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Wicked Vegan- Stuffed Accorn Squash1

ahh, Thanksgiving. Probably one of the hardest holidays for those with dietary restrictions. Raise your hand if you have been taunted with greasy turkey legs, been asked a million questions about your diet (“But where do you get your protein? Don’t you miss meat? What would happen if you had one bite? Wouldn’t it be funny if I hid meat in your vegetables?!”) and generally felt left out over this holiday. There was definitely one Thanksgiving when I was a vegetarian when my options were mashed potato, rolls and a garden salad. All good things but not super festive, you know? So I feel ya’. I’ve compiled some yummy tidbits from the blog that I think you could bring to your Thanksgiving dinner and not get crap over (“Is this some sort of healthy, vegan food??”). All the below recipes have been tested on meat eaters and received thumbs up.

Actually, that’s a lie…I never tested the Vegan Green Bean Casserole out on my family because I hoarded it all to myself. True story.

bbqpolentabites

BBQ Polenta Bites

Three Pepper Hummus

Buffalo Hummus

Blueberry Salsa

Black Bean Salsa

Hot Pretzel Challah Bread

pumpkinburger

Southwestern Pumpkin Burger

Butternut Squash Apple Soup

Black Bean Quinoa Soup

Green Bean Casserole

Garlicky Brussel Sprouts

Wicked Vegan PB Krispie Treats

Peanut Butter Krispie Treats (these would be so cute with little turkey cookie cutters and sprinkles)

Chai Spiced Cookies

Now, you can probably see there aren’t a lot of main dishes up there. The past few years I’ve eaten Tofurkey but I just wasn’t feeling it this year. Those Tofurkey loaves are a lot for one person! I end up having leftovers for ever. So this year I am trying a stuffed acorn squash. I was SO impressed and happy with the way it came out. I made this recipe while at my parents this weekend and my mom, a meat eater, got to sample everything and was equally impressed.

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Apple, Quinoa and Kale Stuffed Acorn Squash with Tahini Maple Dressing
from Edible Perspective, with mild adaptations
yields 4 main dish servings

for the dressing:

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled + smashed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2-3 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • salt + pepper to taste

for the squash and apples:

  • 3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 medium acorn squash
  • 2 crispy apples (I used honeycrisps)
  • salt + pepper

for the kale and quinoa:

  • 3-4 teaspoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 5-6 cups chopped kale (lacinato/dino was recommended but seriously, I can never find it. Curly green kales works just fine)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 – 5 TBSP dried cranberries
  • pecans for garnish

for the dressing: Combine the smashed garlic, lemon juice, and oil in a jar.  Seal and shake vigorously.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Shake once more then remove the garlic.  Add tahini, maple syrup, lemon zest, and a big pinch of salt and pepper.  Seal and shake until smooth.  Taste and adjust salt/pepper/maple syrup if needed.  Set aside.  Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 1 week.

for the squash and apples: Preheat your oven to 400* F.  In a small pan combine the coconut oil, maple syrup, and cayenne over medium-low heat and stir until melted.  Take off the heat.  Slice 2 acorn squashes in half, remove and toss the seedy middle and coat the flesh with the oil/maple mixture.  Place squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for about 35-40 minutes until tender.  A few minutes later slice the apples into 1/4-inch thick slices, removing any seeds/core.  Place on a baking sheet and toss to coat with remaining oil/maple mixture.  Place in the oven during the last 7-10 minutes of squash roasting.  Roast for 7 minutes to maintain a nice crunch.

for the kale and quinoa: As soon as the squash is in the oven heat a pot over medium with 2 teaspoons of coconut oil.  Once hot add the quinoa and stir for 2-3 minutes.  Add the water then raise heat to medium-high.  Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce heat to simmer and cover for 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and keep covered.  After placing your apples in the oven to roast place a large pan over medium heat and melt 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil.  Once hot, add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, then add the kale and stir frequently for about 3-5 minutes until wilted.  Fluff the quinoa with a fork and combine in the pan with the kale.  Sprinkle with a good amount of salt and pepper and add the lemon juice and craisins.  Stir to combine. Once the the squash and apples are complete, dice the apples and combine with the quinoa and kale.

to assemble: Place the roasted squash half on a plate and fill with the quinoa mix. Drizzle with the tahini dressing and sprinkle with pecans.

