A day in the life of an animal-loving foodie

New life, new job, new adventures!

So, I’ve literally been gone for a month!  I went to a job interview over 2000 miles away and decided to take a roadtrip back!  There is little I like more than travel….I LIVE to experience the world.  Unfortunately this meant no way to blog, but now I have a laptop, a new job, and a license to travel!  I’m looking for travel tips, and I’ll blog about places I go and weird things I’ll see, because (lets face it) I attract, nay, seek out the weirdest things in life.  For instance, my favorite hobby: letterboxing.  It’s a secret hobby…look it up.  Very fun, kind of a global treasure-hunt.  I’m no longer broke as a joke, so I will be buying endangered species dark chocolate!  I will be eating food from gas stations and stopping to look at the world’s largest ball of twine!  Look out world, HERE I COME!

I don’t have any photos, but two of the places I hit during my last roadtrip that were pretty memorable to me were:

The V Spot Cafe (Dallas, Texas) :  Very cute little hole-in-the-wall cafe.  Prices are up there, but super friendly staff and the food was WORTH IT!  I had the firecracker sushi ( I destroyed it) and a “Green Eyed Lady” which I generally call a green monster.  Only weird thing, the smoothie wasn’t really cold, and when I asked for ice, they said that they didn’t have any.  interesting…

Fern Flavors From the Garden(Charlotte, NC) This place is adorable, and has a great atmosphere.  Mason jar chandeliers, a wall of plants, and bamboo pieces made the place seem calm, but edgy.  The garden burger was melt-in-your-mouth orgasmic (pun possibly intended) and the quinoa salad had me scarfing it up like it was my last meal.  Reasonable prices, accommodating staff.  I wish I could go back and try more!

One thing I found that was great for traveling: I was going through Target and found packets of Justin’s nut butters you could buy in single servings.  I grabbed a maple-almond butter, and a chocolate hazelnut butter.  I LOVED the almond butter, but the chocolate one seemed like it should have graced a donut, instead of the bagel I put it on.  Most continental breakfasts at hotels nowadays are difficult as a vegan.  Very few had any fresh fruit, none had non-dairy milk (although that didn’t surprise me), and oatmeal packets were 50/50 vegan and cream-filled.  I had apples, bread, and nut butter, but that gets old fast.  I’ll need some tips before I hit the road again.  At home I usually make my own oatmeal with rolled oats and lots of fresh ingredients.  Maybe it would be worth buying some packets to bring next time.

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Haaa haaaa haaa….us silly vegans :)

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El Paso Zoo kills yet another animal

   Cleo, one of the California Sea Lions at the El Paso Zoo was killed after being given five times the normal anesthetic dose for a sedated procedure last Thursday.  This is not the first time that Dr. Victoria Milne has miscalculated the dose for a procedure, and is not even the first time that an animal has died because of it.  Zoo staff have been scrambling to keep this under wraps, but as it is a city zoo, medical documents are part of public records and must be released.  As a former Zookeeper of this very zoo, I am happy that the zoo is being brought to account for this negligence, and can only hope that the past offenses are also uncovered.  Steve Marshall, the apathetic zoo director, appeared on several news programs after the death first occurred to proclaim that Cleo would be quickly replaced.  I hope the shameful behavior of this zoo is further uncovered (check out idausa.org to see some of the reason’s the zoo is in their “Top 10 Worst Zoos”)  and that the zoo is banned from receiving any further animals  until it can prove competency in caring for them!  Feel free to contact Steve Marshall to let him know how you feel about the situation, and ask for disciplinary action.  He can be reached at 915-521-1850.  I know first-hand that there are keepers at this zoo, and every zoo, who would give up everything to care for these animals they love, but the management is currently more interested in profit and public image than caring for the animals in an ethical manner.  How do you feel about zoos in general?  How should something like this be handled?  My first thought is congratulations to the whistle-blower!  Someone at this zoo cared enough to alert the media in the hopes that this would not continue to be swept under the rug.  Bravo.  You put your job at risk to speak out.  I tip my hat to you.

