January 2009


Hi, my name is Jes, and I have an addiction.  No, it’s not alcohol or drugs or food (wait, that last one might be accurate).  Ok, I’ll confess, it’s River’s “I-Don’t-Have-Time-For-a-Yeast-Dough Whole Wheat English Muffin-ish Stove Top Buns.”  I’ve made them three times in one week (yes, I eat that much bread; yes, I know it’s probably not healthy), tweaked the recipe a bit for what’s easier for me, and I can’t stop thinking about them.  I mean, they’re SO easy and SO quick and SO deicious with apple butter and peanut butter swirled together on top.  They even make great buns for Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burgers.  I bet they’d make great personal pizzas too (anyone else do that with English Muffins back in the day or is that just me?).  The question remains, is there anything they can’t do?  You guys should go ahead and make them and report back to me on that one.

Dorian Gray, 8 months

Quick kitten interlude for Celine–isn’t she cute!?!  And does she still look like yours?  The cats that be are interested in finding out if a clone exists somewhere else.  (smile)

And without further ado, English Muffinish Buns!

English Muffinish Buns

adapted from Wing It Vegan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tbsp turbinado sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp oil

Mix all dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Combine the soy milk and water and heat them up to 110 degrees F. Add the oil to the soy milk and water. Stir the water mix into the dry mix.

Knead the dough in the bowl for a minute or two. Remember, we don’t have time for a yeast dough, so forget all the kneading. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes.

Spray a 10 inch sauté pan with cooking spray and turn the stove on medium-low. Take six chunks of dough and form them into balls. Flatten them to about an inch high and place them on the prepared sauté pan.

Cook covered for 15 minutes or until bottoms look brown. Gently flip each bun helping yourself with two forks and cook on low-medium uncovered for 5 to 10 more minutes until bottoms are brown.

Serve with Earth Balance or apple butter or your favorite topping!

I’m a college student, so easy-to-prepare, easy-to-eat meals are extremely helpful. Some form of veggie patty or burger that I can freeze and then cook when needed is definitely preferable, and although my favorite recipe is my anarchy burger, avocados aren’t exactly in season so I needed to try something new. I’m fairly picky about my burgers (the VCon Black Bean one doesn’t do it for me–too gluteny–for example), but after an extensive search during some down time at work I decided to try the Sweet Potato and Black Bean burger from vegan-food.net.

My love of sweet potato fries is unequaled and black beans do make delicious burgers, and quinoa is the most delightful grain, so how could this go wrong? After a few substitutions due to what I had on hand, I shaped up 20 patties, froze most of them, and cooked a batch on my spankin-new George Forman grill. The grill now holds the place of one of the most useful Christmas gifts from this year.

The salad in the background features fresh greens from Vegetable Husband and the Tahini Salad Dressing I made a few weeks ago. With fresh croutons from the Dekalb Farmer’s Market, Vegan Dad’s homemade hamburger buns, sweet potato/black bean burger, it certainly was a tasty, complete meal–and all in under 10 minutes!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burger

2 tablespoons oil
2 onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, grated finely
2 cups black beans, cooked
2 baked sweet potatoes, scooped out of skin
2 cups red quinoa, cooked
1 1/2 cup bread crumbs/gf rice bread crumbs
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon adobo sauce

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and lower heat. Cook until lightly browned, several minutes. Add carrots and beans and cook an additional 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat. Mash slightly in pan, until beans are half crushed.

Place skillet mixture in large bowl with remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. If mixture is too moist, add more breadcrumbs. Form into 15-20 patties. Cook what you need on a George Forman Grill, in a skillet with a little oil, or in the oven at 350 degrees. Wrap the rest in saran wrap and freeze until needed!

Going to a top-tier research school in the US has a few perks, especially when said medical-biological-anthropological-scienceological-school supports arts and humanities. Take for instance tonight’s entertainment: a free full-dress rehearsal of Philip Glass’ Akhnaten, performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and various crazy-awesome opera singers.

Fewer than twenty productions of thi s rare work, which premiered in 1984, have been presented worldwide. The opera follows the rise and fall of the man many scholars believe to be King Tutankhamun’s father, the ancient pharaoh Akhnaten (Amenhotep IV).

