Free Food at Fire Bowl

My blogging is finally paying off.  I was recently awarded a free entrée at Fire Bowl Cafe.  Of course, anyone following Fire Bowl Cafe’s Twitter or Facebook accounts were entitled to the same free entrée but, hey, free is free and a girl can dream.

Fire Bowl was promoting its new Lemongrass Green Bean Stir Fry entrée and all I had to do to claim mine was show the Direct Message I received via Twitter to my location’s manager.  Well, I don’t have a smart phone so figuring out how to show the message was a bit difficult.  I finally printed the photo but couldn’t figure out how to get the verbiage so took my black and white photo (I printed it at work) to the restaurant in hopes that mentioning it did indeed come from my Twitter account would be enough.  If not, I’m partial to the Thai Red Curry so the trip wasn’t going to be a total loss.  Fortunately, the manager knew what promotion I was talking about and I got my free entrée.  I may still upgrade my obsolete tech but the need is not yet pressing.

I ordered my stir fry with the fried tofu and added an order of the Soft Thai Summer Rolls because they’re delicious and you can have extra peanut dipping sauce of you ask.  Then, lunch and dinner in hand, (I get enough food for two meals) I headed home.  I was ravenous by the time I walked through my front door so divided my meal neatly in half and tucked in.

And now, to answer Fire Bowl Cafe’s question.  Did I like it?  Answer, yes.  I don’t know if it will take the place of the red curry but I did like it.  I knew I was going to when I popped the lid off the to-go container and inhaled.

The flavors blended well.  I sometimes find meals made with lemongrass a bit bitter but not this entrée: no one flavor overpowered another.  The dish was also perfect spicy, for me anyway.  I like hot food but not when the spice makes it impossible to taste anything else, or too painful to eat at all.  The level of spice in this dish added a pleasant tingle to the tongue while still allowing me to taste the sauce.

The green beans were a bit odd at first.  I tend to cook mine softer at home and these reminded me of asparagus in texture not taste.  After a few bites, I found I liked the crunch in what was otherwise a soft meal: tofu and rice.  Would I eat it again?  Well yes but, again, if I’m heading out there and paying for a meal, I prefer the red curry.  Would I recommend it?  Absolutely.  As a vegan, I wouldn’t eat it with the chicken or beef so can’t contrast those for you but try the tofu: the manager said the dish was the best with the tofu and I found no reason to disagree.

Not only was my entrée free but the to-go container came in handy.  The box for my old colored pencils was beginning to disintegrate and I couldn’t find anything at home to re-purpose.  After a good scrub, the to-go container for my Lemongrass Green Bean Stir Fry was perfect.  Thanks, Fire Bowl Cafe!

Blog pencils
The thoroughly cleaned to-go container is handy for my colored pencils.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s My Party and I’ll Fromage if I Want To

I have friends and family that are interested in my vegan lifestyle but I invariably hear; “I could never go vegan-I could never give up cheese”.  I understand.  Cheese was an important part of my life before becoming a vegan.  The sharper the Cheddar the better, Stilton; Gouda, Gruyére, Brie…yes, I did eat a great deal of cheese.

I haven’t missed cheese; not with brands like Daiya, Follow Your Heart, and Chao slices by Field Roast taking care of most of my needs.  There is no denying the texture is not the same and, excepting Daiya’s Gouda style farmhouse block, I haven’t found a vegan cheese substitute I like sliced and eaten with crackers.  Cheese and crackers along with grapes or a sliced apple is one of my favorite simple snacks and one I was willing to drop the cheese portion if I had to.  And yet, I couldn’t help holding out hope that I’d find a cheese substitute I’d find tasty with a cracker.

It turns out, I don’t have to give up my snack.  My local King Soopers has a vegan/vegetarian section that carries some Tofurky and Field Roast products, some Tofu, some cheese options, and something new.  I found Treeline brand cheese: a non-dairy product made from cashews.  King Soopers carries the Chipotle Serrano Pepper, Scallion, and Herb-Garlic flavors.  I’m always willing to try something new and, hoping it would prove delicious, I purchased a carton of the Scallion and took it home.

I was not disappointed.  Treeline’s product is smooth, creamy, and spreads easily onto a cracker so there’s no worry of breakage.  The flavor is pleasant as well.  Despite being made with cashews it doesn’t take at all like cashews.  Treeline isn’t heavy on the spice either.  I liked the Scallion so much that, when I was ready for another treat, I purchased the Herb-Garlic and didn’t find the flavor too strong.  I am looking forward to trying other vegan substitutes as they come to hand, especially that made by Miyoko’s Kitchen, but I am thrilled to have access to Treeline.  Now, I only have to find a place that offers the other flavors.

