Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I spy... a new veggie convenience food for hiking!

This past weekend, while cruising the aisles of my local Meijer store, I did some lollygagging in the "world cuisine" aisle. You see, they just built a Meijer near me, so I'm in love. I haven't had the time to properly browse all the nook-and-crannies yet. But, I spent a few extra moments looking at the ethnic foods.

The Indian Tasty Bite meals caught my eye. Mainly, because the packaging claimed that no refrigeration was needed, it cooked in just five minutes AND they were vegetarian/vegan. Awesome! I was tickled with this because I love to camp and hike. Last year, Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpacking by Christine and Tom Conners, was the bible that my boyfriend and I worshipped to get us through the week in the woods. We have a trip coming up at the end of August, and I've been meaning to flip through the bible again to start getting our meal plans in order. BUT, these Tasty Bite meals intrigued me because if they were good, they also could be used on our trip and could save me a little bit of preparation! So, I bought two meals--"Kashmir Spinach" and "Peas Paneer & Basmati Rice"--to try.

Over the past couple of days, I have tried both meals. And while not extremely stellar, restaurant-quality food, I could definitely see us eating these meals in the woods. They were uber quick to prep. Basically, boil water and then drop the meal pouch into the boiling water for five minutes. Then, carefully slice open the pouch, pour into a bowl (or, if in the woods, you could eat right out of the pouch) and enjoy!

Personally, I found the Kashmir Spinach to be a bit on the light side (I had it for dinner). Nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but if I was eating this out in the woods after a day of hiking, it might leave me hungry. What would've made this dish much better would've been a big hunk of bread for dipping into the spinach, since it had a soupy texture to it.

The Peas Paneer was more filling. I don't think I cooked the rice correctly though. The peas and rice were in two separate pouches, and when I dropped both of them into the pot, the rice pouch was sticking out of the water more than the peas. I think this is why the rice was a little hard... half the package seemed to feel softer. But, with the peas and sauce over it, it really wasn't a big deal.

The packaging claims that technically, you can eat the contents of these meals without heating them up. This would make the Tasty Bite meals ideal for vegetarians to have on hand in case of a power outage or an emergency situation/emergency stash of food.

Overall, a really cool find! I will definitely be buying these meals for camping, etc. Can't wait to try the vegan versions. Meijer had a decent selection, so if you have a store near you, check them out!

Vegan Pancakes, topped with sliced bananas

Catching up...

Just so you think I wasn't only eating waffles... LOL I actually switched it up and made pancakes Sunday morning using this recipe from veggieboards.com. Was a ridiculously easy recipe... and pretty yummy. I topped 'em with maple syrup and a sliced banana. These cakes didn't turn out as light and fluffy as 'regular' pancakes. Not sure if it had anything to do with me subbing the water with soymilk, but otherwise it was yummy. I think the batch made about 9 good-sized pancakes. I ate two and froze the rest for later! :)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Better Waffles

Undeterred from my mess last night, I decided to try again this morning, mainly because I didn't use all the batter yesterday and I hated to waste it.

Last night I tried finding some waffle-making tips online... I guess the main way to tell when the waffles are done is when the steam stops escaping from the iron. So, I took that advice---which meant my waffles this morning cooked longer than the ones last night---and they turned out much better! Yay! Now I definitely have more confidence to keep making waffles and to experiment with new recipes! Woooo!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Waffle Night Disaster :-(

I was so excited today because I scored a waffle iron from my local freecycle group! I love the whole freecycle idea, and if you haven't heard of it, definitely check it out and see if one exists in your area. (As a side note, the New York Times this week had a nice article about freegans, too.) I happily scooped up the waffle iron this morning on my way to work, and all I could think about all day was waffles. LOL I looked up this veg*n waffle recipe on veggieboards.com, came home from work, scrubbed the used waffle iron clean.... and realized that I didn't know the first thing about making waffles. *sigh* How long do I heat up the iron? How long does the batter cook on the griddle? I had no clue because this freecycled item didn't come with instructions.