Celebrating its 25 th anniversary, “Akhnaten” remains a singular and daring production sung in four languages: ancient Hebrew, Akkadian (from Babylonia), English and ancient Egyptian (derived from hieroglyphs).

Pretty cool, no?  The performance was stunning, to say the least.  And even though it was  dress rehersal, everyone was in costume and there were very few glitches.  I’ve listened to the score several times, and loved it (Philip Glass is my all-time-hands-down favorite composer), so you can imagine how unbelievable it was to hear it live, resounding in the gorgeous acoustics of the Schwartz Center.

And in other rad news, I just heard that I’m a finalist for a state-wide writing competition.  The winner isn’t announced until late March, but I have a decent chance!

Lazy Day Pot Pie

As for the recipe, I’m going to keep it rather short.  Pot pie.  Yes, I’ve posted pot pie recipes before, but let me introduce you to the 15 minute easy-peasy pot pie.  Make one recipe of biscuits (I used VwaV’s baking powder biscuit recipe) and one recipe of pot pie filling (I used Choose Veg’s).  Add whatever veggies you feel like (peas, carrots, mushrooms, and rehydrated Soy Curls, in this case).  Ladle the pot pie filling on top of a halved biscuit and enjoy!

::Edit:: Ricki over at Diet, Dessert, Dogs, a blog you should really check out if you aren’t obsessed with already, is hosting a fun give-away in honor of the inauguration (even though she’s Canadian, hooray for great neighbors!): Yes We Candy!  You can win some absolutely mouthwatering-looking Ritter Sport still-vegan peppermint chocolates if you live in the U.S. or Canada, BUT if you live in Toronto you can win homemade baked goodness straight from her kitchen!  How yum is that?  For all of the Torontans out there, let me know how delicious it is!  I’m jealous.  (smile)  So go check it out!

This entry was submitted to the Click February 2009 Cheese/Tofu event.  You can read more about Click, a monthly food photography event here.  Check out Jai and Bee’s site, Jugalbandi, for more info on the rules and how to participate!

Now what should I do with my new-found jar of delicious homemade mustard, you might ask. Well, how about a simple and fast one skillet recipe with all of my favorite things: tofu, brussels sprouts, mustard, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar. There, I just told you all the ingredients, actually.

You already know that I’m a huge fan of Heidi’s brussels sprouts. I love the technique, sautéed brussels with dry fried tofu, because it’s so simple and so fresh tasting, and with a bit of caramelization it adds the extra oomph the recipe would need otherwise. But being that it’s 20 degrees here and I just feel like I need heartier food, I decided that a nice maple-mustard glaze would be divine. And it was. The maple adds the sweetness I like in the original recipe, but the mustard adds a warm, tangy zing. I’ve made this twice in the past week and each time I just can’t get enough of it. It’s impossible to eat a normal-sized serving of this deliciousness.

The recipe uses half a tub of tofu (4 oz), so feel free to double the recipe. In that case though, remember to double the glaze. You want lots and lots of glaze!

Maple Mustard Glazed Tofu & Brussels Sprouts

4 oz firm or extra-firm tofu sliced into 1 inch strips
8 or 9 brussels sprouts sliced into fine strips (make 3 cuts lengthwise, turn the sprout 45 degrees, make three more cuts)
a splash of olive oil for cooking
1/4 cup homemade spicy mustard
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Dry fry the tofu in a large skillet. See Vegan Yum Yum’s tutorial on how to dry fry.

While the tofu is cooking, slice up the brussels.

Mix the mustard, maple syrup, and vinegar together in a bow.

Once the tofu is completely cooked to your liking, add the brussels sprouts. Stir them into the tofu with a splash of olive oil for about 30 seconds. Immediately add the glaze to the skillet and stir the glaze into the tofu and brussels to cover all of it. Cover with a lid and let cook for 3-5 minutes or until the brussels are tender.

Serve immediately with bread or a grain of your choice.

I suppose when you ask someone, “So what did you do on your day off of work?” the answer normally wouldn’t be, “I made condiments!”  But, hey, I’m not very normal, and my list of “to-make” recipes is getting a wee bit too long.  So at the first sign of a break, I pulled out the food processor, cleaned the canning jars, and went to work!

