Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vegan Wedding!

My beautiful friends, Zach and Darcie
As I've mentioned many times, triathlon has brought the most amazing people into my life...Zach and Darcie are two of these people. I met Zach February 2011 at a Portland Triathlon Club Newbie Coffee Hour. Zach was wearing a firefighter union shirt, so, of course, as a fellow firefighter, I had to introduce myself! Zach works for a neighboring fire department and through our conversation, we learned we both lived in Vancouver. His girlfriend, Darcie, a photographer, was unable to attend, but was also interested in starting triathlon, being an avid runner. We exchanged info so we could train together. Over the past year and a half, Zach and Darcie and I have become great friends! Zach and I serve on the PTC Board together and the three of us have done training and races and carpooling to events.

Being firefighters, Zach and I take turns giving each other a hard's just what firefighters do! I tease him about his department, he teases me about mine, etc, and it's all in fun and brotherhood/sisterhood. One of his favorite things to tease me about (besides being the first person in line at the gate to get into a race venue to set up my transition) was being vegan. It was no big deal...LOTS of firefighters have teased me about that...I can DISH it back! However, he did have a lot of questions about nutrition, having lost a lot of weight and transforming himself into a triathlete (Zach is an After too! See his interview with Athlete's Lounge here), so I shared what I knew, loaned him some books, and by January 2012, he and Darcie decided to try vegan out for a bit to see what it'd be like.

That January, they asked if we could do a potluck as they were new and wanted to try other vegan food people enjoyed. We got together with Becky, our friend and PTC president, and her husband James as she had once been veg/vegan and wanted to do more of that after the birth of their beautiful baby. We had a blast and great food--and we decided to make it a monthly event! About every month, we get together to share great food and conversation and our group has grown and grown as we've discovered more athletic friends who are veg/vegan or interested in veg/vegan nutrition. I think we had about 20 people at our last potluck! Darcie and Zach have been vegan since January and have adopted it as part of their healthy lifestyle for their family.

Smith Homestead
On my way home from Vineman, I got the sweetest voicemail from Darcie asking if I might be interested in doing something crazy...cater their wedding reception in September! They were married New Years Eve 2011 in a private ceremony with family and wanted to recreate that ceremony and have a reception for their friends (see their love story here). WOW, I was so honored that she asked! Mother Superior and I sat in the hot tub at a spa resort on the Oregon coast and tossed ideas back and forth about it, about styles and cuisines and whether I could do it. I called Darcie, we talked, and I decided with help from her and Mom Sup I was totally game!

Zach and Darcie's reception was held at the Smith Homestead in the Tillamook National Forest along the Wilson River. Such a beautiful location! It is a rustic timberframe building with skylights all along the peak of the roof, large barn doors and glass roll-up doors that open to the forest, and a huge stone fireplace. Inside are amazing dimensional lumber tongue-and-groove, pegged tables and benches that accomodate up to 100 people.

Darcie and I decided on a Mediterranean style buffet for the reception. We wanted to use produce out of our gardens as much as possible, so created a menu around that. The menu was 100% vegan, designed to appeal to non-vegans as well! Note, we did not design a gluten-free or allergy-free menu.
Campstove Cooking!
It took about four days of cooking for Darcie, Mother Superior, and I to get everything all prepared (not all consecutive, some things we made ahead and frozen). Darcie and Zach did all the shopping while I was in Las Vegas--I cannot thank them enough for that, I know that was a HUGE job! The hardest thing was calculating how much we needed to prepare for 80 people. I found a GREAT website to help us called Ellen's Kitchen.

We had to really think ahead about how to prepackage things and how to heat/assemble the main course and bread on-site. The Smith Homestead had electricity (only three outlets), no kitchen, and mineral well water from a hand pump, so our menu was mostly cold items. We used Mom's portable convection oven for warming bread, my two burner camp stove for reheating cooked pasta and heating meatball-marinara sauce for the entree, and brought gallons of water from home (the site's water was potable, but had a noticeable sulfur mineral taste so we decided to use it only for cleanup, not for cooking).

Homemade foil cupcake trays in cake boxes for tranport
Getting the food there was part of the adventure as well! The site was an hour and a half from my house. The major concern I had early on was how on earth to transport 200 decorated cupcakes without ruining them! After some internet searching, I found an ingenious idea, homemade foil cupcake trays! After cooling cooked cupcakes, we took the cupcake trays, turned them upside down and pressed sheets of foil over the trays to mold them into foil trays. We set the foil trays into cardboard cake boxes and put the cupcakes in them. I then decorated all the cupcakes in the foil trays in the cake boxes. GENIUS! 

