Nashvegan

A not-very-definitive guide to eating (and living) as a vegan in Nashville.

Happy Herbivore Abroad December 13, 2012

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HHA Cover

Greetings faithful readers, and welcome to Nashvegan’s first ever cookbook review, author interview, and giveaway!  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve probably heard of Lindsay Nixon, better known as Happy Herbivore.  Nixon is a prolific author and blogger who advocates for a plant-based diet that includes no added oils and only a few added fats from nuts and avocados.  Her cookbooks Happy Herbivore and Everyday Happy Herbivore shot up the bestselling ranks on Amazon.com and now her newest installment, Happy Herbivore Abroad, is doing the same.  Her publishers were kind enough to send me a review copy and they’d like to send one of you a copy as well!  Details on the giveaway are at the end of this post.

First things first: let’s meet Happy Herbivore!  Nixon was kind enough to answer a whole bunch of my deeply probing questions about her life and her work.  Here’s what she had to say:

Nashvegan: There seems to be a current trend towards global vegan cookbooks (yours, Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Eats World spring to mind) – why do you think that is?

Happy Herbivore: I’m not sure. When I finished writing Everyday Happy Herbivore, I left for a long trip to Europe. While I was there I decided to write a cookbook that combined my lifestyle (my love of travel) with food from the places I’ve traveled too — it was about me and celebrating my passions (food + travel) together. I haven’t seen Romero’s book, but I imagine it’s quite different.

NV: How does Happy Herbivore Abroad (HHA) stand out both from your other offerings and from other vegan cookbooks in general?

HH: HHA is international themed and has a lot of me in it — personal stories and such. You won’t find that in my other books. This book is so personal, and I really love that about it…

My cookbooks (all of them) focus on being low fat, no oil — using whole foods, and basic ingredients, which makes them stand out from the vast majority of other vegan cookbooks on the market.

NV: How are you handling life after Earth Balance?  For many, it may feel like “life after cheese” syndrome all over again!

HH: I never really got into Earth Balance. I wasn’t much of a margarine or butter person before I was plant-based and a huge motivation for my dietary change was health… Earth Balance isn’t exactly a health food 🙂 I also adopted the no oil/low fat whole foods approach early into my plant-based change, so it was something I just passed up.

NV: What inspired you to come up with the idea of offering your plant-based meal plans?

HH: Fan requests 🙂

NV: What are your favorite plant-based “convenience foods” for people trying to live a low- to no-fat plant-based lifestyle?  Basically, what would you recommend for vegans who need something grab and go, perhaps in a gas station?

HH: Gas stations usually have fresh fruit and oatmeal 🙂

Lindsay Nixon headshot

NV: Give us your top three favorite recipes from HHA.

HH: Asking a chef to pick a favorite recipe is like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid 🙂

NV: After your previous career as a lawyer (this is a personal question for me because I have my J.D.), how did you make the transition from lawyer to plant-based cookbook author?  What sorts of practical challenges (student loan debt, etc.) did you deal with before your success, and how did you manage those challenges?

HH: I was never happy as a lawyer. Not to say the profession is a bad one, it just wasn’t for me. I’d been working as a lawyer for a few years (miserably) when the opportunity to write my first cookbook came along. I knew there was no way I could work as a lawyer AND write a cookbook, so it was one or the other. I decided to take a big chance, quit being a lawyer and work on my cookbook while also doing various freelance assignments to pay the bills. My husband and I also had to do some major downsizing to make it happen — selling our cars, moving from a large apartment to a teeny, tiny studio, etc. (I’m so glad he was up for it!)

I still have a mound of student loan debt crushing me — some $120,000 is left. I joke that it’s my summer home, since my law education costs more than what a friend recently paid for her house.

The book business is not lucrative — even when you’re a best seller so we continue to live with less “glitter” than we had when I was a lawyer, but I’m so much happier and I’ve really come to love the minimalist lifestyle.

NV: Why Los Angeles?  How did you end up there?  How do you like it?

