Cardiff

My time in Cardiff, Wales was very short — only one full day — but it was a lovely city with less hustle and bustle after coming straight from Liverpool.

The first place I visited was Cardiff Market, which was great because I got there early enough to avoid a big crowd. There was a wide variety of interesting stalls selling things like Indian spices, vintage records, palm readings, fresh produce, and (my personal favorite) the yarn shop. It was called the Wool Pack, but she had a massive collection of acrylic yarn (all of the shelves on the left side), from which I purchased a beautiful teal skein.

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After getting lost (thanks, Google Maps) and having to ask for directions at a craft beer shop, my first food stop was at Crumbs Kitchen. It was worth the hassle though, because I had a very good lunch there. The first floor of the restaurant is a bit chaotic, due to that being where the orders take place, but there is a second story with extra seating away from the main crowd. I got the chili over brown rice, with rose lemonade and chocolate cake. The chili and rice was filling and just what I needed for keeping me warm on that dreary wet afternoon. The serving was huge though, and I ended up taking half away for my dinner later.

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I gotta admit, part of the appeal of Cardiff was being a Torchwood fan. I never managed to get into Doctor Who (though I still find Weeping Angels terrifying), but I was addicted to Torchwood when I found it in Netflix. Because of this, I decided to brave the rain and wind and march two miles from my hotel to the area where they shot the show. It was odd to look at all these buildings in real life when before I’ve only seen them in panoramic filmed shots. Definitely worth a trip if you’re a fan.

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A place you must visit in Cardiff is Cinnamon Sticks, an almost painfully adorable tea room shop. Everything ranging from the wallpaper to the servers’ outfits is either floral, pink, or dainty. I’m not a huge tea fan (unless it’s cold, sweet, and Southern), but I did partake in their cake, which is beyond amazing. I got a piece of their chocolate peanut butter masterpiece and can say that it was probably the best piece of cake I’ve ever had. The peanut butter frosting was the perfect amount of sweet and fluffy, and the chocolate cake was a rich spongy texture. I was sad I didn’t have time or the stomach space to try their savory vegan options, but I’ll just have to get them next time I go to Cardiff, since I will definitely be visiting Cinnamon Sticks again.

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Memphis – Three Angels Diner

When coming back from Arkansas, our lunch was at Three Angels Diner. It’s a tiny restaurant with a modern feel.

DSCN0925The walls and furniture are colorful and decorations ranged from classic records to paintings from local artists.

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It was a Sunday, so only their brunch menu is available, but we still managed to find something good. 😉 There are several vegan options available including tofu scramble, biscuits in gravy, sausage, bacon, and hashbrowns. Pretty much anything on the menu could be made vegetarian too by subbing in the vegan meat options. I settled on biscuits and gravy with flat top potatoes.

The biscuits were fluffy and the gravy was peppery and rich. It was so good that I’m now on a mission to recreate this masterpiece at home. Hopefully that will result in a new recipe to post here soon.

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Memphis is a gem for vegans to eat at. Three Angels Diner and Imagine Vegan Cafe are just a few of the many options available there.

Memphis – Imagine Vegan Cafe

A few weeks ago, Peter and I took a quick trip to see my mom in Arkansas. Since our route goes through Memphis, we decided to stop there for lunch and found some great places with the help of Happy Cow.

This first post is about our stop on the way up, Imagine Vegan Cafe. It’s located in an upcoming neighborhood and the restaurant is nestled in a small renovated home. I was pleasantly surprised by there being an entirely vegan restaurant in a city well known for barbecue and fried chicken (and Elvis, but that part is irrelevant).

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The place is cozy and feels more like a home than a restaurant with its mismatched plates and motivational poster decorations.

We started off with the appetizer sampler because everything sounded too good to choose just one item. It included potato skins, chicken nuggets, pigs in a blanket, buffalo wings, and hush puppies served with a side of ranch and sour cream.

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Our main dish choices were stuffed ravioli with garlic bread and chicken fried steak with garlic kale and mac and cheese.

Peter’s ravioli was decent, but I think the sauce could do with a bit more herbs and maybe some vegetable chunks. It was just a bit bland to me.

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The chicken fried steak was amazing. It was a fried seitan base with a creamy white gravy on top. The accompanying garlic kale was flavorful and fresh tasting. The mac and cheese had a deliciously thick and creamy sauce and it is something I will definitely get again next time.

