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Liquid Sunshine: A Lemony Basil Vodka Cocktail | www.thatwasvegan.com

I love a hot summer day, it’s the perfect excuse to join your friends for a cold one, preferably somewhere with an outdoor patio. These roasty days are also fantastic for relaxing in your own backyard with friends and family,  or curling up on your own patio with a book and a homemade cocktail, like my summer-inspired Liquid Sunshine!

Lemon, basil, vodka… just a few of my favorite things. Throw in some ice and it’s summer ready!

Here’s where I’ll be enjoying mine, listening to my carefully curated classical music playlist on Pandora. Sidenote: I also have an Apple music subscription and tend to use that the most, but I spent YEARS on the Pandora classical one and just can’t quit it. Right now I’m reading Lauren Graham’s memoir Talking As Fast As I Can and my summer fave Wish You Were Here by Stewart O’Nan – a book I’ve read probably 8 times.

My Lovely Yard

Also? I’ve read 48 books so far this year. Go me!

Liquid Sunshine: A Lemony Basil Vodka Cocktail | www.thatwasvegan.com

There’s plenty of hot days left this summer to get outside and enjoy a frosty cocktail, and I definitely recommend you make it this one. Unless of course you’d prefer a Strawberry Basil G&T, because those are pretty fantastic as well!


 

Liquid Sunshine Cocktail
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 4 basil leaves, muddled
  2. Ice
  3. 2 shots vodka
  4. Lemon seltzer water
  5. Sliced lemon for garnish, if desired
Instructions
  1. Place your muddled leaves at the bottom of each glass (or muddle in the glass) and cover completely with ice. Pour the vodka and seltzer over the ice and stir gently, so as not to bring all the basil to the top. Garnish and enjoy!
Notes
  1. You can muddle the basil leaves in the bottom of the glass with a wooden spoon if you lack the fancy bar gear!
  2. I used short, rocks glasses, but whatever you prefer is fine. If using tall glasses, you can double the shots.
That Was Vegan? http://www.thatwasvegan.com/
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40 Before 40: 8 Months In Already!

Where the heck have I been? Well, as I shared last month, I got a new job (which I loooove) and have really been focused on getting up to speed as quickly as possible.

As I approach the 8-month mark in my 40 Before 40, I want to pause for a moment to see where I’m at.

1. Take an international trip alone. Yes I realize that Puerto Rico is a US territory but it has it’s own government and the people there really seem to consider themselves separate from the US (at least the locals I talked to did), so I’m going to count that trip as international. Also, if you’re planning a visit to San Juan yourself, get ready to enjoy lots of delicious vegan food! Pass!

7. Foster at least 10 animals. Done! I currently have three psycho little kittens living with me- Fudge, Midge and Gidget. They’re not as cuddly as my last batch (or any batch, really), but they’re very cute and fun to play with. These 3 brought my annual total to 10, although I plan to keep fostering of course!

8. Learn to install my own lighting fixtures. I added this beauty over my dining table! Yes, my mom helped, but I was totally the boss 🙂

12. Create a list of all the books I’ve read (as an adult). Holy hell this has been a lot of brain work, and I’m sure I’ve missed some, but I’ve gone back in time as much as possible to add books I’ve read to my list on Goodreads.

15. Learn to crochet. Denise, my mentor and partner in crime, was kind enough to give me crochet lessons, and I’ve been practicing by making myself a lovely collection of dish towels. We’re planning to make matching granny square shawl’s together too! 🙂

30. Try to have a more positive outlook on Sundays and Mondays. This one was a practice of setting my mind to it, I think. I really didn’t like getting that sick feeling on Sunday afternoons, knowing the weekend was almost over and that I had to go back to a job that made me miserable. Obviously getting this new job helped, but even before that I feel like I had successfully found a way to feel better on Sundays and Mondays. I just kept reminding myself that I wanted to enjoy and live every day, and not just live for the weekends — and it worked!

40. Find a new job that I love (FKA “TBD”). You guys, this was my secret list item all along! But the thing about blogging is that, even though you want to spill your guts all over the internet, people in your real life might be reading it too, so it didn’t seem smart to be all “Hey internet! I’m looking for a new job!”.  But I was looking, and I did find a great job that is truly an amazing fit for me. I love (and am great at) the work, and the people I work with are all supportive and funny and interesting. I didn’t realize just how much my old job was dragging me down, until I was out of there.

