Recipe of the Week

DSCN3092 - Version 2

Twice-baked loaded potatoes with coconut bacon!

Like most women my age I have tried my share of diets over the years.  Starting back when I was in college I put on the predictable “freshman 15”, and I tried many ways to get rid of the weight.  I still remember eating a salad bowl full of fruit one day on The Scarsdale Diet.  Oy.  Eventually though, after having a baby or two I joined Weight Watchers and lost the extra pesky weight for good.  Probably the best thing I learned from WW was what a normal portion of food looked like (3 oz. of meat = a deck of cards).  Anyone know what I’m talking about?

Now that I’m vegan and my gold standard (what I aspire to, not necessarily what I achieve) is a whole foods, plant-based diet, I am often revisiting some of the messages I received in those WW days that have little to do with health and more to do with calorie restriction.  This is a long-winded way of saying that for years I believed that white potatoes were the equivalent of white rice and white bread–empty calories with little nutritional value.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  While there’s no place for white rice and white bread on a whole foods, plant-based diet, that is not the case with potatoes.  In fact, baked potatoes (skin included) are a good source of protein and a bunch of other nutrients.  Click here for a quick overview.  As such I’ve decided to bring baked potatoes back into my dinner rotation.  Oh, and did I mention that I love a crispy baked potato?

You may be wondering about these loaded potatoes.  Aren’t they also loaded with fat? Not at all.  There is a small amount of fat in the almond milk and coconut but that’s it.  Yet, these are as delicious and satisfying as they look.  There are four parts to this recipe:  potato mixture, “queso” sauce, pico de gallo and coconut bacon and it’s very simple to put it all together.  First I baked the potatoes for an hour, and scooped the potato out and mixed it with sautéed onion (I did it without oil), cilantro, liquid aminos and spices.  I also added in about 1/2 cup of black beans and two tablespoons of unsweetened almond milk to make it a bit more creamy.  Then I put this filling back in the potato shells and put it back to bake for another 20 minutes.  To make the queso, I blended almond milk, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, lemon juice, liquid aminos and spices and warmed it all up on the stove.  The pico de gallo is a simple blend of diced tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeño and lime juice.  Finally the coconut bacon is large flake coconut blended with liquid smoke, liquid aminos, maple syrup and water and baked until crispy.   When the filled potatoes were done baking, I spooned the queso and pico over them and added a sprinkle of coconut bacon. These potatoes are simply fantastic and you can check out the recipe here.

This was my first time making queso, pico and coconut bacon.  The queso is truly a cheesy tasting, creamy sauce that would also work well as a dip for veggies or chips.  The pico is tangy and refreshing and I plan to make more to add to salads.  I have to say that while the coconut bacon looks great, I’m not really a fan.  It’s just a little sweet and strongly flavored for my taste.  David loved it though, so if you’ve never tried this vegan staple, I encourage you to make it once and see what you think.  Many folks swear by it.

If you’re a fan of twice-baked and /or loaded baked potatoes this healthy alternative will not disappoint.  And for all you weight watchers out there, it really is okay to eat the whole thing ;).

Recipe of the Week

DSCN3089

Balela!

We haven’t made too many new recipes lately.  During the hot summer we’ve been eating mostly salads with some combination of greens, grains, beans, hummus and avocado.  When we were taking refuge from the heat at Costco (is that anyone else’s favorite weekend errand?) we found a big container of Balela and it quickly became a favorite of David’s.  So I decided to find a recipe online and make it myself.  This way we can control how much oil and salt goes into the mix.

Have you heard of Balela?   Balela  is a Mediterranean-style bean salad.  The basic recipe is a combination of garbanzo and black beans, tomatoes (the Costco version had sun-dried), red onion, mint and parsley.  The dressing is a zesty emulsion of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and jalapeño pepper which has a lovely kick.  The recipe I used is here.  It makes enough for an army so we’ll be eating it for the next week (score!).  This would also make a great Labor Day weekend salad for a crowd.