HH: My husband’s work brought us here, but we’ll be leaving again soon for Tahoe. I love snowboarding more than anything and you can’t really do that in LA 🙂

This is the second time we’ve lived in Los Angeles. You can’t beat the weather or the casual, California lifestyle but the traffic is ridiculous. LA without the traffic would be perfection.

NV: I know a lot of my readers like to try to eat seasonally and locally.  Is this an issue that you’ve given much thought?  Have you considered writing a seasonal cookbook?

HH: I too like to eat seasonally and locally (and living in Southern California makes that easy!) but it’s not really practical for a cookbook since what’s local (and seasonal) varies so much from place to place and I try to write books that are accessible to everyone — no matter where they live. That’s one thing that really frustrated me when I first changed my diet. The vegan cookbooks I bought used bizarre ingredients that didn’t exist where I lived or they were way outside of my price range. I think that’s why I try so hard to use “supermarket” ingredients. You shouldn’t have to live in LA or NYC to be able to cook up a good meal!

——–

So I’m sure now you want to know about the food.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, I happened to cook some.  I cooked two meals from HHA, totaling six recipes.  I went on a Tour of Europe and then took a trip South of the Border.

TOUR OF EUROPE

Who needs a Eurorail pass when you have HHA?  This menu consisted of Swedish Meatballs, Irish Colcannon, and French Savory Glazed Carrots.

Getting ready to cook

Getting ready to cook

One of the things I love most about Nixon’s cookbooks (I have them all) is that they all use “normal” ingredients and are easy to prepare.  These recipes were all easy to follow, a breeze to prepare (if you don’t count all the time I spent chopping things), and of course turned out delicious.  I cheated a little with the meatball recipe, which called for mixing the gravy with chunks of tempeh, and used Trader Joe’s frozen meatless balls instead (THE HORROR).

Swedish Meatballs, Colcannon, Savory Glazed Carrots

Swedish Meatballs, Colcannon, Savory Glazed Carrots

First, I am a doofus and was so eager to get this on the plate and INTO MY MOUTH that I neglected to toss the meatballs with the gravy and instead just poured it over them.  Following recipe fail.  Whatever, they were still incredible.  I am serious, this food was so good I could eat it every day.  I couldn’t believe how much I loved the colcannon.  As a person who believes that all foods are better when slathered with Earth Balance, I thought there was no way I was going to like mashed potatoes that were fat free.  But guess what I INHALED THEM.  And they’re full of freaking KALE.  Talk about a nutritional powerhouse!  In your face, margarine!  The carrots had a great flavor but in my impatience I undercooked them a little.

SOUTH OF THE BORDER

Ole!  For my trip to Mexico I made AJ’s Pico de Gallo, Drunken Beans, and Migas.

AJ's Pico de Gallo

AJ’s Pico de Gallo

Despite my obsession with pico, I’ve never actually made it from scratch, mostly due to laziness.  This recipe was easier than I thought it was going to be and I loved that it used shallots instead of regular onions because, let’s face it, shallots make everything fancier.  I made this early in the day and then let it sit in the fridge until it was time for dinner so the flavors could marry and this was definitely the way to go.  It tasted a lot better later.

I’ve never heard of migas so I knew I had to make it.  Migas is traditionally an egg-based dish with corn tortilla strips and veggies.  I added nutritional yeast because I couldn’t make what was essentially a Mexican tofu scramble without nooch and I thought it added a nice depth of flavor.  I’ve also never actually bought a poblano pepper, which this recipe called for.  That worked out fine, too.  Turns out they sell them in the produce department.  Who knew.  Anyway, on to the booze.  Drunken beans are awesome.  They taste like beer.  I like beer.  I like beans.  I like beer and beans together.  Seriously though, the smoked paprika really made this dish for me.  Don’t skimp and just use regular paprika or you’ll be seriously missing out.

