Archives for category: Vegan

Decorative pumpkin and sqashHalloween is over and if you did not carve a jack-o-lantern, there is a good chance you have a nice, ripe piece of fruit sitting somewhere in your house. Pumpkins make wonderful fall decorations, but they are more than just the big chunk in the cornucopia. They are much like a squash, and as such, they make delicious dishes. As long as your pumpkin is not too old (it should still be firm) and has not been sitting with its flesh exposed, you can cook it.

Pumpkin pie is the obvious seasonal treat, so instead of using canned pumpkin, cook the one you already bought. You may not need the whole thing, so here are a couple of ideas for what’s left.

Fresh pumpkin seeds from the ovenPumpkin Seeds:

You will need:

  • Seeds from one pumpkin
  • Sea salt (about a handful)
  • Seasoning
    • Cayenne pepper
    • Garlic
    • Onion
    • Madras curry
    • Whatever you like!

 

 

  1. Scooping out pumpkin seeds with an ice cream scoopScoop the seeds from a pumpkin set the pumpkin aside. An ice cream scoop works well for this.

     

     

     

  2. Rinse seeds under hot waterPull the seeds from the membrane and rinse in a colander under hot water until the seeds are white.

     

     

     

  3. Place the wet seeds into a medium-sized bowl and mix the sea salt in. Stir until all the salt dissolves to create a brine with the water still in the seeds from cleaning them.

     

  4. Divide the seeds for flavors. If you only want plain, salted seeds, skip to step four. Otherwise, put a small amount of seeds into a smaller bowl for each flavor. We made five: cayenne pepper, garlic, onion, madras curry, and plain. The amount of seasoning depends on the size of the flavor batch and on personal preference, but remember, you started with a brine, so they are already going to have salt.

     

    cayenne pepper:
    Season the seeds with your choice of spicessprinkle enough cayenne pepper over the top of the seeds to make a good layer, then stir.

     

    garlic:
    We used the garlic mix from a tube, so ours came out very salty, but delicious. Squeeze the garlic mix onto the wet seeds and mix well. This will create a paste on the seeds.

     

    onion:
    For this we used dried onion from the spice rack. It turned out well, but the onion bits became a companion to the seeds more than a coating. But again, toss in a handful and stir with the wet seeds.

     

    madras curry:
    This is delicious! Add enough to coat the top of the seeds and stir. It should coat them well and turn the seeds a bit yellow.

     

  5. Spread the seeds on baking sheets and bake at 350 until dried out and crispy. This may take a while, but check them every five minutes and stir them around so all sides cook evenly. (You can make over a camp fire as well, you would just use a skillet, aluminum foil, or whatever cooking item you have handy.) When they are crisp, dry, and starting to brown, they are ready.

     

  6. Remove from oven and serve.

     

Try not to burn your fingers, but these are amazing warm out of the oven. Any flavor will do, so experiment and find your signature way to make these. Betty from Betty’s Kitchen has a video on how to make sweet pumpkin seeds that sound delicious.

 

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin soup garnished with seeds
You will need:

  • One pumpkin
  • Water
  • Dried onion
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Garlic blend (from a tube)
  • Olive Oil
  • Vegetable Broth
  • Salt
  1. Remove the seeds and membrane from the pumpkin and either discard or use to roast pumpkin seeds.

     

  2. Steam the pumpkin to remove the skin. While you can do this by cutting your pumpkin in half and placing face down, you might not have a large enough steaming bowl. If this is the case, go ahead and cut your pumpkin into manageable chunks and place them into a microwave safe bowl with a lid, or a microwave steamer.

     

  3. Remove the pumpkin skin with a spoonSteam in the microwave for about 30 minutes, checking at 15 a 25 minutes. If the meat is soft and the skin pulls away easily, the pumpkin is ready.

     

  4. Remove the skin with a spoon and discard.

     

  5. Puree pumpkin in food processorPurée the pumpkin meat in a food processor or blender and set aside.

     

     

     

  6. In a soup pot, rehydrate the onion in vegetable broth over medium heat. Amounts will determine on the amount of soup you are making, but we find that adding a couple of extra shakes of onion to whatever we think we need turns out best.

