Tuesday, September 6, 2011

mmmmmexican. :-)

For the Labor Day weekend, my darling hubby volunteered to make us a wonderful Mexican meal. (He's a much better cook than I am. I have trouble boiling water.) As sort of an after-thought, he had me do a little searching on the Internet, to find out what they put in the tasty burritos we occasionally get from Chipotle Mexican Grill. If we'd thought of it sooner, they would have been a closer match, but all we had were re-fried beans, and we get black beans at Chipotle. But no matter - the burritos he fixed us were amazing! So I thought I'd share. (Well, share the picture, anyway. Sorry - the burritos are long gone.)

That amazing burrito above is made with a nice big flour tortilla, beans, rice, corn salsa, tomato salsa, lettuce, and vegan cheese. The rice is basmati, seasoned with a little lime juice and some finely chopped cilantro. The tomato salsa was made from home-grown tomatoes, red onions, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, lime juice and salt. The corn salsa is the same, but with corn instead of tomatoes. (Rice and salsas are more-or-less based on Chipotle's recipes, found online.)

There are two reasons I wanted to share these with you. First, I actually found a vegan cheese I like. It's made by Daiya (I used their mozzarella-style). Now, I have to admit that I haven't had "real" cheese in over 11 years, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've had vegan cheese. I tried it when I first went vegan, and decided I was just as happy to go without. Well, either vegan cheese has improved since then, or my taste buds have become less picky, but I really like this stuff! I found it at a local Kroger's, but if you Google Daiya, you can find their website, and search for locations that sell it near you. (Sorry - having trouble with the link tonight to their website, for some reason.) It melts pretty well - not perfectly, and it takes longer to melt than real cheese, but it does eventually get all gooey-chewy. (It makes awesome nachos!)

The second reason I wanted to share is this: I know I'm not the only vegan to find themselves married to an omnivore. My hubby is very supportive, but does not feel the need to follow the same path as me - and that's fine. Some vegans would have trouble being married to a non-vegan, and that's okay for them. But I get enough e-mails to know there are other vegans struggling with a partner who doesn't share their veggie lifestyle. I recently had someone share with me that they would like to go vegan, but their significant other made it impossible. "You can't just make two different dinners every night, and I feel guilty if I don't eat the way he eats". Well, there are ways to work around this. One is to make a single meal, with a few simple modifications. My hubby and I do this all the time. Some examples:

Burritos: mine had vegan cheese, his had dairy cheese. He could have easily added meat if wanted to, and/or I could have added veggie crumbles.

Pizza: one of my hubby's specialties. He likes to make it from scratch - dough, sauce and all. I splits the dough in half and makes two separate pizzas - same sauce, but his has meat and cheese, and mine has a ton of veggies.

Burgers on the grill: our BBQ grill has a dedicated "meat" side and dedicated "veggie" side. We've been enjoying it all summer. It's just as easy to grill a Boca burger along with whatever meat hubby chooses to grill. We often take some sliced peppers and onion and grill them on a piece of foil - we both enjoy that as a topping.

Spaghetti: hubby is actually perfectly happy with a meatless sauce now, but it wouldn't be hard to add a little meat, or some meatballs, just to his serving.

Chili: same as above - the "base" can be vegan, with meat added to half of it later.

There are lots of ways to make one meal with two slightly different finished products. There's no reason for anyone to have to compromise. I will say that after all these years, my hubby eats a LOT more veggies than before he met me. But it was never a forced thing. He eats what he wants, I eat what I want, and we live happily together. May all of you find the same peace in your relationships.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"just ellen"

No, I haven't given up on my blog. I will be back. This is just my busy time of the year, and of course it's hard to update between Disney trips (which are, for the moment, just once a year in the winter). When I retire in Florida (still quite a few years away), I'll update this thing like mad!

