back roads and mason jars

live country. eat plants. be happy.


what I ate in a day

2018 RVA VegFest

I have to be honest.  I get so jealous when I see all the amazing offerings at the really large vegan festivals like Eat, Drink, Vegan in Los Angeles, CA.  Seriously, check it out here. Since I am deathly afraid to fly, I have to settle getting in my tasty vegan treats locally.  Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate that I have a festival so close. But the vegan supply on the West Coast is drool worthy for sure.

This past weekend was our third year attending the Richmond VegFest which takes place in Bryan Park.  The weather was beautiful even though Richmond was recovering from a lot of rain and even some flooding in some parts.  Thankfully, the rain stopped before the start of the event!  I was so excited to wake up on Saturday morning and get on the road and was even giddier as we approached the Veggies Ahead signs leading the way.  They are the signs of my people.

We got to the park a few minutes after it officially opened and walked in with people and animals alike with the same goal – eating some delicious vegan food!  I don’t get the opportunity to go many places where I don’t have to ask questions about everything on the menu or do hours of research ahead of time trying to find something that meets my goals.  It’s such a freeing feeling knowing that I can walk in to park and eat ANYTHING in sight! This is truly what dreams are made of, people!

We walked into the park specifically looking for one particular booth – Nu Vegan.  Of course, it was easy to spot since it had the longest line!  Nu Vegan is a restaurant that is opening up its third location which will be located on Grace Street in Richmond on June 30, 2018.  Their other two locations are in the Washington DC area.  They are known for making traditional comfort food like mac and cheese, but cruelty free.  What could be better in life than having a heaping bowl of vegan mac and cheese?

We waited in line for approximately 20-30 minutes.  Don’t worry – it was totally worth it.  While we patiently waited, we reviewed the options and made our choices.  I couldn’t believe what the food looked like when it was finally our turn.  They had four offerings (fried, buffalo, BBQ, and jerk) of vegan “chicken wings” complete with a “BONE” and two sides – collard greens or mac and cheese.  We chose to try the traditional fried, buffalo, and BBQ wing with a heaping side of mac and cheese since I can get the best collard greens made by my grandmother anytime I want.  The wings were delicious and chewed similar to chicken without the creepy parts like cartilage.  The “bone” was made of a wooden dowel so you could actually eat it like a traditional wing if you desired – how creative!  The mac and cheese was also amazing!  They made the “cheese sauce” out of tofu!  This was by far the creamiest and most decadent version of mac and cheese that I’ve ever tried.  I would even say it was better than some “real” mac and cheese dishes I’ve had in the past – and I LOVED cheese.  I am looking forward to making a copy-cat recipe for the blog in the future so keep your eyes peeled for it coming later in the summer!

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around reading up on the local sanctuaries and browsing the booths with catchy phrases to increase awareness.  I did miss a lot of my favorite booths that we purchased from in previous years, but it seemed like there were less booths to purchase products this year.  We did purchase a few products that I will be sampling in the weeks to come as well as some gifts for family and friends.  Overall, it was a very successful and tasty day!

Bye y’all!

It takes 21 days…

Ever since I could remember, I have never been a fan of “the most important meal of the day” and I believe my health has suffered some as a result.  I was never a huge fan of the buffet style with bacon, sausage and eggs, but I do like a waffle topped with fruit on the weekends every once in a while.  I simply would just drink water or a diet soda until lunch time.

I’ve tried pretty much every “diet” on the market over the years starting as early as the 6th grade from what I remember and even took more drastic steps to improve my health.  There’s a huge problem with that statement.  They were all diets.  Diets don’t work.  They kept me in a vicious cycle of starting over every Monday morning.

I was sick and tired of starting over every Monday so I took a chance and joined a challenge group for 21 days of eating clean and committing to working out in the convenience of my own home.  What could I lose?  (Hint – it’s inches!)

It takes 21 days to change a habit.

Three Mondays.

Three weekends.

