VeganMoFo: Tech Edition

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Happy VeganMoFo 2012 Kick-Off, everyone!

We don’t have a single theme (oh, by the way, did you notice our new theme?!), but we’re gonna have theme days. In preparation/celebration of our Seattle Tech Seminar, we’re diving in to blogging tech (mostly). We’ll have tech tips brought to you by people way smarter than us, Seattle funspots, speaker spotlights, Food-Friday Fundays…and once a week, we’ll have a Q&A day.

Q&A? Yes, so we need some Qs! Shoot us your questions and we’ll dig around/ask around to get you the answers! Tweet at us, throw it up on the Facebook page, or email us at VidaVeganConference [at] gmail [dot] com.

But before we get started, we just wanted to give you a glimpse into our weekend! We’re in Chicago for location scouting and VeganMania, Chicago’s vegan-only veg fest, with vendors, nonprofits, a hefty food court (featuring Chicago Diner, Upton’s, and Native Foods as well as a lot of smaller restaurants and bakeries), and classes. Check out the crowd shot:

We all went to Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese demo, where we tried some of the quicker, unaged cheeses, including ricotta-stuffed shells and a next-to-instant but tasty nacho cheese. I’ve never seen so many people get super excited to try vegan cheesemaking before. It looks like this book is actually worth the hype. I know what I’m doing when I get back home to Portland.

VVC Cocktail Lounge: Jen’s Lychee Cranberry Sunrise

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Today’s cocktail lounge submission comes from my (Jess’) sister, Jen, and this is as much of an introduction as we’re going to get.

Since we’re both devotees of the lychee martini, I’ve been holding out for her secret ratios. And since her boyfriend is a photographer, I figured we were all in luck.

This final product, which she sent me by semi-surprise last weekend, is stunning, but clearly, my sister remains a flashy, on-the-fly bartender…

Photo by Aslan.
Jenny types:
Fresh squeezed tangerines, splash of pure cranberry juice, splash of lychee juice (not syrup!), with a lychee at the bottom!
You add the cranberry at the end, slowly along the side of the glass to get the effect. 
Shaken not stirred.
Jess inquires:


Jenny types:
[Forgotten letter remains for hilarity]
This morning, the final day of MoFo, I call my sister, who’s rushing on  her way to work, and ask her to quickly describe this cocktail in one word. Her reply?  
And her sincere, parting words:
If you want a drink, you make this drink.

VVC Cocktail Lounge: Abracadabra!

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Today, “The Rum Diary” hits theaters, and I have a deep and complicated love of Hunter S. Thompson (we had our differences, but I think we would have gotten along in spite of them), so I wanted to mark the occasion with a rum cocktail. Perhaps a room-temperature bottle of cheap, dark rum would be more appropriate, but again, Mr. Thompson and I had our differences.

I picked up a bottle of Myers’s Platinum and searched for white rum drinks. This one stopped me by name alone: Abracadabra. It’s equal parts white rum, mandarin juice, and grapefruit juice (Thompson would approve!), plus some superfine sugar (I only had turbinado so I threw it in my spare coffee grinder). It’s tangy and tart, and the flavor takes about three seconds to fully arrive on your tongue.

Shakey shake shake and dika-dika-do! It’s Abracadabras for me and you!

And now it’s time to stumble to the theater.

VVC MOCKtail Lounge

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Wanna feel like a fancy pants but choose not to drink? That’s cool, that’s all healthy and stuff.

Mocktails are awesome because they’re more affordable than cocktails, they have less calories and are usually less sugary, and they don’t give you that headachy feeling the morning after a raucous night (unless that Nojito was really a MOjito! Wuh-oh!).

Here are four diverse ideas for you to indulge in, VVC-er.

Want to drink Bailey’s but because you do that whole ‘vegan’ thing and don’t drink,alcohol think you’re out of luck? Think again, mon frere.

Follow this recipe for vegan Baileys (I just made this recipe again this year and believe me, this recipe is still rad), and just omit the whiskey. Easy-peasy. Drink it on the rocks in front of your fabulous fireplace while listening to Frank Sinatra (or Seth McFarlane. Really.), or in a mug with hot cocoa. Creamy, hot and delicious. Just like you like your, ur, mocktails.

vegan baileys



Looking for something a little spritzier,a little lighter to the step? Try a Peach Fizz. Looza is a beautiful brand of Belgian juice (If you’re a Portlander, you can find it on the cheap at Grocery Outlet or on the sophisticated at PastaWorks, and if you’re anywhere else, you can buy online here). Pour 1/4 cup of peach or apricot juice in a pint glass over ice. Top with soda water and serve with a squeeze of lime and a straw.