Even though school is already back in session in Tucson (those poor kids!),  it still feels like summer to me.  I will keep sunning, swimming and eating salads.  If you’re still eating salads where you are, give this one a try.  And let me know how you like it!

Veganism–Simple, Not Easy

images

Unknown-1

I’ve spent a bit of time lately trying to decide on a name for my vegan coaching business.  Aside from having to deal with details like searching for availability of domain names (you’d be shocked what names are actually already taken!) I’ve really had to think about what I want to communicate to the public about both what I can do and what being vegan is about.  I think I’ve settled on something, but I’ll share that in a later post when I’m a little further along in my branding.

As I considered dozens of names and tag lines I wanted to be authentic in how see veganism and what aspects of this lifestyle I wanted to highlight and communicate to others.  As I went through this process the words “simple” and “easy” came up in conversation many times. That makes sense, right?  After all, suggesting that being vegan is difficult is hardly a way to induce others to sign on and give it a try.

Years ago, when I was training to be a community mental health counselor I remember working with clients for the first time, and they often lamented that making changes in their lives was not easy.  While no two situations were the same, it became clear to me that the changes people were trying to make in their lives were often simple yet seldom easy.   For a person suffering from depression, for example, the “simple” act of taking a daily walk could, in practice, be quite difficult.   As I thought about the transition to veganism I realized that it is helpful again to consider the difference between what is “simple” and what is “easy”.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that going vegan is indeed simple, yet seldom  easy.

I can sum up in just a few sentences how to be vegan.  For me, it means eliminating the use of all animal products from my life–for food, clothing, personal care, and entertainment.  It also means promoting alternatives to these things so that others can learn from my example and start to consider how to live without exploiting animals.   Once I decided to go vegan,  living this way became a pretty black and white thing.   If the food contains animals products, no thank you.  If the clothing has leather or wool or silk or down, it’s not for me.  If the product was tested on animals, I’ll pass .  No to rodeos, zoos, circuses and aquariums.  Not so complicated.

Aside from having to read labels and do a little internet research as I phased out some products and replaced them with others, the “how-to” of it all has been pretty straight forward and simple.  As I’ve become more and more educated about all the excellent alternatives to animal-based products it’s become even more simple.  And if David and I lived  in our own vegan bubble and never ventured out I would say that nothing could be easier.  That is not, however, where we live, and neither does any other vegan that I know.

I can say that what feels “not easy” about being vegan usually involves some combination of the emotional and the practical.  Here are examples of some “not easy” experiences I had just over the past few days:

-My favorite (mostly) vegan restaurant just closed.  There are very few vegan restaurants in Tucson, and The Food for Ascension Cafe downtown was the place where David and I celebrated our birthdays, brought friends and relatives and went weekly to unwind.  The calm, relaxing environment was unique among the other veg offerings in town.  We are sad, both because they could not make it work economically and also because we are really left with no comparable options where we live.  Unfortunately, for those of us who do not live in a major metropolitan area, this is all too common.  Let’s face it, for non-vegans there’s always “another place”, for us not so much.   This can feel limiting and not so easy.

-I was catching up with my friend, Diana (from Main Street Vegan Academy)on the phone yesterday and we were commenting that no one we talk to ever asks us anything about veganism.  Ever.  At all.  We wondered if this is because people fear being lectured to or simply because our veganism is too disconcerting for other people to discuss given their own food choices.  I can’t answer that one but the reality of the situation can feel stressful.   I am interested in the lives of others and like to think that I’m curious about what’s important to my friends and family.  It is the rare non-vegan who can be truly interested in my passion (veganism/animal rights) and not feel defensive, consequently I usually feel like I’m censoring myself in one way or another in most social situations.  This may be necessary for peaceful relationships, but it’s not an easy trade-off and it isn’t very interesting for me.

