arguably the most popular and well-praised recipe that exists today:

VegNews’ Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

VegNews calls this “[t]he best mac ‘n’ cheese on the planet. End of story.” The reviews on the recipe are off-the-wall enthusiastic, and I’ve seen countless bloggers fall at the proverbial feet of this recipe, singing its praises and calling it the best thing they’ve ever tasted. But could it live up to the hype? I was willing to give it a chance, but I was skeptical.

Close-up of a glass casserole dish full of mac & cheese. The corner has a bit scooped out, and you can see it in the background on a plate.

The oft-praised VegWeb M&C!

PROS:

  • Pretty creamy.
  • Includes veggies, so you can trick yourself into thinking it’s slightly healthy.
  • No nutritional yeast. (This isn’t necessarily a pro for me, but I think NY-free recipes are crucial – not everybody loves the yellow yeast! It’s an acquired taste for many.)

CONS:

  • Breadcrumbs overwhelmed the top layer.
  • The Dijon mustard was too noticeable.
  • I felt heavy and a little sickish afterwards. :(

OVERALL GRADE: B

I hope I don’t lose friends over this one, but I was a little underwhelmed with this recipe. The recipe only calls for 1/4 t of Dijon mustard, but for some reason it was all I could taste. It definitely didn’t meet the “neutral taste” requirement, which is really my main beef with it – that and the stomach-ache it gave me. That said, the flavor wasn’t bad, and it was definitely creamy enough to satisfy the M&C need. It was S’s first taste of a non-dairy cheese sauce, and although he never would’ve been fooled into thinking it was real cheese, he also said it was tasty and that he’d make it again. It was a little labor-intensive for an average weeknight, though.

Next, I tried…

VeganYumYum’s Mac & Cheese

This recipe holds a special place in my heart – I used a variation of it the first time I ever made vegan M&C. Nostalgia! I’d never made it without modification, however, so I followed the recipe to a T[ablespoon… ha ha ha] this time around.

Close-up of a small bowl of macaroni and cheese with a glass of almond milk in the background.

This is an unattractive picture. I'm sorry.

PROS:

  • Despite the 1/3 C of Earth Balance (!!!), it didn’t taste overly heavy to me.
  • The sauce actually has a unique, enjoyable flavor.
  • Appropriately “gooey” texture.

CONS:

  • Post-baking, it seemed to lose some flavor.
  • 1/3 C of EB. :(
  • Makes way more than 2-3 servings. This mightn’t be a con for others, but I had lots of leftovers, and I wasn’t planning for them.

OVERALL GRADE: B-

That grade is for the dish as a whole. S described it as “bland,” although his portion was microwaved and a few days old. Straight out of the saucepan, the cheesy sauce tasted really, really good to me – it had a unique flavor that totally fit my “neutral flavor” criterion. But baked? It just tasted… bland. I don’t understand what happened! If I were grading the sauce alone, it’d definitely get a higher grade, but the dish as a whole just doesn’t merit it, alas.

The third contender was…

The New Farm Mac & Cheese (the Get Sconed! version)

This M&C is legendary. It has a storied history with roots in the out-of-print New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook. The original recipe is floating around the web somewhere, but once I heard that it contained ample amounts of both margarine and oil, my nerves failed me and I sought out a slightly less heart-attack-inducing variety. Jess’s version fit the bill, with its much-reduced fat content (which is not to say that this is a low-fat recipe!). I followed Jess’s recipe, although I didn’t make it gluten-free, and I didn’t add any of the optional add-ins.

Baked mac & cheese in a green square dish with a plate of M&C in the background.

This picture is even uglier than the previous one.

PROS:

  • Very, very creamy – totally satisfied that creamy-pasta urge.
  • Neutral flavor, pretty typical to any nutritional yeast-based sauce.
  • Coated the pasta nicely.
  • BONUS: According to S: “Congeals just like cheese when cold.” Ha!

CONS:

  • The neutral flavor very nearly crossed the line into bland territory.
  • Contains both margarine and oil. Blurgh.
  • The minced garlic bits were a little odd and detracted from the texture.

OVERALL: B+

S said that this one had “a cheese-like tanginess that permeate[d] more than the others.” Incidentally, this recipe contains the most nutritional yeast compared to the other two. Hmm! He didn’t know that, because he wasn’t with me when I made the second two recipes. I’m not sure I’d call it tangy, but maybe that’s because what he called tangy just tastes like nutritional yeast to me. Generally, though, this one filled the M&C void most strongly for me. Initially I thought it was a little boring, but it really grew on me – straight out of the oven, it was incredibly creamy. I have to begrudgingly admit that the oil might be the secret ingredient for maximum creaminess.

