Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Simple Pleasures of Thanksgiving

As much as I love stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, when it comes to planning for Thanksgiving, I find myself gravitating towards non-traditional fare. This year's meal was centered around Veganomicon's Penne Vodka. While our noodle of choice was bowtie, the sauce remained as delicious and creamy as ever. The meal was rounded out with brussels sprouts, Italian tofu, kale chips, garden salad with maple mustard dressing (also from Veganomicon) and some bread for soaking up any remaining sauces. While our Thanksgiving meal was simple, it also took about an hour to prepare, which meant more time to spend contemplating what I'm thankful for/taking a two hour nap.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Crystal Jade and Daikon Swans

The newest buzz in Omaha vegan dining is Crystal Jade. Housed in a former Village Inn, Crystal Jade offers a fantastic vegetarian menu (with vegan items clearly marked) and also a vegan night with the offer of free soup with any vegan entree. Armed with this knowledge, I met up with several of my vegan cohorts to experience vegan night for myself.

It was wonderful.

The food was delicious. I got the Volcano Tofu, which was the perfect balance of sweet and savory, but also got to sample the Spicy Tofu Bulgogi, Sweet and Sour Tofu, Tofu and Veggie in Katsu Sauce and the Yellow Tofu Curry. Each dish was distinctive and made me want to order one for myself. However, the serving sizes are easily enough for two meals, so I restrained myself. The dishes were also presented beautifully, with swans and flowers created out of vegetables gracing every plate.

One thing I need to note about Crystal Jade was the remarkable service. Not only were orders taken, questions answered and food delivered promptly, the staff went out of their way to make sure we had a good time. The end of the meal brought free chocolate pie, and when they realized that there were not enough thawed slices left for a family dining with us, they gave them the whole pie. For free. A free pie! How can you beat that?! They also taught us how to turn daikon slices into a beautiful flower (like the one shown at left) with a patient lesson.

Crystal Jade serves up a winning combination of great food and wonderful, friendly service. I will definitely be going back.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vegan Mofo Survey 2010

If there's one thing I enjoy doing, it is talking about myself. As a result of this, today's post is a mini-survey that originated from the PPK forums. So, without further distraction:

1) What's your favorite spice or spice blend? Pink salt! I use it almost every day.

2) You have $20 to spend on fresh groceries and produce for the whole week (with a fairly well stocked pantry of dry goods, legumes, grains, and spices). What do you buy? Mostly produce (especially grapes, bananas and kale!) as well as cereal and coconut milk and some tofu. I am a simple lady. Also, either tots or potatoes, onions and garlic.

3) What's your favorite way to make tofu? Freeze, thaw, marinate and bake! I love the texture that the freezing process gives tofu.
Puddleglum: Picture kind of related

4) What's your favorite vegan guilty pleasure? Skittles. Not only do they have some great commercials but they are really, really tasty.

5) If you could make anyone vegan, who would it be? Justin Bieber. Think of all the Bieber Fever related veganism!

6)If you could only read one other vegan blog, what would it be? Joanna's blog- she does a great job of blending food and life while keeping it interesting

7) Were you always interested in cooking, or did veganism change the way you saw and interacted with food? Oh my goodness. My ability to cook pre-veganism was limited to peeling back the plastic wrapper of Healthy Choice's Fettuccine Alfredo and then throwing it in the microwave. Being vegan forced me to learn how to cook so that I wasn't spending all of my money on tofurky slices, and learning how to cook is one of the best things that's ever happened to me.

8) Excluding analogues, what new things have you tried that you probably wouldn't have as an omni? I have to say it's a toss-up between nutritional yeast and quinoa.

9) What is the one vegan staple that everyone seems to love, but you can't get behind? You know what? I can't think of any vegan staples I can't get behind. Apparently I'm far too loving.