That’s it.  If I can make it through three Mondays in a row without starting over, that could change everything.

In July, I started changing my eating habits by focusing on a portioned eating plan.  Nothing complicated.  I just followed one simple rule – if it fits, I EAT it!  I refocused on whole, plant based foods while planning my meals.  I prepped most of my meals on Sunday to make dinners easier for my family as well.  I never once felt deprived during the challenge.  I even had my favorite vegan sushi with no guilt at all.  I had the flexibility to make the program work for me.

At the beginning of August, I added fitness into my days as well as a better breakfast option.  The 21 Day Fix Program was suggested as a good starting point for my journey by my coach, but was plenty challenging for my fitness level!  At the beginning of the month, I had to modify most of the movements, but I gave it 100% of my effort.  By the end of the program, I was able to do all of the moves with weights!  By the end of August, I was down a total of 24 lbs from July 1st and 19 inches were lost in August alone!  As I’m writing this, I have gotten heavier weights to use during my round two of the 21-day fix program which started Monday.  That’s right – I didn’t stop after three Mondays!

During this time, I tried having breakfast every day for 21 days and it made all the difference in my lifestyle and how I felt.  I had more energy, felt lighter and the shake was just a great tasting way to start my day.  I purchased a one-month supply of Vegan Vanilla Shakeology which allowed me to have a combination of protein, healthy carbohydrates, and fiber along with a variety of nutritious superfoods all in one shake that I could grab and go with no hassle to keep me full for hours.


Maybe this would be the thing to get me to enjoy the most important meal of the day.


In addition to the one month supply, I ordered a single packet of each of the four vegan varieties offered by Beachbody – Vanilla, Chocolate, Tropical Strawberry and Café Latte.  The vanilla base is pretty much great with any additions you like to add like frozen fruit, greens or even coffee.  The chocolate version is sure to fix any sweet tooth addict and is delicious with a little bit of peanut butter. Tropical strawberry is a fruit lover’s dream and can trick you into thinking you are having that milkshake you love.  Café Latte is sure to replace that crazy-high-calorie version you know you like drink way too much.

Below are a few of my favorite recipe creations so far!  If you would like to follow my journey or are interested in learning more, check out my Beachbody page here.


Blueberry Muffin

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 cup of frozen blueberries

1 cup spinach

1 scoop of vegan vanilla Shakeology


Peanut Butter Cup

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 tbsp of peanut butter (or your favorite nut butter)

1 scoop of vegan chocolate Shakeology


Cherry Vanilla

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 cup of frozen dark cherries

1 scoop of vegan vanilla Shakeology



Café Frappe

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/2 of cold brew coffee

1 scoop of vegan vanilla Shakeology

A handful or two of ice cubes


Daytime Daiquiri

1 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut milk

1 cup of frozen pineapple

1 scoop of vegan tropical strawberry Shakeology

Bye y’all!

Virginia is for Festival Lovers

I, along with the rest of my state, love festivals and I don’t even care what we are celebrating…beer, music, food or even my small little town!  This past weekend, we attended the Richmond Vegetarian Festival for the second year in a row.  Since I didn’t have this blog at this time last year, I’ll share some photos from 2016 as well!  It’s been such a great experience to learn more about activism, shop for clever t-shirts that have started to overrun my wardrobe, and learn how in the world some of these chefs can make vegan replicas of our favorite meals.  Did you know you can make nacho cheese sauce from potatoes and carrots?!  It’s amazing by the way.


There are lots of places to get information about activism especially at a Vegetarian/Vegan Food Festival.  In the real world (away from like minded people at festivals like this), I’ve had some good experiences and some not so good experiences when people ask why I don’t eat meat and I explain that I’m on a journey to becoming vegan.  I choose to not speak about my lifestyle choice unless someone shows an interest in it or asks specific questions.  I’m happy to share anything that I’ve learned, but I’ve realized very quickly that most people just don’t want to hear it.  For me personally, I can’t unlearn what I’ve read or seen.  It’s a no brainer for me.

