Sunday, March 29, 2009

A quick trip to Ithaca, NY

Due to my forgetfulness (and the fact that I had to wake up at 4:30 am to get ready for my early flight), I unfortunately didn't take my camera with me for my trip to Cornell.  My visit with the chemistry department was amazing, and I'll probably reveal my graduate school decision later this week.  (I'm very much leaning towards a place right now, but I shall see if I feel the same way in a few days.)

Even though Ithaca is pretty small, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of vegan options there.  My first day, my grad student host took me to a bagel shop to get a snack, and I was pleased to see Tofutti cream cheese as a topping option! The shop also had an all vegan wrap. What was rather cute was the vegan cookies by the cash register, which were plainly marked with a bright green sticker saying "VEGAN!" I loved the exclamation point for some reason. Another great option is the pizza place that we went to for lunch on Saturday. Apparently, there is always at least 1 vegan option already made (for those getting it by the slice), and they now have vegan cheese if you want to make your own! How exciting, even if it wasn't Teese.

On the whole, the chemistry department did a reasonably good job at feeding me while I was there.  My host was pretty awesome in checking up on things for me since he was vegetarian himself. During the smorgasbord of offerings Friday night, there was one dish that was vegan: a fruit curry with tofu. It was very good, albeit on the spicy side (even for me). I was informed that the Thai restaurants are pretty good about vegan dishes in general. 

Saturday morning, on the other hand, was a little less than stellar. I had to bypass the various doughnuts, quiche, and muffins for a plain bagel and fruit salad. It made me think wistfully of my yummy Might-O experience in Seattle.

Saturday night was a pleasant surprise. A nicer buffet was offered, and I started off with fruits, veggies, and some hummus with chips. But, thinking this would not be enough for me, a separate dish was specially made for me. When it was brought out, I got not one wrap, but two!  (So much food, that I had to pawn the second wrap off on other people.) It was warmed and contained broccoli, green peppers, onion, cauliflower, and possibly a little cabbage.  Although a little on the dry side, generous portions of guacamole made it better, because, after all, guacamole makes just about anything more awesome.

Overall, I discovered that Ithaca has quite a few vegan options for such a small town, which was a very pleasant surprise. And, Syracuse is only an hour away, which has some awesome vegan options, I have been told.  A day trip would probably be a fun experience to have sometime if I end up going to Cornell.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Prelude to Summer

For some reason, the things that remind me of the start of summer (besides fresh produce) are barbecues and ice cream.  Now, summer may be a ways off, but some of the things that I've been fixing lately would say otherwise.

My parents gave me an ice cream maker for christmas, but I hadn't used it much because of the cold weather. It has been very nice lately, so I decided to give it a second try.  I used the cookies and cream recipe from here. In the process of making this, I learned two very import things: 
1. Do use the chocolate creme filled cookies from Trader Joe's.
2. Don't use French vanilla soy creamer. The vanilla flavor will overpower just about everything else and make it have a very fake aftertaste.

The recipe did give a great texture, though not initially after mixing in the machine. I had to freeze it for several hours before it looked like how it is seen below.

Another thing that I associate with summer is barbecue.  As a vegan, I usually would have to stick to roasted vegetables, homemade potato salad (done by me), or other such things.  But this may now be a thing of the past. When I was in Seattle, I picked up a bag of soy curls because I had heard so many good things. What I did with them was pretty simple, and I smothered them in the bbq sauce from Veganomicon. (This bbq sauce is amazing and has quite a small kick that takes you by surprise!) I'm not sure how I feel about the soy curls, but the texture isn't too meaty or anything like that. What is great is how there are no preservatives in them, so I don't feel like it is a true mock meat at all. Here, the soy curls and bbq sauce are served on homemade whole grain bread.  I have a feeling that this is a dish that will improve with being in the fridge overnight. I can't wait until I make this again because I'll probably take it a step further and make my own buns as well!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Everything Homemade

Since going vegan, I've found bit by bit that I am a big fan of doing things myself whenever possible. (This mostly applies to the kitchen but has been known to manifest itself in other ways as well.)  For over a year, I've been baking my own bread by using my parent's old bread machine, and I prefer making the Yellow Rose Recipes version of sour cream instead of buying the Tofutti version.  Now that I've got my own ice cream maker, I've been experimenting with different recipes with that as well. However, this little installment is not about ice cream but rather falafel.