10) What was your first "wow, I'm such a stereotypical vegan" moment? There's an unopened carton of almond milk by my bed, I just came from buying potatoes and kombucha at Whole Foods and I'm wearing one of my many Herbivore hoodies. My whole life is a stereotypical vegan moment. Oh, and I'm cuddling with my rescued cat.

11) What was the first recipe you veganized? It was a cookie recipe before I really learned how to sub out eggs and I still thought carob was the only vegan chocolate. It was bad but I'm pretty sure I still ate all of them.

12) What would you like to veganize, but haven't yet? Runzas. The runza is a combination of ground beef, cabbage and onions inside a bun and there needs to be a vegan version.

13) Favorite kitchen utensil/appliance? I really appreciate my food processor because it makes my life so much easier and now I can make pesto and hummus much faster than in a blender. My most used utensil would be my wooden spoons.

14) Most disastrous kitchen failure? It was a soup. I had never made soup before. I didn't use a recipe. I had to throw it all away.

15) First vegan cookbook? Vegan With a Vengeance. It was the best introduction to cooking (and vegan cooking) that I could ever ask for.

16) What question about being vegan do you HATE answering? I don't hate answering it, but I'm very tired of answering the question of where I get my protein. Could you at least ask me about B-12 instead?

17) If you could tell the world one thing about vegans, what would it be? I would like to have our dietary choices respected. I'm not asking that you immediately become vegan upon the uttering of the word, but I would like to not have to worry about chicken stock or butter in my dinner or someone criticizing my meal and then freaking out if I respond because I am "attacking" them. Any diet of any kind is a choice- you choose everything you put in your mouth, be it an all beef patty, a microwaved dinner or a chunk of tofu. Please respect my right to eat what I think is best for myself and I will respect yours. Thanks.

18) Funniest vegetable? Carrot Top. Yes, I went there.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Family Favorites Made Vegan: Overnight Apple Fronch Toast

This is one of my favorite recipes: it's comforting, filling and easy. It's also great for when you have overnight guests. Chop up some potatoes while the toast is warming up to room temperature, roast them while the toast cooks (you may need to roast the potatoes for long than the toast cooks) and cut up some fruit while you wait. Perfect impressive breakfast/brunch/brinner. FYI: I stole this recipe from my mom and veganized it just for you. Yes, you.

Overnight Apple Fronch Toast

1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup Earth Balance/your choice of butter substitute
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 large apples, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
9 slices day-old French bread (I used sourdough)

1 cup applesauce
1 jar apple jelly
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

In a small saucepan, cook brown sugar, Earth Balance and syrup until thick, about 5-7 minutes. Pour into an ungreased 13 x 9 baking pan. Arrange apples on top. In a mixing bowl, mix together fronch toast mixture. Dip bread slices into this mixture for one minute and then place over apples. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before baking. Bake uncovered at 350° for 35-40 minutes. Combine syrup in a medium saucepan; cook and stir until hot. Serve over fronch toast.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tempeh Reubens and Pies at McFoster's

Just a quick post today. Tempeh reubens, gluten free pumpkin pie and apple-pear pie from Mcfoster's.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ten things I want in my kitchen

You can never have too many (useful) gadgets in your kitchen, right? Here are ten that I want in mine (with handy links for purchase!):
  1. Tofu Xpress: The more tofu juice you can squeeze out of a block of 'fu, the more marinade it soaks it. I want to take it to the next level.
  2. Trudeau Mini Salt and Pepper Mills: If you turn it one way, you get freshly ground salt. If you turn it another way, freshly ground pepper. Brilliant.
  3. Washable Produce Bags: I can finally escape the shame of needing plastic bags for my produce. 
  4. Wonder Plunger Measuring Cup: Um, how great would this be for measuring things like oil, agave and maple syrup? Pretty great, right?
  5. Cuisipro 3-in-1 Funnel: There are so many times when I'm in the kitchen and I think 'a funnel would make this a heck of a lot easier'. An ounce of prevention, plus three sizes in one!
  6. 'Greenlite' Eco-Friendly Bamboo Cutting Boards: I just want these so I can pretend I'm a fancy lady.
  7. Pancake Pen: I want to be able to draw shapes with my pancake batter. Or letters. I'll probably stick to crudely drawn dinosaurs though.
  8. Tomato Shark: I really hate cutting around the core of a tomato. Get me one of these STAT.
  9. Adjust-a-Slice Produce Mandoline: Even though I'm terrified of mandolines (mostly the potential for slicing my finger off), I really like the idea of perfectly even slices.
  10. Origami Colander: Handy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Family Favorites Made Vegan: Lemon Tofu