If you’re feeling downright ca-raaaaaazy, check out Imbibe’s recipe for Agua de Limón con Chia. Yes, that’s right, it’s a mocktail with CHIA SEEDS. What?!



For summertime shenanigans, try the best summer mocktail I’ve ever had: The Blueberry Nojito. (Recipe inspired by BridgePort BrewPub) Muddle a few leaves of mint and 2 lime wedges together in a pint glass with ice. Add 1 tablespoon simple syrup, 2 tablespoons blueberry puree, and top with soda water (or Sprite, if you like it sweeter).

blueberry mojito(source)

And with that, beautiful non-drinkers, go forth and be merry. Get your fancy on, get your mocktail booty movin’, and enjoy the wonderful world of non-alcoholic drinks (WHAAAAAT?! Yeah, I said it.)

Guest Post: Lessons from Veganism – the First Year

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The following is a guest post by Carrie Forrest, the author of the healthy, plant-based cooking blog, Carrie on Vegan. Carrie is a graduate student in public health nutrition and a future registered dietitian. She lives on California’s Central Coast where she blogs, studies and eats vegetables by the basketful.

Lessons From Veganism– the First Year

September, 16, 2011 marked my first year of being vegan. To honor the occasion, I thought about some of the lessons I learned during this time. They range from the significant (transforming my health!) to the silly (my obsession with chia pudding). Overall, the changes that veganism has brought to my life have been powerful and I can’t wait to see what the following years bring.

  1. Veganism is not about perfection! Turns out there is no vegan police and you don’t have to be a perfect vegan or a perfect anything for that matter. While I am really careful about not consuming animal products, I have only just started weeding out the animal-derived products in my closet. The point is that it’s up to each individual to decide his or her boundaries.
  2.  If being vegan is not about perfection, then it is about compassion. I’ve become really emotional about animal rights once I thought carefully about what it means to eat or use animal-based products. I believe knowledge is power and as humans we are responsible for showing compassion to not only other people, but to the millions of other species sharing our planet.
  3. Eating plant-based foods is also about doing what’s best for our health. Science shows that a plant-based diet is ideal for human health. If you want to say goodbye to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and a myriad of other problems, a plant-based diet is your answer. Note: Don’t forget your B12 supplement and be sure to read Ginny Messina’s new book “Vegan for Life.”
  4.  There is a lot of misinformation out there about nutrition. Most of what we read in the media or learned in school about nutrition has been dictated by industry lobbyists and isn’t based on science! As a future registered dietitian whose professional community has sponsors from all of the big food manufacturers, it’s going to be an uphill battle to educate consumers. But, I have confidence that science will prevail.
  5.  Whoa, I’m an advocate. Once I discovered my passion for veganism and health, I felt confident to speak my mind. I also learned that advocacy can take many different forms and it’s up to each of us to choose which one works for us. From leaf-letting to sharing a vegan recipe, it all helps the cause.
  6. I have influence. It has been incredibly rewarding to have people ask me about what I’m doing and how they can get healthier. Some people still don’t get it, but I decided early on that I’m all about helping people who want to be helped. I consider myself as an example of how energetic, balanced and productive one can be eating a healthy, vegan diet.
  7.  Vegan food is delicious! Eating fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, seeds and beans is a culinary adventure and not the least bit boring. From a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a gourmet meal at Millennium, the fun never stops with vegan food. I am finding all of the Vida Vegan Con blogs to be really inspiring.
  8. A plant-based diet is healing. After I started eating a healthy, plant-based diet, I realized the connection between food and health. I successfully resolved migraines, seasonal allergies, hormonal imbalances and anxiety quickly after becoming a healthy vegan. Animal products, excess fat, sugar and salt make you sick; whole, plant-based foods restore, heal and balance.
  9.  Vegans are open and supportive. I feel like I can be myself in the vegan community. After attending the 1st Vida Vegan Con in August, 2011, I felt part of a family. I left the conference with new friends who continue to inspire and help me grow.
  10.  Veganism gave me hope. In this world where sometimes it feels like we’re headed for destruction, I feel positive about the future. The steps we take with our food choices, advocacy and influence are resulting in strides for animal welfare, improving our health and preserving the environment.