For today, I just had to stop in and share a link to Ellen DeGeneres' page: Who's Vegan How can you not love Ellen? And she does have a couple of Disney connections ("Stupid Judy and her stupid energy"... and let's not "forget" a rather forgetful blue fish that speaks "whale"). Anyway, the page I linked to has an interesting list of famous vegans. I knew about quite a few of them, but there were a few surprises there. I just thought you all might find that interesting.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

disney vegans on facebook

Okay, I'm the last person to suggest anyone sign up for Facebook. I kind of got sucked into it, but I hardly ever post anything, and, in fact, forget to check it for days on end. But it seems to be "the place to hang out" for a lot of people these days. So, if you're one of those people, did you know that there is a Facebook page now specifically for vegetarian and vegan Walt Disney World fans? I guess it's not that surprising, since there's a page for everything else. In fact, I'm surprised it took this long. But if FB is your thing, you might want to check it out and offer your support to the awesome vegans who made it happen: Veg Disney on Facebook.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

más alimento del vegano, por favor

Hola amigos! Yes, it's true... (sigh)... Mexico is the last country on my vegan junk-food journey around World Showcase.

Actually, truth be told, it was really my first country. It was here that I got the idea for this series of blog posts. While I always make it a point to wander around the little shops and stalls inside the pyramid, this time I actually made the effort to pick up many of the food offerings and read the ingredients... and I was amazed at how many of them were vegan! I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised. I love Mexican food in general, and much of it is vegan (or veganizable). Rice, beans, tortillas, salsa... I'm getting hungry already!

Because the idea was only just starting to form in my mind, I didn't take as many pix or notes as I should have. I'm afraid I'm still learning how to be a diligent vegan journalist. Some of the items I didn't photograph won't be a surprise; things like chips and salsa and tequila. Well, as long as the tequila doesn't have a worm in it.

(Okay, I just had to Wikipedia this. Why in the world would anyone put a worm in a bottle of booze? Turns out it really was just a marketing gimmick. Thank goodness it's not a very common practice.)

In addition to a huge selection of exotic salsas, I also found a surprisingly large selection of vegan candy. I'm not going to pretend to know how to pronounce all of these, but I'm happy to report that they all had the ingredients listed on the back in English, for those of us who's Spanish doesn't extend much past "hasta la vista".

This first one is some sort of fruit candy that, silly me, I forgot to note the ingredients on.

The next one, if my notes are correct, just contained sugar, peanuts and artificial flavor, which seems odd because I'm pretty sure that the name derives from marzipan, which is generally made from almonds.

The next one was another peanut candy - I think the ingredients were almost the same as the one above, though obviously a much different type of candy. (The name, cacahuate, actually means "peanuts", in Spanish.)

Last but not least, I found a colorful coconut treat. Ingredients were natural coconut, sugar, corn syrup, artificial colors (red #40, yellow #5, blue #1).

(As an aside, I was concerned about the red #40, but according to the Vegetarian Resource Group, it does not contain cochineal, and is considered vegan. But as with everything I list on this blog, please do your own research, and feel free to arrive at your own conclusions. There are many "questionable" ingredients that each vegan must decide for themselves to accept or avoid.)

As I mentioned at the beginning, there were actually a lot more treats that I did not think to photograph or record. And since products change all the time you'll certainly want to investigate for yourself, and read packages. However, I really feel that this pavilion would be a good place to look for sugary vegan treats.

And of course, how can you *not* want to explore this amazing pavilion? I see people walk right on by the pyramid without stopping, and I can't help but thing they are missing out. I just love the contrast here. The inside is always kept dark, to remind you of the night sky... but the decor and souvenirs are so colorful! In addition to the usual turquoise and silver jewelry I would expect to find, they also have these wonderful little brightly colored, carved wooden animals.

And I must confess that there is something about all the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) merchandise that just fascinates me.

