Monday, April 19, 2010

Stella's in Bellevue: Truly Epic

I have long dreamed of eating one of those giant "eat it in 45 minutes and it's free!" creations, but have yet to find a vegan version to satisfy my needs. However, I was recently able to live vicariously through my friend Darcy who decided to take on the Stella-nator at Stella's in Bellevue, NE.

For real though, this thing is epic. It crams all of this onto a bun:
  • Six patties
  • Six pieces of cheese
  • Six fried eggs
  • 12 pieces of bacon
  • Fried onions
  • Lettuce, tomatoes, pickles
  • Jalapenos
  • Peanut Butter

So, you can imagine my surprise when I found a veggie burger on the menu. After some questions and some googling, we discovered that the burger was vegan and placed an order. Then, we sat back and enjoyed Darcy taking the Stella-nator on. When our veggie burgers came, I was delighted to have a Gardenburger black bean and corn patty with lettuce, tomato and onion. It tasted kind of like a taco, and was delicious. Burger + taco = awesome. The french fries weren't salty enough for my taste, but I also eat the salt at the bottom of the bowl when I eat popcorn, so what do I know. I am so glad to have yet another place that I can eat at with my dad (I think this brings the total up to four places). I'm super grateful that I was lured to Stella's to watch a friend down most of, and then regurgitate, a giant burger. I think it goes without saying that a good time was had by all. Yay Stella's!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Festival: Arts, Crafts and Soap

One of my favorite ways to spend a lazy Saturday is by going to craft shows with my mom. The majority of these take place in church basements filled with adorable senior citizens, selling their crocheted scrubbies and geese with bonnets. However, each spring brings the Spring Festival, a craft fair so big that it takes place at the Qwest Center. There are a ridiculous amount of booths, but I decided to highlight my three favorites.

1) Meaningful Charms: This lovely couple creates some of my favorite bracelets of all time. They hand-cast their charms, and each charm has it's own meaning. This year, I bought a bracelet wtih a sandstone cat charm for protection, as well as a peacock for wild success and colorful romance. Saucy! They have pre-made bracelets, but you can have one custom made. I have several of these and they get compliments all the time, and now that I know that they custom make bracelets, everyone I know will be receiving them for their birthday (buy four and get the fifth one free!). I look forward to visiting this booth to sift through their amazing bracelets every year. The website is a little clunky right now, but they are updating it to make it more user friendly. Visit it and make a bracelet! You'll love it!

2) Country Memories Soap: I first saw this booth at the Fall version of this craft fair, and what made me stop and look was a sign that said "meets vegan requirements". Hold up! I asked the proprietor of the booth and she confirmed that this soap was, in fact, vegan friendly. I bought six slices and got my seventh one free. This round of slices purchased included gingerfish (doesn't smell like fish), energy (satsuma), Caribbean coconut and citrus cilantro. The scents are strong but not overwhelming and the soap is wonderfully moisturizing.

3) In-Weave: This place sells every size of rug available and they are soft and plush and wonderful. What's extra cool about this booth is that they hand-weave the rugs with the salvaged edges of upholstery fabric- the part that normally gets thrown away. In addition, they weave their smaller rugs on looms from the 1930s and 1940s. I have one of these rugs in my kitchen and I always make a point to stand on it, even I don't have to, because it feel so good on my feet. For being eco-friendly, high quality and hand-made, these guys get a thumbs up from me.

There are lots and lots more booths at this fair, so I was selective about what I took pictures of. I almost came home with a PBR nightlight, but I forgot to pick it up on my way out (we all have our regrets). Swing by, eat some samples (there are vegan ones to be found) and get your arts and crafts on.

Thriftactular Thriftacular

Discovering thrifting was one of the greatest things to ever happen to me. Cheap, unique (like my treasure to the left) and environmentally friendly, with the usual added benefit of helping an organization? Count me in. However, thrifting can be super intimidating when you don't know which stores to hit up. I've stuck my hand in one too many wet sweaters to not be willing to share my spots. So, here are my favorite thrift stores and vintage spots in the Omaha and Lincoln area:


New Life Thrift: 36th and Harrison, huge, cheap (and prices get lowered if an item doesn't move), well organized, has complete sets of dishes all organized into boxes, this one is my favorite

Goodwill: 41st and Pacific, there are other Goodwills, but this one is my favorite out of all the ones in Omaha

Lutheran Thrift Store: 24th and Leavenworth, cash only, volunteer run, cheap and still relatively undiscovered, I have a full set of Noritake China from the 70s that I bought here for $20.