BUT, I decided to give it a try anyway. Waffles make a good dinner, right? :-p

*Ugh* I should've waited and researched some more. They came out terrible. In several different pieces. I don't think I let them cook long enough... and they kinda broke up into pieces when I checked on them (must've been too soon for checking... but how was I supposed to know?) I haven't posted my failures on here in the past, but i figured I should start. We're all human and we all make mistakes and weird-looking meals sometimes. Although the "waffles" were all mushed up, they still tasted good; yep, that's right, I ate them anyway! I dreamt of waffles all day, remember? I was having them no matter what. I slathered some Smart Balance and maple syrup on the glop and it tasted like waffles... they just didn't look very pretty. :(

So, now I'm a mission to make some perfect waffles... well, as close to perfect as can be... well, ok, I'll settle for anything that resembles a decent-looking waffle, LOL. So unfortunately, this won't be the only waffle post you read from me... look for many more as I master the art of waffle making!!!!! :-D

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Double dose of dining out

It's been an eventful week... which means I've been eating out more than I normally do, and cooking less at home. Rather than blow off my blog, I hope you don't mind that I'm posting veggie meals I've eaten at restaurants.

Last night, my sis and I went downtown Detroit to see alt-country artist Ryan Adams for an intimate gig at the Gem Theater. Just a hop from the theater is the Elwood Bar & Grill, located on the corner of Adams and Brush. It was a nice day, and they had outdoor seating, so we grabbed a table on the patio and perused the menu options. As you can see, they are veggie-friendly!! Yay! I ordered the Veggie Roll-Up, but in retrospect, I should've tried the Portabella "burger," because the wrap wasn't anything special. It wasn't terrible, but I've had better veggie wraps elsewhere. The one just didn't make me go "Mmmmmmmmm...." like I do when I find an exceptional veggie treat in a restaurant. Still, this restaurant is right smack in the middle of Comerica Park and Ford Field, so if you're ever in Detroit for a Tigers or Lions game, this grill does give a veg*n some options.

On a side note, the Ryan Adams show was stellar. This guy is a musical genius in my book. He's an all-time fav and a somewhat 'undiscovered' jewel because he doesn't have the mass following of a huge celebrity. He certainly deserves all the fame and fortune that other, less talented artists (in my opinion), 'stars' receive, but I kinda like the closeness you feel in attending a Ry show. Anyhoo, check him out if you're into really good music. :)

Eating veggie at the M&M Cafe

Had lunch with a colleague of mine this week. We went to this little cafe my boss is always raving about--The M&M Cafe, located on Michigan Ave. in Dearborn, Mich. Cozy lil' place. I ordered the grilled veggies, hummus and rice. Doesn't it look amazing? It tasted just as good as it looks! The meal and a glass of water came to $8.22, tax included. A word of note: the cafe does not accept credit cards. Many kudos to my buddy R for spotting me the cash for lunch. He's a lifesaver!

I apologize that I can't report on the other veggie options available at the cafe; I was so engrossed in conversation with my friend that I didn't analyze the menu like I usually try to. My boss had given me the tip to order this particular dish, so I didn't look at the menu that closely. Never fear, though. I enjoyed this dish a lot, so I'm sure I'll be back there and I promise to give a better review at that time!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lunch via a national historic landmark

I am lucky enough to work within walking distance of a national historic landmark–The Henry Ford Estate in Dearborn, Mich. So, when my lunch date canceled on me today and I found myself in need of a back-up plan, I decided to treat myself to an awesome, if a little pricey, veggie sandwich offered by the Estate’s Pool Restaurant.

The Estate was home to automotive pioneer Henry Ford, and his wife, Clara, for more than 30 years. And what is now the Pool Restaurant had, indeed, once been the room where the Fords’ swimming pool was housed.

Like most restaurants, the Pool’s menu is meat heavy. Yet, they do usually offer at least a couple vegetarian options. My absolute fav is Clara’s Garden Sandwich, which you see pictured above.

The Fords were known for their various gardens, which included a vegetable garden located near one of the Estate’s 300-year-old Bur Oak trees. From the Estate’s Web site:

The garden consisted of a variety of vegetables including rhubarb and asparagus. Also cultivated were raspberries, red and black currants and herbs. Grapes grew on a fence which ran around the entire garden. Used to keep animals such as the deer and raccoon out, a portion of this fence still exists today.

