Sunday, September 30, 2007

Can you spot the vegetarian chili?

Well I did it! :-D

I raised awareness of yummy vegetarian food by placing SECOND in the chili cookoff hosted by my fiance's family Saturday evening. Wooooo! Out of seven entries, I placed second. Not too shabby!

I certainly wasn't expecting to place, especially since all the tasters would be omnis. But, I asked his mom not to announce that the batch I made was vegetarian. I wanted people to try my chili with open minds and tastebuds... not turn their noses up to a veggie chili. I felt if they knew it was veg*n, it would automatically taste 'different' to them. In fact, later that evening after the contest concluded, there were some latercomers who missed out on the top-choice chili because that part of the family had already left. When my fiance's mom indicated that my chili was still there and it was vegetarian, it was met with a less than enthusiastic response.

"Sorry, I need my meat... I'm a carnivore."

Yeah, whatever. Nevermind that my chili won a ribbon that evening, so it must be halfway decent. Go ahead and eat a less-than-stellar chili just because it has meat in it. To each their own, I guess.

And so I continue my quest to educate people that vegetarian food can be yummy and appealing and absolutely wonderful!

P.S.--I'm not sure which chili is mine in the photo. LOL It was made with Italian soy sausage so it pretty much looked like all the meat-based ones.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Seva Vegetarian Restaurant - Ann Arbor, Mich.

Last weekend, I finally got to dine at Seva, a vegetarian restaurant in Ann Arbor, Mich. that I have heard so much about but haven't had the chance to experience yet. All the entrees on the menu are vegetarian and many are vegan, or can be made vegan by request.

The restaurant has outdoor seating and since it was such a nice day, that's where we sat. I couldn't resist ordering the black beans and sweet potato enchiladas. I thought it was an interesting combination, black beans and sweet potatoes. I skipped the side of sour cream and poured the salsa over it. Deeelish! It tasted very fresh, which I liked a lot. It also was listed under the special entrees, so it may not be available year-round. My three dining companions--all omnivores--enjoyed their dishes too. My sister got a peanut stir-fry type dish which was vegan. Her hubby ordered the same thing as I, and my fiance ordered a pasta dish with soy sausage mixed in. Everyone liked their food! I was so worried we'd go to an exclusively vegetarian restaurant and my companions would think the food was horrible.

In fact, my fiance enjoyed it so much we went BACK to Seva the following evening because we had another show in the area that night, too. (I tend to think my fiance really enjoyed the pitcher of white sangria we had, LOL, and wanted a repeat.) I was surprised. I thought he'd want to eat someplace else, where he could have meat. But he wanted to go back to Seva. :) This time, I ordered a vegan Thai stir-fry and he ordered a ravioli dish. I thought my stir-fry was just so-so. There was nothing in the taste of it that wowed me. It tasted like something I could've thrown together in my home kitchen without a cookbook, you know? And, it was overpriced in my opinion. The enchiladas I had the previous night were more delicious and cheaper. I think my fiance got the better deal the second night. His pasta, which was filled with spinach and topped with a slightly spicy red sauce, was yummy.

So, Seva was enjoyable but because of the drive (45 minutes from my house) I don't think I'll be going there that often. But, I think it was definitely worth the effort to check it out, but could be hit-or-miss depending on what dish is ordered.


On another note--wish me luck this weekend. I'll be away from my computer for a bit because my fiance's family is hosting a chili cookoff at their lake house this weekend. I'll be heading there after work this evening, with my vegetarian chili in tow. I don't expect to be crowned with the top honors, especially since everyone there will be omnis, but I think it will be a lot of fun and hopefully demonstrate to omnis that vegetarian food can be just as tasty, if not more tasty, than meat. ;)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

BBQ Tempeh... Fried Tofu and Fries

I'm playing catch-up here with this post. Although I haven't been blogging much the past week, I have been taking pics of things to share with everyone when I do have the chance to sit down and write... like tonight. ;)

These meals are from a couple of weekends ago. My parents had my fiance and I over for dinner to celebrate our engagement. Everyone else had steaks... I had BBQ tempeh! I made the delicious BBQ sauce found in Vegan with a Vengeance because it is truly divine in my opinion. I thought the tempeh was too dry as pictured, so I poured some of the extra BBQ sauce over the tempeh after the photo was taken.