*NOTE* If you are making this for Thanksgiving, you can make the dressing and quinoa/kale mixture ahead of time (including the apples) and save the acorn squash for the day of. You can microwave the filling after  you pull out the squash. It will save some time and dishes when there is a ton going on in the kitchen. You can also cook and stuff the acorn squash the night before (do not put dressing on) and reheat the next day on 350 for about 40 minutes uncovered (covering may speed the cooking time). Just a few things to keep in mind when prepping for Thanksgiving.

—– other serving option —–

for a salad- style dish: visit Edible Perspectives page and check out how she presents this as a salad dish. This option would be great if you want to make this dish for a large group of people or want to serve it as a side-dish.

Wicked Vegan- Stuffed Acorn Squash3

This recipe is so yummy! I love love love the dressing and will most likely be using this as my go to dressing going forward. Also, I am a huge fan of the roasted apples and craisins mixed in. It gives it such a nice sweetness. Plus, it just looks so pretty when plated up!

If you are wondering what I served with it in the picture above, that is the stuffing I will be sharing with you tomorrow. Trust me when I say you are going to want to tune it. It has this challah pretzel bread in it!

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It’s Monday morning and I am starting the week off with a confession. You ready? ok…

I am SO FRICKIN’ EXCITED for Taylor Swift’s new CD.

My roommates were both gone this weekend so in addition to being lazy and binge watching Law and Order: SVU, I listened to the songs she has released so far off her new CD over and over and over again while baking these cookies and dancing around my kitchen. I’m loving the new songs so much. It was kind of the perfect weekend.

Ok, now that I have professed my love for T-swift, I will get to the cookies. These beauties were inspired by Taylor when she posted on her instagram (really? are we even surprised I follow her?) that she had made “chai sugar cookies with eggnog frosting aka christmas in September”. I couldn’t get the idea of chai cookies out of my head after that. Especially when October hit, the weather cooled and my body just wanted to hibernate and drink tea all day. I did a bit of research (by which I mean I internet stalked her) and discovered that she made sugar cookies with chai tea in it. Like, she cut open a chai tea bag and poured it into the batter for sugar cookies. This presented me with 2 problems: 1. For some reason, me and sugar cookies don’t mix. I don’t have a sugar cookie recipe on this blog because I never like the results. So using sugar cookie as a base wasn’t going to happen and 2. I don’t have a bagged chai tea I love. Whatever, call me a snob but I like this version way better. So to put meh tea into a meh cookie base wasn’t going to fly for me. Plus, I was in fall mode and I wanted to add pumpkin some how.

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Thus, this cookie was born. It’s a chai cookie with just a tiny hint of pumpkin, which is exactly what I was going for. Everything is so super pumpkin-y right now that I wanted something a little more subtle. It still feels like fall though with all the warm spices. You just want to cozy up on the couch with a good book, a cup of tea and an obsene amount of these cookies.

Chai Spiced Cookies with Pumpkin
inspired by Taylor Swift
modified from My Baking Addiction

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), softened
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin (or 1 “Ener-G” egg)*
  • 1/2 a vanilla bean, seeds removed (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

*Using Pumpkin instead of an Ener-G egg with produce a softer, richer cookie. Ener-G will produce a more traditional cookie texture. I kept the pumpkin version of the cookie in for 1 minute longer then the Ener-G because of this.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl combine sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and allspice. Remove 1/4 cup of the sugar-spice mixture, set aside to reserve for rolling the cookies.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar-spice mixture until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

5. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla bean seeds, combine until fully incorporated.

6. Slowly blend in dry ingredients mixing until just combined.

7. Roll dough into balls (about 2 tsps of dough each) and then into the reserved sugar-spice mixture. Place dough balls on prepared baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes

8. Let stand on baking sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

As I  mentioned in the note above, these cookies will be soft and doughy so be careful not to overcook thinking that they aren’t done.

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These cookies are just so spot on. They are just the perfect fall cookie without being in-your-face pumpkin. One of my friends tried it a few weeks ago and said it may be her new favorite cookie, which is kind of awesome! If you want more of a fall kick, try adding some Pumpkin Spice chips which are out in the baking sections now. I was going to give that a whirl but never made it to Target this weekend.

If you want a pumpkin cookie with chai spice try making this cookie and replacing the 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice with the spices in the below recipe and omit the chocolate chips. I haven’t tried it yet but I bet it would be delicious!

