Wednesday, March 31, 2010

wicked plants by amy stewart

a fun read

This book was shared with me by my neighbor, a Master Gardener and overall inquisitive person.  Wicked Plants is a handbook of 200 annoying, irritating, entertaining intoxicating, dangerous, and even lethal members of kingdom Plantae.  While I wouldn't use it as a field guide-- its purpose is to amuse more than to instruct-- this little book introduces some exotic specimens:
  • The shiny, black berries of deadly nightshade (belladonna) can cause hallucinations, seizures, and yes, even death, if ingested.  The plant contains atropine, a compound that has been used to treat poisoning from nerve gas and is sometimes added to painkillers to deter addiction.
  • Betel nut, the fruit of a tropical palm, is a widely-used stimulant in some countries in Asia.  It provides a mild high and energy boost, but is known to blacken the teeth and to promote copious amounts of red saliva.
  • In addition to its caustic sap, the Sandbox Tree produces fruits that explode loudly upon maturing, launching their poisonous seeds up to 300 feet away.  
And it illuminates others we thought we knew:
  • Celery can be a skin irritant, as it produces phototoxic compounds to defend itself against pink rot fungus.
  • Rhododendron and Azalea, popular landscaping shrubs, contain grayanotoxin in their leaves, flowers, nectar, pollen, and even honey made from the pollen.  Symptoms of ingesting this poison include dizziness and vomiting.
  • The trees of cashew and mango produce urushiol, the skin irritant that many of us have encountered through poison ivy.  For this reason, cashew nuts must be steamed open from their potentially irritating skins, meaning that even raw cashews are partially cooked!
If you pick up this book, you will also read about pernicious arrow poisons, fierce allergens, and vicious algae (no mention of the particular villain from Life of Pi, though).  Names of familiar historical figures appear throughout, including Lewis and Clark, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud.  Pop culture icons are also mentioned... mostly in the context of plants labelled, "intoxicating" and "illegal."

The format of Wicked Plants makes it a good choice for reading a quick chapter before drifting to sleep... though it might promote a few nightmares!  As a devoted plant-eater, I think it's worthwhile to be reminded of the complex, powerful nature of florae.  As the author suggests, we should treat unknown plants with caution, be mindful of what our pets are eating, and always wear gloves when gardening!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

vegan gluten-free bread

soft, spongy and delicious

I recently stumbled upon a new blog called Manifest Vegan. Allyson, the author, had posted a recipe for gluten-free focaccia and I actually did a double-take because it did not look like your typical gluten-free bread. It looked springy, pliable and positively wonderfully...nothing like the dense, crumbly and cardboard tasting brown rice bread in my freezer made by a company who shall remain nameless.

When I got down to the bottom of her post and saw the ingredient list, I jumped for joy. It was so simple - eleven total ingredients and only 3 different flours! For those of you familiar with gluten-free baking, you know that some recipes can call for up to 6 different types of flour, so finding one that calls for only 3, is a delight.

I baked Allyson's gluten-free focaccia and it greatly exceeded my expectations. It was everything I wanted it to be and then some.  It has it's limitations but I do believe if I tinker with it a bit more I can solve those (or perhaps you can!).

Immediately after Marty and I tried a piece, I was back in the kitchen baking up a second loaf  in a 7"by11" pan to use as sandwich bread. That loaf turned out to be a bit too thick for sandwiches so the following day I baked my third loaf in a 9"by13" pan and it worked perfectly! I cut this into 8 equal-sized pieces and then cut each piece in half horizontally (to essentially total 16 slices). In the photo of pb&j's, you can see the difference between the thickness of the two batches (7"by11" is sandwich on the left and 9"by13" is sandwich on the right).

