Friday, November 5, 2010

Vegan College Tour..More LALALand (sorry Californians)

Well, I missed yesterday and I do apologize but Netflix movies and red wine were calling my name so..I will blog tommorrow even though it is my birthday and we only were committing to 5 days a week.  I was initally going  to dedicate this post to two of our culinary adventures but think I will focus on Shojin because this restaurant won my heart.  I am even willing to sacrifice my child to a far away school simply to know I can eat here again next year.

Artwork by Sarah Mason Williams

This restaurant is located in an unassuming looking shopping mall in Los Angeles's Little Tokyo.  But everything from the artwork, to the gracious and kind hosts and the incredible food make it a must go vegan destination in LA.  This was our splurge meal with Appetizer, Entree and Dessert and nothing disappointed.  My daughter is anti sushi much to my disapointment so our shared appetizer was the Shojin Ravioli with the oddly names Shojin ketchup.  I say oddly named because it has a closer resemblance to a rich plum tomato sauce which perfectly balanced the delicate pasta filled with "cheese" rather than what I think of as ketchup.  My daughter had the Orange Chicken Seitan pictured below:
She is still lamenting the fact that she forgot her leftovers in the refrigerator in our room at the Hilton Checkers.  I had the Seitan Pepper Steak which was both flavorful and tender.  Our entrees came with brown rice and mixed vegetables and were simply wonderful.  For dessert we shared a Strawberry Shortcake which was one of the best desserts I have eaten anywhere.  It consisted of a dense strawberry mousse stacked on a cacao mousse and topped with a creme.  It was a raw dessert and incredibly tasty.  As our server laughingly confessed  "I like sweets."  So we were in heaven.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about this entire experience.  The staff treat you like family or long lost friends.  The food tastes amazing and the atmosphere is surprisingly lovely considering the mall location.  If you have never eaten at Shojin you need to correct that situation right away!
Tommorrow I will wrap up our LA sojourn with a review of Babycakes LA, Veggie Soul and California Vegan.  Toodles.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Vegan College Tour LA Part Two (Hooray for Hollywood!)

When we last saw our heroines they were fearlously embarking upon a subway ride to Hollywood, jet lag and all.  We were highly amused to discover the trains worked on the "honor system".  Having  lived a considerable amount of time in both Boston and NYC the idea of maybe being stopped and asked to show you purchased a ticket seemed quaint and naive.  But pay for our rides we did and shortly we arrived at Hollywood and Vine.  We did the touristy thing with looking for stars on the walk of fame and fitting our hands and feet into the prints at Graumann's Chinese Theatre  (Meryl Streep and I have precisely the same size hands and feet) and touring the Hollywood Museum in the old Max Factor Building.  All of this caused us to gain an appetite so we headed for the nearest local vegan food:  My Vegan House .
Vegan House is one of what I now know to be a plethora of inexpensive vegan thai/casual food type restaurants that are all over LA.  I had a Red Curry with soy chicken, my daughter had blueberry pancakes.  Our food was good, cheap and fast which was just what we were looking for.

Another fun spot we hit while in Hollywood was Caffe Etc.  This not a vegan cafe by any stretch of the imagination but it is a fun little hang out with coffees, salads, sandwiches and deserts many of which are vegan or easily veganizable.   The ice coffee from here kept me going on more than one occasion.  So full and exhausted we headed back to the hotel and a goodnight's sleep.  Tommorrow promised a USC tour and breakfast at Babycakes,LA. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vegan College Tour: First Stop L.A.

As some of you have surmised and some of you may actually know, I have a daughter who is a senior in highschool.  I know, I know I am Lauren Graham in Gilmore Girls surely, I cannot be that old I look too BEYOOTIFUL for that...but alack and alas I assure you, I am that bleeping old.  So enough about me, like all good parents of children of a certain age, I have spent an enormous part of the last year traveling the globe...or at least the contingenous US to look at schools.  What pray tell does this have to do with MOFO?  Well, I have been traveling vegan and therefore have had the pleasure of sampling the wares of a few of our fine cities and am prepared to share my findings with you. 