Migas, Drunken Beans, Pico de Gallo

Migas, Drunken Beans, Pico de Gallo

Happy Herbivore Abroad is a really solid cookbook and it’s definitely going to be on heavy rotation in my kitchen.  The recipes (and beautiful food photos) are interspersed with Nixon’s travelogue and personal stories.  Everything is plant-based and low- or no-fat.  Everything is made from “normal” ingredients that you can pick up in pretty much any grocery store, and there are no overly complicated cooking techniques.  This book is accessible, flavorful, and not too shabby to look at.  I highly recommend it.

HHA_31DaysofGiveaways_badge

After all that, I bet you want to get your mitts on a copy of this book.  Well now it’s giveaway time!  All you need to do to enter is leave a comment telling me about the best vegan thing you ever ate on vacation.  But what’s that you say?  You want to earn additional entries?  Of course you do.  Here’s how:

1. Share this post on Facebook and be sure to tag Nashvegan.  Leave a comment telling me you did this.
2. Share this post on Twitter using the hashtag #HHATour and mentioning @NashveganBlog.  Leave a comment telling me you did this.
3. Be my special friend on Facebook and “like” Nashvegan.  Leave a comment telling me you did this (or that you already liked me because duh we go way back).
4. Follow @NashveganBlog on Twitter.  Leave a comment telling me you did this.

So if you do everything you can get a total of five entries.  FUN.

Be sure to include a real email address when you comment so I have a way to tell you that you won.  The contest closes at 11:59 PM CST on December 31.  I will use a random number generator to select the winner.  The winner will be announced on January 1, 2013, so long as the world does not end before that time.  If I email you and you don’t get back to me within 72 hours, I’ll give the prize to someone else, so there.

 

Taco Mamacita December 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 7:08 pm
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Hold onto your panties, kids, because I’m back and this is an update.  There’s no good reason for my absence as of late, so let’s not dwell on it and get to the food, okay?  It’s freezing right now and snowing a lot, so what could be better than TACOS?

Have you been to Taco Mamacita in Edgehill Village yet?  No?  Well, you should go.  Granted, it’s kind of more awesome in the summer when it’s not too cold to enjoy the spacious patio, but any time of the year is a good time for tacos.  The best feature of Taco Mamacita is their completely separate vegan menu, which will be placed in your hungry little  hands upon your request.  It’s pretty damn comprehensive.  This is no “refried beans in corn tortillas topped with red sauce and that’s it” establishment (seriously, that just happened to me at Fiesta Mexicana on 4th).  No, my friends, this is a place with a little something called “options.”

 

Salsa Sampler

My meal began with the Salsa Sampler to share, obvi.  Small dishes of three different salsas–mango jalapeno, salsa verde, and roasted tomato–were surrounded by crispy tortilla chips.  The mango jalapeno was my favorite, with the salsa verde coming in as a close second.  The roasted tomato was mediocre, but it had its place in rounding out the trio.  All in all, solid performance by the salsas, though the roasted tomato was lacking a certain something.

 

Freakin’ Vegan Taco, Vegan Jerk Taco, and Sweet Potato Fries

Wanting the full Taco Mamacita experience, I ordered the platter for my  entree: any two tacos and a side.  Out of the three vegan tacos on the menu, I bypassed the Avocado Taco in favor of the Freakin’ Vegan Taco and the Vegan Jerk Taco, because these tacos contained more “stuff” (that’s a technical term for food bloggers).  The Freakin’ Vegan Taco is basically a vegan version of your standard taco but fancier, filled with cilantro spinach rice, red beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, escabeche (a kind of pickled jalapeno slaw/relish), and guacamole.  The Vegan Jerk taco sounded particularly appealing to me, as I would probably eat woodchips if they were jerked, and contained cabbage, mango salsa, jerked and sauteed plantains, and red beans.  Both tacos were awesome, but the jerk taco really blew my mind.  All the flavors came together in perfect harmony to create a delicious party in my mouth, to which all were invited.  On my next visit, I’ll probably just get two of these.  Also, I really recommend the Sweet Potato Fries.  They got cold quickly, but were really great when they first came out.  Plus sweet potatoes are hella good for you.

