To Health and Wealth!

Last month, I received an awesome sample box of Intention Cookies from the folks at Bountiful Vegan. I've been reviewing each cookie as I try them out. Today I sampled the Prosperity Cookie:

These gigantic all-natural, all-vegan cookies are laced with love and good intentions. Each flavor is said to bring a different positive aspect into your life, and as the name implies, this Choco-Choco Chip Prosperity Cookie is supposed to bring about a little extra moola.

I can always use extra cash, so I ate half of this fudgey cookie with a glass of soymilk and repeated the phrase "I appreciate my increasingly growing wealth" over and over. Each cookie comes with a magic phrase to recite while you nosh. We'll see if it works!

As for taste, this cookie reminded me of a cross between a brownie and a milk chocolate Easter bunny! It had a super fudgey taste, but there was something about it that seemed reminescent of milk chocolate ... and that's a great thing for a vegan that misses decent candy bars. There were a few small nut pieces in the cookie, and I would have liked to see a few more of those.

Overall verdict — Delicious, comforting, and indulgent. I feel a bit wealthier already!

Order your own Intention Cookies (or enter their variety pack giveway) on the Bountiful Vegan website. These would make awesome gifts!

Wednesday morning update: Entry is now closed for the MixMyGranola contest. I've just used a Random Number Generator to select a winner (ha, I know who it is, but I'm keeping it a secret!!!), and I'll announce when I post tonight. Stay tuned!

Green Monster Bagels!

Until last night, I'd only made bagels once. And that time, it was pain in the butt. The recipe I'd found online (which I've totally lost now) called for lots of unnecessary steps. I swore I'd never make bagels again — until I saw Isa's simpler recipe in Vegan Brunch:

These were so easy! Just make the dough, let it rise, shape into bagels, boil, and bake. That's all there is to it. I used whole wheat bread flour instead of all-purpose, so mine were more like mini-bagels. But that's okay. It just means I can eat two instead of one!

This morning, I made a Green Monster Bagel, spread with avocado and a dash of salt:

This idea was inspired by Shelby of La Belle Vegan and Emily of Curly Top (who refers to these as Green Monsters). I used half an avocado spread over 4 bagel halves (that's from two small bagels). Thanks to the generous dose of healthy fats and whole grains, I stayed full well past noon (and that never happens!!). As for taste, I think plain avocado tastes a bit like eggs, so this was perfect for breakfast. I'm having the same thing again tomorrow!

CSA Sharin'

I've never signed up for a CSA share, mainly because I fear receiving a mystery box of produce each week would take away my freedom of choice at the farmers market. I like choosing which fruits and veggies to buy rather than having them picked out for me.

That being said, for a couple of weeks this month, I'm sharing a friend/co-worker's CSA share while she's in Germany. I picked up my first bag of produce from Downing Hollow Farm last Wednesday. Inside the bright green reusable tote were potatoes, shitake mushrooms, slicer tomatoes, multicolored heirloom cherry tomatoes, green beans, Swiss chard, basil, mint, and dill. Maybe this CSA business is alright!

On Friday night, I used some of the cute little tomatoes for this Swiss Chard and Rainbow Tomato Whole Wheat Pasta Toss:

This is one of my favorite quick summer meals — whole wheat spaghetti tossed with steamed chard, raw heirloom cherry tomatoes, roasted garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and cracked pepper.

Tonight I used the shitake mushrooms in this Tom Yum Soup:

The soup base is from a jar of veggie tom yum paste I picked up at an Asian market. Other ingredients included fried tofu, dried lemongrass, shitake mushrooms, bok choy, carrots, and rice noodles. Yum yum!

On the side, I had a Whole Wheat Steamed Bun:

I was so excited when I found whole wheat steamed buns at the Asian market by my house. I love these things, but so often, they're made from nasty old white flour. This wheat roll tasted so much better, and it was much healthier.

Vegan Deviled Eggs ... Yes, I Did!

When I first opened the black salt I'd purchased to make the Tofu Omelet from Vegan Brunch, I was knocked out by the intense smell of deviled eggs. The salt even tastes exactly like those cold yolk-stuffed eggs of Thanksgiving dinners and family reunions gone by. I knew at that moment that I had a mission — to create a vegan deviled egg.

