July 2010

Kyle & I in Richmond by Cafe 821

Roanoke isn’t exactly a food town.  We have restaurants.  We have places to eat.  They serve rather mediocre food and, as all of my friends will tell you, it really annoys me.  And beyond mediocre food, you have to really scrounge to find anything vegetarian, let alone vegan.  So while I love getting my cheese-less pizza fix at Grace’s (I’m too scared to ask if everything else in the pizza is vegan–don’t want to know!) and too-fancy-for-me-but-yes-tasty falafel at Isaac’s, I really love getting out of town and gnoshing on some good vegan food.

Working Man’s Classic (a bicycle criterium race)

Last month, my good friend from Atlanta, Kyle (one of the people who showed me that veganism isn’t that hard to do) came up and visited for 10 days or so.  While we hung around Roanoke most of the time, we did jet across the state to Richmond for an evening to watch the Workingman’s Classic & eat and drink some delicious food.

Oh, vegan brunch food, I miss you

While in Richmond we got drinks at Legend’s Brewery and brunched at Cafe 821. I can’t get over how much I love their brunch, and the new space is pretty rockin’. The aesthetic at the old one was a little grungy and dark–now they have a fun, retro diner look and lots of natural light. It’s still the old, delicious menu, but a little more friendly (in my opinion). I had the tofu scramble with the potatoes & an order of vegan sausage. nom!

Staunton, Virginia

The hightlight of the trip, though, was the lunch break on the drive home in Staunton, Virginia. Staunton’s this little town that I’d heard had good food. I’d never been and we couldn’t find too much online about it, but since we were starving and had no better ideas, we gave it a go. Oh dear heavens, I’m glad we did.

Shenandoah Pizza awesomeness

Officially, I’m in love with Shenandoah Pizza. Not only did they not bat an eye when we asked for a vegan pizza (cheeseless with roasted red peppers and portobello mushrooms), but their beer list is the longest I’ve seen on the western side of the state. Bell’s Oberon? In a Virginia restaurant? For only $3.75 a bottle?! I’m in heaven! I have plans to return and spend an entire evening eating pizza and drinking as many beers as possible.

My dreams may not be big, but I’m sated by a beer list that’s longer than the number of fingers on my right hand (which is 5, in case you were wondering).  One day Roanoke’s going to be a food town, and I’ll do my part to make it so (vegan zine, anyone?), but until then I’m glad I have family to stay with in Richmond and a list of places I’ve yet to try!

Look what someone surprised me with on Tuesday evening:

It’s the first time anyone I’ve dated has cooked me dinner, let alone a fabulous balsamic mint grilled vegetable and tofu stack. So delicious. Such a gift.

One of the best things about local farmers markets is that there’s always strange and unusual vegetable that you’ve never cooked with.  This past week, for me, was the kohlrabi.  As I was browsing the baskets of potatoes and cabbage and corn and peaches I was looking for something different, something that would get me out of my pasta with olive oil, nutritional yeast, zucchini, and tomato rut (it’s true, I’ve eaten that almost every day for two weeks–it’s what happens when I’m too exhausted to cook, sigh).  And then it appeared: this weird round green tuber-looking thing with swooping nubs of appendages sticking out.  So I asked R. who runs the Good Food, Good People stand (they collectively sell for the farmers up the mountain in the Floyd area), what it was.  “Oh, a kohlrabi.”  Now, did I ask for any more of an explanation?  Nope.  Just bought a small one since they were $3 a pound and figured I’d find something to do with it eventually.

Later on in the week while talking with Tenley, one of the partners of GFGP, I asked what I could do with it since she gave me several more that she just had to get out of their cooler and couldn’t sell.  She told me that it was somewhat like a cabbage and somewhat like a turnip–i.e. not so delicious to cook with, but pretty darn good for a slaw.  Hmm.  I have to admit, I’m not the hugest fan of slaws.  Great picnic food, but not something I’d just grab out of the fridge to munch on.

Fast forward a few days: I make a slaw.  A really good slaw.  A slaw that I want to pull out of my fridge and munch on throughout the day (which is a good thing because lord knows I’m not eating enough anymore).  A slaw with some heat kicking through and acidity to balance it out.  A slaw that knows it’s a damn good slaw.  And did I mention that it’s ridiculously easy (as long as you have a food processor with a shredder attachment, that is)?  This slaw would be perfect at a cookout or picnic, but it’s just as good as a side dish to whatever you’re eating.  It’s crisp and spicy and smooth and citrusy all at once and I can’t put it down.

Spicy Siracha Kohlrabi Slaw

1 small kohlrabi, peeled and cut into wedges
1 small cabbage, cored and cut into wedges
2 carrots, peeled

1/2 c veganaise
1 tbsp siracha (more or less to taste)
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp ginger, grated

white sesame seeds
mandarin oranges

In a food processor with the shredder attachment, shred the kohlrabi, cabbage, and carrots (or use a mandoline or finely chop with a knife). Place in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together the veganaise, siracha, rice vinegar, lime juice, and ginger.

Stir the dressing into the kohlrabi mixture and garnish with sesame seeds and mandarin oranges.

Serves 6

Here’s the weekend installment of amazing-things-I-find-in-my-backyard. With all the rain bursts we’ve had lately, I’ve been finding quite a few salamanders running around. This orange one, though, really caught my eye. He enjoyed hamming it up for the camera too (although maybe he was just glad I wasn’t a bird who wanted to eat him).

I hope you all are having a lovely, relaxing weekend!

