Monday, March 31, 2008

Vacation and lots o' food!

So we went out of town for 5 days and before that? Sick. Oh yes.

So I'm going to go backwards and start with vacation! Because it's fresh in my mind and really, who doesn't want to relive vacation?! We went to Phoenix from Wednesday-Sunday because Chad had a second job interview, so we decided to turn it into family vacation time. We were actually in the western suburbs of Phoenix, which was basically all strip malls, all the time. But it was beautiful, the desert, and it was 86 degrees the whole time. And sunny. Did I mention sunny? And 86? In MARCH? I was loving it UP. It smelled like sage and everything just had a crisp spring edge to it. Lovely.

So I was a little worried about being in the land of Mexican food and being vegan, because for all the ethnic cuisines that are vegan friendly, Mexican food is really not one of them. So no little taquerias for us unfortunately. Luckily, we weren't all that tempted because we were mostly surrounded by chains, which can be very helpful to the traveling vegan who has access to the internet! Let me just say that this was the best vegan traveling I have ever done. We had a couple great lunches at Chipotle (fajita burrito bowls with the black beans), and a great dinner at Macaroni Grill (pasta with garlic olive oil, bruschetta with no cheese, garden salads sans cheese and crutons - and a dirty martini!), and some decent bagles with hummus for me and pb&j for Chad for breakfast. We also bought some cereal and almond milk for brekkie to have at the motel, but we didn't have a fridge, so there was a lot of putting the almond milk in the ice bucket in front of the a/c, so after day 2 we decided not to risk it. ;) We also had some of the BEST vegan food EVER at Green restaurant, in Scottsdale. We had the edamame (for Silas) and Spicy Buffalo Wings (OMG!!! Must try to recreate this recipe!), then Chad had the No-Harm Chicken Parm and I had the Texas "moo-shroom" po boy, with unbelievably thin crispy and delicious thyme fries. Then, as IF that wasn't good enough, they also have their own homemade vegan soft-serve "ice cream"!!!!! That they make blizzards with!!! Called tsoynamis!!! Seriously! I had the rocky road with chocolate chips, vegan marshmellows, almonds and chocolate syrup, and Chad just had strawberry, cuz that's the kind of guy he is. It was bliss, pure bliss. I can't get over how wonderful it is to be eating at a restaurant where I can order ANYTHING off the menu and still be true to my ethics! It's amazing.

Whoo. Anyway. We also had some fabulous Thai food, but I have to confess that I'm a bad vegan. I never ask about fish sauce. The first time we had the thai I didn't taste fishiness at all, but the second time I caught a vague whiff of it. I'm going to stop being a lazy vegan and just start asking. Geez! What's my problem anyway? I guess I'm just worried about language barriers and being denied my favorite ethnic cuisine. But I'm gonna do it!

There were also several soy lattes at Starbucks. Good stuff all around. And we even survived the flight home with only access to a regular old grocery store (Fry's) - we found fresh berries, soy yogurt, Odwalla protein shakes and bagels and hummus for breakfast, and made Yves salami and hummus sandwiches on kaiser rolls for lunch. I was pretty proud of our success with vegan traveling.

We also did 3 hikes, visited 2 communities, walked around a couple downtowns, browsed an awesome used bookstore (Bookman's) and generally had a great time.

On to the food!

We had some fronch toast revisted here (with the additions of some vanilla and cinnamon to the VwaV recipe - a vast improvement!), with a side of almond butter sweet mashed sweet potatoes (inspired by Vegan Lunch Box), and some sliced bananas. Good stuff! I love having the sweet potatoes in the morning, it's a great way to get some orange veggies in first thing! The basic recipe is :

Breakfast Sweet Potatoes
1-2 sweet potatoes
1-2 T almond butter
1 T maple syrup (or to taste)
.5-1 T earth balance
salt to taste
cinnamon if you want (I skip it)

I microwaved the sweet potatoes for about 4 minutes , turned them over, and microwaved them another 4 minutes. Let them sit for a minute and then pulled the peels right off. Mashed in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and serve!

Blueberry Coffee Cake from The Joy of Vegan BakingTo DIE for! I made this when we had some omni friends over after dinner out and it was a smash hit! This is a dangerous cake to have around because it is soooo tasty. We finished it for breakfast the next day!

Vegan Pizza Night!

Crust from TJ's, sauteed portabellos, a wee bit of leftover pesto and sliced tomatoes. Oh and just a bit of Follow Your Heart Mozzarella. The cheese was ok - it didn't melt much and didn't taste like much either, but it gave the appearance of cheese, which was fine. Now that I have the cheese in the house, I'll use it, but when we use it up I'm not sure if I'll replace it or not. I'm all about flavor, baby, and not so much for just appearances.

Do you know the magic that is the Magical Loaf Studio? Created by the author of the blog and cookbook, Vegan Lunch Box, this handy little tool can pretty much make a vegan loaf out of anything you have in your kitchen. Ok, that might not be entirely true, but it's pretty close.

My loaf consisted of pumpkin and sesame seeds, lentils, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, veggie broth, thyme basil, sage, nooch, veggie Worcestershire, ketchup, flax meal, Braggs, and olive oil. I cooked them in muffin tins, and before baking them I brushed on a combo of ~ equal amounts of ketchup and brown sugar with a dollop or two of more veggie Worcestershire sauce. Yum!

