Saj, and a Change of Direction

Hello All!

This will be my last post on this blog.  I’m going to merge this blog into my other, Renaissance Woman.  Why?  Several reasons.

Reason One: I may be a little OCD.  I started two blogs to keep my interests separate but, since the whole point of Renaissance Woman was I did NOT have to have a theme, I don’t see why I can’t do vegan posts on that blog.

Reason Two: I’ve talked a little about my car accident and its aftereffects on Renaissance Woman.  As I went vegan to try to regain heath, strength, and energy, merging the blogs will allow me to tie my diet to living as a disabled person.  I had no intention of doing this, much less talking about being disabled, when I started Vegan Wayfarer but I feel more comfortable doing so now.

Reason Three:  As work on my manuscript ramps up, I have less time to devote to two blogs.  I’m a sporadic poster anyway so might as well post to one blog as I am seized by inspiration.

Reason Four:  I’m seeking to simplify my life.  Donating stuff I don’t need, dialing back my book buying (though I feel a bit like Mel Gibson’s character from Conspiracy Theory-I get shaky if a few weeks have passed and I haven’t bought a book.  Any book, not just Catcher in the Rye.)  One blog will be much easier to manage.  I might even become a regular in my posts.

So, four reasons really-I don’t know if that counts as several.  Fair Warning: Renaissance Woman is theme-less.  I post about history, thoughts about writing, random things that catch my fancy, my poetry, and now vegan recipes and awesome restaurants.  I do hope all of you will consider following me at my other site: my undying gratitude goes to all of you who already do.

And now, read on about Saj Mediterranean Grill!

A few weeks ago, I filled in for my work counterpart.  This resulted in a looooonnnnng day and, by lunchtime, I was ready for a break.  Away from the building and my desk, somewhere that served good food.  Saj Mediterranean Grill is a fairly new arrival to the neighborhood.  It’s a toss up as to whether Mediterranean or Mexican food is my favorite (hummus or tacos?!) so I was looking forward to trying Saj out: when the opportunity came, I jumped at it.

The first thing I noticed is, Saj is busy.  The line stretched almost to the door.  A good sign when considering the quality of the food, not such a good sign when I’m on a clock and have an hour for lunch, including drive time.  I took deep breaths and maintained my equilibrium.  I’d take my food back with me if necessary.  I spent my line time perusing the menu, reading about the meaning of “Saj”, and wondering if the garlic aioli could possibly be dairy free.  The menu offers a wide array of if-not-vegan-easily-made-so options including wraps, salad, and pizzas.  A sign on the wall told me “Saj” is the flatbread baked on a domed or flat griddle called a Saj, and the garlic aioli is made with mayo.

There is a handy chart at the register that lists the sauces and their ingredients.  As neither the garlic aioli nor the tahini were dairy free, I decided on zaatar sauce.  I’d also spent my time in the line watching food go in and out of the large oven, placed so you can watch everything that happens with your food.  Saj’s website doesn’t lie: their ingredients are fresh.  By the time I’d reached the register, I’d decided on a wrap made with the wheat saj (flat bread) and, once I’d decided on a sauce, filled my wrap with spicy hummus, basmati rice, falafel, kalamata olives (one of my favorite things), and sauteed peppers and onions.

When my wrap arrived, the flatbread reminded me a bit of a crepe.  A little thicker but it did resemble a pancake rather than what I usually expected from flatbreads like pita or naan.  It was a bit sweet as well, though that was a good contrast to the salty ingredients I’d chosen.

My wrap wasn’t too salty, although I love salt so perhaps any future orders should contain more fresh vegetables.  I liked it though.  The briny tang of the kalamata olives did overwhelm the other flavors but please don’t consider that a complaint:  I appreciate that the staff didn’t skimp on the olives.  There was something pickled as a garnishment: the menu has pickled turnips as an option but the peppery bite-reminiscent of horseradish-made me wonder if the garnish wasn’t pickled daikon. The staff was busy so I didn’t ask but cleaned my plate of everything, wrap and garnish.  There were no leftovers to take back to work with me and I left the restaurant with ten minutes to spare.  Since my drive back was five, I made it back to work in plenty of time!