So, coming in a hair above the others, Jess’s version of the New Farm Mac & Cheese won this showdown. Ultimately, though, my ultimate mac & cheese might be a combination of the VeganYumYum and the New Farm varieties. I think that the tomato paste in the VYY recipe really adds a unique flavor to the cheese, while the olive oil in the NF recipe makes the sauce incredibly creamy. I think I’m going to experiment on a hybrid recipe! :)

I would be remiss in posting about this showdown if I didn’t mention The Noochy Noodle, a blog devoted solely to tasting and reviewing vegan mac & cheese. Whether it comes from a box or from a fancy-pants vegan restaurant, Kristen is dedicated to reviewing all the vegan M&C she can find. It puts this tiny little showdown to shame, really. I highly recommend you check out The Noochy Noodle for all your vegan mac & cheese needs!

What’s your favorite mac & cheese recipe? How many have you tried?

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently in Italy. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!

Carnival Squash Risotto

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My encounters with risotto have been few and far between, but each has been magnificent. There was the one I ate the last time I was in Italy, definitely not vegan but definitely delicious. And then there was the sublime Sweet Pea Risotto I had at Karyn’s on Green this past August when S and I were in Chicago for a weekend. I still think about that dish every so often, sighing gently as I recall its delicate flavor and creamy texture. But, despite my thus far excellent encounters with risotto, I’ve never made it myself. Having read anecdotes that made risotto-cooking out to be a behemoth of a task, a David vs. Goliath-esque challenge, I feared that I’d somehow bungle it up and mar my otherwise perfect relationship with the dish.

So it was with a mix of excitement and trepidation that I discovered a recipe for Carnival Squash Risotto just as I was beginning to fear that the aging carnival squash on my dining room table was withering on the inside, secretly rotting while its outsides remained colorful and bright. But because MoFo is a time for pushing your cooking comfort zone, I decided to try the recipe, and I’m very glad I did!

Head-on view of a bowl of creamy risotto, dotted with roasted squash seeds and topped with three basil leaves.

Rice-y goodness.

This was seriously so much easier to make than expected. Sure, I had pay close attention to my rice, but it only took a half hour of intermittent stirring, not the hour of intense labor I’d imagined. And the results were fantastic. I used Imagine’s No Chicken broth instead of my usual powder-based broth, and I think it made a difference – the rice was incredibly flavorful and – dare I say it? – creamy. I loved the little bits of squash that didn’t quite meld into the dish, but I do think the dried oregano and basil were both a little strong – they nearly overwhelmed the squash’s flavor. The fresh basil on top was a great touch, although the roasted squash seeds were more for appearance than anything – carnival squash seeds are a little too small to be worth roasting. Overall, though, this was a smashing success, and I’m happy that my third risotto encounter was a positive one, just like the first two.

What kind of risotto have you made? What cooking techniques scare (or scared!) you?

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently in Italy. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!

Trail Mix, Customized for my Raisin-Hatin’ Tastes

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Hi, friends! Last Saturday I showed you all the travel-friendly snacks I packed for my trip to Italy. One of those snacks was a big ol’ container of homemade trail mix, and I promised to share a little more about it. So here I am, sharing. :)

Rather than buy a pre-packaged bag of trail mix, which inevitably contains 50% raisins (gag) and dairy-laden chocolate chips, I took matters into my own hands and put together a customized mix for myself. Isn’t it pretty?

Close-up of a small bowl of trail mix; in the background is a small paper bag filled with chocolate chips.

Mixin' it up.

All of the components came from my beloved co-op. A few were pre-bagged, but most came from the bulk bins – I loved that I could pick and choose exactly what I wanted in the proportions that I wanted. My trail mix features:

  • Slivered almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dried, unsweetened pineapple
  • Dried cherries (leftover from my muffins)
  • Dark-chocolate-covered Thompson raisins (the only way raisins are acceptable)
  • Dark chocolate chips (drool)
  • A sprinkling of rolled oats

I left the sweets and fruits untouched, but I tossed the oats and nuts (most of which were raw) with a tablespoon of coconut oil, then threw in a dash of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Then I dumped the whole mess on a baking pan and roasted it for ten or so minutes. The result? Well, the seasoning is subtle – almost a little weak – but still noticeable. Perfect for a munching by the handful. Next time, I’ll make two batches – one savory and one sweet.