This actually isn’t my first time baking to celebrate the release of a CD. Back in 2010, Taking Back Sunday released a live album called Live from Orensanz and I baked some  cupcakes to give out at work. It won be a pair of Matt Rubano Macbeth sneakers…which Macbeth NEVER sent me. I emailed them for months to try and get them and they never came. Shady, shady company. Not cool at all.

TBS cupcakes

Have you ever done anything fun for the release of an album or movie or anything? I can’t be the only weird one out there. Share your stories below!!

DSC_0711 The last few weeks have been hard. Like, I’m-not-even-sure-how-I’m-awake-and-functioning-right-now hard. In an attempt to make ends meet when moving back to Boston, I took a job at a cafe, which was part-time, and worked as a temp through a temp agency. This worked out well for a while but then I landed a 9-5, M-F desk job through my temp agency. Yeah! But since it’s a temp job, I still needed to keep the cafe job. Which is how I ended up working every single day for the past 30 days- Desk job Monday through Friday, Cafe job Saturday and Sunday. Surprisingly, it’s the cafe job that has been the most exhausting. 8 hours on your feet running around, making sandwiches and coffee and being ‘on’ for the customers is a long day. This is why the recipes haven’t been pouring out. Mostly when I come home, I’m putting my energy toward seeing all my friends that I have missed over the past nine months…or I’m sleeping. Ok, it’s mostly sleeping.  Energy for dinner? Does an apple with peanut butter and chocolate chips count? How about left over chips and salsa and pumpkin beer? There’s veggies in salsa! Despite the hectic, hectic schedule I’ve been leading, I have had time to consistently make one thing: Cold brew coffee. Yes, please! It took me a little while to get used to and to work out the proportion of water to coffee I like but it’s so easy. I can prep it on Saturday night, strain it on Sunday night and have coffee all week. It’s perfect. Because clearly, I am running on nothing but caffeine at this point. DSC_0695 So here is the thing about cold brew coffee: there are a lot of different ways it can be made and everyone seems to have a different strategy. Some people suggest freshly grinding your beans but leaving them fairly course- others say to grind them super fine. Some say let your grinds sit in water at room temperature, others say in the fridge. You have to find what you like best. The below recipe is a combo of everything I read and found online and what works for me. What you have to remember though is that this is a concentrate. It doesn’t have the bitter, acidity that traditional coffee has so it may be easy to mistake the smoothness for it not being “strong”. So not the case. There was definitely a day when I didn’t cut the coffee  and boy was I  jittery at my desk! Another thing to note is cold brew coffee is naturally sweeter. American Test Kitchen suggests replacing your sugar with a pinch of sea salt to bring out that sweetness. I haven’t tried that but I can tell you that when I’m not using the below flavored sweeteners (which I use a very little of!) that I’m not adding any sweetener at all. It’s a great way to cut that morning sugar rush out. OK, Enough Talk! Here’s the coffee and flavored syrups I’m loving right now :

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Option 1 for filtering out your grinds: Fine Mess Sieve and coffee filter over a bowl

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Option 2 for filtering out your grinds: Single-serving coffee cone and filter over your storage container. My preferred option.

Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate with Pumpkin Spice Syrup or Chocolate Syrup

Coffee:

  • 1 cup of whole coffee beans, medium roast is ideal
  • 4-5 cups of water depending on your preference (American Test Kitchen recommends 1 cup of grinds:4 cups water. I like 5 just as much and it’s a little cheaper. Stretching that buck!)

Directions:

  1. Grind your coffee beans to a “fine” consistency* (To grind my coffee, I use something like this)
  2. Transfer grinds to a large bowl, french press or mason jar. I use a large 1/2 gallon mason jar
  3. Add your desired amount of water. Give it a quick stir to make sure all the grinds get mixed in. Cover.
  4. Let sit for 24 hours, preferably in the fridge.**
  5. Strain out coffee grinds. If you are using a french press, the french press does the bulk of the work for you. Depending on how fine your grinds are, though, you may still need to filter them. For everyone else, you can line a strainer with a coffee filter or you can use a single-serving drip coffee cone, which is what I use. So cheap and so effective. I’ve also done the mesh strainer/coffee filter combo over a bowl as well and both work fine. See the two photos above for these two options.
  6. Serve over ice or heat up. Either way, Enjoy!

