7 Vegan Side Dishes for Easter Brunch

VeganEaster1

With Easter right around the corner, there is easily a maddening rush to get to the grocery store and cook some homemade dishes. But if you don’t have a lot of time to make Easter dinner then no worries because I’ll show you readily available options that you can most likely pick up at your local grocery store. Whether you’re making Easter dinner and you want to try to include vegan sides for your vegan guests or you are vegan and will be attending as a guest to an Easter dinner then keep reading to find seven vegan side dishes for your Easter brunch or dinner. Try one, two, three dishes or try them all, I guarantee you’ll be very happy and satisfied this Easter.

Deli Options

At your local grocery store there is usually a deli that offers fresh options such as salads. Here are three recommendations that you can most likely find at your local grocery store (specifically in the deli/fresh-made section).

Three-Bean-Salad

  1. 3 Bean Salad – This salad is very hearty and full of protein and most of the time is made vegan. But do be careful because some variations include mayo or adds bacon bits into it, so if you aren’t sure about the ingredients just ask the deli counter. A 3-bean salad typically comprises of three different types of beans, celery, onion, parsley, rosemary, vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. So simple, yet so delicious.

Kale-Cranberry-Salad

2. Kale and Cranberry Salad – This delicious salad is in a lot of delis now thanks to the popularity of kale. The only thing to look out for in this dish is the addition of cheese. Some, not all, do include goat cheese, however the last few times I’ve seen this salad in the deli they didn’t include the cheese, but instead offered it after you ordered, so the batch is made vegan with the option of adding cheese. This tasty salad is made of kale, dried cranberries, toasted almonds, vinegar, orange juice, mustard, shallot, and garlic dressing.

tabboulehSalad

3. Tabbouleh Salad – This Mediterranean dish is a vegetarian salad made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur, and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. This is simple enough to make at home, but I often find it in the deli sections in most grocery stores. So, it can be one less thing you have to make on Easter day.

Frozen Options

This next section covers options that are available in the frozen aisle in your local grocery store. My suggestions cover frozen foods available at Trader Joe’s, however you can find similar frozen food options at other grocery stores.

zucchinifries

  1. Zucchini Fries – Trader Joe’s offers a lightly battered zucchini in their frozen aisle. Luckily, its batter doesn’t include any dairy, making these bad boys completely vegan. You can have these as a side or serve them as an appetizer. These are great for making at home (it takes a short time with no fuss) and bring over to a lunch gathering.

tjpakoras

5. Vegetable Pakoras – This isn’t the typical side dish you’ll see at Easter brunch, but it’s a fun option to offer a different flavor to the meal. These vegetables ae delectable and if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, alternative versions of these can easily be found in your local grocery store.

aloochaat_tj

6. Aloo Chaat – This is a potato snack originating as street food from northern India. It’s typically made of potatoes, spices, and oil served with chutney. Again, this dish isn’t a traditional Easter dish, but it will provide a hearty yet delicious palette to your meal.

Homemade Recipe

If you want to try making a simple side dish at home, then let me introduce you to my vegan Macaroni salad recipe. It’s simple enough to not take too much time, yet it’s so delicious that I often have my friends praising it.

macaroni-salad

7. Macaroni Salad

Ingredients

1 Bag of Macaroni Pasta

1 Large pot of Water

1 Red Bell Pepper

¼ Large Red Onion

2-3 Stalks of Celery (If you don’t like celery, then just replace this with carrots)

1 Large Pickle

6-8 Tablespoons of Vegan Mayo

4-6 Tablespoons of White Vinegar

2-3 Tablespoons of Yellow Mustard

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once water is boiling, add the bag of macaroni pasta. This will cook for about 10-12 minutes, make sure to continuously stir to avoid the pasta sticking to each other and the bottom of the pot.
  2. While pasta is boiling in pot, chop up red bell pepper, red onion, celery (or carrots), and pickle. Place all chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl.
  3. After pasta is cooked, drain the macaroni into a colander. Rinse with cold water, and after pasta is fully drained add pasta to the large mixing bowl with the vegetables.
  4. Mix in Mayo, Vinegar, and Mustard and stir until everything is evenly mixed in. Feel free to add more of anything you want to get desired taste and/or texture. I usually skip seasoning with salt and pepper but feel free to add those if you want.

I hope these great vegan finds will make your Easter brunch or dinner taste even more delicious. And I wish you a wonderful Easter filled with family, friends, and delicious vegan food.