This bread is best eaten fresh from the oven but over the past few days I've eaten it a number of ways in order to give you a proper review.
  • Frozen and defrosted in the microwave - seemed to be the closest to fresh from the oven as I could long as you make sure you only microwave it long enough to defrost it and not a second more
  • Stored at room temperature overnight - dried out and crumbly
  • Stored in refrigerator a couple of days - dried out and crumbly
  • Frozen and defrosted at room temperature - dried out and crumbly (might have been better but I think I let it sit too long which basically produced the same results as storing it at room temp overnight)
  • Slathered with Earth Balance and roasted garlic, then toasted* to make garlic bread - very good...interestingly enough, I tried this both with fresh bread as well as a dried out and crumbly piece and they both tasted the same so if your bread does dry out, toasting it (where it's toasty on top and bottom but still soft in the center) might resurrect it
  • Cut into tiny cubes and toasted* to make croutons - very good

    * As with most gluten-free breads, this does take slightly longer to properly toast.
If you're not familiar with gluten-free baking or with vegan baking, the ingredient list might seem a little daunting, but it's really not too bad. I usually get my xanthan gum and Ener-G at Whole Foods (it's expensive but both boxes will last you at least a year). I get my almond meal at Trader Joe's (or you can make your own by pulsing almonds in a food processor but be careful not to overdo it or you'll get almond butter). Lastly, the brown rice flour and the potato starch can also be found at Whole Foods but I prefer to get them at my local Asian market because it's much cheaper.
Gluten Free Focaccia
This bread takes about 2 hours to make from start to finish
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 cup brown rice flour, scooped into cup and leveled off
  • 1 cup potato starch, scooped into cup and leveled off
  • 1/2 cup almond meal, packed
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary (use only if making focaccia...omit if making sandwich bread)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons Ener-g egg replacer
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar (you could also probably use honey, molasses or maple syrup)
  1. Oil your pan (8" or 9" for super puffy bread or 9"x13" for sandwich bread) and sprinkle the bottom with almond meal.
  2. In small bowl, heat 1 1/3 cup water (I usually put it in the microwave for about 50 seconds - you want it warm but not hot). Stir in sugar. Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit, undisturbed. It should get foamy/creamy (if it doesn't your yeast is dead and you'll need to get some more).
  3. In large bowl, mix brown rice flour, potato starch, almond meal, xanthan gum, salt and rosemary (if using). 
  4.  In small bowl, heat 1/4 cup water (microwave for about 15 seconds). Add in Ener-g egg replacer and beat until foamy and thicker (I use a small hand held frother from Ikea but you can also use a'll just take you a little longer). Add in olive oil and agave (or other sweetener) and mix thoroughly.
  5.  By now your yeast should be good to go. Add the yeast and other liquid ingredients to the flours and mix well. The dough will look more like cake batter than bread dough.
  6. Spread your bread batter evenly into the pan. ***If you want to top your focaccia/bread with anything, now would be the time to do it (sliced tomatoes, olives, extra rosemary, coarse sea salt, oatmeal, nuts/seeds, etc).*** If desired, dimple the top of the dough using a wet fingertip.
  7. Let rise about 1 hour in a warm spot.  It should grow a little bit.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top turns dark golden.
  9. Let cool for about 10 minutes.  Turn out onto cooling rack and let cool.  The bottom of the bread will get soggy if it is on a non breathable surface, or left in the baking pan too long…I highly recommend placing on a wire rack.  This bread is best left to cool completely.  I ate a piece right out of the oven and it was kind of wet, almost like it wasn't cooked all the way, but when I let the whole thing cool it was just fine.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

vegan enchilada bowl

an intuitive kitchen experience

It started with a packet of red chile powder from New Mexico.  My mother-in-law had sent it to me after her most recent visit; it is what she uses in her kitchen, and we couldn't find it anywhere in town.  I first used it in a tomato-based sauce to go with a quick, Americanized-Mexican dinner.  Honestly, I wasn't impressed; I've never been to the Southwest, never had their regional cuisine... I didn't see why their chiles were such a big deal.

Come to think of it, I'd never been a big enchilada fan, anyway.  Any of the sauces that appeared on someone else's entrée at a local Mexican resto did not impress me upon sampling.  (I always sample.  Ask my friends.)  Pretty flavorless and boring, as I recall.