First on the list is Vegan Ronin‘s homemade Veganaise.  Given the cost of the real stuff (none of that NaSoya stuff for me, thanks), I knew that homemade ought to be the way to go.  But would it taste half as good?  The answer is hands-down-no-way-I’m-ever-buying-Veganaise-again yes!

Secondly, I present The Perfect Pantry‘s Balsamic Mustard.  After the first taste I realized that I’m never buying mustard again.  Ever.  See, I have this thing for fancy mustard.  Along with fancy cheese.  Which I don’t buy any longer, obviously.  But as is the case with fancy cheese–the smellier the better–so goes mustard.  Spicy, smelly, so-damn-good mustard.  This takes the cake.  And in the past four days, I’ve eaten half a pint jar of it.

And last, but not least, a nice tahnini salad dressing.  It’s no Soul Veg dressing, but it’s not bad.  Normally I’m not a big salad person, but a big bag of salad greens came in the Vegetable Husband basket, so I figured I better whip up a dressing.  Loving Soul Veg’s and some other tahini dressings, I decided to try out a random recipe.  It’s not bad.  It’s for salad…which, frankly, doesn’t excite me like fresh-baked bread or a big jar of mustard (note to self: bake bread, slather with mustard).

Over all, the condiment-making experience rolled along smoothly.  Sure, I had to wash my food processor three times in one afternoon, but the scrubbing is worth it.  If just for the mustard.  And the veganaise.  And the opportunity to not waste any food!

Back Left–Basalmic Mustard; Back Right–Veganaise;
Front: Tahini Salad Dressing

Homemade Veganaise

a la Vegan Ronin

1 package silken tofu (like the Nasoya)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mustard
1/4 C oil (vegetable, canola, your pick)

In a food processor or blender, mix everything BUT the oil until nice and smooth.

Turn processor/blender ON. Through the opening at the top of most processors/blenders, SLOWLY drizzle the oil in a small stream.  This lets the fats emulsify together to bind & thicken

After you have finished pouring all the oil, CONTINUE letting it blend for another minute.

Check for taste (mainly salt). The consistency will still be a little runny. THIS IS NORMAL!

Transfer into an airtight container. CHILL at least one hour. The consistency should be thick and spreadable.

This will keep at least a couple of weeks if stored properly. Makes around 2 cups.

Balsamic Mustard

a la The Perfect Pantry

1 cup light or dark mustard seed
4 tbsp dry mustard powder, lightly packed
1 cup water
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar (use a cheap kind like Trader Joe’s)
6 tbsp rice vinegar
4 tbsp sugar
4 tsp salt
2-4 cloves garlic

Grind the mustard seed finely in a spice mill, blender, or mortar. (If using a blender, add the mustard powder to facilitate the grinding.)

Combine ground mustard seed, dry mustard powder and water in a bowl, and mix thoroughly. Let stand, uncovered, for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours, and stir occasionally.

Scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor and add the balsamic vinegar, white wine or rice vinegar, and the sugar, salt and garlic. Process until the garlic has been incorporated and the mustard is fairly smooth.

Store in clean, dry jars, tightly capped, in a cupboard. The mustard will be ready to use in a few days.

Tahini Salad Dressing

a la RecipeZaar

1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/16 cup tamari soy sauce
1 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil

Blend all ingredients in a food processor.

Store in an air-tight container/jar in your refrigerator.

Rewind to 1991.  Taiwan.  I’m four years old (eek I dated myself, forgive me…) and everything smells like fish.  Which is an ok thing because I love fish, just not fish heads or fish eyes which our hosts (friends of my parents) keep trying to get me to eat.  My mom says it’s a delicacy, but still, I’m not going there.  Every day I’d spend chunks of time at the Taiwanese-American school our hosts ran and every lunch an old woman with a ton of wrinkles (or so I remember) served up plates of dumplings.  Pork filled, spicy, gooey-doughed dumplings.  I was in heaven.