Our first stop was Los Angeles, CA home to USC and neighbor to Chapman University in Orange.  This required a transcontinental flight via Continental Airlines which at that time still served food for this length flight.  Due to numerous nightmare stories about airplane food and mix ups with special requests, we flew fully prepared with Lara Bars, Trail Mixes and other goodies.  To our surprise and chagrin (we were stuffed with junk food)  our breakfast was not only vegan (or pure vegetarian as the menu stated) but edible.  We were served a breakfast sandwich with consisted of a vegan sausage pattie and soy cheese on a vegan english muffin , which was quite good.  Also we were given a quinoa salad, fresh fruit and a vegan chocolate chip cookie.  Our neighbors who were given some horrific looking omelette in a pita thing looked jealous of our food.  So other than the fact that airplanes appear to have severely shrunk the seat sizes and leg room and the high strung passengers we shared our plane with, the flight to LA was pretty good.

We arrived at LAX and proceeded to our hotel, the Hilton Checkers downtown.  I should at this point bring up a rule of our college tours which was that my daughter and I would not use a form of transportation that she would not have available to her while at school.  Which means in a nutshell, we were doing LA by public transportation and shuttle.  So our hotel's proximity to both subway and bus lines was great.  We checked in, dropped off our luggage and jet lag and all took the subway to Hollywood., where our adventure will continue tommorrow.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Mofo. Mf's

So today is the official beginning of Vegan Mofo and I am in a van heading to the funeral for a friend's son. So let me just entice you with my upcoming plans for the month and shoot for pictures etc later.

This month will feature highlights from my vegan college tours with my oldest daughter as she decides her future. Recipes and reviews of some of the latest vegan cookbooks I had the privilege of testing for. Vegan smackdown head to head comparisons of vegan products and lastly veganized versions of some of my childhood faves. So.. Hang out and enjoy World Vegan Day and the Vegan Month of Food!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Recap Day 6: In Which I Discover There's An App For That

So here I am giving mobile blogging another try and so far this seems to be working. If your interested it's Blogwriter and I am trying the free Lite version to make sure it's compatible before shelling out any bucks. The fact the developers even let you do that gives them gold stars in my book. Assuming all goes well I will upgrade and be able to add the pics mobilely as well, for now expect some edited pics later.

Now for the pledge progress, last night was easy. No plans other than dinner and watching our latest Netflix. As previously mentioned the menu was Hot Sauce Glazed Tempeh recipe found here Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Tostones and Brazilian Kale (yes I am still cooking Viva Vegan). I have written about tofu prep before and will briefly go into how to tackle tempeh now.

Tempeh is another classic Asian ingredient. It is Indonesian in origin and is basically a fermented soy or other grain cake. Some find it a tad bitter so it is recommended you either steam it or simmer it for 10 minutes. It also needs a marinade or glaze in order to add in flavor. It can be marinated for as little as an hour or all day while you're at work. Tonight I grilled it in a grill pan and served it as is. You can also crumble it up as a ground meat substitute, make them into buffalo wings, cut it into strips or chunks for stews. It's a versatile ingredient so don't let it scare you.

Sean's food fact of the day is that the pigment that makes blueberries blue is anthocyanin.  Tonight is our congregatons big fund raising dinner and auction so tv free dinner is a no brainer.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Recap Day 5: In Which Mobile Blogging Proves an Epic Fail but a $14 Appliance Makes My Day

As a tribute to just how out of control my schedule can sometimes be, I give you my first attempt at mobile blogging(but more on that later).  What success I managed to have on Day 5 is a tribute to two devices.  One quite high tech, my Iphone, the other decidely low tech, the beauty pictured below, my tortilla press.  Three guesses which works better.....