Then, a few weeks ago,  a co-worker mentioned that authentic enchilada sauce is roux-, not tomato-based.  Interesting.

Fast forward to this week, when I off-handedly simmered a batch of pinto beans and one of brown rice.  I didn't have a plan, just wanted something filling to be available in the fridge.  I put in the minimal flavorings: garlic, onion, salt and pepper, cumin.  I figured it would make a serviceable dinner with red onion, jalapeño, chopped tomato, and corn tortillas.  Wrong.  Too dry, in texture and flavor.  The beans' pot likker did not cut it, and a healthy dose of Trader Joe's Salsa Autentica didn't even do the trick.  Charles subtly abandoned his plate, replying politely, "Oh, I had a big snack," when pressed about his light appetite.

I packed the leftovers, fresh garnish and all, into the fridge, where they would have remained if not for the tickling memory of the red chile powder.  Might as well give it a try!  Just now, I made a quarter-cup of light roux in a saucepot, and whisked in a few tablespoons of red chile powder and some salt.  Added water, plus a few tablespoons of salsa and a shake of a few handy spices.

All of this time, I never heard a peep from the little kitchen angel who prompts me to consult the Web before following my recipe hunches, especially when they involve unfamiliar ingredients or techniques.  But really, great traditional foods like enchiladas were not invented by a team of recipe developers... they evolved in communities of people who cooked out of necessity.  "Hey, you know those chiles we eat with everything?  Well, I ground some up and put it in my gravy.  You should try it!"

I reheated the forlorn beans and rice and topped them with enchilada sauce.  The combination tasted much better, but lacked richness.  Not more oil... avocado!  Its cool creaminess would be the perfect foil to the earthy heat of the sauce.  All we needed now was a little sweet and sour: I added a spritz of lime juice and soft corn tortillas and served it up.  Within a few minutes, Charles requested seconds.   Triumph!

So, to sum it up, here's my recipe for enchilada sauce: canola oil, wheat flour, New Mexican red chile powder, water, Salsa Autentica, cumin, salt, pepper, lime juice.  Next time, I plan to add sautéed onions and garlic to the sauce, and black olives to the garnish. Really, the directions for this recipe are simply to go into your kitchen and to use an unfamiliar ingredient or technique.  Don't look up a recipe, just add a few things that might taste good and keep it simple.  You'll end up with something different than your usual fare, plus a great feeling of satisfaction.  And the results will probably taste delicious over rice and beans.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

vegan mushroom and walnut loaf

gluten-free homestyle cooking

A few years ago Marty and I lived a fast-paced life in Southern California. We ate out for both lunch and dinner at least 5 days a week. On the odd days we didn't eat in a restaurant we either ate leftovers from a restaurant or I threw some pre-made meal in the microwave from Trader Joe's. Cooking was very rare in our home. 

Then we moved, to a small town with a sub-standard selection of restaurants and no Trader Joe's in the entire state. Two months later we became vegans. Not only did those two things force me to learn how to cook but I also had to learn how to cook from scratch, since there wasn't vegan Hamburger Helper.

In the beginning, I lamented having to make everything myself and considered it time-consuming tedium. As the months passed, however, the monotony of chopping piles of colorful vegetables became meditative, preparing healthy and delicious meals was a joyful experience that no longer felt like a chore and I had a humble satisfaction over being able to bake a delicious homemade cake to share with the people I love. I had turned into an insatiable student wanting to learn more about food and nutrition every day and none of this would have happened if we hadn't moved to this little town or become vegans. What a wonderful gift in disguise!

In those early days I  focused on replacing what we erroneously thought we had "lost" (we later realized those losses were actually benefits) and that meant re-creating familiar comfort foods, like macaroni and cheese or meatloaf. That is how this mushroom and walnut loaf was born. While we no longer feel the need to have vegan replicas of non-vegan food, this loaf remains rather dear to me. It was the first successful vegan recipe I ever created and it's also one of a handful of recipes that I make again and again

This loaf has gone through many modifications over the years but the recipe below is the latest and greatest. While it is delicious by itself, we prefer to eat it with marinara on top.