The culminating experience for me from this past year was going to Vida Vegan Con and meeting so many incredible, talented people. Thank you for everything you do and I can’t wait until spring 2013 until we meet again. If there are lessons that you’ve learned from veganism, please share them in the comments section of this post, I’d love to read them.

The VVC Cocktail Lounge: Hot & Spiked

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Yes, that’s an alcoholic beverage in my ultra-cheesy chipped mug. So it’s not very classy, but my name’s spelled right, and who doesn’t love rainbows? My chipped mug has stood by me for the past 30 years, and I always turn to it in times of need.

Alas, I am ill. Not horribly so, but I don’t want to do anything but watch marathons of hour-long dramas, curl up with a kitten, and drink hot stuff out of mugs. And while we all know old-timey cures are not the way to go today—see ya later, bloodletting, laudanum, and tapeworms—one I’m willing to give a shot is the warm cocktail.

Not having the energy or even desire to mull wine for an hour, I turned to my fall favorite, fresh apple cider. I sliced up a mandarin orange and added a few cloves and a couple of cinnamon sticks (sunken treasure!), warming the cider for maybe 10 minutes on very low heat. At the end I poured in one shot of brandy per 5-ounce serving of cider.

This could easily be made in a big batch for a group, maybe board-game night or an evening around a campfire…you know, something fun that normal, healthy people do.

The VVC Cocktail Lounge: Moscow Mule

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Moscow Mules are a refreshing combination of ginger beer, lime juice and crisp vodka that first rose to popularity in 1950s Los Angeles and Manhattan. I’m sure more than one mug  has been spotted at a bar on Mad Men. It’s that cool.

Since it’s not every bar that happens to have ginger beer stocked, nor does my own refrigerator (the horror) this version calls for a handy stand in, carbonated ginger ale. Your odds for true ginger beer increase the more old-fashioned cocktail embracing the bar is, but this one has a little help from orange bitters and gets its sweetness from fresh limeade. You could just as easily use fresh lime juice, and if you’re one for sweetness, add a little simple syrup.

Now, if you have easy access to the almost spicy Blenheim Ginger Ale (which is available at the Bye & Bye, Sweet Hereafter and a few other establishments in PDX, and sold at the International Food Supply), do upgrade, but any ginger ale will stand in just fine. I went with 365 brand.

The key element here is freshly grated ginger, which will add one heck of a little punch. One more thought before we get to shakin’….somehow, I resisted calling this the Portland Pony. Somehow.

Moscow Mule

Makes 2 cocktails
2 small mugs or tall cocktail glasses
3 ounces vodka
1 ounce limeade or lime juice (optional: add a dash of simple syrup if using straight up fresh lime juice)
1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger – split between two glasses
1 dash orange bitters – I used blood orange here
ginger ale or ginger beer to fill glass: do not shake this part!
Also optional: 2 straws

Add a couple of ice cubes and fresh ginger to both glasses. Place the glasses in your refrigerator (if you have the room, consider me impressed) or freezer (I’m even more impressed) to chill while you mix the cocktail part. Combine ice, limeade or juice, vodka and bitters in your cocktail shaker. Shake well, and divide between the two chilled glasses. Top with ginger ale or beer, as desired, and garnish. Insert a straw, if using, and give a quick stir.

Suggested garnish: lime wedge, fresh mint, carved ginger animals

Who's down for some Russian Wolf vodka?

VVC Cocktail Lounge Field Trip: San Francisco

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What goes better with a trip to San Francisco than a solo dining experience at Millennium? The answer is: nothing.

And what goes better with a solo dining experience at Millennium than a fancy twelve dollar cocktail? Again, nothing.

Out of the six featured cocktails on the list, I had to try the one that sounded the most outlandish. I mean of course something like the Broken Arrow would be good—with roasted anaheim chilie and cumin-infused tequila, fresh lime juice, cane syrup, orange liqueur and cumin salt/sugar rim on the rocks. BAM. Amazing. Or the Happy Boy-209 Gin, Muddled Lemon Verbana & Watermelon, Beet Puree, Lime Juice & Ginger Agave served up—of course that would be wonderful. I mean, it has watermelon in it.

