Vida Vegan Con II: Year of the Instagram

Mo, Amey, and Kittee of Vegan Battle Royale

During the weekend of Vida Vegan Con II, Portland was a 24-hour vegan playground. It was raining when I hopped off the plane and continued until it was time to head home, but it would’ve taken much more than a little rain to faze the excited attendees of vegan summer camp! The classes were engaging and inspiring, the food was plentiful, the drinks were flowing, and fun was most certainly had!

After my flight was delayed for 3 hours (shakes fist at O’Hare), I arrived in Portland a little later than expected. Melisser‘s flight was delayed as well and luckily, we got to PDX within five minutes of one another and traveled through the rain to our respective accommodations.

I spent the weekend in a rad apartment on Mississippi (I would frequently say M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I in my head in a singsong voice typing it into Google Maps throughout the trip) with Joni, Jackie, Louzilla, and Michelle. Joni and Jackie greeted me at the apartment and within four minutes, we were headed downstairs to the bar. This was the first of many times we would take advantage of the fact we were staying right above a bar.

Oh hey, we were also staying right down the street from Flavour Spot, the waffle cart that sells vegan sausage waffle sandwiches dripping with buttery maple cream. This was “pre-breakfast.” Sidenote: it really turned out to be just breakfast.

We then made a trip to Hungry Tiger Too for lunch (or breakfast, if we’re still going with pre-breakfast), where we met up with Joanna after unabashedly stalking her on Instagram and noticing she was right down the street at that very moment. I got two corndogs and a side of cheese sauce. Saucy.

We then ventured over to the vegan mini-mall and went to Herbivore, where we ran into more friends (hi Lauren!).

The unofficial VVC meet and greet was held at the White Owl Social Club, a new bar from the folks at Sizzle Pie, to which we arrived after a rainy walk. I can’t remember what this drink was called, but it had lemon, sage, rosemary, and bitters, and it was, er, interesting. After another questionable adventurous drink choice, I stuck to the basics.

What everyone was really there for was the wonderful company…and the macaroni and cheese burger! Louzilla and I split this one.

We got dessert at the famous Voodoo. I didn’t make it to Voodoo at the last Vida Vegan Con, so I’ve been eyeing the grape donut for over a year. I can happily say its deep-fried, Kool-Aid(?)-coated exterior lived up to my expectations.

After Voodoo, Louzilla and I met up with Joni and Jackie at The Bye and Bye and put away some of their signature cocktails, the Bye and Bye. A peach-infused bourbon, vodka, and juice concoction served in a quart Mason jar, at $7 it’s an economical choice for a lot of drink.

What, Vida Vegan Con hasn’t even started yet?

Vida Vegan Con was held at the Portland Art Museum. If it wasn’t clear that we’d arrived at the correct place, the Earth Balance car would’ve tipped us off.

After checking in, we ate at Veggie Grill for breakfast. This is the Buffalo Bomber Burger.

From the classes on Friday’s agenda, I attended Gena Hamshaw‘s Blog Writing as Writing, Isa Chandra Moskowitz‘s iPhone Food Photography, Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan‘s Why & How to Expand Your Message to Include Animal Rights, and Mo, Kittee, and Amey‘s Vegan MoFo Workshop. The day was so full, I forgot to take photos!

Gena’s writing class covered a selection of problematic habits writers fall into when blogging and how to remedy these mistakes. She spoke about how often bloggers spill their guts without editing their writing, producing sloppy content for the sake of meeting a self-made deadline, and trying to cover ALL THE TOPICS instead of choosing a focus and really honing in on how they communicate these ideas. As the first class of the day, this is where some new idea sparkage began in my brain.

In Vegan MoFo class, we collectively created MoFo themes for each day of the week that everyone participating in MoFo this year can follow. Pick one, do all 7, or none at all! I’m not going to reveal the winners here, so YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL MOFO.