Mushroom and Walnut Loaf
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms (8-10 mushrooms)
  • 2 cups chopped onion (2 small)
  • 1 cup chopped celery stalks (3-4 stalks)
  • 4 slices bread *
  • 1 1/4 cup oats, divided (I think quick cook works best for this)
  • 7 ounces extra firm tofu (1/2 package)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (Kroger brand is vegan!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon browning liquid (optional)
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled sage (if using ground, decrease slightly)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in large saute pan.  Add mushrooms, onions, and celery and saute until soft and all liquid has cooked out.
  3. Meanwhile, pulse bread slices in food processor until crumbly.  Transfer to large bowl.
  4. Blend 1/2 cup oats in food processor until it's flour.  Add to large bowl with bread along with remaining 3/4 cup unblended oats.
  5. Add remaining ingredients to food processor and blend until creamy.
  6. When vegetables are cooked, add them to the large bowl (with bread and oats) along with the tofu mixture.
  7. Mix thoroughly.  Scoop into a greased loaf pan a little at a time and pack down tightly with back of spoon to make sure there are no big air bubbles.  Sprinkle extra oats on top if ya want.
  8. Bake for 60 minutes.  Let cool on counter for at least 20 minutes before slicing, otherwise it'll just fall apart and make a huge mess.
*I use 4 slices Food for Life gluten-free bread.

Friday, March 19, 2010

victory garden 2010

seed selection + starting

Since we've opted out of our CSA this year, I realized it was high time that I got our garden off the ground (er, into the ground).  The first step, seed selection, is fun and motivating because it is basically shopping.  I like these purveyors of heirloom seeds: Baker Creek Seeds, Heirloom Seeds, Turtle Tree Seeds.  I've never purchased from Seed Savers Exchange , but they also have an excellent reputation.

There is an abundance of attractive options, but I have limited time and space to do my gardening.  I set a limit of 12 varieties that I would grow from seed, and used the following guidelines to select them:
  1. those vegetables whose freshness is most discernible.  I want to direct my efforts toward growing the sweetest, crispest, most delicate vegetables, which deteriorate noticeably after harvesting and should be enjoyed immediately.  
  2. varieties that are hard to find, even at the farmer's market.  There are some vegetables whose commercial versions are bereft of the delicious characteristics of their heirloom ancestors.  For example, the stringy, watery celery available at the market has almost nothing in common with the tender, flavorful variety that came in our CSA basket.  
  3. fruits and vegetables that are most likely to retain chemical residue.  Much as I would like to, I simply cannot afford to buy organically-grown produce 100% of the time.  As a compromise, I splurge for organic produce that's on the Dirty Dozen list, and look for the best prices on the Clean Fifteen produce.  I can maximize our food budget by getting the organically-grown veggies from our garden, rather than the market.
  4. favorites that we want in large quantity, for immediate consumption or for preserving.  This category mainly applies to winter squash.  The dwindling supply of butternut squash is the only reason I regret that winter is coming to an end!