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We got dessert to-go because we were outrageously full from the main course. I chose an orange fauxstess cupcake and Peter got the chocolate hazelnut cake. Both were later devoured (after arriving in Arkansas) and didn’t fail to amaze us.

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Lazy Liebster

It has been a little over two weeks since Vegan MoFo ended and I have been enjoying my time off. But I’m back and happy to hear I’ve gotten an “award” from Just About Vegan. She gave me the Liebster Award which is meant to recognize newer/smaller blogs and form relationships in the blogging community. Now it’s my turn to answer her questions, and choose other blogs to join in on the fun. I couldn’t figure out the amount of followers for the blogs I chose, so I just estimated by the amount of comments on their posts.

liebster-award (1)The rules are:

  • Answer the questions provided by the nominator, then come up with 10 new ones to ask your nominees.
  • Nominate 8 other blogs, let them know you have nominated them and put a link to their blog in your post.
  • No Tag backs (i.e. you cannot nominate the blog that nominated you)
  • Nominees must have under 200 followers on any platform.
  • You must tell all the blogs that you nominate that you have nominated them.

1. Describe your fantasy meal.
I would love to have a vegan version of pretty much any meal in any Studio Ghibli film. For some reason I just think animated food looks so good, especially anything Asian. So Sen’s steamed red bean buns, Sophie’s large breakfasts, and Ponyo’s ramen with ham would all be on my fantasy meal menu.

2. What’s your go-to easy weeknight dinner?
The one thing I usually have ingredients for is chili. Throwing together some canned beans with tomatoes, spices, and a handful of textured vegetable protein is a very easy and filling dinner. Plus it’s easy to mix things up by adding different vegetables or hot sauces each time.

3. How did you learn to cook?
I’ve pretty much always had an interest in cooking. I grew up with both an Easy Bake Oven and a Queasy Bake Oven. Once I went vegan, my mom had a hard time figuring out what to feed me. So I soon was making the majority of my own meals. The first few recipes I learned how to make were chili, twice baked potatoes, and carbonara. Reading blogs also helped me to know that it was possible to live vegan and still eat incredible dishes.

4. How do you go about developing a recipe for your blog?
I have to have some inspiration spark for a recipe to appear in my head. It’s usually from something I see (omnivore cooking show, food a book/comic character is eating, etc.) or the desperation of combining random ingredients from a nearly bare pantry. I start by listing the ingredients, maybe looking up a few similar recipes (especially if I need certain ratios like in baking), and then just set to cooking. I always have a food-stained notebook nearby to write down measurements, cooking times, and what did or didn’t work out.

5. Have you ever had a kitchen disaster? What did you learn from it, if anything?      I once started a small kitchen fire by turning on the wrong burner, which accidentally melted a Tupperware top and caused it to burst into flames. I learned to always double check which burner you turn on, and it’s always stupid to leave plastic things near the stove top. Plus you should always be a good friend and buy your roommate new Tupperware when you melt his. Many life lessons were learned that day.

6. What have you found to be the most surprising thing about being a vegetarian or vegan?                                                                                                                                      I eat way more variety now than I did in my pre-vegan days. Most people view veganism as a very restrictive diet, but I’ve got a much wider palate now than ever before. Before I would have never tried nutritional yeast, seitan, chia seeds, or a variety of other “health” foods that are currently sitting in my kitchen cabinets.

7. What about the most challenging?                                                                                  Not to sound whiny, but the judgment of other people. Most of my friends and family are wonderful about how I choose to live, but sometimes they, or even complete strangers, feel the need to but in with unwarranted advice. “You are going to eat dairy when you get pregnant, right? A vegan diet cannot support a baby.” or “God made animals to be eaten. It’s an insult to not eat them.” and my personal favorite from a customer at work “Well if you don’t eat meat you’ll end up looking like Quasimodo.” My life philosophy is for everyone to mind their own business and we’ll all be happy, vegan or not. 😀

8. How do you tend to navigate situations in which you’re the only vegetarian or vegan?                                                                                                                            Always bring lots of yummy food. That way you both know you’ll have something to munch on, and can pleasantly surprise others who thought vegans only ate kale and buckwheat.

9. What’s your favorite thing to do on a Saturday afternoon?                                          If it has been a long week, I’ll sit down and watch a few episodes of Adventure Time while knitting. When I am not in the mood to veg out I’ll hula hoop, read a book (mostly fantasy, with a bit of non-fiction thrown in there), or practice some yoga.