     

  7. Add a turn of olive oil and let that warm for a minute or two.

     

  8. Sauteed seasoning for pumpkin soupAdd parsley, thyme and garlic to the onion and mix and saute until it makes a thin paste.

     

     

     

  9. Add the pureed pumpkin and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until all is well incorporated.

     

  10. Pumpkin SoupAdd vegetable broth one cup at a time to achieve desired thickness. Stir in each cup until well blended before adding the next. The final amount of broth will depend on the size of the pumpkin you cut. The thinner you want your soup, the more broth you will use.

     

  11. Add salt to taste.

     

  12. Ladle into bowls, top with roasted pumpkin seeds and serve.

As most pumpkin soups require half and half, cream, butter or milk, we experimented with this vegan version. We were happy with the result and look forward to hearing what you think.

As with any fruit or vegetable, make sure to use a fresh, ripe pumpkin for cooking. Any pumpkin variety will work, even those knotty, funky ones, so you can rotate them out to keep your decorations changing and have pumpkin dishes all season long.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

Halloween is a funny holiday for vegetarians and vegans. Tons of processed candies contain animal products, so we get to decide whether to be the house with the “good” candy, or to stick to our principles when it comes to animal products. Since vegan treats are wandering more into the mainstream, you can have the best of both worlds this year. While vegan candy may take a little more ingredient searching to find in a standard supermarket, you don’t have to hand out honey-sweetened or gelatin-filled snacks when kids come to the door.

It seems there are a ton of lists for vegan approved items, so instead of putting together yet another one, we’ve gathered five of those we found interesting this year.

PetaKids has a list of mass produced vegan candies, many of which are available individually wrapped. We were happily surprised to find Fireballs about halfway down. After the snacks, this page defines some common ingredients. While we knew about gelatin, honey and rennet, we were a little surprised to see that stearic acid can come from just about anything with four legs and a stomach.

VegNews also put together a list of vegan-safe candy. We’re huge fans of Airheads, so again, happy to see a favorite on it.

Your Vegan Girlfriend compiled some wonderful vegan recipes in 2011 and we love good recipes. For anyone having or attending a costume party, it will be difficult to resist a plate of cookie eyeballs and witches fingers.

Pledge Vegan put out a wonderful selection of raw vegan treat ideas. If you don’t know your neighbors well enough to give their kids goodies from your kitchen, individual servings of apple sauce and individually wrapped dried fruit are pretty good ideas.

And no collection of vegan lists would be complete without a looking at Healthy Bitch Daily for a fun take on the treats. The Vegan Halloween Candy post includes a wonderful collection to hand out with a no-nonsense reminder that just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

Whatever you do this Wednesday, enjoy your time with friends and family.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

It’s been a busy week around Dallas. The Texas State Fair is winding down, we lost Big Tex to a fire, and local vegetarians and vegans are ramping up for the Texas State Veggie Fair. Our plan was to hit the standard fair, then head to the veggie fair, but with Big Tex burning down, we’re not sure we’ll make it to the standard one.

We’ll miss Big Tex, and people who aren’t from here definitely don’t understand why. Honestly, it’s a 60-year-old giant Santa Claus skeleton turned cowboy, so why should we care? But we do. Those of us who grew up meeting at his giant boots every year, who were welcomed by his giant “Howdy, Folks,” and who had our first stolen kisses in his shadow, will miss him terribly. There is talk of rebuilding, but when you make it bigger or better, it reminds us all of what we’ve lost.

But the fair, it’s meant to roll with the times, and that’s what it’s doing. Good Karma Kitchen brought the vegan option to the masses this year. Vegans and vegetarians were able to skip the fried (insert random near-food here)s in favor of something a bit more healthful. Maybe this will be a trend and other vegan and vegetarian food vendors will start popping up next year. We’ll have to see.

