Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chicago Spotlight: Ethiopian Diamond

Located in the Edgewater district of Chicago is the Ethiopian Diamond. Not vegan, but definitely vegan-friendly! If you haven't tried Ethiopian food before, please do yourself a favor and invite it into your life! 

Liz had never tried it before so I made it a point to take her here during her stay. She's not veg but doesn't mind eating veg dishes, so we shared some Spinach Sambusas as an appetizer. Sorry...but I forgot to take a photo! On their website, a sambusa is described as a "thin dough shell stuffed with minced meat or vegetables". They offer 3 vegan-friendly sambusas: lentil, spinach and potato/carrot. They are all delicious, but I think I like the spinach best.

Then we went with Taste of Ethiopia Vegetarian Combo.

No butter, eggs, milk or honey! They've got us covered!
Check out this page for descriptions of each one. This sampler included numbers 29, 30, 31, 33, 35, 37. We loved everything except the "Shimbra" (reddish stuff on the bottom right). That was a little funky. But hey, I tried it! I think that's a new addition to the sampler, if I remember correctly they used to have spinach. Regardless, I freaking love this place and I think you need to give it a try if you're in Chicago! They've got a full bar and live music on the weekends (Saturdays, I believe). I really like the atmosphere.

Ethiopian Diamond
6120 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60660

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cozy, Chipotle and cookies, oh my!

Just around the corner from my apartment sits the lovely Cozy Noodles n' Rice. A vegan-friendly spot that I love to frequent. The folks here are always nice and accommodating. Just make sure to request no egg, fish sauce or oyster sauce when ordering! 

We ended up going here for Christmas dinner, due mainly to the fact that I totally dropped the ball on planning any sort of meal. But you know, I didn't feel like cooking on Christmas anyway. I was enjoying spending time with my family and Liz. 

Cozy is a super cute place. They've got neat decor that JX loves looking at.

And their tables seem to be fashioned partly from old sewing machines!

Their prices are decent and so are their portion sizes!
I started with the Cucumber Salad. I don't know if they always do this or if this was a special Christmas thing, but my salad was lookin' extra fancy!

I also went with my old standby of Tofu Fried Rice. No egg or fish sauce, of course!

This place is worth a stop if you're in Wrigleyville, for sure.

The next day Liz and I were out shopping and decided to stop in Chipotle for lunch. 

Up until recently I've been a fan of the good ol' veggie tacos. But a friend of mine turned me on to the "bowl". So now I get the Vegetarian Bowl with an order of chips.

I tear into the veggie bowl, can ya tell?

Ahh, I love Chipotle. 

So later on we took Liz to Whole Foods, since she's never been to one before. As we were on our way to the checkout counter, I spot these cookies.
I thought it was a long shot that these would be vegan. Cause that's my luck, I guess. my surprise...
 Yes! I didn't see a price, so I brought them with me to the cash register to ask. $5.99. Not exactly in my price range these days, unfortunately. So, I thank the cashier but tell him that I can't get 'em. He then says, "Aw what the heck, just take them. It's Christmas". Nice!! He made my day...I told him that, but I don't think he believed that I actually meant it.

I really like these cookies. I just don't know if I can justify paying $5.99 for eight of them. So thank goodness for nice cashiers who give boxes away.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The kindness of Christmas.

Chicago was kind to us this year and blessed us with a white Christmas. 
Our apartment is the one with the snowflakes!

 And we were kind to Santa by making him vegan chocolate chip cookies last night!

Recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. Don't have a copy? Get one! 

And Liz was kind enough to help me put together the Cinnamon Rolls from Vegan Brunch last night. We did the second rise in the fridge overnight so we were able to just throw them in the oven first thing this morning while JX was tearing open his gifts. 
These were delightful! A wonderful breakfast for Christmas morning. What, you don't have a copy of Vegan Brunch yet? Gad dang it, get one!!

And husband was kind to me by getting me the only thing I wanted for Christmas:

 I finally have a copy! Where's yours? Do I even need to say it? 
Get one!

