abracapocus i have a serious brain disease. please bring me a cat.

September 24, 2014

Eating vegan in Playa Del Carmen, Part 1

As I mentioned in a previous post, Kevin’s company does this reward trip, usually every June, and we get to go. Free trip, woohoo! This year’s trip was to Playa Del Carmen. Mexico. His company chose an all-inclusive resort as they are wont to do, Royal Hideaway Playacar. This one is also adult only, which was a nice bonus. Also, we got to go with our friends Ken &  Leigh again.

Before I talk about food, here are a few photos from around the resort.

Our room:

royal hideaway playacar room

Kevin playing beach volleyball

beach volleyball

A couple of bird friends at the beach

seagulls on the beach

These little guys, agouti, were everywhere. We called the scrabbits because they were like half squirrel and half rabbit.

agouti

Now, on to food at the resort. I emailed ahead and was assured there would be plenty of vegan options for us. The reality when we got there was a little different though.

It was lunch time when we arrived. So we settled in then headed to one of the cafés. There was an arugula quinoa salad on the menu that came with hummus and pita. Well that sounded reasonable! Except it was very, very small. A side, not a meal. So we ended up eating a bunch of fries and chips & guacamole until we were full.

quinoa arugula salad

Dinner was with the company and all arranged ahead of time. It was a buffet for everyone else, and then we were brought separate plates. On the buffet, there were a few appetizers we could get into:

chips guacamole jicama salad

No such thing as too much guac, I suppose. That jicama salad was a nice surprise. And this was our dinner: a bunch of veggies and a portobello mushroom cap. I’m glad there were appetizers.

vegetables and portobello mushroom

The next company dinner, they took us over to the buffet to show us our dish, all covered in cheese. Yay. So they put something together in the kitchen that was basically the same as what you see above presented slightly differently.

more vegetables

Some beans would’ve been cool, but it just wasn’t meant to be I suppose. The staff also seemed pretty confused about the whole vegan thing, despite the assurances I had via email. They clearly had it confused with gluten free. *sigh*

Now breakfast, breakfast was pretty awesome. The hot foods were pretty much off limits, but they had vegan cereals, soy milk, fruits and a make your own smoothie bar. Grab a bowl, throw a bunch of stuff in it, including peanut butter, and the dude will mix it up for you. Or they had a smoothie of the day. Right on.

smoothie

I’ll admit, it was pretty awesome to chill under a cabana while a regular supply of cold adult beverages were brought right to me. But it was in no way worth what it costs to stay in a place like this.

margarita

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of delicious vegan food in Playa Del Carmen. It just wasn’t at this resort. But we were only here four days. So look for future posts full of tasty bits that we ate when we finally got out of the resort.

July 30, 2015

Staying in Playacar

obligatory summer toes and pool

Okay, I’ve finally figured out how to break down the rest of these posts from our two week trip to Playa del Carmen. I’ve already covered the resort. This post will be about staying in Playacar hanging out in our condo. Then future posts will cover being out and about. So pics of the condo, food we made and ate there and crappy pics of some of the wildlife.

This part of the trip was kind of a working vacation. We specifically rented a spot that had decent internet. And a pool. Because pool breaks are the best. Oh, and a kitchen so we could cook. We paid a little more for amenities, but then spent less eating out.

playacar condoOne of the banana plants in the backyard.

playacar condo

No, really, bananas and everything.

a condo, staying in playacar

getting work done

pool break

working from the porch

Sunday after we got checked in, we headed to the grocery store. One down side to this space is that there was salt and a carton of orange juice left for us. Usually you can expect some spices, condiments, etc. But no. So we were starting from ground zero.

Sadly, the health food store was closed, so we went to Mega, which is basically Mexico’s Wal-Mart. There’s an actual Wal-Mart, but fuck that. I’m not encouraging that shit.

This first grocery trip, I was mostly concerned with making some staples. Pinto beans, rice, tortillas, avocados, onions, garlic, green vegetables. Oh, and coffee. Non-dairy milk. Tortilla chips. Cereal. Bananas! It was a bitch carrying all this stuff back.