And without further ado, I give you Tofu Deviled "Eggy" Bites:

Yes, I know eggs are egg-shaped, and these cuties are square, but shaping tofu into eggs seems like a waste of good tofu. Who cares what shape they're in if they taste awesome?

The base is plain ole' extra firm tofu, which shares a very similar texture and tastelessness with boiled eggs. The topping is made from silk tofu, black salt, turmeric, pickle relish, red onion, and love. I swear to god, these bites taste just like the real thing — or at least from what I remember. To be honest, I haven't had a deviled egg in over four years, but this is how I remember them tasting.

The recipe is most definitely going in my cookbook's appetizer section, but I'm so proud of this one that I need to share it with the world right now. Here goes ...

Tofu Deviled “Eggy” Bites

Black salt, commonly found at most Indian food markets, is the magical ingredient in these babies. It tastes EXACTLY like eggs, so don't skimp on it. Order it off the Internet if you cannot find any, but don't make these guys without it. I promise it will not be the same.

1 pound extra firm tofu
Half 12.3-ounce package of firm silk tofu (about 1 cup)
1 cup cooked white beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. vegan mayonnaise (like Vegenaise)
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. black salt (plus about 1 Tbsp. more for spreading on “egg whites”)
1 Tbsp. dill pickle relish
1/2 Tbsp. red onion, very finely minced
Black pepper, to taste
Paprika, for garnish
Fresh chives (optional, for garnish)

Drain water from the extra firm tofu. Wrap in several layers of paper towels and place on a plate. Put something heavy on top, like a jar or book, and allow to press in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

After extra firm tofu is pressed, cut it in half. Then cut each half into four quadrants or squares. Slide a knife on the side of each quadrant to cut three squares from each. In the end, you should have about 24 little squares. If these instructions are too confusing, just cut into bite-sized squares and aim to get about 20 to 24. Set aside.

Place the silk tofu, beans, mayonnaise, mustard, turmeric, and one teaspoon black salt into a food processor. Process for about a minute or until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in relish, onion, and black pepper. Set aside.

Pour the other tablespoon of black salt into a small bowl. Using your fingertip, rub a touch of black salt on each white firm tofu square. Top each square with a dollop (about one teaspoon) of the yellow silk tofu mixture.

Sprinkle with paprika and top with chives.

Makes about 24 bites.

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If you haven't already entered, don't miss your chance to win a $20 gift certificate to create your own granola mix from MixMyGranola. See this post for details.

Phuket Tourist Information by the Tourists

If you're thinking of a holiday in Phuket, or visiting Phuket as part of a longer trip, you will surely be looking for information on hotels, things to do, places to eat, the culture, festivals and so on. Every tourist wants something different. Some people are very happy to be immersed in Patong with all the shops and touts and fast food and bars. Some people want a quite resort with a less crowded beach. Some want the ultimate honeymoon getaway. Some tourists book tours, others explore on their own. This blog is open to anyone, but will certainly interest the more independent traveler/tourist. I tend to look at places a bit more off the main route and don't mention Patong much, or the normal tours (elephant rides, speedboat snorkel trips, Fantasea show, snake shows etc..). Hey, the idea of the blog was to show another side to Phuket rather than just the same old things you can find on any website.

BUT of course, this leaves a hole. This blog can't cover everything, so where to look if you want to know about Patong? Tours? Get a hotel recommendation from someone who stayed there recently? Well, you can try other blogs about Phuket (see some of the links on the left side of this page), but again, like this one, they are written by people living here. I think if you are coming as a tourist it's good to get a tourists point of view. Where to start?

I joined TripAdvisor some time ago and it has a very busy Phuket forum. New questions being asked hourly, and there always seems to be someone with an answer, be it a recent visitor or a regular visitor to Phuket or maybe one of the "Destination Experts" for Phuket. I recently got given that title, so now tend to look at the forum more often and help with questions, but it's often already been answered, as there are so many people using the forum!