Saint Vincent DePaul: 19th and Leavenworth/59th and Maple, the one on Maple has free magnets

Tip Top Thrift: 59th and Maple, run by little old ladies (including my grandma!), cheap, cash only and has great jewelry, as well as a collection of vintage aprons in the basement but you'll have to ask them about those

Salvation Army: 25th and Dodge (Omaha)/34th and West Broadway (in Council Bluffs, just across the river) the CB one usually has great vintage dresses

Thrift World: 29th and Leavenworth: Most of the Thrift Worlds are pretty decent, but they are the Wal-Mart of the Omaha thrift scene because they buy stuff from other thrift stores and mark it up. That said, it tends to eliminate a lot of the junk you see. I like this location because of their selection and because they are by an enormous, beautiful Hispanic grocery store that has a wonderful produce section and super cheap avocados.

Second Chance: 11th and Jackson, this is an antique store, not a thrift store, to be accurate, but you have to go in the basement. Vintage jewelry, clothes (for both men and women), shoes, hats, sewing supplies...


Ruby Begonia's: 13th and P, great little vintage store, two levels and there's sometimes a box of free stuff outside

St. Teresa's: 36th and Randolph, only open certain days of the week, so call ahead, but it's so cheap and packed with great stuff that it's totally worth it, 402-474-1952 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 402-474-1952 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Goodwill: 48th and Vine, 17th and O, the one on 48th is enormous and I always find great glassware, dresses and shoes here.

Salvation Army: 48th and Leighton, also enormous, Alaina tends to find lots of vintage dresses here

ARC Thrift Store: 27th and O Street, tends to have lots of great sales, as well free cookies and Santa Claus mugs around the holidays

Family Thrift Store: 17th and O Street, I once found the perfect pair of black over the knee boots with a heel here, but they were half a size too small. It was the greatest tragedy of my young life.

Rialto Extra: 17th and O (in the antique mall) This is no longer a free standing store, but is instead crammed into a vendor's booth at the antique mall next to where the store used to be. I haven't been back to check recently, but they used to have an amazing selection.

That's my list- I sometimes stray and hit up other places, but these are where I have the most success. I hope this helps at least one person out there (Sarah, you let me know if this helped!) and that you discover your own cats in a shoe cookie jar like I did this last weekend.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

10 Things...that make me happy

My lovely friend Gwen over at What I Wore tagged me for this, so now I have to tell you ten things I need a theme though, so here are ten things that make me happy.

1. Puddleglum makes me happiest. Don't act surprised. I adopted Puddleglum from Town and Country Humane Society, a local no-kill shelter last summer. I was going to name him Clive Staples or Miskatonic, but neither seemed to fit, so he became Puddleglum instead. Puddleglum now sleeps next to me in bed and enjoys Brita water, catnip and near constant petting. He's also getting leash trained. Lucky kitty.

2. Layovers in airports. As a wee girl, I had a children's book about what it was like to fly on an airplane. I was a child possessed. I longed for exit aisles, souvenirs and kindly flight attendants. To this day, I love wandering around airports, looking at cheap gifts and people watching, waiting for my flight to take off because of that book.

3. Brothers. Duh. Megatouch for life.

4. Sushi, especially the Tofu Yasai Maki from Matsu.

5. Sunday brunch at McFoster's. Yes, I complain about how slow brunch is. Yes, I complain about how hit and miss the tofu scramble is. Yes, I worry if the guy behind the bar is the one who harasses vegans. Yes, sometimes the hash browns are green. However, few things are better than re-hashing the previous night while basking in the sun on their patio while nursing a strawberry chocolate malt.

6. Back to airports: I really love having books that I keep around to read while traveling because the covers are creepy and I can bust them out to prevent conversation when I'm not in the mood. Here's an example. This is another. Sometimes you just don't feel like talking.

7. Thrifting with Alaina. I heart getting new (to me) things for a minimal amount of money and Alaina is the bestest person to do it with.

