Archive | October, 2010

Wild Fork (***1/2 overall)

31 Oct

I will get back to the vacation recap soon, but I’ve been crazy-busy this week. Friday and Saturday was Indie Emporium, and I had things to make, sell, and then model in a fashion show. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this restaurant view from last week and promise more Italy soon.

I was going to start this post with, “A vegan, a vegetarian, and an omnivore walk into a restaurant,” but that would imply I didn’t eat any dairy there. I did. It wasn’t my plan. In fact, I had called ahead to make sure there were dairy-free options available, but I cracked under the pressure of flatbread pizza and sweet-potato pie. Bad Brigid.

Anyway, my beloved’s younger brother is leaving Tulsa to return to Atlanta, and we are going to miss him greatly. He wanted to buy us dinner as a belated birthday gift to my taller half, so last night, we all went to the Wild Fork.

I’ve been several times before, mostly for lunch or brunch. This was my first dinner trip.

Wild Fork is a little swanky, but not over-the-top. My taller half chose it because it’s friendly to all diets. There are large slabs of meat, and there are light, refreshing salads, and there is plenty in between. Notice the carrot symbol on the menus denoting vegetarian options, and there are several vegan or veganizable choices, as well.

I was just about ready to gnaw my own arm off, so I was elated when the bread arrived:

I had a second roll later on.

I was planning to stay all vegan for this meal, and I could have, but then my taller half’s evil thoughtful brother ordered the Pizza of Artichoke Hearts and Arugula with pesto, fresh tomatoes, red onion, Greek olives, pine nuts and cheeses.

I couldn’t stop myself. Bad Brigid, indeed. But it was tasty – really, really tasty. And garlicky. Yum yum yum.

Then my vegan meal arrived – Spicy Szechwan Stir Fry with stir fried shiitake and domestic mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers, onions, edamame and carrots tossed with noodles in spicy sweet soy sauce:

I only had half (which means the rest is lunch today). I ordered it with its full spiciness, and it did have a kick, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The veggies were nice, and the sauce was good, but a little greasy. My love started with one of the soups of the day, a curried lentil:

For his entree, he ordered Fettuccini with Tomatoes and Arugula – arugula with minced olives, capers and scallions tossed with fettuccini in light lemon cream topped with tomato vinaigrette, parmesan and feta:

He ate every single bite and loved it. I had a nibble. ‘Twas tasty.

My love’s brother went with Pork Rib Chop with caramelized apples and shallots and garlic mashed potatoes on the side:

Meaty. He seemed to like it, though.

Then we were all undone by dessert. I had sweet potato pie:

It was my first time. I liked it, but pumpkin is still my favorite pie. My taller half had something called chocolate in excess:

It was a flourless chocolate cake with an Oreo crust. It was phenomenal. The brother had four-berry cobbler (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry) with ice cream:

I’m not a cobbler fan, but I enjoyed the crust.

Rating: *** for veggie options and **** for deliciousness. (See this post for scoring guide.)

Wild Fork is at 1820 Utica Square, near the Starbucks. Their hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Vacation Recap Part II: Milan/Brescia

27 Oct

This is Part II of IV recapping my recent Italian excursion. Read Part I here. You can also read about my tirade against American Airlines here.

We left off on October 4, our final night in Venice. Though we were sad to leave the charming, water-logged city behind, we were also looking forward to the next leg of our adventure, namely Lombardy.

I spent six months in the big, bustling city of Milan as a college junior, doing my best to absorb the language, literature, and culture. My taller half was excited to check out my old stomping grounds, even if the city itself isn’t exactly a great tourist draw. So we hopped on a train and set off:

Milan is Italy’s true economic center, and as a result, it lacks the Italianness of the rest of the country. However, it has plenty of gems of its own. There’s La Scala, world-renowned opera house:

The duomo, one of the largest cathedrals in the world:

And, of course, plenty of Mussolini’s fascist architecture, such as the central train station:

Mainly, our goal for Milan was for me to walk my taller half through my life in the city. We walked outside my old apartment building, looked into the grocery stores I used, and after many attempts finally found where I took my classes. (The program has since moved.) I didn’t photograph these things this time around, but I have tons from my semester there.

After a very brief stint in Milan, we boarded another train bound for Brescia, a smaller city about 45 minutes away and, most importantly, home to my former roommate Alice (pronounced a-LEE-chay). Us five years ago:

Us a couple of weeks ago:

She was beautiful then, and she’s beautiful now.