-Following the horrible story of Cecil, the lion, Delta Airlines decided to stop transporting dead trophy animals in their planes.  While that sounds great, my mind goes immediately to the dead animals being served for meals on that plane, because I know that each of the animals raised and killed for food suffered far more than poor Cecil. I encounter this kind of moral schizophrenia daily as it is truly everywhere and a deeply entrenched part of our culture.    I am more acutely aware of this and other forms of hypocrisy and injustice than I ever have been before.  It comes with the territory, but it’s not easy.

OK, so maybe with these examples I’m making a good case that going vegan is simple but not easy.  So what?  Why point out these difficulties?   Well, I think it’s important to be honest with others about our experience because this is the real story.  It takes commitment, perseverance, courage and a thick skin to navigate these kinds of situations.  That being said, I don’t doubt for a moment that a person committed to living a vegan lifestyle can handle them.  The transition brings about changes in our relationships with other beings (human and non-human) and sometimes these changes are challenging or painful.

Yet even with all this said, I don’t know a single person who regrets the decision to go vegan, and I think that’s because the most important changes that happen when we go vegan are the ones that happen within us as we begin to live our values.  As we live our belief in justice and compassion for animals we deepen our belief in justice and compassion for all beings including ourselves.  As our health improves we feel a desire to help others as well as the earth to heal.  Life becomes full of possibility, and we find the courage to face our own fears and step boldly forward.   We become aware of the interconnectedness of all things. This is the stuff that transcends convenience, comfort and “ease”.    And for me, that’s what makes life worth living.

 

On the giving of names

lisainaz:

Beautifully stated and thought-provoking. Thank you.

Originally posted on There's an Elephant in the Room blog:

Firstly, my apologies for hitting the ‘publish’ button before this post was ready and for any confusion this may have caused.

1000764_546600108729933_625046711_nToday, yet again, social media resounds with vilification of an individual who quite unashamedly killed a fellow sentient individual named Cecil. There was a time when I could never even have imagined the howls of indignation and outrage, the cursing, the contempt that such an event would precipitate. I had no idea that there was so much hate in the world. But there is. And in a culture such as ours, underpinned by inflicting violence and death on the vulnerable and helpless while we delude ourselves that we’re kind and caring, I suppose it’s hardly surprising.

I’ll get something out of the way here. I despise what this individual did. But then I despise ALL killing of those of other species for pleasure, ALL unnecessary killing. Which means that I also…

View original 723 more words

Nobody Says It Better Than Gary Francione

942693_154004144788099_2099880922_n

This morning I am stuck in my house because the air conditioning guy is here doing a check up on my system.  This ends up taking hours because we have three different oldish AC units, and it’s never really just a simple check up. You know how that goes.  In order to pass the time, I decided to watch a video of animal rights activist/abolistionist, Gary Francione debating about why animals have rights.  Once again I am blown away by his brilliance and uncompromising moral stance.

I became vegan after watching movies (Vegucated, Speciesism) and hearing Howard Lyman (The Mad Cowboy) speak here in Tucson.  Shortly thereafter I began immersing myself in many books on the subject of ethical veganism, and this strengthened my resolve to stop supporting animal exploitation in any way I could.  But no single person or book had quite the impact on me that Gary Francione’s “Eat Like You Care” had and continues to have.

While watching Gary debate (you can watch it here), I am reminded of the simple clarity that underlies Gary’s “veganism as a moral baseline” position.   In this debate, he suggests that if we believe that it is immoral to torture and/or kill animals for our pleasure then we ought not to be eating or otherwise using animals. Billions of animals are tortured and killed annually simply because we like the taste of animals.  We know now that it is not only possible to live healthfully without animal products, but there is ample evidence to suggest that eliminating animal products from our diets will do much to improve our health.

Gary Francione illustrates his position by talking often about Michael Vick, the NFL player who was convicted of running a dog-fighting operation.  The American public went wild around this issue, understandably vilifying Vick for torturing and killing animals for his pleasure.  The name Michael Vick became synonymous with dog-fighting and torture, and the public will probably never forgive him even though he paid his debt to society and expressed remorse.  I, and everyone I know, was sickened by the images that emerged from this story.  It was truly overwhelming that anyone could inflict this kind of torture on innocent animals for entertainment.

