Saturday, March 28, 2015

Smoothie King: Vegan Smoothies powered by Sunwarrior

Months ago, Smoothie King generously offered to send me a gift card so I could try their then-new vegan smoothies "powered by Sunwarrior." Unfortunately, it arrived just as the weather was taking a turn for the worse and I was taking my annual hibernation from smoothies, so I've only just recently visited Smoothie King to have a go at the vegan options.


I was expecting two variations to choose from: mango kale and dark chocolate banana, but to my surprise there was a third listed: nutty super grain. I figured it must have been added sometime between now and when Smoothie King had first contacted me.

SK was empty when I visited late morning on a Saturday, and I was greeted happily. It turned out that the sign for the nutty super grain: Sunwarrior raw plant-based protein, almond milk, peanut butter, super grains, 100% cocoa, apple juice, bananas had preceded it's arrival, so I did have only two options to choose from. More importantly, I was happy to see that it was so easy to identify the vegan options on the menu. Two thumbs up on vegan branding, Smoothie King!

I asked the employee to tell me how much money was on my complimentary gift card and she gladly swiped it to let me know that it was loaded with $7.50. At $3.00/small smoothie*, I decided to get one of each. And, since there were plenty of vegan snacks available, I threw in a bag of salt & vinegar potato chips to use up the remaining dough.

*To my surprise, the total came to almost double of what I was expecting. Apparently I was reading the calorie counts as opposed to the prices. When I explained my surprise, the woman who was ringing me up said, "yeah; everyone does that..." which then begs the question: is it intentional? I eat out a lot and I've never before made this mistake.

I will say that while I wouldn't ordinarily pay $5.99 for a smoothie in the suburbs, weighing in at 20 ounces, it was of significant heft for a "small." However, I was shocked that the cups seemed to be made of styrofoam. I haven't eaten out of styrofoam since 1994 and I have to admit that I thought it had been banned. But, after spending $7.00 in addition to my entire gratis gift card, I decided to throw caution to the wind. Since I thought I recalled that drinking hot beverages out of styrofoam was the real health culprit, I let the environment be damned this time around.

I took these photos of the smoothies before trying them or leaving the store. There's just no prettying up a smoothie.

Since I'd gotten two, VM and I took them on the road with us as breakfast. I tasted both and decided that the dark chocolate banana: Sunwarrior raw plant-based protein, 100% cocoa, apple juice, bananas, acai sorbet was my preference. As it added more banana-y flavor the creaminess, I assume that the banana hadn't been frozen. I prefer things the other way around. But, I did unexpectedly enjoy the acai flavor mixed with the cocoa. Overall it was just okay.

VM, on the other hand, declared the dark chocolate banana inedible and said that if she had to pick one, it would be the mango kale: Sunwarrior raw plant-based protein, kale, mango juice blend, bananas, apple juice, almonds. She then promptly refused to take another sip of either. We agreed that there was something gritty about the mango kale; I'm not sure if it was the protein powder or perhaps the almonds hadn't been pureed smooth, but I couldn't drink much of that one. We ultimately had to deliver them both to OD, who will eat just about anything. But after a few gulps of each even he declared that he "didn't wanna." So, 2 smoothies + 3 people = this much down the drain.

Needless to say, it wasn't a success. Have you had a better experience with Smoothie King? Since it's smoothie season once again in the northeast (almost), what are your favorite smoothies?

Friday, March 20, 2015


As you might have heard, the wait for Teff Love: Adventures in Ethiopian Cooking is over; the book is now available just about everywhere!


I have been excited about this book since 2013 when I was a member of the team of enthusiastic testers. In case you missed it, you can still relive the fun; it never gets old. My enthusiasm has only increased since then.


Since I've already covered the simple steps to using Teff Love to create a classic, Ethiopian feast over on Vegansaurus, I'm going to focus now on some recipes that you might not expect to find in Teff Love. So, whether you already love Ethiopian food and want to dive into its preparation at home, or are just looking for some unique and incomparably flavorful dishes to add to your repertoire, know that Teff Love has it all. Yes, even standards with an Ethiopian twist.

Tired of your boring ol' scramble? The ye'tofu enkulal firfir: tofu scramble will shake things up in the best possible way by adding spice and depth of flavor you've likely never experienced with your mama's runny scramble (no offense to your mama; she probably didn't even make scramble). I add peppers and potato to mine because...why the heck not?


The Teff Love tempeh salad is like none I've ever tried. It is so amazing that it is the single thing I will tolerate apples in; for some reason it really works. It's both horrifying and satisfying at the same time; this Kittee Berns character really knows what she's doing! No more chickpea salad for me; this is my new summer go-to. Serve it on crackers, in a salad, or on a sammie; you can't do this wrong.

For a special snack I love to make ye'shimbra be' akuri ater kolo: crunchy, spicy chickpeas and soybeans. I use green soybeans because I'm a rebel. Also, they're my fave. Since I like them best warm, I usually make a big batch and then heat them by the handful as I crunch my way through the stash.

So easy to prepare, just don't forget to tip your sous chef.

Then there's the incomparable awaze tofu: tofu marinated in a spicy berbere sauce and pan fried or baked (I bake)- pretty much the most flavorful and succulent tofu you ever wanna meet. Eat it as is or use it to make a cruelty-free banh mi!

And, finally: my favorite blueberry-cinnamon sourdough pancakes. To say something as wonderful as pancakes could even be narrowed down to a favorite is mind-boggling, I know. But these will be, at very least, the best pancakes you've made in a very long time. Sweet and fluffy with just a hint of tang; the blueberry and cinnamon elevate them to perfection.

They are so good, in fact, that I almost lost some to a certain long-limbed pooch who loves them as much as I do.


