Sunday, May 31, 2009

A few surprises in Madrid

Not that my time in Madrid is over yet, but I wanted to share two little vegan-friendly places that I found.  Despite this, I have found that being in a big city like this and not knowing the language is rather difficult. I'm glad that I'm here meeting a friend because not as many people speak English as you would think. (Much of which I learned in the trails and tribulations of putting more money on my German cell phone, which still has not been fully resolved, but I'll spare the details.)

First up is Yerbabuena.  I went here for dinner on Friday when I was on my own because I was able to find it easily from my hostel.  This is a small little place, but bright and cheerful inside. I thought it was strange that I was the only person eating there at 7:30 pm, but I suppose that I was eating dinner rather early compared to the late dining habits of most people in Spain. 

The meal itself ended up being rather expensive, but I didn't mind because the food was really good. Even though my server spoke almost no English, and I speak no Spanish, it was easy to order because all of the vegan items are plainly marked on the English menu. The menu was rather extensive, and 1/3 of the dishes were vegan and another 1/3 had vegan options.  I tried to order a soggy brown rice dish (really what it was called!) and got the  blackened rice dish instead. I didn't mind because this one was probably better than the one that I originally wanted. It doesn't look like much, but it had a very savory and earthy flavor. I rather enjoyed it and ate almost all of it.  The dish also came with a small salad.

For dessert, I got the vegan ice cream, which came with a cherry and corn flakes on top!  It was well worth the price because this was some of the best homemade ice cream that I have ever had. It was so rich in creamy and definitely had the 'I can't believe it is vegan!' factor going for it.

Even though my bill ran about 22 euros, I would come back again. You can find Yerbabuena at Calle Bordadores 3, just North of Plaza Mayor on the Eastern side.

The next great vegan meal that I literally stumbled upon while walking around with my friend was at Viva la Vida! located at Calle Huertas 57.

This meal consisted of a vegetarian buffet in the middle of a very small biomarket. It was pay by weight, and the desserts were a different price than the foods but still by weight. The vegan items were plainly marked as vegana on the cards labeling the dishes.  There was a good variety, as well as dessert, and  my friend explained to me how much the Spanish love croquettes. The meal was quick and just what we were looking for in a quick mid-afternoon meal. Plus, the torte was very good and had a lot of chocolate, even if it was the only vegan dessert on display.

So far, I have had good luck with vegan food on my stay in Madrid. As a standby, I do have bread and jelly ready if need be, though I suspect that I will save that for the train ride from Spain to Italy, which I still have to get a ticket for... 

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Adventure Begins

Greetings from Madrid!  The start of my travels has been interesting indeed. I started it off with Thai food in Chicago last night as well as a last visit to Trader Joe's (to get soy ice cream and snacks for the plane, of course).  The connection from Chicago to Miami ended up being an hour delayed, so I got to Miami and trekked across the airport only to have ten minutes rest before boarding the second plane.

And how was the food on the plane? Not bad, though the breakfast was another complete miss.  Dinner consisted of a salad with a balsamic/oil dressing, roll, cantaloupe slices, and a curry.  The curry wasn't too bad and consisted of a tomato base with chickpeas, bell peppers, and a few slivers of tofu.  Breakfast on the other hand, well, let's just say I'll be sending a letter to American Airlines when I get back. It was not very vegan friendly at all. I was served orange juice, yogurt, and a croissant just like everyone else. The yogurt, of course, was not vegan, and I suspect that the croissant wasn't either, but I ate it anyway because I was so hungry and didn't have any food on me.

I haven't done much in Madrid yet since I'm waiting for the jet lag to catch up with me! However, my friend that I'm visiting has already taken me to Maoz falafel. It wasn't too bad, though the falafel itself was a little salty.

It is supposed to be rather warm this weekend, so today I shall take a small nap before exploring on my own and hopefully finding a vegan friendly restaurant for dinner since I can't meet up with my friend again until much later. Here's to crossing my fingers and hoping for the best!

Monday, May 25, 2009

A quick review and things to come

Over the weekend, I went on a road trip back to my former University in Indianapolis with a friend. The meal highlight of the weekend was Saturday morning's brunch at the Three Sisters Cafe in Broadripple. I love going to this place because they have many vegetarian dishes on the menu, and the vegan ones are plainly marked with a huge 'V'. On this occasion I opted to try something other than my usual bbq five grain sandwich and got the King of Siam. 

This sandwich consisted of a pita slathered with tons of hummus and topped with spinach and a five grain mix that included some nut slivers, cranberries, and beans.  I was apprehensive at first, but it turned out to be rather refreshing.

I have gone here for brunch or lunch on several occasions, and this has proved to be a favorite of both myself and the omnivores also in attendance. Check out this place if you find yourself in Indianapolis, but be mindful that it is rather small and there could be a wait to be seated if it is a peak dining time.

In other and more exciting news, I'm going back to Europe! I leave this week and will be gone for four weeks.  This is a present of sorts to myself before the hard work of graduate school begins in August.  There will be plenty of updates about my travels as I go along, though wireless access might be dodgy for a week or so. I can not wait to visit friends, some of whom I haven't seen in a while. The itinerary goes like this:
Cinque Terre, Italy
Mendrisio, Switzerland
Basel, Switzerland
Dortmund, Deutschland
Kassel (DE)
Berlin (Part I)
Berlin (Part II)

Lots of places in a short amount of time, I know. But, I think that I have a good mix of new places to explore and the revisiting of some old favorites. Plus, I absolutely cannot wait for amazing fresh baked bread! 