Using these criteria, here are the seeds that I ordered from Baker Creek (criterion number indicated):
  • Green calaloo amaranth, which produces grain, but which I will be using to cook Caribbean-style leafy greens. (2, 4)
  • Tendercrisp celery, for the aromatic parsley note it contributes to vegetable broths. (1, 2, 3)
  • Delikatesse cucumber, for enjoying raw and for pickling. (3, 4)
  • Di Firenze fennel, for salads and soups. (2)
  • Chinese kale, "Yod Fah," for a summer greens crop that will have a mild taste (hopefully). (1, 3, 4)
  • Georgia Southern Creole collard greens, because I am nurturing a genuine addiction. (1, 3, 4)
  • Blue curled Scotch kale, for a sweet fall crop of greens. (1, 3, 4)
  • Oregon Sugar Pod snow peas, just to see if they'll grow. (1)
  • Daikon Radish, because if one seed makes one radish, you might as well grow a large radish!  Good for salads, pickling, and macrobiotic experimentation. (2)
  • Ronde de Nice zucchini, because I was successful growing it two years ago, and its texture is divine. (2)
  • Kabocha squash, for roasting in the winter.  Maybe I'll try cooking it other ways, but roasting is a definite. (4)
  • Bibb and Salad Bowl lettuces (seeds from last year), for the freshest salad you can put on the table.  There is nothing like lettuce plucked from the ground only steps from the kitchen. (1, 3, 4)
  • Watermelon, Green Horn bell peppers, and butternut squash, seeds that I saved from last year's CSA produce.  If the seeds sprout, the plants should be well-adapted to our climate.  
So far, I've planted seeds for celery, daikon radish, lettuces, and Chinese kale in peat starter trays.  I planted the peas along some wire fencing; this is a bit of an experiment, as I didn't amend the soil or do anything special.  I did promise to water them.  The rest of the seeds, with the exception of squash and melon, will be sown into large containers because I'm not going to dig up the yard this year.  I plan to pick up a few tomato and pepper plants in April from a specialty farm in our area.

I'm a little behind schedule, but I'm confident in the hot Tennessee summers and in a seed's inherent will to grow.  The plan is to have fun and to convert solar energy into something we can eat.  If you're looking for more specific gardening information, the blogosphere is full of knowledgeable gardeners.  A couple of my favorites are Melinda, who hosts the annual Growing Challenge, and Kelly and Meg, who develop creative solutions for their own challenges in the garden.

Be bold and plant something!  

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

vegan chocolate cake

with coconut pecan frosting

Since we were out of town for Marty's birthday I offered to make him a cake before we left.  Every time I ask him what kind of cake he wants the answer is always chocolate cake with coconut frosting. Every time.

Needless to say, over the past few years, I've gotten pretty good at making it. I've tried many different recipes but my favorite is one I modified from Kittee's chocolate cupcake recipe.  It is rich and moist and perfect for every occasion.  The coconut pecan frosting is an amalgam of the different recipes I've tried over the years.

Vegan Chocolate Cake
makes a 2-layer 8" cake or 24 cupcakes
  • 1 cup coffee
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cups unbleached white flour (Sometimes I substitute half the flour for cake flour to give it a more delicate texture, however, it my preference to use only white whole wheat flour for a "healthier" cake.)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 2/3 cups cocoa powder 
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour (cocoa works great here) two 8" cake pans.
  2. If you don't have your coffee pre-made, make it now and make it strong!
  3. In a small bowl, mix the soy milk and the apple cider vinegar or the lemon juice and set it aside for a few minutes to curdle.
  4. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. Add the vegetable oil, vanilla extract and coffee to the curdled soymilk.
  6. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well with a big whisk, beating out all of the lumps.
  7. Pour the batter evenly into each cake pan.
  8. Bake for 40-50 minutes (I like to test the center with a toothpick around 35 minutes and every few minutes thereafter. When tester comes out clean it is done. Also, the cake will start to pull away from the sides. Do not cook it too much longer past this point or the edges will get very crispy).
  9. Cool for ten minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
While the cake is baking make your frosting.

Coconut Pecan Frosting
makes enough to generously frost top & sides of a 2-layer cake
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 3 cups unsweetened shredded coconu
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped (I like to chop half of them coarsely and half of them finely)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. In medium sized sauce pan on medium heat, melt the Earth Balance. Add the coconut milk and brown sugar. Stir frequently until it boils. Turn heat down to low and cook, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the soy milk and arrowroot.  Add to the sauce pan along with the shredded coconut and pecans and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 more minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
  4. Make sure both the cake and the frosting have cooled to room temperature before frosting.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

authentic yogi tea

my favorite version

Perhaps you've seen or tried the Yogi brand of tea that is sold commercially. Did you know that it was inspired by a simple tea that is brewed from five whole spices? This original "Yogi Tea" was popularized by Yogi Bhajan, who also introduced Kundalini Yoga to the US in 1969.

