Friday, February 29, 2008

Public service announcement

It's VEEE-gun. Not VAY-ghun.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tempeh, you saucy, brazen hussy

I'm salivating right now, just remembering how this tasted.

Tempeh wingz

This was my Oscar night comfort-food feast. Sauteed greens with garlic and shallots. A last-minute side of mini shells, olives, mushrooms and Earth Balance. (My original intent was to make mac and faux cheese, but I was out of nutritional yeast, so that plan flopped.)

And then the tempeh. Oh, the tempeh.

I made the wingz using this recipe from Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk. It was surprisingly quick and easy, which is everything you want your Oscar night meal to be since you've already had two big glasses of syrah and your eyes are already blurry and you can't seem to follow directions properly. (Or maybe that's just me.)

The tempeh is spicy and sweet and saucy and possibly the most perfect food I've had in months. Maybe years.

I thought maybe it was just the alcohol talking, but no. The tempeh wingz held up for some tasty lunch leftovers today.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Note to self: Always meet the chef

The first night of food at the Frank Sinatra golf invitational was pretty bleak for vegans, as I said in my previous post.

The good news is that the next two nights were considerably better.

On Friday night I happened to see executive chef Greg Picard surveying the buffet, and I pulled him aside. I explained that I'm vegan and asked which foods would be safe for me to eat. He took me through the line and told me the ingredients for each dish. It's a good thing we did this, because it turns out some things that seemed veggie-friendly were actually made with chicken stock.

Maybe the disappointment showed on my face because the chef said, "Hey, why don't I make you some whole wheat penne with some vegetables? Would you like that?"

Hell yeah I would.

So this is what I had:
Pasta dish

The woman next to me leaned over and said, "Why did you something special?"

Because I am a very special vegan.

"Oh," she said. "Well, I used to be vegetarian, but it's too hard and I really like chicken."

I wanted to tell her that I like chickens too -- that's why I stopped eating them. But I didn't. (I'm working on being less of a smartass these days.)

Saturday night was at the invitational was a formal, four-course meal. We called the chef ahead of time to let him know I would be at the event.

"I figured you would," he said. "I already have a vegan meal planned."

The staff fawned over me all night as they brought my special meals. First course was an heirloom tomato and onion salad. Second course was a variation of the pasta from the night before. Dessert was a big sundae glass full of fresh berries that had been drizzled with sugar.

And my entree was this -- a big bowl of lentils, potatoes, spinach and other vegetables.
Lentils and veggies

It was amazing.

Seated next to me was baseball hall-of-famer Brooks Robinson.

"What do I have to say to get that?" he said, pointing at my entree.

I told him a little bit about veganism and why I eat that way for health and compassionate reasons. He asked me some really good questions and then said, "How do you spell it? I'm going to have to try that."

So, major props go out to the open-minded baseball player, who was genuinely interested in a different way of eating, and to Chef Picard at the Renaissance Esmeralda resort, who went out of his way to be accommodating.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Last night was a bad buffet dinner at an event for a fancy-schmancy golf invitational. It was an Italian theme, so I expected spaghetti with marinara sauce, or at the very least some naked noodles.

The cold section of the buffet was a build-your-own salad, but 75 percent of the toppings were meat or cheese. I ended up with chopped romaine, diced cukes and some pieces of mealy tomato. No dressing -- they only had ranch. (After begging, I finally got some oil and vinegar.)

The hot part of the buffet had only one vegan thing: Cold, bitter grilled veggies.

It was all pretty miserable.

The other people at my table with plates overflowing with 15 different kinds of food.

One woman, who knows I am a vegan, noticed my plate full of lettuce. "Hey, this must be like a feast for you!" she said and nodded with approval.

"Uh. Not exactly."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Vegan hiker

He came up with the idea late Saturday night.

"Are you ready for an adventure?"

Yes! Yes, I was.

Except when he told me exactly what the adventure would entail, I was scared more than excited.

Hiking all day in the middle of the desert? What the heck will I eat? This would be my first real excursion in the outdoors since going vegan, something that would require more than a Larabar and an apple.

So I made a loaf of rosemary focaccia.

Rosemary focaccia

When that was done, I used it to make a big fat sandwich of seitan and roasted red pepper spread. Since there was no telling when we would be home or how strenuous the hike would be, I also packed up a pear, a couple granola bars and some quinoa protein muffins.

Early the next morning, we hit the road and ended up in the middle of the Mojave.

Road to nowhere

The trail was a big sea of golden wildflowers.


We hiked to the top of a 10,000-year-old volcanic crater.

Jason on rim

The payoff was an excellent view of lava fields.



After a spectacular sunset, we headed back home.



We were so exhausted, dirty and hungry, we decided to stop to wash up and grab a quick bite. I had no idea what I would find at Crossroads Cafe in Joshua Tree. Best-case scenario, I figured would be a salad, even though that wouldn't be nearly enough to fill my grumbly post-hike belly.

And then ... success!

A tempeh reuben with vegan cheese and a mixed green salad with lemon tahini dressing, all for $7.50. When my side salad arrived with non-vegan feta, the server efficiently whisked it away and brought me a brand-spanking-new one.

Reuben sandwich

(Pardon the bad photo. That was taken with my phone in a poorly-lit place.)

Support vegan-friendly businesses: Crossroads Cafe is located at 61715 29 Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA.

Friday, February 15, 2008

V-day food extravaganza

Rather than go out to a fancy-schmancy restaurant for Valentine's Day, Jason had an even better idea -- he offered to cook me any vegan meal I wanted.

I chose homemade potstickers from VeganYumYum, a recipe I've been salivating over ever since I first saw it.

We made the easy baked seitan recipe on Valentine's Day Eve. As promised it sure was easy. It was also something of a magic trick -- it went into the oven looking like a small silver log and came out a puffy Nerf ball. Cool!

Jason underestimated the amount of time necessary to make a bajillion potstickers, so partway through the process we snacked on some inari from Bristol Farms.


Jason's so anal about numbers, it was really cute and funny to watch him cook.

See, while I cook in splashes, dashes and pinches, he's all about precise measurements. So when the recipe called for a tablespoon of filling to be placed in the center of each wrapper, he made sure it was exactly a tablespoon. (I'm surprised he didn't use a compass to determine the true center of each wrapper.)


He folded and crimped all the edges. Not bad for a newbie chef.


It took a very long time, but here are all the "raw" potstickers, waiting to be cooked.

Potsticker platter

And then they sizzled happily in my iron skillet.


All that and gorgeous roses too!


Monday, February 11, 2008

XXX Veggies XXX

Some long overdue food porn:

Tuscan bean salad. The greens, tomatoes, olives and onion are all mine. The beany goodness came from the grocery store deli. (Hey, a girl gets lazy every once in a while.)

Tuscan bean salad

Roasted asparagus, the last of scalloped potatoes and some amazing hot sauce-glazed tempeh.


Flax spirals, spicy marinara and beanballs.

Pasta and beanballs

Mmmm, hummus pizza. This alone has made my life worth living. It's a cornmeal crust slathered with roasted garlic hummus, then generously topped with roasted red pepper, spinach, artichoke hearts, olives and faux sausage.

Hummus pizza

Taco salad. Another lazy night. Here we have greens, corn, pinto beans, peppers, olives, seitan and broccoli, all topped with salsa -- basically, all the leftovers in my fridge that were getting old.

Taco salad

And for dessert, apple spice cupcakes. Why aren't apples in more cupcakes?

Apple spice cupcake