Top-down view of the same bowl of trail mix.

Head-on.

In days of yore, I might’ve included those fried, tiny sesame sticks you can get in bulk bins or in many pre-packaged trail mixes. But I overdosed on a giant container of them last year and haven’t been able to eat them since. Blurgh.

What are your essential trail mix components?

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently in Italy. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!

Muffin Monday: Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffins

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This fourth installment of Muffin Mondays might be my best yet.

A series of serendipitous purchases gave me the ingredients to create a sweet and sophisticated muffin, one that rises above its more homely brethren and exudes an air of calm self-assurance. This muffin is damn tasty, and it knows it. If this muffin were a person, she’d be a Hamptons-going, slinky-gown-wearing, champagne-cocktail-sipping dilettante. But she’d also be grounded – her participation in philanthropic events would be genuine, and she’d donate that slinky dress to one of those centers that gives out free prom dresses to low-income teenagers. Basically, she’d be a kind-hearted, generous, lovable lady.

Who is she? Why, she’s a Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffin, of course.

A close-up of a muffin on its side. In the background is a tin of muffins and another lone muffin.

Well, hello!

Exuding a sweet almond perfume, she’s filled with tart dried cherries and dark chocolate chips, ensuring that each bite offers a unique sensation and combination of tastes. You know you want her. So why don’t you make her?

Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffins
(makes six good-sized muffins)

1/2 T ground flax + 1 1/2 T warm water

3/4 + 1 T C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 C almond meal
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt

1 1/2 t almond flavor (see note below)
1/2 t vanilla extract
2/3 C almond milk
Heaping 1/3 C vegan sugar

1/4 C sliced almonds
1/3 C dried unsweetened cherries
1/4 C dark chocolate chips (seriously, use the good stuff here – I got mine from the bulk bins at the co-op)

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 6-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flax into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Add the wet ingredients and the sugar to the flax mixture and stir well, making sure all wet ingredients are mixed. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just incorporated. Fold in the almonds, dried cherries, and the chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin – it’ll come up to the top of each well. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Ingredient note: Oddly, my co-op only carries almond flavor, not almond extract. The main difference seems to be that the flavor is slightly thicker, as its base is glycerin (eek?). The brand I have uses natural almond essence, so I know that at least this isn’t a totally synthetic almond flavor. Small comfort, but there it is. Next time I’ll shop elsewhere – or maybe my co-op was just out of stock! If you make these muffins and use almond extract, you might want to cut down the amount given here.

Another close-up of a muffin.

Nom nom.

There you have it. My most decadent muffin yet, one I know I’ll recreate in the future to enjoy again and again. I hope you will, too! These are best eaten warm with a smidgen of Earth Balance, when the chocolate chips are a little melty and soft. Mmm.

What’s your favorite muffin variety? Have you ever bought a lesser version of a food item (e.g. almond flavor instead of almond extract)?

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently in Italy. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili: Delicious and easy, except when I forget to buy key ingredients

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Howdy, y’all! I’m posting today about a meal I made on Tuesday but photographed on Wednesday – this early sun-setting business really puts a cramp in my blogging. By the time I finished making my dinner, the light was pale and weak, so I had to wait until the next day to photograph it.

The early sun-setting was problematic, but it didn’t help that I had a little hiccup in my meal-making, either. I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work to pick up a few ingredients, but I forgot one: limes! I realized my mistake about halfway through the cooking process and after a quick internal debate, decided to walk to the grocery store (which is only five minutes away) and pick some up. Because my roommate was out of town and couldn’t keep an eye on my food, I had to turn my stove off and halt my dinner-making. I’m just too paranoid to leave my appliances running when I’m gone! Luckily, I think some of the residual heat from the burner kept the cooking process going.

So, what was I making that desperately required limes? Why, chili, of course! Specifically, this Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili, which was thoughtfully recommended to me by my best friend’s sister. Thanks, Margaret! :)

A head-on shot of a bowl of chili next to a spoon.

Chili-licious.

