Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Squash stabbing and VeganMoFo wrap-up

Happy Halloween!
I stabbed a butternut squash yesterday to have something orange for Halloween. (The color almost matches the VeganMoFo banner.) During Sandy, my boyfriend and I cooked up a storm. Our fridge and freezer are now packed with veggie chili, veggie soup, homemade bread, and baked butternut.    
Baked butternut
Vegan Month of Food 2012 has been great fun. It's inspiring to have this flurry of vegan food awesomeness before the holidays. (It's like preventative kryptonite against The Splendid Table's Turkey Confidential episode.) 

I have discovered some great new-to-me blogs, including a local one on baking, Leaves and Flours, that has been seriously tempting me to buy speculoos spread. Personally, I hit the wall on sweets early. So no Halloween candy this year. 

VeganMoFo has inspired me to: 
  • cook some crazy dishes 
  • bake more
  • dine out
  • shop at local farmers' markets
  • review Sarah Kramer's app
  • invent a recipe
  • taste test my cat's food
  • write 20 posts for the month!    

Next year, my goal is to sign up promptly, in time for the official blogroll. And possibly have a theme. In the meantime, I'm going to continue blogging here, on my various vegan adventures in the District of Columbia.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Busboys and Poets sandwich fix

Yesterday, my boyfriend and I braved the elements to visit Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th Street NW, for lunch. We used to be regulars at the Busboys location at 5th & K. Now we live closer to the restaurant's original location at 14th & V, which I love for its Teaching For Change Bookstore. In general, this location always seems much busier than our old "BBP." Even during the storm, the dining area was crowded with a strong laptop contingent.  

Busboys' menu has grown in the year since we last visited. It is great to see that they've added loads of vegan items. We started our meal with greens. On the left is my bowl of kale. This simple, garlicky side would pair well with anything and made a nice alternative to the salad options. On the right is my boyfriend's house salad. He said the mixed greens weren't as choice as they have been in the past.
Next we ordered sandwiches. On the left is a new menu item: the vegan tuna salad sandwich. The "tuna salad" was a mash-up of chickpeas, relish, nori, carrots, celery, and red onions. It tasted fresh and rather wholesome, with no processed fake meat products. On the right is the veggie burger which was much tastier than its past incarnations. It is a spicy lentil-based burger that is served with arugula, avocado, and tomato. Of course, the cinnamony sweet potato fries stole the show. And the vegan mayo was abundant.    
Finally, I noticed that Busboys has branded organic ketchup now. It is a "store brand," manufactured by Red Gold in Indiana. My boyfriend prefers Heinz but I thought this ketchup did the trick. The restaurant didn't have any hot sauce on the tables, but maybe it is reserved for their brunch menu. Sadly, we had no room for dessert. Busboys carries Vegan Treats.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Columbia Heights Community Marketplace Haul

This weekend I finally made it to the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace. Located in the Columbia Heights civic plaza at the corner of 14th ST NW and Park Road NW, this small, busy community market is both a farmers' market and a space for local artists and artisans. On the day I visited there was a pottery vendor and salsa dancing. The CHCM organizers refer to the marketplace as a "Festivus." (However, I don't think they are referencing the Seinfeld episode.) The market's 2012 season lasts until December 15th. Like every farmers' market in my neighborhood, it happens on Saturdays, from 9am to 1pm. It is also a stone's throw from the Columbia Heights Metro station and Sticky Fingers bakery.
Overall, I was most impressed with the produce stands. Some of the veggies and fruits on display looked almost too perfect. One fruit stand sign that caught my eye was for the Nittany apple, a less glossy offering. I've eaten this apple variety in the past but I didn't realize it was introduced by scientists at my alma mater, Penn State University. A cross between a Golden Delicious and a York apple, this apple has a slightly tart flavor and golden yellow flesh. Its fruit oxidizes very slowly, so it doesn't turn brown quickly when sliced. It is also supposed to be excellent for baking, which I'd like to put to the test.

This week's market haul included a variety of apples, habaneros, bell peppers, vegan whole wheat bread, heirloom and cherry tomatoes, onions, garlic, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, collards, arugula, kale, and chard. Also I finally bought a butternut squash. I'm so glad I scored all this local, fresh food before the Hurricane Sandy shopping hysteria began.   

Sunday, October 28, 2012

ModPo Cocoa

The Wing-It Vegan blog's hot chocolate has inspired me to do a similar "lazy post." So here's my hot cocoa mug. Using almond milk and Ghirardelli cocoa, I made a veganized version of this Hershey's recipe. I also added some coconut cream that refused to whip up (drat!). This cocoa was a rich and creamy treat.