When we got back, I cooked up the whole 1kg bag of pinto beans. First a quick soak, and then simmered them with onions, garlic and dried peppers. These beans lasted the rest of our stay.

pot of vegan pinto beans

Rice I cooked about half a pound at a time and didn’t do anything fancy with it. Just salt to season it.

Oh, let me tell you about the avocados there. The Haas avocados were at least twice the size of ours and they lasted so long! You know how avocados turn brown pretty much the second you put a knife to them here? They lasted days there before a hint of brown. I think most of the produce is grown in the region. So they’re probably just much fresher.

While this place had an awesome kitchen set up, there was no oven. Not a problem, but I kind of wanted cake. Given the circumstances, I didn’t want to buy all the ingredients to make it from scratch. So we got some accidentally vegan cake mix and frosting. But wait, there’s no oven! No oven, no problem! Mug cakes. Combine 2 tablespoons of cake mix with 3 tablespoons of water in a mug, microwave for 1 minute. Slap some frosting on it. Mug cake.

vegan microwave mug cake

Can’t forget breakfast! We mostly had cereal with an occasional peanut butter and banana pizza.

vegan cereal for breakfast

vegan peanut butter and banana pizza

Another day Kevin ended up walking up to the health food store on his own and brought back tofu, vegan  wheat gluten and vegan ham slices. We fried up the wheat gluten in a pan with some onions. It was, okay. A little bit rubbery. I had the same feeling about the ham. It really wanted to be slapped between two slices of white bread with some yellow mustard.

seasoned wheat gluten in mexico

frying up wheat gluten in a pan

The tofu was made a little differently than what we’re used to here. They used citric acid as the congealer, so it had a slight tartness to it. Which was fine, but it’s not the 100% blank canvas of the tofu we’re used to. The texture is also different. More crumbly. It made a fine tofu scramble though. And I’d packed nutritional yeast and black salt, because, vegan.

seasoned tofu in mexico

seasoned tofu in mexico

seasoned tofu in mexico

vegan tofu scramble mexican style

Another convenience food that came in handy was aseptic containers of molé sauce. You can actually find them here at grocery stores with a large Latin American section. So one of our meals was mashed potato enchiladas with molé sauce.

vegan potato enchiladas mole

And then, here are more food pics. We pretty much at the same things just in different configurations.

vegan mexican food bowl

tortilla chips and salsa

inside my vegan burrito

One day the woman minding the property brought a coconut into the backyard. She busted it open and we drank the fresh coconut water. Then she and Kevin peeled out the meat and she gave it to us. I ate that fresh coconut meat like it was candy. So good!

fresh coconut water

Our place backed up to the jungle which ran along a golf course. So we got to see an assortment of animals. And I didn’t get good pictures of any of them.

The coati are reddish animals with pointy faces and masks. They also have a ringed tail. They’re basically raccoons, but not as destructive, at least here.  They would dig in the jungle floor for tasty treats. One time they had three baby ones with them. So cute!

Another animal that we saw last year too is the agouti. Last year someone in our group nicknamed them “scrabbits” because they look like a cross between a squirrel and a rabbit. But more the size of a big rabbit. There was a shy one that would come through the back yard from time to time.

A few times we saw some red deer. We saw both a male and a female at separate times. And apparently there’s a baby too, but we didn’t see it.

There were several different kinds of lizards. Iguanas, a bearded dragon looking thing and then some little geckos. The geckos were inside the house. And they make this noise that sounds like someone rapping on glass with a ring, which was terrifying the first night. There were 2 or 3 in the house the entire time we were there. This little guy lost his tail somewhere.

lizard lost his tail

Oh, one night we were watching tv with the sliding glass door open and a fruit bat joined us. Luckily he decided to go back out without too much coaxing. I do wish I had video of him flying around the house.

And one day there was a turtle in the yard. It just looked like a slider, so it probably used to be someone’s pet.