Verdict?  I will absolutely be back.  Lots.  The food is awesome, there are a ton of vegan options, and there are great drink specials.  It gets super crowded on Wednesdays, because margaritas are two for one from 4:00 – 8:oo.  Also, Sangria is half price all day on Sundays.  So put on a coat, get off your sofa, and get some tacos.

Taco Mamacita

1200 Villa Place

Nashville, TN 37212

Website

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Qdoba October 7, 2009

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Chips & Guacamole, Black Bean Taco, and Tortilla Soup

Chips & Guacamole, Black Bean Taco, and Tortilla Soup

I will just come right out and say it: I hate Qdoba.  Not because the food is bad, but because when I was an undergraduate, Qdoba replaced Baja Burrito Kitchen in my Student Union.  Baja Burrito had the best queso (now irrelevant, for obvious reasons).  They had an epic salsa bar.  Their vegetarian options were unmatched elsewhere on campus.  And Qdoba stamped them out!  At Qdoba, your meal does not come with free chips and salsa.  This is basically blasphemy as far as I’m concerned.  I mean, seriously, doesn’t all Mexican food come with complimentary chips and salsa?  What is the world coming to?

So why, with all my vitriol towards Qdoba, did I dine there on this particular day?  Well, my friends, Qdoba has a rewards card program and I got an email with a coupon for free chips and queso.  Since I am totally a sucker for coupons, especially coupons that provide me with things that are free, I moseyed on over to The Dobe (let’s make that name stick) for my free food.  Obviously, as a vegan, I do not dine on queso.  The staff was kind enough to let me have complimentary guacamole instead.

The guacamole was average.  Nothing to write home about, but it’s not like it was bad.  I decided on a taco-and-soup combo to go with my chips.  Above you see a black bean taco.  With pico.  And that’s it.  The line was moving so quickly, the person asked me if I wanted pico and I said “yes” and then he pushed my food on along and no one offered me anything else.  Since I don’t really know what all the strange Qdoba condiments are, as I do not dine there often, I just let them all pass me by.  There’s something with corn in it that looks pretty good, and it probably would have gone great with my little taco.  The most fantastic thing you can order at Qdoba is the Tortilla Soup.  Yes, it’s vegan.  Order it EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU GO or you are missing out.  I’m not kidding.  I could eat this stuff by the gallon.  It’s especially amazing now that the weather is changing.

Will I be back to Qdoba?  It’s almost a certainty.  Do I miss Baja Burrito Kitchen?  Yes.  Would I rather have Moe’s, with its tofu and complimentary chips and best salsa ever?  Yes.  But I can walk to Qdoba, and that soup is awesome.  Furthermore, Qdoba is super vegan friendly.  You can basically eat anything except the meat and the cheese and the sour cream.  I recommend you refer to this list of vegan offerings before you visit.  And get the soup.  For real.

Qdoba

2019 West End Avenue

Nashville, TN 37203

615.340.2822

Website

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Rosepepper Cantina September 29, 2009

Who doesn't love neon?

Who doesn't love neon?

I feel like I go to a lot of birthday dinners.  It seems like all my friends have their birthdays in rapid succession, and they all want to have dinner.  My own is quickly approaching, in October.  For this latest birthday dinner I visited Rosepepper Cantina in East Nashville.  This place was adorable.  The decor was absolutely gorgeous, and I wish I could have taken more photos of the restaurant interior but because of the lighting they didn’t come out well.  You’ll have to be satisfied with this gorgeous neon sign, which is over the door from the dining room to the patio.  And what a patio it is!  We dined inside due to the size of our party, but the next time I visit Rosepepper I’ll definitely be eating al fresco.  The patio is enormous, and now that the weather had turned I bet it will be a really awesome experience to sit out there.

