Archive for August, 2010

Baking Quest 1!

After staring at the My Sweet Vegan cook book, by Hannah Kaminsky, I decided that I wanted to bake my way through the entire thing. Everything looks absolutely delicious in it, and I have a love for baked goods like you would not believe. Baking is the ultimate stress reliever for me, and who needs retail therapy when you can bake your way to happiness? I realize this will take time and effort, and I am totally fine with that.

I love breakfast. So much. There’s a reason why it is the best and most important meal of the day. In this mindset, I decided to start in the sweet starts section, beginning with the Better Banana Nut Muffin. I followed the directions/ingredients exactly, except for the fact that I made it nut-less. At this point in time I was looking for a muffin without a crunch but that was brimming with bananas, and this was the recipe, as it uses both dried and mashed bananas.

Fresh out of the oven

Everyone in the house loved them, and I even got my father to eat them (he usually will never knowingly eat vegan food)! They truly lasted less than a day, probably because they were the perfect amount of crunchy from the oats, yet soft from the bananas. The addition of the dried bananas really took these muffins to the next level.

While there were some left....

I even ate some for breakfast, and then took one to work with me….

The final one

I would easily make them again. They were not all that time consuming, and they were well worth any invested effort anyhow. Perhaps next time I would even add the nuts, as there is nothing about the recipe I would change now regardless. Better banana muffin? I think so.

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Why not start with a food tour?

Recently the boyfriend and I (well, fiance, but that is such an awkward word, so from here on out, boyfriend secretly means fiance, ok?) returned from Washington DC, where we spent time with family, did a ton of walking and sightseeing (yes, touristy things) and an obscene amount of eating. Being from Buffalo, NY, our options for dining out are pretty limited, so heading to DC was like vegan heaven for us. At one point I sincerely felt like there were too many options, too many restaurants and not enough time to eat. Anyhow, there is a huge lack of pictures as I was more involved with experiencing and consuming than taking pictures, so I apologize. But there is still time for a run down of where and what we ate, and how much we enjoyed it. I swear to you, we are not a hundred pounds overweight as the following list of food might seem to indicate!

Our first order of business when getting off the plane was to find coffee, and then food. Being up since 4 am, we were getting fairly grumpy, and without our typical morning cup we were heading towards vicious. There were two coffee shops we were sure we wanted to see ahead of time (that being said, the boyfriend is a barista at a coffee shop in Buffalo, we are both coffee lovers, and his boss recommended places to visit). We made our way to Chinatown and stopped at Chinatown Coffee Co. (http://www.chinatowncoffee.com/index.html) where he got Black Cat espresso (delicious), and I had a french press of Colombian coffee from Intelligensia, which never disappoints.

Now it was food time. Being in Chinatown, we stopped at Kanlaya, where we ordered and split kung pao tofu and a garden stir-fry, which came out ridiculously fast. Both were awesome, but this is where we learned that serving sizes in DC are far smaller than they are at home, and food is also more expensive. This could be why DC is one of the fittest cities in the US.

From here we met up with some family, and then headed to Sticky Fingers Bakery where we would come to visit EVERY DAY, sometimes twice. This was the only real food destination we had planned and set in stone ahead of time, as cinnamon buns were something we both crave and cannot get at home, as well as other delicious baked goods. We both got a sticky bun, and then ordered a grilled cheese (with daiya and tempeh bacon) to split, which were both ungodly amazing. Following this, we ordered a chik’n quesadilla with vegan sour cream, which we adored too. Not done yet, I got a dish of Temptation soft serve ice cream, which I had be longing for for weeks. I must say however, that the chocolate is far superior to the vanilla, but both were good.

While on the topic of the ever-delicious Sticky Fingers Bakery, I may as well continue on with the list of things we ate while we are at it. We came back to the grilled cheese twice more, because it is just THAT good.  We also both had an egg and sausage (or in my case, tempeh bacon) sandwich, which were great, even cold as the boyfriend is vehemently opposed using microwaves (it’s ok, because I have a hatred for televisions, so we cancel each other out). Tons and tons of baked goods, near and dear to my heart, were consumed as well. I have a special love for cupcakes, and while there had a strawberry cupcake, a s’mores cupcake, a peanut butter fudge cupcake, and a cookies and creme one as well. Surprisingly, being a huge peanut butter fan, the strawberry cupcake still remains my favorite. It was perfect in texture, moisture and sweetness, and was perfect after a big meal of grilled cheese and quesadillas. In addition to the cupcakes, we both ate multiples of the Sweet and Salty Cookie as well. I am now convinced that all chocolate chip cookies should be made with salt on top – it really brings out the taste of the chocolate, and makes the taste buds beyond happy. Finally, we had a cowvin oatmeal cookie bar. While it was delicious it seemed a little dry. However, the filling was great and it would be a good companion to a cup of coffee.

Our last meal in DC, surprise surprise, was at Sticky Fingers as well, as they serve an awesome breakfast menu on the weekends. After fighting droves of tea partiers and crazies to cross DC to reach the bakery (this was no small feat – thanks Glenn Beck!), I was hungry, and had no coffee at this point, and so was inherently very crabby. When we arrived, we both immediately ordered coffee, and then both got the biscuits n’ gravy platter with home fries, tempeh bacon and tofu scramble. It was amazing! The home fries were better than the ones from the diner around here which I also loved, and the biscuits were phenomenal. After not having them for over a year, I forgot how great biscuits and gravy are, especially for breakfast. And of course, we ended the trip with yet another sticky bun. I eyed up other’ breakfasts as well, and the french toast with blueberries looked delicious, as well as the breakfast burrito. It never ceased to amaze me just how busy the place was, pleasing vegans and non-vegans alike. Seeing the breakfast so busy gave me a little shred of hope and optimism for the future.  In summary, I love(d) this place. I am only sad that there is not one nearby so I can eat there frequently and have them make our wedding cake. It’s probably good for my waistline though that it is farther away. The baked goods there could easily win over any non-vegan!