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Veg gem in Normal, IL

Yesterday, I found myself in Bloomington, IL and was able to meet up with an old friend.  I only visit the town occasionally, and I suggested the Coffeehouse as the place of our lunch, since I had eaten there a few times before. This little cafe is nestled between Illinois State University and the Children's Museum and is entirely vegetarian, which is proudly stated on the menu. From experience, I know that vegetarian friendly may not always equate to vegan friendly, but this place does quite nicely.

The menu clearly has all vegan items marked as being such, and there is a variety even if the options are still somewhat limited. On previous visits, I had enjoyed chocolate chip pancakes and a southwestern style veggie burger, but this time I opted for the falafel.

I am such a sucker for falafel, but I ordered it anyway even though I'm leaving for Europe next week and will surely be eating a lot of it.  While those balls of chickpeas and spices themselves were not the best stand-outs that I have eaten or the tahini sauce was lacking in just the right zing, the final product was still tasty. The pitas were surprisingly good and there were just enough other condiments, ie lettuce, cucumber, and hummus.

Combined with a side of oven fries, mint tea, and good conversation, it was a very pleasant lunch indeed.  If you ever find yourself in Bloomington/Normal, IL, you can find the Coffeehouse at 114 E Beaufort St.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Teese me please

So, I feel as if I am catching on to the Teese excitement, oh, several months late.  I had the chance to taste Teese while I was in Seattle at Pizza Pi in March, and I enjoyed the experience (not to mention eating a medium pizza by myself in a span of 18 hours).  This week I got to test out this vegan cheese myself.

On my very last visit to the local health food's store in Indianapolis (Good Earth), I was excited to see that they had Teese on display. Not just one, but four flavors! Naturally, I had to pick up the mozzarella style to try it for myself.  Once I was moved back home again, my dad put in the request for pizza early in the afternoon. I obliged and whipped up some mostly whole wheat crust a la Vegan with a Vengeance.  Two kinds of pizza were made. Up close above is the pesto one with chard pesto that I made on the spot. The key to the melting was shredding the Teese, which I learned from reading the blogs of  so many others before me.

Sadly, the Teese on the second pizza didn't melt as well. This one was made with the leftover soy curls in Veganomicon bbq sauce that I had served my family earlier in the week. My was it tasty.

Now I just have to figure out what I'll be doing with the rest of my Teese. I'm thinking a spinach and artichoke dip might be good. However, I better decide soon because I jet off to Europe in 14 days! 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Stereotypical Student Suppers

I'm going to share some semi-recent meals because they seem like the kind of meals that a typical university student would quickly throw together. (Plus, I feel like I've been neglectful even though it has only been a few days. Wow, this week before graduation has been going by so quickly!)

The first meal is going to sound like an odd combination, but it was surprisingly delicious. I had a little bit of pearled barley to finish, so I combined it with pesto, beets, and carrots.  The pesto is a variation on the recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance, except with Swiss chard and cashews.  (I prefer the pesto with walnuts, but I didn't have any.) Since basil isn't in season, I love using Swiss chard for pesto because it helps me finish off whatever is left in my fridge, and I just love Swiss chard. Seriously. Even though I'm moving on Monday, I almost want to get a bag just so that I can have green smoothies for breakfast, even though I'll probably have other leftovers that need to get eaten.

Here, is what seems like a simple stir-fry over couscous, but looks are deceiving.  I used some soy chorizo in addition to the tofu, and... stinky tofu! I received a jar in one of the ppk care package swaps, and this was my first experimentation with it.  I only used two cubes, and I'm not sure if I can even describe the flavor that it lent the dish.  There was a discussion about how to use stinky tofu on the ppk, and I have other ideas that I'll hopefully be able to try at home (and get my omnivore family to eat).  I also have plenty of other asian grocery goodies that could be making an appearance sometime soon as well!

I don't have any good pictures of them, but if you have a lot of Kahlua to get rid of (for me, leftover from a recent tiramisu cake), then I have a recipe for you!  I made peanut butter Kahlua cookies, and they were absolutely wonderful. The recipe is from have cake, will travel and is great if you have friends who aren't huge peanut butter lovers like me. The Kahlua tones down on the peanut butter taste just enough but allows it to still be addictive to peanut butter lovers. I'd highly recommend them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cleaning the Cupboards

Because I move out in a week, I'm rather torn about what to do with my pantry.  I'm only going to be home sporadically during the summer (yay for a Europe excursion and grad school TA training), but I do not have as much access to wonderful things like whole wheat pastry flour, and basically anything in bulk while at home. Obviously, I am going to try to use up all of my frozen items and most refridgerator things. But I start to wonder if I should let myself run out of stables such as flours and grains or get more while I can. (Oh quinoa, I wish that you were back home.) Decisions, decisions...

The first farmers' market was on Saturday, and I got up early with two friends to make a trip. It was our little 'hippie date' as we then went to a very vegan friendly local cafe afterwards. The delicious finds that I got at the market consisted of some fresh pasta (whole wheat, tomato, chipotle, and porcini mushroom), tomatoes, and asparagus. The asparagus along with some frozen peas were used in an improvised pesto of sorts. It wasn't as chunky as I would have liked it, so I'll have to play with it a bit since adding more walnuts didn't help.

Hopefully, I'll be getting some good cooking done this week, and I plan on making a rather nice spread for my parents on Friday when they arrive for graduation.  Bbq soy curls with beer bread rolls, chipotle pasta salad with corn, peppers, tomatoes in a lime sauce, and homemade chocolate raspberry ice cream. Hopefully it all works out.

And now, because I feel obligated to include a picture, here are some nice vegan nachos that I made during finals last week. It contained black beans, kidney beans, soyrizo, bell peppers, corn, and tomatoes.  The sour cream is from Yellow Rose Recipes, and I had homemade guacamole as well. Very messy and very delicious