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls,

everyone would be a vegetarian.”

Paul McCartney

There were many opportunities that I decided to indulge in at the festival like more reading material, recipes, lists of local Richmond restaurants that offer veg-friendly options and, of course, buttons, stickers, and t-shirts!  The t-shirts are the best conversation starter in my experiences.  I tend to choose funny t-shirts that get people wondering and eventually a stranger will comment on it and get the conversation started.  Some of my favorite brands are Herbivore, Compassion, Beet X Beet, and Vegetaryn. Below are some of the photos from Veg Fest in 2016 and 2017.

Veal crates used to keep calves from moving.
Chicken crates used in egg production which cause pain for the ones that live while day old male chicks are killed since the egg industry deems them useless.
Recipes, RVA Restaurant Guides, Coupons, and Stickers
PETA van in 2016 – I’m living proof you really can live without chicken wings.
Shirts are from Herbivore and Compassion


Now, onto everyone’s favorite part – THE FOOD!

We have been blown away by the food creations we have tried in their vegan form especially since my husband has a more current palate of meat flavors.  It’s just a memory for me now, so he’s a much better critic for people looking to transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.  I love cooking in general and some of these recipes just blow my mind on how people can recreate foods like fried chicken, but VEGAN!  It’s really so easy in our time to be a vegetarian or vegan with all the ready to eat options becoming more readily available each day.

In 2016, the festival was in July due to a storm damage in the park and, man, was it hot!  So hot that we actually only purchased food from one vendor booth and stopped at a juice cart on three separate occasions because it was just too hot to eat food.  The experience was still good, but I wish we could have eaten so much more!  In 2017, we were able to try a few more vendors and I have reviewed them below.


Mean Bird – This was the BIG HIT of 2016 for us.  Mean Bird started as just a local food truck in the local RVA scene selling at local breweries, but recently opened a brick and mortar location in 2017.  They are not exclusively vegan, but cater to all people.  Not to fear – everything is clearly labeled as vegan on their menu so there’s no guessing.  It can be hard to tell in my case if something is meat or not.  There have been several times that I’ve had my husband taste something to make sure before I would eat it!  This is one of those cases.  I chose the Vegan Fried Chicken Slider with Fried Green Tomatoes and my husband ordered the Veggie Bird two piece meal with fries.  Both options were delicious and I can’t wait to visit their new location in the future.

Ginger Juice – Ginger Juice is a local RVA company that offers cold pressed juices, smoothies, acai bowls, and toast with avocado, of course! I drink cold pressed juice regularly and drink it more often in the summer months.  When the temperature rises, I don’t really want to eat a lot of hot food and I imagine a lot of you are the same way.  This is the perfect solution.  The main difference between regular juice and cold pressed juice is the juice presser itself.  The traditional juicer creates heat while it is juicing which causes nutrients to be lost.  With cold pressed juice, you lose nothing!  On a hot day in July, this was the perfect option for us.  Giving (Mix of beet, pear, apple, lime and ginger) was my favorite juice of the day!


821 Cafe – This was a new find for us this year and we are so glad we did!  We ordered the Vegan Chicken Philly Cheese Steak.  This was the winner of the day for us!  The bread was fantastic and the sandwich was loaded!  It included vegan chicken, creamy nacho cheese sauce, lettuce, tomato, and vegan mayonnaise.  The restaurant is located in the Carytown area of Richmond and I don’t know how we’ve missed it after frequenting that part of town fairly often when we lived in RVA.  The only thing we regret is not trying everything they had at the booth!


GWARbar – We actually tried this booth in 2016 and 2017.  GWAR is a metal band from RVA that got connected to the restaurant world to provide a very accommodating vegan friendly menu in downtown Richmond.  They have created the perfect match for me – metal music and food!  They have several vegan items on the menu including Cauliflower or Artichoke Nuggets with vegan Ranch, Seitan Wangs, Hail Seitan sandwich and even a vegan WHOPPER!  I really enjoyed their cauliflower wings last year so we gave them a go again this year.  They weren’t as fresh as last year, but I would still recommend giving the restaurant a try.