Last night I recreated that moment.  Sans pork.  And you know what’s funny?  As soon as I threw the spring onions, soy sauce, carrots, mushrooms, and tofu together in a bowl, the same smell I smelled every day in Taiwan for two weeks came back to me.  It’s not like I haven’t eaten dumplings over the past 18 years since 1991, but there was something distinctly Taiwanesey about the combo.  Or four-year-oldesy.  Give or take a sniff or two.  And while I loved those dumplings then, I think I’ve found a new soul-mate.  In pot-sticker form.  You know I love a good fried food.

Oh, and for six years following our trip to Taiwan, I refused to eat fish.  My brother still hates fish to this day.  I think there was something a little too pervasive about the smell.  Good thing I’m a vegan now!

Chinese Pot-Stickers & Baby Bok Choy

For the wrappers:
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.25 cups boiling water

For the dumpling filling:
8 oz firm or extra-firm tofu
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
3 spring onions, diced (white and light green parts only)
8-10 small mushrooms, diced (I used rehydrated shitake mushrooms)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 dash sesame oil
vegetable oil to fry in
water

For the bok choy:
1 baby bok choy
3 gloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp vegetable oil to cook with
3 tbsp water
sesame oil
salt to taste

To make the pot stickers

To make the wrappers:

In a medium-sized bowl pour the water into the flour.  Mix with a spoon until mostly combined, then dump the mixture out on a floured surface.  Knead the dough for five minutes until a soft, smooth dough forms.

Divide the dough in half and roll out 12″ logs.  Slice the logs into 1/2″ slices.  Smoosh each slice with the palm of your hand until a thin, round circle is made.

To make the filling:

In a small bowl, crumble to tofu into the carrots, onions, mushrooms, soy sauce, and sesame oil.  Mix with your hands until well combined.

To fill the dumplings:

Take one wrapper and fill with a scant teaspoon of the mixture.  Fold in half and pinch the sides closed.  Pinch five times across the top to make pleats which will hold the dumpling closed.  For a good picture tutorial, check out The Vegan Ronin’s here.

Set aside on a floured tray.

To cook:

Heat a large nonstick skillet until very hot.  Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil and coat all surfaces of the skillet.  Place 12 dumplings (or however many you can fit) in the skillet and cook for 2 minutes or until the bottoms of the dumplings are golden brown.

Add 1/2 a cup of water to the skillet (it will sizzle and pop and steam like none other) and cover with a lid.  Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the water is absorbed.

Serve with a spicy dipping sauce of your choice!

To make the bok choy (a la Steamy Kitchen)

Cut the very end of the bok choy off.  Peel the leaves off, but leave the “baby” found in the very inside of the vegetable intact.  Make sure to wash each leaf.

In a large unheated wok, place the ginger and garlic.  Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil.  Turn the heat to medium-high and allow the ginger and garlic to cook in the oil until the oil becomes very aromatic and the garlic is just turning light brown.

Add the bok choy and cook for 15 seconds, making sure that each leaf is covered in the oil-garlic-ginger mixture.

Add 3 tbsp water, cover the wok, and let cook for 1 minute.

Drizzle with sesame oil and salt to taste.

I love brunch.  It’s my favorite meal (in case you hadn’t noticed).  But as is the case with most favorites, I tend to make the same things over and over again.  I just love pancakes and hashbrowns and tofu scramble.  In an attempt to fix that, I made Susan V.’s tofu omlettes this morning!

My vegetable husband basket came loaded with tons of goodies this week–onions, baby bok choy, turnips, salad greens, etc.–and the giant bag of swiss chard was just begging to be played with.  While Susan’s spinach and mushroom filling looked good, I julienned some chard leaves, piled them on top, and let the tofu cook.  Needless to say, it was really good.  Other features this morning included VwaV‘s tvp chorizo, my hashbrowns, and VCon‘s cheezy sauce.

Chard-Filled Omelettes

a la Susan V:

1 Mori-nu lite silken tofu
2 tbsp soy milk
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp tahini
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp, or to taste
1 pinch smoked paprika
5 swiss chard leaves, de-stemmed and julienned

Blend together all ingredients until smooth.

Spray a large non-stick skillet with olive oil and heat on medium-high until very hot. Pour the half the batter into the center of the skillet in a circular pattern about 6-8 inches across, and use a spoon or spatula to smooth over the top. Place your filling ingredients over the batter, and reduce the heat to low.