I purchased a beverage.  I usually don’t when I eat out as most commercial beverages contain too much sugar.  I did for this visit, as a special treat, and was glad I had done so.  I decided on an orange pomegranate San Pelligrino and the sweet/tart carbonation cut through the oil and salt of my meal.  I could have shared with a friend: there was too much sugar for me to finish the beverage but I was glad to have it while eating.  My entire meal came together to satisfy every section of my tastebuds and I’m looking forward to eating at Saj Mediterranean Grill again soon.

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Not a healthy beverage choice but it was tasty

 

A Bean By Any Other Color…

I’ve tried many new food items since becoming vegan: things I never thought I would eat much less like.  Things like pressed fermented tofu and seed cake, though seven-grain tempeh sounds more appetizing; and then there are all the beans.  My pre-vegan repertoire consisted of black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and the occasional lentil.  My post-vegan pantry has expanded to include all of those plus cranberry beans, anasazi beans, black, green, red, and black lentils, yellow and green split peas, Christmas lima beans, and so many more.  Some of the tastiest and most versatile beans I use are garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas.  They make excellent crispy snacks if marinated and oven-baked, star in chickenless salad, chickpea and noodle soup, and not-tuna salad.

My enthusiasm for new and interesting beans may have gone too far.  I was at an Asian market (since become a diner so I need a new source for black salt) and was going nuts at the prices of bulk lentils, spices, black salt, and green garbanzo beans.  The friend I was shopping with said, “um…green garbanzo beans?”  “Yep”, I replied; “aren’t they cool?”  My friend looked like ‘cool’ wasn’t the first word that occurred to her but she made no other protest and a bag of green garbanzo beans accompanied me home.

As summer takes over in Colorado I eat more salads and, at long last, the time came for me to soak and cook the green garbanzo beans in order to make not-tuna salad.  I admit, a lessons I’ve learned from previous cooking experience sprang to mind as I prepared the beans. Lesson one: soup mixes comprised of multiple beans and/or grains look pretty until they’re cooked.  Then, black beans or black rice color EVERYTHING else in the mix and the entire lot turns brown.  What would cooked green beans look like?  However, I’d purchased the beans and was committed.  How bad could it be?

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Well…cooked and mashed green garbanzo beans are no longer green.  “Unappetizing” and other, stronger, words came to mind but I’m anything if not wasteful.  I mashed my beans, stirred in Just Mayo, mustard, chopped green olives, chopped celery, and 1/4 a sheet of nori, snipped into teeny pieces.  I was going to eat it no matter how it looked.

While the salad looked nasty; once I spooned it over a bed of red leaf lettuce and covered it with sliced Easter egg radishes, appearance was no longer an issue.

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Taste was no issue at all.  There is no substitute for soaking and cooking my own beans.  Taste, texture, cost…there is no comparison, although I admit I use canned beans because they’re convenient.  The beans in my salad were smooth and creamy, which bore no resemblance to actual tuna salad but, this far into my vegan diet; that isn’t a bad thing.  The salad is filling, tasty, and easy to eat at my desk at work.  And, the green garbanzo beans?  I think that all future recipes will keep them whole rather than mashed.

 

A Frond For Me, A Frond For You

I go to the grocery store with the best of intentions.  I am enticed by the vivid colors of fresh, organic produce and always have a plan for what I buy.  More often than not, those plans go by the wayside as I get busy with my job and working on my manuscript.  Since I can’t bear the thought of all that lovely produce going to waste, my intricate plans become soup.

I like making soup.  I rarely need a recipe for it and I can have dinner done in the time it takes vegetables to cook: often a half hour or less.  My soups all start the same: sweat chopped onion in a stock pot, add garlic, add water or vegetable stock, add washed grains if I’m using them, add vegetables after grain has cooked, add canned or pre-cooked beans, heat through, eat.  Tasty and simple.  My last soup was created because I’d purchased some beautiful collard greens intending to make a lemon-chopped greens salad, didn’t get to it, and needed to use them up.  Why soup?  Well…

…I’m not that familiar with how to cook collard greens.  I tried the Sicilian Collard Greens from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet when I first became vegan but overcooked the greens.  The memory of the horrid bitter mass they became is still with me and I haven’t tried that recipe again.  My sister likes collard greens but, as she cooks hers with bacon fat, that recipe isn’t an option for me.  I perused my cookbooks and thought that a recipe for collard greens, wild rice, and black-eyed pea soup from Robin Robertson’s 1000 Vegan Recipes sounded good.  I had to adapt it as I had rice and greens and very little of the other ingredients but that’s what I love about making soups: you don’t need to follow a recipe.  Throw everything in a pot and it’s very difficult to go wrong.  I made notes of replacements I could make with what I had on hand and read my new recipe out to my family.  They entered it into their Weight Watcher’s App and, finding the total point value satisfactory, dinner was planned.