My Iphone costs about 27 times as much as the tortilla press and because I am a cooking geek it will be a toss up which I am more in love with. I think most of you know the glory of the "smart phone" but I suspect you will need some convincing about the press. So here goes:

It costs about 14 dollars. It requires no energy other than minimal elbow grease. It makes identical perfectly round 7 inch circles of dough! Observe the tortilla in the pan above. I now have visions of naan, roti, calzones, empanadas, mini pizzas and fruit filled handpies dancing before my eyes. Anything that can be made out of cute little dough circles can be mine! And according to the box, I can even use it to smoosh my tostones before the second fry when I make dinner tonight. I have an ancient kitchen with minimal shelf and counter space so a gadget needs to earn it's chops with me. This little beauty has.  My Iphone?  Well it did allow me to email myself the photos and the blog posts which should have been uploaded to Blogger directly but decided to either fail or send one sentence at a time as an individual post.  Epic Fail, thank you very much!
So tonight was a moderate success. Ironically enough the fly in the ointment was my own UUCMC nominating committee meeting. I ate sans tv with Steven joining me for moral support. The kids and dad did the same later I trust. The menu:  leftovers. I reheated last night's grilled veggies, wrapped them in a homemade tortilla and added chipolte hot sauce. Yum! Last night's potato salad was on the side.

Sean's food fact of the day is "I like blueberries". Yup pretty lame but mom wasn't home and at least it is indeed a fact.

Tonight is Day 6 and a Friday with no soccer practice so a much more relaxed dinner should be served around 6. The menu is Hot Sauce Glazed Grilled Tempeh, Tostones and Brazilian Shredded Kale. Expect a major treatise on tempeh in the next post.

Oh and if you have successfully mobile blogged using an Iphone, I would love a lesson.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Recap Days 3 and 4: In Which I Am Forced to Eat My Hat But don't Buy Holly a Puppy

As already stated Day 3 was anticipated as an outrageously busy day.  It was the last day before my audit at work, soccer practice for Emma and Steven, School Board and School Budget Elections with an Ice Cream Social for the kids and of course a school night.  Added in at the last minute was my teenagers final admittance that she was indeed sick enough to need to see the doctor and 5 pages of math homework for my son.  I couldn't really see where we were going to eat at all, let alone eat together.  But with a little manuevering and the admission that life is short so eat dessert first....we managed to eat take out around the table after the icecream.  This was seen as a wonderful innovation by my two youngest.  The oldest, was upstairs in bed diagnosed with strep throat which I swore I would eat my hat if that was what was really wrong.  Well suffice it to say a Lakewood Blueclaws cap fricasse was on my menu for the evening.  It was tough but we managed to make day 3 a success!  Sean's fact for the day is :  Blueberry's grow best in direct sunlight.(who knew?)

Day 4 was promising to be a challenge as well due to my actually having the audit, a Jr Class trip to NYC, dance class and school work.  This time I employed my other favorite trick for busy weeknight meals:  the crockpot. 
Tonight's menu contains two things you won't see very often in this house:  The ominvores had meat and my daughter and I ate a premade vegan non-meat product.  The heathens had spare ribs made with BBQ sauce in the crockpot.  Basically the hubby cooks the meat or it needs to be made in a way that I don't really need to look at it or touch it--hence the crockpot.  Which does evidently make very good ribs.  I personally think pork ribs look far better on the cutie above.  Holly and I had the Morningstar Farms riblets which are actually quite good.  Sean came very close to stealing mine rather than going with the little piggy.  I usually don't buy premade stuff because let's face it just because it is vegan doesn't mean it isn't processed frankenfood with environmental implications.  Also Morningstar managed to anger more than a few of my fellow vegans by changing the recipes on several of their formerly vegan products to add random egg whites and things which obviously weren't need as they had sold quite well in their previous incarnation.  It kind of felt like they were giving us the finger so you know what...Boca and home made are just fine by me.

Along with our protein (yes I watch a little too much Top Chef), we had a latin style potato salad and grilled asparagus and zuccini.  Quick and yummy and eaten by all.  The only hitch in this day was Holly's near meltdown when we refused to let her turn on Jeopardy until we were done.  Teenagers.

Sean's fact of the day for day 4 is:  The USA has the largest consumption of Blueberries in the world.  I feel at least some responsibility for this fact.  We eat a lot of blueberries.

