The Mad City Vegan Fest!

Saturday June 8th marked Madison’s 3rd annual vegan festival and I am more than proud to have taken part in it! Chock full of enlightening speakers, cooking demos, vegan food and kombucha samples, animal rights activists, and vegan food vendors, the Mad City Vegan Fest was the place to be last Saturday! My friend Emily and I started our day out by attending a talk by Dr. Mary Clifton: How to Joyfully Lose Weight and Supercharge Your Life. Neither Emily nor I were or are looking to lose weight, but this talk revolved more heartily around the wondrous benefits of a whole foods vegan diet, the shedding of unneeded weight is simply an outcome of the virtuous diet. I must admit that we walked into the talk about twenty minutes late, therefore missing a good portion of it, but the part we were there for served as a comfort knowing that a clinical doctor was on board with this amazing lifestyle and way of eating.

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After our short appearance in the talk, Emily and I joyfully enlightened ourselves by fleeting from station to station of volunteers and vendors alike. My backpack doubled in size with all the pamphlets and stickers I picked up- great reading material for my flight to Paris in two days, right?! Not only did we obtain glorious information, recipe booklets, and coupons for various vegan brand name products, we were able to sample mouth watering, soul warming, body nourishing foods (all vegan I assure you, I mean it was the vegan fest after all!) Our mini feast included raw, living super-food granola, roasted unhulled hemp seeds with sea salt, Madison’s own Nessalla kombucha, fresh salsa with handmade tortilla chips from a local restaurant… and the list goes on! As soon as my other friend joined us, I speedily bought a gastronomical wonder of a lunch before we broke up our day a bit by making an appearance at another friends grad party. As for my lunch, just thinking about it makes my mouth water… Bought from one of the vendors, Banzo, I completely, thoroughly, entirely enjoyed some of the best hummus I have ever had along with a warm whole wheat pita and an amazing tabbouleh salad. Accompanying this was of course a Nessalla kombucha, how could I pass that up?! Unfortunately, and I am very bummed about this, but my camera was completely out of charge when I was enjoying my delightful lunch, therefore I have no pictures to show you, but… tomorrow I am having a grad party and we will be having Banzo’s hummus, tabbouleh, and babaganoosh, so in no time at all there will be some gorgeous pictures to make up for my camera’s stubbornness.

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Madison brewed Nessalla kombucha

Upon returning to the fest, I attended what turned out to be the highlight of the entire day, a talk given by Victoria Moran– Main Street Vegan: Eating Plants and Saving Animals in the Real World. I was awed by her inspiring and knowledge filled talk, Victoria is pretty high up on my role-model list. (well, I don’t actually have one… but if I did, she would be on top!) Anyway, I was very moved by this incredibly ethical vegan, New York City inhabitant, obesity survivor, sixty-some-year-old who could easily pass as forty, author, etc. In as few words as possible, she was awesome, I bought her book that I’m currently reading and loving, Main Street Vegan, and I am counting down the days (I guess years) until I am able to attend her Main Street Vegan Academy so I can become my dream job, a Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator!

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Victoria Moran, vegan, author, inspire-er

Shortly after I learned some tips in Indian cooking at Dino Sarma’s cooking demo. Being that I wasn’t particularly hungry during the demo, I took home the delicious samples of what Dino made to thoroughly enjoy at a latter time. These included lemon quinoa, raw kale salad with chickpea dressing, and daal. I enjoyed all three, however my favorite was the kale salad, the dressing proved to be slightly tangy with the beloved flavor of chickpeas all around! The other two dishes were a tad too oily for my preference, but were delicious none the less. Dino is currently writing another cookbook (he already has one out) and he said all three of these recipes would show up in that one!

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Lemon Quinoa, Daal, and Kale Salad from veg fest cooking demo

I concluded my time at the Mad City Vegan Fest by buying myself a treat of un-hulled, toasted and sea salted hemp seeds from vendor Cousin Mary Jane. They are delicious and have somewhat of a double flavor, the initial “hempyness” and the later “nuttiness”, very intriguing I must add. If you can get your hands on these little gems, I highly suggest you do!