Well, I'm afraid this wraps up my latest blog series. I will share a little teaser for a later blog series, though: this experience inspired me to try something daring on my next trip. Despite the fact that I recommend - and will continue to recommend - that vegans bring some of their own favorite treats with them when they go to Walt Disney World, I have decided to throw caution to the wind, and try a trip without that safety net, in the name of research. Instead, I will save my pennies and actually buy and try some of these little goodies I discovered last time.
I'm going to make it a point to be a more adventurous vegan eater, and of course, share my findings with all of you.

But sadly, that next trip is still many months away. In the meantime, I will try and keep an eye out for anything I think might be of interest to vegan Disney fans. Thanks for following along!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

worth a look

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know... where's Mexico? No worries - I *did* find some vegan treats in Mexico, and I promise I will blog about them soon. I think I'm just procrastinating, because it's the LAST country. Whatever am I going to write about until my next Disney trip? (Sadly, the next trip is still many months away. Sigh. But I have an idea of what I'll do for blog posts after that one. Then again, I'm always looking for ideas. Is there anything "Disney-vegan" related that you'd like to see me post about?)

Today, I'm just stopping in to share a link to the official Disney blog. There was an article posted last week that's worth a look: Best Vegetarian Eats in Walt Disney World Theme Parks. It's not 100% accurate (beware of meat in the Cobb Salad at Brown Derby), and keep in mind that many of these suggestions are lacto-ovo vegetarian (though many are "veganizable"), but I still get excited at vegetarian Disney posts. I strongly recommend reading the comments, too - not just the official post. Some of the readers have contributed even more suggestions, many of them vegan. It's nice to see Disney addressing this issue, and it's nice to see how many comments this article generated. We're not alone!

Happy Vegan Disney Dining!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"you are not the first to pass this way... nor shall you be the last."

There's just something warm and cozy about the Norway pavilion at Epcot... though now that I think about it, neither trolls nor Vikings seem very warm and cozy. Maybe it's all those heavy sweaters in the gift shop. (No, sadly, most of those sweaters are not vegan, but I keep looking, anyway. Some of the coats are - though they are very pricey.)

The old Stave Church at the front of the pavilion is one of those little hidden gems you find at World Disney World. It's amazing how many people walk right by it without ever realizing that you can actually go inside (and learn more about those Vikings).

And Norway is one of only two pavilions in the World Showcase with a ride - Maelstrom. If you give it a try (and you should), be sure to look for the hidden Mickeys in the giant mural you'll see on your right, as you board the boats. (One is very subtle, but the other isn't too hard to find, if you're observant... one of the Vikings in the boat is sporting some unusual headgear.)

But onto the gift shop. There isn't a huge amount of food here, but there are a few snack items, some of which are vegan.

First, you can usually find a large display of Swedish Fish here (gummy candy). (Ingredients: Sugar, Invert Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Citric Acid, White Mineral Oil, Artificial Flavors, Red 40 and Carnauba Wax.)

I also found some Sour Starfish. (Ingredients: Sugar, Invert Sugar, Corn Syrup, Corn Starch, Citric Acid and Tartaric Acid, Artificial Flavors and Colors [Beta-Carotene, Beta-Apo-8'-Carotenal].)

There were some Salty Licorice Fish. Hmmm... I'm noticing a theme here. Fish must be big in Norway, LOL. (Ingredients: Corn Syrup [Glucose Syrup], Sugar, Modified Starch, Salmiak [Ammonium Chloride], Water, Licorice, Flavoring and Colors, [Anise Oil, Menthol, Caramel], Salt, Glazing Agent [Vegetable Oil, Carnauba Wax.)

And last but not least, cookies. Not all of the cookies shown above are vegan - you will need to check the labels - but many of the thin wafers at the top of the photo were - more or less - vegan (with one of those vague "may contain trace amounts of" messages).

That was all I found to eat here, but I always have fun browsing this store, and checking out the wide variety of trolls. I hope you do, too!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

check this out...