*”espresso or turkish” consistency is how everyone describes it online but seriously? My coffee grinder is the cheapest out there and there aren’t settings. Just grind it really well. According to American Test Kitchen, the fine grinds release more flavor **You can let it sit for longer. I’ve left mine for 36-48 before in the fridge and it was totally fine. Just don’t go less then 24 hours or it will be too weak. Some will argue that letting it sit at room temperature produces better results but I like mine in the fridge because I almost always drink my coffee iced. Try both ways to see if you have a preference. DSC_0703 Chocolate Syrup from Vegan in the Freezer

  • 1 cup of water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp of vanilla

Directions:

  1. Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar.
  2. Stir until the sugar dissolves, which should be about a minute.
  3. Stir in cocoa and salt. Reduce heat so the mixture is simmering. Continue to let it simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  5. Let cool. It will thicken as it cools.

DSC_0742 Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup from The Messy Baker

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves (I used 1/4 cause I don’t love the taste of cloves)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 TBS vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, add water and both sugars. Simmer on medium-low until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes
  2. Turn the head down to low and whisk in cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and pumpkin puree. Simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil.
  3. Remove from the heat and strain through a mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth or a very thin, clean tea towel. If you are too lazy/too busy for this (um, me!), then skip this step. The spices and the pumpkin will sink to the bottom of the storage container leaving the syrup at the top to scoop out. You could also give the syrup a stir before using and include the pumpkin and spices in your coffee. I actually don’t mind it like that. I think it’s more flavorful! Just make sure you don’t forget step 4 below.
  4. Allow the syrup to cool to room-temperature before stirring in the vanilla extract. Store in a mason jar or airtight container. The syrup with last for 1 month at room temperature or 3 months in the refrigerate.

DSC_0696 So there are 3 recipes for you! Does that make up for the fact that I have been negligent for the past month? Probably not but I just gave you Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup so that should count for something! Seriously, these recipes are so versatile! I use the chocolate syrup in hot and cold coffee (though I prefer it in hot I think), drizzled over ice cream or really, drizzled over anything! As for the Pumpkin Spice Syrup, come on! This is about 10x better then that crap you buy at Starbucks. 1. It taste better. A confession for you: I really hate Starbucks PSL. And I love Starbucks and Pumpkin. It taste so chemically to me! This stuff does not, 2. There is actual pumpkin in it! 20 bucks says the PSL does not have real pumpkin and 3. You can also use it in black tea, which is delicious, or over ice cream. Really, you can’t go wrong with either and I think you should go ahead and make these now. Also, if you could send a jar my way that would be awesome. God knows, I can’t get enough coffee lately!

Harvard Yard

Harvard Yard

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I posted. It breaks my heart! I love fall so much and I usually love cooking and baking during October. Things have been so full on though since I moved back to Boston. Until last week, I had been working every single day for over 30 days straight. It was exhausting!! I was lucky if I had the energy to pour myself a bowl of cereal for dinner and eat it before passing out at an embarrassingly early hour, never mind making actually recipes. I haven’t even decorated for Halloween yet!!

But things are marginally slowing down here. I have my weekends back (for now…) and I’m almost all caught up on things that I didn’t have time to do while working. So, I can finally devote some more time to the blog! YEAH! I made some insanely yummy pumpkin things: granola, muffins and simple syrup (SO much better then Starbucks), some chai cookies and a kale salad (cause, you know, veggies and stuff), which I hope to get to you in the coming weeks (though I probably just jinxed myself).

For now, here is a recipe round-up of all my favorite fall foods that I have posted on the blog before. I know round-ups seem like a cop-out but I love doing them. I enjoy going back through and revisiting recipes I forgot about (Hello, Pumpkin Beer Pretzels and Pumpkin Cookie Dough Truffles!!) and reminding everyone of some favorite dishes (Black Bean Butternut Squash Burritos, Southwestern Pumpkin Burgers and Beer Bread…all SO good!).

