Junketing In Cattle Country

I recently took another road trip to Nebraska.  I celebrated meeting my new great nieces and my great nephew as well as my sister’s birthday over Easter weekend.  I was looking forward to spending time with my family but road trips always involve a frenetic shopping trip to throw together a vegan survival kit and concern over where/what I’m going to eat during vacation.

It turns out I get a little carried away when it comes to vegan survival kits.  I pack for a road trip like I’m worried my family and I will end up in the wilderness somewhere and only my bag of goodies will prevent us from having to eat each other.  This road trip was no exception.  I filled a re-usable shopping bag with vegan options to take with and ended up using a container of chocolate almond milk and two packets of peanut butter.  After more than one road trip under my belt, I’m determined that-next time-I’ll remember moderation is key.

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Chocolate Almond Milk for my coffee and Peanut Butter-Survival Kit Staples

Bosselman’s in Big Springs is regular stop for us when we head into Nebraska.  It’s typical truck stop fare and the salad bar can be a little problematic.  If interested, you can read about a previous stop here.  The night of this particular stop was chilly and a plate of raw veggies didn’t sound appetizing.  A perusal of the menu revealed spaghetti and meatballs.  I questioned our waitress about vegetable side dishes and, while there aren’t any, the waitress was more than willing to scavenge some broccoli from the salad bar, ask the cook to steam it, and toss it with my spaghetti and no meatballs.  The sauce itself didn’t contain meat so I figure I did pretty well.

Pasta Blog
Not bad! Avoid the jar of Parmesan and dinner is served.

Breakfasts on our road trip were partaken of at Perkins.  It’s another place where it’s difficult to be vegan but a solid meal can be put together from the side dish menu.  Oatmeal is only served until 11am so, as we were running a bit late heading toward my sister’s place, I chose fried potatoes (cooked in olive oil-I asked the waitress and she checked with the kitchen 🙂 ), fresh fruit and a dry English muffin with one of my peanut butter packets.

The oatmeal isn’t bad.  I had it for breakfast the day we headed home and, if you ever stop at Perkins, the oatmeal is made with water-not milk.

Perkins Blog

I was able to cook at my sister’s for the remainder of our trip but there was going to be a stop on our way back home.  This ended up being my favorite and the most vegan friendly stop on our trip.  Ruby Tuesday has recently revamped their salad bar and my family and I stopped at the location in North Platte.  The garden bar is a bit pricey-$9.99-and the addition of an avocado is $2.00.  I was tempted but I didn’t need the avocado.  The garden bar is a vegan smorgasbord.  Mixed greens, fresh vegetables, seeds, beans, non-dairy vinaigrette…everything a vegan needs to be happy and healthy.  Considering the freshness of the ingredients and the myriad options, the price didn’t seem stiff at all.

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Why make a second trip when I can just pile my plate really really high?

 

Nebraska is definitely a state where beef is king and yet, it is possible to keep to a vegan diet without feeling deprived.  I look forward to the next one, especially with four adorable babies to visit.

There Will Be Beans

My friend’s visit from Wyoming was followed by another friend’s visit from Nebraska.  She has the book where she can collect stamps from all the National Parks and so we decided on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.  We checked out Bear Lake and then, having never seen a waterfall before, my friend wanted to do the hike to Alberta Falls.  A hiking lover, I was game.

My hiking pace isn’t too fast and my friend was having some trouble with the lack of air in Colorado so the hike I anticipated taking an hour took two.  Even with our car snacks, we were starving after our visit to the Falls.  My family is used to my vegan lifestyle by now and Mexican Restaurants top the list of food choices.  My Mom had seen a restaurant when we’d first entered Estes Park and as my non-vegan friend said she was okay with cheesy-beany, we went in search and found Peppers.

Peppers is a bit difficult to get into: my family and I had to drive into the Safeway parking lot and come at it from the other side.  The restaurant looks unassuming and I didn’t know what to expect.  Fast food can be iffy but I knew that, at least, I would find beans.