The biggest excitement for us this week is definitely the veggie fair. From what we’ve seen so far, this is a great place to go and just be ourselves. A place where we can partake of the food without asking what’s in the fryer, and where nobody will look at us strange for skipping the barbecue. Since the veggie fair is Sunday (today), we’ll fill you in later with our impressions and takeaways.

For now, though, enjoy a beautiful recipe submitted to us by Melinda Stone of Denton. We’re calling it Portobello Bliss.

Portabello, pepper, onion and squash

One portobello mushroom top
One red pepper
One summer squash
Half an onion
Near east pine couscous
Handful of toasted pine nuts
Spoon full of minced garlic
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes

Slice veggies into thick chunks, spread on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on garlic, red pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Bake in 425 degree oven for 20 minutes or until soft. Prepare couscous as box instructs. Top couscous with veggies and pine nuts and enjoy.

Portobello, peppers, onions, and veggies over couscous

Thanks Ms. Stone for the amazing recipe. Pine nuts and garlic are a pair made in Heaven by anybody’s standards. Great job.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

Update:

The 2012 Texas State Veggie Fair was wonderful. We were definitely at home there with so many vegan and vegetarian options. Mercy for Animals handed out recipes (with industry pictures, of coures), the Vegan Black Metal Chef gave a cooking demo, and we finally caught up with Good Karma Kitchen.

The food smelled wonderful as we wandered through rows of vendor tents taking it all in. Food trucks lined a street near a stage where live bands played throughout the day, kids bounced in a bounce house, and a few brave souls took to a bungie swing. Overall, this was a modern lifestyle version of a small town or county fair from an idyllic time; quiet and calm, people talking to friends and strangers alike, kids dancing around, and nobody worrying about much of anything. If we could pick a favorite way to spend an afternoon, this would be it.

We’ve been trying to get to Good Karma Kitchen for months, but every time we are in Fort Worth, they are in Dallas, or the other way around. We finally crossed paths at the Veggie Fair and are glad we did. This food truck is completely vegan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a bit of down home Texas cuisine. With Barbecue Tacos and Frito Pie on the menu, we knew we were in for a treat. After asking which was better, we went with the pie. A mountain of chips covered some of the thickest chili we’ve had in a while. Yes, it’s vegan, but the texture is beautiful. Chunks of fresh tomatoes and green peppers, black beans, and what we guessed was TVP or another veggie meat gave this a depth we didn’t expect to find on a truck. It may look like a little cup of chili, but that is one of the most filling meals we’ve had in a long time. If you ever see this bright yellow truck, no matter the time of day, it’s lunch time. Trust us.

Capital City Bakery offered a selection of vegan treats, so we naturally went there next. An oatmeal cream pie with vanilla cream (vegan, of course) frosting proved to be more than we could handle in one sitting. That sucker was HUGE! But it came wrapped, so we carried it around and nibbled throughout the day until it was gone. Pumpkin cupcakes were amazing as well. The ability to make things like this that taste so good, so much better than what we remember from our childhoods, is what brings people to realize that being vegan doesn’t mean have to resign yourself to accept that you will lack anything in your food life. Again, if you ever see this truck, make sure to stop and visit.

Inside the rec center, we attended a couple of cooking demos. A vegan bartender removed any and all animal products from some delicious beverages, some of which we didn’t even know weren’t vegan. She offered tips for some popular items. Jello shots, for instance, are obviously not vegan. But you if you use Agar Agar (available at any Asian market) instead, you are in business.

We were surprised to see that her entire audience left and the Vegan Black Metal Chef’s following came in. We figured there would be some crossover, but we may have been the only ones to see both demos. (We are the lucky ones.) He made Aloo Palak and Buffalo Seitan Bites in his demo with nothing precooked accept the boiled potatoes. The spices from the seitan filled the packed room, so definitely use the stove fan if you make this. Watching him make two vegan dishes from scratch in under an hour made us think we might actually have time to cook dinner, even on the busy days. Shocking videos aside, this guys is quite funny in person. Oh, and all the armor he wears in his videos is made of rubber, not leather.