We had to wait a while for a table since there were a lot of us and we didn’t have a reservation and it was a Saturday, so we hung around the bar.  I decided to order a pina colada, for funsies.  If you decide to order a pina colada, you should know that it comes topped with a dollop of whipped cream.  My bartender was kind enough to spoon it out for me.  It is otherwise vegan, and you would be surprised how many wines and beers may not meet your personal definition of veganism (most hard liquor is fine).  There’s a link in my sidebar to a site called Barnivore and they have a fantastic, well-researched guide to all kinds of beer, liquor, and wine.  Information is power, people.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and Salsa

I eat a lot of chips and salsa in my journeys.  Seems like every restaurant I go to serves chips and salsa.  So far, my favorite salsa in town is from Cafe Coco, followed very closely by Moe’s, but I’ve loved the Moe’s salsa for years and it’s not unique to Nashville.  Other excellent salsas are available at Lime and Past Perfect.  That being said, this salsa was great.  It does not rival my top two, but it was still awesome.  There was a mild one, a spicier one, and a green one.  The green one was my favorite, followed by the spicier one.  The mild one was so-so.  I ate a lot of the green one.

Fajita Fresca Salad and Rice

Fajita Fresca Salad and Rice

Rosepepper is decidedly vegan-friendly.  There is a vegan burrito on the menu–named simply “Vegan”–and if you want a simple meal, I would recommend that.  But I didn’t feel like eating a burrito, I wanted a salad.  I talked with my waitress about being vegan and how to veganize the Fajita Fresca salad.  The waitress seemed knowledgeable about a vegan diet and helped me figure out how to change the salad.  We left out the meat (obviously), the cheese, and the sour cream, subbed steamed veggies for the grilled, and added fresh avocado slices.  It was pretty fantastic, except for the fact that it wasn’t really blended/tossed in any way and it was hard to get multiple things in one bite.  I really had to dig for the beans and at first I thought they weren’t in there.  I also had a rice, which my server assured me was vegan, but looking at the website further I’m not sure if that’s right.  The “Veggie” burrito has rice but the “Vegan” burrito does not, which is what rouses my suspicion.  If you are thinking about getting rice, be sure to ask if it contains any dairy or egg.

I will definitely go back to Rosepepper Cantina.  I hear their margaritas are amazing, but I wasn’t in the mood that particular evening.  Everything was fresh and tasty and there were lots of vegetables.  And I definitely want to eat on that patio!

Rosepepper Cantina

1907 Eastland Avenue

Nashville, TN 37206

615.227.4777

Website – menu, photos, drinks, and more

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El Rey September 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 4:43 pm
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Chips and Salsa and Pico de Gallo

Chips and Salsa and Pico de Gallo

El Rey is a Mexican restaurant on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Commerce Street.  It’s a pretty popular lunch spot, especially for the suits who inhabit downtown on weekdays.  I visited for lunch on a Thursday, and my dining companion and I chose to sit on the patio, which is pretty nice.  Your meal at El Rey begins with chips and salsa (as it should), and we ordered a side of pico de gallo for our dipping pleasure.  It was all pretty great, and it really hit the spot since I was starving.

Veggie Fajitas with Beans, Rice, and Toppings

Veggie Fajitas with Beans, Rice, and Toppings

For an entree I ordered vegetable fajitas (tortillas are in the aluminum foil).  Often when I eat out, I like to ask specifically about the animal ingredients that concern me.  If I ask if food contains “animal products” I often get told “no” when it does, in fact, include animal products, and if I ask if something is “vegan” I have even less luck.  I asked specifically if the rice contained chicken stock, if the beans contained lard, and if the vegetables were cooked in butter or chicken stock.  Since the answers to all questions was “no” I felt comfortable ordering this dish, but I always recommend doing your own research.  Sometimes different servers will give you different answers, like when someone at Fido told me the veggie sausage was vegan–I found out later that it was not.  Also, recipes and cooking methods change from time to time.  Always ask what’s in your food!  You have a right to know, and asking shows chefs and owners that there is a demand for vegan products.