Cover and cook for about 2-4 minutes, checking often to see if it’s done. When the edges have dried out, lift a small section with a spatula and check to see that the omelette is set. It will be golden in color, but not browned. When it’s ready, loosen the omelet by sliding the spatula under it from each direction, and then fold one side over the other.

Cook for about one more minute. Carefully lift or slide it onto a plate and serve hot.

Repeat for the second omelette!

While I was freezing up north it was 65-70 degrees down here.  As soon as I flew home, however, the South decided to chill up a bit.  I’m trying to not take it personally…but, well, I want it to be warm!  Seriously, if I end up at University of Montana this fall, I’m not sure how I’ll survive.  I bet apartments and houses in Missoula come equipped with central heat and/or fireplaces, which would help a lot, but I’m a southern girl who thinks the perfect weather is 70 degrees and sunny.

In lieu of central heat, I made a pot of roasted butternut squash barley risotto.  A little over a year ago I made barley risotto and thought it was pretty good–definitely stick to your ribs, warm your soul good.  After making the “beef,” barley, and leek soup in October, I had a cup of barley left over.  I also a small butternut squash leftover from my 1st vegetable husband basket.  With nothing else in the house (other than pantry items), it was time to experiment.

While there are plenty of barley risotto recipes and butternut squash arborio rice risotto recipes, I couldn’t find any (online) that married the two ingredients.  For a bit of greenness, I threw in mustard greens and called it a day.  Overall, I like it a lot.  Barley takes a long time to cook–definitely longer than 1 hour–so plan accordingly.  The roasted butternut squash added a creaminess to the risotto that I think is key, and was missing the last time I made a barley risotto, and the greens were a great addition.

Barley Butternut Risotto

3 lb butternut squash
spray oil
4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup barley
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley (or 1 tbsp dried)
5-6 mustard green leaves (or kale), de-ribbed and chopped into bite-sized pieces

Preheat the oven to 425.

Halve the butternut squash and deseed.  Spray insides of squash with spray oil and lay them upside down in a roasting pan.  Roast for 45 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, in a medium pot (8 qt), saute the onion in the olive oil until translucent.  Add the barley, thyme, bayleaf, and garlic.  Cook for 30 seconds.  Add 2 cups of the vegetable stock; bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding stock half a cup at a time until the barley is tender.

After the butternut squash has roasted and cooled, peel the skin off and cut the squash into half-inch dice.  Once the barley is tender, add the butternut squash, mustard greens, and parsley to the pot.  Cook for 3-5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve!

I suppose I owe you that wrap-up…they’re so tedious when one doesn’t take photos of food in a restaurant!  Enjoy the scenery instead!

Thursday, December 18

We arrived in Boston with no problems, dropped our bags off at the apartment, and drove to Grasshopper in Brookline.  Grasshopper is a vegan Chinese restaurant with a bazillion options on their menu, and although they specialize in Chinese cuisine, you can also order Vietnamese or Thai options.  We ordered a couple fried spring rolls for the table and our main dishes.  I ordered The Kale & Mushroom Delight; the poet ordered the House Vermicelli Noodles with Roasted Vegi-Pork, Pork-Chop, Spring-roll, Rice Cake and Salad; B. ordered the Sauteed Kale with Black Mushrooms; and C. ordered Spicy Curry Vermicelli Noodles with Sweet Potato and Tofu Broth.

The Kale & Mushroom Delight was ENORMOUS.  The menu describes it as “A stir-fried combination of kale, white mushrooms, tofu, and veggie-beef gluten in a tangy ginger sauce,” and by all means it was a massively huge pile of kale, mushrooms, tofu, and etc.  Honestly, I wasn’t a fan.  The kale was great, but the veggie meats were pretty bad.  Maybe I’m just spoiled on Green Sprout… The seitan was sausage style, which doesn’t strike me as Asian, and the chicken had a rubbery texture.  The poet’s vermicelli was pretty weird too–instead of being vermicelli noodles with pork, it was the Vietnamese noodle wraps.  The pork had a really funky texture too.  B.’s mushroom and kale came in a tasty black bean sauce and I would definitely recommend this dish.  The curry vermicelli was good too.  If you go to Grasshopper, I’d only order vegetable dishes.  They were definitely the strongest.  The “meats” are rather inauthentic and not very tasty.  One plus was that my kale special fed me breakfast for four days!