I was relaxing at my parents' house a few weeks (aka using their giant TV to watch Food Network and Twilight) and decided to go through our old family recipes to grab some to veganize. The first one to catch my eye was Lemon Chicken. I made this with pan-fried tofu, but it would be just as tasty if you opted to bake it. I served mine with a side of my beloved kale chips.

Lemon Tofu

Marinate some pressed tofu before you get started on this- I used a marinade of soy sauce, lemon juice, Sriracha and water. Cut into slices. Next, beat together:

¼ c flour
¼ c water
2 T cornstarch
2 T vegetable oil
1 t salt
¼ t baking soda
Egg Replacer- I choose to use ground flax seed (1 T flax to 2 T water, beaten together)

Dunk your pressed and marinated tofu in this mixture and then fry your tofu over medium-high heat until golden brown. While your tofu is frying, mix up the lemon sauce and then bring it to a boil:

½ c water
½ t lemon peel (I totally skipped this and it was fine)
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup agave
1 T ketchup
½ t salt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Mix 1 T cornstarch and 1 T cold water and add to above mixture. Cook and stir until thickened. Pour over your fried tofu and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunday Morning Coming Down

One of my favorite ways to spend a lazy Sunday morning is at McFoster's, enjoying brunch. Though I usually opt for the tempeh, lettuce and tomato sandwich, with a garden salad with cucumber garlic ranch as my side, this particular brunch had me ordering a plain tofu scramble with hash browns. Yes, I fancied it up with a bit of the aforementioned ranch and a few splashes of hot sauce, but it was a perfect start to a lovely Sunday.

For dessert, my mom and I shared the Celestial Bananas. Yes, I am aware the name is kind of awkward, but so is describing it: a sautéed banana, lined with fresh sliced strawberries and topped off with three slices of tofu mousse. It sounds like it skews a little too much towards health food, but it delicious. The banana is cooked perfectly to bring out the natural sweetness and the tofu mousse lacks any soy aftertaste, while the strawberries are just delicious on their own. The flavors shown are chocolate and lemon, but it varies from day to day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Unpeeled Kombucha: Kind of like Kool-Aid, which makes it awesome

I am more than willing to admit I have an issue with kombucha. The first time I had it, I thought it was meh and that I would never drink it again. However, the next time I walked by a bottle at the store, I was compelled to purchase by a force stronger than the one that drives Luke Skywalker forward. As a result, I have tried many a brand of kombucha and I am delighted to state that I may have found a new favorite: Unpeeled. Unpeeled is a raw kombucha that tastes just like Kool-Aid. I've only tried the strawberry lime flavor so far (it's so pink, how could I resist?) but I will most definitely be trying the other flavors, such as limeade quench and mango passion. Heck, I might even go crazy and try out spicy mojito. I'm so glad that kombucha is back in stores and even happier that I got to try Unpeeled kombucha, my new go to in the world of fermented tea.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Five Spice Acorn Squash: An Ode

Growing up, I always loved when my mom made squash. Comforting and creamy, it was the perfect addition to any cold weather meal. For some reason though, squash of any variety never makes it's way into my shopping basket. This year, my mom dropped off some acorn squash from my grandpa's farm, along with the regular delivery of potatoes. I opted to cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, score the flesh and doctor it up. I misted it with olive oil (Earth Balance is also a good choice) and then covered it with a mixture of two spoons of sugar and one spoon of five spice. I placed in my roasting dish of choice, with an inch of water at the bottom to prevent burned skin, I roasted it at 400°F until the flesh was tender enough to mash with a fork (about an hour). When it was done, the sugar and five spice had caramelized into a crunchy outer layer, while the squash underneath was soft and tender. I mashed it all together with a fork and enjoyed the spicy, sweet, creamy squash.