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

La Liz visits for Christmas!

It's been about 2.5 years since I've seen my good friend Liz. And I'm so happy that she's visiting us for the next 10 days! We picked her up this morning at O'Hare Airport and it was a surprisingly smooth operation for being two days before Christmas. Then her and I went to one of my favorite local spots, Pick Me Up Cafe
 Lately my favorite thing to get is the Barbecue Seitan Sandwich, it's so yum! For my side I chose pasta salad, even though I reeeally wanted fries. ::sigh:: But the pasta salad was tasty, for the record.

 Oh man, this hit the spot. I love this sandwich. After finishing my sandwich and fries pasta salad, I wandered over to their dessert case to see what vegan options they had goin' on today. I was pretty stuffed, but decided that I just had to try their Vegan Chai Spice Cake. 
 I really liked this cake! I wish I had a cup of coffee to go with it, but I was stuffed enough as it was. Eating this piece of cake was probably not a good idea overall, but what the hell. 

A little while later, Liz, husband, JX and I all took the train downtown to Macy's to see how long the wait was to see Santa. Uhhh...sorry, but I'm not waiting 2+ hours. So we left. We walked over to Michigan Avenue and checked out some shops before deciding to stop and eat somewhere. Husband suggested PF Chang's since I've been talking about going there for awhile now. 
 I was confused because looking online it seemed as if they only had one vegan option. And it was basically just a bowl of steamed veggies! Upon further reading on Quarrygirl's blog I see that the vegetarian options are actually vegan depending on how you feel about bone char sugar. Although the thought of sugar being processed with animal bone char bothers me, I have to draw the line somewhere. That's just a personal thing for me. I wanted the Ma Po Tofu and asked the waitress what makes it non-vegan. She went to the kitchen and came back to confirm that it is indeed the sugar that makes it non-vegan. Now while I applaud PF Chang's for being so accurate in their labeling, I have to draw the line somewhere (did I just say that?). So I went ahead and ordered it.
 I thought this was "okay". The flavor was super good and I liked the broccoli, but the tofu was a lot softer than my liking. It did have a nice outer crust but much too soft on the inside. I finished about 3/4 of it, so I guess it couldn't be that bad! But you know, I'm just not into these chain restaurant vegan food prices. I could have gone to Cozy Noodles around the corner from my house and got a bigger amount of food for about half the price. Lesson learned. I'll be doing a post on Cozy's soon, you can count on that!

So far Liz is enjoying Chicago. And I'm happy to see my old friend again.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Red Lobster-style Cheesy Biscuits, veganized!

Okay, let me just apologize for the marginal-at-best photos here. I made these tonight and wasn't planning on photographing it, but I was very impressed at how delicious and easy they were that I changed my mind. 

You know those cheesy garlicky biscuits from Red Lobster? Well, on their menu they're called Cheddar Bay Biscuits (never knew that till tonight when I did a search, I'll be honest). But Mama Pea recently did a vegan version which she so appropriately calls Better Bay Biscuits. You can find the recipe here. They are so very easy and yummy. 



Sunday, December 19, 2010

Jelly Donut Cupcakes from Veganomicon

I cannot believe I have owned Veganomicon for 2+ years and never made these! Wow! They are so freaking yummy and surprisingly easy! I decided to make them for my awesome neighbors below us who are not only my friends (or so I like to think, they may beg to differ!), but they also put up with my 3 year old's hyperactivity. Amen to that. 

So...I brought them a card and a half dozen of these.

Mmm mmm goodness. I will be making these again, without a doubt. And I'll even share with the neighbors.


Also, just want to let you know about my recent realization of the existence of vegan chocolate-covered cherries! No, not the best things in the world for ya, but I've missed them since going vegan. I had long since given up when I read this thread on the PPK the other day and practically jumped for joy.

 These bits of processed awesomeness can be found at Walgreens. I've heard CVS as well, but I never had to look there since I scored and found these on my first try. Sweet!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Amy's Soups taste test

I was at my local Whole Foods recently and decided to grab a couple of Amy's soups that I hadn't had before (I'm not the hugest fan of canned soups...but they're quick and easy) and do a taste test. First up, Pasta and 3 Bean.