Louzilla, John, and I failed to arrive on time to the Upton’s and Chicago Vegan Foods Taco and S’mores Pop-Up. Sad faces all around. We remedied aforementioned sad faces by getting dinner at Sizzle Pie, then dessert at Voodoo (again).

I panicked and got grape again. Loyalty.

On Saturday, Vida Vegan Con greeted us with a Portland Vegan Breakfast Showcase. A.N.D. Cafe, Back to Eden Bakery, Blackheart Bagels, Cinnamon, Divine Pie, Portland Juice Press, Portobello Vegan Trattoria, Sizzle Pie, and White Owl Social Club provided us with an unforgettable breakfast. I got polenta from Portobello, pizza from Sizzle Pie (this actually wouldn’t be the last time I ate Sizzle Pie during the trip), and a donut from Cinnamon.

I followed around Jason Das, Laura Beck, and Leigh-Chantelle that morning attended two panels that morning: Ethics Beyond the Plate, and Vegan Invasion: Community Building, where the discussions went beyond animal issues and food and focused on other social justice movements and creating community.

Vegan Battle Royale was held during lunch that day. I was called up to play extreme vegan trivia and can happily say that the MOTHERFORKING DESTROYERS won!

That afternoon, Gena Hamshaw, Jamie J. Hagen, and I led a panel on time management called Finding Balance: Blogging & Personal Life. We talked about the importance of setting realistic goals, schedules, and boundaries, and avoiding blogger burnout.

All the tables were scattered with VVC temporary tattoos. And coffee. They had coffee ALL DAY EVERY DAY. With coconut creamer. Be still, my heart.

That night was THE Galarama, which was a benefit for the Chimp Sanctuary NW. Dancing, silent auction, ice cream, tacos, chili cheese dogs, vodka root beer floats, vegan jello shots, long ass bathroom lines, oh my! And the beautiful Melisser was DJ-ing. We forgot to take prom photos beforehand.

The after-party was karaoke. Louzilla and I sang Party in the USA, naturally replacing “LAX” and “USA” with “PDX” and “VVC.” She’s just being Miley!

Photo from Joanna

Ashlee from The Lil Foxes and Melisser:

The next morning (the final official day of the conference!) I got a bit of a late start and snacked out of the swag bag for breakfast and went over my presentation for my afternoon class, trying not to hyperventilate just yet!

The first class I attended that day was Body Image Acceptance & Veganism. Each panelist (and moderator Laura Beck) shared her story and I think most everyone felt feeling inspired and a little teary!

Lunch was a build-your-own sandwich bar. My piled-high open-faced sandwich wasn’t pretty, but it was sure tasty.

After lunch, I gave my Artful Food Photography class. Since I live behind a computer, I started out DYING INSIDE on the nerves meter, but luckily got to comfortable quickly. Louzilla assured me I didn’t seem nervous and we’ve been friends forever so of course I trust her judgment. I focused on the blog as a space where the writer/photographer has complete creative control, and how to use that! We went over lighting scenarios, setting up shots, and a quick editing overview. The Q&A serendipitously turned into pictionary.

This is an example of how you could photograph cat cookies with your cat in the frame:

Or a Chipotle burrito. Complete with chips and guac, a crumpled up bag, and a margarita in a can, because that is how you represent a McDonald’s burrito. Real talk.

One day I will use these sketches and photograph these scenarios for real!

Although the conference was over, the fun was not! We hosted a party at the apartment.

Party decorations:

It’s Portland, so of course the mac and cheese restaurant down the street has a vegan option. Party planning fuel.

After lots of dancing and imbibing, Louzilla and I joined Melisser and Kerry for a trip to Casa Diablo, the only 100% vegan strip club in the country. Don’t Google this at work?

The next day was my final full day in Portland and I played it by ear.

The next morning, a few of us met up at Back to Eden Bakery. I ordered the asparagus cashew tart and soft serve. The tart was flaky, creamy, and flavorful, and the soft serve was like eating a cloud.

After a five minute torrential downpour, Jackie, Melisser, and I met up with the Vegan Cuts crew at the Bye and Bye. This is the meatball sub.