Yet isn’t this what happens when we eat meat, dairy and eggs?  There is at least as much suffering inflicted on farmed animals (factory-farmed or “happy”) as there was in Vick’s dog-fighting operation.  These are all sentient beings.  Any distinction we make between the dogs and the cows, chickens or pigs is speciesist and self-serving. And there’s no comparison when it comes to the scale of the torture and death.  Admittedly, when we eat animals we are usually paying other people to do the torturing and killing for us, but as we know from the law, there is no moral distinction between murdering someone and paying someone else to do it for us.  As Gary says, “we are all Michael Vick”.  In 2009 Gary wrote an Op-Ed entitled “We’re All Michael Vick” and you can read his compelling words here.

Gary Francione is a passionate, outspoken champion for the rights of animals yet he is often seen as a polarizing figure because he actively campaigns against single issue welfare campaigns (SICs).  His belief is that our time, energy and money are better spent educating people about veganism.  I happen to agree with this which is why I choose to take my advocacy in that same direction.  In addition, Gary is against any effort on the part of activists to promote “happy” animal products, because a) he doesn’t believe there is such a thing and b) he believes it enables people who might otherwise be vegan to continue to consume meat, dairy and eggs without feeling guilty.  I agree with him on this point as well.  To me, the term “humane slaughter” is a complete oxymoron.

As I continue to educate myself on all the issues pertaining to veganism (in order to be a more effective vegan coach), I often find myself mired in details surrounding nutrition facts and cooking techniques.  I anticipate that many people I work with will be going vegan “for health”, and being a resource for all of this information is certainly important.  I happen to believe that a plant-based whole foods diet is optimal for health, but it’s not difficult to find staunch proponents of other ways of eating to optimize health.  We can always find our own “expert” willing to tell us exactly what we want to hear, and at a certain point, when it comes to nutrition it’s all about who we choose to believe.

Yet this is not the case with ethics, and spending this morning online watching Gary Francione provided a much-needed and timely reminder that I do this for the animals.  If you are someone who cares about animals I strongly recommend that you read Gary’s work.  I believe it will change your life. You can get started by visiting his website here.

Thank you Gary, for speaking the words in the just the way I need to hear them.

Recipe of the Week

DSCN3038

Green Chili Rice with Black Beans!

I haven’t tried a new recipe in a while.  While we were away I mostly trotted out tried and true dishes to minimize time spent in the kitchen.  So it was nice to try something new tonight.  David and I saw Plant Pure Nation last night (more on that in my next post), and I had that on the brain when I went searching for a new recipe on the Forks Over Knives website.  For those of you who don’t know, these movies (made by the same team) focus on the health benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet.  This health-promoting way of eating includes fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.  It does not include any processed food, meat, dairy, eggs, sugar, salt or oil.

I am now a vegan lifestyle coach and educator, and I assume that many of my future clients will be interested in going vegan in order to prevent or reverse diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  I typically use olive oil in my cooking, particularly when I’m sautéing vegetables, and I think it’s important that I’m comfortable cooking either with or without oil.  Plus, I think it’s better for my own health to limit how much oil I consume.  The Forks Over Knives website is full of oil-free recipes and you can link to this one here.

This dish may be missing the oil but not the flavor.  The first step is creating a poblano pepper, mild green chili, spinach and cilantro puree (plenty of flavor right there!).  The puree is added to vegetable broth and the rice is cooked in that.  While the rice is cooking, you sauté an onion.  In order to sauté without oil, you stir the diced onion over medium heat and add water (one tablespoon at a time) if the onion starts to stick.  Once the onion is translucent you add jalapeño pepper, black beans and cumin.  I added some salt at this point because that’s my preference, but you can easily skip it.  Once the rice is cooked you mix all the ingredients together, sprinkle with lime zest and serve it up.

