Cold season

Being sick blows! No boxing, no gym, no Shutter. I did watch a ridiculous amount of Food Network though.

It's nice to finally be able to get paid days off, but I'm not looking forward to the work that will be waiting for me after missing just one day. I would take another day off, but that would give me too much anxiety. We have a tiny staff, so each of us has a lot of responsibilities. I already received two calls today from my boss because she had some questions.

I made some feel-better soup last night, inspired by my stuffy nose and a pile of vegetables that needed to be used up before the next CSA box. It contains 2 kinds of fingerling potatoes, sweet potato, kale, carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, cabbage, and alphabet pasta.

I also broke open a pomelo that had been sitting around for a while. It looks much better than it tasted, because it was kind of dry.

Today, out of boredom, I baked another batch of raspberry coconut muffins, this time with whole wheat pastry flour. (And yes, the first batch was already gone in less than 48 hours.) I think I prefer the cake-like taste of the all-purpose, but these are still pretty good, and probably a little bit better for me.

I've eaten nothing but soup and muffins all day. And some french fries I discovered in the freezer. That's healthy, right?

Raspberry coconut muffins

Tart raspberries are a nice change from the classic blueberry, while a subtle dose of coconut adds a smoothness to the crumb and a crunch to the sweet topping. These aren't exactly healthy and belong in the "muffins as an excuse to eat cake for breakfast" category, but who cares!

Raspberry coconut muffins
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tbs. cornstarch
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. soy milk
1/2 c. coconut milk
1/3 c. unrefined cane sugar
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. lemon juice
1 c. raspberries

1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 tbs. unrefined cane sugar
3 tbs. desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
1 tbs. canola oil

Preheat oven to 400F and lightly oil a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a small bowl, use a fork or your fingers to crumble together the topping ingredients and set aside.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the milks, sugar, oil, extract, and lemon juice. Add the dry mixture and stir until combined. Gently fold in the raspberries.

Spoon the batter into your prepared tin, and sprinkle each muffin with the topping, patting it down slightly.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Pumpkin leek soup

I had an opened can of pumpkin left from the cake and another of sweet potato (I had given up on roasting my own after the second failed cake) sitting in the refrigerator and decided it was meant for soup. Its creamy, yet very low fat, and the pumpkin is just barely naturally sweet, without relying on the traditional "sweet" spices it is usually cooked with. Feel free to sub fresh sweet potatoes if you don't have canned, or pre-roasted; just chop and add with the potatoes.

My dad said it tasted as good as Gary Danko, but I would argue that it's better, due to the fact it's not full of death.

Pumpkin leek soup, makes about 6 servings
1 1/2 tbs. olive oil
1 large clove garlic, sliced
1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 c.)
1 small Russet potato, chopped (about 1 c.)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried sage
1 bay leaf
3 tbs. flour
4 1/2 c. vegetable broth
3/4 c. pumpkin puree
3/4 c. sweet potato puree

salt/pepper to taste
red pepper flakes (optional)

1 leek, chopped and rinsed
1 tbs. olive oil
pinch of salt

Heat the olive oil in a large pot, then add the garlic, onion, potatoes, salt, and herbs. Saute over med-high heat until the vegetables begin to caramelize. Add the flour and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Pour in the broth and boil for about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and blend the soup until creamy (ideally with an immersion blender). I left the skins on for added nutrition, but you can skin your potatoes first for a creamier soup.

Stir in pumpkin and sweet potato and simmer for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. I added about 1/4 tsp. of pepper flakes for a pinch of heat.

Saute the leeks in olive oil with a pinch of salt, until they just begin to caramelize.

Immediately before serving, sprinkle the leeks over each bowl.

Pumpkin cake

This was a disastrous week of baking for me, after 3 failed attempts to veganize a sweet potato roll cake. I had originally wanted to make one for my friend Alison, but ended up adopting a turkey for her instead.

But I was given the task of bringing dessert to my parents hours for Thanksgiving and after the 11 pm failure the night before, I found a pumpkin cake recipe in the Millennium cookbook to use instead. I followed the cake recipe, subbing 5 spice for cinnamon and less ginger, made a vanilla cooked buttercream, and dressed the cake with some ground, toasted pecans.

It's denser than I would like, but I think that's the fault of my oven and its inability to stop reheating itself until it's at least 75 degrees over the set temperature.

