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.

 

 

 

 

 

Junketing In Cattle Country

I recently took another road trip to Nebraska.  I celebrated meeting my new great nieces and my great nephew as well as my sister’s birthday over Easter weekend.  I was looking forward to spending time with my family but road trips always involve a frenetic shopping trip to throw together a vegan survival kit and concern over where/what I’m going to eat during vacation.

It turns out I get a little carried away when it comes to vegan survival kits.  I pack for a road trip like I’m worried my family and I will end up in the wilderness somewhere and only my bag of goodies will prevent us from having to eat each other.  This road trip was no exception.  I filled a re-usable shopping bag with vegan options to take with and ended up using a container of chocolate almond milk and two packets of peanut butter.  After more than one road trip under my belt, I’m determined that-next time-I’ll remember moderation is key.

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Chocolate Almond Milk for my coffee and Peanut Butter-Survival Kit Staples

Bosselman’s in Big Springs is regular stop for us when we head into Nebraska.  It’s typical truck stop fare and the salad bar can be a little problematic.  If interested, you can read about a previous stop here.  The night of this particular stop was chilly and a plate of raw veggies didn’t sound appetizing.  A perusal of the menu revealed spaghetti and meatballs.  I questioned our waitress about vegetable side dishes and, while there aren’t any, the waitress was more than willing to scavenge some broccoli from the salad bar, ask the cook to steam it, and toss it with my spaghetti and no meatballs.  The sauce itself didn’t contain meat so I figure I did pretty well.

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Not bad! Avoid the jar of Parmesan and dinner is served.

Breakfasts on our road trip were partaken of at Perkins.  It’s another place where it’s difficult to be vegan but a solid meal can be put together from the side dish menu.  Oatmeal is only served until 11am so, as we were running a bit late heading toward my sister’s place, I chose fried potatoes (cooked in olive oil-I asked the waitress and she checked with the kitchen 🙂 ), fresh fruit and a dry English muffin with one of my peanut butter packets.

The oatmeal isn’t bad.  I had it for breakfast the day we headed home and, if you ever stop at Perkins, the oatmeal is made with water-not milk.

Perkins Blog

I was able to cook at my sister’s for the remainder of our trip but there was going to be a stop on our way back home.  This ended up being my favorite and the most vegan friendly stop on our trip.  Ruby Tuesday has recently revamped their salad bar and my family and I stopped at the location in North Platte.  The garden bar is a bit pricey-$9.99-and the addition of an avocado is $2.00.  I was tempted but I didn’t need the avocado.  The garden bar is a vegan smorgasbord.  Mixed greens, fresh vegetables, seeds, beans, non-dairy vinaigrette…everything a vegan needs to be happy and healthy.  Considering the freshness of the ingredients and the myriad options, the price didn’t seem stiff at all.

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Why make a second trip when I can just pile my plate really really high?

 

Nebraska is definitely a state where beef is king and yet, it is possible to keep to a vegan diet without feeling deprived.  I look forward to the next one, especially with four adorable babies to visit.

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?

I Had A Craving…

I’ve had some strange cravings since becoming vegan.  Strange for me, anyway.  I never thought I’d have a taste for tofu or seitan.  Such cravings have happened but, more often than not, I want Asian food.  Recently, I wanted spring rolls but not the crispy ones; the big ones with noodles and veggies shoved inside rice paper and served with peanut sauce.  I can make a tasty peanut sauce but I haven’t yet perfected the art of wrapping those rolls.  Instead of attempting to make them myself, I took to the internet and began searching for a restaurant in my area that served them.

I found several restaurants that served them but none I could order.  I found rolls that contained shrimp, some that contained chicken, some that contained both shrimp and chicken.  The only vegetarian ones I found were at a Thai place I frequent but even those contained eggs.  The only place I found that served meat and egg free soft Thai rolls was Fire Bowl Cafe.  Fire Bowl isn’t a place that convenient for me to get to but, I had a craving, and I made the time.  I made a meal of it and created my own bowl with brown rice, vegetables, tofu, and Thai Red Curry sauce.  My cost came in at just over ten dollars and I received enough food to make two meals.

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Tofu Bowl with Thai Red Curry Sauce

The rolls were everything I wanted-I got extra peanut dipping sauce-but the basil in them was pungent.

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Fire Bowl Cafe’s Thai Rolls with Peanut Sauce

I’ve got to pick up rice papers from my local grocery and learn to make the rolls myself.  Until then, I did find that Vitamin Cottage sells the same soft Thai rolls; completely vegan.  They come with plum sauce instead of peanut sauce but I’m not opposed to trying them.  They’ll do in a pinch until I master the recipe for Vietnamese Salad Wraps I found in my Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats From Around the World cookbook by Allyson Kramer.  That, and master the rolling of the rice papers.

 

Feeling The Modern Love

While I was across state lines being introduced to the newest member of our family, I was able to stay with a woman I’ve been friends with for decades.  Not only did she offer up her guestroom but in true long-term friend fashion, made reservations for us at Modern Love.  This gesture was especially loving as my friend is not a vegan and regards some of the vegan substitutions *cough seitan cough* with a wary eye.  It was a perfect evening for me: I got to go to a completely vegan restaurant and my friend drove me.  Good food and no effort on my part other than hauling myself into the passenger seat.

I am still unused to going to vegan restaurants and tend to get overwhelmed when I can order anything on the menu.  I wanted Mac n’ Shews, Seitan Buffalo Wings, the Hummus Plate-a little of everything-but could neither afford nor eat that much.  My friend had one of her work friends join us and the three of us decided to get different things and sample.  I ordered the Seitan Buffalo Wings and Tortilla Soup as my contributions to the feeding frenzy.

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I Can Have Whatever I Want!

My fellow diners ordered the Roasted Garlic Hummus and the Citrus Beet Salad.  An extremely nice Server brought all of our food at the same time and the three of us tucked in.

Get the Hummus plate.  Ours came with rosemary flatbread that was utterly incredible.  If we’d eaten nothing else, we’d have been satisfied.  Fortunately, everything else was just as tasty.

I’d never had Seitan Wings before.  Seitan is something I’ve had to develop a taste for although taste isn’t the problem; it’s texture.  I’ve tried making my own seitan twice and it’s been inedible both times.  I’ve yet to get the texture right.  Modern Love does not have that problem: their wings were perfectly firm and the flavor just right.  With the seitan triangles breaded and coated in spicy buffalo sauce…well, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Except the Tortilla Soup.  I should have thought ahead and not purchased two spicy items but I’m not complaining.  The soup was a great hit, even with my skeptical non-vegan friend.  I had a great deal of soup left over-the Seitan Wings were filling enough-and I put the leftovers in my friend’s fridge, confident she’d enjoy them.

We all three were stuffed after sampling each other’s meals and yet it was a first visit to Modern Love for each of us; how could we refuse dessert?  We three talked it over and thought we’d have enough room if we split something.  We decided on the ice cream sundae.

Modern Love’s ice cream sundae is a scoop of vanilla dairy free ice cream, a scoop of chocolate, salted maple caramel, candied peanuts, coconut whip, and a cherry.  Due to allergies at the table, we left off the coconut whip but didn’t miss it.  Dessert at Modern Love is well worth indulging in.

I don’t often make it back to Omaha, NE but Modern Love is definitely one of my go to places for future visits.  There are many more scrumptious sounding items on the menu I have got to try.

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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 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.