On to the food.  It was good!  The beans and rice were great, the guacamole (it’s a topping, you can’t really see it in the picture  because it blends in with the lettuce) seemed pretty fresh, and the veggies were nicely seasoned.  I would have enjoyed some more variety with the vegetables as they were just peppers and onions and tomatoes.  Some broccoli or zucchini would have been great, and I sort of expected mushrooms.  I ended up using all the tortillas, as there were only two or three, and while I probably could have requested more tortillas I decided to eat the rest of my veggies and beans and rice with a fork.

I’ll probably be back to El Rey, if for no other reason than the location.  It’s pretty convenient right there on 2nd and Commerce.  So far, Las Palmas on 19th is my favorite “authentic” Mexican spot, but I haven’t tried all that many and I’m open to discovering more.  If you’re downtown and need to grab some lunch down on 2nd, and you want a waiter instead of counter service, head on down to El Rey.  And get some pico, because it’s tasty.

El Rey

139 2nd Avenue North

Nashville, TN 37201

615.726.8862

No website available

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Cantina Laredo August 26, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 10:54 am
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Margarita

Margarita

Went to Cantina Laredo for a birthday dinner.  You may look at the Cantina Laredo menu and think to yourself “hmm … there are literally zero dishes on the menu that are vegan, aside from the guacamole.”  This thought will be entirely accurate.  That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to eat at Cantina Laredo.  I called ahead to ask questions about the menu, and I would suggest that you do the same.  You can order what I ordered and consider it to be vegan, but you really should call ahead and ask to speak to the manager and/or chef about vegan options: this sends the message that there is a demand for vegan options, and who knows, a new dish may find its way onto the menu.  Also, you see the lime and avocoado in the bowl there, by my margarita?  Yeah, they’re going to become guacamole later, at your tableside.  And trust me, even if there wasn’t another vegan option on the menu, you would still want to come here to eat this.

Chips & Salsa

Chips & Salsa

Your meal at Cantina Laredo begins with chips and salsa (duh).  They bring out two different kinds: one is spicy and one is mild.  The spicy one is better.  Our server was really good about keeping the chips and salsa coming.  The service at this restaurant is just fantastic.

Cantina Laredo - Guacamole 1Cantina Laredo - Guacamole 2Cantina Laredo - Guacamole 3

So it’s really really neat that they make the guacamole right at your table.  I’m pretty sure the waitress felt awkward while I took these photos, but such is the price of my “profession.”  BEHOLD, the finished product:

Guacamole

Guacamole

Eating this guacamole is basically like having  a party in your mouth–a party to which everyone is invited.  Unfortunately, said guacamole costs about $9.  Seriously, $9??  That’s just ridiculous.  I suppose I was in a fancy restaurant and should expect such things.  It was super fresh, clearly.  Our table of six demolished both those bowls long before our entrees came out.  Speaking of entrees, by the time I was done with all the margaritas and chips and salsa and guacamole, I basically forgot I ordered one.

Enchiladas de Espinaca

Enchiladas de Espinaca

This is a heavily modified version of the Enchiladas de Espinaca – spinach enchiladas.  The menu description for this dish reads as follows: “Sautéed spinach, monterey jack cheese and mushroom enchiladas topped with sour cream poblano sauce.”  These enchiladas have just spinach and mushrooms inside – no cheese.  Also, they clearly do not have any sour cream poblano sauce on top; I topped each of them with a different flavor of salsa.  They come with veggies on the side (be sure to specify no butter) and black beans (ask for no cheese).  The verdict?  It was pretty good.  It wasn’t fantastic.  The vegetables were really good and had slivered almonds.  The black beans were standard.  The enchilada was kind of bland, even with the salsa.  If someone I knew really wanted to go here I would probably go with them, but I likely wouldn’t pick it if restaurant choice was up to me.  Vegans can definitely eat here, but it’s kind of complicated to explain your order to your server and when I called about vegan options, I was put on hold for a while and eventually had to be called back later by someone who could answer my questions.  The guacamole is amazing, the margaritas were tasty, and the service was awesome.

Cantina Laredo

592 12th Ave. S.

Nashville, TN 37203

(615) 259-9282

Website

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