Peppers was a pleasant surprise.  If you’ve been in a Qdoba or Chipotle, you’ll be familiar with the set-up.  There’s a bar filled with fresh ingredients and you can go down the line and choose what you want.  I ordered the Veggie Burrito from the menu and asked for the cheese and sour cream to be left off.  Peppers was the first restaurant that allowed me to have an extra at no charge because I was leaving off cheese and sour cream.  I chose the mango salsa and I highly recommend it.

My burrito was so large it had to be double wrapped and eaten with a knife and fork.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about sweet potato in my burrito but Peppers has made me a convert.  The sweet is off set with the slightly smoky rice and spicy salsa.  I could choose very hot, medium hot, or mild and medium hot was plenty for me.

I ordered chips and salsa as well, having no idea the burrito was going to be as large as it was.  The chips were lightly salted and the order came with two choices of salsa.  I chose another small tub of the medium hot and thought I’d try the corn salsa.  The corn was sweet and a perfect texture: no mushy salsa at Peppers.

 

I was able to recommend Peppers as I left the restaurant.  A family was crossing the parking lot as mine left and they called to us, asking what we thought.  I tell you the same thing I told them: Peppers is excellent.  If you find yourself in Estes Park, CO, stop in.  If you try the margaritas, let me know what you think.

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I liked the peacock wall hanging

 

What’s In Your Survival Kit?

I recently had to go out of town for an overnight visit and my destination was a small town in Colorado I was certain wouldn’t be vegan friendly.  I checked out restaurants in the area and neither the Asian or Mexican food place had very high reviews.  As my only other options were steak and burgers, I put together a survival kit.

This kit was a little different as I knew I would have access to an oven.  This opened up the survival kit to include a frozen Daiya brand pizza.  I knew I could keep it frozen in a cooler until time to cook it and purchasing the pizza meant I wouldn’t be spending money at a restaurant.  The pizza was on sale so it cost me about 6 bucks: I’ve never been able to put a vegan meal together for that while eating out.  I also included my french press: something I don’t travel with very often.  I figured odds of it getting broken during an overnight stay were fairly slim and I knew I would need excellent, fresh coffee in the morning.  A little chocolate almond milk as coffee creamer and I’d be ready to go.

While the french press isn’t a staple in my survival kits, my electric kettle is.  I think it was Sassy at Vegan Coach who first suggested getting one but I don’t remember for certain.  Whoever it was, it was a genius idea.  A traveling kettle lets me make tea, oatmeal, and soup.  Instant oatmeal and containers of soup are integral parts of my survival kits.  I like Dr. McDougall’s brand: just add water and dinner is instant!  I didn’t bring instant oatmeal with me this time.  I had access to a refrigerator as well as an oven so made some overnight oats with oatmeal, chia seeds, dates, cinnamon, and almond milk.  Give it a mix, stick it in the fridge and breakfast is ready the next morning.  I included some pecans and figured my protein needs were covered.  Almost.

I never travel without packets of peanut butter.  Justin’s is one of my go to brands but Wild Friends make some fun combinations and aren’t too expensive.  I’d used all my Wild Friends peanut butter from my last road trip but Justin’s saved the day.  I popped two packets into my carry on in case I needed a protein boost.  I also included a scoop of my Amazing Meal Chocolate Meal Replacement and a container of rice milk so I’d have a smoothie the next day just in case.  Just in case what?  Who knows what can happen in the wilds of Colorado?

I admit it: I may over plan.

I finished off my survival kit with two cookies from the Alternative Baking Company: an oatmeal raisin and lemon poppy seed.  These are fabulous vegan cookies and they travel very well.  I could think of several more things I should take with me; again, just in case, but only had so much space in my carry-on.  I decided my survival was assured and quit packing.