A full trailer!

Everything got loaded up in six coolers and transported to the site in my utility trailer and car. We also hauled tables and a little gasoline generator in case we lost power in the building.

Cupcakes in the car...styrofoam used to keep from sliding

The Menu!
 The Menu

Antipasti Tray
Veggie Tray
Cilantro Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms
Baba Ganooj
Hummus with Pinenuts, Smoked Paprika and Za'atar
Carrot Vichyssoise

Marinated Carrot Salad
Chickpea and Quinoa Salad

Main Course
Viva gli sposi Pasta 
Focaccia Bread

Assorted Cupcakes

Antipasti Tray
Veggie Tray

Mother Superior had a dream a couple years ago about making a veggie tray all mixed together rather than the traditional separated out version. It's been her trademark veggie tray ever since and really, genius!

Cilantro Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms
Baba Ganooj, Muhammara, Hummus, and Pita Chips

Not only is this recipe vegan, it is RAW vegan. The mushrooms were marinated for two days in Bragg's Aminos, giving them a "cooked" feel.

Baba Ganooj is a roasted eggplant dip; Muhammara is a roasted red bell pepper dip; and the Hummus is topped with pinenuts, smoked paprika, and za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend made up of the dried herbs, namely oregano, thyme, and sumac, mixed with sesame seeds, salt, cumin, and other spices.

Carrot Vichyssoise, cold carrot soup
I can't take credit for the wonderful forest-themed name cards...Darcie made these (aren't they great?). The soup is topped with a swirl of Balsamic Glaze and sprinkle of chopped fresh chives. 


Panzanella is a Tuscan bread and tomato salad.

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad
Marinated Carrot Salad

Mother Superior made this salad when I was growing up and it was always one of my favorites. The original recipe used Campbell's Tomato Soup which is not vegan, but she found a veganized recipe that is as, it's better!

Viva gli sposi Pasta
The original idea for Darcie and Zach's reception was to make Chef AJ's Disappearing Lasagna...until we realized there were no ovens at the reception site! We made this recipe up from components of the lasagna recipe, using rigatoni noodles, and layering them in chafing dishes. We made wonderful vegan "meatballs" and heated them in the sauce to layer.  Viva gli sposi is a traditional Italian wedding saying that means, "Hurray for the Newlyweds"! We thought that'd be an appropriate name for our new dish!

Focaccia Bread with basil and faux Parmesan

Banana Split, Pistachio Rosewater, and S'mores Cupcakes

Darcie and I had a cupcake bake-off a few weeks prior to the wedding to narrow down our cupcake choices from three--to three!! They were all just so good and so beautiful that we just couldn't bear to eliminate any one cupcake! Mother Superior made the S'mores cupcakes even more special by baking little miniature vegan graham crackers that topped every cupcake!!

Basil Lemonade

Basil Lemonade was made from frozen lemonade concentrate and handfuls of fresh basil from Darcie's garden. The lemonade concentrate made the catering/transportation to a remote location easier, otherwise fresh lemonade would have been used.

The beautiful bride!

Darcie's son digging in to a S'more Cupcake!
Darcie's daughter savoring a cherry from the top of a Banana Split Cupcake!

Me and Mother Superior making memories again! Check out our Cupcake Aprons!
Can you do a 100% vegan wedding reception? Absolutely! Will people eat it? Absolutely, they won't even know it's vegan! We kept it quiet that it was vegan (except for the veg/vegan guests, so they knew they could eat everything on the menu) until guests were eating as we didn't want them to not try it! Everyone loved it and they were absolutely amazed it was ALL vegan. It was a great adventure and went off swimmingly!

You can download all the recipes for everything we made for this reception at this link

Thank you, Zach and Darcie, for including us in your special day! It was truly an honor!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Vegas Post-Race Recovery!

A little post-race recovery!
So I'm settling in to post-race season recovery better than I thought I would! I've been having a blast!