Here are a few shots of Brescia. The old and new duomi:

The Roman ruins:

A lovely bridge:

If you plan a trip to Milan, you must:

  • Eat panzerotto at Luini (more details below)
  • Check out the duomo
  • Take a map and prepare to get lost

If you go to Brescia, you must:

  • Have gelato at Gelateria del Biondo (details below)
  • Climb to the top of the castle
  • Avoid dining out on Tuesday nights

And now, onto the food portion of this food blog.

October 5
The day started off with breakfast identical to the one I posted about in the first update. We needed fuel for the big day.

Upon arrival in Milan, I had one thing on my mind: panzerotto from Luini. Actually, I’ve had it on my mind since approximately June 15, 2005, shortly after my return to America. Somehow I held out until after our trek past my old apartment and school. This, my friends, is panzerotto:

Basically, it’s dough filled with mozzarella and tomato (or other fillings, but those are traditional) and then fried. For my Okie readers, the bread is similar to Indian fry bread. I was very happy:

Our evening was spent in Brescia, since we were houseguests of Alice and her fiancé. We flew mostly solo that evening, since they had a film fest they had to attend (one that they planned — Film Lab Festival). Before they left, we had aperitivo at a local bar. I had Italian Coca-Cola (made with real sugar!) and some potato chips. Then they were off.

My taller half and I were excited to try traditional Brescian food at a place recommended by one of the guidebooks and by Luca himself, a native Brescian. However, it was closed. In fact, many places were closed on that Tuesday night. It was very strange, indeed. After wandering around for what seemed like an eternity, we finally had dinner at a weird place called the Gold Lion, a faux Irish pub serving Italian dishes. There was bread and water:

And there were some definitely microwaved entrees. I had risotto with mushrooms:

It was pretty decent, actually. My love had polenta with cheese and French fries (the latter of which didn’t make the photo):

It wasn’t so good. In fact, it kinda sucked. However, it was food, and at one point, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to get any that night. While we dined, we listened to the gentle sounds of Chuck Norris dubbed into Italian.

We decided to have gelato afterward. I forgot to photograph it, but you aren’t missing out on much. I had coffee and hazelnut, and my taller half had the same plus tiramisu. It was probably the blandest gelato of the whole trip, but again, desperation won out.

October 6
I have almost no food pictures from this day – forgive me! Since I’m still a new food blogger, I wasn’t quite sure how to explain to my Italian friends why I was taking pictures of what I was eating. I will still share some details, though.

Alice had to work in the morning, so we were a bit leisurely rising. When she returned, she brought us brioche from a nearby place and made us coffee. Yum! Real Italian coffee.

After a morning stroll, we met Luca for lunch at the same bar where we took aperitivo. It’s one of those charming places that has no menu; they just come out to tell you what they are making that day. All four of us opted for the ravioli with ricotta and herbs in a delicious butter sauce. It was moan-tastic. You know I mean it if I’m using a made-up word. There was also bread, water, and meatless croquette-type-things. The meal made the night before’s taste like dirt.

Luca departed to return to work, and the three of us checked out the sights above, including the castle, which is high up on the hill and where the photo of me and Alice was taken. Here is my taller half and me overlooking the view:

We descended and headed immediately for gelato. I can’t remember the name of this place, but it had artisanal gelato and a friendly staff who knew Alice. Here’s my treat:

I had fior di latte (which is like cream) and mint; my taller half had zuppa inglese (translates roughly to English trifle) and stracciatella (with chocolate chips); and Alice had fior di latte and coconut. It was incredibly good. Shortly thereafter, we took aperitivo at Caffe’ No. 2, another bar across town. Again, I had Coke and potato chips. They offered us polenta squares, too.

We dined in that evening, and I so wish I had felt comfortable taking pictures, because the meal was perfection. The main dish was trofie (screw-shaped pasta made with potato) with zucchini, olive oil, and spices. It was amazing, seriously. Italy is where I learned to like vegetables, zucchini in particular, so the Italian practice of cooking the crap out of summer squash is important to me. Barely steamed zucc is a crime against nature. Anyway, along with the pasta, we had raw fennel, cherry tomatoes topped with salt and olive oil, and bread Alice made in the bread machine earlier. Afterward, there was a lot of cheese: stracciatella (made with cream and mozzarella), mozzarella burrata (a kind of mozzarella with cream — burrata means “buttered”), mozzarella di bufala (with buffalo milk), and caprino (goat cheese). All were tasty, but I loved the bufala, as always, and my love went crazy for the caprino. It was smooth and creamy.