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Mexican Calzones

Sunday I was having a craving for Mexican, but my honey was looking forward to calzones, so I had to combine them!  I used the pizza dough recipe from my previous post, and just split the dough in half to create 2 calzones.  Now, I’m a crazy person, and you should split it 4 ways to make normal-sized calzones.  Mine were HUGE, like 2 pizzas.  I had to save half for the next day.  So I used some organic diced adobe-styled tomatos, some vegetarian refried beans, chopped up some green and red onions, used Smart Ground Mexican style veggie protein crumbles by LightLife, and lastly Follow Your Heart nacho flavored vegan cheese.  It was easy as pie to just roll out the dough in a circle, layer on the ingredients, fold it over and seal the edges, and bake until golden brown!

  Remember to add a couple of slits into the top so that steam can escape!  This would have been even better with some mushrooms, spinach, peppers, etc.  I DID smear avocado all over the top of it before I chowed down, but I don’t think that’s something that should be cooked inside.  I wanted to smear on some Tofutti vegan sour cream, but when I pulled it out from the back of the fridge, it was FROZEN!  I was pretty disappointed, especially because it says, “Do Not Freeze,” right on the package.  I’m gonna have to try to adjust the temperature now….

Anyways, Enjoy!!!!           Its too big for my plate LOL


“Meaty” Vegan Western Bacon Cheeseburger for the Carnivore in your life

   This is a recipe I found in The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions, which is a book I HIGHLY recommend, especially if you’re just starting out your vegourney…veg-journey….I know there could be a good word there if it didn’t sound so much like “vagina.”

Anyway, this book teaches you how to take recipes you’re already used to making, and veganizing them by finding suitable substitutes for the meat, dairy, egg, etc. ingredients.  Some of the recipes do employ some “fake” ingredients like the TVP (textured vegetable protein) and bacon bits in this one, but most of them are fresh veggie-centric recipes.  This one in particular is great if you live with an omnivore because the burger has an awesome meaty chewiness to it that you don’t always get in a veggie burger.  I also love that it uses a flax egg, because that adds some extra omega-3 to your diet and helps bind the whole thing together.  A flax egg is just ground flaxseeds mixed with water, and it forms kind of a gelatinous goo that’s thinner than an egg, but healthier and totally cruelty-free.  The “cheesy” flavor comes from nutritional yeast, which adds vitamin B-12 into your diet, and is just all-together yummy.  ALSO, the liquid smoke in this is important!  It smells strong when you’re cooking, but you just can’t please an omnivore without it. (That’s a lie…)  It automatically makes the brain think MEAT.

Makes 4   1/2 pound manly burgers, or 8   1/4 pound sissy burgers

1 cup TVP granules

1 cup vegetable broth

1/4 cup imitation bacon bits (check your labels or make yourself)

1 cup vital wheat gluten (THIS is where the meaty chewiness comes from!)

1/8 tsp liquid smoke (found in the BBQ section of your grocery aisle)

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1 T garlic powder

1 T onion powder

2 T creamy no-stir nut butter (I like almond)

2 1/2 T ground flaxseeds mixed with 3 T warm water (do this first and set aside for a few minutes)

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I never said it was a healthy recipe)

1/4 cup BBQ sauce

salt and pepper to taste

Bring broth to a boil, then pour over TVP, cover w/saran wrap, and let sit for 10 min.  Let cool before handling.

Combine TVP with the remaining ingredients and knead together for 5 minutes (use those muscles to work off that oil!)

Let the dough rest for a few minutes, then shape into 4 big-ass patties

Choose method for Cooking: Grill 5-7 min per side over med-high flame, saute in oil 5-7 min per side until crispy, or bake at 350 F on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet for 20 minutes on each side.

Goes great with baked beans, onion rings, or I like to make home-cut fries.  🙂  Don’t forget to top with all your favorite fixin’s and a whole-grain bun!