Veg-Ta-Bowl Foods – We tried several of their samples including the Vegan Carolina Style BBQ Chixen, Cheezy Mac Sauce, and Moroccan Mixed Vegetables.  The Moroccan Mixed Vegetables and Cheezy Mac Sauce were good, but we had to have more of that Carolina BBQ!  We purchased an 8 oz. container to bring home for dinner this week.  My favorite type of BBQ before was always North Carolina style – lots of vinegar and mustard!  This product checked all of my wish list tastes and textures.  I have been amazed how well BBQ products have been created and they continue to be one of my favorite vegan meat alternatives – no matter what brand.  We saw the smaller Veg-Ta-Bowl Foods booth giving out samples first, so we decided to try their Cheezy Mac at their fresh food booth since we already bought the Carolina BBQ to take home.  I wasn’t a fan of this.  Cheese is the #1 reason most vegetarians aren’t vegan and there is a reason why.  Cheese is so hard to recreate.  The pasta texture was even a turnoff for me as it reminded me of gluten free pasta.  No offense, but I love gluten! Below is a picture of the delicious Vegan Carolina Style BBQ Chixen that we had for dinner this week.

Alternative Baking Company, Inc. – We actually won this product by pledging to complete the Meatless Monday Challenge – not to hard for us!  I was really hoping to win some V-Dog treats, a line of vegan dog treats, for Brodie.  I still won a cookie though and Will got some awesome Tofurkey coupons which will be used for sure!  We were not big fans of this product.  The company’s mission is to make the dairy and meat industries obsolete – what a great goal!  The cookies are readily available in several main stream stores and I’ve even seen them in Starbucks.  They were very dense for our taste.  I also thought it tasted like a hint of pumpkin.

Bye y’all!



what i ate on a wednesday

I have spent less than ten single meals in 2016 as an omnivore.  Every other meal has been vegetarian at least.  I don’t know exactly what day that I stopped eating meat.  I viewed this as a process – a transition that would take some time to adjust in an effort to put less pressure on myself.  I viewed each meal as a choice to pick vegetarian choices for my plate.  As 2016 is coming to a close in the next few months, I am viewing the transition to veganism in the same mindset.  Each meal and grocery store purchase is a choice.

In this series, I will photo all the things I eat in a single day.  I will also try to get a range of days like whether or not I’m at home all day or I’m out of town.  Something that remains the same each day is that I drink at least 100 oz of water a day in addition to unsweetened iced tea almost daily.



I always start my day with a glass of water and some juice, iced coffee or tea.  I chose the Califia Farms Pumpkin Spice latte that was reviewed on my page last week – check it out here!  I was busy doing things around the house today and forgot to eat a more substantial meal for breakfast that just coffee and water.  I tend to have a lot of liquids in the morning and eat a breakfast during the late morning hours.




Today for lunch, I just wanted something warm to throw in the oven with little effort on my part.  I gardein-wiaiad-watermarkchose a little Gardein BBQ porkless pocket and a few baked craft beer fries from the freezer.  Nothing easier than that!  This BBQ pocket was one of the first vegan items I tried and I have been in love with them since!  It is so unreal how much it actually tastes like BBQ in flavor and texture.  I would challenge any carnivore to try this and see if they could actually tell that it wasn’t pork.



Sometimes you just get too involved with work and life that you really have no ambition to be creative in the kitchen.  While I usually plan my weekly menu plan, there are times that we go off schedule.  This dinner was one of those times.  I just wanted something easy and flavorful.  I boiled some frozen broccoli, drained and added vegan butter and salt.  For the pasta, I boiled a box of tri-colored rotini, drained it and added vegan butter and nutritional yeast.  Super easy and tasty dinner.  This was also a really cheap dinner with lots of leftovers for lunch for those on a budget like me.

Bye y’all!

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