Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Uncanned" Veggie Soup

This is a very simple and easy vegetable soup to make yourself. It is "uncanned" because it contains many of the same ingredients you would find in a can of vegetable soup, but will taste much fresher and heartier. When the soup is done, it will resemble a vegetable stew that is chock full of vegetables. It's a flexible recipe, so you can customize the ingredients by adding more or less of what you want, or substitute one vegetable for another, depending on what's in season (or in your fridge). If you love mushrooms, add plenty more! With this soup, you can truly have it your way. Another great thing about this recipe is that you will have easy-to-reheat leftovers for the week.

1 Large Red or White Onion
1 Small to Medium Garlic
16oz White Mushrooms
4 Carrots
2 Zucchini
4 Red or 2 White Potatoes
1 Cup Frozen Corn
1 Can Red Kidney Beans
1 Can Crushed Tomatoes
3 Vegetable Bouillon Cubes
Olive or Vegetable Oil
Red Pepper Flakes
Salt and Pepper

Start off by sauteing 1 large chopped onion in the olive oil with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes in a large stock pot. Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic and continue sauteing over a low flame. The next step is to add the sliced carrots and saute over a medium flame. The goal is to "sweat" the vegetables, which gets the flavor out of the veggies and into the pot. Next, saute the sliced mushrooms along with the zuchini and cilantro. Be sure not to saute the mushrooms for too long, so they don't get mushy. It's now time to make the broth by adding three vegetable bouillon cubes along with three cups of water and one large can of crushed tomatoes (basil or Italian herb flavor works best). Next, add the cubed potatoes and bring the soup to a boil over a medium to high heat. Once the soup has reached a boiling point reduce the flame to a medium to low heat and slowly simmer the soup while stirring frequently. Finally, add the frozen corn and season the soup once again if necessary. Give it one last taste to check the seasoning, serve and enjoy with bread or crackers. You'll never want Campbell's again!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Stephanie's Bakery

Well, it's been a busy week and we didn't get a chance to go to our normal Sunday night dinner (we had two going away parties and then Marc had to work), nor to even make anything new, so I thought I'd write about Stephanie's Bakery, the place I mentioned in last week's blog.

Stephanie's Bakery is an all-vegan bakeshop located in Ocean Beach, San Diego. As well as being cruelty-free, they use almost all organic ingredients. Marc and I tried the Pesto Pizza there a couple months ago and we both agreed that not only was it the best vegan pizza we've had, but quite possibly the best pizza regardless (with perhaps the exception of New York pizza)! You must try it.

My vegetarian friend Elizabeth and I visited Stephanie's a few weeks ago, and enjoyed another delicious meal. I had the Caesar salad and a savory strudel (I believe it was broccoli and cheese) and both were very tasty. Elizabeth had the Classic Deli sandwich (which I had a bite of; it didn't taste like meat at all, but was still good, as long as you're not a meat-eater expecting that taste). I also had a sugar-sensitive (good for people with blood sugar issues) desert with a chocolate icing and cupcake-like bottom, which was sweet even without oodles of added sugar. I've tried their sweet Pumpkin Strudel as well, which was just the right amount of sweetness.

The service is very friendly both to humans and dogs (we each had our dog with us, so we sat at a table outside). Marc and I were happy to see some of Kung Food's former employees there when we went (oh, how we miss Kung Food!). As a matter of fact, all this talk about Stephanie's Bakery has made us crave their pizza, but unfortunately, they're closed today; be sure to check the site for hours and days before you go, because they change frequently and are limited to mostly daytime hours. As much as I wish they were open more often, I understand, as I believe they are more of a catering operation (great for wedding cakes!) than a traditional restaurant. However, with veg dining choices few and far between in SD, I would love to see them expand. Enjoy and tell them hello for us!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Vegan Zone

Last night, Marc and I went out to eat at Vegan Zone, a relatively new all vegan eatery in Pacific Beach. The place is small but comfortable and the decor is simple and modern with a Buddhism-inspired flair.

We started with our favorite appetizer, the Crispy Wontons. Even a non-vegetarian friend of mine fell in love with these when we went together. They have an imitation cream cheese inside and are served with a light sweet brown sauce. We also had the Sate, which consists of soy chicken served on skewers with a peanut sauce and some cucumber salad, as well as the Miso Soup, which tastes authentic.

Although I usually order the Spicy Fried Rice (which is delicious and includes fresh basil leaves fried until crispy), this time I decided to have the Rice Baked with Mushroom. I was not disappointed! The brown rice for all the dishes at Vegan Zone is the best I've ever tasted. It's hearty and flavorful, and when I asked about it I was told that it's a brown jasmine rice (which I can't find anywhere in it's uncooked form unfortunately). My dish also had pineapple chunks, peas, and soy chicken.

Marc has his favorite standby, the Katsu Bowl. This dish has crispy fried soy chicken cutlets, served on a bed of brown rice with katsu sauce and cabbage salad. I tried some too and it was quite good.

Although we didn't order it this time, their house special salad is refreshing and large, with alfalfa sprouts, avocado, onions, sunflower seeds, cucumbers and pine nuts. I like it best with the Peanut dressing, although the Italian dressing is good too. I've also enjoyed their side of Soy Fish, which while it may not taste like fish, has a nice light flavor and delicate texture that makes a good addition to the Spicy Fried Rice.

If I had to say anything was lacking at Vegan Zone, I would choose their desert selection. Although the rest of the menu is extensive, with sandwiches, wraps, pancakes, burritos, burgers and scrambles in addition to their Thai-inspired main courses, they only offer frozen sorbets and lychee for desert. It would be great if they added some vegan cakes and/or pastries, perhaps from Stephanie's Bakery (an all vegan bake shop in Ocean Beach).

Everything else about this place is great, including the service! The food is filling and flavorful enough to bring meat-eating friends as well, so check it out if you haven't yet, and enjoy your meal.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Party Pate

Macoe recently hosted her Book Club Meeting at our home and I volunteered to do the catering for her. The club meets to discuss the books they have read while snacking on hors d'ourves and sipping tea, coffee, or champagne. It's fun to cater these types of events because you can make all sorts of different things. I thought it would be great to make a vegan pate to serve along with the champagne. Here's the recipe I came up with:

Party Pate

16 ounces white mushrooms
1 cup walnuts
1/4 pound tofu
1 small onion
6 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons soy sauce
Red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper
Spike All Natural Seasoning
Vegetable Oil

Start off by slicing the mushrooms and chopping the onions and garlic. Saute the onions until they are translucent over a medium flame. Next, add the garlic and continue sauteing the onions and garlic together, making sure not to brown the garlic. The next step is to add the sliced mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms, onions and garlic over a medium/high flame and season to taste with the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms are nicely browned, turn off the flame and let the mixture cool.

Once the mushrooms have cooled, add them along with the tofu, walnuts and soy sauce to a food processor. Season the mixture with Spike to taste and blend until the mixture is a smooth, firm paste. Spoon the mixture to a ramekin and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Serve the Party Pate along with your favorite crackers, toast or croustinis. The pate is also great served with condiments such as; relish, horseradish, pickles, gherkins, and/or olives. Enjoy!