If you get the chance to go to the veggie fair next year, do it. You don’t have to be vegan or even vegetarian to attend, so bring your friends. This is an eclectic group of people with one thing in common: we accept each other’s choices not to eat meat. Enjoy the adventure!

With lines in the menu stating they will compromise their sauces to accommodate a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, it’s no wonder Thai Soon displays “Best Vegetarian Restaurant” awards along the walls. While this restaurant does serve meat dishes, everything on the menu can be made vegetarian. Everything. This is perhaps the first place we’ve wandered into without knowing much about the menu ahead of time and experienced option overload. No limitations on what we can eat? Vegetarian soups? Really? We were just about to panic, then we remembered that most people have an entire menu from which to choose. How nice it is to feel “normal” for a change.

Thai Soon's Vegetarian Fried Rice with TofuA dedicated lunch menu keeps things rather simple with a list of specials for $6.95 or passion lunch specials for $7.95. All options come with soup or salad and a vegetarian egg roll. We tried the Vegetarian Fried Rice with tofu and Rad Na with tofu, both on the standard lunch menu. Crispy vegetables in the fried rice are fresh and flavorful. The rice is sticky enough to (mostly) stay on the fork and out of the lap on its way from this mountain of goodness to your mouth. When we ordered, our waitress asked if eggs were OK, so they can make this vegan, too, if that’s more to your liking.

Thai Soon's Rad Na with TofuWhile we liked the fried rice, we loved the Rad Na. We’re suckers for flat noodles around here, so that’s part of our preference, but this would have been good with any starch base. Loaded with crisp vegetables, tofu, and a brilliant sweet, dark sauce, this is a wonderful dish for lunch or dinner. And for such a generous portion, the lunch price is quite a deal. Definitely an instant favorite.

Thai Soon's Salad with Peanut SauceOn our lunch visits, we went with salads, which were simple and topped with a super thick and creamy peanut sauce that made them rather addictive.

Thai Soon's Royal Curry

From the dinner menu, we ejnoyed the Royal Curry (8.95), which is a spicy yellow curry. Perhaps because we asked for a vegetarian version, this was more of a green color. But the sweet coconut comes through well and the spice builds as you eat your way through the dish. Even when the heat caused a runny nose (come on, we can’t be the only wimps around), this was so good we couldn’t stop eating. Soft grilled tofu against fresh, firm mushrooms and a collection of white vegetables, carrots and red bell peppers comes together for a sweet and spicy delight.

Thai Soon's Vegetarian Egg RollsPossibly the nicest surprise, the Vegetarian Egg Rolls (4.95) are simple and good. Without too many competing flavors, these are perfectly crispy and well complimented by the sauce, atop which crushed peanuts and cucumber bits float. With crushed red pepper throughout, this is a flavorful, sweet and barely hot sauce we have since learned to crave.

After several visits, we understand why so many publications chose Thai Soon as their favorite vegetarian restaurant. We have added it to our must frequent list and hope anyone near the Richardson area has the chance to stop in and try it.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

We tried D’Vegan on a recommendation from staff members at Spiral Diner. Happy to see people show they care about the community, we immediately headed over to this vegan, Vietnamese restaurant, nestled inside the food court of Hong Kong Market Place on Walnut Street.

D'Vegan #4 with crispy egg rollBefore we entered, we noticed a neighboring restaurant’s whole roasted ducks for sale. We’ve said before that we don’t judge lifestyle choices, but on future visits, we’ll probably try to look at the salon to the left, instead. We made it inside and asked if the restaurant was known for anything particular. The waiter/cashier/all-around-useful-guy asked us if we like noodles with soup or without, and recommended the #4 – Crispy Rolls Noodle (6.95) as the no soup option. Why this one? “This is more Vietnamese style” and he wanted us to experience it. We’ve had vermicelli dishes before, but never a group to turn down a recommended experience, we went for it. Twp crispy egg rolls cut into pieces atop vermicelli noodles with carrots, basil, and tofu. Our waiter said he has great egg rolls, and he was right. Crispy with tons of tofu inside, these are among the best egg rolls we’ve had, vegetarian or otherwise. Super crispy outside and not greasy at all, we’ll probably crave these from now on. Mixing the noodles and veggies together gives a fresh taste to each bite. Pour all the sauce on and mix it up for the best flavor.