Mini Pumpkin Baked Donuts

Mini Pumpkin Baked Donuts

Breads and Breakfasts

Apple Butter
Apple Cider and Pumpkin Spice Mini Baked Donuts

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
Autumn Breakfast Hash
Beer Bread with Pumpkin Beer

Mini Pumpkin Loaves

Pumpkin Beer Pretzels
Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Cranberry Soup

Pumpkin Cranberry Soup

Entrees and Actual Food

Apple Sage Pizza
Black Bean Butternut Squash Burrito
Butternut Squash-Apple Soup
Butternut Squash “Cheez” Sauce (and Jack o’ Lantern Quesadillas)
Butternut Squash Chipotle Chili
Butternut Squash Kale Rice Bowls
Cream of Mushroom Soup with Cashew Cream
Pumpkin Cranberry Soup

Red Bean, Potato and Kale Soup
Southwestern Pumpkin Burgers
(aka my all-time fav vegan burger)
Spicy Black Bean Quinoa Soup (this is the most repeated recipe on the blog. In fact, my mom just made it for me for my birthday last week.)
Sweet Potato Lentil Stew

Peanut Butter Cup Pumpkins

Peanut Butter Cup Pumpkins

Desserts

Deep Dish Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie
Graham Crackers (for your pumpkin pie crusts)
Peanut Butter Cup Pumpkins
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles
(I want these right now!!)
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

What are some fall staples I’m missing? I’m thinking definitely bulk up that dessert section! It’s looking a little sad. What are some fall vegan treats that you guys would like to see? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do for you.

Friday Favorites

1.                              

This remake. Jimmy Fallon can do no wrong. And the song? So catchy!

 

 

2. Two Girls advertised on Craig’s List for “Fall Boyfriends”. Highlights include “2 males interested in something steady/serious-ish…Interested parties should have a window in their bedroom and want to cuddle with the window slightly open to let the fresh autumn air in while a fall scented candle (that I’ll buy for you, babe) fills the room with cozy comfort”. Click here to read the whole thing. Aside from the fact that they are looking for a very specific type of dude I would never date (“Def in a frat or played a sport”), they are sort of geniuses. Why didn’t I think of this?? And is it too late to start taking applications???

 

No Hipsters3. This amazing sign my roommate emailed me. I think she found it on Reddit so my apologies for not having the source.

 

DOLPHINS

4. THIS SCORE! This first game score. Are we serious with this Dolphin victory? The only team I route for above the Pats are the Dolphins so I was pretty pumped they were starting the season with such a solid victory. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes.

5. Pumpkin baked goods. ALL the baked pumpkin baked goods. I just…want them all. This is insane because for some reason, I am not in the fall mood at all. I mean, usually by September 12, I have my Halloween costume at least picked out. For whatever reason, though, this year I am reluctant to embrace it. Apparently pumpkin-flavored muffins and breads and cookies and bagels…and yeah…they don’t fall into that category. I will try and not post pumpkin things until it’s at least officially Autumn but I can’t make any promises.

I hope everyone has an excellent weekend! Recipes will return next week :)

This is one of my more lengthy Travel Tuesday posts. I usually like my pictures to do the talking in these but so much of my experience with the Gold Coast was the people and the stories that I have to share it in text. I’ll try to throw some pretty pictures in there to break it up.

A view overlooking Brisbane, on our way out

A view overlooking Brisbane, on our way out

In my last Travel Tuesday post, I talked about the short two-day trip I took to Fraser Island immediately after a week at the Sunshine Coast. After my Fraser Island trip, I was dropped off in Brisbane and was planning on heading back to Toowoomba the next day after a day in Brisbane doing city things. One of the hardest parts about moving to Toowoomba from Boston is how much I missed the city sometimes. Giving up constantly having places to go, things to see and restaurants/cafes/shops to explore was an adjustment. Toowoomba isn’t small but it definitely isn’t the New England city I was used to. So I figured I would crash in Brisbane for the night, do some exploring during the day and head back to Toowoomba that evening.

Tony's Mom on her land, helping to clean it up

Tony’s Mom on her land, helping to clean it up

While in Brisbane, I had booked a cheap hostel less than a mile from the train station but my boss assured me I could stay at her practice for the evening. Free room and board? Yes please! She is a midwife and has a practice “not too far from the train station” she said. Unfortunately, I had done a crap job at packing (not surprising) and had taken most of my weeks worth of stuff from Sunshine Coast with me to Fraser Island. Which means, I was lugging it around with me in Brisbane as I hunted down my bed for the evening. 3 miles later, with a giant back pack on my back (and no, not the back packing ones. I’m talking about an overstuffed laptop bag, with my circa 2008 Macbook, and my teddy bear sticking out) and a tiny rolling bag, I found myself standing in the middle of a road, at night, with the name I was looking for but with numbers that weren’t going low enough. Turns out, I had to go across the street and go behind this little wall thing and the street continued.