Knee Update
I've been to physical therapy twice now, and this seems to be helping a lot. The physical therapist seems to think that my knee issue is probably a flareup of my IT band due to systemic inflammation. She believes that my post-Vineman immune system just wasn't able to deal with the inflammation from my sinus infection and   strep throat and allowed my little "tweak" of an injury to my IT band to become inflamed during my convalescence. The knee is not unstable at all, but the area around the distal end of the IT band had fluid in it. She's been using ultrasound and Graston® (just like the treatment I had for my ulnar neuropathy last year, see post), and it's getting much better. I'm also using the foam roller and doing some exercises to work the IT band. The swelling is down, pain has decreased and sometimes disappeared, and I've not had the "squeaky rub" condition for several days now. I do have a referral to a sports-medicine orthopedist in October, and I'm going to keep that appointment to see what things I can do to prevent future injuries to this area as I start up my full Ironman training this fall.

I'm slowly adding workouts in. I did a 1.5 mile swim last week and my knee was great for the first half; it got a little achy, not painful, so I just pulled the last half. I did a five minute stationary bike warmup at PT this morning with no pain at all, which is the first cycling I've had pain-free for a month. Tomorrow I'll do a 2-3 mile treadmill run and see how that feels. I'm really looking forward to getting back into training.

Vegan Vegas!
I went to Vegas last week for the first time in years. Believe it or not, it was soooo relaxing! I've never gone anywhere and just vegged at the pool...but that's exactly what I did and turns out, exactly what I needed! We spent four days at the pool, lounging, swimming, relaxing, enjoying drinks with little umbrellas in them, of course...ahhhhhh!

We stayed at the Wynn, which was beautiful, and, turns out, has outstanding vegan food at all of their restaurants and room service! The Wynn brought in vegan chef, Tal Ronnen, to develop wonderful vegan fare, and he hit it out of the park! Check out their menus.

The first night we ate at La Cave outside on the patio overlooking the pools. It was a beautiful setting. La Cave is a wine bar/restaurant that serves small plates in tapas style, although it's not Spanish cuisine. There was a whole section of vegan selections...and we ordered them all! Our favorite, which we ordered a total of three plates worth, was the Creamy Mushroom Tortellini, made with cashew cream. OMG! So fantastic! I'm going to have to figure out how to recreate that dish!

Room and poolside service was terrific too. Over the four days, for breakfast, we had the fruit plate with vegan soy vanilla yogurt, granola and soy yogurt parfait, and tofu scramble. It was all excellent! At the pool we had salads and a terrific roasted red pepper and avocado hummus.

The second night we ventured to the Bellagio to Sensi. While not a vegan restaurant nor one with a vegan menu, I had read in the Vegas Vegan blog about the amazing food they had there, and as it was one of my friend's favorite restaurants in Vegas, we were very intrigued to see what they had along the vegan lines. We had the BEST waiter--he was English and so much fun! We asked about a vegan menu and he got all excited and said he was go talk to the chefs to see what they would come up with, because "they really do love to create new exciting things!" He came back with a list of wonderful menu items...and we ordered them all! We had a fantastic Veggie Sushi Platter with a Ponzu Yuzu dipping sauce and a wonderful risotto for appetizers, followed by Tofu Scallops with stir-fried vegetables that were outstanding and a dish of seasonal vegetables that included a variety of summer squashes, carrots, green beans, etc. And a bowl of fresh berries with the most amazing lemoncello sorbet I've ever had in my entire life!

The last night we went to the Mix Lounge at the top of The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. Stunning! We ended up having drinks and dinner outside on the veranda on the 64th floor; it was a beautiful night with an orange harvest moon. The lounge is dark, sleek, and sexy...the restaurant is etheral and light, making for an amazing evening. Note...if you ever go here, you HAVE to check out the bathoom! Sexiest bathrooms on earth!

Mix is not a vegan restaurant, but they were more than happy to come up with a list of items they would make for us. We'd had so much food the other nights that we simply kept ourselves to two entrees this night! We shared a Vegetable Hot Pot with Wild Mushrooms and Potato Gnocchi with Morels and Asparagus. We did enjoy fresh breads for starter, which included four varieties of bread accompanied by fresh chunky peanut butter they make on site--I thought this was very original!

For dessert, we had a variety of sorbets which were amazing, and a warm madeleine, all served up on a beautiful platter scripted with "Happy Birthday" in chocolate and a candle!

My next blog will cover the adventure that followed Vegas...a Vegan Wedding (no, not me!!)! Stay tuned!