The Ayurvedic blend of spices is said to stimulate the immune system, to aid digestion, and to increase vitality. I find yogi tea to be warming and invigorating. I often make a half-gallon batch and finish it within a few hours, but it can also be kept in the refrigerator for several days.

The recipe below is the adaptation that I prefer. I love using complexly-flavored grains of paradise in place of the traditional black peppercorns. I usually drink this tea hot, with no additions; however, it is also delicious with the addition of nut milk and sweetener (the result is similar to chai latté). I also found the delicious-sounding suggestion of serving crushed, frozen cubes of yogi tea with a splash of ginger beer.

Authentic Yogi Tea
makes 6 servings
  • 2 quarts filtered water
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 15 grains of paradise or black peppercorns
  • 3" cinnamon sticks
  • 15 green cardamom pods (or 3 teaspoons of cardamom seeds)
  • 2" ginger root, peeled, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 teaspoon black tea (or 1 black tea bag)
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add all spices and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and allow to simmer for one hour.
  3. Remove the pot from heat and add the tea. Cover and allow to sit for one hour.
  4. Strain the spices and tea leaves by pouring the tea through a strainer into a bowl.
  5. Enjoy the hot tea immediately, or keep in the refrigerator for several days and reheat by the cup.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

vegans in chattanooga, tn

happy birthday marty!

For my sweetie’s 40th birthday I decided to take him on a mini-vacation to Chattanooga. It’s only a 2 ½ drive from Nashville which makes it a convenient little getaway. After a very long and cold winter, we were so excited to see the weather forecast for Chattanooga was in the high 60's with "abundant sunshine."

Normally I plan every detail of our vacations, complete with spreadsheets listing out our minute-by-minute itinerary, but since going on this vacation was a last minute decision and because I’m trying to be more Type-B, I didn’t plan much and we had a terrific time.

Chattanooga is a fun little town with a wide variety of activities from tourist traps (Ruby Falls, Rock City) to Civil War Battlegrounds (Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain) to museums, zoos and the city’s pride and joy, the Tennessee Aquarium.  It is also a great place for the outdoor enthusiast with a lot of places for hiking, biking, rock climbing, rafting, etc.

Our hotel was located in the vibrant downtown district which has art galleries, locally owned bookstores, eclectic shops that are fun (for me anyway) to browse around in, restaurants, coffee houses and a small night life scene (although it was pretty quiet while we were there during the week), all set on the scenic banks of the meandering Tennessee River.

We were thrilled with the variety and abundance of places we could eat.  There are two all-vegan restaurants and many other places seemed vegan friendly (for example, we noticed a little hot dog place called Good Dog that allowed you to substitute an all-natural veggie dog (not sure if it was vegan) for any of their "dogs"). We didn't get to try all of the restaurants this trip but that just gives us something to look forward to on our next visit.  Here are my reviews for some of the restaurants we tried: Sluggo's North Vegetarian Cafe, Country Life Vegetarian Restaurant, Thai Smile and Mudpie Restaurant.

There are a lot of vacant buildings in Chattanooga that can make some areas seem run-down but all around Chattanooga we saw developments that were reviving the dilapidated areas into what I'm sure they hoped would be the next trendy hot spot.

There are many sculptures around the city that help to keep your attention focused on the beautiful things though.

One art installation we especially liked were the dances on Frazier Street. These were metal footprints in the ground with numbers to indicate the order of the moves and lines to show direction. Marty and I had so much fun laughing our way through each dance move.  My favorite was the waltz, with all of its sensuous turns, and I'm hoping I can convince Marty to take lessons with me now!