10. What is one one thing your readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m not sure how much crap I’m going to get for revealing this, but Peter and I work part-time at a chicken restaurant. It’s actually a wonderful place to work with fun bosses and coworkers with great live music, though it is sometimes awkward when a customer asks “What’s your favorite thing on the menu?” and I have to say “Umm, the salad?” I know it would bother some vegans, but it’s a way for us to make ends meet and work at someplace we enjoy. Plus I’m eventually going to harass them into adding a veggie burger to their menu.

And now to foist this off on award some awesome blogs. I nominate:

A Cook in the Making

Banana Girl Vegan Curl

Chreese on Toast

Desi P Knits and Quilts

Elite Food

Ellen’s Vegan Kitchen

Rabbit Food

Vegan Heartbeats

Here are my questions:

  1. What famous chef would you choose to cook you dinner?
  2. What food did you hate as a child and enjoy/tolerate now?
  3. Favorite sandwich filling?
  4. If you could only eat three meals for the rest of your life (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), what would you choose?
  5. What was the first recipe you veganized?
  6. What is the weirdest or funniest reaction someone has had to your vegan choices?
  7. Do you have any strange food habits (my food can’t touch, has to all be a different color, etc.)?
  8. Which type of vegan substitute (veggie meat, plant milk, etc.) can you not live without?
  9. What food item do you prefer to make at home, even if it’s easily bought?
  10. What is your preferred dish for sharing with omnivores?

Bored Baking (Vegan MoFo #14)

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Tangled is a take on the Rapunzel fairytale. After being kidnapped as a baby and raised by her evil “mother”, Rapunzel must live in a tower all alone except her companion gecko Pascal. Her dream though is to leave the tower and see the annual lanterns released from the nearby royal castle.

Instead of following the classic tale where she waits for a man to rescue her, Rapunzel takes matters into her own hands. A guy sneaks into her tower, and she attacks/ties him up before demanding he take her to the royal castle. Little does she know he has an ulterior motive, and her “mother” will be chasing after them their entire journey.

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Since she’s spent nearly her entire life locked in a tower, Rapunzel must find ways to entertain herself. Among the hobbies she chooses is baking. How she manages to bake all of these goodies day in day out and not become obese, we’ll never know. I can only assume it’s part of the Disney magic.

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Images property of Disney Enterprises, Inc. 

The warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies Rapunzel and Pascal bake were the best looking baked goods to me. So I went the easy route and made 3-ingredient chocolate chip cookies. Though the banana taste is a bit strong with this, it’s still amazingly simple and a satisfying treat.

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Monstrous Sushi (Vegan MoFo #9)

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Mike Wazowski! If you can hear that in your head, then you’re probably a Monster’s Inc. fan too. Or you’re hearing voices and should get that checked out.

Monster’s Inc. is probably my favorite Pixar movie to date. The story focuses on two friends, Mike and Sulley, who work at a factory together. Their jobs involve taking closet doors through to children’s rooms and scaring them at night. They then capture their screams, which is a power source for the monster world. The problem is that they believe humans are toxic to touch, so it is considered a dangerous job.

monstersincWhen a little girl, Boo, follows them back through the door, the buddies are sent on an adventure while attempting to keep themselves safe and also send her back home. One of the best scenes is when Mike and his girlfriend are out on a sushi date. The restaurant soon turns into chaos when Boo pops up and scares all of the customers away.

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IMG_0288.JPGImages property of Disney Enterprises, Inc. 

This was my first time making sushi, and I could look at the first and final roll next to each other (I made a total of four) and see how fast my rolling skills had improved. I think the key is to have just enough filling, not too much or too little. These rolls had avocado and cucumber in them and were served with soy sauce and wasabi.

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Non-Poisoned Baked Apples (Vegan MoFo #8)

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Though I haven’t had a ton of time to blog about it this Vegan MoFo, I have been making a lot of yummy Disney themed foods. So though we’re close to the end, there is still more to come!

Snow White has always been one of those films that creeped me out a bit. The story is just strange (heck, she’s living in the wild with seven men) because of the poisoned apple, the prince kissing a corpse he finds in the woods, etc. Plus nothing compares to the ride at Disney World, which is way too dark and crap-your-pants scary as a kid. Anyway, it’s still considered a Disney classic, so I felt compelled to cook from it.