TripAdvisor Phuket Forum
TripAdvisor Phuket Hotel Reviews

So, that's a good place to start, but it was through the TripAdvisor forum that I found several Phuket experts, regular visitors to Phuket rather than residents, and they have very good information to share. Have a look at these websites:

Cathy and Gary's Phuket Pages
Bob and Janette's Travel Pages
Tina's Phuket Pages on VirtualTourist

The VirtualTourist website also has hotel reviews and a forum - I should take a closer look sometime. I see that Cathy and Gary also contribute a fair amount to that site. There's just not enough time to surf the whole web!

Also on the TripAdvisor forum I found Richard (using the nickname kiwilad37) offering to send people his Phuket Tips sheet. I contacted Richard by email. He's been to Phuket many times over the last 15 years and started making a tip sheet for friends or family. Lots of information, but it's not online. You can contact Richard by email (rfdunedin@ymail.com) and ask for a copy. Actually, rather more than a "sheet" - it's a 25 page pdf file, like a mini guidebook!

On the subject of guidebooks... now normally I would say a guidebook is likely to be out of date, maybe good for general information, but there is nothing like getting information right from the horses mouth. However, there are a couple of good Phuket guides, both updated in the last year. I have reviewed them on this blog. If you are coming to Phuket and must carry something on paper, these are worthwhile:

Travelfish Phuket Guide
Lonely Planet Phuket Encounter Guide

If anyone knows of any recommended websites in a similar vein to those above, please do add a comment below. I believe you can learn a lot from reading the experiences of other visitors and getting "insider tips". Having the right information can make a visit to Phuket much more rewarding. I hope this blog helps a little! :)

Hello, Dal-lin!

Lemme just say, I LOVE Indian food!!! It was Indian food that inspired me to go vegetarian almost 15 years ago, and the spicy, hearty cuisine is still my very favorite food in the world. Last night, I made the Masoor Dal from The Vegan Table:

As much as I adore Indian food, can ya'll believe I've never had red lentils until now? I know, crazy, right? The dish is simply red lentils, onion, garlic, coriander, and cumin. Easy and so, so tasty. Red lentils are my new fave — they cook faster and taste better.

I ate my lentils with a batch of Puliogare Rice (or Tamarind Rice) with local squash and zucchini:

Puliogare rice sounds all fancy, but it's actually just brown rice mixed with a bit of this instant tangy, spicy rice seasoning powder I picked up at the Indian Bazaar store in Memphis:

And yea, I know squash and zucchini aren't exactly Indian food, but I had some local veggies that needed usin', and I felt like the rice could use a little color. Here's my whole satisfying plate:

By the way, if you missed yesterday's post, I'm hosting a MixMyGranola giveaway. Check out this post and leave a comment about your dream granola. I'll choose a random winner next Wednesday.

Nothing ...

The well has run dry.  The words no longer flow.  The parchment is pristine with not an ink stain to be seen.  No penchant for words.  No pent up passion.  No predilection for pretentious prose. 

Minutes flow into hours, hours form a day, gathered into weeks, with no real delineation to be made.  A seamless tapestry, of dissimilar events.  Indelibly etched upon my soul yet inexplicable and invisible upon the page.

Sunrises and sunsets.  Tropical downpours and bright sunny days.  Old friends gone silent in a fit of pique.  New friends and old stories retold.  Lost memories reemerge as light shifts from one scene to the next.  A vague feeling that something else has been misplaced or set adrift in the vastness of time.

With plodding and relentless determination, time marches on.  With or without our appreciation or approval.  I seem to remember the soft yet persistent whispers of a muse.  Perhaps I am mistaken or confused.  Sitting here as I am, gazing out the window.  My eyes are lifted skyward.  My heart sores at the same moment my mind voids.  Leaving me contemplating, nothingness or perhaps nothing at all.

Mama's Blackberry Cobbler & a Granola GIVEAWAY!!!!

Every year about this time, my buddy Aaron brings me a big ole bag of fresh, hand-picked blackberries from his family's berry bushes. Last year, I froze most of them for smoothies, but this year, I was cravin' cobbler — my Mama's Blackberry Cobbler to be specific:

It's naturally vegan, and since it's a family recipe, this one is definitely going in my cookbook. It's really quite simple — fresh, juicy blackberries and sugar are baked under a whole wheat crust topped with chunky turbinado sugar.

As it cooks, the berry juice creeps over the top crust. Just look at that gorgeous juice!:

A warm slice of this was perfect with a scoop of Soy Delicious Blueberry Cheesecake ice cream on the side.