As a bonus, I also roasted the seeds of the acorn squash. Home roasted seeds are one of my favorite foods and I wasn't about to let these go to waste. Making them is super easy- simply clean the seeds off, coat them with salt and olive, spread them on a foil-covered baking sheet and cook at 275°F for 15 minutes or until you hear them start popping. Be sure to keep an eye on them though- I burned the heck out my batch! Crunchy, salty, savory, these are a fantastic snack or garnish, but I prefer to eat them off the tray as soon as they are cool enough to touch.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Soundtrack for Spices: Music I Cook To

Isaac Hanson's feet. Don't be too jealous.
I've noticed that when I cook without music, I clench my jaw hard enough to give myself a pretty phenomenal headache. To prevent this, here's my favorite music to mince to.

Hanson: I love Hanson. I have a shirt that says so. Their music is heavily influenced by the 60s, with a touch of gospel, all highlighted with flawless vocal harmonizing. I'll listen to anything by them, but I've really been into their latest album, Shout It Out, featuring “Thinking 'Bout Something”. As a side note, you can listen to all of their albums for free through their website. Current Favorite Jam: Thinking 'Bout Something (the video features Weird Al...really)

Robyn: There's nothing like dancing to Swedish pop while sauteing. I realize that my list is skewing more than a little 90's-centric, but I'm not talking about “Show Me Love”-era Robyn. I'm talking about “Cobrastyle” Robyn. Her latest albums are full of catchy dance music that is both powerful and fun. Current favorite jam: Dancing On My Own

Brandi Carlile: My friend Chelsea introduced me to Brandi Carlile and I'm so glad she did. Her music is a hybrid of old school country and some rock. Combine that with an incredible voice and Brandi Carlile can take me through my Sunday afternoon cooking to prepare for the week. Current Favorite Jam: Dying Day

Jonny Lang: Perhaps the best thing to ever come out of Fargo, Jonny Lang was a blues prodigy and started in the music business at quite a young age. Sometimes I just want a little bit of the blues while I do my cooking. Current Favorite Jam: Lie To Me (Actually, his official channel doesn't have very many videos, but this one's pretty great. Also, it was made in the 90s when he was 16, so don't judge that part)

100 Monkeys: This is Jackson Rathbone's band (yes, from Twilight) and they have several songs that tell little stories. There are few things I love more than story songs. No sparkles. You can listen to a bunch of their songs on their website as well. Current Favorite (non-story) Jam: Ugly Girl

The Pretty Reckless: Taylor Momsen's band sounds like Hole and Paramore had a baby and I love it. It's so over the top and ridiculous that you can't help but get into it. You go, 17 year old girl but you may want to put on some pants. Current favorite jam: Miss Nothing

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm Sorry, Kale Chips

Dear Kale Chips, I apologize.

I apologize for thinking that you were too labor intensive or too fragile or not delicious enough. I should have been making you my whole life. How else can I eat my entire stash of kale in a single sitting? You are far too easy and far too delicious for me to ignore any longer. I tear you up, rinse you, dry you and coat you with olive oil, salt and nutritional yeast. I place in you in a warm, 300° oven for 25ish minutes on a cookie sheet covered in foil and then you magically become crispy, salty and tasty. You are the perfect snack, even though you get stuck in my teeth. I promise to never ignore you again.