All in all, we had a lot of fun during our few days in Chattanooga and we plan to visit again soon.

country life vegetarian restaurant - chattanooga, tn

809 market street

This all-vegan place is a cafeteria-style restaurant set in the heart of downtown and they’re only open for lunch from 11-3pm. When we walked in the door we were warmly greeted and once we got to the counter the lady was helpful in describing the daily selections (they have a salad bar and a handful of pre-made hot items to choose from).

Our food.

We started with a small bowl of beef stew. Marty and I weren't really wowed by this soup but perhaps that's because we were never big beef stew fans pregan (we only ordered it out of novelty - being something we don't usually have).

This pizza had a thick and soft wheat crust, a flavorful sauce and a bunch of veggies. There was also a nice cheesy topping (that, while nothing like mozzarella, was still a tasty addition).

This dish was Asian-inspired rice noodles with cabbage, eggplant, carrots and cauliflower. I was really unimpressed with this. It was bland and could have benefited from a nicely seasoned sauce.

The Persian dill rice was very flavorful and had a delicious, creamy topping. I don't cook with dill very often but every time I have something with it I'm reminded of how much I enjoy it. I'm going to start using it more regularly.

This tasty carob cream cake was a nice departure from chocolate. The texture was interesting because it was too creamy to be a cake yet too cakey to be a cream pie. We were a little confused about what it was trying to be but it didn't really matter because it tasted great and the huge slice was a satisfying finish to our meal.

It was more than enough food for the both of us and the total cost was $10.58.

From what we were told by the lady working there, the restaurant had been suffering financially lately and has 4 months to turn itself around before they close the doors. They recently hired a new manager and he is in the process of implementing some new ideas, including a deli counter/grill with sandwiches and burgers and a juice/smoothie bar. I wish them luck because it would be a shame to see another veggie restaurant go under.

Country Life Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

sluggo's north vegetarian cafe - chattanooga, tn

501 cherokee boulevard

We entered Sluggo's with huge smiles on our faces.  Every time we get to eat at an all-vegan restaurant everything just feels right with the world.

After thoroughly reviewing the menu we decided to order a couple of sandwiches and share them.

First up was The Berliner.  Grilled and marinated seitan slices on locally made sourdough bread (it was supposed to come with rye but they were out) with saurkraut, grilled onions, soy Russian dressing, and soy cheese.  It came with a small salad and a side of your choice. We chose the chili and it had a nice flavor but it was very watery, more like a minestrone than chili. We ordered the ranch dressing for our salad and didn't care for it much. One expects ranch to be creamy but the texture was mealy and wasn't conducive to eating with lettuce. The sandwich was good but I think it would have been great if they had had the rye and it didn't have the soy cheese.  I don't know if they make their own cheese or if they purchase it but I wasn't especially fond of the texture or the taste.

Our second sandwich was The Culture Club. This was a triple-decker, also on locally made sourdough, with marinated seitan, tofu bacon, tofurkey slices, soy mayo, lettuce and tomato, served with Ruffles potato chips. This sandwich was a winner in my book. The sweet, juicy tomato offset the smoky flavor of the seitan and tofu bacon and the Vegenaise (I'm assuming) blanketed the sandwich in creamy goodness.

We arrived with huge appetites and left with our bellies pleasantly full, all for $15.30.  The atmosphere is casual and funky, our waitress was friendly and outgoing, and the food is quite good.  I would highly recommend this restaurant.

Sluggo's North Vegetarian Cafe on Urbanspoon

thai smile - chattanooga, tn

219 market street

Yay for me!!!  I ate native Thai hot and survived.

Marty and I usually split a meal or we order two dishes and share each dish.  Except for Thai food.  This has always been the one place where Marty and I order separate entrees and don’t share.  He always gets his food ridiculously hot.  Native Thai is considered level 4-6 and he usually orders it around level 10 which is way too hot for me.

I am always torn between getting pad thai or red curry (the waitress assured me that neither had fish sauce in them) so Marty agreed to get the pad thai at level 6 and share with me (although I thought it would be way too hot because I usually go with level 2) and I ordered the red curry tofu.