There were a few pretty birds and then some plain chacalacas that I took to calling jungle chickens. And here is their blurry picture.

common chacalacas

So that’s about it from the condo. Staying in Playacar is really quiet and relaxing. Definitely a different experience than staying in town off the main drag. As you can see, getting vegan food to cook was not a problem. The final post about this trip will be about eating out and our flash flood experience. Hopefully I’ll manage to get it posted before we visit Mexico again.

July 4, 2015

Vegan Hummingbird Cake Recipe

vegan hummingbird cake

There’s still a huge pile of pictures from our trip to Playa del Carmen to go through. I looked at it earlier and it hurt my brain trying to think about how to divide up the posts so I decided to break things up a bit by posting my vegan hummingbird cake recipe.

Yep, this is the vegan hummingbird cake we had at Dough. It was one of our most popular items. It was not possible to make enough of these. They just flew out of the case.

Personally, I’m more of a chocolate fan, but there’s definitely something alluring about the banana, walnut and pineapple mixture. And it’s a perfect flavor mix for Summer gatherings. Just keep it refrigerated until you serve it. The frosting does not hold up in the heat very well.

Vegan Hummingbird Cake Recipe

3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
3 flax eggs (3 tablespoons of ground flax seed mixed with 6 tablespoons of warm water)
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
3 banana, mashed
¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with oil and line with parchment if you have it. In the bowl of your stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, combine ingredients through the sugar.

Mix together the remaining ingredients except for the nuts in a medium bowl and then combine with the dry.

Mix thoroughly. Stir in the nuts.

Divide the batter between the two cake pans.

Bake approximately 30 minutes at 350F or until the center of each cake is done. Let cool completely before frosting. It’ll frost better if you wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight before you frost it.

Vegan Hummingbird Cake Frosting

1 pound vegan cream cheese (we used Tofutti)
1/3 cup crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
4 teaspoons arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons instant clearjel (optional, but helps firm up frosting)
1 cup or so of walnuts or pecans, chopped fine

Whisk arrowroot powder and instant clearjel (if using) into powdered sugar.

Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth in a stand mixer.

Add remaining ingredients except for nuts and continue mixing until blended.

To finish cake

If cakes domed in the center, level with a serrated knife. Then eat those tasty snax.

Place a cake layer on a cake plate, cut side down if leveled. Spread frosting on top of layer. Sprinkle with nuts if you like.

Put second layer on top of first, again, cut side down. Spread frosting over top of cake then sides. Top should be thicker than sides. On the sides, don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Press chopped nuts all around the sides. Refrigerate until served.

Protip: there’s no reason to suffer crappy bakeware. We used Fat Daddio’s cake pans at the bakery. They don’t really cost more than the crappy ones usually sold to home bakers, they just last longer and work better.

If you have a restaurant supply that sells to the public, that’s where you want to go locally to get bakeware. We have one called Atlanta Fixture here. Seriously, professional quality tools that cost less. Check it out.

Would you have any interest in an ebook of vegan baking recipes? Drop a comment and I’ll contact you if I do one!

Note, I do use affiliate links on the site occasionally. The coinage goes towards B12 and vegan protein powder. Because vegans will go extinct without protein powder.

January 1, 2015

Eating Vegan on a Royal Caribbean Cruise

royal caribbean ship selfie

Cruises are known for their elaborate spreads of food with people piling up plate after plate of food from the buffet. But how does that work out for a vegan? This is my experience of eating vegan on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Some things have changed since the first Royal Caribbean cruise I went on in 2008.  The main thing to note is that I didn’t see any of the vegan margarine that they had that first time. Availability might depend on where they pick up supplies, or maybe their vendors changed. Finding peanut butter on the buffet was hit or miss this time around. If they don’t have it out on the buffet, you can always ask. They usually have it in back.

We always had dinner in the dining room together at a table at our appointed time. There are also buffet options if you don’t want to do that. If you do eat in the dining room, the first night get acquainted with the head waiter. He is your best friend. Ask him all of your questions. He will make sure you get what you need.