Now, you might be thinking, “But Kelly, surely you could have just omitted the limes and had a perfectly tasty chili!” And… maybe that’s true. But in the spirit of giving recipes a fair shot at impressing me, I’ve been trying to stay true[r than usual] to ingredient lists during MoFo. And four whole teaspoons of lime juice is quite a lot to omit, you know? I think I made the right decision, too – I could actually taste the sour lime-y tang in my chili, and it was a fantastic counterpoint to the smoky beans and the sweet potatoes. Overall, I really enjoyed this recipe – it was pretty painless to make (excluding my own folly, of course), and resulted in a hearty chili that’s different than most chilis I usually make. I’ll definitely try this again, probably in a few months’ time when it’s cold and snowy and I just need something warm. :)

What do you do when you realize you don’t have all your ingredients mid-cooking? How often do you follow a recipe to the letter?

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently in Italy. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!

Vegan on the Go: Travel Snacks!

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One of my most popular posts is this one, where I got really excited about finding clearly-labeled vegan to-go items at a shop in O’Hare airport. Judging by my search terms and stats, lots of hungry vegans have Googled “vegan food O’Hare” and landed on that post, and I’m really happy to have helped them find something to eat during a long layover. It’s so irritating to be ravenously hungry in an airport and have to wander up and down the terminal in search of food, getting even hungrier and hungrier as you lug the carry-on suitcase you didn’t check because you’d be damned if you’d pay $25 so some burly dude could haul the tiny piece of luggage you can just as easily shove into an overhead compartment. Inevitably, when you finally give up and shell out $4.50 for a measly bag of crappy trail mix filled with GMO peanuts and way too many raisins, five minutes later you stumble on a stall that has vegan burritos or a really awesome salad or something actually filling. It’s so annoying.

Anyway, I’m hoping to avoid that pain as I travel today. As you read this, I am journeying from Madison to Minneapolis to Amsterdam and, finally, to Florence. Thanks to good ol’ layovers, I’ll be en route to Italy for nearly a day (give or take a time-change or two). Because I don’t want to deal with checked baggage on my international flight (and because I’ll only be gone for a week), I’m just taking a carry-on, which means I will be lugging it around the airport. To avoid the aforementioned annoying food-searching situation, I’ve taken matters into my own hands and prepared on-the-go, travel-friendly snacks for myself. Behold:

A backpack with food spilling out of it: Five Larabars, one Halo candy bar, one apple, a bag of coconut-covered date rolls, and a container of homemade trail mix. There's also a reusable cloth hand towel with a flower and the word "SUSTAIN" printed on it. All items are labeled in the photograph.

Vintage E.F. Tours backpack ftw.

The key to my travel snacks? Protein. Protein is what fills your tummy and keeps you satiated, so I made sure that my homemade trail mix (details in a post to come!) is filled with protein-laden nuts, as are the Larabars. I’ll eat the apple early on in my travels so it doesn’t get bumped and bruised, and I know it’ll make me feel nice and healthy. And I’ll use the cloth hand towel Lisa gifted me last year during a swap so I don’t have to waste lots of paper. It’ll totally offset the environmental unfriendliness of the airplane in which I’ll be flying, right? Yeah.

And the Halo candy bar? Well, there’s no lofty purpose to that one! It’s for pure pleasure, baby. I’ve never actually had a vegan candy bar (other than regular ol’ chocolate bars, of course)!

Close-up of the Halo candy bar in its packaging. It's the Rocky Road variety.

CANDYYYYY!

I’ll be sure to share my thoughts about the Halo bar, and I’ll let you know what vegan eats I encounter along the way. I’ll also report back on the vegan meals I’m served (or not served…) on KLM – I requested vegan meals from a very kind customer service agent who assured me all was set, but I’m not expecting anything grand. Who knows, though – maybe I’ll be surprised!

Anyway, that’s all for now. You should check out my “Vegan on the Go” tag for lots more travel tips! My favorite: carry your toothbrush with you. I always feel SO much cleaner and less grungy and travel-worn when my teeth are sparkly clean and minty fresh. And as I said in my first-ever travel post (be kind; it was early in my blogging days!):

[…a]nd if brushing your teeth in a public bathroom skeeves you out (which, to be honest, is pretty much the case with me), you can wait ’til someone cleans one of the restrooms and then dart in there, or you could bring some of those wet wipes and wash the handle, or you could use bottled water and not even touch the handle at all… don’t let germ phobia keep you from feeling minty fresh!

Word.

What are your favorite travel tips? What food do you bring when you travel? What’s your favorite vegan candy bar?!

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently traveling. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!