Sticky Bun from Sticky Fingers Bakery

The following morning we woke up and took the metro over to Peregrine Espresso. This is now my favorite coffee shop, which is sad seeing as how I would need to take a plane to get there every morning. There menu is plain and simple – no fancy blender drinks or trendy syrup-chocolate-caramel-mocha whatever beverages. Their soy lattes were good, but their varietals were amazing, particularly the sun-dried ethiopian pour-over we had. It was amazingly fragrant and fruity.  We even ended up coming back later in the day for a second cup of coffee. They were also all about recycling and composting, which of course is great.

After this we went to Le Pain Quotidien after traveling to Fusion Grill only to find it closed. I was super unhappy with this restaurant. Not only was it super over-priced ($9-something for a really small serving of tofu scramble), the waitress did not really seem to understand the menu, and we found real eggs in the tofu scramble. The hummus, chickpea, sprout sandwich we got was fresh and tasted good, but it was too hard to get over finding bits of real egg in my breakfast for me to really enjoy any other part of the meal. I would really never go here again. I came to learn that it was a chain in multiple cities, and many people I talked to weren’t too fond of it either.

For dinner this night we went to the Ghana Cafe on recommendation of my cousin, and I could not be happier. This was probably one of my favorite meals there entire time we were in DC, or ever for that matter. First we started out with an appetizer of fried plantains. They were cooked perfectly – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. We then ordered Fufu with peanut spinach stew, and the vegetarian sampler, which came with two different types of rice, greens, and an amazing sauce. I cannot describe how much I love fufu. In my mind, heaven looks like little fluffy fufu clouds for all to eat. The stew was awesome with the fufu, and we ate all of the sampler in under fifteen minutes probably, it was so delicious. To anyone looking for good Ghanian food, or good food in general, this is the place to go. It is a family establishment with a mother in the kitchen and her sons as waiters and barbacks, all super friendly and accommodating.

During our food tour, we also stopped at Busboys and Poets which we found in the vegDC guide. We started with a vegan quesadilla, which was loaded with fresh vegetables and served with amazing guacamole (and vegan sour cream, which I am not particularly a fan of anyhow, even the non-vegan version back in the day) I would have ordered a plate of this guacamole and had it as a meal. Then we split a calzone, loaded with soy pepperoni, daiya cheese, mushrooms, peppers, onions and marinara sauce in a whole wheat crust. The crust was great – very tasty on its own and was light and flaky. Other than an excessive amount of mushrooms (I really only like them in moderation), I was super pleased with the food. The atmosphere of the place was neat as well, and it seemed to be very forward-thinking in terms of recycling and local/organic produce.

Adding to the list, we also ate at Java Green, one of the food places I was excited for even before we got into town. I was not disappointed by any means! I love this place and wanted so bad to move the entire establishment home with me. I wish I was there longer to try more things on the menu. We split an Independent Pig sandwich, which was soy sausage, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and veganaise on a ciabatta roll. Holy hell, this was so good. I was smiling the entire time I ate it. The roll was super fresh and really added to the sandwich. We also split and Amazing Meal lunch, which came with rice noodles, organic rice, broccoli, kale, asparagus, soy bbq chicken and soy bologni. The soy bbq chicken was one of the best vegan foods I have ever had. I wish there would have been more of it in the meal. It was a healthy and filling lunch, and extremely pleasing to the eyes as well. Oh, if only I had a larger stomach and more money. I’m sure its sister branch, Cafe Green, is just as awesome.

Our last dinner in town was at Dukem. Getting Ethiopian food was one of the priorities on our list for this vacation. It was in the U-Street area which I wish I could have roamed more of, but perhaps next time. The restaurant was packed! Everyone was smiling and the smells emanating from the kitchen made my mouth water. It was definitely a new experience for me right from the beginning, as I had never had Ethiopian food before, and eating with my hands was different but exciting. It makes you feel a lot more connected to your food, and as a plus injera is good on its own. Here we split the vegetarian platter, which came with 12 different portions and 2 huge pieces of injera. I cannot even tell you all the things on there as some of them I do not know what they were exactly, only that it was amazing and we ate it all. There were two different lentil dishes, a potato and curry one, collard greens, cabbage and more. It was all delightful and I am really sad that I won’t be able to eat this at home. I love the spices of any Middle-Eastern or African dish.

Over all, I was surprised at just how vegan friendly DC is.  Perhaps it is because Buffalo isn’t exactly even vegetarian friendly at this point, although it is showing slow but sure signs of improvement. I guess it’s hard when your city is known for chicken wings, pizza, and snow storms. I loved seeing the little Compassion over Killing pamphlets everywhere, and their vegetarian guide to DC was well used and worn in my purse by the end of the trip. Regardless of food, DC is a beautiful city that I would come back to in an instant.

The beginning

After much deliberation – I have begun!

For a while now I have wanted to create a food blog, a vegan one at that, to highlight some of the things I have cooked and baked and found to be delicious. With the help of some totally awesome cook books and my own personal inspiration, whether it be through cravings or the wonderful vegetables that come weekly from a CSA farm share, I hope to share these adventures with others.