Located due west from the Vegetable Garden is the Compost Storage. Every year in March, truckloads of sod from the near by fields were brought to the estate along with cow manure from Ford Farms. These items were mixed in layers with grass clippings and leaves. Two months later this material was ready for use in the Green House and gardens.

Fruit Orchards such as apple, pear, peach, and other varieties were also positioned in various locations around the estate. Behind the second meadow, to the right of the lake, was an apple and pear orchard. Today’s guest parking lot sits where the Black Cherry Orchard once was located.”

Clara’s Garden Sandwich is chock full of thick veggies–tomato, cucumber, roasted red pepper–paired with field greens and layered between pumpernickel bread with a garlic herb cheese spread. Fair warning, this is not a first-date type of sandwich, because the thickness of it can make it a messy eat. But, it’s still extremely yummy all the same. And, it’s served with a side of seasonal fruit. Menu price is $8.95.

The Estate does modify the menu according to season, so this sandwich isn’t always available. Another option for vegetarians at the Pool would be the “Nuts About Spinach” salad, which I’ve had several times when Clara’s sandwich isn’t offered. The salad features fresh baby spinach leaves topped with almonds, walnuts, soy nuts, fresh melon, strawberries, mandarin oranges and Michigan dried cherries, topped with a raspberry vinaigrette. Menu price $9.95.

Check it out if you’re ever visiting southeast Michigan!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Using leftovers before they go bad...

After such a well-thought out dinner last night, I discovered I had some leftover food in my fridge that was going to go bad if I didn't use it.

So, I sauteed some onion, green pepper and mushroom till soft. Added some seasoning and sunflower seeds. Finally, some rice and black beans leftover from the wonderful taco ring recipe yesterday. Topped it all off with a bit of soy cheese and mmmm. Yum! Easy and quick dinner for one! :)

Veg*n Taco Ring

I made this fabulous Veg*n Taco Ring last night. I found the recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Kitchen Ramblings from a Fairly Odd Tofu Mom. This blog has some of the most amazing recipes I've ever seen. She has a great writing style that is very down-to-earth and easy to follow. And, she posts great photos that always have me saying, "Oooh, I want to try that!"

My omni BF has been working long hours lately; summer is his busy season. He wanted to come over to see me last night before he went out of town for work. I really wanted to make him a yummy homemade meal before he went out of town.

The baked taco ring was a hit with my BF. His words to me were, "This is a keeper." :) He also was very impressed with the presentation. And, quite frankly, so was I. I haven't handled a lot of dough and was a bit worried I hadn't arranged it properly, but it all turned out OK in the end. Next time, I'll have more confidence arranging those triangles!!! ;)

Amazing vegan chocolate chip cookies

Quite simply, these vegan chocolate chip cookies are devine! I saw this recipe posted on Kitchen Ramblings from a Fairly Odd Tofu Mom, and I couldn't wait to try it. In the past, some animal-free sweets have left me less than thrilled, so I'm always on the lookout for tasty animal-friendly treats. These cookies do not disappoint! My omni BF liked them too. "They taste like real cookies," he said. With a roll of my eyes I replied, "That's because they ARE real cookies." LOL He meant these cookies taste just as rich and delicious as cookies made with animal ingredients. ;)

This batch made about four dozen cookies for me. I used a cookie scoop to form and drop them onto my cookie sheets. I used the Enjoy Life brand of chocolate chips, since they were clearly marked as vegan; I found them at Whole Foods. The chips were more like mini-chips, but it worked out fine since my cookie scoop made small-ish cookies. Be sure to give them a taste when they are warm and fresh out of the oven.... mmmm!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Who needs cheese? (Thin crust pizza)

Whipped up this thin crust pizza real quick tonight. Had several sun-dried tomato flatbreads left over from the "salad wraps" dinner I had with my BF yesterday (forgot to take pics... sorry!), so today, I decided to try my very first cheeseless pizza. I took one of the flatbreads, spread some pizza sauce on it and topped it with diced onion, green pepper, red pepper and mushroom. Black olives would've been great but I didn't have any on hand. Sprinkled some nutritional yeast and ground flaxseed meal on top. Misted the entire pizza with some olive oil. Then I popped it into a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Yum! Quick.... easy... and I didn't even really miss the cheese. (And, believe me, I love my cheese.)