Month: June 2011

Little Savannah

H suggested we take my parents out for a nice dinner when we were in Birmingham, specifically requesting something southern. So I searched Opentable.com for higher end Southern restaurants and found Little Savannah. I called to see if they could do a vegan dish and I checked its health score to make sure my dad could eat there. Both came back positive, so I made reservations at 7:00 pm.

We got caught in a terrible rain storm on our way to the restaurant. Everyone was going about 20 mph on the highway, because there was terrible visibility. In typical southern fashion, it passed and we arrived at the restaurant just a tad late.

The restaurant is super cute. We were seated immediately in the front dining room. I told the server that I had called about a vegan meal and she assured me that it had been handled. They had prepared something without meat or meat broth. I was glad they understand that being vegan means you don’t eat vegetables cooked in meat. The maître d’ also came out to talk to us and we chatted a bit about veganism. Customer service is top notch here.

The drink menu is fantastic! You must try one of their cocktails. I started with the Hummingbird Martini and H had the Fat Boy Cherry Limeade. The limeade was good, but very sweet, not the kind of thing you’d want to have with a meal, but a good pre-dinner drink. The Hummingbird martini (pear vodka, elderflower syrup and fresh grapefruit) was delicious!

My mystery meal arrives and the bad news is that it was a vegetable plate (*yawn*). The good news is that it was the best vegetable plate I’ve ever had. First of all, they prepared the vegetables different ways, so they did put some thought into this rather than throw a bunch of wilted vegetables into the oven with salt and pepper like many restaurants. The green beans were cooked with shallots. The eggplant has some kind of herb topping. The asparagus must have been marinated in some kind of nectar of the gods; it was the best asparagus I’ve ever had. Seriously, if they just gave me a plate of that asparagus, I would have been happy. There were also grilled peaches, which is unique and surprisingly delicious. The cold quinoa and cucumber salad with red pepper sauce was also nice (quinoa in Birmingham, y’all!!). The vegetables were extremely fresh, like picked-from-the-ground-that-morning fresh.

For dessert, they gave me a bowl of fresh fruit sprinkled with sugar (blueberries, peaches and grapes), which I ate while watching my family enjoy the most amazing-looking chocolate mousse, cobbler and creme brulee. But at least I was eating something and not just watching them eat. The fruit was also fresh and you can never have too many peaches.

I also had a French 75, which is Brandy, fresh-squeezed lemon and champagne. H tried the Sound & the Fury, which reminded me of a dark & stormy, but stronger.

My dad, the Southerner, approved. Everyone was happy with their meals and we are definitely going back the next time we’re in Birmingham (and this time we’re grabbing the check before my mom does). I hope next time they will expand beyond a plate of vegetables. I would love a vegan version of the succotash my dad had or some ham-free black-eyed peas (*hint hint*).

Piggin’ Out in Dixie: Dixie Corn-Pone “Beef” Casserole & Fried Okra

I have never heard of “corn-pone,” but Wikipedia just informed me that it is cornbread. And that makes sense, because this is a “beef” casserole with cornbread on top.  It’s actually quite tasty.

Dixie Corn-Pone Boca Ground Crumbles Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of Boca Ground Crumbles
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 cup of cornbread batter from Veganomicon (or your favorite vegan cornbread batter)
  • 1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (or canned tomatoes if you don’t have a weird texture issue with canned tomatoes)
  • salt to taste (doesn’t really need it, but if you like things salty, add a pinch)
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Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Saute onion and Boca crumbles in oil until onions are soft and Boca crumbles are defrosted.  Add chili powder, vegan Worcestershire sauce and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Mix in kidney beans and pour into a greased 8×8 baking dish. Top with corn bread batter and bake for 20 minutes.

Fried Okra

  • 2 cups okra, cut crosswise
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoons liquid smoke
  • 2 teaspoons soy salt
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Toss okra with cornmeal, salt and pepper.
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Mix liquid ingredients together and heat over medium heat in a heavy skillet. Add okra and cook for about 10-15 (flipping about half-way through so as not to burn the okra).

The second batch was not bad, but the first had some problems.

 

Family Reunion

There was an impromptu family reunion this weekend and that means one thing: lots of cupcakes!

Organic funfetti. Not nearly as pretty as the chemical stuff.

Brooklyn vs. Boston Creme Pie

Dulce sin Leche

I just realized I never tasted the dulce sin leche cupcakes!

The boston creme cupcakes tasted good, but didn’t turn out quite as I wanted. The creme wasn’t thick enough and the cap kept falling off the pastry bag, so there wasn’t enough creme in each cupcake. Agar agar flakes were not cooperating, but I just bought agar powder from amazon.com, so the next batch will be amazing.  I only made six boston creme cupcakes because I was worried they wouldn’t be very good. With the other half-dozen, I topped with chocolate buttercream, which ended up being some people’s favorite.

As good as the cupcakes were, the highlight of the meal was seeing my uncles take a second helping of VegNews’ Mac & Cheese! This recipe is the best!

Helena Farmers Market

This morning I went to the Helena Farmers Market with my mom and H. The vegetables and fruit were so beautiful! It’s still early for vegetables in Illinois, but in Alabama, things are in full swing.

When I think of Helena, I think of railroads.
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The market is behind the old jail.
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There were several vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to soap and Alabama Crimson Tide aprons.

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My mom bought some tarragon champagne vinegar. This vendor also sells delicious pickles.

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My mom bought some cucumbers for tomorrow’s Mediterranean themed lunch.

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I bought some okra to take home with me for a Piggin’ Out in Dixie recipe next week. Hopefully they will make it back to Illinois.

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The tomatoes looked amazing!

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This is what happens…

when the best Chocolate Chip cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance meet gooey Deluxe Cocoa Brownies from Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookies Jar and Newman O’s.

And this is how you can get a year’s allowance of sugar in one sitting.

The idea came from here. It’s a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough from Vegan with a Vengeance, covered with Newman O’s and topped with a double recipe of deluxe cocoa brownies and served with Tofutti vanilla ice cream and warm chocolate syrup.

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Piggin’ Out in Dixie: Hopping John Soup with Baked Sweet Taters

Hopping John Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry black eyed peas
  • 8 cups water
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 package smoky maple tempeh bacon

Rinse the black eyed peas. In large saucepan, add the peas and water, bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for at least one hour. Drain, reserving 6 cups of the cooking liquid. In pan, saute onions in water for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until onions are tender.

Stir black eyed peas, uncooked rice, salt, pepper and onion/garlic mixture. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer 1 hour, stirring every now and then.

In a cast iron pan, heat 2 tsp vegetable oil and cook tempeh bacon until crispy. Crumble and stir into soup before serving.

“Serves 8 regular folks or 2 good ole boys.”

Baked Sweet Taters

This is a recipe for Yankees, as the authors assume that a Yankee “ain’t never baked any sweet taters” and they hope that this recipe will “help them out and steer’em toward better eatin’ habits.” Oh yes, better eating habits like “Piggin’ Out in Dixie.” Although this is actually one of the healthier items in the book, as long as you don’t grease the potatoes in lard and cover them in butter.

Wash sweet potatoes, coat them in olive oil and bake at 350F degrees. Serve hot with margarine!

I also made some greens from the farmers market. I steamed the greens and added sauteed garlic, salt & pepper.

Martha Stewart Monday: Summer Succotash

Today has been a cah-razy Monday. It started as I was leaving for yoga and got a text from my boss to handle a scheduling conference. No biggie. I had to leave yoga 15 minutes early to swing by the office for file materials, but that’s fine (the class was being held in the gym again anyway). Except that it wasn’t a scheduling conference, it was a hearing for a temporary restraining order and I knew barely any facts and had no witnesses! Awesome.

It was a two glass of wine night with a delicious summer succotash from Martha Stewart and a tofurkey and pesto sandwich.

The summer succotash is already vegan, so nothing had to be veganized tonight. It did have to be suburbanized. I’ve never seen cranberry beans at Jewel, but Cook’s Thesaurus told me I could sub pinto beans. I used canned beans, which is not ideal, but it was already 7:30 by the time I was at store and it would just have to do. I also just used haricots verts, not haricots verts and wax beans.  The haricots verts came in 8 ounces, so I just bought those.

I made a garlic scape pesto last night, which I used on the sandwiches with Tofurkey turkey deli slices and red iceberg lettuce from the farmers market.

The wine was from the Green Box Boutique.  There was a wine tasting last Thursday with some great wines. This Moelleux was my favorite and only $8.00.

Piggin’ Out in Dixie: Old South Gumbo

My first attempt at veganizing Piggin’ Out in Dixie. The Old South Gumbo recipe calls for a fat hen, ham hock, oysters and butter. Here’s my modification.

Old South Gumbo

  • 4 cups veggie broth (chick’n is good, but anything will work)
  • 1/3-1/2  cup pacific wakame
  • 8 ounces cubed super-firm tofu
  • 1-2 tablespoons of liquid smoke
  • 1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large can of tomatoes
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 cup okra
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • paprika (about 1-2 teaspoons)
  • onion seasoning
  • 4 cups spinach
  • margarine (optional)
  1. Mix liquid smoke, soy sauce and vinegar together for a tofu marinade. Toss in tofu and marinate for at least an hour. Soak wakame in 1 cup of water while the tofu marinates.
  2. Stir fry tofu until brown with marinade. Remove from pan and saute onion in the same pan with oil or water. When translucent, add tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. In a large soup pot bring broth to a boil with celery. Add onion/tomato mixture and season with salt and pepper. Drain seaweed (reserving the water) and add seaweed water to the pot, as well.
  4. Add tofu, okra, paprika,  onion seasoning, flour for thickening (to make it easier, scoop out a cup of broth into a bowl and whisk with the flour and then pour into the pot), and margarine.  Stir in spinach. Add a dash more liquid smoke, if desired.
  5. Serve over steamed rice.

H described it as a good summer soup. It’s very light and refreshing.

I bet some hot sauce would be good. I’ll try that with the leftovers.

 

Woodstock Challenge 10K – Third Place Finish!

Okay, it was a much slower race this year, but I’m still happy about my third place finish at the Woodstock Challenge Road 10K. I haven’t raced a 10K since I lived in DC and I’m much faster than I was 3 years ago, so I was hoping to break 50 minutes. Illinois is relatively flat, but the City of Woodstock made sure to put in the largest hill in the city in between miles 4 and 5 of the race. You get a slight downhill between two big hills, but most of that mile is uphill. Of course, that’s also about the time it starts getting hot. It was a slow mile.

I started out with some Running Depot friends. We covered the first mile in 7:30 and the second in 7:15, but we were running downhill. I slowed down a little bit between miles 2 and 4 and a lot after mile 4. At the five mile marker, the guy yelling out the time told me I was the third woman and asked how I felt. I immediately felt sick to my stomach. I decided that he must have miscounted, because there was no way I was third. I just needed to focus on finishing the last mile. I picked up the pace a little bit and came in just under 50 minutes. I met my goal, set a four minute PR and came in third!

Of course, this is the one race that doesn’t give awards for second and third overall. Just my luck. The second place woman was also 32, so I got an award for 2nd in the 30-39 age group. I received a plaque and got my picture taken with the mayor!

After the race, we had breakfast at my place. I made some old favorites: mushroom, leek and white bean pie and perfect pancakes with whole berry sauce from Vegan Brunch and rhubarb and white chocolate chip muffins. Jewel no longer sells vegan pie crusts, so I made my own for the first time. It was ridiculously easy and it didn’t get soggy.

John brought some gorgeous flowers from the farmers market.

Random things from this week – Jenapea’s, Simple Market & Bike Commuting

Jenapea’s on the Square would be great if it just added a vegan protein. (OK, they do have peanut butter sandwiches, but it’s hard spending $5 for a peanut butter sandwich (note: make sure you order the PB sandwich without butter spray)). Hummus on its Alpine Veggie sandwich would be great (without the cheese and mayo). And how hard is it to throw some beans on a salad? Charge me an extra dollar and you’ve more than paid for a can of beans.

H and I went here on Monday and I ordered the Garden salad. The homemade croutons have cheese in them, so I didn’t get those. Fortunately, I had some leftover beans at work. I brought those along and surprised H when I reached into my purse and pulled out some beans. I really wanted a salad though. If this is how I have to do it, so be it.

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The biggest news of the week is the Simple Market, which is finally open in the Square. As you can see from this amazing photo below, Daiya is available in Woodstock! And…RICE WHIP!!! Much of the Simple Market is dedicated to organic meat, eggs and dairy, but they offer lots of vegan products, too. It is an all natural, gluten-free store, which is almost too good to be true.

I bought Daiya pepperjack style and some B12 supplements.

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Yoga in the park started this week. It’s a Parks & Rec program held at Emerson Park. Monday was amazing. The weather was perfect- sunny and just a tad chilly. Hopefully, we’ll have more days like that and not like Wednesday when it was pouring down rain and we moved into the depressing multi-purpose room at the Rec Center. There’s still room in the class, so if you live in town, you should join us!

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And finally, I am a bike commuter! I’ve biked to work three days this week, even on Tuesday when it was gross and rainy and even yesterday when I forgot to change into flats. Before I noticed and could go back in to change, some guy at the bar next to my office said “You’re biking in heels? That’s hardcore!” To which I replied, “yeah, it is!” and rode off.

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