What have you all been up to??

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Hilary’s Veggie Burgers

Hilary’s sent me free product coupons a couple months ago so I could review their burgers, and for some reason it has taken me a ridiculously long time… But here we go! 

Hilary’s Veggie Burgers are made with fantastically healthy ingredients like millet, quinoa, sweet potatoes and leafy greens. They have 8 different flavors, but I chose the World’s Best Veggie Burger (pictured above) and the Root Veggie Burger. Both were delicious! They’re the thin, frozen patties that a lot of us are used to veggie burgers coming in, but they’re not hard and tasteless at all. They have so much flavor, and you can actually see the ingredients in them, which is pretty cool.

Back when my mom was helping me paint my bedroom, I made us a quick lunch of half a Root Veggie Burger with hummus and fresh veggies, and a side of my favorite Massaged Kale Salad

It was the perfect lunch! Healthy and yummy, but didn’t take long to prepare. 

Another night, more recently, I heated up another Root Veggie Burger and topped it with a slice of vegan cheese, Vegenaise, and some pickles- along with oven fries. I simply ate it with a fork and knife and loved every bite.

Finally, here’s a shot of the World’s Best Burger, which I used to make a tortilla burger!

Yes, I probably went a bit overboard with the ketchup, but that burger was SO GOOD with the veggie toppings. And sweet potato fries too, of course!

I’ll definitely be keeping a box of these in my freezer for when I need a quick meal. And, of course, they’d be great for the upcoming ‘cook-out season’, too! Hilary’s veggie burgers (and all their other delicious products) are available at Whole Foods, Safeway, and Krogers, just to name a few. They have an easy to use store locator on their website to find some near you. 

*I was provided free product to review, but the opinions are 100% mine!

 

 

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Vegetarian Plus Vegan Entrees

Vegetarian Plus makes some of the best mock meat products on the market today- and even though the name might make you double-check the ingredients list, every one of their products are made with 100% vegan ingredients. They recently sent me three of their best to try, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I really, really enjoyed them all. Truly. Each one had great flavor, and was so easy to dress up a bit and turn into an entire meal. 

First up, their Vegan Kung Pao Chicken. You can see the fancy package above, but here’s how I prepared it: With steamed broccoli, and a can of sliced water chestnuts I had in the pantry.

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Entrees Review | www.thatwasvegan.com

It had so much flavor without being too spicy. If this were Kung Pao you had ordered from your local Chinese joint, I’d say it would be similar to mild/medium in heat. And if you wanted more heat, it would be easy to throw on some Asian hot sauce to your own tastes. 

My second favorite had to be the Vegan Black Pepper Steaks– the sauce was SO flavorful, I think I might have actually tried to turn the plastic bag inside out and lick it.

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Entrees Review | www.thatwasvegan.com

I’m afraid I wasn’t very creative in this meal (steak and potatoes!), but it was great and with the two added sides, was delicious and satisfying. And honestly, pretty fun to eat. 

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Entrees Review | www.thatwasvegan.com

Next I had the Vegan Citrus Sparerib Cutlets, which were pretty much tied for second place. 

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Entrees Review | www.thatwasvegan.com

I didn’t have any of this for dinner, rather I split it into 2 good-sized lunches to take to work, by heating it up then mixing it with some sugar snap peas I had in the freezer. 

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Entrees Review | www.thatwasvegan.com

These entrees plus a whole bunch more are available online and at retailers across the country– from places like Whole Foods to smaller Co-ops. And if you live in Denver, a lot of them can be found at my favorite spot over on Federal, Hong Phat, along with items from their sister brand Verisoy, which I reviewed a while back. 

The packages do say 4 servings, but I’d say they’re more like 2 or 3 with the sides added. Or maybe I just eat a lot 😉 

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The 2017 Furry Scurry

The Furry Scurry was Saturday, it was amazing. The weather was insane – sunny and hot – and there were SO MANY PEOPLE. And dogs. Lots of dogs. My mom saw on the news that they were expecting something like 15,000 people and 12,000 dogs to attend. This is a huge fundraiser for the Dumb Friends League, their goal was over $1M, and I’m sure they got close because last year they hit the mid $900ks. 