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unhulled, sea salted hemp seeds

All in all, my first time experience at the Mad City Vegan Fest turned out to be a great one, and I am already excited to return next year!  A great welcome home it will be to Madison for me after being away for a year at college!

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A Perfect Day & a Teahouse Review: Dobra Tea

Ahhh! Nothing like a great day. Here’s my itinerary of this past Saturday:

1. wake up and eat a nice nourishing breakfast in the sunshine

2. head over to the farmer’s market with my two best, super duper awesomely great friends Emily and Sophie

3. relax with my friends E&S in the inviting Dobra tea-house and enjoy a light lunch there

4. go to a local Indian market to buy some henna (with E&S)

5. spend even more time with three of my favorite people, Emily, Sophie, and “Ms. Schneider” (aka Aunt Kathy)

6. bike downtown to purchase some more of my favorite natural Aveda shampoo and conditioner

I can’t think of another way I would have enjoyed spending that day here in Madison. I am also very excited that I will officially be growing my own garden this year after purchasing some gorgeous tomato and kale plants at the farmer’s market. Along with those purchases, two other tomato plants, two cucumber plants, an eggplant plant, and tons of basil plants are currently preparing themselves to be transferred from my kitchen windowsill  into the nice soil I have been toiling for the past couple days! More on my garden in another post, I have a lot to say about it!

In the meantime, I will provide you with a review of a lovely little tea house called Dobra Tea. Located on State Street, it served as the perfect place for a light lunch and a bit of zen time after a refreshing stroll around the capital square, where the Farmer’s Market is located. We began our time at the Middle Eastern tea house by choosing a slightly elevated “loft” if you will, where we sat on cushions around a low Moroccan-style table.

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Outlook from our tea “loft” at Dobra Tea.

To start off, we each ordered a pot of tea, me choosing a white tea due to it’s lower levels in caffeine, because I must assure you, anything over a miniscule amount of caffeine=a crazy Anna Banana! The tea I ordered was the Bai Mu Dan – White Peony tea. I found it to be earthy  yet slightly flowery, this tea did it’s justice and thoroughly pleased the taste buds of this its tea loving drinker, me!

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Bai Mu Dan white tea

We continued our adventure by ordering a light fare to satisfy our hunger. I ordered a brown rice miso soup along with the hummus small plate containing hummus, veggies, and pita (I asked for it without pita though.)

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Brown Rice Miso Soup

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Hummus and Veggie Small Plate

The brown rice miso soup was delightful, a gastronomical feet in the world of vegan food, I declare! However, if you too voyage to Dobra Tea and order this soup, don’ t be expecting your traditional, salty, misoy, seaweedy soup. This tastes nothing like the miso one would order prior to a meal of sushi, no no no. In fact, at first I was quite confused when I tasted this soup, one can definitely pick out its fermented qualities, it’s perfect fermented qualities. With a few fermented soybeans and some brown rice throughout this soup, it gave a satisfying mix between solid and liquid. However, I do wish that more soybeans and brown rice were floating in my earthy bowl of soup. Oh well, at least my taste bud’s sensitive salt-o-meter didn’t go off! I am very sensitive to salt, I just don’t like salty things, however some things, like miso, are inherently salty and I have to learn to love ’em. But this miso soup, rest assure you, scored a perfect score in saltiness level, woohoo!

As for the hummus and veggie small plate, I must say I was rather disappointed. Being the most expensive item of this outing, it did not live up to my desires. The hummus proved overly oily, and for me, the hummus queen on the universe, unnecessarily oily hummus is a big no no! Also as you can see from my picture, it was served to me with pita bread even though I asked for it without, not the end of the world, but without that uneaten pita, one more hungry kid in Africa would be a little bit happier. I must include that this mistake was probably due to the fact that our tea server was high. What can you expect?, typical Madison, it was part of the experience, I mean what else would one expect from a tea house offering hooka, fermented soup, and Moroccan tea lofts?

Even with one disappointment, my adventure at Dobra Tea proved to be a great one! I hope to happily return, and suggest to any other Madisonians or visitors alike, (no matter where they fall on the hippie scale), do the same.

