Sunday, October 25, 2009

Soup, chili and a bit of catch up

It's been a busy weekend, but I managed to get a hot meal on the table to match the cooler weather. Dreena's Monkey Minestrone soup from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan has been a favorite ever since Mr. PLV made it for me when I was sick. I was hankering for a good soup and for some greens when I saw a minestrone recipe in Better Homes and Gardens. When I compared their recipe to Dreena's, I knew there was no comparison! Hers has so much more flavor and spice! Anyway, I did take BH&G's advice and added zucchini (well, summer squash) in lieu of the green beans, and several cups of kale instead of one of the cans of beans. I did use some great gluten-free elbow macaroni. The results? A huge pot of delicious comfort, ready to sustain me throughout the week! Four stars **** and one of my fav soups of all time. Just bursting with veggies (carrots, onion, garlic, corn, squash, kale), plus the pasta and kidney beans. A meal in a bowl!

Meanwhile, Mr. PLV was craving a chili, so we opened up Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes by Robertson and found this West Coast Chili. It was delicious! I left off the olives - that was just too weird for me - but the avocado and sourdough bread on the side were perfect! Nice and filling and very easy. Four stars ****.

Finally, I was trying to use up a box of seitan I had accidentally bought (I rarely buy it because it's so expensive - over $4 for an eight-ounce box! Compare that to a couple of bucks for about 5 pounds homemade...). Thus, our own seitan stir fry was born. Just browned the seitan (yum!), stir fried the veggies in toughness order (i.e. broccoli first, mushrooms last) and added some Bragg's for flavor! I also added some hoisin sauce at the end on my portion. Served atop brown rice, although Mr. PLV prefers white!
Some older photos from the month...these are from the presentation I did for Vegetarian Month, back in early October. These are just some of the books that our library system owns! All vegan or vegetarian cookbooks and some animal rights stuff, too.

Of course, you have to lead them into temptation with dessert! This chocolate peanut butter pie with peanut butter pretzels on top is a cinch to make. Recipe in Vegetarian Times magazine.

This coconut fudge is a mainstay at any sweet gathering for me. Wicked easy and so rich! From My Sweet Vegan.

I also made Snickerdoodles, Cookies and Cream cupcakes, Pumpkin Oatmeal cookies, and Macadamia Nut Blondies. Phew! Some people went home with stomachaches, they ate so much :)

And last but not least, it was thrilling to attend the D.C. Green Festival, sponsored by Green America and various other great organizations. It's a yearly event, held throughout the U.S., featuring speakers and tons of booths with fair trade, organic, sustainable, earth-conscious groups and businesses. All the food there was vegetarian or vegan (because it's the best for the planet - yeah!), and there were no trash cans - just recycling, compost (all plates, etc, were biodegradable), etc. There were tons of great groups there, including Food Not Bombs. I had an amazing piece of Hemp Baklava - wow!- among other things. This restaurant here is Soul Vegetarian, which features southern-style home cooking. I opted for Nirvana's Indian fare and it was hot but excellent! Can't wait for next year - I'm going to go both days this time instead of one, because there was just so much to see! Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Road Trip!

Yes, it is mid-October and yes, that is snow. No, it's not in Virginia, but it actually did snow in VA this weekend! The snow would have been fun and pretty if we hadn't spent the entire day driving in rain/snow. We were heading to Watkins Glen, NY, home of Farm Sanctuary, to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. If you're not familiar with this incredible organization, I urge you to check out the link above (OK - the link is not taking in's: We awoke to this scene the next morning. This is the gorgeous view from our cabin (they run a small B&B as well). You can see all the animal shelters/barns in the distance and maybe even that dark spot in the fields. That was a pig.
After an all-vegan(!) continental breakfast of pastries, muffins, bagels, fresh fruit, juice, tea, coffee, etc. (along with vegan cream cheese/butter/jam!), we had a personal tour of the farm. (We were the only visitors at that time, so it was really one guide and us two - cool!). This is a shot from one of the hills overlooking the People Barn (education center/visitors center) and cabins. I only had 18 pictures left in my camera, so I couldn't take photos of the inside of the People Barn. It was fabulous, with a whole wall of celebrity photos supporting the Farm and veganism, and life size gestation crates, veal crates, and battery cages. Lots of interactive things for kids and adults to learn about health and the (sad) lives of animals on factory farms. But really, an overall loving and positive message. The store was great, too! :)

The first animals we met were the cows (actually, "cattle." Cows are the girls and steers are the boys - bulls are un-neutered. All the animals on the farm have been spayed or neutered, as it is the mission to rescue animals in need, not create more). I wish we could post the great photo of Mr. PLV, me and Snickers! Anyway, they were really beautiful and silent and large! They are huge because that is the way that they are bred. Sadly, they don't live as long because of this, and many develop weakened or broken legs because of the abnormal weight of their bodies.

