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!

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

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Forget To Smoke Your Weed

I follow blogger Shared Skillet and find her recipes useful as I too am living in a “mixed” family in that I am the sole vegan amidst omnivores who don’t mind eating strictly vegan meals a surprising amount of the time but who are not interested in giving up meat, eggs, and cheese.  In January, a recipe for Smoked Spinach and Artichoke dip was posted on Shared Skillet’s blog and I read the recipe as just that: smoked spinach and artichoke dip.

How does one smoke spinach? I wondered.  Does the spinach get crispy like when making kale chips?  Wouldn’t that be a weird texture?  Would the spinach stay crispy once the other ingredients were added?  Didn’t I read somewhere that spinach is referred to as ditch weed?  Ha Ha.  Smoked weed.  Especially apropos as I live in Colorado.  And that, my friends, is how a blog post title is born.

In answer to my most pressing question, no; spinach is not synonymous with ditch weed.  According to Wikipedia, wild spinach is wild spinach and feral cannabis is ditch weed.  In answer to all my other questions, I found it helpful to actually read the recipe.  It isn’t the spinach that’s smoked: “smoked” refers to the type of cashew cheese used.

I recently found myself with artichokes I needed to use and remembered the recipe.  I had enough ingredients on hand that, while I didn’t exactly follow the recipe, I didn’t make any weird substitutions.  The only big substitution I made was Heidi Ho brand smoked chia cheese for the Miyoko’s Kitchen  High Sierra Rustic Alpine cheese because Heidi Ho was on sale and Miyoko’s Kitchen wasn’t.  I used a package of frozen spinach instead of fresh and my artichokes were jarred rather than canned.  No worries: I borrowed my parents’ food scale and weighed out 14 oz of artichokes.

The recipe calls for olive oil and I don’t use oil to cook so I wasn’t vigorous when squeezing the water out of the defrosted spinach in hopes it wouldn’t stick when cooking.  The little bit of water and medium low heat was all I needed.

I wish I could say leaving out the olive oil makes this dip a healthy treat but it doesn’t.  A cup of vegan mayo and the entire package of chia cheese made this dip as rich and creamy as any I ever ordered as an appetizer in my pre-vegan days.  I admit that, while it was cooking, I wondered if it was something I was going to be interested in eating…

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Hmmm…doesn’t look very delicieux

…but then the smells hit me and I started salivating.  When all the ingredients had heated through I could hardly wait to spoon some into a dish and set to.  The recipe suggests eating the dip with crusty bread which I would have done if I hadn’t eaten the bread I had with spaghetti earlier in the week.  I did have some Tres Madres purple corn chips-non GMO thank you very much-which I figured would do just as well.

I was not disappointed.  The dip is rich, creamy, and I could taste both the sweet and smoky flavor of the paprika.  My version might be a bit too smoky with the cheese I used as well as including a full cup of nutritional yeast.  I probably could have used a bit less nutritional yeast as the smoked flavor of this dip did hit me in the back of the throat.  I don’t mind strong flavors though and now my only question is; how am I going to avoid eating the entire pan by myself?

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.

Out On The Highway

I am a Great Aunt!

I am not speaking of how wonderful an Aunt I am, though I am fantastic.  The “Great”, in this case, speaks of age.  My niece has had a baby.  Since some cuddling of the newborn was in order, my family and I headed out on another road trip.  We were leaving after I got off work, so dinner along the interstate was going to be a necessity.

Nebraska is undeniably beef country.  There is no shortage of places where one can get a steak or hamburger.  Fortunately for the traveling vegan, Nebraska also has several Asian and Mexican restaurants.  My step-father doesn’t care for Asian food so a Mexican restaurant was the only option.  My mother and I logged on to Trip Advisor and set to searching for an eatery in the Ogallala, NE area.  For this road trip, we decided on Mi Ranchito.

The restaurant is about what you’d expect regarding vegan option.  There are vegetarian fajitas, a guacamole tostada, and bean burritos.  The menu has a little green ‘v’ next to the bean burrito which indicates a vegetarian choice but I don’t know if that means the beans are made without lard.  The burrito does come with cheese and the photo on the menu shows the side beans covered with cheese.  Fortunately, the helpful staff is willing to leave the cheese off.  Same with any sour cream.

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The only complaint I have about my meal is how salty I found the rice.  I can’t say whether or not the rice was inordinately salty or if my focusing on raw foods in my daily diet has made me more sensitive to the salt content in prepared food.  I couldn’t eat it.  I have no complaints about the bean burrito itself.  It was filling, tasty, and void of dairy products.

I have no complaints about the staff.  Everyone was friendly and willing to make changes for me.  I didn’t have to specifically ask for the cheese to be left off the side of beans.  I asked for “no cheese” and no cheese was what I got: both in the burrito on for the side.  The chips were free, crispy,  and not too salty and served to scoop up my side of beans.  My water glass was always full.

If you find yourself driving down I80 in Nebraska, you’re feeling peckish and in need of a vegan meal, try Mi Ranchito.  You can’t miss it.  Just look for the glowing cactus.

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It was too dark for me to get the details of the sign.

 

What’s In Your Survival Kit?

I recently had to go out of town for an overnight visit and my destination was a small town in Colorado I was certain wouldn’t be vegan friendly.  I checked out restaurants in the area and neither the Asian or Mexican food place had very high reviews.  As my only other options were steak and burgers, I put together a survival kit.

This kit was a little different as I knew I would have access to an oven.  This opened up the survival kit to include a frozen Daiya brand pizza.  I knew I could keep it frozen in a cooler until time to cook it and purchasing the pizza meant I wouldn’t be spending money at a restaurant.  The pizza was on sale so it cost me about 6 bucks: I’ve never been able to put a vegan meal together for that while eating out.  I also included my french press: something I don’t travel with very often.  I figured odds of it getting broken during an overnight stay were fairly slim and I knew I would need excellent, fresh coffee in the morning.  A little chocolate almond milk as coffee creamer and I’d be ready to go.

While the french press isn’t a staple in my survival kits, my electric kettle is.  I think it was Sassy at Vegan Coach who first suggested getting one but I don’t remember for certain.  Whoever it was, it was a genius idea.  A traveling kettle lets me make tea, oatmeal, and soup.  Instant oatmeal and containers of soup are integral parts of my survival kits.  I like Dr. McDougall’s brand: just add water and dinner is instant!  I didn’t bring instant oatmeal with me this time.  I had access to a refrigerator as well as an oven so made some overnight oats with oatmeal, chia seeds, dates, cinnamon, and almond milk.  Give it a mix, stick it in the fridge and breakfast is ready the next morning.  I included some pecans and figured my protein needs were covered.  Almost.

I never travel without packets of peanut butter.  Justin’s is one of my go to brands but Wild Friends make some fun combinations and aren’t too expensive.  I’d used all my Wild Friends peanut butter from my last road trip but Justin’s saved the day.  I popped two packets into my carry on in case I needed a protein boost.  I also included a scoop of my Amazing Meal Chocolate Meal Replacement and a container of rice milk so I’d have a smoothie the next day just in case.  Just in case what?  Who knows what can happen in the wilds of Colorado?

I admit it: I may over plan.

I finished off my survival kit with two cookies from the Alternative Baking Company: an oatmeal raisin and lemon poppy seed.  These are fabulous vegan cookies and they travel very well.  I could think of several more things I should take with me; again, just in case, but only had so much space in my carry-on.  I decided my survival was assured and quit packing.

Sure enough, I didn’t need half of what I packed but I like to be prepared for any  eventuality.  I’m certain that, next time, I won’t pack half so much.  😉