Sunday, June 17, 2012

Vacation Station: Vegan in Vegas

First and for most, Happy Father’s Day! There has never been such a relevant post on father’s day as this vacation post about Las Vegas. Clearly, hearing about my time in Sin City is a duty I must uphold on this on this sacred day. My family will be celebrating later, so right now – I have nothing to share until people get presents. Father's Day spoilers are not allowed.

So that being said…let's go to Vegas.

When you fly through Denver you get snow capped mountains to look at. 

At the beginning of this year I reviewed my calendar and realized that if I wanted to take a vacation, it would be best to leave before the department transition that was about to happen. (Before my promotion: Read here).

So after about three months of trying to figure out where we should go, Joe and I decided on Vegas. Vegas was on our bucket list.

We booked a stay at Aria and started planning our trip. With everything I had heard, it would be Disney on steroids but for adults.

Vegas had a few surprising takeaways. The wind tunnels were more extreme than I had thought. The wind actually conquered a girl’s skirt as we were making our way down an escalator by The Mandarin Oriental, only to get the comment of the guy behind her, “You just made my night Marilyn.” Lots of wind.

And when did Vegas become a family hot spot?  the amount of kids I saw was utterly… well, shocking. 

But all that aside the thing I love about Vegas is that you can do whatever you want. You could wear sweat pants, you could wear a show girls outfit, you could walk around with a snake and people just go about their business without any real sort of negative criticism or care in the world. It’s much more of a, “Uh, It’s Vegas” attitude -- which I found a bit refreshing in the midst of pure commercialized insanity.

Because I forgot to take notes and my memory is escaping me at times on the details, here are the top 8 things I liked most about Vegas. Some vegan, some just noted for fun purposes.

8. The Bellagio Fountains – Right like you don’t automatically think of Ocean’s 11. I do. The water breaks up the concrete strip. It's pretty and the music is classic.

7. The Wheel of Fortune Game - So basically I lost every time I played this game, but it is a lot of fun. If you like slots you should try it.

6. The outside moving walkway by The Bellagio - I know this is weird thing to be on a top favorite list for Vegas but I seriously loved it. It feels like you're floating outside. Some of you must be thinking well maybe she's never been on a moving belt or something? Not true. I also am not a fan of decreasing the chances for the public to get exercise, but there is something about being able to float along the walkway and enjoy yourself.

These photos are of the lobby area within the Bellagio. They're beautiful. 

5. The Aria Experience. I say experience, because the room was completely digital and it took us about 20 minutes to figure out how to turn on the lights and open the curtains. The pool looked lovely, however it wasn’t really warm enough for us swim, unfortunately. 

The actual structure of Aria is modern and beautiful. There is a waterfall wall (say that 10 times fast) at the front entrance. We didn’t have a view of the strip, but our view was serene - in a flashy kind of way. Also, Aria had a few chic bars and the Elvis show. 

The hotel is part of City Center and had a pub style restaurant directly connected to it, where Joe and I got drinks and watched The Master's.

Aria Lobby. Daisy Ceiling Garden.
View from our room.
Watching The Master's...

4. Ka and Elvis Cirque du Soleil Shows - we went to two Cirque du Soleil shows. Joe fell asleep at one of them, while I was captivated through both.

Ka is a dark tale that brings you through multiple, amazing battle scenes. I honestly never knew Joe fell asleep until the show ended and I asked him what he thought about the production. When his response was, “It was OK”? I replied with, “What do you mean OK? Did you see the two men on the circular pieces jumping rope and running? It was amazing!”

That’s when I realized he actually didn’t see that part because he was sleeping. I laughed. It’s Vegas.

The Elvis show was also great. It highlighted many more traditional acrobat moves expected from Cirque, all to the sounds of Elvis.

3. Wynn Buffet - We only ate at one buffet during our trip and we strategically selected The Wynn because of the reviews I had seen online.

Steve Wynn is a vegan so all of his restaurants accommodate vegans easily. The Wynn was a good 10-15 minute walk from Aria. But it gave us the chance to see the other notable resorts, The Bellagio, The Palazzo, Mirage, Ceaser’s Palace etc.

The buffet has many diverse choices and labeled options for vegans. Salad bars, stir-fry, soups, veggie rolls, fried rice, breads, cookies, and more. Joe could get meat stuff, I could get veggies and it was delicious.

2. Hoover Dam – If you go to Las Vegas, I highly recommend visiting the Hoover Dam. We rented a car for a day at Aria and booked it out there for a tour. It’s amazing.