November 21 CSA

I'm sure the novelty will settle down at some point, but right now I'm still very excited about my weekly CSA box.

This week they were very generous with portions due to the holiday, and I was happy to see so many mandarins, because they were delicious! I'm also very excited to enjoy the last green beans of the season. We received: carrots, Asian pears, Satsuma mandarins, broccoli, leeks, sweet potatoes, green beans, cabbage, spinach, potatoes, and butternut squash.

The CSA newsletter said to discard the green portion of the leeks, which was indeed news to me. I had always just eaten them. They may be a little fibrous, depending on how they're prepared, but I think they taste good. Besides, a little extra fiber won't hurt!

Dinner that night was a satisfying spinach and 'fu scramble with lemon cream sauce and skillet fries with leeks.

Happy Belated Halloween!

I know, I know. I'm a little behind, but I've been sitting on these pictures forever and just now have had time to put them up. Shaudi threw a birthday/Halloween party last month and her Martha Stewart tendencies went insane and she made an amazing selection of treats.

We got together the weekend before and made Melisser's candy corn. They tasted great, but I don't recommend doing this unless you love candy corn, or have tons of free time. It took the two of us about 4 hours to just cut and shape the candies. Our fingers were sore!

The recipe made over well over 100 pieces.

I got bored with shaping kernals, so I made a few pumpkins. And an ear of corn, since it was the first thing I could think of to make with the colors we had on hand.

There were so many sweets at the party it was wonderful, in a disgustingly indulgent sort of way. Vampire-bite cupcakes, orange chocolate cupcakes, snickers, candied apples, chocolate pretzels, sugar cookies, caramels, peanut butter cups, and probably a bunch of other stuff I'm forgetting.

We also each got sent home with a goody bag filled with leftovers.

Celebration for the Turkeys

Last year Shane and I attended the annual Celebration for the Turkeys at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, CA. It was so much fun, we knew we had to make it a tradition. This year, I was happy our friends Danny and Shaudi could join us. We spent hours meeting friendly animals, feeding turkeys, and enjoying a Thanksgiving meal.

Many thanks to all of the wonderful volunteers and donors who make events like this and the entire organization possible.


I got my first CSA box today!

Carrots, Satsuma mandarins, salad mix, French Fingerling potatoes, baby bok choy, Granny Smith apples, garlic, Fuyu persimmons, purple broccoli, spinach, and Tokyo turnips.

My box comes from Terra Firma Farm, in Winters, CA. I did quite a bit of searching before I found a farm that I wanted to join. It seemed like everywhere I found also sold eggs, meat, sheepskin, and other things I wanted no part of. I was excited when the coordinator at Terra Firma assured me that their farm only had produce and nuts.

I roasted some of the potatoes, carrots, turnips, and garlic with rosemary, nutmeg, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. And threw in the turnip greens and some asparagus. Yum! The carrots were so sweet and the potatoes were nice and creamy. I've learned I'm not a big fan of turnips though, so it's a good thing Shane likes them. Turnip greens are good though!


Holy crap, I love stuffing. That's all I really need to say about that.

2 tbs. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 3/4 c.)
2 c. chopped celery
2 Granny Smith apples, diced (about 2 c.)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 sourdough baguette, cubed (about 6 c.)*
1 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 - 2 1/4 c. vegetable broth

* I highly recommend a variety like to Semifreddi's three-seed sourdough. If you don't have something similar in your area, add 1/2 tsp. of fennel seeds to the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the garlic, onion, celery, apples, and salt. Saute over medium high heat until everything is lightly caramelized. Add the herbs and bread, and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes, until some of the bread gets a little toasty.

Add the vegetable broth (more or less, depending on how moist you prefer your stuffing) and stir until everything is moistened. Taste a bit, so you can adjust the saltiness, since broths will vary.

Scoop into a lightly greased 9 x 13" baking dish and bake for 40-45 minutes. Eat piping hot!

Vietnamese curry

Possibly one of the best meals I've made in a long time; nostalgic home cookin' at its best. I had to force myself to stop eating it (or at least, distracted myself with pecan cookies.) Curry powders will vary a lot; the kind I like to use contains organic coriander, tumeric, cumin, mustard, pepper, fenugreek, and cayenne.