There were more than 150 vendors and food trucks, and of course I got lots of good freebie biscuits for the fur kids. Lot’s of people had older dogs and brought them in little carts, like you can see in the picture above. 

The event was held in Wash Park, which is just beautiful and lush. 

We hit up Wong Way Veg for an early lunch, and of course I forgot to take a picture of the food… but here’s a shot of their menu. We got one of everything and shared, it was all delicious but the veggie bites were completely amazing. They’re like tater tots, but with a bunch of different kinds of veggies in there!

If you live in Denver, you must find this food truck. They’re at Civic Center Eats on Wednesdays, and seem to attend a lot of events as well. Their menu is all vegetarian and vegan, and most things can be made vegan as well.

Oh, and then I just happened to run into this woman: Theresa Strader, founder of the National Mill Dog Rescue. She started the rescue out of her own home while working full time as a nurse, and they’ve saved almost 12,000 dogs so far from puppy mills!

I first met Theresa in December 2007 shortly after their first rescue operation, and I adopted my sweet Cooper from her. I became a volunteer and frequent guest at her home, and I just love this woman. She is seriously amazing. She does so much for the dogs and she’s totally selfless. And she’s also basically a celebrity in the dog rescue world. People were lined up just to meet her, and here I was hogging all her attention. T and I hadn’t seen each other in a few years and had a lot to catch up on. 

Speaking of dogs, I didn’t get too many cute shots of mine, but here they are:

Sally was of course looking fierce in her tutu, but Teddy was also quite handsome in his new Colorado logo collar. And they were both SO GOOD! Brave and friendly and acted like normal dogs. I am so proud of them both 🙂 

 

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News & Dogs Wearing Tutus

It’s been a pretty exciting week for me! I got an awesome new job, gave my two-weeks notice, and bought Sally a tutu to wear to the Furry Scurry on Saturday…

If you’re a Denver local, hopefully we’ll see you there!

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Fruity Kale Salad with Candied Pecans

Delicious, fruity kale salad with mandarin oranges, cranberries, and candied pecans | www.thatwasvegan.com

Kale is the best for making salads with, IMO. It stays crisp and fresh longer than lettuce, and it’s just so darn good for you. Admit it, you feel virtuous eating it! And did I mention delicious? Well, like many veggies, it takes on the flavors of whatever you prepare it with, which means it’s absolutely delectable in this Fruity Kale Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Cranberries, Basil, and Candied Pecans

My mom came over last Sunday to be my muse, and we made this salad. We also “invented” an exquisite new cocktail which I’ll be sharing soon, and we tried to veganize those southwestern “eggrolls” from a certain national chain, but that recipe has yet to be perfected… 

Oh but this kale salad:

Delicious, fruity kale salad with mandarin oranges, cranberries, and candied pecans | www.thatwasvegan.com

I used Cuties for the mandarin oranges (way, way, WAY better than canned mandarins, people!), and there’s fresh radicchio in there. I also candied the pecans myself because I’m such a Martha Stewart. The dressing is homemade as well, with fresh basil, agave, apple cider vinegar and a few other yummy ingredients. 

Delicious, fruity kale salad with mandarin oranges, cranberries, and candied pecans | www.thatwasvegan.com

While cranberries (or, to be more specific, cherry craisins) might seem a bit holiday-ish, in reality this salad just screams springtime. Or summertime, if you don’t get around to making it right away, haha.

Fruity Kale Salad
Serves 4
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Candied Pecans
  1. 1 cup pecan pieces
  2. 1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  3. 1 tablespoon Earth Balance
Salad
  1. 1 bunch kale, torn into bite-size pieces
  2. 1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil (I prefer avo, personally)
  3. Dash or two of sea salt
  4. 1 small radicchio, thinly sliced (toss the core!)
  5. 4 cuties, peeled
  6. Generous 1/2 cup Cherry Craisins
Dressing
  1. 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  2. 1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil (Avo! Avo!)
  3. 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
  4. 2 tablespoons agave
  5. 2 big leaves of fresh basil, chiffonade
  6. 1/2-3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  7. S&P to taste
Instructions
  1. Mix the Earth Balance and brown sugar in a skillet over medium high heat, until EB is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Add the pecans and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring pretty much constantly. Pour the entire mix onto a piece of tinfoil to cool.
  2. In a nice big bowl, add the kale and oil and salt. Massage the oil into each piece of kale until it softens, 2-3 minutes. Then add the radicchio, craisins, and cuties. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dressing, whisking together. Stir into the salad.
  4. Top with the pecans right before you serve!
Notes
  1. Serves 4-6, depending on whether it's a side or your main jam.
Adapted from Joyful Healthy Eats
That Was Vegan? http://www.thatwasvegan.com/
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Books I'm enjoying | thatwasvegan.com