Sure enough, I didn’t need half of what I packed but I like to be prepared for any  eventuality.  I’m certain that, next time, I won’t pack half so much.  😉

 

 

Well, At Least They Have a Veggie Burger

My family and I recently took an out-of-state trip: seven days touring the national and state parks of Utah. I was excited to see the amazing rock formations of Moab, Canyon Lands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion, couldn’t wait to stop at the Anasazi and Fremont Indian State Parks and Museums, but was concerned about finding something to eat. Our travel plans were going to take us through some very small towns in Utah and I didn’t think the odds of finding a meat, egg, and dairy free option were very high. I ordered a survival kit from Vitacost, instant meals, oatmeal, and individual packets of peanut butter, and packed it along with my traveling tea kettle. All I needed was hot water and then it wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t find a vegan option in a restaurant: I could cook my own. The other three members of my traveling party were not vegan so that was a concern as well. Three meat eaters and one vegan. How would we all get along?

The answer? Very well! I’m used to putting meals together from the side dish menu, ordering salads with no meat and cheese and adding beans and/or broccoli, so I figured I would do okay in the larger towns like Moab or Hurricane. There had to be a place all four of us could go to and all be happy. It turns out there is and it isn’t an exotic restaurant at all. It’s Denny’s.

Denny’s in Moab, UT became our go to restaurant. My family was willing to try vegan friendly places like the Ekleticafe but, every time we attempted to stop, the place was so packed there was hardly room to move much less a place to sit. Denny’s always had space and the booths accommodated all four of us. The best part? Breakfast was easy to put together. I could order four items from the Build-Your-Own-Breakfast menu. I would order oatmeal (made with water and they’ll leave the milk off the table if you ask), fresh fruit, a gluten-free English Muffin made protein-power-packing with the addition of one of my packets of peanut butter, and then, as that was enough food for me; I’d order sausage links or something for a family member. My family got what they liked and I saved money. So, breakfast was covered. What about lunch?

Denny’s also has a Build-Your-Own Burger option and they have a veggie patty. The veggie burger really is the only vegan option but it’s there and it’s tasty. Veggie burgers can be good or gross: it’s all about the texture. The burger at Denny’s is nice and firm and, with added avocado slices and a whole wheat bun, makes a filling lunch.

Fries aren't the healthiest choice but you can put a vegan friendly lunch together
Fries aren’t the healthiest choice but you can put a vegan friendly lunch together

The veggie burger at Denny’s got me through but, after two days, we were on our way to Torrey and Capitol Reef. The sun had long set by the time we finished going through Capitol Reef and checked into our hotel and restaurant choices were sparse. We tried to get in to the the Rim Rock Restaurant but it turns out it’s a good idea to have a reservation. We couldn’t get the hostess to make eye contact with us as she ran here and there getting a bus load of tourists settled at tables and, after twenty minutes of standing inside the door, we left. Just down the hill is the Rim Rock Patio where we got right in. I perused the menu which is surprisingly vegetarian friendly and thought I was safe by ordering a salad (completely vegan and the berry dressing amazing) and pesto baked spaghetti (not vegan). I’d eaten veggie burgers for two days and was ready to try something else but the pesto sauce at Rim Rock Patio is a cream-based pesto-something I’d never heard of-and mozzarella cheese is baked right into the spaghetti-something NOT mentioned in the description. Note to self, ask more questions when ordering. Ah well. I did the best I could.

Our stop after Torrey was Tropic and the restaurants we passed, all of which were closed, didn’t give me much hope for a meal. I was ready to haul my survival kit back out and plug in the tea kettle when Clarke’s Restaurant was recommended to us. Clarke’s had a veggie burger. I was grateful for the option but not super excited about ANOTHER veggie burger. Still, I ordered and have to say the burger was flavorful and a great texture.

Another Veggie Burger and Fries
Another Veggie Burger and Fries

I was pleasantly surprised at how many veg, if not vegan, options were available in towns I was sure served nothing but steak, hamburgers, and chicken; even if that option was only a veggie burger. It gives me hope. If tiny towns in Utah are offering veg options, it means meat-free is becoming more main stream. I know it’s only a matter of time before egg-free and dairy-free follow. I did get a little sick of veggie burgers but there is no room for complaint: I ate well and, beyond two blips, kept my diet completely vegan.

Storm Clouds Over Capitol Reef
Storm Clouds Over Capitol Reef