I enjoyed this mug while watching a video from the Coursera class I am taking on Modern and Contemporary Poetry, a.k.a. "ModPo." Besides VeganMoFo, ModPo has been keeping me glued to my laptop this month. How I love this class! The professor Al Filreis is a dynamo and the TAs are all wicked smart. There are so many passionate poetry peeps online. Right now we are studying The New York School of poetry and doing a close reading of Frank O'Hara's poem "Why I Am Not a Painter." Next week we start the Language poets. It's thrilling stuff.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Smoke and Barrel's brunch buffet

In my opinion, eating at a BBQ joint always poses an ethical quandary for vegans. It's difficult to enjoy your salad while others are enjoying their slab of ribs. Lately, DC has exploded with BBQ places. It is hard not to hate on this meaty trend. However the owners of Smoke and Barrel, at 2471 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan, haven't forgotten how to make vegans feel welcome. As their sign says, they offer a brunch buffet with "Vegan Options Too!"

Smoke and Barrel is located in the former space of Asylum, a once popular, pseudo biker bar that had some killer vegan eats. In its new incarnation, the restaurant/bar feels more like a high-end man cave than its previous punk rock grotto-vibe. Think craft beer, flat screen TVs, and a wooden barrel and red brick decor. (The owners are also responsible for Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights.)
These are some blurry photos of the weekend buffet. The drink on the left is my boyfriend's half empty full Bloody Mary. This was an excellent libation; a delicious meal in itself. On the right is a buffet plate with french toast, tofu hash, hash brown potatoes, grits, and a flour tortilla filled with tofu scramble and vegan chili. 

Even though it looks like an unattractive, brown blob here, the french toast was my favorite item--chewy and cinnamony. My boyfriend preferred the roasted jalapeno grits. The buffet also featured plenty of condiments, including salsa, maple syrup, and various hot sauces. And they offered unlimited coffee with soy milk.    

Overall, I enjoyed the buffet. It helped that the vegan food was well-labeled and kept in separate warmers from the meat and dairy offerings. In fact, the veggie stuff seemed loads more popular than the meaty BBQ brunch fare. Maybe one day the owners will make the buffet all-vegan. That would be a rad return to the ethos of punk rock.     

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

VeganMoFo inspired...Scramble Tofu Breakfast Bahn Mi

Here's another VeganMoFo inspired creation. I wanted to try out this recipe by Terry Hope Romero, recently recommended by Isa Chandra Moskowitz on the Post Punk Kitchen blog. I love bahn mi sandwiches and tofu scrambles, so this seemed like a winner combo.

The Scramble Tofu Breakfast Bahn Mi has an elaborate recipe. (As my boyfriend often puts it, "Sandwiches don't make themselves.") I skipped the pickle step, as I couldn't find daikon or star anise at my local markets. I also changed up the spices, making it a more Indian-style scramble, with some garam masala in the mix. And I went with thin slices for the veggies, rather than matchsticks, as I've got crappy knife skills.

Despite my changes, the resulting sandwiches were unique and satisfying. I made them for dinner rather than breakfast, which was good because they were dinner-sized, super messy, and food coma-inducing. If I make this style of sammie again, I would skip the vegan mayo, as the bahn mi seemed saucy enough with the tofu scramble juices and chili garlic sauce.
Bahn mi close-up

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

VeganMoFo inspired...Cookie Dough Truffles

Over the weekend I made cookie dough truffles, which I spotted in a post on the tumblr busted afternoon. I like this site's Buffy the Vampire Slayer MoFo theme; it's very Halloween appropriate too.

Sidenote: Speaking of Halloween VeganMoFo themes, my Netflix que has been growing considerably from posts like this at The Spooky Vegan blog. Next week I'd like to attempt a Halloween recipe, as it seems like all the cool MoFo bloggers are doing them.

This cookie dough truffle recipe seems like something you would pin on Pinterest but never actually make. But VeganMoFo is encouraging me to try some new things, including cat food. And now these crazy truffles.
This simple, no-bake recipe comes from Chef Chloe Coscarelli, who I heard interviewed recently on the Toronto Vegetarian Podcast. (Chef Chloe seems as sweet as her recipes.) The recipe is easier than baking actual cookies and would be a good option to make in the summer, when you don't feel like firing up the oven. You also get to dip cookie dough balls in chocolate, which is messy fun.

The recipe made loads, so there were truffles to share. Being an ingredients examiner myself*, I gave everyone a head's up on the truffle filling but it'd be interesting to surprise someone with a shock of dough.

*This reminds me of the vegan lightbulb joke:
Q. How many vegans does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Two--one to screw in the bulb and one to check the ingredients first.