Robin Robertson’s cookbook was one of the first I purchased when making the switch to a vegan lifestyle.  I figured I’d have all I needed with 1,000 recipes and have found this cookbook to be eminently useful.  The best tip is to either steam or simmer tempeh for 30 minutes before using it in a recipe as doing so takes out that bitter aftertaste.  I also appreciate these recipes are more of a guideline.  I’ve made some recipes while adhering to every jot and tittle but some don’t include enough herbs and spices for my liking.  I thought as much with this soup recipe and added a few of my favorites.  Most spices are free on my family’s diet plan so I can indulge my inner mad kitchen scientist.

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My version of the soup was excellent.  The entire kitchen was filled with mouth-watering scents as the soup cooked and I adjusted the original recipe so everything was cooked in one pot.  This is a great idea if all the soup is going to be consumed in one sitting, not so much if you’re planning on leftovers.  I’ve found that greens left in soup overnight take on an unappetizing smell.  This happened to my delicious soup and I was reminded that I’d made this observation once already.  Hopefully, now that I’ve twice been left with no leftovers (something that annoys me), I’ll remember to cook only the amount of greens that can be consumed in one sitting.  If my greens are in such bad shape they won’t last while I heat leftovers, the freezer is always a viable option.

Nasty leftover greens aside, I can’t say enough good things about this soup.  It satisfies both senses of taste and smell, is soothing to the tummy, and-when paired with a slice of molasses cornbread-makes for a filling meal.  The cornbread is made from one of my mother’s recipes and I’m sharing it with her permission.  Since my recipe breaks enough from Ms. Robertson’s; I’m sharing it as well.  Two recipes in one post!

Side note: my mother uses Wholesome! brand organic stevia in her recipe.  If stevia isn’t your thing, feel free to substitute another sweetener.

Collard, Wild Rice, and Bean soup with Molasses Corn Bread.

The cornbread takes 40 to 45 minutes to cook so make it first.  You will need:

1 Cup yellow cornmeal

1 Cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 Cup unsweetened apple sauce

3 tsp or 6 packets Stevia leaf herbal extract

1 cup unsweetened plant based milk (we use almond/coconut)

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups frozen organic corn kernels

1 TBSP ground flax seed meal

2 TBSP water

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly oil a cast iron skillet and set aside.  Mix the flax meal with the water and set aside.  Rinse the corn and let drain.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.  Mix well and set aside.
  3. In a second bowl, mix applesauce, sugar, plant milk, molasses, and the flax egg.  Mix well and stir into dry ingredients.  Stir in the corn and pour the batter into the skillet.
  4. Bake cornbread until the top turns golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Slice into 12 slices and serve plain or with desired topping.

 

Collard, Wild Rice, and Bean Soup.  You will need:

1 Bunch Collard Greens, stemmed and chopped

1 Medium onion, chopped

2 Cloves garlic, minced

2 14 oz Cans Organic Tri-Bean Blend beans rinsed and drained or 3 Cups mixed cooked beans, drained

6 Cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup Wild Rice Blend (I like Lundgren’s), rinsed

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp coriander

1 tsp thyme

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

A kitchen timer!

  1.  Place the chopped onion in a stock pot over medium low heat and let cook 5 minutes.  Add minced garlic and let cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes more.  Add a small bit of vegetable broth if onions and garlic begin to stick.
  2. Add the vegetable broth, cumin, coriander, thyme, red pepper flakes, and wild rice.  Cook 15 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped collard greens and cook another 15 minutes.  Add the cooked beans and heat through, 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Enjoy!  Can serve 8 people if the portions stay around 1 cup.

Note: Only chop all the greens and add them to the soup of all of the soup is going to be consumed in one sitting.  If not, chop the equivalent of one large frond per person and cook in a separate pot of boiling, salted water until collards are tender.  This takes about 20 minutes.  Drain the collards and divide them among the bowls when the soup is complete.  Stir and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort and Pasta

My workplace had a Halloween potluck earlier this week and were planning a chili competition.  I thought I’d bring something different and decided to make a corn chowder.  An added inducement to the corn chowder was that I could make it with ingredients I had on hand and any time I can avoid the grocery store I will choose to do so.

