One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to spend more time outside. Since moving to Austin nearly 3.5 years ago, I have done a decent job of exploring the state parks around the area; however, every time I have the opportunity to spend time in one of these protected areas, I always ask myself “Why don’t you do this more often?”

Growing up, I didn’t appreciate hikes at all. My mom, who loves them, used to insist on vacations that we spend at least some time outside. It became a running family joke that it was impossible to go somewhere without mom trying to drag us up to the top of a hill.

I don’t know what changed, but now I find myself craving time in the outdoors. Instead of ruing the experience, I want to make it to the top of the mountain. Perhaps I now understand the value of being able to unplug myself from the incessant onslaught of emails, texts, messages, likes, and favorites. Or, maybe going vegan helped me learn to appreciate the beauty of life in all its endless forms. Whatever the reason, my mom was right – spending time outdoors is important, and it is good for the soul.

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

It had been a few weeks since we had done any hiking, so we drove out to Pedernales Falls State Park on Saturday. It’s an hour outside of the city, but the trip is definitely worth it. The park is named after the falls, which are located in the Pedernales riverbed, where the water cascades over huge limestone slabs. Since water levels are low at this time of year, you can actually walk on the limestone outcroppings. They are sprinkled with self-contained craters that house their own tiny, self-enclosed ecosystems. We saw so much wildlife – butterflies, frogs, lizards, fish, and buzzards. We even saw our first armadillo. Magical sounds excessive, but it really is the only word to describe how perfect the day was.

For Valentine’s Day, JB and I stayed in and made dinner together. It was much more romantic (and affordable) than going out. We made “Braised Seitan with Brussels, Kale, and Sun-dried Tomatoes” and “Lemony Roasted Potatoes” from The Veganomicon. Both were delicious, although they did not pair well together. Oh well. You live and you learn. We finished the meal with some mini cheesecakes from Capital City Bakery, which were both beautiful AND delicious. Let’s just say there were no leftovers today.

We paired the meal with some  Secco Italian Bubbles  which is Barnivore approved and vegan-friendly.

This week, all of our recipes are from Isa Chandra Moskowitz. If you want to cook along, be sure to purchase The Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance, and You won’t regret it – she’s not called the Vegan Queen for nothing.

This week’s menu:

  • Monday: Spaghetti and Beanballs
  • Tuesday: BLT Mac and Cheeze
  • Wednesday: Mediterranean-Style Baked Beans
  • Thursday: Millet and Spinach Polenta with Sundried Tomatoes


I hope you all had a great weekend, filled with love <3