All my love, Lauren

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My desire for pancakes vs. Eli Roth

Thanks to Eli Roth, whenever I think of pancakes, I think of the movie Cabin Fever. If you haven't seen the movie, there's an awkward scene where a child yells “pancakes” a few times, does a crazy kick-flip and then bites a guy. It'll stick with you. At any rate, Eli Roth, and the movies he makes, generally don't put me in the mood for eating (either that or they make me strangely ravenous). However, my friend Alice recently sent me her mom's pancake recipe and I may be in the mood for pancakes more often. The only word I can really think of to describe these is perfect. They had a lovely amount of fluff and absorbed the perfect amount of syrup. Another benefit? You don't have to let the batter sit, you can immediately get started on your pancakes. Near instantaneous, delicious pancakes? Eli Roth, you've been pushed to second place. The recipe is as follows (with notes from Alice included!): 

Alice's Mom's Pancakes
1/2 c. whole wheat flour (I usually use spelt flour 'cause its delicious)
1/2 c. white flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. vanilla almond milk (or soy, whatever)
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil

Blend liquid ingredients separately from dry ingredients.  Blend them all together just until moistened.  Add enough additional water to make right consistency (Thanks, Mom. Super helpful).  Heat pan over medium to medium-high heat, then add oil and heat.  Pour batter into pan and fry until bubbles form on top, then flip. Add blueberries or chocochips or nuts or whatever before flipping.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Amsterdam Falafel and Kabob: Tiny forks and curry fries!

If you've ever wanted falafel delivered to you via bicycle in the wee hours of the morning, you can thank your lucky stars because Amsterdam Falafel and Kabob does just that. What's more- they do it well. I ate at Amsterdam for the first time and loved it. The falafel sandwich can easily be made vegan with the omission of any sauce and the addition of hummus. Trust me, between the flavorful falafel, copious amounts of hummus, tabouli and other fillings, you won't miss the sauce. While the sandwich is enormous by itself, if you are ravenous, you can add curry fries to your order. Spicy and salty, they balance the creamy hummus perfectly. Warning: the curry fries come with an adorable tiny fork. Amsterdam is located in picturesque Dundee and has both indoor and outdoor seating. Additionally, with at least a $10 order, Friday through Saturday, 8pm to 2am, you can get your meal delivered via bicycle. Excellent.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pepe's Veggie Mix Bistro

 This gem of a restaurant is tucked away above an art gallery in the Havelock district of Lincoln. Pepe's is a vegetarian restaurant that uses locally sourced, fresh ingredients as much as possible and the result is stunning. On my last visit, both my mother and I ordered the sweet potato quesadillas, mine made vegan with the omission of the sour cream drizzle, and they were fantastic. Garnished with apple salsa and guacamole, it managed to be both comforting and gourmet. The great thing about Pepe's is that the ingredients of the dishes are simple and therefore each ingredient is allowed to shine.

For dessert, we split a slice of the chai apple pie. Apple pie is normally pretty low on my list of preferred pies, but the chai spices in this made it delicious and memorable. I love chai tea, and this was the perfect balance of chai spice and apple pie.

Pepe's is worth going a little out of your way for but if you need some extra motivation, there is a fabulous fabric store down the street, a vintage theater that screens movies and Husker games and several other little shops in the area. While I do wish that Pepe's had a location in Omaha, I'm still more than willing to make the trip to Lincoln to get my fix.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Leaf is another restaurant that I was introduced to via the 2008 Denver Vegfest. I believe they had seitan skewers for samples and I went back to their booth over and over again. I finally got to try the actual restaurant recently, as I selected it as my restaurant to provide me with proper nutrition prior to attending a Hanson show.
The restaurant in itself is a sight to see. Giant windows line the street side of the restaurant and they were all open on the day I ate there, combining the best of eating inside and outside. Additionally, Leaf has a happy hour, three to six. For me, this meant my sandwich was $8 inside of $8.50, but appetizers and martinis are around $4 during this time- definitely something to consider.
I wound up ordering the blackened tofu and veggie sandwich with a side salad. This normally comes with cheese, but I asked them to leave it off and didn't miss it at all. The tofu was spicier than I expected but the cooling hummus and vegetables countered it nicely. Additionally, the house side salad was made memorable with the addition of dried cherries and banana chips.
Overall, I would eat at Leaf based only on how gorgeous the restaurant is but knowing that the food is delicious is also a plus. Leaf is located right off the Pearl Street Mall, so keep it in mind as the perfect break during a day of shopping.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Watercourse Foods