I used the recipe in The Part Time Vegan as a template, adding a few tweaks of my own, and ended up with a chowder that wasn’t bad.  Wasn’t bad isn’t usually what I go for so my corn chowder recipe needs work before it can be posted.  Having a recipe not turn out as I’d hoped is always a little bit of a downer so I decided to drown my sorrows in comfort food.  Enter pasta and, fortunately, the McDougall diet allows me to eat as much as I like.

With both comfort and temperance in mind, I decided to try a new pasta.  I got sucked into one of those sample stands at Costco which introduced me to Explore Cuisine’s Chickpea Pasta (which is not on the website but other tasty products are).  The woman at the sample stand assured me the pasta kept a chewy texture despite re-heating and I was persuaded to buy a box.

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I have tried other gluten-free pastas.  I like quinoa pasta but have found brown rice pasta ends up too mushy.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I boiled water and measured out the pasta.  I was concerned with taste as the pasta smelled well, beany, as it cooked but all my worries were for naught.  The pasta has a slight flavor that didn’t remind me too much of chickpeas and kept a perfect al dente texture.  My family liked it as well.  Though I don’t know this will replace quinoa pasta for me, I’m definitely interested in trying more of Enjoy Cuisine’s products.

Wondering what to eat with the pasta?  Here’s my Mom’s recipe for chunky vegan pasta sauce.  Neither she nor my step-father are vegan and they both choose this one over sauces laden with meat.  Let me know if you give it a try.

Sue’s Spaghetti Sauce

1 cup minced onion

1 TBSP minced garlic

1 jar Classico Traditional Favorites Pasta Sauce, Tomato & Basil

1 jar Prego Light Smart Traditional Italian Sauce

2 TBSP Hunts Tomato Paste

1 14oz can Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes, Diced, No Salt Added

1 15 oz can Tomato Sauce

1 15 oz can Simple Truth Organic Tri-Bean Blend beans, drained and rinsed

1 15 oz can Organic Canned Black Beans, drained and rinsed

6 oz Boca Veggie Ground Crumbles

Cook onions and garlic until onions begin to sweat.  All all other ingredients except beans and crumbles.  Cook 1 hour.  Add beans and crumbles and cook 15 minutes.  Pour over cooked spaghetti.

Prep and Cook time = 75 min

Serving Size = 2 cups

Serves = 8

What’s In This?

My diet contains all sorts of tasty foods based on vegetables, grains, and beans but, sometimes, all I want is dessert.  In an attempt to stick to my way of eating, I’m always looking for healthier forms of desserts: ones based on whole fruits, high fiber grains, and beans.  Yes, that’s right, beans.  I didn’t believe it either but having tried desserts based with beans, I’m becoming a convert.

My first bean based dessert was black bean brownies.  I was skeptical but the result is a dense, fudge-like brownie that’s well worth blowing a diet on.  True, they do have to be eaten within a few days or they get really dry but a pan of brownies doesn’t last all that long around my house anyway.

My second bean based dessert was chocolate chip cookies that had tofu as the secret ingredient.  I’d had some bad luck with tofu-based desserts, was again skeptical, and was again proven wrong.  I prefer chewy cookies and these were perfect.

With both experiments going so well, I was ready to try something new.  I found a recipe for a Great Northern Apple Cake in my Vegan on the Cheap cookbook and the secret ingredient is in the title: Great Northern Beans.

Great Northern Beans are not my favorite.  I find them rather tasteless which I suppose is desirable trait when they’re being used in dessert.  Beans don’t contain a great deal of liquid so I couldn’t help wondering if any cake made with them was be too dry.  There was no way to know but to make it so I gathered the ingredients, hauled out my food processor, and got started.

This cake might be cheap but it’s definitely not quick.  Walnuts must be toasted and chopped; apples cored, peeled, and sauteed in vegan butter, brown sugar, and lemon juice; oats ground to flour, the pan to be lined with apples…there’s a lot of steps, setting bowls aside, reserving liquid…it’s not a recipe I would recommend unless you have a great deal of time and energy.

So…I made this cake twice.  The first time I made it, I got the baking powder out of the cupboard and completely forgot to add it.  I thought the cake looked a little flat when I got it out of the oven but, what did I know?  Maybe a cake made with beans doesn’t rise.  Well, one without baking powder doesn’t and is certainly dense.  I don’t want to say the cake was inedible but it certainly isn’t a dessert I’d crave.  I knew I wanted to try it again but, with the amount of prep time, I put it off.