As of today, I’ve read 30 books so far this year! My Goodreads challenge was to read one per week, or 52 in 2017. Pretty sure I’m gonna blow that goal out of the water. Here are all 30 titles, and below I share a few of my favorites (so far). 

Books I'm enjoying | thatwasvegan.com

How do I find the time to read so much, you may ask? Well, I’m on the bus for about an hour total each day, and I’ll read or listen to books then. I also tend to read while I eat my lunch at work during the week, and again at night before falling asleep.

Oh yah, and here. I definitely read a lot here!

My Lovely Yard

I love my little yard! It’s the perfect combination of shade (from my enormous tree) and sunlight. When it gets cool I can light up my little fire pit, and the rest of the time it serves as a great wineglass holder 🙂 Plus the doggie door is right there, so Teddy and Sally can join me whenever they like. 

Okay, here are a few of my faves, in no particular order (and if you’re on goodreads, let’s be friends!):

The Wonder by Emma Donogue: Yes, she’s the same woman who wrote Room, but this book is nothing like that one! It’s about a young girl and her family in Ireland who claim she’s a miracle, surviving without food for months. A nurse is sent to watch the family, to either prove or disprove the miracle claim. The best part is that it’s not clear what the truth is until it’s finally revealed- great story!

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell: A delightfully trashy memoir! If you enjoy shows like Real Housewives, I think you’ll like this book. Yes, drug addiction is a sad disease but this story is told in a way that pulls you in and you probably wont be able to put the book down. I wasn’t anyway. She’s brutally honest and not self-pitying at all. She owns her rich white girl privilege in a way that keeps it from being annoying, leaving you free to just enjoy the story of how this girl tries over and over to destroy her own life. 

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood: Oh wow oh wow oh wow. This book (much like Handmaid’s Tale) is just SO timely, in a country where women are still slut-shamed while men who brag about sexual assault are elected president. “Contemporary misogyny” is the term used to describe this story on Goodreads, and I couldn’t say it better myself. A group of women from around the world wake up in a sort of concentration camp where they’re starved, beaten, and held hostage. The one thing they all have in common is they were all involved in a sex scandal of some sort, whether it was an affair with a married politician or were raped. The story goes on to be one of sisterly love and courage, but clearly the basis is very dark. There are a lot of triggers in the story, but I also found it a magnetic read, that I plowed right through in just a couple days. 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: It’s sort of like Margaret Atwood had a time machine when she wrote this back in the 80’s?? Racist fears propel an evil regime with no respect for women into power. Dystopian present future where women have no rights. This book is so well written, and although it was the first Atwood I’ve read, I’m excited to read more. Also really looking forward to the Hulu series! 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: I’m always a bit suspicious of books about racism written by white people, but Jodi Picoult has often written about issues she seems to have no personal experience with, yet nails with absolute precision. I’ve seen her categorized as chic lit, but this book is so much more than that. It’s about a black labor and delivery nurse, and the white supremacist patients who refuse to let her treat their child. But it’s not that simple- it actually made me (a white person) think so much more deeply about my white privileges and the fact that everyone has some level of racism in them, no matter how small. I really, really recommend this book! 

My Foreign Cities by Elizabeth Scarboro: Tear jerker alert! Elizabeth marries her high school sweetheart, who has cystic fibrosis. She knows he’ll die young, but they decide to build a life together anyway. Very beautiful love story. 

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: Sort of a manlier, much less sad, version of Wild. Actually I take that back, other than the fact they both take place during months-long hikes, they have nothing else in common. This book is hilarious at times, thought-provoking at others, and always enjoyable. Bill and an old buddy decide to hike the AT, and he chronicles their struggles and successes. I already hike quite a bit, but it made me start daydreaming about doing a longer hike, like the Continental Divide Trail that goes through CO. 

 

What books can you recommend to me? 

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Vegan Whoopie Pies!