Monday, October 22, 2012

14th and U Farmers' Market Haul

This weekend I made it to another local farmers' market: the 14th and U Farmers' Market. Located next to the Franklin D. Reeves Center municipal building, the market is on the bustling northwest corner of 14th Street and U Street NW. It is a stone's throw from the U Street Metro station's 13th Street entrance on the Green Line.

I visited this market a few years ago and my how it has grown. It used to be a few stands only. Now it rivals the Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Market as a mid-sized market and is packed with produce stands. Regrettably, this market happens at the same exact time as the Mt. Pleasant market, on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. The U Street market is only scheduled to last until November 17th this year. So Mt. Pleasant has them beat on that front, as they are scheduled through December 22nd.
14th and U is a "producer-only" market, affiliated with the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market, another neighborhood market that I've frequented in the past. Both markets emphasize local, seasonal produce. You won't find any lemons that fell off the back of a truck. (I'm looking at you, Eastern Market.) The 14th and U market also has a mushroom stand.
For my market haul, I scored fresh, local greens (kale, arugula, and a mustard greens mix), garlic, onions, pears, apples, salad tomatoes, grapes, green peppers, and hot peppers. I haven't bought any winter squash or pumpkins yet this year but they are omnipresent. Maybe next week I'll finally take the plunge.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Evolution Diet Cat Food review, or "I ate cat food for VeganMoFo"

On the Post Punk Kitchen Forum, I found a discussion of the interesting and unusual foods that bloggers try for the Vegan Month of Food. This month I've been branching out too. I've been baking more and cooking from new recipes, mainly from the delicious mind of Sarah Kramer

Next week I'd like to try some of the creative recipes found on other MoFo blogs. (My browser's "recipe" bookmarks folder is bursting!) For today, I thought I'd try something a little different. It's a taste test that I've been meaning to do for some time: try my cat's vegan cat food. 
Watching me sample cat food.
A rescue from Morris Animal Refuge in Philadelphia, my cat has been eating vegan since 2004. She seems fat and happy on her steady diet of Evolution Diet cat food. My boyfriend has tried her kibble before, but I've never dared. Evolution Diet advertises their cat food as human-grade, so I wasn't worried that it would be toxic, I just wondered about the flavor.
Evolution Diet vegan cat food comes in two flavors: gourmet fondue veggie cheese burger and gourmet pasta veggie burger. (I'm actually not sure which flavor we have at home now, as the elaborate label doesn't specify.) The cat food arrives from St. Paul, Minnesota in a shiny silver twenty pound bag. The company recommends that you serve the kibble moist, which we usually do. However our cat eats it dry when we are out of town. Below, on the left is the dry kibble, on the right is the wet. I decided to try both in the interest of science. 
Overall, I preferred the dry kibble. (I think the cat does too, as she scarfs it down quickest.) It was crunchy, slightly garlicky in flavor. You probably could add this kibble to Chex Mix or serve it as an appetizer, passing it off as a small, herbal cracker. (Maybe serve it with wine.) The wet kibble was spongy and chewy. It had more of a lingering after taste. It also smelled like cat breath. In particular, it smelled like my cat's breath.

I'm glad I finally tried my cat's food. Plus, I finally posted some photos of my cat (which have been lacking for a personal blog). Here's another outraged cat face:  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Go Vegan! with Sarah Kramer app review, part 2: New recipes

Screengrab from the Go Vegan! app.
Here is part two of my review of the Go Vegan! with Sarah Kramer app for the iPhone. Yesterday, in part one, I wrote about some of the tried and true recipes. Today I will review some of the new recipes. Using the app, I made a dinner with three brand new recipes and one older recipe that was new to me. Overall, I found the recipes elementary, perhaps a good primer for new vegans. The format of the iPhone app also seems to encourage streamlined recipes.
Faux "Parmesan" Cheeze
The steps to this super easy recipe fit on a single iPhone screen. In short, you blend nutritional yeast and walnuts in a food processor and salt to taste. This recipe seems almost too basic to warrant inclusion. But it reminded me that the app is entitled, "Go Vegan!," so perhaps it is aimed at newbies rather than longtime vegans. The latter would probably already know that "nooch" + nuts = cheesy goodness. (They'd also know what nutritional yeast is.)

Sarah Kramer's cookbooks are so approachable and appealing because they include building blocks such as this condiment. However, in one way, I think Kramer is misleading to new vegans here. The recipe description says that this dish can be made for under $1. Maybe in Canada! Walnuts and nutritional yeast are rather expensive in the U.S. I estimate that this batch cost me $5. That said, the batch will last some time and has many uses.