8. Diet soda. I love my soda and you can pry it out of my cold, dead hands. I know that it is full of chemicals and that it is totally toxic, but diet sodas are my cigarettes, so whatev. Plus, I can indulge on them indoors in the winter. SCORE.

9. The Shangri-Las. So much more than "Leader of the Pack". I love them almost as much as Del Shannon, who was an absolute childhood obsession of mine. Tragic oldies will always have a place in my heart.

10. Omaha. I never, ever thought I would love living in Nebraska, but it turns out I super love living in Omaha. I was sitting on some steps in the Old Market, waiting for Alaina to get her coffee, and I realized that if I was sitting on these steps as part of a vacation, I would be wishing that I lived in this fine town. Omaha constantly steps it up with everything I've ever wanted in a city: great vegan options, fabulous music scene, lots and lots to do, great vintage and thrift shopping and a Whole Foods, plus a low cost of living. Also, living in the middle of the country allows me to be within a day or two of driving to anywhere in the lower 48. Rad for random road trips. However, what I love most about living here is the people. People are so kind and genuine and welcoming that I immediately fall in love with every person I meet (sentiment ends here). I am always amazed at how much I love living here.

And done, time to pass it on. Here you go:

A Life Worth Living

Bjorked Off

Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk

Margaret In Mozambique

Strawberry and the World of Vegan Food

The Laziest Vegans in the World

What I Really Really Want

Where's the Revolution?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Oso wonderful!

Let's say you meet this dude. His name is Chipotle and he's lovely. He's made of good things and he's consistently wonderful. That being said, that consistency is getting a little boring. Black beans, rice and salsa have their place but you need variety, spice! Then it happens. You meet Chipotle's sexy, adventurous cousin named Oso Burrito. Here's what you've been looking for. Chipotle is great when you need a little somethin' somethin' in the burrito department, but your heart belongs to Oso.

Oso Burrito is a little local chain in Lincoln (Does two locations constitute a chain? I think so.) that does veggie burritos right. They offer fillings such as tofu, potatoes, portobello mushrooms, guacamole and chickpeas, as well a variety of salsas and sauces. As an FYI, the only vegan sauces are the Thai peanut and the ginger garlic. My personal favorite there would be portobello mushrooms or chickpeas with Thai peanut sauce, cabbage, pico de gallo and ginger garlic salsa, all wrapped up into a mini burrito.

What's that you say? You don't have to purchase your burrito in nausea-inducing huge sizes? Nope! The regular size burritos have the advantage of different flavors, such as spinach, but if you aren't terribly hungry, you can opt instead for a mini-burrito.

Oh yes, Oso is the burrito joint you have been waiting for. With a plethora of options and a veggie special on Tuesdays, Oso will always keep me oh so happy (Get it? Oh so? Oso? Ha!).

Friday, April 2, 2010

How to do frozen (to)fu

One of the first foods I attempted to master as a vegan was tofu. As a vegetarian, I had several unsuccessful encounters with the bean curd, but I finally set myself upon conquering it. After several attempts (including trying to press silken tofu...ugh), I finally stumbled upon freezing my tofu before I cook it. This is my favorite method for baked tofu because the process squeezes out so much water that the tofu soaks up any marinade like a sponge. Here are my steps:

1) Freeze the tofu. Duh, right? If it is in a vacuum sealed pack, chuck it straight in the freezer, but if it's packed in water, take it out, give it a squeeze and wrap it in plastic wrap.

2) Thaw and press the tofu. The night before I want the tofu, I wrap it in a tea towel and place it between two plates with something heavy on top (I'm sure you have a giant can of beans hanging around). I then set the whole shebang in my kitchen sink. This is important because the method squeezes out so much water that I've found my entire kitchen counter soaked with tofu water. Gross. Don't let that happen. Put it in the sink.

3) Slice and marinate. From here on out, baking is the exact same. I slice up my tofu and let it sit for about 15 minutes on each side. The marinade pictured is a mixture of soy sauce, white cooking wine, garlic and nutritional yeast. It's really fun to watch the tofu soak up the marinade. Whee!

4) Bake and eat. I choose to broil my tofu for 10 minutes on one side, six on the other. Easy peasy!

Obviously you don't have to bake the tofu like I described above. It also works great in things like faux chicken/tuna salad for sandwiches. Just don't use it to make quiche or pie or anything. That would not work.

That one was for you, mom. Love you!