I wasn't big on this soup. It just had an odd aftertaste that I couldn't get past. I thought the pasta part of it was okay, just not the broth. Next up: Low Fat Minestrone.

Now while I wouldn't call this soup fantastic (told you I'm not a huge canned soup fan!), I liked it much better than the 3 Bean. And JX ate his whole bowl...and if you know me, that's always a plus!! So I think in the future I would possibly buy the Minestrone to have on hand for an emergency lunch or dinner, but I'm not exactly gonna bust down the Whole Foods doors to get it. At Good Earth Market in Montana, they had an Amy's Alphabet Soup, and I actually really liked that one! But even though Whole Foods has a large Amy's soup selection, they sadly do not have the alphabet one.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mozzarella Teese Sticks at The Chicago Diner!

I'm very fortunate to live just a few blocks away from The Chicago Diner. I only wish I could afford to go there as often as I'd like to! And recently, due to the holiday season and the fact that I am not the smartest person with my money that I do have, I'm even more restricted than usual. But when my dear friend Charisse and I get together, we just have to make a Diner trip. I've been very intrigued by the Mozzarella Teese Sticks that I've been reading about, so of course we had to try those.
 Now these were good! I really think that Charisse and I could have taken down 2 orders because we sucked these down in about 1.5 minutes. But we decided to split a Philly Cheezesteak Sandwich instead.
Shown with mashed potatoes and gravy. Please disregard the fact that this isn't the best pic and just go get yourself a dang Philly when you go to the Diner (and Mozzarella Teese Sticks too, of course!). It's delicious. And, I believe it's a seasonal sandwich and they'll probably take it off the menu in the spring or summer. 

Since it was cold as sh*t outside and we were walking back to my apartment, we decided to each get a Hazelnut Hot Chocolate to go. No need for a pic since I'm sure you can imagine (vegan) hot chocolate in a to-go cup, but it was delicious and I may have to get another one next time I make it there. But, they also have Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Mexican Hot Chocolate, so I may end up having to try one of those!

So, if you live in the Chicago area and have not been to the Diner yet....WHY NOT?? Go, already!! 

The Chicago Diner
3411 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shortcut Biscuits and Gravy

Ok, I may be worn out today from our walk to and from Whole Foods, making Christmas cards and baking brownies and cookies all day, but I still know how to put a box together! Jeez, guys! Anyway, it's days like these that I have to cheat a little when making some dinner. Being exhausted and broke and being at the mercy of what I already have on hand, I gotta cut corners sometimes. I decided to throw together a quick biscuits and gravy concoction cause I was tired and hungy.

I had some Simple Simmered Seitan from Vegan On The Cheap in the didn't come out very well when I made it (it came out a little gummy on the outside. Not Robin Robertson's fault, I must have had my burner on too high) and it has probably been in the freezer past its shelf life anyway...But I said what the hell and thawed it anyway. I read once (maybe it was Robin Robertson who said it) that if you try making seitan at home and don't like how it turns out, you should still hold on to it and finely dice it for use in a sauce or filling in a casserole or whathaveyou. And that's why I saved it. For a day like today. 

I chopped up the seitan and sauteed it in a bit of olive oil for a good 15-20 minutes till it was nice and brown. While that was going, I threw together the Drop Biscuits from 1,000 Vegan Recipes, the only change I made was using a mix of whole wheat flour along with the all-purpose flour that the recipe calls for. Those are quick and easy. And then the ultimate cheat:

Yeah yeah, I know! It may be vegan, but it is not necessarily good for you! But times are tough, and honestly I usually have a can or two of this junk handy for days just like these.

And here's my final product:
 Believe it or not, it was really good!! Maybe because I was super hungry and just needed some hot food, or maybe I'm just a sucker for biscuits and gravy and therefore I'm not picky. Who knows. 

