Sunday, January 4, 2009

Road Trip: Sedona and the Grand Canyon

Jason and I had a very loose schedule for our road trip through Arizona. No real itinerary, no plans, no appointments ...

Except I had basically mapped out the whole vacation to include every vegan or veg-friendly restaurant possible.

Our first stop was Green in Tempe. Because of traffic delays, we didn't end up having lunch until 4 p.m., and I choked down the "chicken" parm sandwich without even chewing.

It was my first time trying Teese vegan cheese, and it was wonderful. Great melty texture and it didn't taste like crayons, as so many other vegan cheeses do.

(No photo of the sandwich, but here's what the place looked like on the inside.)

We made it to Sedona well after dark, when most of the town rolls up the sidewalk. My vegan choices appeared slim.

We ended up at Dahl and DiLuca, and I don't have enough good things to say about them. The waiter was very kind in helping me make vegan selections from their menu, and the chef came out of the kitchen to make certain everything was OK.

Because I couldn't have butter with the bread, they whipped up a little dip of herbs, olive oil and garlic. Then I had a salad of baby mixed greens and nuts, followed by a plate of angel hair pasta tossed with savory mushrooms and tomatoes.

Lunch the next day came from D'Lish Very Vegetarian, a sweet little place in downtown Sedona.

The chef convinced me to try his special "vegan pizza omelet."

Well, it wasn't quite pizza. And it wasn't quite an omelet. Actually I'm not sure what it was, because it looked like a quesadilla, and it tasted like a tofu scramble, and it was piled with fresh dill, and it came with a side of salsa. It was one of the strangest flavor combinations I've ever had, but it was absolutely mouthwatering.

I was excited about dinner at Oaxaca, because all of their ads boasted "Vegetarian!"

My disappointment began when I saw the handwritten sign on the door: "No chips today. Sorry for the inconvenience." And then it continued when I scanned the menu and found only a couple vegan entrees -- a bean burrito and veggie fajitas.

The burrito was just OK, nothing remarkable. It made me sad, because I know from experience that vegetarian Mexican food can taste a lot fresher and more vibrant.

The best part of the meal was a slice of grilled cactus with a romesco sauce (which actually hails from Spain, but what the hell), made from almonds, garlic, olive oil and red peppers.

Too bad the cactus was cold and slippery by the time it came to the table.

On the way to the Grand Canyon we stopped at Macy's European Coffee House and Bakery in Flagstaff, a hip vegetarian cafe that seems to be owned by Baha'i people, because there were pictures and quotes from Baha'u'llah all over the place.

This place was awesome, and I could have stayed there all day. The coffee was robust and freshly roasted, and I thoroughly enjoyed a heaping plate of vegan waffles with fresh fruit.

Later, a snowstorm at the Grand Canyon resulted in gorgeous photos ...

... but the roads were bad enough to keep us from Bright Angel Lodge, where I've heard they have an awesome vegan black bean soup served in a sourdough bowl.

Jason ventured out of the hotel to pick up a cheeseless pizza that was fairly bland, but filled our tummies.

And then we headed for home.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sweet holiday treats

Happy holidays!

Last night I went to a cookie party and brought these sparkly ginger cookies, using a recipe from "Vegan With a Vengeance." The dough is made with extra ginger, cinnamon and ground clove, so it tastes exactly like a winter night in front of the fireplace.

For other holiday parties (and gifts for the neighbors), I made candy-cane fudge. The recipe is an adaptation of the five-minute fudge in "My Sweet Vegan." (Check out the recipe here.)

The fudge is completely non-dairy but has a coconut milk base, so it has a really intense, rich flavor. And don't worry, haters, you can't even taste the coconut in there.

I have a bunch of other food to post soon, but I'm about to leave for a Wild West road trip to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam and so on. We're supposed to leave in an hour and I haven't showered or packed yet, so The Boyfriend is getting antsy.

Much more vegan food when I return! Plus road trip food!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rosemary garlic crackers

I never imagined it was possible to make crackers at home.

I guess I thought crackers were just something that always existed, like God or trees or something.

Well, that all changed when I became inspired by Julie Hasson's wonderful Everyday Dish blog, and I've been making my own crackers ever since. I tend to stick to her recipe, since it's so easy and good, but sometimes I go crazy and toss in some sundried tomatoes, olive pieces or curry powder.

This recipe has especially come in handy since I've been recovering from surgery. I've been sucking down soup like it's air, and of course nothing goes with soup like hearty, aromatic, homemade crackers.

Try them:

Julie's Rosemary Garlic Crackers
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp granulated garlic
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper, optional (but good!)
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt crystals, optional

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. In a bowl, mix together the flours, nutritional yeast flakes, baking powder, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the water and oil, stirring until dough comes together. If dough is too dry to mix, add another tablespoon of water or as needed. Divide dough in half.
3. Roll the dough out very thin. If you have a small little rolling pin, simply roll the dough right out in your pan. Transfer the dough to a Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet. Score the dough into squares so that it's cut, but not separated into pieces. If desired, sprinkle a little coarse salt over the tops of the crackers and lightly press into dough with the rolling pin. Repeat with second piece of dough.
4. Bake crackers in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until golden and crackers look crisp. Let crackers cool in pan before removing. They will crisp up as they cool. If crackers are still a little soft, place bake in oven and bake for another five or so minutes until crisp.