If someone invents a new diet where all you are allowed to eat are Whoopie Pies from The Piping Gourmets, I’d do it. Even if the diet actually turned out to be a cult and you had to sign a billion year contract stating that all you would ever eat, for your next thousand lifetimes, are these whoopie pies, I’d still sign up in a hot second. 

These delicious little desserts are one of those products I’m really excited to share with you guys. They come in five flavor combos (you can see them all in the pic above), and they are:

  • Vegan
  • Gluten-Free
  • Kosher
  • Non-GMO

I found them in my local Whole Foods and Safeway stores, but there are stores all over, as well as online retailers. I chose the Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Frosting, Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Frosting, and Chocolate Cake with Mint Frosting. I wanted to try the Vanilla Cake/Frosting combo ones, but couldn’t locate them nearby. 

These were my favorite: 

I’m always a sucker for the chocolate-vanilla combination, no matter the dessert. They were sweet, but not too sweet, and they’re individually wrapped so they were perfect for an easy dessert where I didn’t have the temptation of eating more than I needed, like with an entire cake or pie. The Chocolate Raspberry was a close second, followed (also closely) by the Chocolate Mint. The raspberry and mint frostings had so much flavor, and contrasted really well with the chocolate. 

They come frozen from the store, which is also the best way to store them at home. Then, a few hours/days before you’re ready to eat them, just transfer them to the fridge…

Or…

Eat them straight out of the freezer. I tried this on my second one, as I hadn’t planned ahead and defrosted any. Surprise, surprise, this turned out to be my favorite way to eat them! The chocolate sticks to your fingers a bit more when they’re frozen, but if you keep the wrapper on to hold it while you’re eating, problem solved!

I’m so grateful to companies like The Piping Gourmets for creating delicious vegan products like this, and I definitely recommend you guys buy a box (or seven) the next time you’re at a store that carries them! 

 

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Nacho French Bread

Vegan Nacho French Bread | www.thatwasvegan.com

What on earth is Vegan Nacho French Bread, you might be asking yourself right now… Well let me tell you! It’s all the delicious toppings you’d put on nachos, except they’re on the carbolicious goodness that is toasty warm french bread.  So, sort of like nachos and french bread pizza had a baby, I guess.

I read Off The Menu on Thrillist every week (if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you’d probably enjoy it too), and one day this popped up in their sidebar. Theirs isn’t vegan of course, but I knew it would be easy (and tasty) to veganize. And, as always, I was right.

Vegan Nacho French Bread | www.thatwasvegan.com

Any toppings would work. I kept it pretty traditional with seitan crumbles cooked in taco seasoning, refried beans, tomatoes, onions, black olives, cheese and avocado. It does have one super secret special ingredient that really makes it work though… cream cheese! You can see a bit of it there, under the bean layer. It really added a surprise sweet layer.

Vegan Nacho French Bread | www.thatwasvegan.com

Okay, so no… this isn’t the healthiest meal, but damn was it delicious! 

Vegan Nacho French Bread | www.thatwasvegan.com


 

Nacho French Bread
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 loaf French bread, sliced in half lengthwise
  2. 1 loaf chicken-style seitan
  3. ~1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  5. ~4 tablespoons vegan cream cheese
  6. 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  7. 1 jalapeno, diced
  8. 1/2 can vegetarian refried beans
  9. 1/2 onion, diced
  10. Sliced black olives
  11. Shredded vegan cheese (I used Daiya cheddar)
  12. Hot sauce
  13. Any other nacho-type toppings you'd like- guacamole, sour cream, salsa, green onions
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Place the bread, cut sides up, on a cookie sheet.
  2. Crumble the seitan in a food processor. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the seitan and taco seasoning and cook till lightly browned and a tiny bit crisp, 5-6 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Top the bread with cream cheese, spread evenly across the two pieces. Microwave the refried beans (in a bowl, not the can!), and add them on top of the cream cheese.
  4. Add the rest of your toppings, finishing with the cheese.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Feel free to stick it under the broiler for 30 seconds to a minute if needed.
  6. Top with any greens or hot sauce, cut, and serve hot!
Notes
  1. This makes 4 fairly normal-sized servings, but depending on how many additional toppings you add, it could stretch farther!
Adapted from Thrillist
Adapted from Thrillist
That Was Vegan? http://www.thatwasvegan.com/
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