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My favorite cracker for cheese and crackers indulgence used to be Triscuit crackers.  Unfortunately, despite releasing new and interesting flavors-including a pumpkin spice-Nabisco has not sought 3rd party non-GMO verification for their Triscuit crackers.  Fortunately, Back to Nature makes a Harvest Whole Wheat Cracker that tastes exactly like a Triscuit but sports the non-GMO butterfly.  My snack life is saved!

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I don’t mind purchasing a product like Treeline as an occasional treat but there’s no denying it’s a bit expensive so I’m scouring my cookbooks for recipes I can try at home.  A few make-at-home cheese recipes will be ideal for the Holiday Season.  Have a favorite?  Let me know.  I’m always up for cheese and crackers and perhaps a little wine.

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

Call Me Mellow Mushroom

I know, Donovan is cringing.

Anywho…

The day my friend flew into town she met up with another friend of hers in the airport.  The two of them were flying in and out on the same flights and it made sense for my mother and I to give both of them a lift to the airport.  The last day of my friend’s visit found us on the 16th Street Mall, meeting up with her friend and looking for a place to eat.

I’d planned on eating at Native Foods.  I knew there was a location on the 16th Street Mall.  What I did not know was that particular location was permanently closed.  The four of us were left standing on the Mall at a loss as to where to go next.  Fortunately, my friend’s friend had heard of Mellow Mushroom, had heard it served good pizza, and was supposed to be good place for vegans and non-vegans alike.  My friend pulled out her trusty smartphone and Google maps told us where to go.

The Mellow Mushroom suggestion saved the day.  There was chicken wings, pizza, and decadent desserts for the non-vegans and more than one option for me.  Tofu and Tempeh were both offered on the menu; something that’s so rare I had to take a photograph, although I had a hard time with the overhead lights.  🙂

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I’ll be going back to try both the Tofu and the Tempeh

I didn’t think I was hungry enough to do justice to either of those meals and ordered the pita sandwiches instead.  Mellow Mushroom gives good value for a dollar: I expected one pita sandwich and ended up with two.  I tried, I really did, but couldn’t eat them both.

I can’t say enough good things about Mellow Mushroom.  My sandwiches were perfect.  The hummus was creamy and was a perfect balance of tahini, garlic, and chickpeas.  No one ingredient overpowered another.  It wasn’t too rich nor too salty nor mixed with any exotic ingredient.  Just good, plain, hummus.  The lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers were fresh, crisp, and juicy, and the sprouts tasted clean.  Anyone who has had bad sprouts knows what I’m talking about.  I’ve had experiences where the sprouts taste like they haven’t been washed or else they’ve been washed but weren’t thoroughly rinsed.  Both are disgusting.

Not my experience at Mellow Mushroom.  As we were driving directly to the airport, I didn’t take my leftovers with me and it was difficult to walk away from the food.  I’ve got to go back to Mellow Mushroom and try the other vegan options, but I have a feeling I’ll be ordering the hummus pita sandwiches again.

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Another Restaurant Makes the Favorite List

 

There Will Be Beans

My friend’s visit from Wyoming was followed by another friend’s visit from Nebraska.  She has the book where she can collect stamps from all the National Parks and so we decided on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.  We checked out Bear Lake and then, having never seen a waterfall before, my friend wanted to do the hike to Alberta Falls.  A hiking lover, I was game.

My hiking pace isn’t too fast and my friend was having some trouble with the lack of air in Colorado so the hike I anticipated taking an hour took two.  Even with our car snacks, we were starving after our visit to the Falls.  My family is used to my vegan lifestyle by now and Mexican Restaurants top the list of food choices.  My Mom had seen a restaurant when we’d first entered Estes Park and as my non-vegan friend said she was okay with cheesy-beany, we went in search and found Peppers.

Peppers is a bit difficult to get into: my family and I had to drive into the Safeway parking lot and come at it from the other side.  The restaurant looks unassuming and I didn’t know what to expect.  Fast food can be iffy but I knew that, at least, I would find beans.