Copyright © 2008 Julie Hasson

As Julie says in her blog, once you go homemade you'll never go back.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bone marrow donation = success!

The bone marrow surgery went quickly and smoothly.

All I remember being wheeled into the operating room and staring at the big lights above me ... the rest is blackness. Suddenly I was shaken awake by some cute guy named Cody. He held my hand and talked to me about Santa Fe in the post-op room.

The nurses kept trying to give me chicken broth or some kind of creamy soup. But even though my lips were chapped and my throat was raw, I summoned up enough energy to hiss, "COFFEE."

Later, when they insisted I consume something other than coffee, I tried my best to explain that I'm vegan, I don't eat animal products and ... well, who knows what I said? I was on tons of painkillers. Luckily, I brought my own food -- a package of Imagine organic broccoli soup.

I was eventually allowed to order anything I wanted off the hospital menu, which had a surprisingly good variety. I got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat, a cup of veggie soup and fresh fruit.

Now I'm at home, minus 1.3 liters of bone marrow. I'm in pain, but it's not unbearable.

I'm trying to send all my good, healing energy to the woman who needed this donation -- hopefully she's reaping the benefits of my super awesome marrow, which was given with love.

The best part of recovery is that all my friends have been stopping by to bring me vegan goodies: Homemade potato leek soup by Judi, spicy hummus from Maria, soy ice cream from Deborah, Native Foods' sandwiches from Eileen ... and so much more. I am one lucky girl.

I also prepared for the surgery by making a couple pots of soup ahead of time. The chickpea noodle soup from Veganomicon is the classic "sick" soup, and I tore through that my first couple days of recovery.

Now I'm working on eating the roasted squash soup I froze last week. I'm calling it Dog Park Soup, because I invented it after a trip to the dog park with the new puppy.

Here's what's in it:

Olive oil
One onion, diced
One roasted butternut squash, cut into chunks
One potato, diced
Two medium carrots, diced
One Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled and diced
Two chipotles, chopped finely (Or just one, if you don't want a ton of heat)
One can black beans, rinsed and drained
Big dash cumin
Cayenne (to taste)
Cinnamon (to taste)
Vegetable broth

First I cooked the onion in the olive oil until softened. I added a few cups of vegetable broth to the soup pot (you can add more or less, depending on how "soupy" you want it).

Bring the broth to a boil, then toss all the big stuff in together -- the black beans, the squash, carrots, potato, apple, chipotles -- and let it boil for a while. You'll know it's ready when the squash cooks down and almost melts into a creamy base.

Now add the spices. I added a big dash of cumin, because everything tastes better with cumin. I used just a teensy bit of cayenne, for the kind of heat that sneaks up on you. And even the tiniest bit of cinnamon will bring out the sweetness of the squash against the earthiness of the beans and potatoes. Don't forget salt.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ironing things out

Long story short: In about a week I'm donating my bone marrow to a stranger. All I know about the lady is that she's 59 years old and has leukemia. A bone marrow transplant is her last hope.

For obvious reasons, the bone marrow donor (i.e. me) needs to be extra healthy. And so I had a day-long physical at City of Hope cancer center to make sure I'm a good match for this woman.

Four chest X-rays, a dozen vials of blood, a long meeting with a transplant coordinator, two health surveys, two meetings with surgeons and one cup of pee later, I was officially declared healthy. All my levels of everything are precisely where they should be. Yay!

Here's the thing, though. After the surgeons extract the bone marrow, my hemoglobin will drop dramatically. So much so that I'll probably need a blood transfusion. (That's why I've been donating pints of blood the past couple weeks for my own transfusion. Weird, huh?)

And even though my iron levels are really good right now, I need to have even more iron than usual before going into the surgery.

So what does this have to do with the beets in the picture?

Plenty. Beets are super high in iron. So are dark, leafy greens. Combine the two, and now you understand why I've been eating beet salads every day for the past week.

I've also been integrating other great sources of iron into my diet: Lentils, tofu, blackstrap molasses and lots and lots of beans.

Keep your fingers crossed that everything goes well for the transplant next week! I've never had a surgery before, so I'm nervous -- but I'm even more concerned about the lady who is receiving the marrow. I really hope my donation will help her get better.

Pumpkin soup

I had such high hopes for this pumpkin soup.

First, I scooped out all the guts (and saved the seeds to roast later, of course), I rubbed fresh sage and olive oil all over the inside, then filled the pumpkin with a mixture of soy milk and veggie broth.

After it cooked, the pumpkin flesh was soft enough that I could just stir, and everything transformed into a thick and creamy soup.

And it tasted like baby food.

I'm determined to make this work, though. I went to the pumpkin patch with Abby and picked up three more pumpkins -- a big orange fatty, a small white one and some squatty thing. I'm going to keep making pumpkin soup until I get it right.

Suggestions are welcome, by the way.

Tortillas from scratch

I screwed up.

I made homemade tortillas, which were ridiculously quick and easy. And now I've ruined myself for good -- I can never have store-bought tortillas again. (Not even the good ones from the tortilleria at the Mexican grocery.) Never ever.

Looky here. You just make balls of soft dough ...

... roll them out into thin rounds and cook for a few seconds on each side ...

... and serve, preferably with charo beans, fresh tomatoes and olives.

Try it at home! Here's the recipe.