#ResolveToGrow

ynpntrianglencBackground: I have the privilege of serving on the Young Nonprofit Professional Network (YNPN) Triangle NC Board of Directors. You may try saying that three times fast, if you so desire. We’re an affiliate of our national chapter (YNPN), and our mission is:

“To cultivate and support young nonprofit professionals in the Triangle by fostering networking, skill-building, and resource-sharing.”

Fancy, right? Essentially, our purpose is to help bring nonprofit professionals together in various spaces – whether physical, online, etc. – and bridge connections to other people and knowledge. I “joined” in 2012 (we charge $0 for membership currently) and fell into this amazing group of individuals who had the same passion, commitment, and goofiness that somehow nonprofit professionals either are born with or develop over time.

Amazing “When You Work at a Nonprofit” Tumblr

Alright, enough background. We started a campaign for 2015 called #ResolveToGrow. Yes, it’s a sly way of asking folks to make resolutions for the new year, but we would offer some accountability support along the way.

The problem is: it required me to think of how I wanted to #ResolveToGrow this year – what would future Katie be like? Or, should be like, both in my professional and personal identifies.

Initially, I targeted a professional (and arguably super nerdy goal) of how I wanted to grow: to become much more knowledgeable and skilled in the art of Google Analytics. GA is gold, and I had skimmed just the surface of this data dashboard to help inform work at my previous and current job.

Taking this #ResolveToGrow challenge by the horns, I have already completed the Digital Analytics Fundamentals course through Google’s Analytics Academy. Step one of many, for sure. I have even put into practice some of the infrastructure recommendations for tracking our three websites along with testing out some “Goal” conversions and other nebulous Google-terminology meaning “bring people to website and keep them engaged longer.”

Wow, that got in the weeds quickly. In the spirit of always striving forward, I’ve come up with a few other ways I #ResolveToGrow in 2015:

  • Make homemade seitan. It’s been on my vegan cooking bucket list for a few months now. I plan on trying Post Punk Kitchen’s recipe, unless you have a “MUST MAKE” one!
  • Return to the lap pool. I’m not sure sure why I use “return” to imply that I was once there because I never participated in organized swim ever. I learned how to swim, thankfully, as was practically state law in Arizona. And, I spent 90% of my childhood summers in the water. But, to actually move my body up and down in formalized motions is not something I have undertaken outside of a few half-hearted attempts a couple of years ago when I learned that swimming laps is really hard. With enough friends who either are aficionados or taking on the similar challenge, I plan on incorporating this back into my workout routine post-marathon.
  • Plant a garden. So, I literally #ResolveToGrow my own herbs and a few vegetables (peppers, squash, tomatoes) in 2015.

Three might be the best, more reasonable start to this life campaign. We’ll see if others make it to the list (Chicago marathon? Brewing my own kombucha? Getting more involved in local government happenings?)

How do you #ResolveToGrow in 2015 and beyond? If you’re on Twitter, you should tweet at YNPN Triangle NC (@YNPNTriangleNC) with your response. Made sure to include #ResolveToGrow!

Walt Disney World and vegan eats

Besides evenings chocked full of activities for other organizations, my failure to fully complete the 31+ days of Veganuary recipes can also be partly blamed on a mouse.

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Yes, that’s evidence of Mickey Mouse and me breaking it down on the dance floor. The impetus for all of this happening was to celebrate the marriage of my good friend and Teach For America trenchmate Kacie (and her now husband Preston!). Kacie’s fondness for WDW, and Preston’s fondness for Kacie, led to this magical occasion in Orlando.

Not only was this my first time at Walt Disney World – this was my first time in the state of Florida. (thus knocking another unvisited state of the list!) In this post, I’m going to focus mainly on the food. The sights, sounds, and rides of the four parks will be featured in subsequent narratives.

Bottom line: eating vegan isn’t easy at Walt Disney World, but it’s possible and likely some of the best service you’ll receive.

Before we left, Aaron and I did our homework, thanks to other bloggers for jotting down their plant-based eating journeys of the various resorts, parks, and surrounding restaurants. Overall, there were two shining gems among the rougher choices, and both of them happen to be at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

1) Sanaa, Animal Kingdom Lodge

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Touted as “African cooking with Indian flavors,” this restaurant was on the must-hit list. In fact, it was the first eatery we dined at post-arriving to the grounds (reservations recommended).