Just a quick message today, to throw a long over-due shout-out to C'est La Vegan, and her wonderful blog! She blogs about all things vegan (including some very yummy treats - check out all those cupcakes!), and recently blogged about her trip to Walt Disney World. I never get tired of reading vegan Disney trip reports, and I'm guessing I'm not the only one.

And if all those photos make you hungry, you might want to check out her online vegan bakery, C'est La V Bakeshop. Yummm!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

tea and fortune cookies

Zǎo ān! I have to say that the China pavilion at Epcot is one of those places that just seems to get more magical every time I visit. I had a relative when I was younger who was quite taken with all things Chinese, and as a child, I never quite understood why. As an adult, I'm finally beginning to see what she saw. I find myself spending more and more time at this pavilion, just soaking it all in.

The entertainment is amazing, and the film - The Reflections of China - is just stunning. But my focus for this post is the large gift shop - Yong Feng Shangdian Department Store. The entrance to the shop is guarded by the traditional Foo Dogs. Just inside the entrance, you can find a sign that explains their significance, but in short, they bring peace and great fortune to the family that dwells here.

Once inside, you'll find an amazing array of food, clothes and decorative items. This is not a shop you want to rush through - so many amazing little trinkets to be found around every corner.

The tea is, of course, vegan, and something I actually expected. And as a tea-drinker myself, something I'm happy to take a look at.

However, I was actually surprised at the number of vegan food items I found, as well. While I'm not really familiar with Mochi, it appears to be some fruity rice treat. (*Ingredients: Maltose, Sugar, Glutinous Rice, Starch, Pineapple, Orange, Agar, Flavor, Sorbic Acid [Preservative])

There was some Puffed Rice. (*Ingredients: Rice, Sugar, Maltose, Peanuts and Black Sesame)

And some peanut candy (looked very much like peanut brittle). (*Ingredients: Peanuts, Malt Sugar, Salt, Sugar)

And there was also something more like peanut brittle in bite-size, individually wrapped pieces. (*Ingredients: Peanuts, Sugar, Maltose and Water)

In fact, there were so many different treats here that this is just a sampling. They weren't all vegan, but so many of them were that it's worth a look if something catches your eye.

Being the China pavilion, though, I couldn't leave without checking out the fortune cookies... and yes, they're vegan, too! (*Ingredients: Bleached Wheat Flour, Sugar, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Soybean Lecithin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Natural Orange Flavor, FD&C Yellow #5 & 6)

On a vegan but non-food related note... I must confess that I always just assumed that most of the beautiful clothes in this store were made of silk. Silly me - it's never a good idea to assume. This time, I read the labels. If I had just bothered to look at the prices, I would have realized that most of these couldn't be silk. It turns out that many - including the ones shown here - are either 100% rayon, or 95% polyester/5% spandex.

And the same goes for the beautiful purses! (A woman can never have too many handbags.)

It's actually rather ironic that I found so many wonderful vegan items in this store, as this pavilion is the one I usually suggest vegans avoid for meals. The restaurants are not really known for their vegetarian/vegan offerings, and they tend to be a bit less flexible than others. (It seems, from my attempts to gather information, that they don't like to modify dishes. They don't wish to take away the flavor, and I think they find the idea of veganism rather hard to understand.) So, you may want to find your dinner in another pavilion, but be sure to check out this gift shop!

*As a gentle reminder: always read the ingredients for yourself before purchasing. Ingredients listed in this blog should be used only as a guideline, and not as hard fact. Things change, and I could made mistakes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

finally some chocolate!


Today's post is going to be very short, but very sweet. Germany has changed quite a bit since my last visit. Things have been rearranged, and the store that used to have sweets now just has misc. trinkets. The old Hummel porcelain store has been replaced by a wonderful - but not very vegan-friendly - caramel store. In the interest of research, I did try to check out this new caramel place, but the line was so crazy long that I must confess to giving up on actually asking any questions. Unfortunately, most of the fresh stuff looks decidedly un-vegan, and all of the prepacked stuff I found was definitely not vegan. It is possible to make vegan caramel, but sadly, it isn't the norm.

