Thursday, March 27, 2014

Las Vegan Pt 2

For part one of our trip March 2014 to Las Vegas - see here
To see the recap of our trip to Las Vegas June 2013 - see here

After we had Lakeside for dinner our first night, we had high expectations for the rest of the places we set out to try.

Wandering the streets and gambling a bit was a fun way to spend the day - and we actually did well this time money-wise! We're probably the cheapest gamblers you'll meet - I usually walk away when I lose $10...but this time we both were pretty lucky - and Jason did really great before I even got there! Must've been making up for previous trips... :)

All that wandering we stumbled upon an amazing vegan-friendly ice cream shop! This was called Ice Pan and was located upstairs in Harrah's.

Quite a cool concept - you choose what flavor you'd like your ice cream to be, choose your milk (of course, I chose soy), and choose your toppings. The employees were so fun and friendly and really knew what different vegan options I could do and made their own suggestions.

Ice cream action! He basically poured the flavor and milk mixture onto the frozen plate and then continuously moved and slapped the batter until it magically became ice cream! So magical...

End result - perfect delicious vegan ice cream. Mine on the left is peanut butter oreo ice cream and Jason's on the right is mint chocolate with oreo. They were really excited to add oreos to we couldn't say no. 

For dinner on our last night, we set out to Slice of Vegas Pizza located in Mandalay Bay.

So many fabulous vegan options! I didn't know where to start...

When a place has vegan wings...I usually always have to try them. Which is odd - I don't think I ever ate wings pre-vegetarian days...although I was only 11 so wings probably don't seem that delicious to a 10 year old. But I do love hot sauce - and anything with hot sauce now. These were awesome and I was excited for the vegan ranch sauce it came with as well!

My pizza - after debating doing a "Create your own" I chose the Vegan Faux Pie. This had Daiya cheese, red onions, zucchini, squash, roasted pepper, and eggplant. So delicious! And even better with the leftover hot sauce from the wings. :) Hot sauce = good on anything.

Honorable mention places: We went back to Ronald's Donuts again. Can't go to Vegas without a trip there..we also ate dinner one night at Mint Indian restaurant - that despite their "V" for vegan all over the menu..I wasn't anymore impressed than I am with places near us at home. 

Although who knows when we will be back to Vegas this time..we both had a blast and definitely preferred the 80 degree weather in March over the 112 in June!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We interrupt food for...the big 3-0

No, not my 30th birthday (I still have 5 years..thank you...)
but my parent's 30th anniversary.

I try not to get into too much personal stuff on the blog, sticking mostly to food and restaurants - however this warrants a post. I consider myself very fortunate to not only have parents together for 30 years, but to have them be two amazing parents that have stuck by me for my whole life and stuck by each other.

Having parents like mine truly make going home feel like "home" - and having them come up to visit us helps me know that they are only a quick drive away and continue to be a huge part of my life. Shopping trips with my mom are always a fun adventure and meeting up with my Dad for dinners mid-week is something I always look forward to. It's the simple things that remind me of my childhood and how much I looked up to them.

You both have made a wonderful family and we are all so lucky to have you as our parents!

I really look up to their marriage and getting through things together as a great incentive for my own marriage. Although they have 28 years of being together ahead of us, I know it was their parenting and seeing them together that has molded me into who I am today. So Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad and I hope you cherish the next 30+ years! :)

I love you both so much.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Las Vegan pt 1

So we went to Las Vegas back in June 2013 to celebrate my husband's 30th bday...we both had a fabulous time but left thinking we were glad to go, but would be okay if we never had the opportunity to go back since there are so many places we want to travel to! Don't get me wrong - Vegas is a fantastic city with plenty to do and see (and vegan friendly!), but I guess since we went when it was 112 degrees we mostly saw the inside of casinos since walking around would get quite exhausting in the heat.

Fast forward to last weekend - Jason had the opportunity to go to Vegas for a business conference - and I was more than excited to jump on board to accompany him mid-way through the week! He left on Sunday - I met him there Wednesday evening and we spent the rest of the week/weekend relaxing and enjoying the beautiful 85 degree Vegas..ahh much better!

It was really fun to be back so soon and feel familiar with the area and where we liked the previous time we had gone. We didn't feel like such newbies this time around!

Onto the food..since Vegas is SO vegan friendly, I was excited to try out some new places and revisit some of the places we went to during out first trip.

Steven Wynn - the owner of the Wynn and Encore and many other casinos in Vegas went vegan a few years ago and thus added a vegan menu to every restaurant in his hotels! Last time we tried Sinatra which was Italian based food and amazing, so this time we made a reservation for Lakeside (a seafood based restaurant) located in the Wynn casino.