EasterLamb

Here is a cute little Easter lamb just for you for reading until the very end 🙂

How to Pack for Spring Break

packing_suitcase

For Spring Break most people travel to celebrate and welcome the warm spring weather. If you are planning on travelling this month or next month for Spring Break, then keep reading to check out how to pack the easiest and best suitcase to help make your travels hassle-free.

The best method I’ve found for packing a suitcase is the 5,4,3,2,1 Packing Guide. Thanks to apairandasparediy.com for introducing me to this method because it has helped me travel throughout Europe while I live there. And once you use this method, you’ll never go back. This method is essentially creating a time capsule wardrobe for your vacation. I find that this wardrobe lasts about one week without washing, but if you bring laundry pods/laundry detergent packets then this suitcase can last you for weeks. For your suitcase, you pack 5 tops (make sure to include one jacket), 4 bottoms of your choice (shorts, pants, jeans, skirts, etc.), 3 dresses and/or rompers, 3 shoes, 2 swimsuits, 2 bags, 1 hat, 1 watch, and 1 pair of sunglasses. This packing guide just makes it so direct and easy to pinpoint exactly what you need. But also, one last thing to make sure to pack are 7 pairs of underwear and 7 pairs of socks.

54321_packingguide

Now that you have a list of your essentials, here’s a few more tips on how to pack everything so it fits perfectly in your suitcase.

The first thing you should pack are your shoes. Place shoes foot-to-toe in the bottom of your suitcase to save some space and to ensure that your suitcase is balanced. Two ways to cover your shoes and avoid the dirt from the bottom of them getting everywhere is to 1) lay a towel over the shoes to serve as a barrier (plus, if you are staying at a hostel remember to bring a towel since most hostels don’t provide them) or 2) if you have a plastic bag you can place them in there.

The next thing to pack are your socks. Put rolled up socks inside your shoes to help save space and preserve the shape of the shoe while inside the suitcase.

Next, you will pack your clothes. Roll clothing up and then se are compression bags to squeeze air out of the clothes. If you don’t have air compression bags, then use large gallon size plastic bags instead. These are just as helpful. When choosing which clothes to bring invest in wrinkle-free, light-weight clothing that you can layer. Pack clothes with a similar color palette so you can mix and match outfits.

For toiletries, pack travel-sized toiletries that are 3 ounces are less. The best and cheapest place to find these are at the Dollar Store. Also, make sure to double-bag toiletries to prevent spills. If you bring a razor with you but you don’t have a protective case for it, just use a binder clip over your razor blade to preserve it and prevent you from getting nicked.

For all your wires, chargers, and cable cords, use a pencil case or sunglasses case to store cables in your carry-on or suitcase. If you’re travelling internationally, don’t forget to bring an adapter (a multi-plug universal adapter is one of the best options).

And don’t forget your bags/totes/purses. Even if you think you won’t need two bags, it’s a good idea to still pack a couple of totes so you can put your toiletries, wire cables, accessories, souvenirs, etc. inside your bags to keep everything organized and stored safely in a conserved space.

One last thing I like to do is place dryer sheets inside my suitcase to ensure that my clean clothes don’t take on the odor of the dirty clothes. And this packing list will last you for about a week, but if you want/need it to last 2-3 weeks, then bring individual packets of laundry detergent (or laundry pods), so you can wash your clothes on the go.

I hope this packing guide and these packing tips will help make your travels a little easier, so you can focus on a fun and relaxing vacation this spring break.

Photos courtesy of @michelletakeaim and apairandasparediy.com

Easy Vegan Easter Dinner

SugarCookies

Easter is a holiday spent in the comfort of your home with friends and family. A big component of this holiday is the Easter brunch or Easter dinner. I remember as a kid the excitement of finding Easter eggs followed by a delicious lunch with some of my favorite foods. This Easter I hope to recreate my childhood Easter dinner but with vegan options instead. If you are planning on making your own Easter dinner, then keep reading to see how easy it can be to pull off a vegan Easter dinner.