I wasn't ready to give up, though. I had too many fond memories of visits to the old sweet shop in Germany, so just in case, I wandered over to the other side of the pavilion, and took a lot around the teddy bears, cuckoo clocks and beer steins. While the surprisingly large selection of vegan candy I used to find is gone, I did manage to find a decent display of chocolate - much of it vegan.

Most of the Hachez bars shown below are vegan. As always, it's very important to read the labels. I've tried a couple of these in the past - very dark chocolate... not bad, but not my favorite. However, I should probably try them again as I've found that my tastes continue to evolve, and I've adapted to darker and darker chocolate.

The real treat here, though, in my humble opinion, is the Ritter Sport bars. These are probably my favorite dark chocolate candy bars to date - not just from Germany, but from anywhere. Again, please read the packages. Just two of the bars shown below are vegan - a plain dark chocolate bar (in the brown wrapper), and a dark chocolate with marzipan (in the red wrapper). Both are unbelievably good. I was actually surprised at how much I like the marzipan - not something I really had any previous experience with. Now, these remain one of my favorite treats ever.

So, as I said, short but sweet. However, I can't leave the Germany pavilion without at least mentioning the wonderful model train display. It's a must-stop for me, every visit. (I must confess that I rather enjoy counting little lizards here. I get such a kick out of seeing these tiny little lizards that look huge when they crawl over those tiny little houses. No lizards in the photo below, but the village is decked out for the holidays.)

Guten Tag und vielen Dank fur Ihren Besuch. (Good day, and thanks for stopping by!)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

just a note

I just received a nice little note from Jessica (thanks Jessica!) who just returned from her first vegan Walt Disney World trip. She wanted to let me know that it looks like the new Angus Burger brand multi-grain buns are now the "standard" on veggie burgers. They may put butter on them, so you'll still want to make sure you clarify with someone what you're getting, but in my opinion, this is a step in the right direction. I am hoping that we can get back to the point where ordering a veggie burger for a vegan doesn't require jumping through so many hoops. These are not gluten-free, so if that's an issue, you'll still need to request the gluten-free roll.

On a totally "non-Disney" topic, I thought I'd share a bit of vegan advice. While I certainly hope that no one is using my blog as the "end all, be all" guide-map for going vegan, I know that there are some relatively new vegans that do find their way here. Going vegan is a big move - it can have a lot of effects on your body, both good and bad, especially if you're not careful. There are some very important vitamins that *everyone* needs, but that vegans in particular must be careful about, because a vegan diet can be less "well-rounded" and miss out of some of these essentials, such as vitamin B, and Omega-3 fatty acids. It's critical that you do your homework before making this change.

But what I wanted to share is the amazing properties of flax seed oil. This nice little product isn't cheap (my "regular" grocery store carries it, but they want $9.99 a bottle!), which is why I found an alternate source for my Omega-3's for a while. I wish I hadn't. I have since gone back to putting about a tablespoon of flax seed oil on my dinner every night. You do have to be careful with this stuff - it can go rancid quickly, so you have to keep it refrigerated, and you can't cook with it. I just drizzle it over my veggies or pasta, after the food is prepared. It has a light, nutty flavor, and usually I don't even notice it. But I have to tell you that I can actually *see* a difference with this stuff.

While this hasn't been "verified by the FDA", or whatever it is they say, I have heard that it's good for your hair and nails... and now I'm absolutely convinced of it. My hair and nails used to be great, but had both gotten really bad recently. My hair was dried out, frizzy... just didn't look healthy. And my nails were breaking left and right, so soft I couldn't do anything with them. Finally one day it hit me... that the down-hill slide seemed to have happened after I stopped taking flax seed oil. So, I grabbed some at my earliest convenience, and I'm once again making it a part of my daily ritual. And slowly but surely, both my hair and nails are improving.