Our dish came out much creamier than the original recipe.  I’m sure that’s a technique thing (me and rice!) but in the end, David and I both enjoyed the consistency which was rather risotto-like.  The poblanos and jalapeño added just the right amount of heat, and neither of us missed the oil.   So I learned something new today, and I will definitely consider using this oil-free approach in other dishes.

So guys, what do you think about oil?  Yea or nay?

The Most Beautiful Ridge Trail Ever

DSCN3006

It’s our last day in Montana, and for our final hike we decided to revisit Logan’s Pass and see if we could go all the way down to the lake.  Turns out, the trail down to the lake has been closed since we visited last week. Apparently, the mama grizzly and her cubs are still hanging out there.  We were disappointed by this but very grateful that we already had a chance to hike that trail.  We were treated to some spectacular wildflowers though: DSCN2989

Since last week, most of the snow has melted and instead there’s just a stunning profusion of flowers.  So all was not lost.   We went as far as we could at Logan’s (about 3 miles round trip) but we were up for something more. So, we decided to hit the Highline Trail,  a ridge trail that actually runs over 11 miles through Glacier.  We read that this trail had the most spectacular views so we decided to hike it until we ran out of gas (11 plus miles is not an option for me!).

My favorite types of trails to hike are ridge trails.  This is true anywhere I hike.  Canyon trails and forest trails can make me feel claustrophobic at times;  on ridge trails I can see not only where the trail is going but expansive vistas all around.  I love that feeling of being on top of the world with lots of big sky all around.  And I can say that the Highline Trail is a ridge trail on steroids.  So grand, so expansive, so stunning.  The photo up top gives you a little idea of what it was like to be up there.  This trail is also known for a short stretch of narrowish trails with a precipitous drop to one side.  Here’s a photo of David on that stretch of the trail.  That’s the Going To The Sun Road down below: DSCN2998

There’s a cable that hugs the mountain if you want to hang on, but it really wasn’t a big deal.  I’m so glad we didn’t skip out on this hike.  Check out these views: DSCN3005 DSCN2996

On a funny note, as we were hiking back toward the trailhead we met up with four very spunky goats: DSCN3011

Even though the trail is pretty narrow, at this point there was room for us to step aside and let them trot on by.  As we continued on our way we quickly came across a long line of at least 50 hikers;  apparently the goats had caused quite a traffic jam and the hikers couldn’t get by until they decided to move on down the trail.  It was pretty funny.

All in all, this beautiful hike was a fitting end to our two weeks in Montana.  We certainly got our fill of all that Glacier and the surrounding area had to offer.  Finally, on our way back to our condo we stopped for lunch at the Montana Coffee Traders where I had a delicious Tempeh Reuben.  You just never know where you will stumble on a great vegan meal!

I’m looking forward to our next two days on the road.  Great company, great scenery and a great audiobook…

The Hidden Lake Trail At Logan’s Pass

Last year when we visited Glacier National Park, we had to wait until our second week to reach Logan’s Pass.  A summer snow had blanketed the area, and crews were busy clearing the Going To The Sun Road, the east/west road that traverses the entire park. When the road finally opened up, we were treated to some of the most spectacular views the park has to offer.  Logan’s Pass, however, was covered in snow, and the Hidden Lake was frozen and pretty much inaccessible.  So we were particularly excited to revisit this area.  We were not disappointed.  While we still did some trudging up snow-covered areas, the hike was an absolute feast for the eyes.  Here’s a sampling of what we saw:

Wildflowers!  They were everywhere (where there wasn’t snow):

DSCN2867 2

DSCN2920

DSCN2860

Charming animals:

DSCN2874

DSCN2870

(There was a spotting of a grizzly bear and her cubs.  We steered clear so no photos of her!)

One of the most beautiful stretches of trail I have ever seen:

DSCN2908

(I think David was having an OMG moment– I so get it)

Then there was this:

DSCN2905

And this:

DSCN2912

The clouds rolled in just as we were heading back out:

DSCN2924

It was pretty perfect.