After dinner, we broke into the gelato – yes, more gelato. This was from Gelateria del Biondo, possibly the best gelateria in Brescia. Alice and I bought the flavors on the way home from aperitivo. We ended up with yogurt, hazelnut, and dark chocolate. It was incredible, seriously.

The food was all amazing, and the evening couldn’t have been more wonderful.

October 7

The morning of our departure. ::Sigh:: The day started off with delicious brioche — cream-filled and fruit-filled — and more perfect Italian coffee. After a bit of lounging around, our hosts drove us to the train station to say goodbye.

I felt sad to leave Alice, but we had Tuscany to conquer. Check back soon for Part III: Florence!

Vacation Recap Part I: Venice

26 Oct

This is Part I of IV recapping my recent Italian excursion. You can also read about my tirade against American Airlines here.

We flew away on a jet plane (or three) on October 1. We didn’t actually arrive in Venice until about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 2. After gathering our baggage – oh wait, we didn’t do that, because we are crazy Americans who went carry-on-only. Seriously. It was one of the best choices we made the entire trip, especially the return portion. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

We took a bus from the Venice airport to the Piazzale Roma station, where we then hopped onto a vaporetto, or waterbus. Behold:

Eeek! We’re in Venice!

We stayed at the lovely Locanda Silva for three glorious nights. The room was basic and clean:

But it had a terrific semi-private balcony:

This is a food blog, so I won’t go into all the minutiae about every single thing we did and saw. However, I do want to share a few pictures and tips. Here is my favorite shot I took, of a side canal near our hotel:

Here is a blue door that I’ve heard people really like:

Here’s Basilica San Marco, which is amazing and was also five minutes from our hotel:

And here I am sporting my shades on the island of Murano:

If you plan a trip to Venice, you must:
· Eat at Osteria La Zucca (more details below)

· Enjoy hazelnut (nocciola) gelato at Da Nico (below, too)

· Visit Basilica San Marco – we thought paying extra for the Pala d’Oro was worth it, but if you want to save the cash, just take a free walk through the church.

· Visit the island of Murano. The views alone are worth it, but I also adored the Chiesa di San Donato. It’s free.

· Stroll along the Grand Canal at night. Bonus: take a vaporetto ride at night. Sigh.

· Check out the contemporary art at Punta della Dogana. It’s a nice antidote to all the baby Jesuses and altar pieces you’ll see throughout Italy.

As I said, this is a food blog, so let’s get on to the Venetian tasties.

October 2
Our first night, we were tired. I mean, tired. See?

That’s what 30 hours without sleep look like. Anyway, we had dinner at a place called Cavatappi. It started with sparkling water and bread:

I’d be lying if I said we limited ourselves to one basket. Or if I didn’t admit to eating the second basket entirely by myself. Oops. Anyway, Cavatappi specializes in cichetti, which are essentially Italian tapas popular in Venice, but none appeared to be vegetarian. Instead, I had poorly lit vegetarian pasta:

Noodles with mixed veggies in an olive-oil sauce. Pretty self-explanatory. My taller half had gnocchi with peas, cream and feta cheese:

His was pretty darn good. For dessert, we had a plate of soft cheese, honey, and walnuts:

Um, wow. I’m glad I decided to eat dairy in Italy. We returned to the hotel immediately after and fell asleep early, as in before 9:00.

October 3
We planned to spend pretty much all of Sunday doing a walking tour, since a lot of things are closed on the holy day throughout Italy. We started it all off with a big, beautiful breakfast at the hotel:

Two rolls with light cheese (I think it was provolone – it wasn’t quite so yellow in person), cornetti (croissants) filled with I believe apricot preserves, delicious Italian yogurt, orange juice, and sadly American-style coffee. There was also jam, butter, milk, and cereal that I didn’t touch.

Then we set off on our walking tour. There were museums and bridges and churches. Most importantly, however, there was our first gelato of the trip – and my love’s first true brush with Italian gelato.

I’m an old pro:

It was from Da Nico. I had hazelnut and chocolate; he had coffee and banana. We both agreed that the hazelnut was heavenly. In fact, it was one of the best I had on the entire trip. The other flavors were good but not mind-blowing.