Now for the giveaway: Remember my MixMyGranola post from a few days ago? I won a $20 gift certificate to create my own customized granola, and now the nice folks at MixMyGranola want to give another such certificate to one lucky random commenter from my blog.

At MixMyGranola.com, you can choose your granola base (don't get the French vanilla ... it's not vegan ... I learned the hard way ... but the regular organic granola base is vegan), dried fruit and nuts, candy, and health powder supplements to create your very own personalized granola.

How do you win? Just head over to the MixMyGranola site and look through their customizable granola options. You can make a mix without going through the checkout. Then report back to my blog with a comment on your dream granola combo. In one week (next Wednesday, July 22nd), I'll use a random number generator to pick one lucky winner. Happy Granola-ing!!!

Sausage Pancake Tacos

Ever seen those Jimmy Dean frozen sausage & pancakes on a stick? Well, even in my meat-eating days, I don't recall ever trying one. But for some weird reason, I got a craving for sausages rolled up in pancakes. Using a couple of Vegan Brunch recipes — Cherry Sage Sausages and Perfect Pancakes — I attempted to create a vegan version of the classic sausage pancake roll-up ... but they look more like Sausage Pancake Tacos:

See? Tacos. I can't even begin to describe how awesome of an idea this was. Isa's Cherry Sage Sausages, made with the classic Julie Hasson steamed gluten sausage method, are amazingly good! And the simple Perfect Pancakes recipe complements these little dudes so well. I made both mini-sized sausages and smaller pancakes to create an easy-to-hold roll-up. I dipped my tacos in heated maple syrup. Mmmm-mmmm.

By the way, I'm entering these in Chocolate-Covered Katie's Pancake Challenge, a vegan food blogger contest challeging folks to create delicious pancakes recipes. At first, the contest was actually for dessert pancakes, but Katie later said savory flapjacks were okay too. There's still a week to get involved, so join up if you haven't already!

Since I made enough sausages and cakes to last all week, I get to eat this meal again and again. Damn, now I can't wait until breakfast....

What I Ate Last Week

So I'm a little behind posting a few dishes. I don't like to include too many meals in one post, so I saved a few of last week's eats to post tonight. I worked on my BBQ Black-Eyed Pea Burger recipe for the cookbook last Tuesday:

That's Tofutti cheeze atop my burger and a homemade pickle on the side. The burger still needs work though. This is the second time I've experimented with a black-eyed pea burger, but I think I'm using too much gluten flour. I like to add a little gluten to help the burger stay together, but the gluten flavor actually overwhelms this burger. I mean, don't get me wrong, it tastes good. But I feel like it needs to be just a tad tastier to be included in my cookbook.

Instead of my usual chips or fries with burgers, I made Boiled Squash and Onions to eat on the side:

My mom used to make this all the time when I was a kid, and though boiling often zaps the flavor of veggies, it does something magical to squash. I simply boiled 3 or 4 sliced summer squash in water with minced onion, salt, pepper, and a generous pat of Earth Balance. Then I seasoned the squash with Cavendar's Greek Seasoning and green hot sauce on my plate.

I also made a deeeeelicious recipe from The Vegan Table last week — the Penne Pasta with Fresh Veggies:

The recipe calls for quite a few veggies — broccoli, red bell peppers, spinach, squash, olives, and fire-roasted tomatoes — tossed with whole wheat penne pasta. And it also calls for vegetarian sausage. The recipe recommends using Tofurkey sausages, but I opted for Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo. Though the chorizo sausage was crumbly and not sliced, it really added a tasty element to this fresh summer dish.

Also, if ya'll saw my last post about MixMyGranola, you should know that the French vanilla granola base I chose is apparently not vegan. Boo hiss! Tanuki.gao commented on that post that I should check the ingredients on the company's website, and sure enough, it contains honey and whey. But all the other granola bases they offer are vegan! I should have checked that out first. Oh well, I'll finish what I have because I don't like to waste. But next time, I'm gonna pick a different granola base.

Mix My Granola!