Last month I ran a giveaway at my home away from home: Vegansaurus. If you weren't the winner, now's your chance to win a copy here (shown here re-covered with the coveted pancakes), courtesy of the publisher, Book Publishing Co.

The brainstorming for this contest happened over on instagram and it's pretty simple. To enter, kindly enter a comment on this post letting me know your guess, in inches, of the combined length of 89's longest features: her legs (all four), ears (two), and tail. All measurements include length added by hair above and beyond the actual feature (fun fact: it's not ALL ear under there); more photos can be found here for research purposes. The closest without going over wins; if there are duplicate winning answers I will default to the earliest comment. Open to U.S. residents only. Contest closes March 31. AND THE WINNER IS: Wendy with a guess of 67"! The measurements of 89's longest features are...front legs: 10 + 10, back legs: 12 + 12, ears: 6 + 6, and tail: 13 for a grand total = 69"! 

Stay tuned to the Teff Love blog tour for more photos, reviews, and recipes!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Highlights from 89's Birthday!

Just some scenes from 89's 3rd (long) birthday (weekend) last week!

I locked her in a (large) closet the night before so I could wrap her presents.

We started the day with a new poncho and a long walk.

In hindsight, it was maybe a little too windy.

Then we threw some Hello Kitty and festive birthday wear into the mix.

The grandhumans came over and a fight broke out between 89 and a trio of balloons.

Eventually everyone calmed down.


VM is a pro-wrapper from way back.

This is the kind of love that hurts.

Sorry, Hedgie.

You'd think this was an inedible cupcake.

You'd be wrong.

When the mail comes you can usually expect it's for 89. This time: from Wagatha's.

A ginormous bag of vegan dog treats.

She seemed to think it was a trick at first.

But then stuck her fat face in and stole two at once.

A birthday bow and a new bandana from V-dog.

A little relaxation.

And then a conk-out.

It's going to be a very good year for 89!

Friday, March 6, 2015

All of Your Friends Are Obsessed With Pickle Shack (and so am I)

So, I haven't been able to blog about Pickle Shack because I've been too busy eating at Pickle Shack, ya dig?

In case you haven't been, Pickle Shack is a restaurant & bar that serves "damn fine food & craft ales." Most people already know this and are as obsessed as I am (dates soon, everyone!). Other people who live in a bubble are all, "But I don't love pickles" and I'm like, "A) what's wrong with you?  and, B) It's so much more than that." In fact, I don't even like beer; the food is just that good!

try not to be freaked out by the unassociated Snuggle bears in the window

Pickle Shack is all vegetarian, but many of the items are vegan by default. Those that are not have their vegan counterpart clearly described on the menu and they are thoughtful and creative alternatives: certainly not an afterthought. This is definitely not one of those, "just order without the cheese, butter, and eggs to veganize" kind of places and I really love them for that.

The first time I went I had to start with the fried hot pickles with preserved lemon aioli. I mean, duh. So, so good in every way a glorious fried pickle can be.

I also shared the vegan version of their fresh California artichoke dip served with crostini: with cashew cream, herbs, & smoked walnuts. It's already been ordered again and again because THIS is how to do artichoke dip right (this is how to do it wrong).

For dinner, a friend ordered the orecchiette, broccoali rabe, pickled hot peppers, parsnip puree with garlic. It looked great (and she thoroughly enjoyed it), but I wanted something heartier.

So, I had the scotch ale and wild mushroom pot pie, roasted cipollini onions, braised greens. Aside from not being as liquidy as the low-brow pot-pies I shared with my dad as a kid, it was pretty darn authentic. The accompanying greens were precisely prepared and the onions atop the pot pie deserve their own blogpost.

For dessert, the vegan version of the dark chocolate hand pie made with cacao prieto single origin chocolate, served non-dairy with cinnamon-cold brewed coffee ice cream. 

So, let's talk about this. While all the elements of this dessert went together very nicely, I moved the ice cream out of the way at the start in order to focus on the hand pie; I haven't had one since October and, before that, 2009. The crust: incredibly buttery and flaky tasting. The chocolate filling: warm, creamy, and so ideally chocolatey. But the pool of vanilla caramel was so thick and decadent that I had to contact the restaurant later to ensure that it was vegan: the more I thought about it, the more I questioned it. Luckily, it is; go eat it immediately.

On my next visit I scored the cornmeal battered oyster mushrooms, lemon & fresh cocktail sauce. It was reminiscent of the non-vegan "popcorn" shrimp of my youth, but infinitely better tasting & cruelty-free. Thankfully I was dining with mushroom haters so I didn't have to share a single one. Let's do that again soon, friends!


For dinner this time around I caved to the overwhelming pressure of ordering the vegan version of the sourdough grilled cheese, roasted cauliflower and broccoli, pickled sweet peppers, non-dairy herbed cashew cream. Not only was this one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten (that bread!), but I'm so glad I went with a side of fries instead of a silly salad.


Sorry for the horrid flash; Pickle Shack's lighting is not at all blogger friendly. Just focus on the fries, which are are freshly cut, golden, crisp, and impeccably seasoned. While I was scarfing them down I said, "I think they make their own ketchup!" to which my friend replied, "If they do this well making their own vegan cheese I'm pretty sure the ketchup is no problem." Point taken and appreciated on all counts. Further inspection of the menu revealed the description, "thrice cooked yukon gold potatoes with fresh dill, sea salt, house ketchup."

So many of my friends share in my infatuation that we're constantly finding reasons to go to Park Slope. In fact, I currently have 3 tentative meetups and I know what I'm ordering next (I'm coming for you, pulled "pork"). Hope to see you there.

Read more about Pickle Shack from our friends at Raven + Crow Studio.