Inner Wisdom

IMG_0948

Yes that’s me, meditating out on the Granite Park Chalet trail, about two and half miles in (or should I say, up).

This trail kicked my butt last year (twice) and I didn’t do any better with it this year.  Admittedly, I expected it to be easier this year since I feel like I’m in better hiking shape.  But alas, no.  This is NOT an easy hike.  It is an uphill grind for almost four miles and then four steepish miles back down.  Before I sat down to commune with myself and the universe I was winded and miserable, and I still couldn’t decide if I wanted to continue.  David, undoubtedly sensing that my ego was running amok (but I SHOULD be able to finish…!) suggested I sit on this log, enjoy the scenery (we are in one of the most gorgeous places on earth after all) and meditate a bit.

So I sat (Ahhhhh!), and looked around me and saw this:

DSCN2814 2

Then I closed my eyes, and started to meditate.  As a familiar feeling of peace descended on me, all the “shoulds” and “buts” fell away.  I had a knowing that my ego had indeed run amok.  I had stopped being present, and instead of enjoying the spectacular views and my spectacular husband I was fretting about why I wasn’t able to handle a decidedly strenuous climb.

Like many of us, I can struggle with tuning into what I really want.  I can be hijacked by feelings of inadequacy or competitive tendencies that drown out my inner voice, the one that is aligned with the me that knows I am good enough no matter what I “accomplish”.  And in that hijacked place I lose perspective and make decisions that seldom serve me well. Plus I’m not all that wonderful to be around.  In the quiet and stillness of meditation I gain access to my inner voice and my inner wisdom.  In this case I quickly knew that while I felt some disappointment that I didn’t have as much stamina as I would have liked, I was ready to turn around and enjoy, rather than dread, the rest of the hike and our day. And that’s just what I did.

As we made our way home, we were treated to some gorgeous scenery, and I was present for all of it.  Here are some of the highlights in pictures (for you Shannon!):

DSCN2803

DSCN2826 2

DSCN2830

And all is well.

Travel Like a (Vegan) Boss

DSCN2757

Greetings from Glacier National Park!

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that David and I did this exact trip a year ago, and it was so fantastic that we decided to go back for two weeks this year.  We arrived yesterday after over two full days of driving.  It felt great to get out and hike this morning, and breathtaking Avalanche Lake was our first stop.  Everything feels the same, but different.  First of all, the weather is hot, hot!  Last year we did some hiking in the snow.  This Tucson girl prefers the heat!

The biggest difference from last year to this year though is that this year we are vegans.  And as all of my vegan pals know, that can complicate things unless you plan, plan, plan!  So that’s just what we did.  From the drive to get up here to hanging out at the park to finding reasonably accommodating restaurants we are on it and I’m convinced that this will be a smashing trip.  Here’s how we’ve done it so far…

DSCN2699 2

Our general plan for driving up here was to do a short leg from Tucson to Flagstaff on Thursday night (about four hours), stay over in Flagstaff, then continue on to Park City, Utah on Friday.   Since we did this trip last year, we knew that between cities we would be treated to spectacular scenery and absolutely nothing healthy or vegan to eat.  So we took a little cooler with some cold packs for all the perishables (Trader Joe’s vegan wraps, hummus, veggies, peanut butter) and tossed the rest of the nosh in shopping bags in the back seat.  The Boy Scouts have nothing on us as you can see from our pile of provisions!  BE PREPARED!

Along with bringing our own eats, we checked out Happycow.net to see where we might be able to grab a vegan bite in Flagstaff and/or Park City.  We found a funky-looking place for breakfast in Flagstaff called the Whyld Ass Cafe (really!), and according to the info the place opened at 5:30am.  So we took a few extra minutes to find this place hoping we could get a muffin and coffee and be on our way.  I like to frequent as many vegan restaurants as I can so they stay in business. Unfortunately, when we found the place it looked closed (like for good).  Not sure if that’s the case, but there was no sign of life there.  So, we found the nearest Starbucks, got some soy lattes and made some peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast.  No problem for us but a good reminder that while Happycow is a good resource, it’s not perfect.  For me a little bag of Starbucks almonds was not going to cut it.  I was glad to have my provisions.