There may be other "wonder products" out there, but if you're a vegan who's struggling with bad hair and/or nails, it might be worth a try. (Look for the stuff that says "with lignans".)

Next post, Germany.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

the little mouse

Ciao amici!

Okay, yes... I've been procrastinating this post. I like the Italy pavilion, but try as I might, Italy was a complete bust. I was unable to find a single vegan food item in the gift shops.

The good news it that it was my only complete failure during my World Showcase quest of vegan treats. Disappointing, but who knows - maybe it was a fluke. Perhaps next time I'll find something? In all fairness, there isn't a whole of lot *any* kind of food here. There's a lot of wine... and some of it may be vegan. I confess to not knowing a thing about wine, except that a lot of it is refined using yucky animal parts. I'm afraid I wasn't much of a wine drinker before I went vegan, so I never saw a reason to try and become one after. (But feel free to share, if you're familiar with any good vegan wines.)

I will give credit to the Italy pavilion for one thing, though... they had a better selection of specialized Mickey Mouse items than most of the other pavilions. Clearly Italy likes the Mouse.

(The above sign reads: "In Italy, Mickey Mouse is known as Topolino, the 'little mouse'. Experience our unique collection of Topolino products created especially for the Italy pavilion at Epcot. These products are made from authentic Italian Murano glass and Alabaster stone.")

Yes, I have a lot of Mickey Mouse stuff... jewelry, clothes, silverware, mugs, bowls, calendars, license plate frame, "mouse" pad, pens, notepaper, keychains... doesn't everybody? Some of these items were just gorgeous, though!

This little clock, though, was probably my favorite. If I hadn't already splurged too much on a new Mickey watch, this would likely have come home with me. So, no snacks, but I found something fun on my search. You just never know what sorts of treasures you'll find at Walt Disney World. If there is a better place for a shopaholic, I haven't found it. :-)


Monday, February 21, 2011

happy presidents day!

What better day than today to post about the American pavilion! Okay, here's where I'm going to gripe a bit, though. Now, the American Adventure is amazing, as are The Voices of Liberty and The Spirit of American Fife and Drum Corps... but Liberty Inn is hardly the best is American food, and the gift shop is just plain sad. I just can't help feeling that this wonderful country of mine has so much more to offer. I just wish they had done more with this pavilion.

On the other hand, part of it could simply be that I can't look at a display of coonskin caps without shuddering (even though these are obviously, blessedly fake).

I'm sorry, but this is the best they could come up with for American souvenirs? Really?

Okay, okay... back to the matter at hand - vegan snacks. There are actually a number of vegan snacks available here, though they are standard, run-of-the-mill Disney snacks that you can find through Walt Disney World. But, they're snacks and they're vegan, so I'll share.

First up, we have some Chip and Dale snack-packs. Okay, yes, I'm a total sucker for Disney "stuff", so yes, I actually think cashews in a cute little chipmunk bag are better than plain old cashews in a boring package.

They also have pretzels - usually a safe bet for vegans (as these are).

There are several different types of packaged popcorn. Most are not vegan,but the Kettle Corn is. (Ingredients: popcorn, granulated sugar, soybean oil, salt.)

There were also lots of different types of cookies. Most have dairy, but I found one that did not. Minnie's Bake Shop Vanilla Cream Cookies appear to be vegan. (Ingredients: wheat flour, sugar, coconut oil [hydrogenated coconut oil and hydrogenated soybean oil], dextrose, soybean oil, water, contains less than 2% of each of the following: high fructose corn syrup, salt, baking soda, soy lecithin, natural & artificial flavors, ammonium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate]

Like I said, not the most exotic selection of snacks, but it's a little something to keep you from suffering "funnel cake envy".

Well, I find myself thinking that I should have something clever to say about my own country, but I'm at a total loss. I suppose that which we're most familiar with does seem boring in comparison to things that are new to us. And perhaps that's my real problem with this pavilion. I'm glad it's there, but I have a lot more fun at the more exotic (to me) locations.