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One of a kind tea pot at Dobra Tea.

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Zucchini Basil Socca

What to do, what to do. What do you do when… you need something to give you the same fullness as a whole grain, but don’t actually want a grain, you need a bit of extra protein, and you don’t have a million dollars to buy the ingredients for this “thing”? Well, I can tell you exactly what I do! I mix up a socca batter and pop it in the oven! Don’t know what socca is? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you. Socca is a pancake-like flat-bread made of chickpea flour, a dish native to Genoa, a town in northern Italy, and the southern coast of France in towns such as Nice. With the main two ingredients being chickpea flour and water, it couldn’t be more simple to make. To me, socca resembles a mix between a savory pancake and a quiche. So, whether you’re searching for a egg-less, vegan quiche substitute, or a flat-bread/carb replacement, or just some happy taste buds, you’ve come to the right place! Socca usually consists of a hearty dose of olive oil, which is totally fine, but I prefer to tweak my socca by adding simply a tablespoon of olive oil to yield a more bread-like texture. However, if you feel like adding a few extra tablespoons of olive oil, go for it, I’m sure it will taste just as great!

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Zucchini Basil Socca

Ingredients:

1 cup chickpea flour

1 cup warm water

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tbsp. olive oil (add more if you like)

3 tbsp. basil, chopped

1 cup tightly packed, shredded zucchini

Instructions:

*preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

1. Mix chickpea flour, salt, and red pepper flakes.

2. Whisk in 1 cup warm water, whisk until no lumps and batter is the consistency of crepe batter. Cover and let sit from as little as it takes to warm your oven, up to 12 hours.

3. When oven is ready, stir in chopped basil and zucchini, transfer batter to a parchment paper lined cake pan.

4. Bake 10-15 minutes until the edges are set and the socca is firm. After 10-15 minutes, turn your oven broiler on to high and broil socca for 3-5 minutes until gently browned on top.

-enjoy!-

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Superfood Chocolate Mint Green Smoothie

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I have a confession to make: bananas are just not my thing. I know, how dare I be saying that, first of all my name is Anna and half the world calls me banana, and second of all they are pretty much the make or break part of all the vegan and health world’s green smoothies. I mean, lets face it, what would you rather have, a creamy green smoothie because of the addition of a frozen banana, or a watery, potently green tasting, not very sweet drink? I think most would go for the first. But me, I can’t say so definitively. I find the creamy tropical fruit to have an annoying aspect of taking over all other delicate tastes that one would wish for in a smoothie. For example, what if I want a creamy green blueberry smoothie? Well, I would need to add a banana to get the creaminess aspect, but then my poor smoothie would savor of bananas way more than my blueberry intention. My oh my, what an issue!

But most of all, bananas make me constipated. When ever I exclaim this to people, they are utterly confused, aren’t bananas supposed to cure constipation? Well, this my friend is where the ancient traditional practices of Oriental medicine come in, such as my love, Ayurveda. I will post a more complete post on this issue in the near future, but for now, my message is to know what suits you body in terms of substances and food you put into it. For me, bananas aren’t something I can have everyday. For others, it might be a necessity.

But for all you banana filled green smoothie lovers, I have a recipe for you! I invented this with the desire to mask the strong flavors of the creamy banana. With the addition of raw cacao and peppermint extract, I have successfully completed my task and been rewarded with a creamy, dreamy, thin mint girl scout cookieish, superfood packed smoothie. I’ve added chia seeds for extra creamyiness=superfood! Raw cacao for deliciousness=superfood! Tons and tons of raw spinach for an extra dose of my daily dark leafies=superfood! And the remaining ingredients simply help bring this lovely morning (or afternoon, or night) treat together. I hope you will enjoy this smoothie as much as I do!