Shoshana and Teresa's Wilted Kale Super-Salad
Again, this is a simple recipe, something easy to improvise without steps. The greens, root veggies (grated beets and carrots), and dried cranberries marinate in a basic balsamic dressing to provide the wilted effect. I added garlic to the dressing and onions to the salad for more flavor. Instead of adding chopped nuts as required, I used some of the faux parm as a topping. I'll definitely make this style of salad again but I'm not sure that I need to bookmark the recipe. It'd be a good gateway salad for newbie vegans.

Cast-Iron Chickpea Flatbread
On the app, Kramer feeds this flatbread to a dog in a fun video. I didn't have one of its four-ingredients, chickpea flour, but it was easy to find at the health food store. (Sadly, I couldn't find a cute, hungry dog.) My flatbread didn't flip out of the cast iron pan as easily as Kramer's did in the video but that could be because my pan isn't as seasoned as it ought to be. I think I'll make this recipe again, especially as I now have a bag of chickpea flour to use.

Tortilla Chip Soup
This one wasn't a new recipe but also was easy. It is basically a tomato-based soup with some cumin, chili powder, and peppers. I don't think I'll make this again, because I like my soups to be more substantial and stew-like, with plenty of grains and beans. However I will duplicate the tortilla chip garnish on other soups. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Go Vegan! with Sarah Kramer app review, part 1: Tried and true recipes

I finally purchased the Go Vegan! with Sarah Kramer app for the iPhone. This is the first cooking app that I have ever downloaded but it is definitely not going to be the last because I'm smitten with it. (I hope Dreena Burton releases one next.) 

So far, I've made two of the fifty recipes offered. Forty of the recipes are from Sarah Kramer's previously published cookbooks, ten are new. (Tomorrow, in part two of this review, I'll try a couple of the recipes debuting in the app.) I do wish that the app would cite the specific cookbooks that each of the recipes are sourced from. It would be a handy to be able to reference the original recipe. For example, if you want to recommend it to your iPhone-less, cookbook-loving friends.    

Owning this handy app is like having Kramer's Vegan A Go-Go! in an even more portable version--which I didn't think possible because that book is already pocketable. Below is a photo of how the app sizes up against Kramer's previous pink-covered cookbooks. 

In terms of design, this app is uncluttered eye candy with attractive, functional menus. Each recipe is broken down into an ingredients page and a steps page, with pink apple and whisk icons to toggle back and forth. The app has an easily manageable favorites section and a helpful shopping list function. (Although it is funny that the app adds water to your shopping list. I tend to get water from the faucet, not the grocery store.) 

Other new content in the app includes informative short videos and audio intros for select recipes. And there are drool-inducing photos for every recipe, a feature that Kramer's cookbooks haven't always offered. 

My one personal pet peeve about the app is that it played music automatically on start up. While the music is peppy, I don't like to be blasted by audio unawares. However it was easy to set the music to "off" and it hasn't bugged me since.  

Here are photos of the two recipes that I've already added to my favorites que. Above is Sarah and Tanya's You-Must-Make-This Dressing. This salad dressing recipe is one of my all-time favorites. For this batch, I used a mix of fresh garlic chives and regular chives.  
I also made another familiar favorite, the "Anything Goes" Fruit-Filled Muffins. These muffins are nice because they are flexible; you can add anything (fruits, nuts, chocolate, etc.) into the mix. For this batch I used apple, raspberries, and blackberries for the fruit filling. I also added some whole wheat flour to make it slightly more healthy. I wish the recipe had more spice suggestions but maybe that is a challenge to experiment further.

Update: Here's part two of my review.         

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Market haul

This weekend I finally made it to the Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Market. It is one of four farmers' markets within walking distance of our new place. Unfortunately, all these nearby markets seem to have the same exact schedule: Saturday mornings from 9am to 1pm. (It's too bad they couldn't spread out the wealth of produce throughout the week.)

Located in Lamont Park, 3200 Mt. Pleasant Street, the Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Market has the welcoming, less frenetic energy of small neighborhood farmers' market. For so late in the season, I was impressed with the number of local produce and fruit vendors. They also had some interesting food stands, including a bao (Chinese steamed buns) stand and Pleasant Pops, which I have yet to check out. My market haul this time included kale, collards, chard, bell peppers, hot peppers, heirloom tomatoes, apples, and pears.
I'm sure to return to this market, especially since it runs the longest. The market usually runs May to November, but this year has been extended to December 22nd. I also plan to visit my three other neighborhood markets before they end for the year. And I'm keen to return to the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market, DC's largest, year-round market, soon too. Luckily, that one is on Sunday mornings. However it requires a short bike or bus ride.

Sidenote: Mt. Pleasant Street also has some great Latino and Asian grocery stores worth exploring. I scored some dry beans, spices, and flax seeds. Great deals all, but they did detract from my produce hauling capacity.