We had these with garlicky southern greens (from Vcon - can't get enough of these!) and baked potato with earth balance and s&p.

We had them a couple times, each time with the greens (they sell giant 1 lb bags of greens already washed and stemmed at TJ's! Awesome).

Navy Bean Cutlets with Mushroom Sauce and Roasted Carrots
Can't go wrong with the chickpea cutlets! I made a double batch this time with navy beans instead of chickpeas, and baked them for the first time (wow, easy and awesome!). This meal was a make-up-on-the-fly kind of thing, which is not my usual thing. I sliced up carrots and tossed them with some olive oil and maple syrup and salt and roasted them while I baked the cutlets. While that stuff was cooking I chopped up a portabello mushroom and sauteed it in olive oil with salt and white wine, then added in some flour and soy milk creamer to make it creamy and a little saucy. Oh and salt and pepper. It was really tasty over the cutlets, not really a gravy, but savory and delicious.

Other Stuff I Don't Have Pictures Of

I also baked up a big batch of cornbread from The Joy of Vegan Baking which was deLICIOUS! Like cornbread you'd get at The Cracker Barrel or something, it was really tender and sweet and awesome. Very different from the usual southern style skillet cornbread I make.
I also made a really great impromptu curry loosely following a recipe from Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet. It was coconut milk, red curry paste, chickpeas, green peas, and a can of diced tomatoes, sauteed sliced onion, carrots, and garlic all over whole wheat spaghetti. Next time I would add a tablespoon or two of Braggs, because it needed saltiness, but otherwise it was really tasty and made a LOT of food, AND the toddler was a huge fan.

Yesterday for a toddler playgroup I made a batch of Cornbread Blueberry Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking. These were ok - I was really expecting the tenderness of the cornbread, and these were much heavier/breadier. I was out of yellow cornmeal, so I used white, and I used all whole wheat white flour instead of half-white, half-wheat, so that might have been the culprit. I would make them again using less whole wheat flour because the flavor was good otherwise.

And finally, yesterday I made a batch of the Backyard BBQ Sauce from Vcon. OMG, yum! I slathered in on tempeh and fried it up for sandwiches for dinner last night (and lunch today) on whole wheat buns with a little veganaise and bread & butter pickles. Awesome combo! We had salad on the side.


Happy Herbivore! said...

man i am really craving pizza now~

carrie said...

wow Keeta, your vacation sounds nice. I can't wait until the temperature is 86 degrees!!

I'm sorry you were disappointed by the FYH cheese again. Mine always melts very well, and my kids love it. I use a very small hole grater to grate it before sprinkling it on the pizza, maybe that helps is melt.

The breakfast sweet potatoes sound awesome. I'm going to make those soon (sans the almond butter). We have pancakes every Sunday morning, and I feel so guilty for serving such an "unhealthy"'ll make me feel better if we have sweet potatoes too!!

carrie said...

keeta - don't you live near Detroit?? I just saw that Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is speaking in Detroit on Sunday April 13 at the Great American Meatout

Jen said...

That blueberry coffee cake looks SO good! I really need to get that book!

Re: Carrie's comment about the Meatout & CPG...I'll be there in the early afternoon and planning on being at her first lecture, so maybe I'll see you there!

keeta said...

Carrie - i haven't tried grating it on the smallest holes of the grater, maybe that would do it! I will try it next time, thanks for that tip.

And Jen and Carrie: Yes! I am going to the meatout, I'm totally looking forward to seeing Colleen speak and trying out some tasty treats. Hope to see you there, Jen!

Oh, and Carrie, re: sweet potatoes, I forgot to put this in the post, but if the potatoes need a little liquid, orange juice is the perfect thing to use! And since you're not using the almond butter, you might want to add a pinch more of cinnamon and nutmeg. Sometimes I add a drizzle of maple syrup if I'm in the mood. It's one of those "recipes" that are great for variations.

The Dalai Mama said...

86 degrees? I think I forget what that feels like! Sounds like you had a nice trip.

You know, recently I've been wondering what a good substitute for fish sauce would be. I have a recipe I want to make that calls for it. I wonder if I could just leave it out completely and not lose lots of flavor?

After making the Backyard BBQ Sauce, I'll definitely never buy bottled BBQ again! It's so good!

keeta said...

Dalai Mama - I know, the BBQ sauce is so good! And it doesn't really call for anything that I don't usually have in my cupboards.

Re: Fish sauce - I've read in cookbooks (I think Didi Emmons's) that you should replace fish sauce with salt, not soy sauce (or tamari/shoyu/braggs) because those flavors would overpower the dish in a lot of cases. It's not a 1:1 ratio though - I think she has a recipe that calls for maybe 2 T fish sauce and she has you replace it with maybe 1-2 tsp of salt? Probably just leave the sauce out and then salt to taste. :)

I'm really missing the 86 degrees (although it was 71 here in SE Michigan yesterday!)

carrie said...

I always replace fish sauce with salt. The flavor is slightly different, but it doesn't matter, Curry is good no matter what you do to it!!!