Because there was so much BBQ sauce left over--and I couldn't possibly waste sauce that good--the following day for lunch, my honey and I had fried tofu chunks with homemade fries... with the BBQ sauce for dipping! I used this recipe from to bread the tofu before frying it up. Nothing fancy but quite tasty. It hit the spot as a quick lunch that day. :)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Apologies for lack of posts

I'm sorry I haven't posted anything new this week; it's been an extremely busy week ... mainly trying to narrow down a wedding date/location. We're hoping to tie the knot around this time next year, so there's a bit of urgency in finalizing the date/location details so we'll have some choice before other couples snatch 'em up! LOL

So, my apologies for the lack of posts, but I do have many things to share with you and I hope to play catch up next week!

For instance, tonight we're making a trip to Ann Arbor, Mich. for a show and we're planning to eat at Seva, which is a vegetarian restaurant there. I can't wait! I've heard so much about it but haven't taken the 30-45 min. drive it takes to get there yet. Tonight is perfect though, so I hope to share my experience with you soon!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tomato Couscous, Freezer Bag Cooking style

Tomato Couscous turned out to be my favorite new freezer bag cooking recipe of the trip. (My BF's favorite new recipe was the Ramen Salad I featured yesterday.) We didn't eat it on the trail that day because the trails we chose to do--the East and West River trails along the Presque Isle River--were within walking distance of our campground and the hike itself was pretty short, so it didn't really require much refueling on the trail. A quick trail mix snack did that trick. So, we waited until we returned to camp and then boiled water for a hot afternoon lunch (although this dish could be made with cool water, too). The sun-dried tomatoes and nuts were a perfect compliment to the Fantastic Foods whole wheat couscous I used for the recipe, which is from the Freezer Bag Cooking book.

Tomato Couscous Salad - serves 1

1/4 c. couscous
3 tbsp. finely chopped toasted almonds
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp. granulated garlic
2 tbsp. finely diced sun-dried tomatoes

Combine all the dry ingredients in a sturdy plastic freezer bag. On the trail, add 1/2 c. water, stir, seal and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes before eating!

If you're ever in the Porcupine Mountains area of Michigan, and can only do one or two hikes, I highly recommend the East and West river trails, especially if you're not an avid hiker yet want to get into the woods for a bit to experience some nature. The trails are fairly easy and include a long boardwalk section that runs along the river near a series of waterfalls. Even if you didn't want to do the entire hike, the boardwalk is accessible via wooden staircase from the parking area. But if you do chose to hike the entire length of the trails, do know that there are about 2 or 3 places where the trail is pretty steep, and you either have to ascend or descend these areas carefully. A walking stick or set of trekking poles is highly recommended to make maneuvering easier. If those steep areas don't scare you away, then the remainder of the hike is just pure pleasure. A very pleasant walk through the woods. We took a little break on the beach at the tip of Presque Isle. Not only is this a beautiful spot to sit for awhile, it's also great for wildlife viewing. This is where we witnessed a bald eagle fly by. What a sight to see it soaring along Lake Superior! We also heard from the rangers, and then a couple we met along the trail, that a black bear cub was hanging around the area, too. We didn't see it the entire time we spent in the area, but the couple we met along the trail said they said it in a ravine near the parking area when they first arrived for their hike. Even though we missed out on the cub, we still managed to see a wild black bear before leaving for home--the dude (or maybe it was a dudette?) ran across the road in front of our car in the early morning hours as we were leaving the Porkies area. What a sight! I've been in sooooooooooo many situations where a crowd of people spot a bear and then close in on it, young children in their arms, as if it's their family pet. Helllllllo people, wild animal! I just don't understand people sometimes!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Might as well face it you're addicted to.... blogging?

While browsing Holler's fabulous blog Tinned Tomatoes, I came across her fun post about the "blogging addiction" quiz. As a fairly new blogger, I was up for finding out where I rank!

60%How Addicted to Blogging Are You

I don't know if that's good or bad! LOL I do like one of the ideas suggested by the quiz... I think I may look into RSS feeds for keeping tabs on my favorite blogs. There's so many fun blogs out there. Sometimes it's hard to keep track!

FBC Ramen Noodle Salad

The Porcupine Mountains are about a 12-hour drive from my area. So in an effort to break up the drive, we camped for two nights at Straits State Park in St. Ignace, Mich. which is a short ferry ride away from one of the state's jewels, Mackinac Island. Of course, this also was the holiday weekend which meant the island was likely to be packed with tourists. To get away from the craziness, we opted to hike some of the island's many trails.