Peppers was a pleasant surprise.  If you’ve been in a Qdoba or Chipotle, you’ll be familiar with the set-up.  There’s a bar filled with fresh ingredients and you can go down the line and choose what you want.  I ordered the Veggie Burrito from the menu and asked for the cheese and sour cream to be left off.  Peppers was the first restaurant that allowed me to have an extra at no charge because I was leaving off cheese and sour cream.  I chose the mango salsa and I highly recommend it.

My burrito was so large it had to be double wrapped and eaten with a knife and fork.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about sweet potato in my burrito but Peppers has made me a convert.  The sweet is off set with the slightly smoky rice and spicy salsa.  I could choose very hot, medium hot, or mild and medium hot was plenty for me.

I ordered chips and salsa as well, having no idea the burrito was going to be as large as it was.  The chips were lightly salted and the order came with two choices of salsa.  I chose another small tub of the medium hot and thought I’d try the corn salsa.  The corn was sweet and a perfect texture: no mushy salsa at Peppers.

 

I was able to recommend Peppers as I left the restaurant.  A family was crossing the parking lot as mine left and they called to us, asking what we thought.  I tell you the same thing I told them: Peppers is excellent.  If you find yourself in Estes Park, CO, stop in.  If you try the margaritas, let me know what you think.

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I liked the peacock wall hanging

 

The Yak and the Yeti

My family and I have a tradition of going out to dinner for birthdays.  When mine rolled around, I wanted to try The Yak and the Yeti  and my family agreed to go.  Then, the week of  my birthday, I broke a tooth and my birthday dinner was postponed.

I’ll spare you a description of my howls of agony, stemming both from the torment of the dentist’s chair as well as the cost of a crown, and leave you with a piece of advice:  do not assume that, because an olive has been stuffed with a pepper and almond, that its pit has been removed.  Such an assumption will lead you into error.  An expensive error.  Especially if you have an encounter with an un-popped corn kernel the next day.  But I digress.

At last, tonight, my family and I finally made our visit.  I perused the menu before going and was pleased to see this restaurant strives to be vegan friendly.  There are notes next to items on the menu that say they can be made vegan on request.  Forewarned and forearmed, we headed off.

The Yak and the Yeti is, by far, the most vegan friendly non-vegan restaurant I’ve been to in Colorado.  I didn’t have to ask about menu items.  The restaurant has a page in the menu called “The Yak and the Yeti Vegan Items” so there’s no need to search out what’s vegetarian/vegan in the midst of all the chicken and fish items.  Once I’d told the waitress I was vegan, any information I needed was forthcoming.  I ordered a Vegetable Biryani and was asked if the dates and nuts were a problem.  I didn’t immediately understand and said I didn’t have a problem with nuts and the waitress then explained to me that the topping was cooked in butter.  I thanked her and she graciously left them off.

Word of my veganism spread because, when a second waitress brought papadams and sauces, she already knew and told me which sauces contained dairy and which did not.  My family were fond of the yogurt sauce and mint chutney but I didn’t feel like I was missing out: the tamarind sauce is perfectly sweet/tart.  No vegan could ask for anything more, except maybe the spicy tomato sauce.

Sauce
Papadam Dipping Sauces

Fresh naan was brought to the table and my mother tucked in.  She’d chosen the buffet so had her food before my step-father and me and only ran into one option that was too spicy for her palate.  Spice is another way the staff of The Yak and Yeti strive to make their food available for everyone.  When placing the order, I got to decide how spicy I wanted my food.  The options are very mild, mild, medium, hot, very hot, and Indian hot.  I chose medium and it was perfect.

My Biryani had complex layers of flavor.  I expected saffron and curry but it was flavored with anise and pepper as well.  The spice doesn’t burn the tongue; rather it’s a heat that sneaks up.  I thought it was perfect but will admit I got rather flushed.  It’s the bane of very pale skinned people who love spicy food. 🙂  I don’t think I could go hotter: I’d probably explode.

Biryani
My Biryani

I ordered a vegan chai to accompany my food and have to say it was the best chai I’ve ever had.  I was asked if I wanted it made with coconut milk or soy.  I chose coconut milk and indulged in a drink so rich it served as dessert.

I can’t say enough good things about The Yak and the Yeti.  My entire family enjoyed everything they sampled and there are several other veg options I want to try.  The staff is incredibly friendly, helpful, and ready with answers before the questions are asked.