DSC00309Superfood Chocolate Mint Green Smoothie

Ingredients:

1 frozen banana

1/2 cup unsweetened nut or seed milk

1 tbsp. chia seeds

1 tbsp. raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder, just not as many superfood benefits)

1/4 tsp. peppermint extract

huge amount of spinach (or other dark leafy green) , maybe 2 cups *see note

Instructions:

Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender such as a Vita-mix (will work in a regular blender too.) Blend for a minute or so until smooth and creamy, make sure you allow the chia seeds to soak up so liquid to allow for an even more creamy texture! Add more spinach as needed. * see note

*Note on spinach amount:

I didn’t want to put a specific amount on how much spinach to add because I find myself many times adding more and more to try to find the line between tasting any bitterness and tasting nothing in regards to the spinach. I usually start with about two cups and once my smoothie is blended, I add a few more large handfuls to try to pack in as much nutrition as I am able!

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Un pasto italiano: eggplants, tofu ricotta, and tomatoes

After taking Italian 101 with a special program that allows high school students to take classes at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I am official in love with the beautiful language! I love learning languages and I’ve always dreamed of speaking Italian, so of course I grabbed the opportunity when I had the chance! Anyway, the reason I bring this up was because I was in the mood for some Italian culture, so what did I do… I decided to cook un pasto italiano (an Italian meal)!!!! My dad have recently brought home two eggplants for me that someone had given him, and after brainstorming numerous ideas of what to make, I once again kind of created my own dish, I guess I will call it Baked Grilled Eggplant with Vegan Tofu Ricotta and Tomato Sauce. Whew, that’s a bit of a windy title, no? But who cares about the title because this dish was delizioso!!! Served alongside some sauteed pearl onion, this fit my idea of a lovely Italian meal. Authentic or not? I don’t really know, but hey, I’ll find out in two weeks when I’m in the glorious country itself!

I ever so slightly adapted this tofu ricotta recipe by swapping the tahini for plain hummus and it was delectable, in fact I ate a lot of it by spoon before I could even put my dish together! I actually had never though of using hummus in place of tahini before, but now that I have I am thrilled. Tahini is a part of many recipes, but usually just in small amounts. Due to the cost of tahini, and the fact that the amount needed is mimimal, I rarely buy it and usually end up leaving it out altogether, which always leaves out the true full flavor. I loved my hummus substitute thought, with it’s similar texture and taste (kind of) it worked perfectly and since hummus is something that is always in my fridge, tutti i giorni!, it is always accessible! I can’t wait to make it again to put in other recipes, I’m already dreaming up a recipe to resemble the homemade ricotta filled ravioli I made in seventh grade, only now with a health/animal/environment friendly version!

An after thought to this recipe was using homemade tomato sauce, I think the flavors would meld even more delectably, so try it out!

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Baked Grilled Eggplant with Vegan Tofu Ricotta and Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

2 large purple eggplants, cut into vertical slices

olive oil for brushing

one 15 oz. can of tomato sauce or 15 0z. homemade tomato sauce

one recipe of tofu ricotta (recipe to follow)

Instructions:

-preheat oven to 350˚

1. With a pastry brush, brush the eggplant slices so they are lightly covered in olive oil.

2. Grill on each side until they are soft with nice grill marks.

3. Layer half the slices in a medium sized glass baking dish, top with half of the tofu ricotta, half the tomato sauce and then repeat with the other half of the ingredients.

4. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes.

Tofu Ricotta Cheese (adapted from this recipe)

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1 block extra firm tofu

2 Tablespoons plain hummus

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 Tablespoon fresh chopped basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

1. Crumble tofu into a large bowl.

2. Add all other ingredients and mix with spoon or hands until well incorporated.

-enjoy!-

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A quick delicious dinner and a recipe for Cuban black beans

After losing all our family recipes a few years ago in a disastrous house fire, I had been longing to recreate the Cuban black beans my dad would ever so often make for my family. After no luck finding a recipe on the internet that fit my needs, I did a little investigation, questioned my dad about his old recipe, then created my own. These beans are creamy and dreamy, every vegan and vegetarian’s dream, even omnivores love these bean, hence the fact that my dad (definitely not a vegetarian) enjoys making them! One can either make the following recipe or improvise with a quicky version of these gems as I did a few nights ago. This is done by simply using a can of black beans and improvising by adding only a minimal amount of the following ingredients. This will obviously provide you with a smaller amount of beans, but when cooking for only one or two people on a week night, these serve as a perfect protein rich meal to whip up. I composed a lick smacking meal for myself by toasting two Ezekiel sprouted whole grain tortillas, topping them with a generous amount of chopped spinach, a huge spoonful of my Cuban black beans, and last but absolutely not least, an enormous dollop of my favorite local Pasqual’s salsa! Served along side with a heaping pile of lightly steamed broccoli, both my mind and body were nourished for the night! I hope you enjoy these as much as I did! ps, I hope you noticed that I finally tau

ght myself how to make links to other pages, now I will be able to give credit to all the wonderful people and things of which help me nourish my body, woohoo!