On the basic menu, Sanaa offers a vegetarian sampler featuring Lentil Dal, Chickpea Wat, and more. Unfortunately, the naan here is made with ghee, but there are lentil chips as substitutes. Even better: there is a full vegan menu. I let our server know, and boom: it appeared.

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Major decision time. I ended up opted for the three-salad sampler (chickpeas with cucumber and tomato; watermelon, cucumber and fennel; and Bhel Puri) and an order of the Chana Tiki appetizer.

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Everything was delicious. We’re talking poppin’ flavors in fresh-high quality food. It didn’t hurt to also have Cigar City available:

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Sanaa set a high bar for the rest of our Disney experience. Needless to say, expectations fell short along the way. However, this first day continued strong as we ended up having dinner in EPCOT.

2) Tangerine Cafe, EPCOT

Another suggestion that came from both our bride-to-be and several other online resources. Located in the Morocco section, Tangerine Cafe provided some of the best falafel and couscous salad that we both have ever tasted. I went with the vegetarian platter, which came with falafel, lentils, tabouleh, hummus, bread, olives, and this crazy good Tangerine couscous salad.

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Aaron – not a surprise – went for the vegetarian Falafel wrap, which he loved (not vegan).

Editor’s note: I just read that the lentil salad is actually not vegan. Well darnit. Who puts mayo in lentil salad?! Also, if you abstain from honey, you can request honey-free pita bread.

3) Boma – Animal Kingdom Lodge

On the final day of our magical experience, we landed at Boma for the last possible breakfast seating (10:50am) before our flight. Boma was the first restaurant that came out of most people’s mouths for vegan-friendly recommendations. During both breakfast and dinner service (no lunch, folks!), the restaurants offers an enormous range of options on a buffet.

Thanks to some sleuthing that morning, I knew that the chefs here went above and beyond for guests with food allergies or dietary restrictions. Our server, Dilly, brought out Chris (who apparently is Internet famous) from Detroit, MI. He kindly walked us through the various buffet options, which were plentiful – from fresh fruit to tater tots (with the most amazing spices!) to steamed veggies and much more.

But – then he threw out the offer I was hoping for (I have little shame since hot breakfast is such a rare treat out). He offered to make us vegan Mickey waffles AND a tofu scramble. While we waited, I made a small plate to at least sample some of the buffet offerings (the copious amount of tomatoes made me so happy):

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And then, these arrived:

10955798_10103610984659692_8395477499621154745_nOh Mickey, you’re so fine. You’re so fine you blow my mind. Hey Mickey!

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I credit the blur to the sheer ravage hunger I was feeling on the inside. Everything was outstanding. I can’t even tell you the last time I ate waffles. These had a nice crunch on the exterior (the ears in particular) and a soft, warm doughy quality underneath. The scramble had a tinge of spice and was quickly inhaled.

Continuing to exceed my expectations, chef Chris brought us some chocolate chip cookies that accommodated the eight major food allergies. They may have been from Enjoy Life, and as you can see, there are no photos of them because they were gobbled up. They were a nice blend of both crunchy and soft cookies. I would never – ever – have known they were egg/soy/treenut/dairy/gluten/etc. free.

These were the highlights of our food tour – which is a bit disappointing. Unfortunately, my phone died during the wedding or I would have captured the incredible quinoa loaf served for the vegetarian/vegan crowd at the reception. Accompanied with sauteed mushrooms, steamed veggies, and topped with a sun-dried tomato-balsamic reduction, it was one of the best wedding dishes I have ever tasted.

I will note that despite not having photos, I was able to secure a vegan burger at the Magic Kingdom (on a gluten free roll as the regular rolls are not vegan) with plain corn on the cob. It was easier to be labeled as having a food allergy than trying to explain the ins and outs of veganism.