We were invited to tour the party rooms.  The large room was being set up for a party and I wanted to explore but felt a little odd touring someone else’s party so just poked around the edges.  If you are looking for a place to hold an event, consider The Yak and the Yeti.  The chandeliers in the main room are spectacular.  I’ll plan to go a little earlier next time and pay more attention to the party spaces.  I didn’t make it up to the upstairs room and am going to have to indulge my curiosity.

The Yak and the Yeti is going on my family’s favorite restaurant list.  We’re not big drinkers but the restaurant has its own line of craft beers made at the Arvada location.  One beer won’t hurt and I’ll bet it would go well with vegetable samosas.  We’ll definitely be going again.

 

What if I Don’t Like Mushrooms?

While I do think restaurants are improving, eating out as a vegan is still fraught with difficulty especially if you, like me, dislike mushrooms.  I’ve tried very hard to like mushrooms and have eaten various types cooked, raw, grilled, etc. and have come to the conclusion I dislike mushrooms and that fact is never going to change.  Since most vegetarian options at a restaurant are mushroom based, I find I’m putting a meal together from the side dishes even when there’s an option that can be easily veganized.

For example, Hacienda Colorado has few vegetarian options beyond their portobello fajitas.  If you like thick slices of portobello mushrooms, then these are for you.  If not, the mere attempt of eating them will make you green with…well let’s just say it won’t be envy.

I ran into the same problem at a recent on-the-fly stop at On the Border.  The vegetarian options was a spinach and mushroom enchilada; I only had to order it without the cheese.  Fortunately, I was able to purchase rice, black beans, grilled veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, and onions), and slices of avocado and make my own vegan bowl.  Doing so also made my meal a bit cheaper than ordering off the regular menu: a bonus, in my opinion.

My family’s favorite place to eat out is 3 Margaritas, not to be confused with Tres Margaritas.  I’ve blogged about 3 Margaritas before and my favorite item at this restaurant is the Garden Burrito.  It comes stuffed with grilled veggies, rice, whole beans, and yes, mushrooms; but I can pick those out.  They don’t go to waste: my mother loves mushrooms so I push them to the edge of my plate and she eats them.  The burrito is covered with fresh lettuce, cabbage, tomato, and a meatless chili sauce.  No sour cream and no cheese.  Oh, 3 Margaritas offers veggie enchiladas as well: the carrot puree is tasty but the enchiladas are filled with-you guessed it-mushrooms.  Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with the Garden Burrito and the margaritas aren’t bad either.

I wish I could tell you how the veggies and rice in the Garden Burrito are made.  Chicken stock?  Grilled with butter?  I sent a request for information through the contact form on the website but, as I never received a reply, I can’t be sure the Garden Burrito is unequivocally vegan.  I put it out to the vegan community-does anyone know?  If so, share with the rest of us!

Until then, I do the best I can when eating out and the Garden Burrito is both tasty and filling.  I usually make two meals out of it.  If you give it a try, let me know what you think.

A Special Cake for that Special Occasion

I made my step-father the most amazing cake for Fathers’ Day.  I prefer to make cakes rather than buy them as grocery store cakes are one, not vegan; and two, made with white sugar.  I swear the longer I don’t eat white sugar the more sensitive to it I become.  I can hardly tolerate desserts made with it any more and am shocked at how sweet I used to like my treats.  I prefer to make my own white sugar free vegan treats.

Fortunately, my step-father loves of vegan treats.  He’s been heard to say the vegan desserts are the best and he gets a light in his eye when I suggest baking a cake.  He requested chocolate for Fathers’ Day so I hauled out my go-to baking book.  It’s The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek.  Ms. Holechek doesn’t exaggerate: these are the best baked goods I’ve ever tasted.  She has a recipe for The Blackest Forest Cake that I made before and my notes say it’s amazing.  I took a look and thought I’d make it again but the contents of my cupboard convinced me to try an experiment.  Twenty minutes of prep and forty minutes of baking later I ended up with something I’m going to call Kate’s Double Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake.  I’ll have to come up with something shorter but that works for now.

I have had past experiments tank.  My baked goods usually turn out okay although I’ve had a few I wouldn’t make again and, though the cake layers smelled good while baking, I doubted the wisdom of attempting an experiment on a holiday.  I’d committed and it was chocolate after all…how bad could it be?

The answer?  Absolutely fabulous.  This cake is incredible.  I added chocolate chips to the batter just before baking and they add a fun contrasting texture to a rich, moist cake.  I put a layer of strawberry fruit filling on top of the fudge frosting between the layers, then topped the cake with the rest of the strawberries.