Day 5 is shaping up for more scheduling craziness with a meeting for me, and an afterschool orientation for Holly.  Thank goodness I did a lot of cooking this week as I am thinking the menu will be leftovers!  Dinner will be served at 6pm. 

How are you doing on your pledge?  Drop me a line about what you and your family are doing.  I don't have to talk about myself ALL the time.

Happy Earthday and please take a moment today to remember Holly Maddux.  As much as I love environmentalism and respect the earth, the original founder of this day in addition to being an environmentalist committed a rather horrible murder.  It is unfortunate if  his victim and her family should be forgotten.  Justice is important for all beings.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Recap Day 2: In Which Emma has Meltdown Over Tacos


Today was our first school/work day since taking our 40 day pledge.  The potential for failure is always exponentially greater when scheduling comes into play. So I consider us extremely lucky that there is no goaling training, Brownies, teenager work schedule ...all potential Monday things.  There is only a play date to manuever around.  Yeah! 
The Menu as stated previously was simple and took maximum advantage of my organic coop's biweekly share.  We began with a mixed green salad of NY, PA and NJ organic baby watercress, baby spinach and romaine.  I dressed mine with a Toasted Sesame Wasabi Vinagrette.  Along with the salad was an old family favorite, my grandmother's depression era Green Bean Soup.  I have never blogged this recipe as it seems really too simple to write down.  Basically all you do is boil fresh green beans in about 2 quarts of water until they are no longer bright green and the water has begun to take on the flavor of the beans (maybe 20 minutes or so).  In another seperate pot whisk together some Non -Dairy Sour Cream* (or dairy you heathens) with 2 tablespoons of flour.  Gradually ladle in the broth from cooking the green beans whisking to prevent any lumps.  Keep adding in the broth until you get a nicely flavored, white broth.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked beans into your broth and reheat slowly over low heat -No need to worry about curdling unless you foolishly used the dairy sour cream and then you will need to be careful.  Add some salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and there you go! This  of course sounds as though there is no way this could be a good soup, but you will have to trust me on this as I have never made this for anyone and had them not like it.  Not even my soup hating youngest child.  The final element of this meal was drop biscuits.  You may notice as the days go on that I am a fequent maker/server of quick or flat breads and let me tell you why...they taste great, kids love to help make them and homemade allows you to fill them with whole grains and goodness.  There really is no reason why anyone needs to buy those god awful tubes of processed frankendoughs put out by that cute little doughboy.  Seriously!  The only ingredients in biscuits are flour,salt,baking soda, baking powder, a fat (coconut oil, trans fat free margarine or shortening) and a milk (non dairy mixed with apple cider vinegar for me).  They bake in 10 minutes.  By the time I have finished struggling with a vacuum packed nightmare, I could have easily mixed the homemade dough ingredients together and shared a bonding experience with my youngest child to boot.
Which brings me to the meltdown....
The only hitch in our dinner table this evening was one I nearly missed..  When my husband went to pick up  my two youngest children from their play date it turns out their friend's family was having tacos for dinner.  Emma balked at coming home for soup (she will sometimes claim to hate all soups..this is simply not true).  She proceeded to demand that tacos be served one night this week as she tearily sat at the table.  Within minutes the storm had passed and it was smooth sailing.  (hmmmm more reason to get that tortilla press).  My oldest was too sick to join us for dinner but Sean our usual holdout hovered nearby.  So all in all I would call tonight another success. 

Day Three's menu will be takeout or leftovers as it will be hella busy and even includes a school board election and ice cream social.  Dinner time TBD.

Sean's Food Fact of the Day:  Hammonton, NJ is the blueberry capital of the world.  This local signature crop gave me one heck of a bright purple smoothie for breakfast this morning.