TofurkyHam

When I think of Easter, I think of the traditional Easter ham. I don’t know how I would make a a vegan ham from scratch, but luckily, I won’t have to. Tofurky makes a delicious Vegetarian Ham Style Roast. It comes with a delicious beer glaze that adds a nice sweetness on top. The great thing about this ham is how super easy it is, you just pop it in the oven and about 15 minutes before it’s done cooking you add the glaze on top. And for about $10, it’s a great buy that can easily 4-5 people. If ham isn’t your thing, then I recommend trying Tofurky’s Holiday Roast, which is another great option to affordably feed about 4-6 people.

tofurky-holiday-roast-gravy-package

A great side dish to go with the vegan ham or vegan roast is gravy. Finding vegan gravy can be difficult, but I found a couple of options that can make your ham or mashed potatoes even more delectable. The easiest one to find in a grocery store near will be Campbell’s Mushroom Gravy. If you prefer organic, then I recommend Simply Organic Vegetarian Brown Gravy, or Imagine’s Vegetarian Wild Mushroom Gravy or, Pacific’s Vegan Mushroom Gravy.

And one of my favorite childhood foods that was always made with our Easter dinner are Pillsbury’s Crescent Rolls. Believe it or not, these crescent rolls are accidently vegan with no dairy, butter, or milk in them, yet they are still amazingly delicious. So, make sure to get your hands on these delicious dinner rolls for your table this Easter.

pillsbury_Crescent_Rolls.jpg

Now that you have your main staples for dinner, here are a few of my favorite side dishes that are easy to pick up from the store and add to your dinner. I absolutely love the Zucchini fries from Trader Joe’s. You can either serve them as an appetizer or they make a great side dish to your meal.

zucchinifries

Another one of my favorite side dishes that you can find at Trader Joe’s or at your local grocery store is Tabbouleh Salad. This Mediterranean dish is a vegetarian salad made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur, and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. This is simple enough to make at home, but I often find it in the deli sections in most grocery stores. So, it can be one less thing you have to make on Easter day.

tabboulehSalad

If you want to whip up a side dish, then I recommend trying this vegan potato salad.

VeganPotatoSalad

Ingredients

5 to 6 red, white or Russet potatoes

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (I like the Trader Joe’s brand best)

3 tbsp. vinegar

1 medium redonion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1/3 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Top and mix in 2 teaspoons of paprika for a smoky taste addition

Add 1/2 cup of yellow mustard to add some extra tang to the dish

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes.
  2. Drain the water from the pot and cool the potatoes completely, about 15 minutes.
  3. Peel the potatoes completely and chop into bite-sized pieces. Set aside (Alternatively, you can leave the peels on some potatoes for more texture)
  4. Gently toss together all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, add the potatoes gradually and cover with the ingredients until evenly distributed.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Chill for at least one hour before serving, if you have enough time. The flavors would be best after an overnight refrigeration.

And to make your easy vegan Easter dinner complete, don’t forget about dessert! When I was a kid, it was my favorite thing to frost the sugar cookies at Easter. My mom would bake sugar cookies in the shapes of Easter eggs and us kids would get to decorate them with icing and sprinkles. For this easy Easter dessert, I recommend using Annie’s Sugar Cookie Box Mix. The mix calls for milk and eggs, but you can simply replace these. For milk, you can use soy, almond, or coconut milk. And for every egg you need you can replace it with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. This dessert will be fun for both adults and kids alike.

AnniesSugarCookieMix

If you are attending an Easter dinner this year, make sure to stay tuned for my next article where I’ll share some easy vegan side dishes you can bring to dinner.

This Easter, you won’t have to fret or worry about compiling a vegan meal. Instead, you will see that there are many options available to you to make this Easter dinner your easiest one yet.

EasterBunny

Here is a cute little Easter bunny just for you for reading until the very end 🙂

Making the Impossible Possible: Creating the Rules of Magical and Futuristic Worlds

ECCC2018

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. I attended last year and had so much fun, but this year I was pleasantly surprised to see many panels for writers (comic/graphic novel panels, and fantasy/sci-fi panels) as well as a big turnout for literary guests. I was lucky enough to meet Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicles), Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns series, Anna Dressed in Blood series), and Marko Kloos (Frontlines series) and get them to autograph their books for me. But while there, I attended the Making the Impossible Possible panel which focused on writing and worldbuilding for authors of fantasy and sci-fi.

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The following authors participated in the panel and gave great advice to aspiring fantasy and sci-fi authors: Charlie N. Holmberg (The Paper Magician series), Emily R. King (The Hundredth Queen series), Marko Kloos (Frontlines series), J.D. Horn (Witching Savannah series), and Jeff Wheeler (Legends of Muirwood series).

The format of the panel was the moderator, editor Jason Kirk, posed a total of six questions to the panel of authors. Keep reading to find out what was asked of these fantasy and sci-fi writers as well as to see what their responses were. I found their responses to offer great advice and writing techniques to better improve my own fantasy and sci-fi writing.