Then there was a snow storm here and and the weather was perfect for baking.  I dug a can of Great Northern Beans out of the cupboard, collected everything else, and mixed the cake making sure to include the baking powder.

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The cake already looks better than my first attempt

The cake rose!  Who knew!  This one looked much better than the first.  The real test was taste and it isn’t bad.  The apples, brown sugar, and walnuts make a nice caramel-apple topping and the cake is nice and moist.  However, it is missing something.  I don’t know what it is but the cake itself is missing a layer of taste: it’s subtle but it’s missing.  If I’m going to continue to make this cake, some experimenting is necessary.  Maybe cardamom, or chili pepper, or ginger…

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An upside-down apple/white bean cake

On a health note: I ate a piece of this cake with a scoop of cashew milk salted caramel ice cream and woke up with a weird headache the next morning.  I’ve been reading about sugar sensitivity and, while there are a myriad of reasons why I could have a headache; I wondered it was because I’ve been cutting way back on my sugar intake and cake and ice cream were a bit much.  Perhaps, indulging in dessert isn’t such a great idea after all.

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Is “healthy dessert” an oxymoron?

I’ll Give it a Miss

I tried a new vegan product his week:  Jackfruit.  BBQ Jackfruit, to be precise.

I first heard of jackfruit in Jenn Shagrin’s cookbook, Veganize This!.  Ms. Shagrin had a recipe making a canned tuna substitute out of jackfruit.  I purchased this cookbook when I first made the decision to become a vegan and, as I was already overwhelmed with new ingredients, I did not run out and purchase jackfruit.  I knew H Mart, a lovely Asian market not far from where I live, carried canned as well as fresh jackfruit so it was always in the back of my mind to use but I developed a taste for not-tuna salad made with chickpeas and nori so…years passed…

And then, I saw jackfruit for sale at my local Vitamin Cottage.  Ah!  Jackfruit!  I always wanted to try that, I told myself and purchased the package.  I didn’t have a plan when I brought the jackfruit home so I put it in the freezer and forgot about it until I needed something to go with mashed potatoes and gravy and peas.  In my pre-vegan days, I’d have had pulled pork so BBQ jackfruit seemed like a optimal alternative.

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It Almost Looks Like Pulled Pork…

So…

This was not one of my favorite things.  I liked the BBQ sauce but the texture of the jackfruit definitely takes some getting used to.  The taste reminded me of BBQ artichoke hearts; something I can make a lot cheaper should I be seized by the impulse.  I can’t imagine it will.

My verdict?  It isn’t bad but I don’t see jackfruit becoming a staple in my vegan diet.

Cold Comfort Food

Does every meal I make turn out a celebration of wonderful vegan options?  No!  In fact, I’ve been having a week.  Recipes aren’t turning out or I’m forgetting important ingredients (a cake fiasco post is forthcoming): it’s enough to drive a person back to eating canned chili beans which just so happen to be on the menu tonight with baked potatoes and steamed broccoli.  I need a break.

My week of ruined recipes started with an attempt at making tempeh with potatoes and cabbage.  I didn’t start out wanting to make this.  I first intended to make a tempeh recipe from my Macrobiotic cookbook but then Julianna Hever posted a health benefits of cabbage photo (which I can’t find again) so I decided to try sweet and sour cabbage with tempeh and fried rice-substitute the rice with barley.  Then a blizzard hit and sweet and sour cabbage didn’t sound comfort foody enough so I perused my cookbooks and found the afore mentioned recipe in 1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson.  The dish was supposed to be reminiscent of Hungarian goulash and I thought that sounded like it would bring comfort while I was buried under 2 feet of snow.

I gathered my ingredients, found I didn’t have Hungarian sweet paprika, and subbed Spanish paprika.  I cooked the dish according to instructions and, after 30 minutes, my potatoes hadn’t cooked.  At all.  They remained raw.  What happened?  Did I not cut them small enough?  Had I used some kind of mutant potato that refused to cook?  I stirred my meal and let it cook another ten minutes.  No softening of the potatoes.  Another ten minutes and nothing.  Meanwhile, the carrots and cabbage were cooking into mush.  I threw in the towel, turned off the fire, clapped a lid on the pan to keep the heat in, and made myself a sandwich.

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Why aren’t the potatoes cooking?!