Our own resort – Coronado Springs – was not a grand haven for non-meat eating as well. I had two meals here: a roasted-veggie pita with a balsamic reduction (which I learned recently may contain various fish oils, so this might be something one should ask about), and the one-two breakfast punch of oatmeal with sliced almonds and fruit. Nothing out of this world exciting or overwhelming. These meals served more as “filling” than “fulfilling.”

Here’s something I didn’t know: you can actually bring food into the parks. I kept snacks in my purse at all times, which saved us some extra $ and allowed us to typically eat only two meals out a day.

Also, one last plug: from the research files, I learned the popcorn at the parks is vegan. I really hope this is still true because it was finger-licking good. I almost requested a second souvenir bucket. Almost.

There are tons of additional resources out there on eating vegan at Disneyworld, including:

At some point you’ll say: “Oh, these are all naming the same places.” Undoubtedly, as Downtown Disney undergoes revamping, there will be more options on the grounds. Until then: Animal Kingdom Lodge – no mater which places you visit – is a must see. Plus, there are savannahs on the grounds where you can watch cranes, zebras, antelope, and giraffes from your dining room window (or your room if you are super fancy).

Have you visited the Mouse and have a favorite place to dine or snack at? Please share!

Day 29 of vegan recipe challege: 3 things to try

Who doesn’t like a round up blog post? It’s the cheat for promoting great ideas/content without actually creating much of said ideas/content. Call it the Upworthy or Buzzfeed creed. Without further ado:

1) Last Sunday, I held my inaugural “Cooking with Friends” adventure centered around a vegan staple: tofu. One of the most highly acclaimed dishes came from none other than everyone’s favorite crafter-gone-money-launderer Martha Stewart.

broiled tofuAfter broiling this tofu, make a wreath!

The recipe (found here) is ridiculously easy. The soy lemon pepper dipping sauce was a nice, punchy touch, and would make a great marinade or dipping sauce in other dishes, for sure.

2) This past Monday was Chipotle’s much publicized sofritas special. If you purchased a bowl/burrito/taco with sofritas on that day, you would be able to score a free bowl/burrito/tacos using your receipt on another visit. Alas, we were not able to partake due to time and finances (and the fact that we have a silly amount of food in our house). BUT – we did taste the sofritas a couple of Saturdays ago: I did a bowl with black beans, pico, and lettuce while Aaron took his in taco form topped with black beans and the corn salsa. The verdict: quite tasty with some nice heat. What a gesture to have another protein option outside of the bean staple in the takeout realm.

sofritasThanks Chipootle for bringing tofu to the hipsters

3) I still have yet to post about my (now TWO) sushi roll making adventures. If you’re in the market to get your nori on, the BambooMN brand is the set my friend Chelsea recommended to me, and I shall pass it on as well.:

sushikitKeep it rollin’

Even better, the price for the set is under $8.

Speaking of sushi, a new restaurant opened in downtown Durham this week. Basan brings more new life into the American Tobacco section of the Dirty D with a menu that boasts some pretty fabulous looking veggie sushi. For example:

Bonsai

Avocado, broccoli, carrot, asparagus, tempura green beans, wrapped with soy paper and cucumber, soy salsa on top

Garden

Frisee, tomato, avocado, cucumber inside, roasted pepper, chive on top, whole grain mustard dressing

This has been added to our restaurant must-hit list.

QUESTION TIME:

Alright vegans and non-vegans alike, are you a fan of sushi? If so, what are the ingredients you like to find in your roll?

Day 28 of vegan recipe challenge: channeling the God(dess) in all of us

I shall defer from making a litany of excuses and instead dive right into another recipe (blogger guilt in effect!) Although, I did write a blog post for our organization in the interim.

Need something simple, comforting, and cozy? From the brain of Isa Chandra Moskowitz, this dish combines tahini with tempeh, broccoli, and linguine to make that ideal bowl of goodness (or goddess). I tried this dish out last Friday on a friend, and rave reviews were heard around the table,

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Goddess Noodles with Tempeh & Broccoli
Serves 4
Total time: 30 min; Active Time: 30 min

8 ounces whole-wheat linguine
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt plus a couple more pinches
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flake
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
8 ounces tempeh, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
6 cups broccoli florets and thinly sliced stems
4 cloves garlic. minced
1 cup chopped fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. When it’s boiling, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside, reserving a cup or so of the cooking water.