Even though it was ridiculously hot, I still enjoyed it immensely.

The red curry tofu came with the cutest presentation ever. Heart-shaped rice! This was flavorful with a lot of fresh basil and crunchy bamboo shoots. The coconut milk felt very soothing after the fiery pad thai I ate.

Thai Smile 3 on Urbanspoon

mudpie restaurant - chattanooga, tn

12 frazier avenue

Marty and I popped in here to relax and wind down one evening. If I were to ever own a restaurant, it would be something similar to this place. Mudpie calls itself a restaurant but it's also a bar and a coffee shop and they do a good job of blending the three concepts into a fun and lively hang-out. There is a bohemian vibe with art from local artists adorning the walls and most evenings they have live music (although on the night we were there it was open mic night for poetry readings).

Having already eaten dinner we only ordered decaf coffees but we did check out the menu. A vegan could easily make a meal out of the options here. I had read some negative reviews about the food but I would definitely give it a chance the next time I'm in Chattanooga.

Mudpie Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 1, 2010

vegan lentil and wild rice salad

cool and composed

Recently at work, I shared a salad of greens, grain, legumes, and crunchy bits, dressed with a light, citrus mustard dressing. I was thrilled when many of my co-workers requested the recipe! The salad features a healthy dose of protein: nine grams per cup of lentils, seven grams per cup of wild rice, plus a couple of grams in the other goodies. Mâche, a tender, mild salad green, has a protein content similar to baby spinach (a little less than one gram per cup).

While I think that wild rice is the perfect grain for this salad, the other components can easily be switched up based on the legumes, greens, nuts and seeds in your pantry and fridge. My last rendition included field peas, shredded kale, and chopped segments of fresh tangelo. The simple, bright dressing will flatter any combination you can dream up!

In a composed salad, like the one pictured above, the elements are plated separately instead of being tossed together. In addition to being an elegant presentation, this technique is advantageous: the hardy ingredients can be dressed in advance, while the delicate greens and crunchy seeds can remain pristine, retaining their distinctive textures. While composed salads lend a classy touch to special meals, it's more practical to prepare a tossed salad when serving a group. I prefer the latter, casual approach; the results are just as delicious!

All of the ingredients in this recipe can be purchased at Trader Joe's; in fact, you can find fully-cooked wild rice and lentils there! If you go the fully-cooked route, this salad becomes a fantastic option for an at-work lunch and other impromptu occasions.

Lentil and Wild Rice Salad
makes four generous servings
  • 1 cup cooked, cooled wild rice
  • 1 cup cooked, cooled green lentils
  • 1 cup broccoli slaw
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
  • 2 handfuls loose mâche or baby spinach
  • pinch of salt, generous grind of pepper
  • Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning or other neutral seasoning blend
Citrus Mustard Dressing
  • Juice of one large orange
  • Juice of two lemons (about 1/2 cup juice total)
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. First, prepare the dressing in a small mixing bowl. Combine citrus juices and mustard and whisk together. Gradually add olive oil in a slow drizzle, whisking constantly to form an emulsion.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, gently combine the wild rice and lentils, breaking up any large clumps. Add 1/2 cup of Citrus Mustard Dressing and salt, pepper, and seasoning. Toss to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, toss broccoli slaw with remaining dressing. Place 1/4 cup of broccoli slaw on each of four plates.
  4. Top each portion of broccoli slaw with 1/2 cup of lentil and wild rice mixture.
  5. Add bunches of mâche around the edge of the plates. Sprinkle each plate generously with raisins and sunflower seeds and serve.
Variation: Tossed Lentil and Wild Rice Salad: Follow steps 1 and 2 as written. Add broccoli slaw to the mixture and toss to combine. This mixture may be chilled for several hours before serving. Immediately before serving, add raisins, sunflower seeds, and remaining dressing. Add mâche, toss gently, and serve.