 

I left my meal to cool, hoping the potatoes would soften and found they did so.  Now what?  The meal didn’t taste bad.  There weren’t a ton of flavor layers in it but it wasn’t unpleasant and, while I only had a few dollars of ingredients in it, I hate wasting food.  What could I do with it beyond scraping it out of the pan into the trash?  I wasn’t sure but I decided to save it and come at it another day.  Once I had it in a refrigerator dish, I had the thought that it looked like filling for something.  What, I wasn’t sure but I decided to let that thought mull.

A couple of days later, I had it.  Runzas.  I hadn’t had a Runza in years.  For one, they’re made with ground beef and, two, I don’t think the restaurant exists outside the state of Nebraska. My meal already had cabbage and the tempeh had cooked up soft enough it could almost substitute for ground beef.  All I needed was a dough recipe.

I found one, veganized it, and put my Runzas together.  They didn’t look too bad when I pulled them out of the oven: while the  dough seams had separated in places I didn’t have any filling explosions.  The recipe I’d veganized wanted me to make 16 squares with 3/4 of the dough.  I was using all the dough so decided to separate it in half and make large hand pies with half the dough and smaller hand pies with the other half to see which I preferred.  I chose one of each and was ready to see whether I’d salvaged my tempeh meal or not.

I think I did.  The larger pie had (of course) a large dough to filling ratio.  The dough baked up a bit sweet so, with the larger pie, the filling needed more spice.  If I’d planned on making Runzas from the beginning, I’d have used smoked paprika and cumin.  With the smaller pie, the taste contrast wasn’t as strong.

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Not the best picture, but I was tired 🙂

All in all, I think I did manage to salvage this meal.  I ended up making enough Runzas to freeze for work lunches; something that makes me happy because it saves me money in the long run.  Still, they weren’t amazing so my vegan Runzas still need work.

The dough doesn’t though.  The dough is fabulous.  While I was eating my cabbage stuffed hand pie, I couldn’t help thinking the filling should be dark chocolate, cherry, and a touch of cayenne.  An idea for the next blizzard.

Need a recipe for vegan runza dough?  This the original recipe I found: my veganized version is below.

Vegan Runza Dough

3 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups all-purpose flour

4 1/2 tsp yeast (or 2 packets)

1/3 cup sugar

1 stick Earth Balance

2 flax eggs

2 cups unsweetened coconut milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix together 2 TBSP flax meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill Organic Golden Flax Meal) and 6 TBSP water.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the 2 cups milk and heat to lukewarm (105 degrees).  Pour the liquid into the dry mixture.  Beat with a mixer until a soft dough forms.
  5. Add the flax eggs and the remaining flour.  Mix with a dough hook or knead by hand (great to vent frustration!) until all the flour is incorporated.  The dough will be a bit sticky.
  6. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  7. Divide dough in half and roll out onto a floured surface.  Cut into squares.  Spoon filling onto the center of each square and fold the dough around the filling, pinching the edges to seal.
  8. Place on the cookie sheets and let raise in a warm place for 25 minutes.
  9. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.  The large squares did best at 30 minutes-the smaller ones were done after 25.
  10. Let cool and enjoy.

The Go-To Restaurant

My family seems to find go-to restaurants on the trips we take together.  As none of my family are vegan, the places don’t always have a great deal of vegan options but there’s always something and the staff at these places bend over backwards to help me out.  The go-to restaurant on our Utah trip was Denny’s.  On our Nebraska trip, it was Perkins.

I used to frequent Perkins a great deal when I was in high school.  I remember meeting there with my thespian friends and indulging in Perkins’ baked goods.  I don’t indulge in the baked goods anymore.  Instead, I scour the menu looking for something that doesn’t contain eggs, meat, or dairy.

I didn’t find many but Perkins does serve oatmeal (made with water-I asked) for breakfast and the side menu is fairly extensive.  I had the oatmeal at the Perkins in North Platte: our waiter was willing to leave off the milk and the raisins and brown sugar were served on the side so I could decide how sweet I wanted my breakfast: something I appreciate.

Our next meal at Perkins was dinner in Kearney, NE.  It had been a long drive, we were tired, and our waiter was so nice.  Dr. McDougall would be thrilled with my meal: I ordered the baked potato plain-no butter-the steamed broccoli, and fresh fruit.  I reiterated no butter on the broccoli and and everything arrived butter-less.  The jacket of the potato didn’t look or taste like it had been buttered during the baking process.  I cut the potato into chucks, scooped my broccoli over the top, and added salt and pepper.  It sounds dry but it wasn’t.  The steamed broccoli was still a bit crisp and wonderfully flavorful.  The fresh fruit was a dish of  (a) grape, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon: a sweet finish to my meal.