Until the next country, happy Disney dining!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

watashi no hobakurafuto wa unagi de ippai desu

Konnichiwa! (According to a website listing useful Japanese phrases, the title of this post translates to "my hovercraft is full of eels". My apologies if that is not the case.)

I have to confess that I absolutely love Mistukoshi - the huge store in the Japan pavilion. It's probably my favorite place to window-shop at Walt Disney World... and maybe even buy a few small items. Silly, I know... but for some reason, I just have this thing for Hello Kitty stuff. (Hmmm... wonder why? LOL.)

I haven't resorted to wearing the jewelry or anything (most of my jewelry is much more sophisticated... featuring Mickey Mouse, of course). But I do have quite a collection of Hello Kitty pens and pencils.

Okay, so maybe I got a little sidetracked there, but I did finally make my way to the snacks and treats. There is actually quite a large selection of foods here, but most of it is, not surprisingly, not vegan. (Actually, most of it appears rather strange to my American palette... but then, don't knock it if you haven't tried it, and all that.)

I really thought I had discovered one vegan dark chocolate bar here in the past, so if that's what you're interested in, it's worth another look. This time, though, all I managed to find was hard candy.

There were quite a few different kinds. They had two huge displays of these brightly-colored packages.

Almost everything I found listed the ingredients somewhere in English, so no worries if your translation skills are as bad as mine (read: totally non-existent).

Most of these consisted mainly of sugar and fruit flavoring. There were some that were clearly not vegan, but many that looked vegan to me (aside from concerns about the sugar). I do have the ingredients for everything shown - e-mail me, if you're curious.

One last candy was the first to catch my eye. It's called rice candy, and I used to love this stuff when I was a kid. Each candy is wrapped in an edible rice paper, so it's like both the candy and the wrapper are edible. I just thought that was so cool when I was a little girl. I used to buy this stuff - in the same exact little boxes - from a "Hello Kitty" gift shop not far from my house... too many years ago to mention.

(Ingredients for above: Glucose syrup [corn starch, water], sugar, sweet rice, water, lemon flavor, orange flavor, FD & C Red No. 40 [Allura red AC]. Note that as far as my research shows, this coloring is vegan, but please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about that.)

I have to say that there are certainly a number of un-vegan items in this shop - beware of a "find your own pearl" counter, and plenty of silk items - but if you can set aside any discomfort, this is a fascinating place to wander and explore. I get more of a feel for the culture here than I do in some of the other country's gift shops. It's one of those places that just feels very exotic, for someone who currently lives in the dead center of "nowhere, Ohio".

One last thing before we leave Japan... while I don't know the ingredients, I do recommend trying to catch Miyuki, the candy artist - just to watch. What she can do with a little bit of colored taffy is just amazing! And she is so charming - just a delight to watch.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

flying carpets and magic lamps

The Morocco pavilion at Epcot is one of those amazing places that gets more interesting with each visit. I must confess that it's all too easy to simply pause in front of MoRockin, take a quick peek inside the little shop right on the water, and then simply move onto the next country. But when you take the chance to actually walk back into this pavilion, there are lots of hidden treasures to behold.

This pavilion is rather unusual in that it's the only one actually sponsored by its government, and not by a corporation. The tile-work found here is absolutely stunning - the King of Morocco actually sent his royal craftsmen to do the work. (How cool is that?!) Near the back of the pavilion, there are a couple of little "scenes" that I just find enchanting. I just love this one:

Here's a close-up of the book:

Aladdin and Jasmine can often be found posing for photos, and signing autographs in this pavilion.