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Image property of Disney Enterprises, Inc. 

I’ve never been a huge raw apple fan (except for the granny smith kind) so when I was young I always wondered why Snow White was tempted by the poisoned apple. So I decided to make something I would be tempted to eat, even when given by a weird old witch: baked apples with caramel sauce.

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I just sliced up a few apples and baked them until tender. Then I made some caramel sauce, with a dash of imitation butter extract for a butterscotch flavor, and drizzled it over. Super delicious.

Outlaw Stew (Vegan MoFo #7)

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Not to be biased, but I think Robin Hood is the best Disney movie. Ever. Case closed. If you or your children haven’t seen it, please go watch it now.

I was surprised to learn a few years ago that it was one of the lowest costing Disney films ever made because they reused drawings from other Disney movies ranging from the Aristocats to Snow White. Nonetheless, it’s still an amazing movie with a play on the classic Robin Hood story, but with adorable animals.

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From the dashing Robin Hood, lumbering Little John, loyal Friar Tuck, and beautiful Maid Marrion, to the thumb sucking King John, conniving Sheriff, and sneaky Hiss — all the characters are well-rounded, the plot is hilarious, and the movie boasts an awesome soundtrack.

little johnImages property of Disney Enterprises, Inc. 

Being an outlaw is a tough life though, which means it’s no surprise Robin and Little John’s dinner consists of a simple veggie stew cooked in their woodland hide-out. For my take on it I used whatever was sitting in my veggie drawer or pantry and at the point of expiration. The stew ended up containing potatoes, onions, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, garlic, and barley. I love barley in stews because it adds a chewy texture while also thickening the broth. Delicious!

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Cinderella’s Porridge (Vegan MoFo #6)

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For some reason the word “porridge” has always been a put off for me. Then once I realized it was essentially runny oatmeal, I was definitely gung-ho for making Cinderella’s porridge.

Cinderella is the quintessential Disney princess. Her castle is the main focal point in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, and her popularity has spanned through many generations of little girls. I’m gonna skip doing a run-down of the movie plot, since I’m assuming everyone knows the gist of it.

If you’re in the mood for a less light-hearted version though, check out the Brother’s Grimm version. It involves the stepsisters cutting their toes off to fit into the glass slipper. What a surprise Disney didn’t include that part of the story!

Poor Cinderella though, in-between cleaning, must make tea and porridge for her mean stepmother and stepsisters.

disney_movie_food_tea_cinderellaImage property of Disney Enterprises, Inc. 

I’m sure what she made was plain oats and milk, but I decided to jazz it up by adding agave, orange zest, and dried cranberries. Definitely better tasting than anything those stepsisters and stepmother deserved.

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Ponyo Ham Ramen (Vegan MoFo #5)

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Ending a rough Monday with an easy and tasty meal is ideal, so today I relied upon a dish coveted by many college students: ramen. A Disney film that features this is Ponyo, a light-hearted Studio Ghibli movie that focuses on a friendship and fish.

Ponyo starts as a cute little fish-girl living with her alchemist father under the sea. Her curiosity is never ending and because of this she loves visiting the human world. As Ponyo keeps interacting with humans, especially her new friend Sosuke, she evolves into an adorable little person. The problems arise when she risks becoming too human, and her father tries to return her to the sea.

Despite all this, Ponyo is always one to have a good time. Especially when it involves ham. Throughout the film she is fed ham at various times and is usually followed by her screaming “HAAAMM!” enthusiastically. It’s quite adorable, and inspired me to try an oddly tasty food combination from the film: ham and ramen.

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The following recipe might be a bit on the spicy side for some, so adjust the sriracha as needed. I skipped making a mock hard boiled egg, but if you prefer one for authenticity’s sake then Meet the Shannons has a good recipe.

Ponyo Ramen

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. uncooked ramen noodles
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 4 pieces of vegan ham (I used Yves brand)

Directions:

  1. In a pot mix the vegetable broth, sesame oil, agave, soy sauce, and sriracha. Bring to a boil and stir in the ramen noodles. Cook for 3 minutes, then set aside for 5 minute.
  2. Place each serving in a bowl and top with green onions and ham. Serve while watching this whimsical movie!

Nutrition per serving:
Calories: 324 Fat: 4.7g Saturated Fat: 0.7g Protein: 15g Carbohydrates: 55g Sugars: 10.7g