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Don’t let its looks fool you-it’s tasty.

It’s an odd thing to not add a bean or other vegan “protein” to a meal.  It’s taken me years to be comfortable with the thought that all plants contain protein and that a meal of nothing but vegetables can be both filling and nutritious.  This meal was completely filling and yet not heavy.  I was comfortable but not stuffed when I went to bed.  My experience was so pleasant, I didn’t quibble when my Mother suggested Perkins for breakfast the next morning.

The next morning was Valentine’s Day and Perkins was PACKED.  No worries.  I was prepared.  I had a couple packets of peanut butter (a staple in my vegan survival kits) and planned to order dry toast and the oatmeal.  That is, until the waitress told me they were out of oatmeal.  Did I panic?  I think not.  I had my peanut butter, after all.  But then, my mother suggested I go to the car and get a packet of the instant oatmeal I’d purchased before beginning the road trip.  I felt a little weird about bringing an entire breakfast in for myself but the waitress said if I wanted to go get a packet, she’d be happy to prepare it for me.

Talk about service!  I retrieved a packet of blueberry-chia-quinoa oatmeal and the waitress was true to her word.  She cooked it up and served it in one of Perkins’ square plates.  She even brought me raisins just in case I wanted them.  Did I?! I am ever so grateful to her for being so kind.

My trip to Nebraska was definitely an adventure.  I’m never sure what I’m going to find in restaurants food-wise but I always find the nicest, most accommodating staff.  My thanks to everyone I met during this quick trip and especially the staff at the Kearney Perkins.

 

Nacho Typical Lunch

Do any of my fellow Nebraskans remember those old Romeo’s adds?  Nacho typical menu, nacho typical food…It will take days for me to get that song out of my head.

After a night spent in Norfolk celebrating the graduation, my family and I headed to Omaha to visit with my step-father’s sister and, as always, my family was wondering where can Kate eat?  I’d done some research and had found this helpful website.  My mom and I were reading off options when my stepfather suggested Romeo’s.  That wasn’t on the list but we googled the menu and found that there were a few bean options.  Romeo’s was a go.

Again, I found myself ordering off the side menu.  I ordered Frijoles, Spanish rice, and guacamole from the side dish menu and chips and salsa from the appetizer menu.  My family and I found it strange the chips and salsa weren’t complimentary but that didn’t end up being cause for complaint: we were given tubs of chips; enough my step auntie took some home for her grandsons.  Out of my various tubs of food, I made my own nachos.  A crispy chip, a spoonful of beans, another of rice, top with salsa and a smear of guac and chow down.  They were quite satisfying.  The chips weren’t overly salty or greasy and neither were the beans.  Not bad, though I say it myself.

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Creating Vegan Nachos

The beans were smushed rather than re-fried.  I asked the waitress and she said the beans are made fresh every day.  Since they aren’t canned, I’m fairly certain they don’t contain lard but I can’t be sure and I find there are limits to what I’m comfortable asking.  I can’t be that vegan that grills the waitstaff on how something is cooked, what oils are used, and whether or not something is completely vegan.  Knowing that about myself, I agree with Christina Pirello, Alicia Silverstone, and Sassy Knudson who all say “do the best you can”.  I did ask how the beans were prepared (hence my knowledge that they were pinto beans smushed together) and the waitress did say they would come with cheese on the top but she could ask them to leave it off.  I thanked her graciously, didn’t ask any more questions, and set to enjoying my meal.

I have never encountered unpleasant waitstaff.  People have always been willing to accommodate me and answer my questions and perhaps they wouldn’t mind more in-depth questions.  Perhaps I’ll get over my fear of being a pain.  Perhaps not.  Until then, I’ll do the best I can and enjoy nachos.

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I know it’s blurry: I have to practice taking a picture with one hand while holding food with the other.