Friday, December 19

We woke up, grabbed a cup of coffee from Fiore’s Bakery in Jamaica Plain, and hit up some thrift stores.  While we were in Goodwill (can’t remember where), the snow storm started.  We caught the T up to Cambridge so I could go to Grolier’s Poetry Bookshop and see Harvard.  By the time we left Grolier, there was over 1 foot of snow on the ground.  Insanity!  For lunch, we ordered pizzas at Veggie Planet.  The poet and C. ordered a half-and-half large of Lunch for Henry (butternut squash, caramelized onions, sage, and goat cheese) and the special of the day which was awesome looking…but I can’t remeber what it was.  I ordered a small half-and-half of the Vegan Peanut Curry ( Coconut rice, tofu, broccoli, and Thai red peanut curry sauce) and the Vegan Oddlot (Fresh tomatoes, spinach, basil tofu ricotta, calamata olives, and fried garlic).  I personally like the peanut curry pizza more than the oddlot, but it’s definitely not traditional.  The basil tofu ricotta on the oddlot was pretty rad though.  It continued to snow through the next day, so you can imagine how it piled up.  For dinner we went over to B. & C.’s friend’s house and I cooked some kind of stir fry.  It tasted good…I think…there was a lot of drinking involved too…

Saturday, December 20

We lazed around most of the day, but eventually set out for My Thai Cafe in Brookline.  Two freezing bus rides later we showed up at the restaurant starving and cold as ice.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the proprietors were using heat in the restaurant.  So we ate with our coats on.  They were also out of the fake chicken (probably due to not being able to get a shipment in).  Our order of Fried Wontons and Golden Triangles for the table was good–hot and tasty.  The vegetables and spices in the Triangles was definitely a highlight.  I ordered Pad Thai (“Our signature Thai dish Pan-fried noodles with veggie-chicken, veggie-shrimp, onions, scallions, and bean sprouts in a sweet-and-sour sauce. Topped with fresh bean sprouts and ground peanuts and served with sliced lemon or lime”), substituting tofu for the chicken, the poet and B. ordered Pad See Ew (“Stir-fried wide rice noodles with Chinese broccoli and a choice of veggie-chicken or veggie-beef or veggie shrimp or tofu or gluten”), and C. ordered a curry.  My pad thai was phenomenal.  I wish I could have tried it with the chicken, but the tofu was delightful because it was cut into long, thin strips–easy to eat with the noodles.  Most places use tofu chunks and that’s a lot harder to work with.  The Pad See Ew was amazing too–a different taste than Pad Thai, but very delicious.  I only had one bite of the curry, and it wasn’t quite was C. was hoping for, but I thought the balance of the spices was great in this dish as well.  Other than it being uber hard to get to from Jamaica Plain and there being little to no heat in the building, My Thai was my hands-down my favorite restaurant in Boston.

Sunday, December 21

We stocked up on supplies for the Poconos at Harvest Coop and on the way home I grabbed a sandwich at Fiore’s.  With so many vegan choices, it was hard to decide, but in the end I ordered the BBQ tofu wrap.  It was tad oniony for my taste, but the BBQ sauce and tofu was great.  I also ordered a Blackberry Chambourd Vegan Cheesecake us to share.  At $7 it was kinda pricey, but worth it.  The wine and blueberries worked great together and the dark chocolate drizzle was the perfect complement.  If I lived in Jamaica Plain, I’d end up spending all of my money at Fiore’s.  For a non-vegan bakery, it’s heaven, with over half of the choices vegan.  Cookies, cupcakes, sandwiches, cheesecakes, brownies, coffee cake–vegan.  And their coffee is great too!

Sunday, December 21-Wednesday, December 24

In the Poconos.  I wouldn’t recommend vacationing there; although it was so bad it was awesome.  We had super good eats though.  Heidi’s brussels sprouts, Isa’s tofu scramble, my french toast, Heidi’s pizza dough with vegan and non-vegan toppings, peanut curry stir fry, Trader Joe’s chorizo, lots of coffee, lots of wine, lots of beer and lots of vegan white russians.