I am a huge fan of falafel.  As someone who has spent quite a bit of time in Europe, this dish became my quick vegan go-to whenever I was out and needed something to eat fast.  I couldn't tell you how many variations of stuff that I had last summer in Germany.  I think that my favorite was the late night snack while visiting a friend in Köln because of discovering that the garlic sauce there was vegan.

Regardless, the process can be a little labor intensive if making these at home, but I get a great deal of satisfaction when I am finished.  Usually I just buy a whole grain wrap to serve my falafel on, but last week I decided to take it up a notch. I had my first experience making my own pita bread.  I used this recipe from Bryanna Clark Grogan's vegan blog, and it worked well for the most part. I've misplaced my rolling pin somewhere between home and university, so I had to make due with using a long and narrow glass.  I must have stretched them out too much because they didn't manage to puff up in the oven like they were supposed to do. (I had even bought a pizza stone specifically for this purpose.)  The pitas were still good, and I just cheated aznd cut them to make my own pockets.  Combined with the falafel and tahini sauce, I had a wonderful dinner even if it took a while to prepare.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Little Bit Raw-er

Since I am currently on Spring Break with, supposedly, more time on my hands, I decided to delve a little bit into the idea of raw foods.  I'm not a complete enthusiast, but I do feel as if eating more foods in their natural state can be better and perhaps healthier. Knowing my own limitations, I realized that I wouldn't be able to go completely raw this week, nor would I want to. Even for the meals that haven't been totally raw, I have incorporated more simple and healthier foods.  Here are examples of two of the dinners that I had this week.

The first is spicy peanut broccoli salad of sorts. I don't think my peanut butter is raw, but I tried, ok? I took a huge knife to a small head of broccoli and went crazy on it, then I tossed the bits with my usual spicy peanut sauce that I like with red cabbage.

Here, is my attempt at raw pasta. I was surprised at how easy it was to get the zucchini noodles with a regular vegetable peeler. A little more time consuming, maybe, but not overly so.  The sauce is my improvised swiss chard/dark green leafy veggie mix pesto.  I'm out of walnuts, so I used raw cashews instead, and I couldn't tell much of a difference. I also subbed a lot of the oil with water, and it didn't seem to effect the texture too much (and cut down on the fat). I must not have made enough noodles, because I was hungry again two hours later. Unfortunately, I caved in to my whole grain craving and had second helpings using whole wheat pasta.  I must love my grains too much to give them up...

Today started off well with a breakfast of steel cut oats soaked in almond milk overnight with raisins. A little bit boring, so no picture was taken. Lunch consisted of more pesto and tomato on toast (yes, not raw, I know).  Tonight for dinner, I plan on making a raw curried soup, so I'll see how that goes.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Full of Sugary Goodness

That's right, my lunch today was full of bad vegan choices, but only because they weren't healthy! I'm in Seattle at the moment (visiting University of Washington for grad school), and I was lucky enough to have an entire free day today before I fly out tomorrow.  After exploring some second hand shops this morning, I decided to make the trek over to Might-O doughnuts, which only sells vegan doughnuts (!).  I decided to take advantage of this rare occurrence and splurged on buying a complete dozen.  Check out these babies below!
There are a variety of flavors represented with plenty of raspberry, chocolate, and peanut butter varieties of some sort. The lady had put them all in a cardboard box for me when we realized that they wouldn't travel well on a plane that way, so she nicely transfered them over to plastic containers for me. Somehow, I managed to make the 30 minute walk make to my hotel before devouring two of them.  The first one was a raised doughnut with chocolate glaze, and I was very under-whelmed. It felt almost as heavy and dense as the rest of the cake doughnuts, so I was a little bit disappointed. I was expecting it to be so much airy and lighter.

My second doughnut was chocolate with peanut butter glaze. This one was great, and it didn't taste too sweet at all and had just the right amount of peanut butter. I can't wait to try all the rest, well, at least most of the rest (I'm going to be nice and save one or two for my vegan roommate for when she gets back from spring break).

Now that I'm all rested up and full of energy again, I'm walking back to campus to take some artsy pictures (at least, an attempt at them). It snowed last night, but the sun is out at the moment, so maybe I'll be able to get a few mountain shots.  Then tonight, I'm meeting some awesome people from the ppk at Pizza Pi, which is an all vegan pizza place. I'm really excited, and there will naturally be plenty of pictures taken!