Images of El Paso and Pasta a’la Mama

Its been a strange, strange ride here in El Paso.  There are things that I love about it (SUN) and things that I hate…I’m hoping not to be here much longer.  I’m too far away from family, good food, and the trees and grass that I grew up adoring.  Here are a few of the things that I liked seeing, and then I’ll talk about the pasta.




So when my parents were here, I had a little more pasta than I usually do because we spent so much time catching up that dinner became “what’s already in the pantry+what’s already in the fridge.”   I had some yellow bell peppers, zucchini, onions, and mushrooms in the fridge and some whole wheat fusili pasta and canned diced tomato in the pantry.  We threw a pot on to boil and started to saute the peppers/onions until they were soft.  We added in the mushrooms and cooked until brown, then threw in the zucchini last.  I love cast iron; it distributes heat evenly and adds iron back into your food.  I have a really crappy electric stove in my apartment that wants to tip pans slightly so the oil is always pooled in one side.  The cast iron is the only pan heavy enough that the tilt evens out a little.  We dumped the canned tomatoes and lots of Italian seasoning into a dish and microwaved it 5-6 minutes to cook it and reduce the sauce a bit.  Meanwhile, the water boiled, the pasta got cooked, and it all came together.  It was very fast and very easy.  I usually try not to use the microwave in my cooking (although I will re-heat things with it if I ever have leftovers)  but occasionally it does make things more convenient.  This would ideally have been served with a kale salad, but we were low on greens, so I just handed out beers and no one noticed! 🙂

Sea salt sprinkled on was nice, but we keep sodium low by using lots of other seasoning, and I did use some vegan Parmesan...the undisputed king of cheezes.  It kept the omnivore fiancee happy, so my work there was DONE!  Yeah, I know the pot is dented…that’s what happens when it gets dropped too many times.  I never claimed to have any grace.

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Skinny Bitch Butternut Squash Ravioli

  First an update on that pizza I made last week.  ORGANIZATION is very important in a kitchen, and something I’m still working on.  When I dove into the freezer to grab some frozen Follow Your Heart Vegan Mozzarella, I actually grabbed a bag of frozen coconut shreds!  I had no idea, and it got mixed in with some fresh mozzarella, so I didn’t know until it came out of the oven all toasted!  I’ll tell you, it didn’t ruin the pizza!  It was from a coconut that I had opened a month or so ago, not the sweetened kind that you get in the baking aisle.  It actually added a really interesting flavor!  I wouldn’t have tried it had I known, but it does make me wonder if I should try a pineapple/coconut pizza in the future…


Anyway, my parents were here visiting this week from Chicago, and my sister had gotten me the Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook.  I wanted to try out the Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Sauce, and it seemed like a perfect dish for omnivores, so I gave it a shot.  It was SO EASY!  And delicious, although not that great for you, really.  You can make your own pasta, which they have a recipe for, but they also mention you can pick up wonton wrappers at your local grocery store.  I tried Sprouts, but they didn’t have any, so I had to go to the dreaded Walmart.  I hate Walmart for so many reasons, but they HAD the wonton wrappers.  There were about 48 in a package for $2.75, in the produce section.  Perfect.

You need 2 cups roasted butternut Squash (you can buy this frozen, but I just peel and dice the squash and roast it on a cookie sheet at 400 F for 35 min)

1 1/2 sticks of Earth Balance

1/2 Cup Panko breadcrumbs (and she actually suggests using Panko instead of Ezekial bread or other kinds of home-made breadcrumbs)

1/2 Cup Vegan Parmesan

salt and pepper to taste

Wonton wrappers (Her’s were huge, mine were smaller store-bought ones)

I bunch fresh sage with stems removed

So you blend or food process the squash and 1/2 stick of Earth Balance until smooth, then mix in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and seasoning.  Then you just spoon a teaspoon of the mixture into the center of a noodle, wet the edges, and fold over to seal.    You boil them for 5-6 minutes, and the sauce is just melted Earth Balance sauteed with the sage.  They were awesome 🙂

Highly recommended.  And once you know how to make ravioli, you can put ANYTHING into it, and use a butter sauce, like this, or a marinara…whatever.