Speaking of abnormal weight...the turkeys are in the same condition. They are bred to be huge especially in the breast area, and their legs can't support the weight. They are also artificially inseminated because they cannot mate naturally, they are so overweight. Happily, despite the debeaking and de-toeing, these turkeys will live out their lives at the farm in a peaceful way. Here is a great shot of one of the turkeys "submitting" itself to be petted. It just stood there, waiting to be stroked!

We learned that most turkeys are also bred white, because the darker feathers leave dark marks on their flesh and people like their meat to be "clean-looking." Yuck.

We met the goats and sheep next. They were the friendliest of all! The goats nibbled at our jackets and some of the sheep pressed up against us to be petted. This adorable guy is called "Jerry Lee," I think, and is a pygmy goat. Check out his cool horns! Horns are "living" parts of these animals, much like our teeth, which have blood flowing through them. When they are cut off, it is very painful.

This elderly goat was lucky enough to get a special jacket to help keep him warm.

The rabbits were sheltered away, so we couldn't see those that day. The geese are apparently not the petting-type of animals, so we left those alone, too.

The ducks were happy to be in their warm shed...

or out in the cold, playing in their pool! Brrr!!

Of course, with the H1N1 scare, we had to stay pretty far away from the pigs, but they were cool all the same. Although it is a misnomer that they are dirty animals (they prefer to be clean and swim in water to cool off (they don't have sweat glands), but mud works very well, too!), it is unfortunately true that they love to eat (thus the phrase, "eat like a pig."). They are bred to have huge appetites.

After some more farm walking, we headed into town for lunch. We ate some cheese-less pizza at the local pizza joint (very good!). Then we headed to Good Groceries. If you are in Watkins Glen, you have to check this place out! It's on 4th street, just off of the main drag (N. Franklin St.). It has all kinds of cool vegan and earth-friendly stuff. We tasted some Daiya cheese - very good! - and I bought some cool raw nuggets (one was fruit, the other a mix of veggies). Mr. PLV bought a vegan cookie. The owners are very friendly and know their stuff! They also have a lending library including videos - cool!

Finally, we headed to the nearby Watkins Glen State Park, for a walk along this incredible natural gorge, carved by glaciers, melting glaciers, and running water. The park people put in these very natural-looking stairs that blended right in with the rocks. It was quite a hike up! If you look closely, you can see the people on the path down below.

There were also tons of beautiful waterfalls.

We ate lots of great vegan food on this trip, including a yummy seitan rib sandwhich and a plate of pasta primavera at the RoosterFish (formerly the Crooked Rooster) which were both decent but over-priced. The cheeseless pizza at Jerlando's Pizza Co. was amazing despite the waitress' surly attitude when I asked about vegan cheese. We had decent Chinese at The House of Hong, although we were seated next to the cash register, facing the kitchen's swinging doors, and were rushed through our meal a bit. They have a separate vegetarian menu, but you have to ask for it. Why couldn't they just add it to their regular menu? But last and certainly best, we stopped by Glen Mountain Market on the way home for some sandwiches for the road. We both got seitan bacon type sandwiches, his on homemade French baguette, mine on a spinach wrap. The girl who made our sandwiches was very, very nice and the whole place was very vegan-friendly! She knew automatically what was vegan. The homemade seitan slices were delicious and definitely four star lunches all around with chips and a pickle! The only sad part was the Styrofoam boxes :P This excellent place also has the wonderful pastries that the Farm Sanctuary B&B served us in the morning, and much of their place is "greened." Overall, a cold but pleasant trip! Next time, we'll try to make it over to Ithaca.

Monday, October 05, 2009

World Vegetarian Month goodies!