Vietnamese curry, makes about 4 servings
10 oz. firm tofu
2 tbs. cornstarch
canola oil
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2" segments and then in half lengthwise
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium sweet onion, roughly sliced
2 c. chopped potatoes (I used a combination of Russet and Golden Sweet, but any starchy variety will work.)
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbs. yellow curry powder
1 - 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
13.5 oz. water
1 1/2 c. chopped carrots
cilantro to garnish

Slice the tofu into bite-sized pieces and toss with cornstarch. Fry in a small amount of canola oil over medium-high heat until lightly golden. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. If you substitute another protein source (seitan would be nice), you can skip this prep, and just use it on its own. I just prefer the texture of lightly fried tofu.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan (one that has a lid). Saute the lemongrass, bay leaves, garlic, onion, potatoes, and salt over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes. You want to get a little color on the potatoes, but not caramelize the onions and garlic to death. Mix in the curry powder and cook for another minute or two.

Pour in the can of coconut milk, then fill the can with water to get the last of that coconutty goodness, and pour the water in as well. Add the carrots and place the lid on the pan. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender. Toss in the tofu and continue to simmer over medium heat for a few more minutes, to heat the tofu again. The potatoes will release a little starch into the sauce, but it really shouldn't be eaten too thick. If it starts to thicken up too much, you can add a little water or unsweetened soy milk.

At this point, salt and pepper to taste. I threw in some sriracha as well, to up the heat.

Garnish with fresh, chopped cilantro. You can serve with rice, but I much prefer a toasty, sweet baguette, one of the few perks of French Imperialism.

Pecan shortbread

If you've seen my apartment, or just my arm, you might notice that I like bats. A couple weeks ago, I stopped in at Spun Sugar to pick up a few things, and ended up with a bat-shaped cookie cutter. I decided to put it, and the pecans left from the pumpkin cupcakes, to use.

Spooky! (And Canada, or weed, depending on whom you ask.)

Pecan shortbread
1 c. pecans
1 c. margarine, room temp
1/2 c. brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 tbs. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. cornstarch
1/4 c. powdered sugar
pinch of salt

Lightly toast the pecans over medium heat for a few minutes, until fragrant. Set aside to cool.

Cream together the margarine, brown sugar, vanilla, and maple syrup. Sift together the dry ingredients, then mix them into the wet. In a food processor, pulse the pecans to a medium meal, then stir the pecans into the dough.

The dough will be very soft. Cover your bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Working with small portions of the dough at a time (leaving the rest in the fridge) on a generously floured surface, roll the dough to a little more than 1/4" thick, and cut with your cookie cutter of choice. Lay cookies on a parchment covered baking sheet. If you're working with a detailed cutter, place the entire sheet in the freezer for a couple minutes. This will help the cookies retain their shape.

Bake for about 15 minutes, just until they begin to get golden around the edges. Using a spatula, move the cookies to a rack to cool. They'll be pretty fragile, but will harden.


Pumpkin pecan cupcakes with 5 spice frosting

I wanted to make something festive for tonight's bake sale, and you can't go wrong with pumpkin in October! I used several recipes from VCTOTW as a loose guide to craft this recipe. The cake is smooth, soft, and tastes like fall. I know, there are a gazillion ingredients, but it really isn't complicated and totally worth it.

Pumpkin pecan cupcakes
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. unbleached flour
1/3 c. heaping cup of pecans
3 tbs. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 c. soymilk + 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
3/4 c. brown sugar, lightly packed
2/3 c. canned pumpkin
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. fresh grated ginger

In a pan over med-low heat, lightly toast the pecans for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside and let cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 12 cup tin with cupcake liners.

In a food processor, grind the pecans into a fine meal. You can add a couple spoons of your flour to keep things moving. Remember, you want meal, not pecan butter!

Sift together the pecans, flour, cornstarch, baking powder/soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Mix the soy milk and vinegar and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, oil, sugar, vanilla, and ginger. Then stir in the soy milk mixture and gently whisk until everything is incorporated. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Pour into your prepared cupcake pan, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. Remove cupcakes to a cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.