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Pizza Night

Living with an omnivore isn’t always easy…especially when we make meals that have to be 1/2 vegan, 1/2 not.  Pizza is one of those times when we have to get creative!  We have found a happy in-between by making our own.  Pizza crust is a breeze to make, and already vegan.

Pizza Crust

4 cups flour (I like wheat, he likes white, so we do 2 cups of each and mix it)

1 1/2 cups warm water (not hot!)

1 T active dry yeast

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and seasoning to taste

You test the yeast by adding it to the warm water and letting it sit for a few minutes.  It should get kinda bubbly/frothy if its good.  If not, start over with new yeast, or live with the fact that the dough won’t rise…I’ve done both.  Then you mix it all together into a big dough ball, and set aside for a while to let it rise.  I can’t usually wait more than an hour.  Then you just spread it out in your pan (cast iron is GREAT for making Chicago Style Deep Dish!) or onto your stone and add toppings.

We usually use a plain old tomato paste and add our own salt/garlic/oregano, but pizza sauce is easy to find everywhere too.  I love to put fresh baby spinach on my side and sprinkle with some sea salt.  We both love onions and peppers, and I’ll also add fresh minced garlic and mushroom to my side.  We used some red bell pepper to “cut” our pizza in half so his ham/sausage/or pepperoni doesn’t touch my side.  CHEESE is very important!  The cheese will make or break your pizza.  A lot of vegans like Daiya, I don’t for this at least…I think it has a funny aftertaste.  What I’ve found that tastes great and melts perfectly is a brand called Follow Your Heart.  It only comes in blocks at my local Sprouts store, but it’s easy enough to grate into shreds.  I even accidentally used a Monterey Jack one instead of Mozzarella and it was still good!  Bacon bits are a great way to keep meat-eaters happy, and they’re usually vegan.  Yep, no bacon is actually in Bacon Bits…it’s a soy product with liquid smoke.  Liquid smoke is awesome…it always gives the impression of meat when there is none.  Perfect for this Barbeque state!  I don’t use them all that often, I prefer less processed food (says the person using fake cheese) but every once in a while never hurt anybody.

The Pizza goes into an oven at 500 F  for16 minutes, turning it 8 minutes in.  It comes out crispy and delish!

BTW this is WAYYYY cheaper than ordering out or even frozen pizza, and you can see it’s big enough to take up half my stove.  There are always leftovers…so for vegans on the cheap, like, me, it’s a good “Once a Week” traditon.  🙂

TTFN:  Back to filling out applications and sending out resumes…So far I’ve set up an interview with an animal-rights group, a test for an animal-control officer position, and gotten good feedback from an animal sanctuary.  Wish me luck!


Hello world!

Everyone has a blog nowadays, so I thought I better get crackin’!  A little about me.  I’m a Midwestern girl who moved to El Paso for a job…it didn’t work out.  There was a 6 month probation period that was going smoothly until I got injured…2 weeks before my probation ended.  It was a very physical job, so rather than waiting for the diagnosis ( I was fully healed in a week) they decided to cut their losses and can me.  I went from having a pretty BA job, to working part-time at the local Old Navy.  It’s not fun, if you were wondering 😉  So, with a degree in Animal Sciences, and experience with zookeeping and being a vet tech, I’m back on the job market.  I would love to end up in Austin, San Antonio, or Dallas….El Paso is AWFUL!  They have a terrible view of animals, refuse to spay and neuter their pets, and sneer at the word “vegan.”  I do realize I moved to Texas, but it’s not all barbeque and trucks here 🙂

Anyway, I’d like a place to be a foodie, a gossip, or a mentor.  I guess I’ll post about whatever, and add some of my favorite resources.  Let me know if you have questions, suggestions, or if you think I’m out of line.  More to Come…