I couldn't find much information about the trails prior to the trip. While we were hiking on the island, I joked with my BF that we should make enough trips to hike and catalog every single trail on the island so I could write a book (I'm a writer by profession) since no one else has seems to have taken on the task. All that we were able to find to guide us was a flimsy trail map inside the front cover of the Visitor Center's $1 guidebook. The map showed no trail distances and had no descriptions of what the trails were like. It was going to be an adventure because we weren't sure what we'd find!

We opted to walk the Arch Rock Bike Trail, which connected to Tranquil Bluff Trail. The latter lives up to its name. Although one of the islands quaint roads runs pretty near to the trail in many sections, no automobiles are allowed on the island. Therefore, the most disturbance we experienced on the trail were other hikers or people bicycling on the road... and the small airplanes flying overhead (the trail happens to be in one of the flight paths of the island airport). Even those encounters were few. This trail was quite the getaway we had been hoping for. An easy hike in terms of elevation, the path was sprinkled with tree roots often but it also ran near the water, and every now and then the trees would open up for an awesome view!

We picked one of these spectacular views as our place to lunch that day. On the menu was one of the new recipes I prepared from the Freezer Bag Cooking book I purchased. It made for an easy lunch: just pour in the water about 30 minutes prior to eating and the noodles soften for a delicious cool noodle salad. We let our meals soak for only 20 minutes, which left some of the veggies a little crunchy. I'd recommend letting the meal soak longer if you have the time (which is easy enough... just keep hiking!) but we really wanted to sit and eat and this one particular spot. The freezer bag meals can be a little messy after you mix things up and then try to dig into the bag with your spork to fish things out. Thankfully, I'm known as the napkin queen and we had paper towels to wipe off our hands and flatware after eating. But my BF recommended grabbing some wet wipes for other meals we'd be eating later in the week, and that turned out to be a good suggestion.

We rounded out our hike by making a loop and trekking down Soldier's Garden Trail, to North Blodgett Trail, to South Blodgett Trail, to Rifle Range Road, to Garrison Road and back down to Main St. I really wish I knew how long of a hike this actually was, cuz it was a good one! We were both tired! But, fulfilled. The main portion of the island, where all the shopping is, was a madhouse when we stepped out of the woods after 2 p.m. that afternoon. After being in such a peaceful environment, neither of us wanted to deal with the hoards of people that had descended on the island since our arrival early that morning. I told my BF I just wanted to make one stop to buy some of Mackinac Island's famous fudge and then we were chugging straight back to the ferry dock for the next boat outta there. It was too hot and we were too tired to fight with people in trying to oogle all the souvenir knickknacks the shops have to offer. I've been to the island many times and didn't need a souvenir anyway! Just my fudge, LOL.

Ramen Salad - Serves 1

In a sturdy freezer bag, place:
1 pkg. ramen noodles (only the noodles, no spice packet!)
2 tbsp. freeze-dried veggies of your choice

Take with you on your hike:
a packet of shelf-table salad dressing or 2 tubs of Ranch dip (we did the latter)

On the trail:
Add 1.5 c. of water to the freezer bag with the noodles, squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Drain the water from the bag. Add the dressing and mix everything up really good and voila! A nice yummy trail lunch! My omnivore BF liked this recipe very much!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm back!

I'm back from nine days of hiking! Woo! I had so much fun; it's always difficult coming back to the reality of urban life after spending so much time in the mostly peaceful wilderness. But, this time I come back with some awesome news ... I'm engaged!!!!! :) My BF of two years proposed to me on Thursday atop the Summit Peak Tower in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Michigan's upper peninsula. He even had a small bottle of champagne hidden in his backpack! The proposal was the climax of that morning's five-mile loop hike: a combination of the Beaver Creek, Little Carp River, Mirror Lake and Summit Peak trails. Four trails, one great hike and one perfect proposal!

We have no date set. And we still need to shop for my ring. But, I'm really excited about spending the rest of my life with him ... and the fact that I'll no longer be cooking for one! LOL I've been longing to cook better, more detailed meals but I really hate cooking elaborate dishes just for myself. I know, I know... now it's cool to think about cooking for others, but I'm sure it'll get old once I'm doing it day in and day out, eh?

Getting back to the trip, we had a wonderful time and experienced some great things. Plenty of wildlife to go around, including bald eagle and black bear. Those sightings are always exciting! Our weather was mostly good except for an overnight thunderstorm that rattled our bodies to the bone on the fourth night of our outing.

As I mentioned previously, most of our food was prepared as freezer bag meals, including a few recipes that were new to us this year. Over the next few days, I'll share some of the better dishes along with a few tales from the trail!