By the end of the day – which involved getting lost and venturing past Venice’s prison – we were quite hungry but trying to save some dough, so we had takeout pizza from Cip Ciap (pronounced chip chop).

A small pizza Margherita, a slice of four cheese, and a slice of grilled veggies. The latter two were on foccaccia. We also had bottled sparkling water. I think the entire meal cost $10. We enjoyed it in the Piazza Santa Croce, where there is a grouping of picnic benches available for anyone to use:

It was absolutely gorgeous.

Afterward, we had gelato again at La Boutique del Gelato that I sadly forgot to photograph. I had tiramisu and panna cotta, and he had lemon and hazelnut. It wasn’t as good as Da Nico, but I still ate it.

October 4
By this point, we were both thoroughly in love with Venice, so the prospect of leaving was not terribly enticing. However, we had one more day to pack full of fun and excitement. It began with a breakfast identical to the day before’s and then a walk to Caffe’ Florian in Piazza San Marco.

It dates back to the 1700s. More importantly, it is Bond approved:

The plaque translates to, “The places and drinks preferred by 007.” Bah ha ha! And yes, that is why we went there. I live with a lovely man who spent the years he should have been reading Dr. Seuss devouring James Bond novels. He had hot chocolate, and I had my first cappuccino of the trip:

Sooooo good. American hot chocolate is basically sewage compared with the European stuff, sorry to say. We drank standing at the bar, because gracing a chair with your rear automatically triples the price. I’m not kidding.

Then we Basilica San Marco-ed it up and visited both Lido (oh oh oh oh) and Murano.

For more on the latter, keep your eye on my crafting blog. When we returned to Venice proper, we needed fuel – and by fuel, I mean gelato. Enter Alaska. This wasn’t no “I can see Russia from my house!” Alaska; it is an artisanal gelateria with a bunch of interesting flavors. (Hint: always opt for a gelateria calling itself artisanal – artigianale – or one with housemade – “produzione proprio” – stuff.) I enjoyed ginger and almond:

my taller half had gianduja (chocolate with hazelnut) and malt.

While we huddled on a stoop to enjoy the sweet stuff, raindrops started falling in our gelato. Before long, we looked like this:

HOT. We had to go back to the hotel to change quickly, ‘cause I was soaked through and through. Once we approximated dry, we headed back out for one of the two best meals we enjoyed in the entire country. Hello, Osteria La Zucca:

There is meat on the menu at La Zucca, but the inventive veggie dishes are the stars, or so say the guidebooks. We were not led astray. Again, it started with bread, including these great sesame sticks, and sparkling water:

We opted for three veggie dishes to split.

These included (clockwise from top) a potato-squash-cheese cake, carrots in curried yogurt, and Venetian artichoke patties topped with pesto. Oh, and a piece of bread and cucumber. I don’t have anything negative to say about a single one of these. The potato cake was my favorite, but I wouldn’t kick any of them out of bed.

We both ordered dessert. No, gelato earlier didn’t count; that was lunch. My taller half described his frozen limoncello mousse as one of the best things he’s ever eaten in his life. It was tart and sweet and had a wonderful consistency. Mine was really uncharacteristic for me. It was essentially a persimmon pudding with a little chocolate sauce and cayenne pepper, and it was fantastic. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it. I’ve mentioned some of my food texture issues in the past, but one of my major ones is chunks of cooked fruit. This was a surprising win.

We were seated next to an older French couple. My French is limited to counting to 10, a few random vocabulary words (billet, sortie, mercredi), and the two phrases I recall from French class in fourth grade: “une boite de crayon” and “la plume de ma tante est sur le bureau de mon oncle”. My taller half, however, still understands a decent amount. He informed me that they were mostly minding their own business until I ordered our dinner in Italian. They were impressed. This discussion then led to the remark, “he is old enough to be her father.” Yes, if my boyfriend had impregnated someone in elementary school, then yes, he is conceivable (hardy har) old enough to be my father. Silly, nosy French.

Anyway, Zucca was our last meal in Venice excluding breakfast the following morning at the hotel. I’ll update with Part II: Milan/Brescia soon!

Vegetarians: Don’t Fly American!

22 Oct

I am now going to do my first vacation update. No, really. Part of me doesn’t want to start on a sour note, but part of me would like to get this post out of the way. So, I apologize in advance for the crankiness of this post.