5 spice frosting
1/3 c. soy milk
1 tbs. cornstarch
1/3 c. shortening, room temp
1/3 c. Better than Cream Cheese
1/2 c. unrefined cane sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. 5 spice powder
1 tbs. powdered sugar

In a cold saucepan, whisk the cornstarch into the soy milk. Continue to whisk over medium heat until mixture thickens to almost a pudding. Pour into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

With an electric or stand mixer, beat the shortening and cream cheese together. Add the sugar, vanilla, and 5 spice, and blend for a couple minutes. Add the cooled milk mixture in two parts, letting it whip up fluffy in between, then add the powdered sugar. Continue to beat for a couple more minutes. The frosting should be smooth, with no sugar granules left. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Bonus VCTOTW golden cupcakes with vanilla cooked buttercream and shaved dark chocolate:

Show and bake sale!

Come support these bands and buy my cupcakes!

Coconut cake

While an excellent cook, my mom rarely baked. Occassionally, we'd get a treat and she'd decide to buy one of those Pepperidge Farms frozen layer cakes. My sister always wanted chocolate, but I loved the coconut. I wanted to recreate that simple flavor in a vegan cake.

Most coconut batter recipes that I've tried, turn out a delicious, yet dense crumb, and I prefer something lighter. I also had visions of making a 4-layer beauty, but underestimated the amount of batter that would require. If you're feeling up to it, double this recipe and make the cake of my dreams.

Coconut cake
2 1/2 c. unbleached pastry flour
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. coconut milk
1/2 c. canola oil
1/4 c. plain soy yogurt
1 1/2 c. unrefined cane sugar
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1 c. + 1 tbs. sparkling water

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare 2 - 9" cake pans with parchment, oil/flour, your non-stick method of choice, etc.

Sift together the flour through salt and set aside. With a whisk or electric mixer, blend together the coconut milk, oil, yogurt, sugar, and extract well. Stir in the water, then add the dry ingredients and gently mix until all of the batter is moistened. Pour into the two cake pans and bake for about 35 minutes, until it passes a toothpick test.

Remove pans from oven and set on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cake from the pans and let cool on the rack completely.

Coconut frosting
1 c. coconut milk
2 tbs. cornstarch
1/2 c. shortening (non-hydrog), room temp
1/2 c. margarine, room temp
1 c. unrefined cane sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. natural coconut flavoring
~ 1/4 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. desiccated coconut (unsweetened)

In a cold sauce pan, whisk together the milk and cornstarch. Continue to whisk over medium heat, until the mixture becomes almost as thick as pudding. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

In an electric mixer beat the shortening and margarine until fluffy, then cream with the sugar and extracts. Add the cooled milk mixture (which will now be as hard as jello) in quarters, letting it whisk up fluffy in between each addition. Continue to whisk for a few more minutes until the frosting is super fluffy. Add about 1/4 c. of powdered sugar to increase sweetness as desired (optional, though a little powdered sugar will help stiffen up the frosting nicely.)

Refrigerate until your cake is ready to frost.

Once your cake is cool, set one layer on a platter. You can tuck strips of parchment along the edges, to keep your plate clean. Frost the top of the layer, then place the second layer on top. Frost the entire cake, then sprinkle the top and pat the sides with the shredded coconut. Slide out the parchment strips, and you're set!

Vegan eats in the American Southwest

Shane and I just returned from a road trip through Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. Our main impetus was to visit his family in Gilbert (suburb of Phoenix) and Albuquerque (or what should actually be a suburb of ABQ since everything is so sprawling and it is nowhere near the city proper), and to hit up Las Vegas, an obvious choice for a couple of vegan, non-drinkers, non-gamblers.

We knew there were a few spots on Los Angeles that we wanted to (re)visit and I thought the rest of the trip would be a struggle to find decent vegan fare, but we discovered quite a few spots.

Our first night in LA, we met up with friends at Real Food Daily(West Hollywood location). I mainly wanted to go for the Coconut Cream Pie/Cake thing, which they didn't have that night. On previous trips, I had found the food somewhat boring, ranging from decent to bland, hit-or-miss-"I can make this at home" stuff. I guess it's the Herbivore of Southern California. I chose the Caesar Wrap this time, and I think I found the winning dish there.

It was very tasty: blackened tempeh and Caesar salad in a spinach wrap. I chose the house salad as a side (over Caesar, since I was getting that already, or potato). The house dressing was weak though. Shane had the Club and enjoyed it. Our friends had the TV dinner, live wrap, and meatball/pasta dishes and seemed content. It was way too dark in the restaurant for decent pictures.