There is a set menu for each evening. You can try to order off of that. Often you can cobble together vegan or easily made vegan items from it. We had 5 vegans in our party, so each night we would order for the next night. We’d look at the regular menu to see if we could eat anything on it. And then we’d have them make something we requested. We had an added challenge – one of us was also gluten free. Most nights we ended up having some kind of Indian food. And then they’d also bring a plate of tofu and vegetables for us to share. The last night they had soy chicken on the regular menu. The head waiter took a picture of the package and it said vegan right on it! While I do like Indian food, it was getting a little old so the soy chicken was awesome.

Every night, they will come around with a bread basket. Ask about the breads, but there is a sourdough that is vegan. If they don’t have the vegan margarine, ask them to bring some olive oil to the table for you to dip your bread in.

Desserts ended up being variations of rice pudding. One night we had carrot halwa. On a previous cruise, they made a chocolate soy pudding one night that was awesome. We got vanilla pudding one night this time.

This is the meal we had the last night. Salad, chilled mango soup,  soy chicken and carrot halwa, an Indian spiced dessert. The vegetables on the plate with the soy chicken were from the big plate of veggies they brought us every night.

vegan salad on royal caribbean

vegan chilled mango soup on royal caribbean cruise

vegan soy chicken on royal caribbean cruise

vegan indian spiced carrot dessert on royal caribbean cruise

Breakfast and lunch we would have at the buffet. When you sit down, a waiter will come by and you can ask him or her for soy milk for your coffee and/or cereal. Do that first before you hit the buffet because they may have to go seek some out. There’s always a ton of fresh fruit out. You’ll find fried and roasted potatoes. They have a miso soup station where you can get some tofu cubes. I just assumed the miso soup wasn’t vegan since it traditionally isn’t, but I didn’t ask. There will be some stir fried veggies and rice. There is almost always some Indian dish like chana masala.

Here’s one of my breakfasts from the buffet at the Windjammer. Yeah, I ate chana masala over potatoes for breakfast. I ain’t skerd. Also we scored an awesome window seat.

vegan breakfast on royal caribbean cruise

The lunch buffet was even easier. More vegetable options appeared. You could make a salad, the raspberry vinaigrette is vegan, or make a french fry sandwich. It’s really your choice. As you can see, I took the less fried route. Here are a couple of my lunch plates from the Windjammer buffet.

vegan lunch on royal caribbean cruise

vegan lunch on royal caribbean cruise

Anyway, the point is that a vegan won’t starve on a Royal Caribbean cruise and you can actually put together some healthy, tasty meals. Or you can be a junk food vegan and eat cheeseless pizza and Johnny Rockets (costs extra) streamliners every meal. We’ve also been to some of the specialty restaurants in the past and they took care of us there too. So don’t let vegan food worries keep you from going on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Oh, and you can even find good vegan food in some of the ports. See my previous post about St. Thomas to find out about options there.  On this trip, we stopped in Cozumel which is a 45 minute water taxi ride away from Playa Del Carmen. There is so much awesome vegan food in Playa Del Carmen that I have several posts about it from a previous trip.

Our favorite was Kaxapa Factory, so we all hopped on the water taxi and headed over for Venezuelan noms. Heed my warning, the water taxi ride is pretty bumpy. I highly recommend taking Dramamine in preparation for the trip. When we got off the taxi, our first stop was a pharmacy for some aptly named Vomisin. The ride back was much easier because of it.

I was feeling traditional and went for the black bean, plantain and avocado arepa. Fabulous as always.

vegan arepa at kaxapa factory playa del carmen

While there is a Starbucks on board, extra of course but at least they have soy milk, nothing beats Ah Cacao’s espresso frappé. Three shots of espresso, ice, sugar, blend.

ah cacao espresso frappe playa del carmen

We may have cut it a little close getting back to the water taxi. Thankfully we made the last boat and got back on the ship in time.

So that’s about all I’ve got to say about eating vegan on a Royal Caribbean cruise. I’ll just leave you with this sunset as we passed down the coast of Florida.

caribbean sunset

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