The tour guides are awesome and the structural complexity and magnitude of the pieces are a bit surreal. Not like Grand Canyon wondrous, but definitely unbelievable to think that men could build something so culturally important and physically tenacious in 1931.

We took the full tour because Joe is a history buff and I just like exploring.

On the bridge overlooking the Hoover Dam.

1. Wing Lei at The Wynn – To celebrate my promotion and our vacation in Vegas, we decided to make reservations at Wing Lei. I had read good reviews online from other vegan bloggers. The dining area was wonderfully decorated with gold finishes and bright statement colors.

The food was delicious. There was  a full vegan friendly menu at the back of the dining portfolio and I ordered the best cocktail I had in Vegas. I don't normally order full mixed drinks,they’re usually too sweet or to tart for my taste. However, this drink was delicious. It was their signature martini and I believe had a hint of pomegranate. 

I didn’t feel as though I should take pictures because the atmosphere seemed more reserved, but you can get a sense of the restaurant through their website

So our time in Vegas was great. If you're traveling there as a vegan -- there are mounds of options. My advice is to call ahead and make it to The Wynn. 

If all else fails there is a Walgreens located in the middle of the strip near City Center. Grab some snacks. 


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chunky cherry (vegan) granola

There is serene calmness at my house today. Much the way I feel when there is a meager wind across the lake during a summer afternoon.

I’m not sure if it’s the sunshine booming in through my kitchen, or the multiple plants that I purchased yesterday, but I am happy this morning. Living things in constructed space always seem to make me happier. 

Regardless, I had an intense yearning to put on my lovely polka dotted apron and craft something delicious.

On a side note, can I confess something? My life is always much more creative with music. For some reason the time seems to escape me when music is playing in the background. Not like when I’m watching TV and my brain is only concentrated on one screen, attention fixed. Alternatively, music allows me to go in and out of concentration and therefore allows my thoughts to run off on pathways that bring me to interesting observations. It’s a much more creative process. I think this is one the real benefits of Sunday mornings and why I love them so much.

So my music choice today? I decided to listen to Mumford & Sons while I composed the beginnings of the chunky granola recipe. Which brings about another confession…I honestly have never listened to the entire Mumford & Sons CD and I’m going to see them in August. They will be playing in Portland, Maine August 4th on the Eastern Prom and I GOT TICKETS! Woohoo! Have you seen the Gentlemen of the Road website? It’s actually a very cool design. Check it out.

Another thing I love about Sundays - no make up. Just sunshine and Lots'O'polka-dots.
I love when my boyfriend buys me flowers.
I mean, I picked them out and brought them to the register, but he paid. So technically he bought them for me. 10 points for Joe. :-)

So anyway, let’s get to the granola.

Granola isn’t granola to me unless it’s chunky granola. Chunky granola is where it’s at.

 2 Cups Rolled Oats
1/4 Cup  Garbanzo flour (high in fiber in protein!)
1/4 Cup  Flax meal 
2 Tablespoons Raw sliced almonds
1/4 Cup  Raw sunflower seeds
1/4 Cup Dried Bing cherries1/4 Cup  Light Agave
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
Vegan cane sugar to sprinkle on top if desired.

(Makes about 4 cups of granola)


STEP 1: Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Place raw sunflower seeds and almonds on a cookie sheet. Toast until golden brown. About 10-15 minutes. 
STEP 2: While you're toasting the sunflower seeds and almonds, start to combine the dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl mix oats, flour, flax meal, and cherries. 
STEP 3: Take out the sunflower seeds and almonds from the oven and increase the heat to 350 degrees. Wait a few minutes for the sunflower seeds and almonds to cool. When done, combine with the dry mixture.
STEP 4: Now add the vanilla and the agave and stir until all portions of the mixture are consumed by the agave.

STEP 5. Take the mixture and place into a greased pan. I would recommend greasing the pan with coconut oil, but use what works best for you. Spread the mixture about 2-3 centimeters thick and press down with a wooden spoon until flat. 

SIDE NOTE: I prefer using smaller pans because they crisp the edges, and therefore increase the chance of chuck. However, if you want to use a larger pan OR a smaller bite size muffin pan or other cookie bar pan feel free. Just make sure you adjust the cook time for the appropriate pan. 

STEP 6: Sprinkle vegan cane sugar across the top if desired. Place pans into the oven (at the 350 temp) and cook for 20 minutes or until the granola is golden brown. When finished, let cool and shuffle into a storage container or your breakfast bowl/sandwich bag. 

I hope you enjoy the rest of this Sunday! I'm going to go wander to the art store and continue searching for a decorative clock for my kitchen.