Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Oh, what a weekend

Since everyone was off on Monday for the holiday weekend, we had a party at a friend's house on Sunday. James came in from Austin, and brought some vegan tamales from Mr. Natural- tofu sunflower, and pinto bean. Similar to the tofu tamales from the local company Banyan foods, and a welcome change from the mild or spicy tofu selection. We also had refried black beans, spanish rice, and chips and salsa.

Later on, I tried my hand at making Chickpea fries, which I got the recipe for from T'afia. I baked them instead of frying them, and although they didn't look pretty, or really taste anything like T'afia's, they must have been good because they were gone before they got a chance to cool off.

Since the party was alcohol themed, I made a batch of Rum Raisin cupcakes from VCTOTW. These were super moist, super rummy, and super delicious. Instead of using dark rum, I used coconut rum, which gave them even more of a kick. You could make these, and enjoy all of the sweet, raisiny, rummy goodness. Or, alternately, you could pour some rum into cupcake liners and drink it with a straw. Either way, you are sure to have a good time.

We also had our wonderfully fabulous mixologist who experimented with various flavors of martinis.

This is the version called "Red Panties". It consisted of something red, like cranberry juice, and various alcoholic things, such as vodka, and raspberry liqour. It was topped off with some raspberry flavoring, soyatoo whip, and a maraschino cherry. My favorite was the Purple Haze (not pictured)- cranberry juice, cranberry vodka, and curacoa. (Warning: some of the ingredients may not be accurate, as my memory of these drinks is a bit blurred).

After a wild night of fun, James and I came back to Houston in all it's rainy dreariness. We decided to expand tastebuds and tried Ethiopian food at Blue Nile. We shared the Vegetarian Platter, and also ordered another small dish. It all came on one huge platter, atop injera- an ethiopian bread made of 100% Teff. There were various different things, like barbequed lentils, split yellow and green peas, a salad, curried cabbage, potatoes, and carrots, and some collard greens. The other dish we ordered, which is in the middle, is a mixture of tomatoes, bell peppers, and spices mixed with bits of injera, served cold. It was all so delicious, and the atmosphere was nice. The decor and all of the artwork was from Ethiopia. It was also a fun experience, since I got to eat with my fingers and not get looked at like a weirdo. But I'm pretty used to that by now.

I recommend trying Ethiopian food if you have a place in your area. I plan to give it a try in my own kitchen one day. I would love to know how to make injera. I took some extra home with me and had it for breakfast with peanut butter, raisins and banana slices with agave. It was sweet and sour, and a little different, but I am always up for adventure.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Food and farms

Alot has been going on in this crazy life of mine. In the last 4 months, I have moved twice (once out on my own for the first time), and changed jobs twice. I now work at an incredible place -T'afia, one of the best restaurants in Houston. The chef/owner Monica Pope has been one of my long time idols, and I have dreamed of working with her. I also live in my own apartment, which I have been dreaming of for a long time. It's located in a decent part of town, within walking distance of the gym, library, and Whole Foods, and is super affordable so I am still able to save money for school. Still, I am not satisfied. I am not feeling so great about my job. I suppose it could be due to the fact that I am only a hostess, and am thus located on the opposite side of the restaurant from where I dream to be (the kitchen). Still, I could enjoy just being in such a wonderful place, surrounded by great people. I feel like my dissatisfaction comes from my urge to do more with my life. I have been feeling pretty down since I stopped going to school. I miss the hard work, and the great feeling of accomplishment from finishing a big paper, or scoring a good grade on a test. I don't think I am ready to go back to school yet, though.
What I would really like to do is travel. I found WWOOF, which sounds ideal. It is basically a volunteer program. To quote the USA site, WWOOF "is part of a world-wide effort to link volunteers with organic farmers, promote an educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming practices." There are tons of farms from all around the world (500 in the US) that host willing volunteers. You put in about 30 hours of labor a week, and recieve room and board and food in return. It is a great opportunity to travel, meet people, and learn alot about farming- for free! I joined the USA branch, and am waiting on my packet. I'm hoping to find a great farm that is vegan friendly, and spending the rest of my summer getting closer to the land.

All of that aside, I still love to talk about food. Homemade meals have been pretty few and far between lately since I get free dinner (and lunch on Fridays) at work, but here are some of the yummy meals I have been enjoying.

I made some crockpot BBQ Tempeh. It was yummy, and simple- throw everything in a crockpot and go. It was too sweet for my taste, so I will add less sugar next time. Also, I enjoy my BBQ a little smokier, so I might add some liquid smoke. I will definately try it again, though. With it, I had some Mac 'n Chreese from Roads End Organics. I got the alfredo style by mistake, which didn't go quite so well with my BBQ. It is good for a quick, out of the box side dish. The ingredients are also unbeatable, as far as packaged items go. Some soy-flax tortilla chips from Central Market rounded out the meal. It was better the next day with steamed broccoli.

It has been too long since I enjoyed scrambled tofu, with waffles, maple syrup and fruit. I enjoyed this for a wonderful Sunday brunch, after recovering from a super wild night. It was just what I needed to cure the dancing blues.

With some overripe peaches, leftover mango chuncks, and a bunch of other stuff hanging out in my fridge, I decided to make an experimental dessert. I chopped up the peaches and tossed them with the mango, chopped ginger, some arrowroot, a leftover white wine and vanilla mixture from poaching pears, and some sugar. Then, I mixed together some rolled oats, quinoa almond creme, agave nectar, cinnamon, and a little more sugar. I put the fruit in my new cornningware dish, and topped it with the crumble mixture, and baked it all until it looked golden brown and delicious. It turned out really good, and had quite a kick from all the ginger I put in.

I made the Spicy African Stew with Cucumber relish, and quick steamed greens on the side from this month's Vegetarian Times. It wasn't quite as spicy as I thought it would be, but I also added the green chilies seperately, and didn't add the entire can. It was delicious, though, and gave me something else to do with peanut butter besides eating it straight from the jar. Although, that still remains a great option. The relish was quick and yummy. I will make it again just for garnishing purposes. It would be great with a burrito, or on salad. I also made the ginger thins that were included with the other recipes, but they didn't turn out so well. I think I made them too thin, and they stuck terribly to the pan. Still delicious crumbled up and mixed with soy yogurt and some fresh berries!

And finally, my favorite afternoon treat on Fridays- Green tea fruit salad from Te House of Tea. Full of lychee, passion fruit, green tea gel (made from agar), with coconut milk poured on top. I enjoy this with a cup of hot tea. If you are ever in Houston, I reccomend going to Te House. They have some good vegan options, tons of tea selections from all over, and a very chill atmosphere.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Let's have a picnic

That's what I told James before his final departure to his new home in Austin. We considered going to dinner at Blue Nile, and Ethiopian restaurant we have both been wanting to try. But, after I found out that the bread was not vegan friendly, and practically all of ethiopian food is consumed with assistance from the bread, we opted out of that plan. After some consideration, I decided that I wanted to make a special meal for the two of us. It was looking to be a beautiful weekend, so we decided a picnic was in order. I planned a wonderful 4-course meal, inspired by the abundance of spring offerings.

First, the "appeteaser" as we found ourselves calling it. An assorted mix of yummy things, consisting of (from top, going right) wedges of lavender pizzette from Tafia, mixed salted nuts and beans, Quinoa Almond Creme that I bought in Paris and have been waiting to try, dates, and shaved 90% chocolate. Everything paired really well together. The Quinoa Almond Creme was more bitter than I expected, but went nicely with the pizzette.
First course was a vanilla poached pear salad. Fresh mixed greens from the farmers market, bartlett pears poached in vanilla infused white wine, thinly siced red onions, golden raisins, and a light dressing of cider vinegar, olive oil, and a bit of soy yogurt. This went paired excellently with our bottled of Freys table white wine.
Second course was a pasta dish with my favorite spring vegetables. Brown rice noodles, tossed with sauteed baby artichokes, asparagus, olive oil, lemon, thyme, parley, and a bit of nutritional yeast. Very fresh, and light. I accidently burned some of the artichokes, so they were a little bitter, but they balanced well with the sweet asparagus. If you are jonesing for a taste of spring, try this dish.
Last, but not least, dessert. Soy based gelato with almonds and two lemon cookies. The gelato is made by Trentino Gelato, a local gelato and sorbet maker in Houston. They serve it at Tafia, so I was able to get some after work one night. It is so smooth, you can hardly tell it is soy based. The cookies are also lovely. Soft and sweet, with a tangy lemon flavor.
And there you have it. A beautiful spring meal, enjoyed sitting in the shade, watching bikers, joggers, walkers, and strollers get their daily dose of activity while we ate with abandon and shared a bottle of wine. Who could ask for more?