 

 

 

Back at Bad Daddy’s

It’s another birthday dinner for my nephew and another visit to Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar.  I visited Bad Daddy’s for the same nephew’s birthday last year and had the veggie burger.  A helpful reader pointed out the burger is not vegan (thanks, vegan community!) so, even if I still weren’t off veggie burgers, the black bean burger at Bad Daddy’s is off the table.  Ha Ha.  I’d have to avoid it anyway, as I’m avoiding fried foods, so what is there for me to eat?  I perused the menu online and saw Bad Daddy’s has a create-your-own salad option.  My entire family thought that sounded good and so we braved the cold and drove to the Southlands’ Mall.

I claimed a tiny pencil and menu and began ticking boxes.  I chuckled a little to find black beans and chickpeas as options for the salad but they were NOT listed under the add-a-protein section.  Five years as a vegan and it still amazes me that no one seems to realize how protein packed beans are.  However, I didn’t have to pay an extra $3.00 to add my black beans so I kept my mouth shut and ticked my box.

With the ability to check seven boxes plus the choice of greens, I thought I could build a filling salad.  The options at the top of the menu are Small and Giant and, while I winced at the thought of paying close to $9.00 for a salad, I figured a giant salad would fill me up and maybe even have some left over to take home.

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The Create-Your-Own Menu

Let me preface my next statements by saying I have no complaints about Bad Daddy’s service.  The staff are friendly and willing to answer questions.  I asked our waitress about the Greek Orange-Oregano Vinaigrette and was told it contains feta cheese.  I thanked her and chose a different dressing.  Midway through our meal, a manager visited our table and asked how everything was.  So, no complaints about the staff.  Everything else about my visit was disappointing.

The first disappointment was the size of the salad.  I paid $9.00 for a bowl of greens.  I had to poke through them in order to find my seven ingredients and I discovered my definition of “giant” and Bad Daddy’s differed.  Second, my mother got the wrong salad.  She’d ordered strawberries and avocado on hers and added chicken (she’s not vegan) none of which she received.  The waitress was apologetic and kind and hurried off to make the order right.  I was tired or I would have realized my order was wrong as well.  As you can see from the above photo, I checked the box next to avocado.  My salad arrived avocado-less.  Like I said, I was tired and halfway through my salad before I noticed and even then couldn’t be sure I’d really ordered it.  Perhaps I’d only meant to and hadn’t checked the box.  My receipt arrived with my salad ingredients listed and, sure enough, I was supposed to have avocado.  Should I return a third time to this restaurant, I’ll make a note of what I ordered, or fill out two menus, so I can be sure I get all my ingredients.

A weird happening was the gnats.  Us salad eaters were all grouped at the end of the table and were forced to wave away these tiny light brown bugs.  I couldn’t see anyone else at the table with a bug problem.  This amused me a bit.  Why? Because I cannot recommend anyone eat at Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar, even if they aren’t vegan.  My nephew and his mother ordered 10oz burgers that were piled with buttermilk dipped and fried bacon.  The whole thing looked like a heart attack on a plate.  The rest of the meal choices weren’t any healthier.  I suppose no one goes to a place named Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar looking for health food but I was horrified and then amused as I saw none of those plates seemed to attract the gnats.  It’s not that I enjoy fighting off gnats but not even minuscule bugs will eat that stuff.

Ultimately, I found this visit disappointing.  And expensive.  My $9.00 salad wasn’t accurate or filling: I had to eat a supplementary dinner when I got home.  Fortunately, it isn’t a favorite with my family and I only have to go when my nephew has his birthday dinner.

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My “giant” salad. $9.00.

Did the salad tick my diet boxes?  Let me see:

Vegan?  Yes.

Macrobiotic?  This is up in the air.  I’m not sure how balanced my salad ingredients were and I was a little leery of the bowl.  Was it aluminum or stainless steel?  I just wanted a glass bowl.  Or to be eating at home.  Or both.

Raw?  Again, yes and no.  Raw greens and unprocessed nuts but the oranges were canned and the beans necessarily cooked.

McDougall Approved?  Yes and No.  The dressing contained oil.  I should have asked for it on the side because my greens got a little slimy.

Vegiterranean?  Again, the oil is a problem.  Instead of the dressing, I should have asked for half a lemon.

My disappointing experience was mostly my fault.  How do people know something is wrong unless I tell them?  Also, I considered rounding out my salad with a side dish order of fresh fruit but the side dish menu I saw online wasn’t printed on the restaurant menu.  I didn’t ask about the fruit so, again, can’t really complain that I left the restaurant hungry.  Maybe I’ll do better next year.  Or, maybe my nephew will choose to go somewhere else.