But the Pied Piper—that one looked questionable. And because I knew—or hoped—that a drink that sounded so weird wouldn’t make it on the menu if it also tasted weird, I ordered it.

The Pied PiperDorado 5 year Rum, Pomegranate Juice, Chai, Maple Syrup, Lemon Bitters, Snap Ginger-Molasses Liqueur, on the Rocks.



Upon first sip, I have to admit my first thought was, “Well, at least I have a straw and can suck it down fast enough to order another one.”

Upon further sucking, though,I started really really enjoying the cocktail. It was bitter yet had a depth and sweetness. t took me about 30 minutes to finish it. After those 30 minutes, I was sold. Pied Piper—success!

Thank you, Millennium for broadening my drink horizons.

Oh, and then with dessert I had a glass of sparkling Rosé. Naturally.


Compassion is Ageless

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We couldn’t be happier to bring you a guest post today—not because we’re lazy, but because today’s post is from JL! That’s JL of JL Goes Vegan and Stop Chasing Skinny. You can’t be in the same room as this woman without smiling, and I guess we just brought her into all your rooms, so smiles all around!

Last December, quite possibly the night after Christmas, I was lying on the couch with my laptop (oh stop it, you do it, too) and I saw someone tweet that Vida Vegan Con tickets were on sale. One pitiful look at my husband and I got the look back that said, “Go.” So I bought the ticket, reserved a hotel room and booked my airfare. Yep, all three, right in that moment. I tweeted out my excitement and I got a response from my good Twitter friend Megan asking if I needed a roommate. I called the hotel and changed my reservation to a double and then replied, “Yes!”

The next eight months were filled with anticipation and a little trepidation. I simply could not wait for the conference, but I was slightly anxious because as a 40+ (oh, hell, I’m closer to 50 now that I’ve turned 46) food and health blogger, I suspected I would be hanging out with mostly 20-somethings. Over the course of months, many VVC attendees became friends online through our blogs, Twitter, and the VVC group on Facebook. My anxieties were ebbing.

I arrived on Wednesday and the first person I met was Julia, who is my age. Aha! So not everyone would be in their twenties! The next day I was suddenly off to lunch with a group of women of varied ages and we were united in our love of vegan food and our deep desire for some vegan shopping. Friday I finally met my roommate, Megan, age 26. Wow. I actually could be her mother. We hit it off immediately!

Megan, JL & Kristen

We went to lunch together; we went to the opening reception together; we grabbed dinner together and, yep, we had a little “party” in our hotel room. Age did come up at the “party,” as Jason referred to me as “grandma,” which I may have deserved as I told them they all had to leave by 10:00. (Grandma needed to get to bed so she could get up early to run 4 miles before the conference kicked off.)

In just a few days I developed friendships that surpassed the limits of age and I know will last a lifetime. From my roomie Megan to 30-something Janessa

to Fran Costigan, grandmother of four

…who I now consider one of my dearest friends.

After spending four days with women and men who represent a range of ages, I learned a few lessons:

  • Don’t assume the age of bloggers. We span the generations.
  • Age is just a number. It’s not about how old you are; it’s about how you live.
  • Vida Vegan Con brought together nearly 300 people who were united in a vegan experience–Compassion is ageless.

VVC Cocktail Lounge Field Trip: The Bye and Bye

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This story takes place in the dark.

I love The Bye and Bye. If you’ve been there, you love The Bye and Bye. If you haven’t been there, you want to.

Last night happened to be gorgeous, unseasonably warm for October, so I hit the back patio with some friends. I present to you our sexy-as-all-getout cocktails.

Here’s the joint’s signature drink, The Bye and Bye. It’s a cranny-peachy-bourbony masterpiece, and it comes in a mason jar as big as your head. Beware, though, as it tastes like juice so it goes down quick. Even if you’re getting food (which you totally should), two of these will put you in don’t-drive-home status.

Looking for a manly cocktail? The North Williams is your guy. It’s bourbon, fancy ginger beer, and lemon—weighty flavors that somehow agree to get along, you know, for the cause.

And a good old-fashioned dirty martini. I asked my friend if it was extra dirty, and he replied that you should never ask for extra dirty when what you’re looking for is filthy. Indeed.