The View

The View. Those tall buildings are the Gold Coast

That obstacle tackled, I got into the practice no problem and plopped down on the bedroom to unwind before bed . An hour or so later, after going to the bathroom and planning on calling it a night, the alarm for the practice started going off. At first, I didn’t realize it was coming from my place because, well, I had been there for an hour or two. Then,  my brain did the most logical thing and jumped to every single episode of Law and Order: SVU that I had seen where there was a single white girl alone in a new place where she is attacked (so like, 50% of them?). As I was creeping about this place, I was relieved to find it empty but at this point the sirens were loud and I couldn’t figure out what to do! I opened the door to see if something had triggered it and found the neighbors crowded around. Yeap, the American is making a scene! But because they were Aussies they weren’t nearly as disgruntled as Bostonians would have been and kindly came inside to help disarm the alarm. During this time, I was frantically calling my boss, who had no idea what to do, so put me through to Sharon, one of the midwives who worked regularly at this practice. She walked me through disarming the alarm and when silence descended, finally, I found myself alone with two older middle-aged men, one who was in something that vaguely resembled a white bathrobe. Again, cue the SVU panic.

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Shore where we docked the boat to the untouristy beach

Thankfully, they were incredibly nice and immediately exited the facility. And I was now in contact with Sharon, who was coming to the practice tomorrow and offered to let me stay with her when she returned for the weekend to the Gold Coast. I was hesitant at first but isn’t this what traveling is for? The next morning, she arrived with a Starbucks for me and I knew it was a sign from above. So off I went to the Gold Coast!

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Look how quiet the beach is! Locals know the best spots

So, I’m not sure if I mentioned this previously, but I did zero research for my stay in Australia. I’m talking, nothing. As someone who obsessively makes lists (and leaves them in purses, pant pockets, jacket pockets, books, magazines, on the fridge….), the little planning I did for this vacation is astonishing and speaks volumes to my need to get out of Boston for a while. With that said, I knew nothing about the Gold Coast and let Sharon and her husband, Tony, show me whatever they wanted. I pretty much just tagged along with them for a few days. We hung out with Tony’s mom and saw her land with a beautiful view then went shopping and had coffee with her. I had dinner with Tony’s family, all who were incredibly welcoming and tolerant of a random American with weird food issues crashing their party. I went to an untouristy little beach via boat where Tony surfed, Sharon swam and I prayed not to get a sun burn (she did eventually get me in the water). I learned that the sand on this beach was a lot softer then in the states and walking on it was the most intense work-out my calves had ever experienced. I had Easter dinner with Sharon and Tony’s parents and siblings and helped make this tomato salad. I embarrassed myself immensely by taking it upon myself to organize their 500+ DVD collection. I spread out across the living room and attempted to find cases for all the loose DVDs, then divided them into kids and adults, then sorted them all alphabetically. I wish I was kidding. I’m not. It took me two nights and in the end, I never found the Man of Steel DVD that started the whole thing. Sharon found me very amusing and told me I was welcome back to organize whatever I wanted. :)  Sharon and I also took an ocean side hike, which had both amazing views and crazy vegetation. Then she was a saint and took me to Starbucks (yes!) and Lush (YES!!) before bringing me back to Brisbane to catch a bus back to Toowoomba.

no tourists means I could finally get some whole shells which I had been looking for. There were none at Bondi Beach or Sunshine Coast- too many people

no tourists means I could finally get some whole shells which I had been looking for. There were none at Bondi Beach or Sunshine Coast- too many people

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Sharon made me soy cappuccinos with little milk hearts twice while I was there. I’m trying to remember why I left…

Views from our ocean-side hike

Views from our ocean-side hike

 

ocean-side hike

ocean-side hike

 

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I was overwhelmed by the kindness that Sharon and Tony showed me and had such an amazing time! They lived right on the water. I would wake up in the morning and sit on her porch and just relax. If I ever move to Aussie, I’m finding a house right next to Sharon and Tony’s and cooking for them every night as a huge ‘Thank You’.

Here we go! The winner of Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant is:

Screen shot 2014-09-08 at 7.22.01 AM Screen shot 2014-09-08 at 7.25.04 AM

 

 

 

 

 

Sue Derosiers! Congrats, Sue. You don’t have an email linked to your info so please shoot me an email at wickedveganblog@gmail.com and I’ll get all your info. Congratulations again!! :)

Coming up this week is a new Travel Tuesday for the Gold Coast and Cold-Brew coffee. Stay tuned!

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