I had to start the post off with this photo. Orange-Rum Cake from Vegan with a Vengeance. Can I tell you something? I don't normally brag about recipes, especially desserts, out loud and in person, at least. On this blog, sure, but usually I just smile and say thank you. Well, this cake was made for our monthly Veg Group meeting. I wasn't sure how it tasted before we cut into it, as you really can't sample a cake like you can cookies, if you're planning on serving it to others. Also, the batter wasn't anything to go crazy for (sometimes, you can tell right away by the batter). But this cake HOLY COW. It was freakin' amazing. Moist, fluffy, yet with a great crumb (due to some cornmeal), the slivered almonds setting off the orange glaze (which was supposed to be orange-rum, but it was just too early in the day for that). It was by far the best cake I've had in ages. I was worried that it was a little flat, but no - that was just right for the perfect little slice to melt in your mouth. Wow. Go make this! (and if you don't have the book yet, go get that, too!). If this could get five stars, it would ****

Another shocker was this simple recipe, from no place in particular. We had shiitake mushrooms from our last CSA pick up of the year (boohoo!), and some broccoli leftover from salad fixings, and Mr. PLV wanted a tofu stir fry. So this was born. Just stir fried the tofu, took it out, stir fried the broccoli (both in sesame oil and water), then added some soy sauce and the mushrooms and combined everything back into the pan again with a dab or two of hoisin sauce! Amazing! One of the best stir fries I've ever made. Yum, yum, yum. Alongside some great brown rice, it was just perfect in my new dragon bowl :) Four stars ****.
Meanwhile, another dish I've made before with success....Aloo Gobi. This time, it was from The Vegan Table. It was pretty quick and easy to make, but as we were eating it I had several thoughts:
1) this should be spicier
2) this shouldn't have tomatoes in it
3) this should have peas!
So, this was very disappointing. Not in-edible, but just two and a half stars **1/2. I like the version in La Dolce Vegan much better.

To go with the Aloo Gobi, this Red Lentil Dal (dal means "bean") was similarly disappointing. Not spicy enough and it was really watery. It also got way too mushy, although I was trying to cook some of the water out of it. Nothing like the photo (same cookbook as the previous dish). Two and a half stars **1/2. Better w/more cayenne and some salt.

One surprising dish that did not disappoint was this Leek-Spaghetti Squash Polenta from Vegan Yum-Yum. You cook the leeks and spaghetti squash, chop it up a bit, and put it into the polenta as it cooks! An amazing mix of flavors and nice and spicy! Yum-Yum is right! Ate this with the Hurry Up Alfredo sauce (which didn't taste much like alfredo but was very good!) over a nice big bed of lettuce. Mr. PLV, as much as fan of polenta as he is, didn't care for this
much, but I gave it four yummy stars! ****.

Another four-star dish last week was the Braised Figs Over Arugula from The Vegan Table. This was simply amazing and also pretty simple to make! I'm not a big fan of fresh figs (I love dried ones, though!) but braising them in a little butter and sugar, then putting them atop bitter arugula with a balsamic-reduction sauce - wow!

Using up some of our many CSA squashes, I made an old standby: Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili from Vegan Planet. I loved the sweetness of the squash, Mr. PLV did not, but funny enough, he went back for thirds AND asked about it for leftovers during the week! He, he! Three solid stars ***, maybe more.

The last of our eggplant and zucchini (well I might get more eggplant but I'm kinda' burnt out on it) went into making these Zucchini and Eggplant Chips with Roasted Tomato Sauce. The sauce was homemade, using up some of the last tomatoes. These were breaded with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and baked, and were just so nice and crunchy! The sauce was also good on the aforementioned polenta, which we ate alongside this appetizer. Good stuff! I think this was a Veg News magazine online recipe - yup, it was, so I don't have a link for you...The sauce was from Vegetarian Times Oct 09 issue but it's not online yet. Three and a half stars ***1/2.

After baking the spaghetti squash for the polenta, I had these seeds on hand. I thought, "they look like pumpkin seeds and really, a pumpkin is just a squash!" So into the oven they went. Well, OK, so I pan fried them, being short on time, following a couple of different recipes, with some vegan Worcestershire sauce (regular kind has anchovies - yuck!). They were sooo good! Four stars ****. Lots of great surprises this week and further proof that you don't need to eat meat to eat amazing food! Happy World Vegetarian Month everyone! See you at my presentation on Wed! :)