Cuban Black Beans

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What you need:

1 pound black beans, soaked in water over night

6 to 7 cups water
1 onion, cut in half
1/2 green bell pepper, whole with seeds removed
4 to 5 cloves garlic, sliced in half

2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons cumin
3/4 teaspoon oregano
2 pinches red/cayenne pepper

2 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
Salt and black pepper, to taste
*Salt-start with 1/2 teaspoon salt, then go up if needed

+ 1 tbsp. tomato paste

What you do:

1) Drain the soaked black beans. Place the beans, water, onion halves, bell pepper half, garlic, and bay leaves in a pot. Bring to a boil and leave at a high boil for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring intermittently. Once done, skim off any foam, lower the heat to low, and place the top on at an angle.
2) Cook on low heat stirring intermittently for one to two hours or until beans are firm yet soft. In the last ten minutes of cooking, add the cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt, pepper, tomato paste, and vinegar. Enjoy!

*Never add salt to stewing beans till the last ten minutes-this can create mush by destroying the outer shell.

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Pumpkin Pancakes: A Recipe for the Best in the World

I’ve never been much of  pancake lover. They are always just so greasy, sweet, fatty, cakey…? They just don’t fit with my taste buds. However, as soon as I discovered the nonstick pan, my view on these flat round “cakes” started changing. No longer did they have to be made in oil to prevent them from sticking! The sound of pumpkin pancakes has always resonated with me, I mean what’s not to love about pumpkin anything?! Anyway after searching long and hard for the perfect pumpkin pancake recipe, I gave up and created my own that has come to be from the numerous nights where I realize I am out of cereal, granola, and oatmeal, and must whip up a batch of one of my favorite re-occurring recipes in order to obtain my whole grain for the following morning’s breakfast.

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You see, I love love love to cook, but I love to try different recipes from different cuisines, and being that there are just so many mouth watering combinations of ingredients waiting to be concocted, I rarely repeat myself due to the curiosity I obtain for the outcome of the next taste I have yet to devour. This being said, there are still a few recipes of which I hold near and dear to my heart, of which I find myself concocting over and over again, and these pumpkin pancakes happen to be one of them! They are just oh so gooey and thick due to the pumpkin, hardly sweet due to the use of simply applesauce to lighten the flavor, and they are oh so unforgettable that you too will find yourself mixing these up time, after time, after time. My outline recipe makes only four large pancakes however it is easily doubled. I just like to have the option to pick and choose how many I will make due to the ingredients I obtain at the moment in my pantry. So onto the recipe, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

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Pumpkin Pancakes:

Yield: 4 Pancakes (easily doubled)

Light, fluffy, healthy pumpkin pancakes that taste like pumpkin pie.

Ingredients

heaping 1/2 cup pumpkin, canned, not pie filling

1/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened

1 tbsp. ground flax seeds+3 tbsp. warm water

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. apple sauce

1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour (or other whole grain flour)

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. pumpkin spice, ground

1 dash salt

Instructions

  1. Mix the ground flax and water in a separate bowl, let sit for a few minutes until gooey consistency.
  2. Mix almond milk, pumpkin, applesauce, & vanilla extract into a small bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin spice.
  4. Add flax mixture to pumpkin mixture.
  5. Combine and whisk everything till evenly mixed.
  6. Heat a non-stick skillet and place over medium heat.
  7. Add 1/4 of the batter onto skillet and cook till you can cleanly slide your spatula under the pancake and then flip, about 2 minutes on each side. You can make two at a time, repeat with the other half of the batter yielding a total of 4 pancakes.

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