En route to Park City, we stopped at a highway convenience place and munched on our Trader Joe wraps in the Burger King.  I was dying to find some picnic tables or anywhere else to enjoy our lunch, but the options were non-existent.  The whole scene there was pretty depressing and an acute reminder of how important it is that we spread the word about the health benefits of plant-based eating.  At least we were able to eat our own healthy and satisfying food.  By the way, if you haven’t tried Trader Joe’s vegan wraps, you’re missing out.  There’s a great selection (falafel, unchicken, lentil and veggie) and they travel well.  These are our go-to sandwiches for travel of any kind.  Convenient, tasty and filling.

Once in Park City, we unloaded our little cooler and put everything in the hotel room fridge overnight.  This Best Western happened to have a larger than average mini-fridge with a freezer area for refreezing our cold packs.  I hadn’t asked about this in advance, but in the future I will.  It made a big difference to be able to put all our stuff in a refrigerator overnight and those teeny tiny ones don’t fit much.  In Park City, we found a place (also on Happycow) that had a decent selection of vegan options.  It was right on the main drag, and it’s called 501 Main:

DSCN2710

We learned a lot here, particularly that the vegan food you request might not actually be vegan.  Case in point:

DSCN2701

We treated ourselves to “vegan” onion slivers with our drinks.  As you can see, the chipotle dipping sauce looks a bit creamy.  We made it clear to the waiter that we wanted the vegan option.  He obviously had no idea what vegan actually is, because when David asked him what was in the sauce he said “buttermilk”.  Uh, no.  He replaced it with another fruity dressing which didn’t exactly go with fried onions.  Maybe that was the universe suggesting that I could do better than fried onions.

I ended up having vegan chili (mine is much better) and a salad (mine is much better), and David ordered one of their specials, a vegetable risotto in a potato crust (vegan option).  When the dish arrived David dug in and lifted up a fork full of stringy cheese.  Um, no again.  Apologies, apologies and the vegan version arrived:

DSCN2707

This was actually very tasty (Mine isn’t better because I’ve never made it!).  We enjoyed our time at 501 Main hanging at the bar and watching World Cup Soccer, but the food bit was a grind.  It was a reminder that we really need to be vigilant.

Day two of driving took us out of Utah, through Idaho and into Montana.  Lunch again was in a truck stop place, but this time we munched on homemade hummus, veggies and crackers in the McDonalds.  Interestingly, the McDonalds was pretty empty so we didn’t have to deal with as much of a sensory onslaught.  Everyone seemed to be eating at Subway.  No better, but at least we could chill in peace.

Many hours and lots of chips and mango slices later we arrived in Columbia Falls.  Because we are staying in a time-share community, we have a terrific one bedroom condo with a full kitchen and all of the amenities.  We’ve  always enjoyed vacationing this way, but it’s particularly helpful now that we’re vegan.  This area has no vegan restaurants, and while we can make our way through some Asian and pizza places our plan is to cook most meals ourselves.  So as soon as we got settled we ran out to the local supermarket for some staples.

We started the day today with a berry smoothie (we brought our Vitamix with us) and hit the trail.  In the afternoon we needed to go to Costco for some additional items, and we were thrilled to find a Natural Grocer across the street.  TOTAL SCORE!  If you don’t have Natural Grocer near you, it is a store of all organic products including produce.  The selection of vegan products is excellent.  I’m now certain that we will have all we need for these two weeks.

I’m sure that my desire to cook will eventually start to wane, and we will venture out into Columbia Falls, Whitefish and Kalispell to see what we can find in the local restaurants.  A few places look promising, and as we make our way through the local offerings I will report back on how we’re faring.   In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a whole lot more of this:

DSCN2751

and this:

DSCN2719