Simplicity.  Simplicity is something I’m learning to appreciate more and more these days.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that I spend $60 a month for internet that runs at the speed of dial-up due to the fact that I can’t get regular broadband up here so I have to use the Verizon option that runs on the strength of your cell phone signal which, trust me, is quite low.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that the morning sun wakes me up at 7 am since there aren’t curtains (yet)–but I’m not sure I even want curtains because I wouldn’t trade the mist covering the poplars for anything.  Or maybe it just has to do with the fact that anything simply but soundly made is far more pleasurable than anything you can buy in a supermarket.  Simplicity–there’s a lot to say about it, but really nothing at all.

I’ve been hinting at this new job for awhile, and I promise I’ll talk about it soon, but for now it needs to wait. One of the tougher aspects is that it’s not a job I can leave at the office and it’s not a job where I really have a day off. And I love that part–I’d rather work every day for 5 or 6 hours a day than the regular 8:30-5 grind. But it gets taxing and this weekend my body said it’d had enough and I had the pleasure of spending my only time off with a three-day-long headache/migraine. Oof. So last night before I collapsed in bed I knew I needed to do something nice for myself–something nice and simple. And while I know that sugar and chocolate and butter substitute might not be the nicest thing to do to one’s body, it’s what I needed mentally in order to kick this thing. Yes, I made chocolate chip cookies.

These aren’t just any kind of chocolate chip cookies, but they are. The ingredients aren’t all that different, just the flours, but this is where the meditation on simplicity comes in. At market on Saturday, Ginger who runs a farm in Catawba and mills her own grain, gave me a bag of rye flour to play around with (I’ll be hopefully making some kickin’ crackers with it next). While I felt a little guilty sneaking some of the grain for something not necessarily work related, I’m justifying it by saying that emotionally and mentally I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the day and into the next without these cookies. Anyways, I digress.

So yes, rye flour. I know, it sounds weird–rye has such an intense rye-ish taste–but trust me, the rye flour made these cookies the best I’ve ever made. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s freshly milled as of last week; maybe it’s the fact that Ginger’s rye is nuttier and produces chewier cookies than regular store-bought rye does–but maybe not (that’s for you to try and see, right?). I can’t guarantee that store-bought rye will make these cookies shine, but it might. As they are right now, they’re chewy and moist and nutty and chocolatey all at once, and they’re exactly what I needed to remind myself of the simple things in life–freshly milled flour, chocolate, the love that goes into locally-sourced food. And we all need some simplicity every now and again.

Chocolate Chip Rye Cookies

adapted from Blue Ridge Baker

3/4 c freshly milled rye flour
3/4 spelt flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) Earth Balance
1 c dark brown sugar
1 ripe banana
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate cut into 1/8″ pieces

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Line baking sheet with parchment.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium sized bowl, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and Earth Balance on low speed until just blended, about 2 minutes. Add the banana, mixing until just combined. Stir in vanilla.

Add dry ingredients, and mix on low speed until flour is barely combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Form dough into balls about 1.5 ounces each, place on baking sheet 2 inches apart.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the cookies have spread and cracked, the tops are dry and have browned a bit. Cool on baking sheet.

The view from my office window

Slow and steady rain at the cabin today and I’m playing hooky from work for a few hours. It’s just too hard when there’s so much to enjoy.

A pot of geraniums I picked up at market

There’s so much to say and so little time, so I’m leaving you with just a few cabin life pictures. It’s Monday; it’s nice to take a break.  And catch up on blogs–500 unread posts, good heavens!

The casing of a cicada

In an hour or so it’s back to real life, but until then I’m going to enjoy lunch and listen to the rain.  I hope you all are having a peaceful Monday wherever you are–

I’m here to put all your worries to rest–no, I have not been eaten by a bear; yes, I did kill the black widow in the living room so, no, it didn’t kill me; yes, the cabin is still wonderful!

It’s been a mad dash of a few weeks–moving, my new job (details to come), my good friend from Atlanta visiting, etc. but hopefully my life will get back into some routine of sorts–including the blog. Mozzetoff, the darling dog I attempted to adopt is still up for adoption (sigh) and I was desperately hoping he’d have found a home by now, but my fingers are still crossed for him. As for the cats, they’ve settled in with their moth-catching and window-gazing so I think I made the right decision not to keep the dog. My kitchen is still a mess–I need another wall of cabinets to put stuff in so I’m trying to figure out what to do with my excess pantry–so no pictures/updates on that, but the rest of the cabin is slowly but surely coming together. So soon, I promise, there will be more updates.

But what to do when it’s 97 degrees outside and you’ve a fridge full of food and no desire to turn on the stove? Use a crockpot of course! N. found me this **amazing** woody one to match the log walls and, thankfully, it works just as good as it looks. So in the morning before I went to work I chopped up a bunch of veggies, seasoned some broth, plugged the thing in, and let it go until I came back from work to a pot full of delicious soup. It’s a simple recipe, one that relies heavily on fresh, local produce, but feel free to riff on any of it–it’s more a baseline than a set-in-stone recipe. But let me tell you, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, better than fresh fresh fresh local corn.

Summer Chowder

3 c tomato broth/water
1 c water
4 tsp veggie bouillon
2 tsp aleppo pepper
salt, pepper to taste
1 onion, diced
4 small potatoes, diced
2 ears of corn, kerneled
8 tbsp Earth Balance in 1 tbsp chunks
1.5 c soy milk
2 c diced tomatoes

In a crockpot, combine the tomato juice/water, veggie bouillon, aleppo pepper, onion, potatoes, and corn. Stir. Leave on low for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, add the Earth Balance and soy milk and turn the heat to high. Stir periodically, cooking for 1 hour, until the potatoes are tender.

Top with diced tomatoes.

Serves 6