I did cheat here: I used canned strawberry pie filling rather than making my own fruit filling.  If I hadn’t decided on this recipe on the fly I would have made my own fruit filling/topping as I think it would have resulted in a stronger strawberry flavor.  You can’t beat fresh, right?  Not that I’m complaining: this cake is amazing.  I’m surprised at how good it is.  The secret might be the coconut sugar.

I use coconut sugar in most of my recipes.  It can add a toffee-like flavor to cookies and I believe that, because it isn’t overpoweringly sweet like white sugar, it lets the chocolate shine in this cake.  Coconut sugar can be a bit expensive but I find deals on Amazon.com or Vitacost.

Want to try it?  The recipe is below.  These ingredients aren’t the cheapest but are well worth using for a special treat.  Try it.  Make changes.  If your changes are tasty, let me know!

Kate’s Double Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, sifted

3/4 cup Hungarian High Altitude Flour (if you don’t have to worry about altitude, use all-purpose flour), sifted

1 1/2 cups organic coconut sugar

3/4 cup organic cacao powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp Himalayan pink salt

1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP plain non-dairy yogurt

1 cup unsweetened almond/coconut blend milk

1/2 cup oil

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup boiling water

2 cups non-dairy chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans and then line the bottoms with wax paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix yogurt, milk, oil, and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and thoroughly mix.  Add boiling water and mix to combine.  Fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Divide the batter between the two pans.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 to 45 minutes.  Cook cake in pans 20 minutes and then run a thin knife around edges and turn onto a cooking rack to cool completely.  Note: I find baked goods usually take 10 to 15 minutes longer than the original recipe directs.  I baked for 30 minutes and then checked every five until the cakes were done.
  4. Make fudge frosting.

Fudge Frosting

2/3 cup chocolate chips

6 TBSP Earth Balance vegan margarine

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/8 tsp salt

6 TBSP milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine chocolate chips and margarine in a saucepan and whisk over low heat until completely melted.  Resist the urge to dip fruit in the melted chocolate and scrape into a mixing bowl.  Add the sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla.  Put frosting in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set before using.

Build the cake.  Put the bottom layer on the cake plate and cover the top with a layer of fudge frosting and 1/3 of the strawberry filling.  Place the second layer on the top.  Frost cake with remaining icing and top with remaining fruit.  Carefully cover cake and put in refrigerator until ready to eat.  Store cake covered in refrigerator.

Tip:  Put the layers on separate cooling racks.  It will be much easier to turn them out on the cake plate.

If you have the time and a star tip for cake decorating, run a border around the bottom and top of the cake.  It will frame the fruit topping and keep it from running off the sides of the cake.  Here’s an article on making your own piping bag.

 

 

Lunching at Watercourse

I finally made it downtown to Watercourse Foods.  Another co-worker and I discovered we were both vegan and made plans to meet for a late lunch at the restaurant.  I was excited to go for two reasons: I like getting to know new people so was interested in learning more about my new friend and I had no idea what it would be like to peruse a fully vegan menu.

Watercourse Foods is NOT easy to get to, in my opinion.  The restaurant is located on 17th Ave in the North Capital Hill area of Denver.  I don’t like driving too far and, since I had no idea what the parking situation would be like, I decided to take the train.  After 40 minutes, I disembarked at 16th and California, shuttled to the Civic Center, and hiked six or so blocks to the restaurant.  By the time I arrived, I was desperate for water and food.

My friend suggested eating outside and, as it was a gorgeous day and I could hide my paleness under an awning, I agreed.  A friendly waiter showed us to the table, blessed water in hand, and then gave me my first all-vegan menu.

Menu
Every Entree is Vegan!

 

What to do?  Where to start?  All of my pre-vegan favorites were on the menu: Fish and Chips (made with tofu), Macaroni and Cheese…I felt odd to not be attempting to string a meal together from the side dish menu.  I dithered between choices but finally settled on the Carbonara.  My friend chose the Fish and Chips and we got to know each other while waiting for our food.  We’ve both been vegan about the same amount of time but she was a vegetarian for years before that:  we both chuckled over the difficulty in giving up cheese.  It was nice to talk comfortably with another vegan and my new friend gave me an entire list of places that offered vegan menus.  I’ll have to take myself out and try them all.

I’d read some mixed reviews about Watercourse Foods but I didn’t find the wait for our food to be too long.  My new friend had never tried the Carbonara and I’d never been to the restaurant so, when our food arrived, we each shared samples of our food and dug in.