Growing up I remember many a night eating creamy Campbell's New England clam chowder as a child. Although not the most gourmet meal, this meal reminds me of the comfort of home and I was excited to see it as a vegan option at Lakeside! However - due to my high dislike of mushrooms - I asked the server if it was too mushroomy for my taste - and he concluded that it was very mushroom-filled. I knew I would not feel the same comfort from the can that I remembered as a child, so unfortunately I did opt out of that. But for mushroom lovers - do try it! I've heard good things..

As Sinatra started with a bread basket and vegan butter, so did Lakeside. This is fabulous for vegans that usually feel left out of the typical bread & butter basket.

To start, we split the Truffle Arancini with roasted garlic aioli.

These were cute little balls of risotto goodness with a magical vegan garlic sauce. We definitely loved these! Great way to start the meal.

For my entree - I was back and forth between a few dishes - wanting a good mix of veggies with whatever protein. I ended up choosing the Walnut Crusted Gardein Chicken Breast (can they really call it this??) with red pepper coulis and balsamic sherry reduction - and ordered a side of their Grilled Green Asparagus to split with Jason - because I had a fear of not having enough vegetables (vegan problems...).

Somehow even their asparagus was out of this world amazing. No doubt about it - Wynn restaurants are 100% gourmet delicious Vegan food that both omnivores and vegans can enjoy in harmony. So zen..

And as much as Jason had to twist my arm to get dessert (I am a sweet tooth lady and never say no to vegan dessert...) we tried the vegan Carrot Cake option to end the meal with. It was a small piece that was perfect to split and end with - absolutely delicious!


I have two other amazing "Las Vegan" reviews - but I shall save them for the next post to prevent it from being too filled up. But get excited for ice cream made in your face and vegan pizza! :)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Like a room without a roof

Last weekend was exciting since we had my parents come up! Usually we'll try to find a cool place around town to go to dinner with them, but Jason had really wanted to cook instead. Jason is a really great cook - although most of the time it is me cooking the dinners. So when he said he would opt to cook, I knew it would be a good idea!

Over the summer he surprised me with the cookbook Vegan Cooking for Carnivores by Roberto Martin - aka Ellen & Portia's vegan chef.

The recipes all look amazing - perhaps some of them a bit time-consuming and good for a Sunday night meal. Jason had made the Shepherd's Pie for me in the past, so he wanted to make that again for when my parents came up.

Jason stirring the potatoes - with a knife no less. I don't judge how he cooks :)

I added my own contribution with my favorite salad recipe - Asparagus, Almond, and Tomato salad with Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette. It is from The Candle Café Cookbook and I've made it many times as a side for meals. The dressing and additions to the salad make it perfect - although we did not add the almonds this time.

The table was set and the shepherd's pie looked delicious! In my notes for this recipe, I put "Takes a while but well worth it!" Which is very true - definitely not a weeknight meal but so worth it for guests or if you have some time!

Asparagus, Almond, and Tomato Salad with Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette: (adapted from Candle Café Cookbook)
Serves 6
2 1/2 pounds asparagus
6 cups salad greens
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup sliced almonds (I've made this without and still good..but the almonds do add a nice crunch!)

Break off the tough woody ends of the asparagus stalks. In a large skillet, bring enough lightly salted water to cover the asparagus to a boil over high heat. Add asparagus, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 3-5 minutes, just until tender. Drain and chill asparagus while prepping the rest of the salad.
Make the vinaigrette:
1/4 c olive oil
3/4 cup water
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 c fresh dill
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Toss the greens and tomatoes together with about 1/3 c of the dressing. Toss the asparagus in a separate bowl with about 2 Tablespoons of dressing, then place over salad greens. Sprinkle with almonds and add a bit more dressing if desired.

Shepherd's Pie: (from Vegan Cooking for Carnivores)
1 bag of boca meatless crumbles
2 pounds russet potatoes
4 Tablespoons of vegan butter (we use smart balance)
1/2 cup almond milk
1 Tablespoon of chopped chives
sprinkle of salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons of oil
1 white onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large carrot, cut into small dice
1 tsp dried thyme
3 Tablespoons of flour
1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 cup frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees. Place boca crumbles in pot and warm over the stove top. Peel and rinse the potatoes and place them in a large pot. Fill the pot with water to at least 3 inches above the potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are soft.
Drain the potatoes and put them in an ovenproof baking dish or pan. Bake them for 5 minutes, to remove excess moisture and leave the oven on. Working quickly, mash the potatoes. Add the melted butter, warm milk, and chopped chives and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a large sauté pan on medium heat, add the oil and let heat. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic, celery, carrot, and thyme and cook for 3 minutes more.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir in.
Pour the broth into the pan and stir until incorporated. Stir in the boca and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the peas and season to taste.
 Spread mixture evenly into a casserole pan/baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mix from bubbling up. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and bake for 25 minutes.

So yes this dish takes a while, but so worth it! We've made a few other recipes from this book and have been very impressed.