Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Break in Lawrence!

I just got done with my LAST spring break ever, folks. Sad, yes, but it was a lot of fun! I got to relax and eat lots of really good food in Lawrence, Kansas with some friends. I couldn't ask for more, really! Surprisingly enough, there is a vegan-friendly town in Kansas!! Lawrence has so many options for vegans, and you don't even have to try that hard!

Let's start with the BEST place to get vegan food (or any food, really!) in Lawrence: Nice Cafe!!!! It is located in the back of the all-vegetarian Casbah Market downtown, and it is sadly kind of hidden away....but my friend Anna works there, so I knew all about this hidden treasure! Mostly Jamaican-style food, but a few other veg classics and healthy smoothies/juices and salads. Just real, healthy, delicious food for cheap. WOW! My favorite thing they serve at the Nice Cafe is their Patties, which are Jamaican savory pastries, like empanadas, and theirs are baked and even made with whole wheat flour! Bonus.Hmmm....what could be inside that delicious little patty??? Anything your little heart desires!My new favorite thing in the world: the Jerk Tofu Patty.
Second favorite thing in the world: the Vintage Patty, which is the Jamaican rice and peas and jerk tofu all in the patty together all family-like. The sauce in the background is their Catch-a-Fire housemade hot sauce that is wonderful because it has good heat AND good flavor, which can be a hard combo to find!!
They also have all sorts of killer sides to go with those great patties: Lentil soup...drizzled with their Good Sweet Brown Sauce (made from yams!)
Housemade Jamaican Slaw, my favorite non-patty item!

Create-your-own-salads....sorry about the bad picture, lighting wasn't my friend. But they have two housemade dressings: creamy mustard and nice nori. mmm....

Onto another delicious eatery: Local Burger! While they do serve meats at this joint, I have to credit them in that everything besides the actual meat burgers is vegan. It's a really cool place and the people are really nice! I like that.
Last time I went there, I got their "Best Veggie Burger in the World" which is made with quinoa and such, but this time I had the Tofu Filet, which is their healthier, vegan version of a fish filet sandwich. It was delicious! Really savory and flavorful, with a little bit of a breading on it. Did I mention the whole wheat bun AND pickles?? How silly of me! And, it came with their side of the day, which was homemade Sweet Potato Fries. I was a very happy girl. They also had two different vegan desserts, and I got the Coconut Haystack, which was so yummy. Of course, I only remembered the whole camera thing after I gobbled it up. woops!
Another place we went for some tasty veg food was La Parrilla, a Latin American restaurant. There were a surprising amount of vegan options there! And the staff was really helpful in pointing out which items were "safe" and whatnot, which was cool.
We started out with the FREE (!) homemade Chips and Salsa...a must with Latino cuisine.
For my entree, I got the Grilled Veggie Rice Bowl, which had Oaxacan rice, seasoned black beans, and a big mound of grilled veggies, with a little dash of lettuce and chili verde sauce. Very filling and flavorful! I hadn't eaten Latino food in a restaurant in a long time, so this was very nice! Next time, I want to try their fried plantains!!!
So, I really did minimal cooking while in Lawrence. One, because I was on my spring break and I wanted to be lazy and served at meals. Two, because there are so many tasty options in Lawrence that I wanted to be able to try them all in just a week's time! But one morning, I did get up and make everybody my Egg McVegan breakfast sandwiches. Everyone has their own version of this, but I like to put a drizzle of maple syrup in mine, to mimic another well-known breakfast sandwich that will remain nameless. You know who you are.

Not pictured is the amazing La Prima Tazza coffee shop that makes killer soy lattes!! Mine didn't turn out so pretty, but it tasted great and was huge and really inexpensive and the barista was nice! Best coffee in town, I say!

I also bought a really old copy of Vegan Vittles at a used bookstore, The Dusty Bookshelf, downtown on Mass Street for like 5 bucks. Yay! Now if I could only find room on my bookshelf for it....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Which Came First...The Biscuit or The Gravy?

I celebrated my first morning of spring break (my last one ever!) with making a delicious tester recipe for Bianca's Cookin' Crunk cookbook....Whole Wheat Butter(Soy)milk Biscuits with Sausage-Sage Gravy!! This is what breakfast is supposed to be, folks. Warm and comforting and aromatic and filling and yummy. This was worth getting out of bed!
I used Gimme Lean Faux Sausage for the gravy, which has FRESH SAGE in it, and the result was fabulous! I think I will just have to make these tomorrow morning, too!

How could you ever skip breakfast if you had THIS waiting for you???

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Dinner and Some Product Reviews

With my love for holidays, celebratory meals, and my Irish roots, I really have no choice but to prepare an Irish-inspired meal for St. Patrick's Day! I made Seitan Corned "Beef" and Cabbage, with Maple-Mustard Roasted Potatoes, and it was so delicious! Unfortunately, it was in the 80's here, so it was almost too hot to make such warm, comforting food! It was worth it, though. Seitan Corned "Beef" and Cabbage (serves 4)
1 lb seitan, chunked
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups cabbage, shredded
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup pickle juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup beet juice (optional)
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs paprika
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs mustard powder
2 Tbs ketchup
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs caraway seeds
1 Tbs dill seeds

In a large pot, combine the 2 cups of water, pickle juice, vinegar, and the rest of the seasonings with the chunked seitan. Simmer for 20 minutes, until some of the liquid has reduced. Add in the vegetables and the 1/2 cup water and cover. Simmer on medium-low with the seitan for 20-25 more minutes, until the vegetables are softened and the liquid is mostly gone. Serve with roasted potatoes or Irish soda bread!

Maple-Mustard Roasted Potatoes (serves4)
4 medium russet potatoes, large diced
1 tsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss diced potatoes in olive oil and bake on a sheet pan for 30-45 minutes, until tender on the inside and lightly browned on the outside. While the potatoes bake, prepare the maple-mustard sauce (below).
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard or Dijon mustard
2 Tbs maple syrup
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1 Tbs dill weed
Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined. When potatoes are done roasting, toss the maple-mustard sauce with the potatoes until completely coated. Serve hot, with Seitan Corned "Beef" and Cabbage.
And now for some product reviews! I have tried a couple of new finds lately, and I have to talk about them!
First up, White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter from Peanut Butter & Co!!! I know, I know, everyone has talked about PB&C0's awesome products, but I am going to put my two cents in! I am in love with this peanut butter! OK, I am in love with peanut butter in general, but this white chocolate variety is definitely the creamiest and sweetest pb I've ever tasted!! I can't wait to try more of their flavors...I think I'll go for the cinnamon raisin variety next...
This white chocolate pb goes especially well on toast with organic raspberry jam!
Next is the Blueberry Lavender Sorbet from Archer Farms, Target's gourmet store brand. If you like sorbet, then you will love this product! I have always enjoyed the flavor combination of blueberry and lavender, and I was very pleasantly surprised when my mom surprised me with this last week! Very refreshing flavor, smooooooth texture (especially for a sorbet), and not loaded with sugar! I'm picturing this on a hot summer day, topped with some chocolate chips and fresh berries....ahh.
Eating it straight out of the carton is also delightful....
Happy Belated St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day!...yeah, 3.14, nerdy, I know. I had to celebrate with a pie, of course! I opted for cherry pie, with a whole wheat crust from scratch. This was my first cherry pie, so it wasn't perfect. I thought the filling didn't come out quite as gooey and sweet as cherry pies I've had in the past, but it was still pretty good! I mean, come on, it is a pie!
Here is the topless pie, brimming with big cherries...
And here is the pre-bake pic...A peek inside, post-baking...The final masterpiece....any day can be a holiday, or an excuse to make dessert!
Also, I have another tester recipe for you, courtesy of lovely Vegan Crunk Bianca's upcoming cookbook! This week was a Vegan Buttermilk Biscuits with Gravy...a southern staple that is just delicious. The twist on the recipe was that it is a Chocolate Gravy! It may sound kind of weird at first, but I trusted Bianca and gave it a shot...and it is so good! It is kind of like the down-home version of the European tradition of Nutella with pastries for breakfast! It reminded me a little of a thinner pudding, but it wasn't too sweet or anything. I'm thinking it would be even better to put a little raspberry jam on the biscuits and THEN pour some chocolate gravy over the top of I've just gone too far!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lazy Weekend Food and A Little Survey

So this weekend, Steven and I didn't really feel like doing dishes or cooking a ton, so we ate out. A lot of the meals. We were lazy, but we hit up only local restaurants and ate some good food, and had some fun. Yay!

Dinner at Main Squeeze (where I work): The Buddha brown rice, seasoned organic tofu, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, sprouts, scallions, sesame seeds, and the BEST sauce ever, homemade Sesame Ginger Sauce. Seriously, I want to bathe in this sauce! It is a great combination of salty and sweet and savory and delicious. mmmm....Dessert at Sparky's Ice Cream: Vegan Chocolate-Cherry Sorbet! Sparky's is great because they are a local joint and they always have at least two flavors of vegan sorbet. This was a really great flavor, but my favorites are the chocolate peanut butter and the chocolate banana...
Traditional Sunday Breakfast at Cafe Berlin: The Veggie Tofu tofu scrambled with onion, garlic, bell peppers, spinach, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, and spices, served with Roasted Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes, and Sourdough Wheat Toast from Uprise Bakery in Columbia...smeared with locally-made organic apple butter, of course! Ooooh, and I had to wash this all down with several mugs of piping hot black coffee, from local Lakota Coffee Company! I love Sunday breakfast!

I did do a little cooking, though! I was craving something really tangy and salty, like the nasty, processed salt and vinegar chips I loved as a kid. Sooo, I made up these Sea Salt and Vinegar Oven Fries! They are really delicious and can go with anything!
One night, I served them with my homemade seitan brats and braised cabbage'n'apples...a nice German feast for a chilly night.
Another night, I served them with my homemade seitan buffalo wings (I am still perfecting this recipe!), sauteed collards, and homemade vegan ranch dressing....a tribute to bar food, but healthy-style.
Sea Salt and Vinegar Oven "Fries" (serves 2)
2 medium russet potatoes, sliced into stick or wedge fries
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup red wine, cider, or malt vinegar
Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a sheet pan with non-stick spray. Toss cut potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. Spread in an even layer on the sheet pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, turning after 20 minutes. Remove from oven and toss with vinegar. Serve hot.

And now, a survey! Bianca of Vegan Crunk tagged me to complete this survey, so I will obey!
If you want to do the survey, too, then leave a comment saying "interview me!!" and I will pick a couple to tag! GO!
1) If you could only get your protein from one source, which food would you choose?
Seitan! I love its taste and texture, and just how darn versatile it is! Granted, there probably aren't a lot of dessert recipes you can make with it, but I still choose it any day.
2) How did you choose the name for your blog?
My friends are in a band called Peace by Punching, so it is kind of a tribute to them mixed with my love for pastries and my belief that you voice your opinions and beliefs with your food choices.
3) What's your all-time favorite dessert?
That is so hard!! I think I will choose the Raspberry Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars from VWAV for the homemade dessert, and the Cookies and Cream Cake from Chicago Diner for my favorite restaurant dessert.
4) How long have you been veg? And what sparked the change in you?
3 years. I was watching Supersize Me and something just clicked in my has stuck ever since.
5) If you were president, what's the first thing you would do?
Create a bill that simultaneously bans the death penalty, bans guns, bans factory farming, legalizes gay marriage, gives subsidies to organic and small farms, greens the White House, ends the war in Iraq, and makes gym mandatory in schools. That's a big bill, but I would be up to it!
To play along: 1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me." If a few people want interviews, I will randomly pick a couple 2. I will respond by commenting on your blog with five questions. (I get to pick the questions). 3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. 4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post. 5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Seitan Chik'n and Dumplins and Some Other Good Stuff!

I finally got around to making the next tester recipe for Bianca's Cookin' Crunk cookbook, which was the Seitan Chik'n and Dumplins! I had to wait til I went to the store to buy some more gluten, and I am so glad I did! This dish is absolutely perfect! It has all the elements of a great meal: comforting and warm, chewy dumplings, creamy base, tender vegetables, hearty seitan. Steven and I both thought this was a winner for sure, and it was even better the next day as leftovers! Score!
A few other random things I have put off posting, but should be mentioned:
The Garden Burrito from Main Squeeze here in Columbia (my place of work!)....
Whole wheat tortilla, brown rice, refried beans, avocado, lettuce, beets, carrots, sprouts, homemade organic salsa. Seems like a strange combination with the burrito stuff and the veggie stuff, but it totally works and is one of my favorite menu items! This burrito always leaves you full from all the fiber and protein, yet refreshed from the crunchy cool veggies. Perfection.

Breakfast at Ingredient, a new restaurant here in Columbia. The original location is in Lawrence, Kansas, so this isn't really a chain, just a second location of a local KS eatery. And they have breakfast, which is the best meal of the day...yay!
I had the Breakfast Burrito (always my favorite), and you get to choose your fillings, so mine had tofu, vegan mozzarella, housemade pico de gallo, and roasted red peppers in a spinach tortilla, served with a side of "skillet potatoes." This was pretty good...the potatoes were really paprika-y and delicious, and the burrito was not amazing, but tasty overall. I was a little skimped on the tofu, but I don't think they had made it that way before or something. Who knows. Either way, I would eat it again!
Steven had their Steel Cut Oatmeal Bowl (which was ENORMOUS!!). You get to choose your oatmeal fixings, so he picked fresh blueberries and bananas, toasted pecans, and brown sugar. It was really good!! Steel cut oats kick rolled oats' butt, btw. There is something special about the blueberry-banana combination that I don't understand, but it is just delicious.

On to my new discovery: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter from Target's Archer Farms brand!!! I suppose you could call this the generic version of the PB&Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter, but there is nothing generic-tasting about this treat! It is so creamy and fudgy, and really tastes like a vegan version of Nutella, so I was in heaven when I had my first taste. It goes really well on toast (especially the local Kansas City bakery Farm to Market Grains Galore bread, which is just awesome and nutty. period.) with some raspberry jam. If you have a Target store near you, run...don't it and pick some of this up!!
Archer Farms Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter and Raspberry Fruit Spread, on Farm to Market Grains Galore Bread...mmmmmm....

I think that's all I have today. And p.s. if you aren't excited about Bianca's (of Vegan Crunk) upcoming cookbook full of Southern delights, then please do so! Every recipe I've tested so far has been mouthwatering and get your bibs ready for drooling and your bellies ready for filling! :)