Wednesday, December 24-Friday, December 26

In Cuba, NY (western NY).  We stayed with the poet’s and C.’s sister-in-law’s family (along with their brother) in Cuba for the Christmas holiday.  For a non-vegan family, they were incredibly accommodating.  Several of the women are vegetarians or pescatarians (oh how I hate that term, but I’ll give them some love) so cooking vegan food wasn’t an issue.  In fact, while they asked for a suggestion once or twice, they cooked all the food without asking me to pitch in!  While I washed some dishes, it was a nice break from the pots and pans.

Friday, December 26-Sunday, December 28

Back in the Poconos!  We went sledding a few times…and no one broke a bone!  The little snotty kids tried to take over our jump though.  They need to learn some manners, geez.  (smile)

Sunday, December 28

Back in Boston, we went out for one last dinner together at Pho Pasteur in Allston.  Vegan Boston described it as super vegan friendly, and I suppose it was, but the vegetarian options were not as vast as I hoped.  In fact the online menu looks really different than the one I ordered from.  I had a noodle dish with crispy tofu, veggies, and a peanuty sauce.  The tofu and vegetables were chunked in an unmanagebly large way and I had a lot of issues mixing the noodles, veggies, and sauce together.  Additionally, the sauce came to the side of the dish and when I mixed it together it was cold.  Bummer.  I took home leftovers, but made the poet eat them.  All-in-all, a disappointment.  The poet and B. said the beefy pho was great…but it was beefy.

After Pho Pasteur, we made our way over to Wheeler’s for dessert.  An all-vegan ice cream parlor?  How could you go wrong?!  First off, I can’t imagine why Wheeler’s chose a location in downtown Boston (next to Symphony Hall).  A neighborhood like Allston or Brookline or Jamaica Plain makes a lot more sense.  It was 8 pm or so when we got there and the cafe was dead.  I think we woke up the guy working there.  No street traffic in the vicinity either.  No Black Label either.  BUMMER.  Do you have any idea how much I was looking forward to alcoholic vegan ice cream?  Sigh.  Anyways, down to the nitty gritty.  I ordered chocolate peanut butter swirl with pretzels, the poet ordered chocolate pudding, C. ordered espresso, and B. ordered cookies and cream.  Everything was delicious.  The poet really like the chocolate peanut butter with pretzels and everyone loved the cookies and cream.  I was a big fan of mixing the espresso with the chocolate pudding.  The chocolate pudding was super dark, a lot like VCTOTW’s chocolate mousse, just frozen.  Other than the utter emptiness and deadness of the place, Wheeler’s was pretty good.  I just don’t see them staying in business in that location for very long.  Maybe they get a lot of people at other times, who knows.  I just hope they make it.

Monday, December 29

Before we flew back to Atlanta, I stopped at Fiore’s again.  This time I ordered the vegan lunch box with a slice of vegan pizza, hummus, pita chips, grape leaf wrap thingies, and a chocolate chip cookie.  For $7 it was a ton of food!  And really good food too.  I wish the pizza were more consistent, everything is just dollopped on top of the crust, but the cashew cheeze was fab.  I’m not a huge fan of grape leaf things, so I gave those to the poet after a bite or two.  He really liked them.  I loved the hummus.  The chocolate chip cookie was kind of disappointing, but I have really high standards for my chocolate chip cookies.  The poet ordered the vegan coffee cake and it was to die for.  After another cup of coffee, it was back to Atlanta!

Confession: I didn’t eat black eyed peas and collards yesterday.  (And my 1st picture of 2009 is blurry.  Drat.)  But I did have a damn good brunch!  I spent New Year’s Eve in Birmingham with the poet’s family (let me just say, wow, it was an interesting night in a weird southern town–I’m a city girl, I’ll admit) and on New Year’s morning (err…noonish) we cooked up a big family brunch.  The menu included eggs and grits and bacon, but I whipped up some vegan french toast (baked, not fried), hashbrowns, and soysage.  All-in-all, a great way to greet the New Year!  2009…I think I’m ready for you?

I’m going to post a Boston round-up next, so hold your hats for that!