Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Patty Wednesday: Sausages

I mentioned before that I want to delve into homemade patties and break away from the individually-packaged, processed, frozen ones. Even if those taste really good.

One of my favorite bloggers, Bianca at Vegan Crunk, posted a video of a cooking demonstration making chorizo from the ever-popular Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I took down the ingredients from the video, but I’ve also ordered a copy of the cookbook (finally). The sausages were not too difficult to make, and the flavor was really good, but the texture was a little gummy. I may need to improve my cooking method, but first I want to check the recipe.

You start by combining smashed beans, spices, broth, oil, and wheat gluten, then shape them into sausages, wrap them in foil, and steam them.

stl 080 The mixed-up goo. The paprika, cayenne, kidney beans, and tomato paste make them red. In the background you can see two other ingredients: liquid smoke and nutritional yeast. (I’ve been using my dining table as my new kitchen is severely lacking in counter space.)

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I improvised a steamer with a colander and a large pot, so the lid didn’t really fit tightly. I’m not sure if that’s part of the problem, or also that I divided it into four and these guys were huge. Anyway, like I said, they were a bit gummy, so I cooked them some more in a skillet, which actually worked really well to brown and crisp the outsides a little bit.

stl 093 Served with mashed potatoes, broccoli, and beer.

I’m on the lookout for another patty type recipe to try. I think once I try enough, I’ll see what goes in to making a good one. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Restaurant: Sweet Art in Saint Louis

We recently went to Saint Louis for a concert and had wonderful meals while we were there. I had searched the web for places to get good vegetarian food in the area and stumbled across some real winners. The first night, we went to a concert at The Pageant in the Loop. There were dozens of good looking restaurants, but based on reviews I found online, we went to Thai Country Kitchen. Even though we have ten Thai places within walking distance of our home here, I’m always up for trying it in a new city because Cincinnati Thai is notoriously candy-sweet. This was really good. I also appreciate the “country” aspect of it as well. The decor reminds me of boating and farming Thai, standing in contrast to the minimalist electronica decor that’s so trendy here.

Enough of that. I’ve been totally overwhelmed looking at the photos from the trip, so I want to do this in small steps. Let’s start with my favorite find of the trip: Sweet Art.

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There is no way we would have found Sweet Art just walking around the landmarks we visited. I can’t even find the blog where I originally read about this place, but I am so glad we went. This is a little neighborhood bakery that serves breakfast and lunch items in addition to cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and other baked goods. The small dining room is bustling and popular; it’s the kind of feel-good place where you’ll share your table with strangers and be glad the restaurant seems successful rather than being annoyed at the lack of seating. (Granted, it was a cold spring day – on a nicer day, the outdoor tables would have expanded the dining room.)

The inside was comfortable and inviting, and reminded me of other places I’ve been but certainly stood on its own. The walls were a pastel lime green, much less severe than at Loving Cafe. The menu was written on a chalkboard like at Melt, but all the choices are vegetarian and most are vegan. They also have a pastry case full of beautiful cupcakes and some vegan baked goods behind the glass. What’s most impressive? The artwork covering the walls. There’s an art studio in the back of the shop and they offer classes. You can read about the couple who runs this place on the Sweet Art website and also see more of the artist’s work here.

Let’s get on to the eats. Everything on the menu looked incredible: They have salads, wraps, and hot and cold sandwiches. They also have chili or chili nachos. I’ll say it again, I’m so glad we found this place, and if we were locals we’d certainly be back regularly. As it was, we were trying to figure out how a second meal there would fit into our travel plans.

Sweet Burger, $7.25

I ordered the Sweet Burger, which is a homemade patty made of lentils and other veggies served with their house vegan spread (which was delightfully spicy), greens, tomato, and ketchup. It was delicious. Many times when I order a veggie patty, I end up leaving the bun because the patty is already so grain-based. This bread, however, was delicious. The other sandwich also had superb bread – I even ate some crust, which is rare for me. Even the chips were exceptional. They offer a choice of chips or fruit, and I’m glad I got these thick-cut chips.

Do you call the bread pictured here a bun or a roll? One of my first roommates made fun of me for saying “bun” and insisted it should be called a roll. I guess there still are some regional differences.

39th, with avocado, $7.75

Alex chose the 39th, which is a fake-BLT. Like Melt (again) they name many of the sandwiches for nearby streets. The facon was really crisp and there was plenty of it on the sandwich. This was also served with the tangy house spread, which I really enjoyed. I think I’ll have to start looking into making something like this. The avocado was such a nice touch to round out the sandwich along with the lettuce and tomato.

Before we left, we picked up three cupcakes to go, which we enjoyed later in the car while waiting for a brewery tour and even trekked the third home and ate it the next day.

This unassuming little box contains three delicious cupcakes. We didn’t order the vegan cupcakes, but they have vegan selections daily. My favorite is the one in the upper left – see it with the pecan on top? This is a Hummingbird. My mom used to make hummingbird cake. I think I need to do something like that as well. The cake is moist with banana and pineapple and spiced with cinnamon. I prefer the cream cheese on top to straight icing, and of course I love the Southern pecan on top. We also tried a Harmony, which is a vanilla cupcake with frosting and chocolate sprinkles, and a double chocolate, which is the one we ate a day later at home. They were all good, but that hummingbird was my favorite.

Eating at Sweet Art was such a positive experience, and I grew even more impressed reading through their website just now. The joy they have in their food and art really shines through to me. Way to go.

Sweet Art on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper and White Bean Dip

Does not buying pre-packaged hummus trump using canned beans?

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I know it doesn’t look like much but this was good. I oven-roasted half a red bell pepper (left over from last night’s dinner) and blended with a can of cannellini beans, some smashed garlic, salt, and good extra virgin olive oil.

I made flat bread with this recipe to go with it using half whole wheat flour and half white flour. Luckily for me, I get done with work pretty early and can get started on the dough right after work. As most of the trouble with homemade bread is the rising time, that’s not a problem and everything came together in a couple of hours.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Clean out the fridge rice and veggies

After a weekend entertaining a guest and eating out (our favorites: Honey, Melt, Indigo, Loving Cafe) it was time to eat up some of our veggies and get a simple meal at home.

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As usual when I do this kind of dish, I end up with way too much if I just put in a little bit of everything. I started with one cup of brown rice, some green bell pepper, red bell pepper, carrot, onion, snow peas, baby corn, and mushroom. Seasoned lightly with soy sauce, and the flavor of the veggies just shines through. I don’t think it’s a problem to have leftovers, though.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

No, I’m not drinking green beer. I’m making patties.

Patty 013Mediterranean Black bean quinoa burgers, served with sweet potato fries and snow peas. Topped with mozzarella.

I’ve been playing with the idea of making homemade veggie burgers or veggie patties for a while. Actually, I tried once in my pre-blogging days, without a recipe and without much success. The veggie burger is one of Alex’s favorites, and I’d love to be able to make them at home rather than buying frozen patties. You can see how often we eat patties from my recent post on mushroom patties and my description of Allyn’s (one of our favorites: I like the beer list, Alex likes the veggie patty they make).

Patty 002 I saw this recipe on The Voracious Vegan and was eager to give it a shot. I pretty much followed the recipe, except I didn’t have chickpea flour so I used brown rice flour, and I cut it in half. It’s made of mushed black beans, cooked quinoa, sun-dried tomatoes, flour, ground flax seed, and liquid smoke. I made two huge patties and one smaller patty. If I do it again, I’d make four smaller patties. Unlike ground beef, they don’t shrink when they cook!

The texture of this recipe was spot-on. They formed into patties really easily and held their form as I cooked them in a skillet. I ate mine without a bun (as pictured) but Alex went for the bun, along with ketchup, mustard, and pickles. I used some Pickapeppa sauce as it seemed a little bland. Black beans and quinoa are both pretty mild flavors, and there weren’t many other flavors until you reached a bite with sun-dried tomato. Note, though, the original recipe has a red onion and basil aoili that probably helps a lot.

I think I’m going to make burgers regularly. I’m already looking for my next recipe!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Are you ready? A good home-cooked meal


I went to Trader Joe’s on Sunday because I was craving tofu and I like theirs the best. While I was there, I also picked up a cauliflower and a bag of “Southern Greens.” I was craving kale but they didn't have any. Instead, I got a mix of mustard, collard, turnip, and spinach greens, pre-cut and ready to cook. Finally, I got a boxed mix of cornbread. I hate to admit it but cornbread is one thing for me that never turns out right if I don’t use a mix. The TJ’s stuff is really good, though, light and just sweet enough.

I roasted the cauliflower in the oven after I brought out the bread. The cauliflower was just tossed with canola oil and salt. This has become one of our favorite vegetables.

I did the greens like before: put in a large pot with about a cup of broth, some salt, and some oil. Cook about 10 minutes until wilted, then finish with some cider vinegar.

cats 005 I pressed the tofu before rubbing it with spices. I’ve found the Trader Joe’s tofu doesn’t require freezing the way other brands do. So I wrapped it in a dish towel and placed it between two plates, topped with a cast iron skillet to weigh it down, and left it there about half an hour. Then I sliced it in thirds and rubbed some spices on it. I used “Texas Grill” from a spice blend shaker. (I know, cheater!) It’s mainly black pepper, paprika, onion, and garlic. I just grilled this on a grill pan.

This is the kind of food I missed while eating so much quick food while moving. And don’t worry – I have plenty of new recipes ready to try! We actually moved the items in the garage to the new place after work, so this was still a quick meal between other obligations. Even so, it was so much more satisfying!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Easing back in with Taco Night

Over the last few weeks, I’ve eaten out a lot. At home, I’ve cooked easy stuff like frittata and frozen stuffed shells. The first time I used the oven, I turned it on and then inadvertently turned it off – so I left my shells in a cooling oven for 40 minutes. The other night, I made tacos.

I diced half a yellow onion and a pound of cremini mushrooms to sauté with some crumbles. I like to add some mushrooms and onions to jazz up the crumbles. I seasoned these with a packet of taco seasoning.

Served in a tortilla with lettuce, avocado, salsa, and diced green bell pepper. This is my favorite way to eat tacos. Yum!

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Have you missed me?

It's okay if you haven't. I've been moving and haven't been doing anything food-related. I haven't cooked in my new kitchen yet, but I've gotten to know it very well by wiping grime from every surface. I'll be up and running soon, and I can't wait. I'm ready for a home-cooked meal! Takeout and sandwiches can get boring and tiring. For that matter, so can moving.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Vegan Baking: Spelt Bread

I’ve been more and more interested in baking breads after reading a few labels and seeing what’s really in packaged loaves, and I’ve been encouraged by my success in making pizza dough and naan. So this cold evening seemed like a perfect time to turn on the oven and bake some bread to go with vegetable soup.

spelt 002

As I always do, I perused a few recipes on the web and chose this recipe for easy spelt bread. Indeed, it was easy. I actually cut it in half and it turned out wonderfully. Mix spelt flour, sugar, salt, yeast, sesame seeds, and warm water. I kneaded this with my mixer’s dough hook and it came together quickly. I followed two instructions: one, not to overknead; two, to punch it down after it rises. If I were to do it again, I might not punch it down and instead let the bread reach it full fluffiness.

Why spelt? Glad you asked. Back when I was looking for homemade pasta recipes, some of the recipes called for different kinds of flour. I picked up some spelt flour from the bulk bins at Whole Foods and then realized I needed something else. I’ve been looking for a use for this spelt ever since.

I really liked this bread and will likely make it again. From what I can gather, spelt is closely related to wheat but is considered an “ancient” grain, so eating it helps support biodiversity. It’s more flavorful than wheat, having a nutty and sweet flavor that can’t entirely be attributed to the seeds and sugar in the recipe. I enjoyed it warm from the oven with a little spread and salt.

Served with vegetable soup. I used those carrot tops I'd been keeping to make broth, along with other would-be discarded veggie parts, and some frozen lima beans, corn, green beans, onion, and potato. And okra in mine. Yum! What a great dinner for one of those cold winter nights in March when spring can’t seem to come soon enough.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Restaurant: Mac’s Pizza Pub

When I was in college, there were two pizza places in town. One was Papa John’s. The other was a greasy deep-dish place with a dirty salad bar. While we were eating, Alex said these UC kids have no idea how good they have it with Mac’s Pizza Pub practically on campus. This place was good, and I probably would have loved it more if I were ten years younger. On top of that, Mac’s is just down the street from Pomodori's. As you may have guessed, pizza is one of those frequent meals for us, and we have all kinds of favorites. I think Mac’s, though, will be one we get again soon.

Mac’s has a dive feel, but inside the staff was friendly and the service was quick. No complaints there. We dined before 8 p.m. on Saturday, well before the the place was filled with drinkers for the night. They had the plastic cups ready to go by the taps. But as early as we were there, even the crowded table next to us ordering pitchers was also snacking on pizzas and fried bar food.

My only complaint is that the first two beers I ordered (off the menu, of course!) weren’t actually available. I’ve run into the same problem at another favorite restaurant of mine, but at Mac’s I got the idea that they like to boast an extensive beer list but hope you order Miller Lite like a good student on a budget. Even so, we each got a beer and ordered some fried pickles.

Fried pickles with BBQ Ranch dipping sauce, $4.49

These pickles came to us hot, right out of the fryer, and were served with a little cup of ranch with a squirt of sweet barbecue sauce in it. Although I didn’t have a problem scarfing half the pickles, I can’t say they were my favorites. The breading was lighter than we’ve had at other places, so that’s a plus. Another plus – these pickles weren’t too spicy. However, I like a little sauce on my fried pickles and this barbecue ranch was just too much flavor for me to handle. Alex didn’t have any complaints, though, and if we do this again I might ask for some ketchup or plain ranch.

How many times so far have I mentioned fried? There’s more to come. Yes. I got a veggie pizza and Alex got their signature dish, “The Macover.” The Macover is like a deep-fried calzone: you choose three pizza toppings and the dough is wrapped around the fillings, and then it’s fried. Finish with a coat of garlic butter and pizza sauce on the side. Alex loved, loved, loved this. I wasn’t too impressed, as it was mostly bread and cheese and the sauce was cold. This is just one more example of us needing to get separate foods from time to time, as he loved his and I loved mine.

The Macover, $6.79. Choose your fillings. Pictured: bell pepper, onion, mushroom

I ordered the Veggie Delight pizza, and it was (as promised in the menu description) piled high with fresh toppings. Mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, green bell peppers, and black and green olives topped this chewy crust and along with tasty sauce and plenty of cheese. I like a lot of toppings, and this pizza did not disappoint. My personal pizza was more than enough for me, but it was so good I ate almost all of it. The crust was really good, and there were so many toppings it was a little soggy toward the middle. I call that flavor concentration, though, and it's what I like.

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8" personal size Veggie Delight Pizza, $7.99

In addition to the veggie pizza I ordered, there are two other veggie pizzas: a spinach and goat cheese and a pesto primavera. They also offer a vegan pizza that includes the same toppings as the one I ordered, but with vegan mozzarella. Apart from their pizza menu, they offer a vegan burger on the sandwich menu which features a Five-Star Foodies patty, a local brand that’s available in a few local grocery stores and is pretty good.

Mac's Pizza Pub on Urbanspoon