Question 1

Each author in this panel writes their own rules to govern the worlds they create. How does this work when the same rules don’t apply, even though you may be writing within a similar genre?

  • “You need to choose your main character as a one in a million type of person. You need to write your characters as the person who brings the magic to the world and not necessarily have been the chosen one.”
  • The general discussion around this question discussed how it’s important to have governing rules within your world, but to not let them overshadow your characters. Let your characters shine through in the world they surround themselves in.

Question 2

In Fantasy or Sci-fi we often find that the main character always tends to be exceptional. So, if no one is exceptional is there no story?

  • “In Sci-fi, you play within the confines of that structured society. Nobody is different from each other since they all have the same governing laws of physics and biology applying to them. So, the characters in this genre work within their existing system to prove their abilities or skills.”
  • The authors on the panel discussed how it would be even more interested to see more work of fiction in fantasy and sci-fi who fall out of the “exceptional” phase and are characters that work harder to prove themselves versus having everything be naturally gifted to them. It even makes the character more relatable to the reader, no more what fantastic setting the character may be placed in.

Question 3

Every author has their own writing process. Do you start with world-building or do you start with the character or the plot or themes?

  • “Start with the character, then the world becomes a crucible for them.”
  • “Your characters act depending on what the world is and the action or reaction they do becomes the plot.”
  • “Look for the tension, the drama. Ask yourself, why do we follow these characters? Why tell this story in the first place? First find the drama that the character will face.”
  • “If the world is complex enough, all these conflicts come up naturally and then the character, character’s motivation, etc. will follow.”

Question 4

Does your world need to be completely believable to make it work?

  • “As long as you don’t break the suspension of disbelief.”
  • “I can excuse sloppy physics [in Sci-fi] if the story, the plot, and the characters are absolutely believable.”
  • “It doesn’t have to be so much as believable as it has to be intoxicating enough to completely pull you in.”
  • “Don’t overdo the details to try to make it as ‘realistic’ and ‘believable’ as possible. Too much in the details can cause a big learning curve for your reader and can prevent them staying with your story.”
  • “Build the world and characters quickly so you hook the reader in. The strength of your story are your characters who provide the real emotions, real reactions the reader can connect to despite them being in an impossible world.”

Question 5

How do you solve your mistakes?

  • “Take a slice of humble pie from your critique partners.”
  • “Incomplete or sloppy world-building will lead to mistakes. If you ask, what does my character do now? Then you didn’t do enough world-building to throw enough cool things at your characters.”
  • The panel then gave examples from their own work where edits and proofreading provided great feedback for their novels in which they had to go back and rewrite certain parts to make the story turn out better.

Question 6

What tip do you have for aspiring writers?

  • “Think outside the box. It’s all about originality. Do something that’s less expected.”
  • “Don’t try to chase trends. Don’t write to market it. If the book is good, it’ll have its own market.”
  • “Just tell your story. Keep going.”
  • “The world around you can create something different. You don’t have to create something new, you just need to write it in a new way.”
  • “Read what you like to write. It keeps you immersed in your world. Steal little pieces of what you like and make them into your own.”

The panel was then opened to take questions from the audience. Here are a few of the questions that I found to have really good advice in their answers.

  • How do you build a society in your stories? This was answered in 4 parts.
  1. “Ask yourself, what type of government do you want? The kind of government you create governs the rules and freedoms your characters are subject to.”
  2. “What weird customs or traditions do your characters partake in? Create a history for each tradition.”
  3. “Everything is a result of what has come before. Make sure your society has a history.”
  4. “Do real research of Earth’s own history, then tweak it and make it your own for your story.”
  • How do you organize everything when you are working on a current novel?
  1. “You need a story Bible! It’s just 1 document where everything is stored and you can do a quick search.”
  2. “Use Scrivener. This allows you to keep you draft, research, notes, and edits all in one document.”
  • How do you write mundane tasks to make them see fantastic?

“Write characters’ reactions to that task. Like in Harry Potter, Harry thinks the dishes washing themselves in the Weasley’s house is magical and fantastic, but Ron just thinks it’s completely normal.”

This was such an amazing panel to sit on and I hope you found their advice to be inspiring and helpful to your own work. Below you can find the Goodreads page for each author named here so you can check out their work and get hooked onto some fun new series.

Kendare Blake

Charlie N. Holmberg

J.D. Horn

Emily R. King

Marko Kloos

Patrick Rothfuss

Jeff Wheeler