Jackie and I stuck around for awhile longer and sipped some more Bye and Byes. I can’t remember if I ordered one or two. This set the tone for the rest of the day. BAM.

We hopped on a bus to Ground Kontrol arcade. This is the Pac-Man bathroom floor! METAL MONDAY!

I ordered Vodka Tronics, which was a blue-flavored vodka tonic. And of course, there were vegan options all over the menu. Oh Portland, you beautiful foxy rainy town.

After Ground Kontrol and lots of quarters spent, Jackie and I met up with Jared for more Sizzle Pie (see?). We loaded up on pizza, then headed back to the apartment where I proceeded to stay up all night, then quickly pack and head to the airport at 5am. Oh, I slept good on that plane and when I got home.

I arrived at O’Hare and walked right into the rainbow hallway!

My swag bag, Battle Royale bag, speaker bag, and Food Fight! purchases got all mixed up with the packing, so I have no idea what came from where, but here (most of) it all is!

The verdict? Vida Vegan Con II was the best weekend ever! I brought my camera, but it never left the apartment, so I embraced the Instagram for documenting the weekend with no regrets. I left inspired, full of ideas, with new friends, and feeling good. We can read all the blogs and talk to all the vegans online, but nothing beats meeting in real life and celebrating at vegan summer camp. I’ve even taken action and started at least two new projects (details forthcoming) since leaving VVC. That’s what it’s all about, right?! YAY!


Vegan MoFo #4: Vida Vegan Con Cooking Demos

Vida Vegan MoFo, huzzah! I’m lucky this post actually fits with the theme so I have a legitimate excuse to be blogging about Vida Vegan Con two months late (but wait, I posted a huge VVC post only a month late!).
Joni Newman and I did a cooking demo together at the Pearl District Whole Foods called Backyard BBQ with an Indian Twist, as part of the off-site cooking demo series at Vida Vegan Con. Our menu was Kofta Kebabs with Tangy Tahini Dipping Sauce and Rosewater Lemonade Cupcakes. This venue had a fully stocked kitchen with every appliance you could imagine, a full working stove and oven (well the oven didn’t work too terribly well, but whatevs!), and lots of counter space. And if any ingredients were missing…surprise, Whole Foods is downstairs! It was such a great set up and we could focus on the making food instead of running around checking to make sure we had everything prepare.

Joni and I had so much fun cooking together and talking with the people who attended. The demo lasted an extra half hour, at least! That’s unwritten rule #1 of cooking demos: engage the audience by making the demo into a conversation rather than just talking at them. Then it’s entertaining, everyone is involved, and friendship bracelets are exchanged by the end of it all! Joni and I decided we needed to quit our normal lives and roadtrip around the country with a food demo truck feeding vegans and non-vegans everywhere (who wants to buy us a food demo truck?!).

I’m probably laughing about how I can’t figure out how to use this Kitchenaid. I just made jokes about all the stupid shit I accidentally did throughout the demo. It was entertaining! That’s unwritten rule #2 of cooking demos: make people laugh!

Rosewater Lemonade Cupcakes! Well these aren’t the EXACT Rosewater Lemonade Cupcakes from the demo, but they’re not made out of styrofoam and mashed potatoes or anything.

Friday morning before the conference shenanigans began, I had another off-site demo with KATU-TV, where I made Margarita Biscotti from my upcoming project. I decided I was going to become a ring-wearing person by starting out with this plastic apple ring, but it’s the only one I ever wear and I forget most of the time. But here it is!

The segment from KATU:

Yes, you can get vegan baking ingredients at normal grocery stores, and NO, cookies are not healthy!

Again, those are biscotti from a different day, but they’re the real deal! And again again, I’m super tired and it’s time for bed!


Post-VVC mini post.