The next morning, we tried to go to Green Leaves, and then Flore, but both were still closed and we wanted to get on the road somewhat early. Instead we went to M Cafe de Chaya, one of our favorites. The food is pretty pricey, but everything we've had there so far has been excellent. Shane had the Muffaletta with a side of lentils.

I had this healthy breakfast:

Green tea pistachio pound cake

Pecan roll

Everything was delicious. We also bought coffee cake to go, but I forgot to get a flick of that.

In Arizona, we found Green: New American Vegetarian in Tempe. From the website, we were expecting to find a somewhat bougie place, but it turned out to be super casual, hip spot in an unassuming strip mall. If it were in the Bay, there would have been a row of fixed gears parked out front.

We started off with crab puffs and spicy buffalo "wings."

The crab puffs ("a house favorite, mock crabmeat, vegan cream cheese and secret spices") were a little disappointing, since the won ton skins were generously stuffed and the center of the filling was still cold after a dip in the deep fryer. I really wanted to like the buffalo wings, which has a really nice texture, but were insanely salty. The cucumber ranch dressing was also really watery.

I had the Texas Moo-shroom po-boy.

Messy but tasty, although again, super salty. Yay for skinny fries, though the menu called them "thyme fries" and I didn't see or taste any thyme.

Shane had the Original G Spicy po-boy, which he thought was ok. "It's like fast food."

The highlight however, were the Tsoynamis: huge servings of vegan "tsoft tserve" stirred with a variety of toppings.

Mine was a coffee coco loco: vanilla soft serve with coffee/ground coffee beans, chocolate syrup, and vegan cocoa puffs. Shane had the vegan s'more, with ricemellow creme and graham crackers. You could also get plain soft serve in 8 or so flavors (fruits, chocolate, vanilla...). Overall it was a nice place: generous portions, good prices. It wasn't the healthiest meal, and way too eager with the salt shaker, but I suppose that fits the bill with their goal of comfort/fast food.

The next day, on our way out of Phoenix, we stopped at Mandala Tea Room in Scottsdale. I have to add that what I saw of Scottsdale looked like Disneyland, or a movie set. Maybe it was the ridiculously hot weather, or because it was a random Thursday morning, but the streets were empty and immaculate. One of the few people we did see was a young man scrubbing an Arabian horse fountain.

The Tea Room is connected to a spa and boutique that sells the type of merchandise that would attract people like the self-proclaimed "wellness educator" sitting a few tables away (white people obsessed with Eastern medicine and philosophy).

None of the entrees on the menu really jumped out at me, so I decided to have two appetizers: Tortilla Soup and a combination of Tempeh Lettuce Wraps and Live Teriyaki Wraps.

Now, I'm all for organic, seasonal produce, and the idea of letting produce shine on its own, but this was essentially hot tomato water with some beans and corn. If it weren't for the salt on the chips that I let soak into the liquid, it would have been difficult to down. The Tempeh Wraps were ok. Tempeh has a very distinct flavor and texture, that I'm not really a fan of unless it's baked or fried, but the dipping sauce was nice. The Live Wraps were excellent, even without any added dipping sauce, which was way too heavy on the shoyu. I wish I had gotten just the Live Wraps instead of the 50/50.

Shane had the Tempeh Fajitas.

He thought the salsa fresca was great, but that they should have been more generous with the tempeh, instead of loading the plate with beans and rice.

For dessert, we had a chocolate cake and a pina colada truffle.

The cake had a creamy tapioca filling, which was really nice. I'm not usually a fan of chocolate cake, but this one wasn't too sweet, which I enjoyed. The crumb was a bit dry, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that it was from a cake that had been sliced the previous day. The truffle was ok; the pineapple filling was a bit too sweet for my taste.

In Albuquerque, we stopped at the Whole Foods on Wyoming Blvd. NE, to stock up on foods we could prepare on our own. We were excited to find vegan apple cake slices.

Super moist, with nice autumn spices, though a bit too sweet on the frosting. It was mainly refreshing to have something that wasn't Black China, which is great, but a little tired since it's everywhere up here. We ended up going back the next day to get another slice.