*  There are brands of store bought non-dairy sour cream but it is beyond easy to make and there are numerous recipes available.  They all use a variation of blended silken tofu, lemon or lime juice, vinegar and spices with oil then emulisfied into the mixture using your blender.  I use the one from here The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak which contains amazing recipes for home made non dairy cheese and sauces.  This is a great resource for vegan or dairy free cooking.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Recap of Day 1 or Zooey Investigates the Tomatillas

When last we spoke it was the first night of our 40 day pledge to eat dinner together around an actual table in a room without a tv or computer monitor.  This pledge was made in conjunction with the UUA's 40:40:40 campaign to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day.   The menu was chosen, the meal time was set, so how did we do?

Well obstacle number one was the table itself. My oldest daughter had just arrived home from a youth retreat and either didn't connect eating at the table with needing a table to eat at or... well suffice it to say the table was covered with her purse, a tambourine, her pillows and a sleeping bag. She had left the house for work so Mom was left to return the table to an eating surface again. Obstacle two: The two youngest kids were at a play date until 6 which left dinner time to coincide with the start of a women's professional soccer game. Between that and a fire in the woodstove I had some doubt whether Dad would be joining us. But a fire lasts a few hours and the wonder of the DVR allows for the pausing of the game and the turning off of the monitor until dinner was over. So at least three of us were able to sit and eat dinner together. My son who had agreed to learn food facts was a hold out. My oldest was working until eight and so ate when she came home (at the table).

The meal: Posole is a an amazingly flavorful and hearty latin stew that tastes amazing but doesn't look so pretty. So instead I give you my newly neutered kitty investigating one of the primary ingredients . As mentioned yesterday the recipe comes from Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan which is a must if you love latin cuisine and are trying to eat less meat (or completely vegan). Homemmade tortillas are a revelation. Way more tasty and tender textured than the premade ones from the store. The challenge for me with my still less than mobile finger was to roll out the dough in a circular shape with a rolling pin. No one seemed to mind the paramecium shaped flat breads and I now want a tortilla press in the worst way.

So I would call day one a success.

 Next up  My Grandmother's String Bean Soup with a Mixed Green Salad and  Biscuits.  Dinner is served at 7pm.  See you there.

Sean's food fact of the day:  My son has decided to research Blueberries.  His first new fact is that blueberries were orignally cultivated in Germany and The Netherlands.  So next time you enjoy a muffin, pancake or smoothy thank the German and Dutch farmers who first grew this flavorful fruit.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

40/40/40 Earth Day 2010

This year in honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day the Unitarian Universalist Association has asked Unitarian Universalists accross the nation to choose an action or behavorial change that they can committ to for 40 dayss.  Click on the title of this post for more details.  As many of the suggested actions deal with food justice and ethical eating I am truly excited that my denomination is finally catching up with my lifestyle and beliefs.  As an ethical vegan who has shopped local organic for years many of the suggested actions are no challenge or action change for me and my family.  I personally believe that if I am going to be asking others to reexamine their own lives I need to choose an action that will require some change or sacrifice from me.  (Being vegan for 40 days or discussing ethical eating with an online group is part of my daily lifestyle)  So for the next 40 days I will be corralling my family to eat together around an actual table with no computer monitor or television on.  This should not be something that is a change and believe me when I was a young mother with small children, family dinners were not optional.  These days however, with older busy children who work, play sports, have scouts and me working a job and 1/2....we drop and eat where we are.  I still cook something from scratch every night.  I still carry on daily how was your day conversations, but frequently Jeopardy or Wii or lets admit it Facebook, Twitter or my online classroom are present as well.  So I will be blogging our progress.  And since many of you may be experimenting with eating lower on the food chain (I would need to consume Amoebas or air) I will also include our menus and recipes or links to whole food and vegan resources along the way.  Also my son, who was not consulted before I decided on the original pledge has decided to exert his independence and make his own pledge to learn something new about the food he consumes production for the 40 days.  I will share some of his discoveries as well.  So for now I leave you  to contemplate a photo of our congregation's lovely earth window and tonight's menu: Green Posole Seitan Stew with Chard and White Beans and Homemade Soft Corn Tortillas from Terry Hope Romero's excellent new cookbook Viva Vegan.  Wish me luck.  Dinner is served at 6:30pm