I just got back from Vida Vegan Con a little over a week ago (and went directly to school to start off the semester!) and spent the weekend mostly unconscious battling the Post Vida Vegan Con Sickness of Death, which is strep and a cold! Fun! I actually didn’t mind having a legitimate excuse to spend the weekend on the couch in pajamas watching movies and horrible horrible television. But anyway, EXCUSES, EXCUSES. I just wanted to quickly check in (I’m blogging in class…awkward!) with a few things before writing my fully-fleshed Vida Vegan Con blog posts.

1. My friend Katie just redesigned her blog with illustrations from Amanda Chronister! And she’s currently doing a really awesome fundraiser and raffle that ends in one week! Send your Ride to Light donation receipt. Read all the details and find out about the prizes here!

2. The Macnocheetoh Burrito and Coconut Deep Fried Oreos from Homegrown Smoker, AKA crack! I’ve been dreaming about this meal in all it’s deep fried glory for over a week. Let’s look at it more:

3. Panda Cookies! My friend Lisa of Panda with Cookie made these cookies in PDX and they are the cutest cookies ever!

4. Vida Vegan Con podcasts! Erika and Jordan of The Cosmopolitan Hour were busy recording during the conference and you can listen to their drastically awesome VVC special in two parts! Jasmin of Our Hen House was recording at the conference too, and you can listen to episode 86 here! The VVC podcasting workshop notes were also posted on Our Hen House, so check them out.


Mad City Vegan Fest!

The long overdue Mad City Vegan Fest post!
On June 19th, the very first vegan fest in Madison, WI witnessed an amazing turnout of over 1,300 people for a day of delicious food, cooking demos, vendors, and community. I was so happy to be a part of the demo line-up, all the details of which can be found on the Mad City Vegan Fest website! Thank you so much to the organizers, Hannah West and Courtney Mayhew, and all the volunteers who worked so hard to create such a successful inspiring event!
I did a brief write-up of the event over on Vegansaurus so check it out here for the who/what/where/when and even more puffy heart vegan fest love.

The day was absolutely insane! There was so much going on in every corner and so many people-both familiar faces and new friends. Add in preparing for my demo, and by the time I got to sit down with a bite to eat, the day was starting to wrap up! I started setting up in the kitchen when I first arrived to the Goodman Community Center, then headed over to the exhibitor hall, got some food samples, and ran into lots of amazing people until it was time to prepare for the demo.
Laviyah Ayanna of the Ste Martaen Chicago vegan food truck was one of the food vendors. I was smart and forgot to bring cash to vegan fest, so later in the day when I was able to get mac n cheese, I was too late…oops! Luckily the vegan food truck comes up to Milwaukee pretty regularly on Saturdays, so the mac n cheese-shaped hole in my heart can be filled soon.

Photo courtesy of Sandi Swiss

Nicole working some Upton’s seitan magic.
Pssssst, if you’re near Chicago this upcoming Saturday, July 23rd, there will be a Vegan Chef Showdown by Upton’s Naturals to benefit Mercy for Animals. Check out all the info on the Facebook page. I will be there! And competing! 🙂

Photo courtesy of Sandi Swiss

Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House gave a speech about baketivism called Let the Donut Do the Talking.

Photo courtesy of Sandi Swiss

I met Jasmin and Mariann for the first time in Madison and we instantly became BFFs like vegans do, and I visited them in NYC a few days later where we did an interview for Our Hen House. It appears on Episode 78, which you can listen to here or through iTunes. Episode 76 is all about Mad City Vegan Fest and includes interviews with Terry Romero and Courtney Mayhew, so listen to that one too! And all the other episodes because Jasmin and Mariann are fantastic and their podcast is informative, inspiring, and witty!

I demo-ed a brand new recipe, Shirley Temple Cookies, a light shortbread-like lemon orange cookie topped with cherry grenadine frosting, a candy straw, paper umbrella, and maraschino cherry.

I chose to demo these cookies because the decorations are elaborate, but fun and easy to do. I called up two volunteers to help decorate the cookies-the first hands that went up belong to Sandi of Canary Confectionery and Ayame. They helped pipe the frosting and top the cookies with all the garnishes to be ready for everyone that came up for a sample. Even with two rounds of Shirley Temple Cookies and a huge sample platter of chocolate peppermint cream bars, the cookies were gone in two seconds flat. Demo success!