My first experience with Watercourse was at the 2008 Denver Vegfest. I got a sample of their blackened tofu, as well as some of their baked goods and there was no turning back. On a recent trip to Denver, I ate there for breakfast both days I was privileged enough to be in town. The first day, I had the peasant's sandwich. Tofu scramble, basil pesto, onions and tomatoes between two thick slices of sourdough? I'm in. Combine that with house fries and a cup of fresh fruit and you have an excellent start to your day. Definitely hearty enough to last through stomping around town with no real goal in mind- something that requires a lot of walking.

The next day, I was craving pancakes. I never crave pancakes. However, Watercourse's pancakes may have me wanting them more often. I ordered the supreme pancakes because when offered a choice between regular and supreme food, supreme is the answer. I opted for the gluten-free cakes and they came out fluffy and covered with granola, berries and bananas. I was impressed with the granola but even more impressed with the consistency of the gluten-free pancakes. These were some seriously fluffy bad boys and when they were combined with their toppings, it was a breakfast for the ages. 

Overall, I was so incredibly pleased to start my days in Denver with Watercourse. Not only is the food delicious, but the restaurant is beautiful, the servers are incredibly friendly and it is the perfect way to begin your day. My one regret? I didn't get a chance to do dinner here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

City O' City has a prominent place in my dreams

This is it. This is the place where my obsession with vegan buffalo wings began. City O' City's seitan buffalo wings are what my dreams are made of, and I mean that in the most literal sense. I have dreams about these wings. Spicy, savory, crispy and perfect, these are the wings that launched a thousand vegan trips to Denver. In fact, I am considering new cities to move to, and these wings are a part of my desire to move to Denver. They come with a creamy ranch dressing that perfectly balances the heat of the wings themselves. The last time I was there, I ordered and ate an entire basket by myself. This is fairly common. You may want something on the side to cool the heat (maybe something from their extensive beverage menu?), but it also comes with some stalks of celery to cool the burn. Do yourself a favor and get some wings. City O' City also has fantastic vegan pizza, for those of you that may not like the heat, as well as vegan desserts and wonderful ambiance. Within walking distance of the downtown area, this is definitely a stop you want to make.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Waldo Pizza

As I've mentioned several times before, I adore pizza. One of my favorite pizzas can be found at Waldo Pizza in Kansas City. Though I've mentioned it before, I've given given this fabulous pizza joint the individual post it so richly deserves. Located in an unassuming building, the place is always busy and consistently delicious. They offer vegan cheese and a variety of impressive toppings, with my personal favorites being kalamata olives and sauerkraut. To be completely honest, you can't go wrong here. The website offers a vegan menu to guide you through your selections and their cupcakes are to die for. However, if you plan to stop in for a bite at night during the weekend, you will have a wait in front of you, but Waldo Pizza is definitely worth the it. Also, they have Trivial Pursuit cards on the table to keep you entertained. Be sure to get some leftovers!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vegan Mofo is here!

Vegan Mofo is here! Vegan Mofo is the vegan month of food and I am so excited. The goal is to write about vegan food (or something vegan food related) every weekday of the month. To be honest, my goal is not to fail at it like I did last year. Anyway, here are some upcoming posts:
  • Denver/Boulder Eats!
  • My first kale chips!
  • I eat curry fries!
  • Thanksgiving!
  • Lots of fun things!
 I'm really looking forward to this month, and just to make sure there's some definite food in here, I'm posting a picture of some hummus from McFoster's smoking a radish cigarette. Enjoy and yay for vegan mofo!