D'Vegan #5, spicyA similar but more spicy dish, the #5 – Lemon Grass Noodle (6.95) comes with a spicy “not-meat” over vermicelli with small mushrooms, sprouts, carrots, peanuts, and mint. The spicy protein mixes well with the sweet side sauce. This is very good overall, but the spice builds up. Mixing the sauce helps keep the heat at a reasonable level. If that doesn’t work, there’s always the hoisin sauce option.

D'Vegan Number 8But we couldn’t ignore the soup. We had to try the #8 – D’Vegan Noodle Soup (7.25). It carry’s the restaurant’s name, after all. Chewy veggie pastes, vermicelli noodles and mushrooms provide texture in a mild broth. Fresh shredded vegetables on the side give crispness, but the tomato chunks in the soup taste like canned stewed tomatoes. The overall flavor doesn’t jump out, but some of the ingredients might. A pepper here, a pineapple there – your taste buds won’t know where to look next. This is definitely a nice lunch on a cold day.

Apparently it is common for diners to come in and look up ingredients for Pho, thinking there might be some meat stock in the soups, but this is a completely vegan restaurant. All the stocks are vegetable based, so don’t worry about the broth. Indulge and enjoy.

D'Vegan Number 12AAll this attention to soup and vermicelli noodles might give the impression that’s all D’Vegan has to offer, but that would be wrong. An entire menu column dedicated to flat noodles says otherwise. #12A – Deluxe Flat Noodles (8.95) comes with the same beef-like protein that the #5 sports, but this version tastes very much like peppered beef with brown sauce, noodles and fresh vegetables. This has so much pepper that the pepper smell overpowered everything else when it came to the table. And the top layer is crunchy with black pepper. Red peppers hide inside and the spice builds, so be warned. A good dish, if you like pepper, this is a large enough portion to share.

D'Vegan Number 16Another recommendation that is large enough to share is the #16 – Shredded Tofu Broken Rice (6.95) We asked which is better, #16 or the #6 – Rice Porridge (6.95), and while our waiter said they are both good, the #16 is “more Vietnamese style” and he wanted us to try it. Extra points for ensuring we remain open to new experiences. In addition to the shredded tofu, this has strips of a protein thing similar to fake chicken. Those strips are really good and if we didn’t like each other so much we might have fought over them. The shredded tofu has a gritty texture, but it’s interesting against the rice. Putting a little sauce on top and eating a bite with a bit of fresh cucumber or tomato changes the flavor completely. On top, we love the shredded ginger and carrots.

As mentioned earlier, there are other food vendors and a hair salon just outside the restaurant. Between the mixed food smells and beauty fumes, there is a bit of a petting zoo odor here. But the food is good and the people are truly kind, so don’t let that one little thing keep you away. And don’t wait for a check to come to the table. When you are finished, just walk up to the counter and a member of the staff will ring you up.

Overall, we like this place and plan to return. The people are nice, and the food is great. On top of that, this is 100% vegan. What more can we ask of a restaurant? Definitely head over and check it out.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

When we walked inside Spiral Diner, we noticed a brightness and cheerful decorative style. A clock painted directly on the wall, paper lanterns hanging from a silver ceiling – this is a great place just to be. Guests read from books provided by the restaurant and get their own drinks from the Oogave soda fountain. Sweetened with agave nectar, these sodas are extra fizzy and come in a variety of interesting favors. Root beer tastes exactly like any mass-marketed brand and grapefruit soda was an unexpected treat, but watermelon cream soda is truly amazing. And it’s for sale by the four pack over in the Spiral Market.

The food gives those super sodas a run for their money, too. A full menu with one catch – it’s totally vegan. That’s right. All of it. (Can you hear the church choir, or is that just us?) Order anything you want without worry. And in our experience, anything you order will be good.