Demo photos by Katie Young



My second batch of Shirley Temple Cookies:

Up later was Terry Romero’s demo. Terry being awesome in the kitchen:

Terry did a cooking demo on Chipotle Seitan and Potato Tacos from Viva Vegan!

There was an after-party at High Noon Saloon in Madison after the event with a donation-based cover. Pizza was delivered-my slices had Daiya cheese, pineapple, onions, and jalepenos. But the real star of the show was the cupcakes!

Jessica Weisnicht of Compassionate Cake donated 180 gorgeously decorated cupcakes for the after party.

The cupcakes were all decorated with buttercream, intricate white chocolate shapes, and handmade fondant sculptures. Flavors include soy milk and cookies, almond vanilla sponge cake, and Merlot…

…coffee and donuts, rosewater, Earl Grey agave…

…orange flower water agave honeybees, death by chocolate, chile chocolate, and those butterflies are edible!

…margarita, chocolate ganache, maple bacon, and cherry cheesecake!

Jessica truly went above and beyond with the full table of desserts. Jessica is not new to veganism, but she is to the community and it’s so great to have such an amazing addition to our vegan world (I was debating what word to use here. Circle? Scene? Those all sound so cult-ish…ahem, you know what I mean)! I am continually astounded by the kindness and talent in the vegan community and so happy to know so many wonderful people over the past several years. I’m excited to see what else delicious and cruelty-free is going to happen in the future!


Chicago Vegan Bake Sale for Japan and MKE bake sales coming up in May!

Finally, the long-awaited bake sale post! I attended one of Chicago’s Vegan Bake Sales for Japan at the beginning of the month and even as a baker, it was one of the few times in my life being surrounded by hundreds, maybe over a thousand cookies, cupcakes, brownies, cakes, and everything in between. The picture above is what I brought: sugar cookie lollipops, vanilla cupcakes, and tropical rum and coke cupcakes.
This bake sale was seriously decked out, and raised an amazing $1526 over the course of 5 hours. There were several other bake sales going on the weekend of April 3rd, as well as throughout the month, and continuing in May. Vegan bake sales around the country easily raised over $10,000 just that weekend, so imagine how much is raised as bake sales are being held regularly, especially with the recent surge of sales in the aftermath of the Japan tragedy. Between the tight-knit nature of the vegan community and the desire to be positive and help when disaster strikes, vegan bake sales are just one way the vegan community is actively making a difference everyday. High five!

Before we get to the cookies, I wanted to touch on an issue that presented itself before this specific bake sale, and was a topic of conversation that day. When the announcement for this bake sale was posted online, it received a disproportionate amount of hateful, ignorant comments that ranged from comments like “sorry. I hate catastrophic earthquakes, but I hate vegans even more” to stupid vegan jokes to the absurdity of a vegan bake sale because it’s not possible to make vegan lemon meringue pie. In general, just argumentative comments about the bake sale being vegan. As if it were crazy to raise money for a humanitarian cause and not exploit animals in the process. Or have baked goods that both vegans and non-vegans can eat.
All I have to say to that is…shut up and start your own non-vegan bake sale if you really care. Jessica, the organizer of this bake sale, got in contact with a few of the naysayers and told them that very same thing, or offered to collaborate in the future to make an even bigger bake sale and raise more money for a good cause. Were they responsive? Nope!

In lieu of lemon meringue pie (I’ve never had lemon meringue pie…am I missing out on something earth-shattering? Though maybe we’ll find a recipe in Isa and Terry’s upcoming pie book!), here is the Chicago Vegan Bake Sale for Japan:

Red velvet whoopie pies!

Root Beer Float Cupcakes (from My Sweet Vegan, I’m guessing)

Bleeding Heart Bakery cupcakes

S’mores Cupcakes

The Ste Martaen vegan food truck came by with some real food to quell our sugar high. This is the Carolina BBQ sandwich.

