Thursday, July 7, 2011

Non-veg BBQ's and Berry Swirl "Cheesecake"

It's that time of year for BBQ's and cookouts. Pretty much all of the shin-digs I attend are not vegan, seeing as I only know one other vegan (not counting all my internet friends). This doesn't mean that I don't get to eat. Whether you are vegan, gluten-free, diabetic or raw, here are some tips I have picked up on how to make sure you don't starve at a BBQ.

1. Never assume the host fully understands your diet or even knows about it. If you know the host, try to inquire what the food options will be, that way you know what you have to work with. Maybe the host has a vegan sister, or diabetic friend and therefore thought about these options. You will never know until you ask :)

2. If you are sure there won't be much substantial to eat, bring something for yourself that can easily be made on the grill. This weekend I went to a BBQ at my husband's friends house, and even before my husband had asked him about veg options, I was planning on bringing some Yves Good Dogs to put on the grill. The host was happy to grill up my vegan dogs before the meat was put on the grill. They were super delicious and I was full when I left.

3. Bring a dish that fits your diet that everyone can enjoy! Maybe you love vegan potato salad, or want to share and amazing gluten-free cookie recipe you found. This is an excellent way to share with people how awesome and delicious your diet is and might even spark some friendly conversation and you will get to explain your diet choices in a positive atmosphere. If you want some great vegan recipes, there are countless user-entered recipes on

At the BBQ I just mentioned, I brought a super yummy vegan Berry Swirl Cheesecake that I created my own recipe for. It came out super delicious and all of the non-vegans loved it! Here is the recipe:

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
5 to 6 Tbsp. melted Earth Balance buttery spread or sticks
(if you want this to have less sugar, omit the sugar in the crust, it will still be delicious!)

1 8oz. tub Vegan Cream Cheese
1 12oz. pkg. Mori-Nu Firm silken tofu
1/3 cup pineapple juice
4 Tbsp. orange juice
1/4 cup of vegan sour cream
1/3 cup arrowroot powder
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar or agave nectar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract
1/4 cup (or more) Smucker's Triple Berry IceCream Topping (or you favorite berry preserves)

For crust:
Lightly spray a spring-form pan or round cake pan with cooking spray. Mix crumbs and sugars in a bowl with a fork. Mix enough melted Earth Balance in the crumb mixture so that the mixture is still crumblike, but slightly held together. You don't want it to be too dry or too over saturated. Mix until there are no dry crumbs.
Pour the crumb mixture into the bottom of your spring-form or cake pan. Press with your hands until the crust is flat and as even as you can make it. Set aside while you make your cheesecake batter.

For Cheesecake:

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a blender or food processor combine the cream cheese, tofu and fruit juices until very smooth. Next add in the remaining ingredients, except the berry preserves, and mix in blender until combined and mixture is a smooth consistency. Pour this mixture onto your graham cracker crust and spread until it's evenly distributed throughout the pan. If using preserves instead of the Smucker's topping, you will probably have to heat it in the microwave for a few seconds so the consistency is more like a sauce.

Now use a teaspoon to place small amounts of your berry topping or preserves on top of your cheesecake mixture. You can place them randomly and put as much or as little as you want depending on how much berry flavor you want. Once you have the right amount, take a butter knife and swirl your berry mounds around the cheesecake until it looks something like this:

Bake cheesecake at 350 for 45 minutes. When it's done, the edges will be slightly browned. It should look something like this:Let the cheesecake cool a bit and then put in the fridge to chill overnight or at least 4 hours. I topped mine with some more berry topping and some fresh raspberries. Get creative and top yours with whatever you want!

Here is a pic of a single slice of mine:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A weekend at the Springs

Last weekend, my husband, my mother-in-law and my husband's stepfather and I took a 6 hour car ride up to Ponce De Leon and Bonifay Florida for a family reunion. The reunion was for The Crawford's who are my husband's mother's side of the family. They are very southern and also very polite and sweet. The reunion took place at Ponce De Leon Springs State Park which is in the Panhandle (we were practically in Alabama and in a different time zone!). The park has beautiful cold springs with clean clear water. I had never been to a spring before and was surprised to see how crystal clear the water was. The picnic area was filled with families occupying pavilions and picnic tables, but there was so much shade over the area, you almost forgot how hot it was. The water was very refreshing and cold. People were even keeping whole watermelons cold in part of the spring!! There were two basic parts of the spring; a deep area where many kids and teenagers were splashing around, swimming and jumping, and then a shallow stream where you could walk around. We didn't bring our bathing suits so we just waded around the stream where the water only went up to our shins. Still very refreshing from the heat. The park was overall very beautiful. Here are some photos of our adventure at the park.

There was a big tree growing right up out of the swimming area, it was amazing. There were broken logs and plants growing right out of the spring, so beautiful.
The water was so clear and blue, like a swimming pool!Rey and I decided to have fun and pose for a few shots. He wanted to take a picture of me on this spot of greenery growing right next to the spring.

Here is a photo of us with Rey's sister Mikki and her boyfriend Dan.

As far as food goes, I knew there would not be many (or any) vegan options, so I brought along a package of my favorite Amy's California Veggie Burger's from home. They were super yummy cooked on the grill and a bit of ketchup and mustard on the bun. I also ate some potato chips and a pickle. Not the healthiest meal but at least it was vegan and I was full! I was planning on saving a burger or two for dinner, but there were so many coolers going around they somehow got misplaced in all the shuffle.

We stayed the night at Rey's Grandmother's house in nearby Bonifay. On the way there we stopped at a Piggly Wiggly (it's a grocery store, a very southern backwoods grocery store) in hopes to find some sort of vegan food I could eat, knowing there wouldn't be anything at the house. It was a complete fail. No vegan yummies at all, not even a Morning Star Farms or Boca item. At least they had produce, which I suppose is better anyway. So I picked up a bag of lettuce, a vidalia onion and some light Italian dressing to munch on for dinner, and a box of Kashi cereal for breakfast the next morning. When we arrived at my Grandmother-in-law's I also discovered a can of crescent rolls (Vegan!) in the fridge, so a bunch of us split those as well.

Rey's Grandmother lives in a nice quaint house that had a few rooms built on to it and it has two huge storage closets. She lives there with her sister and they are both very sweet and accommodating. The live there with a cute Yorkie terrier named Honey and two Cows and other animals! The cows have a wide area to roam around in behind the house. Here are some photos.
The white one is the female and black one is the bull. The female is named Ginger. She was pregnant and past due while we were there. She had her calf a few days after we left and they named him Brown Sugar.
Here Rey is feeding the bull. He was so cute! Who could eat such a gentle creature?

I know they used the cow's milk but at least I knew they were being humanely treated, cared for and loved. The only cow's I have ever been that close to were the one's they keep chained up at the South Florida Fair and those poor things are always so depressed.

The weekend was a fun time spent with family. We played cards (BS!), talked, joked around and told stories and my husband was happy to spend time with people he doesn't get to see too often.