In a liquid measuring cup, use a fork to stir together the tahini, warm water, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Depending on the consistency of your tahini, you may need to add more water to get it to be relatively smooth. Mix in the nutritional yeast. Set aside.

Preheat a large pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Saute the tempeh in the soil with a big pinch of salt for about 7 minutes, tossing frequently, until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same pan, cook the broccoli in another 1 tablespoon oil with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes. The broccoli should be bright green and still have a snap to it.

Push the broccoli over to the side of the pan, and add the garlic, along with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Toss together and let the garlic cook for about 15 seconds, thenĀ  mix it in with the broccoli.

Now, add the pasta and use a pasta fork (or fork) to mix together the pasta and broccoli. Turn off the heat, add the tahini, and stir to coat. Now add the reserved pasta water as needed to thin the sauce and get everything coated.

Stir in the tempeh, chives, and some black pepper. Serve.

Notes from Isa:

  • The consistency of tahini can vary greatly from brand to brand. Some are thin and smooth, and others are firm and clumpy. Even the temperature of your tahini can make a difference. Depending on what your tahini is like, you may need to add more warm water to get it smooth. And if it is really clumpy, you may even need to transfer it to a small blender to smooth it out. For the best results, let your tahini come to room temperature before using for this recipe.
  • If you’re not up for tempeh, then you may use 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas instead. No need to saute: just toss them in with the linguine to heat through. And if you can’t find fresh chives, then chopped scallions make for a great dish, too.

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Day 27 of vegan recipe challenge: it’s time for Taco Tuesday

Plug (and not shameless) for The Lego Movie, which recently was snubbed by the Academy in this year’s Oscar animated movie nominations. This is one of the 3,409,340 movies I watched over Christmas (also known as 7 in my frame of reference), and I really, truly enjoyed it. So watch it, and say: everything is awesome. Which you will. Because it will be stuck in your head. (If you would like to remove that song from your head, I would recommend watching Frozen…so you can…let it gooooo…let it go.)

Back to taco Tuesday: no picture of these beautiful tacos because – tacos don’t last long enough in this house for their photoshoot.Fortunately, Isa and her crew at PPK also shared this recipe on their blog:

Ancho-Lentil Tacos (photo by IsaChandra)

ThisĀ is also found in the Isa Does It cookbook (am I starting to sound like a broken record?) and one that is fast, tasty, and taco-riffic. For the times I have made this recipe, I have cooked up my lentils the night before. You can make them prior to starting the rest of this dish, or, if you’re in a pinch, you can purchase cooked lentils from the store. Canned lentils may throw off the salt balance, so be warned if you go that route. You can often find cooked lentils in either the produce or healthy foods sections.

Ancho-Lentil Tacos
Serves 6
Total time: 20 minutes; Active time: 20 minutes

For the Ancho Spice Mix:
2 teaspoons ground ancho chili
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the lentils:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion. minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups cooked brown lentils
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons hot sauce (Isa recommends Cholula; I used Frank’s)

For serving:
Corn tortillas
Shredded lettuce
Salsa
Slice avocado or guacamole
Whatever else you like on your tacos

Prepare the spice mix: Put ingredients for spice mix together, Boom goes the dynamite.

Prepare the lentils:
Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Keep a cup of water within reach; you’ll need to add splashes as you cook. Saute the onion and garlic in the oil with a pinch of salt for about 3 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the spice mix and toss for 30 seconds or so to roast.

Lower the heat to medium, and add the lentils, a few splashes of water, the tomato paste, and hot sauce; use a spatula to mash the lentils a bit as they cook, until they hold together. If your spatula isn’t working to accomplish this, just use a fork. Do this for about 5 minutes, adding splashes of water as necessary if it appears dry. Taste for seasoning; you may want to add more spices or hot sauce.

To assemble:
Lightly toast the tortillas in a dry pan, if desired, or microwave briefly just to warm through. Stuff with filling and fixings and then stuff face.

Taco Tuesday doesn’t just have to be on Tuesdays. Because today is Wednesday. And that makes this recipe taste even better. And, because: