Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pizza Revelations

Usually, I am a huge proponent of making things from scratch whenever possible.  I've been baking my own version of a whole grain bread for over a year now, and I've recently been getting really good about cooking my own dried beans and stockpiling them in the freezer to use when needed.  Almost whole wheat pizza dough, based on the recipe in Vegan with a Vengence, normally falls into this category as well.  However, when I was at Trader Joe's yesterday, I saw their garlic and herb already made pizza dough and decided to give it a try.

Now it is picture story time! 

I don't recall who did it, but over at the post punk kitchen forums, someone decided to put swiss chard on pizza, and I thought it was an absolutely fabulous idea.  Above is the pre-greened pizza with red bell pepper, corn, and the soy chorizo (also from Trader Joe's)

There are two different sauces on the pizza since I had to improvise due to someone eating a large portion of the tomato vodka tomato sauce that I had for dinner last night but was saving the remainder for this pizza.  The left side has some homemade sundried tomato hummus instead.

The verdict? The dough was alright, but I much prefer making my own. I learn more towards a wheat-ier crust, which has a bit more bite to it. Perhaps I'll just have to make my own whole wheat version of this one.

But in all honesty, the star of the show was the tomato vodka sauce. I inhaled that side of the pizza. Seriously. How come I had never thought to use it on pizza before? I'd highly recommend doing it, because it was absolutely brilliant. Took the pizza to a whole new level.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why I never cook steel cut oats on the stove

I don't know why I have an inability to cook steel cut oats on the stove, but I do.  I've tried to do this seemingly simple procedure several times and have always succeeded in making a total mess of it.  Case in point:

Would you want me doing this to your poor innocent stove? I think not.

I get everything set up, and I leave the room for a half hour after making sure that they are gently simmering in their water. I come back, and that was the sight that greeted me. Not much fun to clean up, trust me.

So how do I usually cook steel cut oats if not on the stove? I use a crock pot.  I discovered this method after a thorough introduction to steel cut oats over at the fat free vegan kitchen blog.
My slow cooker was given to me by my parents after they got a new one, so it is rather ancient (well, let's just say that they got it as a wedding present and have been married 25 years or so).  It takes me about 4 hours (sometimes 5) to cook my oats, but if I have homework or reading that needs to be, it is convenient to go stir it whenever I need to take a break.  I cook two cups at a time, which gives me enough oats for an entire week's worth of breakfasts.
I really like steel cut oats because they are rather filling and a whole grain.  To reheat my oats, I get a few scoops of cooked oats that are congealed and pour a little non-dairy milk over them.  I put this in the microwave for a minute or so. Then I add a little maple syrup, ground flax seeds, and frozen raspberries and microwave it for another minute or two. Stir well, and you have a very satisfying breakfast indeed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Vegan's Take on Disney World

For some reason, I do not have any pictures from my good eats during last week's family vacation at Disney World.  Instead, I am going to give the highlights and a few tips of how to eat vegan at a place that may not initially seem vegan friendly.

Like last year, the two best meals that I had were at Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge) and Spoodles (Boardwalk).  

For New Year's Eve 2007, my meal at Jiko consisted of a dish with a whole grain pilaf and an Afrikan spiced tofu dish, which happened to be an entree on the regular menu.  This year, there was no such thing on the regular menu, much to my initial dismay.  After learning that I was vegan, our server promptly came back with a totally vegan menu. (We kept it, but I have no idea where my mum tucked it away at.)  There were about 5 appetizers (and they weren't all salads though several were vegan versions of dishes on the omni menu) but only one entree and dessert.  It would have been nice to have more than one option as an entree, but it was tasty. It was a curry with tofu, artichokes, eggplant, rice, and several other vegetables that I can't recall.  Although it was a take on an omni dish involving shrimp on the other menu, it was rounded out quite well.  My parents had also ordered an appetizer, and the server was very good about verifying which breads and such were vegan.

My other good vegan meal was at Spoodles, which is a Mediterranean inspired restaurant.  There was no separate vegan menu here, but they are very accomadating to vegans.  Once the server heard that I was vegan, he brought one of the chefs over to our table.  The chef was extremely nice and clarified with me what items I did not eat.  He quickly told me which appetizers that my party had ordered that I could eat.  Then he asked what sort of dish I wanted to eat.  I could try to veganize something already on the menu or have him make up something totally different.  I chose to have one of the two vegetarian options on the menu, but I altered the flavorings a bit.  My dish was a lemony couscous with sun-dried tomatoes, and several grilled vegetables. There was also a red pepper sauce drizzled on the top, which was absolutely amazing.  Plus, this place keeps non-diary ice cream in the back, so I was actually able to have dessert with the rest of my family, a scoop of both chocolate and vanilla, naturally.

Even though my best experiences were at nicer sit down restaurants, it does not mean that you cannot have good vegan meals at other places; you just have to look harder and be more flexible.  In a pinch, I did have to go with the default of a baked pretzel and spicy mustard, but there are places in each park where you can get some sort of fresh fruit.  For counter service, the park maps will show where vegetarian options are available. Just because there is a vegetarian option, it does not always translate as vegan.  Stay away from pizza places as they will not be accommodating.  However, you can find vegan chili, a soup with tofu (at an Asian pavilion), and sandwiches.  Usually the sandwiches would have cheese or a spread that may have diary.  I learned that all cash registers have allergen information, and this knowledge did prove to be helpful on a few occasions. Also, depending on how busy a place is, usually you can make some sort of substitution on the sandwich if need be.

Sometimes you have to be patient, but eating vegan at Disney is not impossible.  This was my second year doing it, and I learn new tricks each time.  Hopefully by next year, I will be an old pro.
And, to make up for the lack of food pictures, the above is a photo taken in a "forest" at Animal Kingdom.