Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Vegan monthly?

I know, I know, it's been too long! And I don't have too much of an excuse, except that I've been taking an online class, but it just ended this weekend (and I aced it). So here I am...

Desserts have been on my mind lately. I had a last minute potluck lunch meeting I had to prepare for (OK, it wasn't last minute, but I remembered last minute), and I recalled reading in my favorite magazine, Veg News (more on that another time), that Duncan Hines cake mix and some of their frostings are vegan. A quick trip to Vons confirmed this (do read the ingredients as I'm not sure if all the cake mixes are vegan and for sure, not all of the frostings are). So, armed with my cake mix and frosting, I was able to make pretty yummy cupcakes very easily merely by substituting Ener-G egg replacer for the eggs.

Recently we went to Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy for a friend's birthday. Now, I wasn't expecting much as it's not a vegan bakery (my favorite is Stephanie's Bakery in OB), but I thought such a large fancy dessert place would probably have one vegan dessert option. Not true! When I asked, I was curtly told "No, sometimes we have a cookie or something but nothing today." Rather disappointing for a place with such a large selection. There was one sandwich on the lunch menu that appeared to be vegan if you got it without the aoli, but I didn't try it. However, Heaven Sent Desserts in North Park always has at least one vegan option even though they're a traditional bakery, so I recommend them if you're the only vegan in the group.

I keep hearing about new vegan pizza places (or pizza places with vegan options) opening up, but haven't had the chance to try any. However, an old local favorite, Luigi's in Golden Hill, has a great vegan pizza on the menu. Rather than using vegan cheese, he just opts to leave the cheese off altogether, and you really don't miss it with all the yummy veggies and the great crust. Luigi is a super sweet animal lover himself, who I always see at dog park with his two canine companions.

Well, until next time, adios and happy almost spring!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Local Vegan Eats

So I know it's been a month since I posted, and I apologize, but it's been a tough month with the passing of our beloved cat three weeks ago. We miss him, but hope that he's enjoying kitty heaven.

In the meantime, although food has not been a big focus, we have eaten out—just recently we went to Pomegranate, a Russian-Georgian restaurant on El Cajon Blvd. in North Park. I had been wanting to try it for a while, as I noticed some veg options on the menu they post outside, and I was not disappointed.

The atmosphere was delightful, with a bit of an old school feel. Every bit of wall space was covered with marker writing and drawing from those who have eaten there. Even the ceiling had writing, which intrigued me as it's somewhat a high ceiling. Perhaps one can request a ladder if they wish to write up there? But alas, our table did not even have sharpies, and I hadn't brought my own (although I will next time).

The service was very friendly and helpful. When we informed our server of our vegan-ness, he recommended a vegan platter of numerous cold salads and the vegan version of the Borscht. We agreed to both and eagerly awaited our food. We noticed that the menu said they sold vodka by the inch, so we ordered some of that too (although our waiter explained that due to the type of liquor license they held, it was not true vodka).

The platter came and was quite fun; most of the salads had a garlic flavoring incorporated somewhere in them. They were colorful and one reminded me of a vegan version of tuna salad. The Borscht there is actually served hot, for which I was thankful since it was a chilly night and the salads had been cold of course. It was actually a lot of food; more than the two of us could finish. We didn't put much of a dent in the "vodka" (the bottle said it was an orange flavored wine; whatever it was was quite tasty and not as daunting as shots of vodka) either; the two of us put down one inch.

The prices were quite fair for the amount and quality of food and we enjoyed the authenticity of the place, complete with an older gentlemen sitting at the tiny bar who reminded me slightly of Tolstoy, with shorts and black socks pulled up to his knees. We will definitely be frequenting Pomegranate again. It was both romantic and yet seemed like it would be fun with a group. However, I must warn that what we had may have been the only vegan options, although there were several other vegetarian options. Bon appetit!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Holidays Recap

So, I got caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays and haven't had a chance to post, but I'll try to catch everyone up on my vegan discoveries and experiments now. First of all, I must make mention of Thanksgiving, which was an amazing feast this year. We hosted it at our place for the fourth year in a row, and it was a wonderful day filled with laughter and silliness, including us all making turkey gobbling sounds at the top of our lungs (which one friend could hear as he approached the house from nearly half a block away)!

It was a potluck affair, with each person (11 total) bringing a vegan dish, although only three of us are vegan year round. I truly appreciate our friends joining us in a compassionate feast on such a foodie holiday, and in turn, I think that most if not all are impressed by how yummy a vegan Thanksgiving can be. We had Tofurkey of course, but also mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, beet salad, brussel sprouts, and assorted appetizers, including seitan stuffed mushrooms (my contribution, based on a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Vegan with a Vengeance" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz), bruschetta, and potato pancakes. For dessert, we had pumpkin pie topped with pecans (I made this one), bread pudding, and apple crisp with vanilla soy ice cream.

For the pumpkin pie, I made a very simple vegan version from a recipe I found online here. I always just buy a pre-made pie crust; even in the mainstream grocery stores, many of these tend to be vegan. Then for the topping, we took about 1/2 cup of mostly pecans and a few walnuts, sauteed them in some Earth Balance, added maple syrup, brown sugar, and brandy to taste. After the pie had been in the oven for about 1/2 an hour, I added the topping and let it cook for 15 more minutes. As far as the other recipes, I will leave it up to the other attendees to post them in the comments if they'd like to share!

For Christmas, we had an intimate dinner party with 8 of our closest friends. Marc made an amazing "Beef" Stroganoff with homemade seitan, based on a recipe from "Vegan with a Vengeance." We also had carrots and cheesy pesto bread (the pesto recipe was also from V with a V), which was apparently also popular with the cat, who opened the covered dish of pesto in the kitchen and helped himself while we ate in the family room. Who knew cats loved garlic and basil so much?

For my birthday, Marc made me a delicious "tofuamisu" (vegan tiramisu), as well as various tapas, including artichokes, mushrooms, wild rice, potatoes, and carrots, which we washed down with a nice bottle of Moet Chandon. All in all, we were very well fed this holiday season! Hope you ate well also and happy new year!