Traveling While Vegan: Poiana Brașov, Romania

In a couple of months it will be my 3 year veganniversary and I have to admit that the overall transition was not as hard as I thought it would be. Quitting smoking was harder to do and the body of evidence available at the time was far greater about its harms but for me it was fourth time’s the charm before I kicked that nasty habit for good. Finding out that eggs are as bad as cigarettes for your heart made it easy to give up my morning sunny side up on an everything bagel breakfast. There was no way I’d let eggs get me when I’d already kicked cigarettes.

Anyway now you have context to know that becoming vegan was a lot easier than finding actual vegan meals to eat while traveling. Obviously that depends on where you go and what the vegan population/culture is like there. In Germany you’ll find some pretty good options but not all over. In Romania, I’ve eaten at vegan restaurants in Bucharest and Cluj, otherwise it’s a la cart city.

Which brings me to a recent ski trip to celebrate the release of my book, How Could I Forgetto Poiana Brasov.

poiana brasov ski vegan

This is the view from the small slice of baby mountain where my husband refreshed my ski recollection. We skiied once before in Austria a few years ago but I was about 80 lbs heavier and basically needed to re-learn this sport. This time my legs were smaller which meant I could wear the ski boots all day without excruciating pain. Anyway this was day one. Check in. Change. Rent gear. Ski until the mountain shut down.

Shower. Stretch. Food.

We chose this place, Vanatorul, because they had a vegetable soup (harder to find in these parts than you might think) and a totally vegan mushroom stew. It was a no-brainer.

Fresh sweet potato chips for an appetizer! BUT only because there was no vegetable soup without meat, because apparently that’s something you have to clarify.

Despite burning a million calories on the mountain, we decided to split everything we ordered, including this platter of grilled vegetables. Light green zucchini, eggplant, red bell peppers and a couple mushrooms filled out the platter. It was only about 200 grams of food.

The mushroom “stew” with polenta was completely vegan and pretty good. It wasn’t hot and the mushrooms were soggy but the mamaliga (polenta) made it a hearty choice for the cold town of Poiana Brasov, especially since we walked here from the hotel!

The food wasn’t great but it was good and it was hot and it was vegan, as promised. I gave it a solid B on the food but the Palinca was too strong without enough flavor.

But there was some pretty great art!

Romania has some pretty great traditional/ethnic art like this all over the country. There’s so much detail that I wish my photography skills were better.

Just in case you’re walking and you go too far.

On day two we hit the mountain again, this time the logical part of my brain was in control and I told myself I wasn’t going nearly as fast as it felt. It also helped that The Hubs made me keep my eyes open and focused on him instead of the snow beneath my feet. I managed to get down more than half the bunny slope without falling. Or freaking out. Mostly.

Then I wanted my husband to enjoy the trip too so I sent him up on the gondola to do the entire mountain a time or two while I practiced, which I did. And that means I fell. A lot. Okay just four times but it felt like a lot more. Thank goodness for Zumba, a strong core and affordable ski rental equipment because I only bruised my ego. And my left calf.

Side noteAsk if helmets and other equipment is made with leather or synthetic fibers if you’re all about that #crueltyfreeliving

After a full day of skiing I burned a zillion calories and I was ready to eat.

Big mistake.

We walked and walked and walked, finding nothing but side dishes. So we chose a place that offered vegetable soup, for real this time, and we hoped for the best.

The soup was tasty. Well seasoned with a good amount of hot broth. A little oily but the highlight of the meal.

It warmed me right up and primed me for the focaccia bread which was pretty good.

The grilled vegetables were not good. They were both under and overcooked, and the boiled potatoes were sufficient with salt & pepper from the table.

It was not a fun food experience but we found a giant arcade building with ping pong, life size chess, pool, bowling, darts, a climbing wall and mini golf. I know, after a long day of skiing we must be crazy right?

We are.

It was a fun experience though. A few games of ping pong and then my husband wiped the floor with me at pool and we made our way back to the hotel.

The next morning it was very foggy and rainy and my anxiety would not let me venture up on a mountain with skis on my unsure feet.

The view from our room in Pensiunea Alex

The trip was fun and I conquered (mostly) my fear of slamming into a tree on skis. I came home relaxed, refreshed and ready to dig back in for a bit. Plus…my book is LIVE!!!

Happy 2019 + Creamy Bean Stew with Herbed Cornbread

Happy 2019!!!!

I’m back and ready to talk plant based food with you!

My posts at the end of the year were a little sparse because it has been a long time since the Hubs and I have lived close to family and now that we are, there were plenty of dinners and parties to attend. Lots of family gatherings means one thing: plenty of cooking.

And with so much time in the kitchen, you can imagine that I over cooking. Completely and totally over it.

Enter, beans. Specifically pinto beans.

Most people hear kidney beans and immediately think about re-fried beans, but that’s not the only thing these beans are good for.

They are a high carb food.

They are cheap as hell.

Low in fat & high in fiber.

Plus they are super easy to cook, especially if you have a slow cooker. Pop them in and cover them with water or stock for 6 to 8 hours and you can separate them, refrigerate them and make whatever you please.

…or you can make stew.

I just love stew because I LOVE a big steaming bowl of vegetables with tons of liquid. Make it thick like stew and I’m even happier. It’s a great way to use veggies before they go bad AND a really good way to make sure you get your daily serving of vegetables. Did I mention that soup is low in calories?

Okay so, I gathered all my ingredients: pinto beans, onion, bell pepper (any color you choose), celery, potatoes and garlic. I always like to saute my vegetables before starting a soup because I think it provides a deeper flavor, particularly when you add a bay leaf or two during the simmer time.

Saute it up and then add herbs & spices before you add the beans to the pot. If you do this in a slow cooker, add everything but the bay leaf in at once and let the slow cooker do all the work. For this recipe, I went old school and did it on top of the stove.

Now what makes this bean and potato stew so delicious is the 2 cups of beans that I set aside until they were cool enough to pop into a food processor. Make sure it’s nice and smooth and then pour it into the broth, and then watch it get nice and thick and creamy. You get all the cream without having to add any additional fat to this recipe.

But if you REALLY need the fat, make some cornbread to go on the side.

I was feeling a little fancy so I added rosemary and thyme to the cornbread recipe but don’t give me too many props because it was a simple recipe with flour, corn meal, plant butter, salt, baking powder and herbs. Bake 12 to 15 minutes and then get ready to get your grub on!

And if you want to kick this awesome vegan meal of cornbread & stew, add a delicious smoked stout to a glass and enjoy your meal!

What’s your go to stew when you’re feeling too lazy to cook?