Let’s talk airplane food. I have no delusions of walking on a plane and receiving the best meal of my life. I know that airplane food will be slightly above edible. As a result, I always bring snacks. I did, however, expect the airline to fulfill my special meal request, especially since their website says:

Special meals are available on Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack and Breakfast Snack flights when ordered in advance.

Order at least 24 hours prior to the flight:

  • In First and Business Classes on transcontinental flights in the U.S.
  • In all classes to or from Europe and Asia
  • In all classes to or from Belo Horizonte, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador or Sao Paulo, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile or Montevideo, Uruguay.

And even after all the hoops I jumped through, yeah, not so much.

American doesn’t allow you to complain by phone — seriously. It’s either fax, email, or snail mail. The email I sent to them to complain about the fiasco explains exactly what happened:

On October 1, my traveling companion and I flew on AA flight 36 from Dallas to Madrid. We requested vegetarian meals. I called two days in advance, as recommended, to confirm, and the automatic voice said that they were ordered. When we arrived at the airport in Dallas, we verified again with the employee at the gate, and he told us that our meals were ordered. I then also told the flight attendant upon boarding that we had vegetarian meals. When meal service began, we were informed that, though the meals had been ordered, they were not on board the plane. Two very helpful and friendly flight attendants helped to piece together something, but I was very disappointed by the situation. I went through a lot of trouble to ensure our requests were met to no avail.

On October 13, we took flight 235 from Rome to New York. To avoid the meal problem, we spoke with the woman at the gate who informed us that no request had ever been made. She later said the request was in the system but that it was made “improperly.” They were unwilling to do anything. Then a supervisor arrived who told me, after being informed that I needed the meal for health reasons, that she would not let me fly. She changed her mind and then called catering to try to do something. Then she said the problem was solved. On board, the flight attendant said nothing had arrived, and again they cobbled a make-shift meal together.

I am very disappointed by this experience. How will AA try to rectify this situation?

So even after ordering my meal four months in advance, calling ahead, and speaking to two people in person, I was still stranded on board a 9+ hour flight with no meal. I mentioned that the outbound flight attendants were awesome and scrambled to give me something to eat. Here’s the dinner we ended up with:

Two iceberg salads, surprisingly tasty dressing, a roll, “butter,” crackers with Gruyere, a cheese-sundried tomato salad from the first-class meal, and a chocolate caramel brownie. I had decided in advance not to worry about eating vegan on this vacation. To make it easy on the airline (ha!), I chose the lacto-ovo meal. It’s a good thing, too, because this was pretty artery-clogging. BUT it was food that I could eat, and I appreciated the flight attendants’ hard work. For breakfast, we had:

Croissant, strawberry-banana yogurt (gelatin-free), more “butter” (which I never touch — don’t worry), and orange juice. This was acceptable. I can’t complain about it at all.

The flight back is a different story, as you can see above in my letter. In fact, I was so livid after fighting — in Italian, mind you — with the airport folks that I didn’t photograph anything. We ended up with mushroom lasagna, salad, dressing that contained anchovies (didn’t eat it), bread, and some kind of cookie. The small meal at the end was pizza Margherita. The cheese had rennet in it, possibly animal, but I was so starving I ate it anyway.  I wish I hadn’t, but I could only eat so many granola bars without having a blood-sugar spike and crash.

American did respond relatively quickly. Their email has some kind of disclaimer about privacy, so I won’t repost it word-for-word, but the gist is that they are oh-so-sorry to have disappointed me with meal service. Won’t I please accept their apology with a $50 voucher? I decided that they deserved to know my answer:

This is in regards to your response to my previous complaint, #XXXXXXXXX.

I know that the attached flight voucher was intended to make amends for the major inconvenience caused by your company as well as the extreme rudeness by your Rome-based employees. However, a $50 voucher is nowhere near enough recompense to cause me to fly American again. My traveling experience made it clear that American Airlines has no interest in serving those with special dietary needs. It was only through the hard work of the flight attendants that I had anything to eat at all on two 9-plus-hour flights. It’s a good thing that I do not also have a dairy intolerance, because the only things available were filled with cheese and milk. If your airline does not wish to accommodate vegetarians or those with religious restrictions, then you should not offer the option. As it is, I have no confidence that I would ever receive a meal that meets my dietary needs on your flight. As a result, I will take my business elsewhere and encourage my vegetarian friends to do the same.