A few weeks ago, I was randomly generated (ha!) as the winner in Chocolate-Covered Katie's MixMyGranola giveaway. MixMyGranola is a customized granola-makin' website, where folks can choose any ingredients — like nuts, dried fruits, health powders, and even candy — to go into their crunchy mix. My prize was a $20 gift certificate, so I went on the website, created my own mix, and promptly received this cute tube in the mail:

Twenty bucks will pay for a crap ton of granola extras! Here's what I put in my Coco-Banana Lickety Split Granola (they also let you pick a name and include it on the label) — French vanilla granola, dried strawberries, banana slices, walnuts, chia seeds, Brazil nuts, hemp seeds, organic coco shreds, oatbran flakes, organic quinoa, organic pomegranate powder, hazelnuts, goji berries, dried bing cherries, and dried pineapple.

Each ingredient costs around $1 to $3. As you add items into your cart, the website generates a nutrition label so you always know how many calories, fat, protein, etc. is in your mix. When they ship the granola, the nice folks at MixMyGranola include that nutrition label and ingredient list on the back of the package.

I've been enjoying mine with soymilk for breakfast every morning, and I think I'll definitely be heading back to MixMyGranola.com to order more when I run out!

Note to cookbook testers: I finally posted some more recipes to the tester site — fried squash and boozy beer beans. Check it out!

Paradise Beach Phuket

Update 2016. I have not been for a few years and have been told Paradise Beach is now an exclusive, expensive Beach Club. Shame.

Finding a quiet beach in Phuket is not so hard really. Get away from the main beaches (Patong, Karon, Kata) and none of them are too crazy. Hey, in the summer season (May - October) even the main beaches are not always too jammed! The busiest of all Phuket beaches is Patong. I tend to avoid Patong wherever possible. Not my cup of tea. But just about 4km away from the south end of Patong, over the little bridge and past the entrance to the Amari Coral Beach Resort, along the winding road that leads past the Merlin Beach Resort, then over a hill on a narrow, steep path, wide enough for a car (just about!)... then you come to Paradise Beach.

Paradise Beach, Phuket

Slightly corny name, but we like Paradise Beach. We used to go quite often, though I think our last time may have been a few years ago now. The land is privately owned and I am amazed the owner has not sold out to a resort. It's been kept simple. Some beach chairs, some shaded areas where you can sit and eat, a small restaurant, a volleyball court ... I hear that any visitor is now charged a fee of 100 Baht to enter, it used to be that for beach chair hire, but we normally went to eat, and never paid an entry fee.

Paradise Beach, Phuket

There was an old mooring buoy hung from a tree. My daughter loved swinging from that! Not sure if it's still there now.

Paradise Beach, Phuket

In low season, it's very quiet. We mostly used to in low season. During the high season, they do have a deal with one Patong resort to bring guests over, but even still, since there is no busy road, no hawkers, no jetskis, no tuk tuks, it's nice enough in high season too. It's well kept, beach is always clean.. only the toilets are a bit lacking. If you want to rinse off after a swim in the sea there is a pipe connected to a tap hanging over a rock at one end of the beach.

Paradise Beach, Phuket

We often used to go and meet friends there and a few hours would pass quickly with some cold drinks. The food is decent, not expensive, although we moan that it could be cheaper! You can sit in the shade and the kids can play safely on the beach. My kids liked to go hunting for little hermit crabs which they kept in bottles (and would set free again later).

Paradise Beach, Phuket

From Paradise Beach you can just about see one end of Patong across the bay. The water is normally quite clear, you can snorkel here. Swimming is OK, but you have to be aware that at low tide it can be a bit rocky underfoot. At high tide, it's great.

Paradise Beach, Phuket

Paradise Beach, Phuket

Even if it's true that you have to pay a 100 Baht entry fee, that's not ridiculous if the place is well kept. I hope they manage to keep it simple and inexpensive, there is always the temptation here for land and restaurant owners to cater to people with more money than brains. Tourist prices don't suit us - we are not on holiday here! So far, Paradise Beach has retained it's independence, they do things their way and I wish there were more little spots like this. Well, there are a few - here's some other quiet places we like:

Layan Beach
The Beach Bar
Bang Rong Floating Restaurant

Paradise Beach - Location Map


View Paradise Beach, Phuket in a larger map

Original post 2009, updated January 2013