Moral of the story...sometimes you gotta take a few shortcuts in order to make sure you'll still remember how to assemble a shipping box.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

A few more Vegan With a Vengeance favorites!

As I've stated a few times (or more) before, Vegan With A Vengeance is probably my all-time favorite vegan cookbook. And it was the first vegan cookbook I bought, as well! Yeah I'm sure I've said that before too. Anyway, this book is full of great recipes and there are quite a few that are still go-to recipes for me. First up, Carrot-Raisin Muffins:

I usually make this recipe as-is, but I've also been known to add about a 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts sometimes too. Isa gives a tip on this page about soaking the raisins beforehand in hot water for about 10 minutes. I always do that, it makes a difference!

Carrot Bisque:

Again, I make this recipe as-is, the only change I make is in the directions: Isa says to puree half of the soup, but I puree the whole thing. And I usually do a half-recipe, cause it makes quite a bit. This last time though I had a brain fart and bought ingredients for a full recipe. I was peeling and chopping carrots for quite a while. And now I've got a whole lotta Carrot Bisque! I'll probably just end up freezing some. It's delicious though. Perfect for cold Chicago it's-not-"officially"-winter-yet-but-it-sure-as-hell-feels-like-it days!

And one of my all-time favorites, Seitan-Portobello Stroganoff:
Now this one I make a couple of changes to, simply because I don't really like portobellos, honestly. I omit the portobellos (I guess I should call my version "Seitan Stroganoff" then), and I use either dried or ground thyme for the fresh thyme. I know it's better to use fresh herbs, but sometimes I just use what's already on hand. Oh, and I always make a half recipe. In fact, I have never made a full recipe of this before. It makes a lot. Husband doesn't like this recipe and even though JX does, he doesn't eat that much to begin with, so it's usually just me eating this. Even a half batch is about 3 to 4 servings. But it's SO good! I love this one. 

If you own this book, what are some of your favorite recipes?

Yes, I met Isa once. Briefly. 
Yes, I asked her to sign my copy of VWAV.
Yes...I am a nerd.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Billings, Montana revisited: Cham Thai Cuisine

I didn't get a chance to go to Cham Thai until shortly before we left, which is a shame because I really like this place and planned on going at least 2 or 3 times during our stay in Billings. But sadly, things just didn't work out that way. At least I got to go once though, right? 

Cham Thai is definitely on my Billings must-visit list. We came here a few times when we lived in Billings for a year, and every time the customer service was good and the food was great. You do have to specify "no fish sauce" when you order, but they're always understanding and polite about it. One time the owners came out to talk to me and were so kind and accommodating. They went over all of the options for me and didn't treat me like a weirdo! 

Here's a pic of their hours since I'm too lazy to type it:

I'm gonna go ahead and assume that they meant 12PM on Saturday. So don't go showing up at midnight expecting some Thai lunch!

JX usually likes the simpler stuff at Thai places, so I went with the veggie fried rice with tofu for us to share:

No, they don't always serve their food in foil, I just got mine to go.

They've also got plenty of noodle and curry dishes to choose from, so don't think fried rice is your only option!

Make sure to stop in Cham Thai when (or if) you're in Billings! 

Cham Thai
2916 1st Ave North
Billings, MT 59101
(406) 256-1812 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cherry Almond Smoothie

My new favorite smoothie! I used this recipe from VegWeb. So easy, and freaking delicious. There are two optional additions: a dash of almond extract, and/or a tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Now, while I am a huge fan of nooch (nutritional yeast!), something about putting it in an otherwise sweet-tasting smoothie just doesn't sound right to me. So I went with the extract, but left out the nooch. It says "small drizzle" of extract, but I was a little generous with it, I'll be honest. I love this smoothie. And even if I hadn't liked it, I would still give it 5 stars because JX loved it! Yippee! 
 He probably drank close to 3/4 of the smoothie, that's why my glass up there looks so tiny. My 20/20 hindsight tells me to take the pic first, then give JX his share. I made it again today and it makes pretty much one adult serving. If you've got 2 small kids, then this should be enough for them to split.

Give it a try!