But we're here looking for vegan food, right? At first, I thought I was going to strike out. Of course, there's always the vegetarian plate at the Tangierine Cafe, but I was on a mission to find snacks from the gift shops. Sure, the flying carpets were fun, and who doesn't love a nice fez, but was there anything to eat? I did come across a display for rose water and orange water. Doesn't sound all that tempting to me, but I took the time to read the blurb about it. (The sign behind the bottles reads says that Rosewater is produced in a small in the south of Morocco. Most of it is exported to France for use in perfumes and beauty creams, but some is also added to desserts and cakes for a unique flavor. Orange water is distilled from orange blossoms. It's been used in cooking since the Middle Ages, mostly in soups and stews.)

Finding that there were a lot more little shops here than I realized, I finally came across the food. While not exactly "treats", or even "convenience foods", I am happy to report that nearly all these boxes are vegan. Hummus and tabbouleh - Morocco is really not a bad place for vegans.

And we mustn't forget the falafel.

I kept digging, and did finally find something that I "think" is a treat, LOL. It appears to be called "Halva". According to the Internet, this is "a delicious East Mediterranean dessert". (Ingredients are: Tahina (ground sesame), sugar, halva extract, almonds, citric acid, natural flavors.)

Now, I realize that I'm showing you all these interesting items without actually being able to give an opinion about them. Here's the problem... I followed my own advice this time a little too well. I made sure I brought plenty of tasty vegan snacks from home, and purchased a few others on our grocery run at the beginning of the trip. I had a LOT of food in our hotel room. While I most definitely recommend "being prepared" - and I strongly push this on first-time vegan Disney visitors in particular - after so many vegan trips, I probably should just leave the snacks at home, and experiment a bit.

While it looks like my next trip won't be until the end of the year, I am strongly considering attempting a trip without ANY vegan snacks or treats from home, and seeing if I can find enough tasty options at the parks to keep myself happy. It would give me an excuse to try a lot of the items I'm writing about is this series. I would, of course, share all my findings with you. What do you think? Should I brave the unknown, in the name of research?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

bon appetit

Bonjour! While "vegan" is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of French food, I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of goodies at the gift shop in Epcot's France pavilion.

First, if you're in the mood for an adult beverage, there is a rather unique offering at a kiosk here, by the water - the unmistakable bright orange frozen concoction called a Grand Marnier Orange Slush (or, as I call it, "that orange slushie thing in France"). Sorry - haven't managed to get a good photo of this one yet, but you'll know it when you see it. I have yet to give it a try, but some folks say they are very tasty. Others think it's a bit too sweet. I suspect that curiosity will win out on a future trip. They're not cheap, but then this is Disney.

As for the gift shop, I had fun picking up all the little food items and reading labels. There are bins full of hard candies - most vegan (as long as you're not worried about sugar, or the usual "may contain traces of..." message):

Here's a close-up of the raspberry-filled ones:

They also had some hard strawberry candies in a cute little tin. (Why is it that candy is so much more fun in cute little tins?)

And I was pleasantly surprised to find some dairy-free dark chocolate:

... as well as some more fancy chocolates in a cute tin:

Description and ingredients for above listed as: 15 Dark Chocolate Squares with Cocoa Beans, Cocoa 70% minimum. Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, roasted cocoa beans 8%, emulsifiers: soya lecithin, E476. May contain traces of egg, milk, wheat, shell nuts.) Okay, I confess that I had to look up what E476 meant - but the Internet says it's vegan. :-)

Last but not least, I found a lovely confit. Aside from the fact that it clearly recommends you pair it with some goat cheese, it is basically just fruit and nuts. (Ingredients: figs 50.5%, fruit sugars, cane sugar, white wine from Pays D'Oc, walnuts 1.7%, fruit pectin, concentrated lemon juice. Okay... not sure about that white wine. Please feel free to correct me if that's a questionable item.)

Add a nice baguette, and you could have yourself a very French little picnic here. And when you're done, be sure to check out the Impressions de France. The film may not be the most exciting, but the music is beautiful, the seats are comfy, and the theater is air-conditioned.

Bonsoir mes amis.