Here’s what I ended up bringing home with me. Clockwise from upper left: scotcharoos, apple pie turnover (atop a red velvet whoopie pie), green tea raw cheesecake, red velvet cake balls, Bleeding Heart peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes, cookie dough cupcakes, green tea mini cupcake, and raw coconut bar.
Frosting cupcakes with cookie dough is pure genius! Yum yum yum.

Great job, everyone! Can’t wait for the next one!

Speaking of bake sales, there are TWO that are coming up soon in Milwaukee.

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale & Silent Auction – Milwaukee
Saturday, May 21, 2011
1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Best Place At The Historic Pabst Brewery
901 W. Juneau Ave.
More info: www.mkefoodies.com
Facebook invite: http://on.fb.me/gQWLAo
Donation page: http://cookiesforkidscancer.kintera.org/mkefoodies
Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: www.cookiesforkidscancer.org

This sale isn’t exclusively vegan, but there will be many clearly labeled vegan goodies available! So far, I know that my friend Amy and I will be there with baked goods. The awesome organizer, Lori, called out for vegan bakers a few weeks ago, so I’m sure there will be lots more! Come out and support a great cause! See, vegan and non-vegan bake sales can co-exist!

The next Milwaukee vegan bake sale will be on…
Saturday, May 14, 2011, from 10 AM – 5 PM at
Urban Ecology Center
Riverside Park branch
1500 E. Park Pl.
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Plan to come out to the next bi-annual Milwaukee Vegan Bake Sale, and check out the website to sign up on the google doc to donate baked goods.

I know that I’ve been very absent from the blog (and Seitan Beats Your Meat) lately. That’s mostly because I’ve been absolutely slammed with final projects lately. My semester is ending in less than two weeks, so when I’m not in the studio shooting for final photography projects or writing papers, I’m trying to get a few hours of sleep at night, or trying to relax a bit. My writing would have probably reflected my current mush of a brain right now, so I waited to tackle these blog posts! I just finished a huge research paper, so the next couple weeks will be busy, but a little more manageable! The work on the blogs I’ve done recently has been very little things here and there (as well as guest posting on other blogs), and I’m currently working on logos and re-vamping them, so good things will be coming eventually!

Weaved into all the school busy-ness, I am trying to figure out how I’m going to spend the summer (besides 13 hour school days twice a week for summer school…yes, I’m crazy), writing recipes, and maaaaybe starting work on a new book. I’m already in the works of planning to bake for my school’s union in the fall, and may be having a preview bake sale at the very beginning of May. I don’t have details ironed out yet, but it will probably be very last minute, so keep updated on Twitter and Facebook if you’re in the area.
To go along with that, I am going to work on selling baked goods locally, offering catering services, and selling online more frequently. Yay! There’s a lot of work that goes into that with deciding on packaging, health codes, ordering ingredients, promoting, designing, business cards, and so much more, so it’ll be a good project to tackle soon! With wedding season coming up, I was thinking about making cookies like the monogrammed V hearts above on a larger scale, or selling online. What would (local and not-local) vegans like to see in the upcoming months?

Another shout out for Mad City Vegan Fest in Madison, WI on June 19th! Mark your calendars! Amongst the awesome lineup of speakers and food demos, I’ll be doing a baking demo.

For more recipes on sugar cookies, check out Reader’s Digest and try your hand at veganizing them.


Gluten free cookies in Chicago and some xmas cookies

Vegan Cookies is back!
I regrettably haven’t been doing too much baking over the past few months when I was away at school living in the dorms, so I’m going to refocus while I’m home for 5 weeks of winter break.

Last week I met up with Melisser at Great Taste Cafe in Chicago for lunch. For dessert, we got seasonal Temptation pumpkin ice cream and chocolate sandwich cookies, which were gluten free, as was everything on the menu.


And what’s December without some back to basics sugar cookies?