In Santa Fe, we ate at Body Cafe, another place attached to a boutique, spa, and yoga studio. (Where would vegans eat if it weren't for hippies?) This place isn't all vegan, but they do have quite a few options.

I had the Asian Curry Bowl.

It was basically an enormous pile of brown rice with some julienned vegetables, firm tofu, and seaweed, and reminded me of college co-op food, with a little fancier presentation. Heavy on the whole grains, greens, and muted tones; light on flavor; and could have been cooked for about 15 minutes less. Probably a nice balance to all of the cake and fried foods though.

Shane had the Tempeh Plate.

The yams were nice, as was the lemon-walnut sauce, but the tempeh and steamed vegetables were in a similar co-op tradition.

Dessert was again a highlight: raw berry "cheese"cake and chocolate torte.

Thankfully we got out of there before whoever had been setting up a PA system on the stage started performing whatever it was he was going to perform.

Vegas was frustrating at first. We spent the first evening walking all over the place, and returned to the hotel when almost everything was closed. We were forced to hike back out on the Strip and settled for overpriced burritos.

The next morning, however, brought the mecca of Ronald's.

Just look at the shiny case screaming my name! The staff assured us that everything except the cake and old fashioned style donuts were safe.

We were disciplined, unlike some people we know, a just had one each.

A plain glazed for me (heaven) and an apple burrito (tasted like a turnover) for Shane. More on Ronald's in a moment.

We found a small natural foods store called Rainbow's End. I swear I was looking at a website of theirs a little while ago, but I can't find it now. The store features mainly supplements and herbs, with a few food items, but we had come for the small cafe that is attached.

I chose the Greek Pizza, with soy cheese instead of conventional, which came with a salad.

Holy crap they were generous with the Follow Your Heart, which made the dish a bit greasy, but it satisfied my pizza craving 600 miles from home and my choice of a ridiculous number of vegan pizzerias.

Shane had Raw Tacos, which he likened to being conned into eating salad with his hands, but he did enjoy the nut-based cheesy filling.

For dinner we went to Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay, which was created by Hubert Keller, of Fleur de Lys in San Francisco fame (and Top Chef!), a man who seems to worship things like Kobe beef and foie gras, yet creates a menu with an item called the "Vegas Vegan."

It's essentially a pile of grilled vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, tomatoes) "creatively" stacked between two portobello caps to resemble a burger. I think this can be filed under the "it said vegan, so we had to try it" category. It was ok, I suppose, minus the sogginess and the lack of flavor, except a dash of balsamic on the eggplant. And minus the loud music and being surrounding by flat screens displaying American Football. And my fries were cold. But it said vegan!

The next morning it was back to Ronald's to stock up on donuts to bring back for friends. I even packed plastic wrap, so we could wrap the bakery boxes to delay staleness.

You're looking at: glazed, chocolates, sugar twists, a giant apple fritter, giant nut-covered somethings, jelly-filled, custard-filled, some twist thing, maple bars, chocolate bars, and an apple burrito. We also got a dozen glazed holes, a custard-filled, and a maple bar to eat there.

We stopped at a Whole Foods to get some real food before we left town. It was enormous and I have never seen so much plastic surgery in my life.

I was excited to see this sign:

until I realized it was directly above tubs of hard-boiled eggs and bacon?!

They did have a great number of vegan options, including a chicken-analogue called Gardein. Shane got a piece of jalepeno-lime, and we both got salads. Pictured with the Gardein is something called a "Buddha Ball," which was a ball of tofu disguised with sesame seeds, tricking us into thinking it would be tasty. And they didn't have any vegan cake slices! Boo.

I also had a tempeh tamale, which was a little dry, but pretty flavorful.

Back in LA, we met up with some PPK folks for jackfruit tacos at Pure Luck. Shane was also intrigued by the fried pickles, which should really be called "a couple of pieces of fried pickles on a giant platter of fries." (Shane is requesting I write more details about Pure Luck...they will come when I'm less tired.)

We also went across the street to Scoops for gelato.

Coffee!!!! Without chunks of crap in it!!!

Our final morning, we made one last stop at M Cafe with our friend Ben.


Their focaccia is simply amazing.

We also had a banana-chocolate millefeuille, which has an amazing texture, but I could do without the bananas.

And strawberry shortcake: