Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Cheese Incident

This post is part of Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food.  Enjoy, and visit other MoFo bloggers this month too!

Oh, Seattle.  You are such a complicated woman of a city.  At once a bastion of liberal hipster music-making vegan love and a hub of wanna-be-swanky-hotel-loving, fancying-myself-a-foodie business travelers.

Remember that lovely spring trip I took to Seattle to see my in-laws, during which I ate the Best Broccoli Ever Made and enjoyed the prettiest little fruit plate?  Everywhere I went, I was happy to discover that being in the Northwest (even outside my beloved Portland), I could ask for a vegan option and receive something amazing.

The Seattle I once knew

Yeah, this was not that trip.

Our hotel had a “hidden gem” of a hotel bar, according to Yelp.  Every review raved about something–the fries, the Caesar salad, the decor.  So, when hunger hit and we had a schedule to follow, I pushed for a quick and easy dinner at the hotel bar.  (This is me when I’m hungry: “You guys know we’re leaving in ten minutes for dinner, right?” “Ok, that’s a really interesting tweet, but you know we’re leaving in 7 minutes, right?” “Ok, one more drink you guys, but you know we’re leaving in 3 minutes, right?”  It’s not pretty.)

When we finally arrived at the hotel bar (a long journey of one flight of stairs and a wheelchair ramp), it appeared to be everything we’d hoped–a beautiful room with a fireplace and and oak bar, complete with a four-page menu of dinner options.  I can totally find something here!

Three pages of meat and cheese later, I was happy to find they served individual pizzas–usually a veggie pizza with no cheese is a safe bet for me.  I ordered it that way (even reiterated!), and joked with my friends about the odds the pizza would show up slathered in cheese.  I had been very clear with the guy taking our order, though, and I had faith.

Well, unsurprisingly, the story does not end with me getting a vegan pizza.  Once the server showed up with my pizza–10 minutes after all the other food had arrived–she held it above eye-level for several seconds, apologizing for the wait and allowing us to move plates around to make room for it.  When she finally set it down (to the relief of my friend who was anxiously awaiting the verdict), it was obvious that this “pizza” was basically a cracker-weight vehicle for the pound of melted mozzarella and shaved parmesan on top.

I politely explained that I had ordered it without cheese.  She said “you mean without parmesan cheese?”  I said “No, without any cheese.”  She sighed, looked at me like I was nuts, and started to walk away with it.  I stopped her, realizing it would be another 30 minutes before I’d get a pizza I could eat, and said I’d just have a hummus plate: “That should be quick, right?”

I should have realized something funky was going on when my hummus plate took 10 more minutes to arrive.  YEAH.  What at first appeared to be your average assortment of pita and tomatoes became, upon closer inspection, a running joke for the weekend.  The hummus was served to me IN A BOWL MADE OF CHEESE.  Seriously.

Now, I’ve eaten a lot of hummus platters in my life, and I’ve never had it served to me in a vessel made of cheese.  I wish I had taken a picture of this thing before my friends devoured it (after I ate the hummus, avoiding the cheese–I was hungry).  It was the strangest thing, and we were all sure the cook had played a joke to get back at me for sending back the pizza.  Wife and my friend insisted we should not have to pay for it, and when the waitress came to take our plates, I asked if the hummus always came in a cheese bowl.  Finally, a look of “ohhhhhh” set in on our waitress’s face–it was always served in a cheese bowl, and she didn’t even make the connection.

After questioning me about why I don’t eat cheese (“So you just don’t like it?” was her first question), she finally offered to take my meal off the bill.  DUH.

So, peeps–have you had animal products served to you in the most unlikely of dishes?  I’m guessing hummus in a cheese bowl is a fairly unusual experience.  What are some more common restaurant pitfalls?


Pumpkin Time!

This post is part of Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food.  Enjoy, and visit other MoFo bloggers this month too!

It’s pumpkin time!  I’m not usually a big pumpkin fan, except when I find them in pie form, but pumpkins popped up everywhere I looked this week–it being October and all–so I’m thinking the universe wants me to expand my horizons.

First, Wife ordered an amazing-smelling Thai Pumpkin Curry from our local Thai joint this week.  It looked like vegetables swimming in a bright, fake, processed cheese sauce, but it smelled and tasted  like vegan coconut curry heaven. I think I might try to copy the recipe, or maybe just order some for myself soon.

Next, I ran across an old Weight Watchers Pumpkin Pie recipe that was quite non-vegan, but very low-cal.  I have found several vegan pumpkin pie recipes online, but this spicy and tofu-free one looks the best to me.

Yesterday, I walked toward the door of Trader Joe’s to find this lovely sight:

Finally, as if reading my mind, fellow MoFo-er Vegan Moxie posted today about a Pumpkin Daal recipe she tried, and pointed out my lack of originality (ok, not directly) in writing a pumpkin-heavy post.

What do you guys think?  Are you sick of pumpkins yet?  Coming soon: a pumpkin muffin (with cream cheese frosting!) that will cure that sickness just fine.

Rounding up the veggie webs

This post is part of Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food.  Enjoy, and visit other MoFo bloggers this month too!

It’s Vegan MoFo, which means there’s plenty go around on the veggie blogs.  Check out some of my favorite MoFo posts from this week!

Spiralizing (?) zucchini is a neat trick–kinda like pasta with no guilt and extra nutrition!  A Soy Bean has a recipe for nice-looking raw zucchini pasta dish.  If, like me, you’re not raw, you can saute the zucchini a bit and heat the sauce for a little more autumn comfort.

I’m usually either too lazy to carve a jack-o-lantern or too daunted by the clean-up required to get fully into the spirit of things this time of year.  This year, howevs, All You Eat is Vegetables? may have inspired me to jump in with the addition of recipes for spiced pumpkin seeds–yum!

I love this blog’s name, and I suspect I’ll love this dish just as much.  Body by Chickpeas tells us how to make “Bosillos Calientes.”

If you, like me, bought black-eyed peas like a year ago, thinking you were just that one ingredient away from becoming a master chef of the Delta, try Down Home Vegan’s recipe for Vegan Hoppin’ John.

And finally, this little joke arrived in my inbox today.  I share because I care:  A CEO, a tea party member, and a union guy are at a table with a dozen cookies. The CEO takes 11 cookies and turns to the tea partier and says, “Look out — the union guy wants your cookie.

Casseroles Gone Bad

This post is part of Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food.  Enjoy, and visit other MoFo bloggers this month too!

Ever spent 2 hours making a mouth-watering recipe only to have the dish come out looking and tasting awful?  Me neither, but, you know, I’ve heard it happens.  Ok, so it happened to me Tuesday.  I followed an amazing-looking recipe for a sort of cornbread/quiche/casserole thing and ended up with a mushy mess that would not bake no matter how long I left it in the oven.  I’m going to guess it was user error, because I generally love the recipes from this particular source, but I couldn’t pinpoint what I did wrong.

With 30 minutes left before Wife arrived home from her nightly bike commute, I had to think fast to save dinner and avoid calling for Thai take-out (again).  The mushiness of the casserole reminded me of the texture of the batter I used to create to make (non-vegan) black bean patties back in the day, so a plan was formed: cornbread/quiche/casserole patties!  I cut the casserole into half-servings, placed each square in a lightly oiled pan, and pressed the squares into 1/2″-thick patties.  After a little browning on each side, voila!  Totally edible (even delicious) casserole patties!  Serve them with the quick and easy chipotle cream sauce below.  Check ’em out:

Zucchini Cornbread Patties

1 whole onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp chipotle powder
1 small can (4 oz) diced green chiles
1 package (12 oz) extra-firm mori-nu tofu
½ cup non-dairy milk
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup cornmeal
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
2 cups zucchini, diced

1. Saute onion and garlic in a little water until onions begin to soften.  Add the spices and green chiles, stir to coat, and continue to saute until much of the moisture has evaporated.  Set aside.

2. Blend the tofu with the non-dairy milk and set aside.

3. Combine the remaining dry ingredients (all except the zucchini & corn) in a large mixing bowl.  Add tofu mixture and onion/garlic mixture and combine.

4. Fold the zucchini and corn into the mixture until well combined.

5. Heat a large skillet and spray to coat with olive oil.  Form the mixture into patties and (optional) press into panko or other bread crumbs.  Pan fry on both sides until browned and heated through.  Serve with Chipotle Cream Sauce on the side.

This mushy mess turned into...

...this tasty little patty!

Chipotle Cream Sauce

1/2 cup Tofutti Sour Supreme or Better Than Sour Cream

1 – 2 Tbsp adobo sauce (find this in a can of chipotle peppers and use the peppers for something else)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

dash of salt

1. Combine all ingredients.  Taste along the way and add more of anything you want!  I like this with extra adobo, because YUM.

Brussels Sprouts for Peeps Who Hate Brussels Sprouts

This post is part of Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food.  Enjoy, and visit other MoFo bloggers this month too!

People love to hate Brussels sprouts.  I was one of those big sillies until last year sometime, when I read some tips online about how to roast them and season them and load them up with olive oil.  I was a convert and Wife converted right along with me; we made Brussels sprouts probably once a week for months.  Howevs, to paraphrase Forrest Gump (to Wife’s chagrin), life is like an oven of Brussels sprouts–you never know what you’re going to get.  Sometimes my sprouts were tender and delicious, sometimes they were tender and mushy, sometimes they were charred and crunchy-tasty, sometimes they were charred and nasty.  Also, the only way to make sure they tasted awesome was to load them up with 3 or 4 tablespoons of oil.

Well, my little lazies, I’ve converted again.  I will never ever ever again cook Brussels sprouts in the oven because THIS is the way to do it.  It’s almost oil-free and requires only slightly more babysitting than the oven roasting method.

Perfect Brussels Sprouts

Big bowl of Brussels sprouts

Olive oil spray

Salt, pepper, garlic to taste

1. Trim the tough ends from the sprouts and cut them in half from top to bottom.

2. Heat a nonstick pan on medium-high heat and spray with oil.  Add sprouts and 1 or 2 tablespoons of water. Stir in seasonings and cover.  If you feel like it, turn the sprouts so they are cut-side down, which will allow them to char nicely right away.

3. Check out the sprouts every 2-3 minutes to stir, check for tenderness, and add more water if necessary.  The goal is to add just a bit of water at a time so they steam while charring a bit in the pan.  (Adding too much water at a time will boil the sprouts and prevent them from charring.)

4.  Once you have some nicely browned and tender sprouts, pop one in your mouth and add salt if needed.  SO GOOD.

Try not to be distracted by the amazing potatoes in this pic.

Tofu Scramble, Easy Like Sunday Morning

This post is part of Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food.  Enjoy, and visit other MoFo bloggers this month too!

I got a new cookbook!  This is big; I hadn’t gotten a new one since instituting an unofficial moratorium on cookbook purchases at least a year ago.  I get plenty as gifts for birthdays and holidays, and I love being the girl for whom a new vegan cookbook is always a great gift option.

Howevs, for this book–The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S. Nixon–an exception was warranted, as it focuses on recipes that are both low-fat and easy.  Also, I discovered it on my quest to find a delicious scrambled tofu breakfast recipe, and it contains several totally manageable possibilities.  (Yes, I promise a full report when I get around to trying the infamous Black Bean Brownies.)

So far, I’ve made the fairly basic Tofu Scramble on page 18 of the book (also available on Lindsay’s site).  I followed the recipe closely and ended up with a dish that was seasoned just perfectly.  I did add sauteed onion, red pepper, and vegan sausage, but I prepared the tofu just like Lindsay recommends.  Because I was a big copycat here rather than my usual creative culinary genius, I’ll send you to the source to check it out, but here’s a little enticement from my kitchen:

Lazy Sunday morning breakfast

Feeding Non-Vegans (and a Yumm-y Recipe)

This post is part of Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food.  Enjoy, and visit other MoFo bloggers this month too!

On this first day of blogging for Vegan MoFo, I am preparing to buy a distinctly non-vegan snack for a gaggle of teenagers.  I’m buying it for them because they asked for it, they work hard, it’s easier for me not to have to persuade them to try my vegan snacks, and they aren’t my children (who will not have such an easy time getting non-vegan food from me).

Many vegans would think those are pretty lame reasons to allow my dollars to go toward food that causes heart disease and animal suffering, and I totally get where they are coming from, so I am going to attempt to focus this Vegan MoFo on creating dishes that non-vegans won’t need persuading to eat.  I don’t have time to cook today (and, hey, I already promised the kids this one time), but by next week’s meeting with the teenagers I hope to have some new vegan snacks to share.

Are you vegan?  If so, how do you feed the non-vegans in your life?  My wife isn’t vegan, but she happily eats whatever I cook for her.  This is almost always vegan (because I generally only want to cook one dinner), but I admit I allow Trader Joe’s pizzas to sneak into Wife’s diet when I’m feeling lazy.

For today, here’s a VERY easy dish to throw together for vegans and non-vegans alike–I (and my mother, whose brainchild this is) have served this to many and to universal delight (if we do say so ourselves).  It has more oil than I like, and a major component comes from a jar, but it’s a great way to pack in the veggies and please a crowd.

If you can’t find Yumm Sauce where you are (it’s available in OR, WA, and CA), try this with another vegan jarred sauce like vegan ranch or even a warm-water-diluted hummus.

Roasted Veggies & Yumm Sauce

6 cups broccoli florets

1 or 2 zucchini and/or yellow squash, cut into 3/4″ slices

1 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4″ (bite-size) chunks

1 yellow onion, in bite-size chunks

Other veggie possibilities – mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, maybe Brussels sprouts?  You can also limit the dish to just one or two veggies alone–broccoli is my favorite!

1/3 jar of Yumm Sauce (I used Roasted Garlic, but just bought a jar of Chipotle to try)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400.

2. Chop all the veggies to bite-size and assemble in an oil-sprayed 9″x13″ casserole.

3. Roast until the broccoli is just tender, about 15 minutes.  Don’t overcook, because the squash tends to get mushy.

4. Dump the hot veggies in a big mixing bowl.  Add the Yumm Sauce by the spoonful, until the veggies are lightly coated but not totally soaked in it.

5.  Serve warm or at room temp.  I’ve eaten this right out of the mixing bowl. 🙂

I didn't have any broccoli when I made this batch--I missed it!