In addition, I hope you will tell your Rome-based employees that blaming the customer for your company’s mistake is not appropriate, and threatening not to let a vegetarian fly because you failed to provide the appropriate meal ordered four months in advance is terrible business practice.

No, American, I will not use your $50 flight voucher to let you screw me out of the meal I ordered again. I paid over $900 for my ticket; $50 probably doesn’t even cover the meals I wasn’t served.

Vegetarians: I urge you NOT to fly American Airlines, especially not on international flights. If you do, bring a lot more food than I did. I had six granola bars, an apple, and a sample packet of Justin’s Nut Butter. It wasn’t enough. I’ll know better next time, in that I will pack entire meals, and I will NEVER fly American again.

I promise my next post will be happy and full of beautiful photos and delicious food!

Vegan MoFo

22 Oct

One of the things that inspired me to start this food blog was last year’s Vegan Month of Food (or Vegan MoFo). Nevermind that it took me, like, eight months to jumpstart this thing after the 2009 edition.

I’m excited to announce that Vegan MoFo returns on November 1, and that I will be taking part!

What is Vegan MoFo? No, it’s not a great insult to sling my way. Here’s an excerpt from the website:

VeganMoFo was originally created on the Post Punk Kitchen, as an homage toNaNoWriMo. Because we do want to write novels, but sometimes cooking gets in the way. So why not combine them!

The idea is to write as much as you can all month, about vegan food. The blog entries can be about anything food related – your love of tongs, your top secret tofu pressing techniques, the first time your mom cooked vegan for you, vegan options in Timbuktu – you get the idea, right? If not, browse around on some of our round-ups and you’ll catch on fast!

I know, I know, it’s pretty much what I do anyway. But the difference is that I will be working extra super hard to keep dairy cheats out of my diet. Plus, I’ll make a push to post more real recipes — my pasta topped with whatever is in the spice cabinet doesn’t count — including holiday food ideas. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Check out the complete list of participants here, and maybe you’ll find some great new blogs to follow! I bet they wouldn’t judge me for eating this for breakfast:

Shhhhh.

So in anticipation, I will be tidying up around here, as in actually updating the recipes, books, and restaurant pages. I don’t know when I’ll finish, but it’ll certainly be done by the November 1 start date. I hope you’ll join me in this fun month of blogging and eating!

(And as for the above pictured: I followed Have Cake Will Travel’s recipe again, but this time I added a dash of vanilla to both the chocolate and the peanut butter. I also used half dark brown sugar and half powdered sugar for the sweetening. As a result, this batch was even better than the first! I still want to try adding coconut milk, so that’ll be the next adventure.)

Dinner of Keptlovinglyforlaters

22 Oct

I basically had a plate of leftovers for dinner, but to call them just that doesn’t seem fair. The term “leftover” sounds like yesterday’s discards. These, instead, were keptlovinglyforlaters. Behold the deliciousness:

Drool. In the middle is vegan potato soup. Above it is red quinoa salad with cranberries, pecans, mushrooms, and summer squash. And then we have two slices of rye bread topped with spicy pumpkin dip and paprika. More drool.

I can only take credit for the pumpkin dip; all the rest was made — including the bread — by a cook extraordinaire in my book group. We were each sent home with a plate of goodies. Mine made a perfect dinner tonight.

The dip is basically hummus plus pumpkin. I followed this recipe with a couple of alterations: I doubled (OK, tripled) the garlic, added a couple of dashes of both ground ginger and chili powder, and I topped it with paprika. It’s tasty, but I wouldn’t sell my mama for it. (Hi, Mom!)

And in case you’re curious, our book discussion was on A Reliable Wife. My review is here.

And now I must return to the task at hand:

I wonder if I can wait an hour until they’ve firmed up . . .

Falling for Autumn

20 Oct

Fall is definitely here, as today’s rainy weather proudly attests. Nevermind that tomorrow will be in the 80s again. Today it is damp and cool and perfect for warm, soothing eats. Feast your eyes on my Tuesday in food.

The day started off with a bowl of warm steel-cut oats:

Topped with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and maple syrup. About five minutes later, I decided to eat a banana:

This combination is pretty much my favorite breakfast. For steel-cut-oat newbies, it cooks the same way as regular oats except that you measure out a ¼ cup per person instead of half, and they take a lot longer to cook. They are incredibly hearty and satisfying, though, so I think they’re worth the extra effort.

I came to work and brewed my morning tea. Today I chose Irish Breakfast and went with one tea bag (and half the water) instead of two:

I always drizzle in my local, raw honey for my allergy relief. And yes, it really was that dark in my office. That’s what happens when three of your four lightbulbs are out.

I didn’t even consider the weather when I made up my lunch soup this week, but I could not have picked a more perfectly, satisfying food:

Soup and salad. The latter is just half a container of organic spinach (2.5 cups or so) topped with Newman’s Own Lighten Up Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing and black pepper. I really, really need to stop being lazy and start making my own dressings again. The soup is incredible, seriously. It is warming and very thick and has an amazing roasted flavor. It is based largely on the Tomato-Rice Soup with Roasted Garlic and Navy Beans from Veganomicon, but I made enough changes that I feel comfortable posting the recipe for my version.

Roasty Toasty Tomato Rice Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced finely or minced
  • ½ cup long-grain brown rice
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • Heavy sprinkling of herbes de Provence
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 28-oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, diced or crushed
  • 1 15-oz can navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • Black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Wrap one head of garlic tightly in foil. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes. When it’s done, let it cool.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium heat. When hot, sautee onion in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add rice and spices to the pot and stir for a minute or two. Then add the tomatoes with juice. Fill the empty can with water and add it, too.
  4. Once the mixture comes to a boil (you can turn up the heat to medium-high if necessary to boil), cover and reduce the heat to low. Let soup simmer for 30-45 minutes (long enough for the rice to reach the desired texture).
  5. Meanwhile, squeeze the roasted garlic from the head into a bowl, and mash it with a fork. Add to the soup when the rice is almost done.
  6. When the rice is thoroughly cooked, add the navy beans and pepper to taste. Continue cooking just long enough to heat through, remove the bay leaf, and then eat.
  7. Serves 4.

Notes:

  • My recipe is different from the original in a few key ways: 1. I insist that you use fire-roasted tomatoes (I went with the Muir Glen brand). The flavor is incredibly delicious. You could use regular, but I don’t think it’ll be as good. Because I have texture problems involving tomatoes, I think I’ll puree mine next time, but don’t bother if you aren’t a weirdo like me. 2. My version serves four as an entrée (instead of 10-12), which is a much more manageable amount of soup for me. 3. I used more navy beans. Why not? And 4. I wasn’t sure if we had marjoram, as called for, and didn’t feel like digging through the pantry thoroughly, so I added an extra dash or two of thyme and then several sprinklings of herbes de Provence. If you don’t have the latter, leave it out. If you have marjoram, add ½ teaspoon.
  • Also, I feel I must confess that I neither diced nor minced my onion. I put it in the blender. I’m not proud, and it wasn’t the best solution, but I didn’t feel like crying or cleaning the food processor. There, now you know what a lazy cook I can be.
  • The book says to sub in three cloves of sautéed garlic if you don’t feel like roasting a head. However, roasting garlic is easier than sautéing it, so I highly recommend the recipe as written. It takes more time, but it’s completely inactive.

Anyway, that’s enough about lunch. I took my afternoon tea as per usual:

Organic Queen Bee Balance Tea (from Allegro – it contains raspberry leaf, rose petals, alfalfa, spearmint, chaste tree berry, dandelion leaf, cranberry spice, and vanilla and it’s nice for a lady’s most special time of the month) without honey since it tastes disgusting in this particular brew and a genuinely massive honeycrisp apple.

I came home to begin prepping dinner. Meanwhile, I had another PBOD. What’s my vehicle of choice?

Sorry.

Then my taller half and I took our evening stroll (we’re keeping this up even post-vacation) and finished making dinner after our return.

On my very orange plate: baked sweet potato topped with a tiny drizzle of olive oil, cayenne, black pepper, Chipotle Tabasco sauce, and ginger and half a roasted kabocha squash topped with another teeny drizz of olive oil, nutritional yeast and black pepper.For comparison, here is my love’s plate:

Same veggies plus broccoli, which I couldn’t eat because of all the peanut butter. His sweet potato had butter, cinnamon and sugar; his squash had butter, oregano, pepper, and herbes de Provence; and his broccoli had lemon juice and walnuts.

There was no room for dessert in my very full belly.