Carbonara
All I can say is, “yum”.

I have no complaints about the food either.  My Carbonara contained colorful green peas, juicy tomatoes, and was wonderfully flavorful:  vegan sausage and a rich savory sauce coated penne pasta and the crumbling of crispy vegan bacon over the top added a nice texture contrast.  It was filling as well: my hike to the restaurant had left me starving and I was only able to eat half.  My sample of the Fish and Chips was surprising.  I would never have breaded and fried a tofu cutlet on my own but the texture was so pleasant I’m definitely going to try it.  The sauce served with the ‘fish’ was odd: it had more of a tang than I expected but it wasn’t unpleasant.  The sauce was thin and light with a strong dill taste: a nice complement to the fried ‘fish’.  I bet I can get my non-vegan Mom to try it.

I was very pleased with the food, service, and restaurant itself.  Five Stars all the way around.  If I do have any negative comment to make, it’s price.  My family has a joke that one should always beware when prices aren’t noted on the menu.  I found that to be true.  My Carbonara set me back $14.00.  The Kombucha I ordered cost $4.50 and my friend and I split a $5.75 cookie.  (Splurge on the cookie.  The one we shared tasted like a soft-baked Samoa and, since it was made with sweet potato, wasn’t really a bad choice for dessert.)  I live on a pretty strict budget and the cost of my meal made me choke.  If the location wasn’t prohibitive, the cost definitely would be.  It’s a place kept for special occasions or, split a meal with a friend.  The portions are large enough two could eat and save a bit: then the cookie won’t be such a splurge!

I plan on visiting Watercourse Foods again.  Maybe I can talk my family into trying an all-vegan restaurant.  I’ll have to both save and rest up from this visit but I think that Orange Teriyaki Bowl is calling my name…

 

 

The First Salad of Summer

I recently attended an event catered by a local BBQ joint.  The restaurant was going to include BBQ tofu and the side dishes were going to be potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans, and rolls.  I made a wild guess and figured that, since Just Mayo and Veganaise aren’t mainstream yet, none of the sides would be vegan.  I suppose I could have just eaten the tofu and a roll but I happen to like macaroni salad and so I made my own.

The macaroni salad I make is the best I’ve ever eaten.  I don’t remember where the original recipe came from: I have a recipe card that states “Southern Macaroni Salad” but I’ve had it for years and don’t remember from where I copied the recipe.  I’ve improved on it and veganized it since the first time I’ve made it and the salad is a staple during the summer months.  It goes with everything, travels well to potlucks, and is so popular it never stays around long.

Pasta
It looks simple but it’s sooooo tasty

 

I wasn’t the only vegan at this event and I was stoked to share my salad but a little nervous as well.  I was throwing it together at the last minute and didn’t have elbow macaroni.  It was late and, as I didn’t want to make a special trip to the grocery store, I subbed penne pasta.  I cooked the pasta just until it was al dente, thinking it would soften in the salad and I didn’t want it getting soggy.  It didn’t soften and was still a bit chewy in the morning.  Not inedible but definitely chewy.  I was hesitant about offering something less than perfect to another person but my worry was for naught.  My new vegan friend liked the salad and, in fact, asked for the recipe.

Here it it:

Kate’s Always Popular Macaroni Salad

4 cups uncooked macaroni noodles

1 cup vegan mayo ( I like Just Mayo)

1/3 cup sugar

2 TBSP pomegranate infused vinegar*

1/4 cup dijon mustard

2 tsp salt and pepper

2 stalks celery, finely diced

1 small-medium shallot, finely diced

1 carrot, grated

  1.  Bring the pasta water to boil and cook the macaroni noodles according to package directions-about 8 minutes or until al dente.  Rinse, drain, and set aside.
  2. Whisk the vegan mayo, sugar, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Add celery and shallot.
  3. Add the carrot and mix well.  Add the drained macaroni and combine.  Chill overnight.

*You can use any kind of vinegar but I highly recommend getting pomegranate infused vinegar.  I use it in this recipe and it’s amazing in a marble cake I make.  There’s something about the taste of it that makes this salad addictive.  The salad is still good but it just isn’t the same with another kind of vinegar.  If you can find it, get the pomegranate vinegar.  You won’t be sorry.

Vinegar
My not so secret ingredient. It’s wonderful and not too expensive.