Spiral Diner - Ramsey's Perfect Protein PlatterRamsey’s Perfect Protein Platter (7.95) made us look again when it hit the table. A plate of mush is what entered our minds on first site, but that plate soon emptied. Black beans and quinoa mixed with salsa make an extremely filling and flavorful dish. We added broccoli (only a buck extra), but could have easily gone with field greens (also a dollar) instead. This almost tastes like the inside of a bean burrito, only better. The salsa adds a tang, but the tahini dressing brings a flare and changes the flavor. This is very good, but we felt like we needed something with it – bread or naan, tortillas, chips, anything, really. That is more likely attributed to our own eating habits than to any sort of lacking in the meal, which is so filling as it comes that we recommend wearing an elastic waistband if you order it. Really, it’s so good you can’t stop eating, but filling enough you probably should.

When we asked the waiter what the restaurant is known for, other than being vegan, he said Nachos Supremo (9.50) is the most popular dish, and for a reason. “It’s good for you, but it doesn’t taste like it’s good for you.”

Spiral Diner - Nachos SupremoHe was correct. These nachos taste like nachos. Not like vegan nachos, not like nearly nachos; they taste like honest to goodness, lick the dripping cheese off your fingers and scrape it off your shirt, gooey, yummy nachos. No kidding! With quinoa, textured vegetable protein and black beans, there is no shortage of protein here. And given these are vegan, there is no guilt here, either. The “cheese” looks like mustard but tastes like cheese. It might be a little sweeter than traditional nacho cheese, but not much. And the “sour cream” takes the heat out of jalapeños just like the milk-based stuff does. Corn is a nice addition to standard nacho toppings like black olives and guacamole. Big enough to share, this pile of flavor is messy and crunchy with bottom chips getting soggy enough to make us use forks. A wonderful first experience with Spiral Diner, the nachos alone are reason enough to come back.

Spiral Diner - Sketti & MeatballsSketti & Meatballs (and pesto and pine nuts) with toast (8.95) is a plate of happiness. To quote Rachael Ray: “Yum-o.” A dark green thread of pesto drizzled over the red and orange mix of noodles and sauce. Pine nuts generously sprinkled over the top. Tangy tomato sauce. This is a good meal. The meatballs hold together like they are made of actual meat, but don’t worry, they are mushroom based. And oh so good! Again, be ready for an environmentally friendly box because plenty comes on the plate.

Spiral Diner - Chipotle QuesadillasA perfect appetizer or lunch option, the Chipotle Quesadilla w/ grilled tofu (9.50) are very messy, but taste great. Full of a mild flavor that’s almost like cream cheese, but of course it can’t be, the mushy texture with firm tofu makes for an interesting combo. A whole-wheat tortilla comes standard, but a corn tortilla is available for those living gluten free. This comes complete with guacamole, sour cream and jalapeños.

And finally, thanks to Restaurant Deals (@DealforkFW on Twitter) for recommending The “Ate” Layer Burrito (8.50). Again, large enough to share, this bursts with flavor. Corn, olives, quinoa and a perfect combination of other goodies had us looking at the burrito after every bite. The ingredients here resemble those in the Nachos Supremo, which makes sense and explains our instant love of this item.

While half the burrito was plenty to satiate a growling stomach, Spiral Diner offers sides. Out of curiosity, we went with the potato salad and this was the absolute best decision we’ve made since falling in love with this restaurant. There is enough dill in here to make it taste like a potato and a pickle had a head on collision in the condiment aisle; and boy is that good.

When we were at the cash register on one of our trips, our waiter recommended we also try D’Vegan, a vegan Vietnamese restaurant. This is an unaffiliated, potentially competitive restaurant, but instead of thinking about the dollars we could spend elsewhere, the staff members at Spiral Diner actually care that their costumers enjoy good, vegan food. We have to respect any place that employs caring people and recommends other businesses within the vegan community. Add to that the incredible food and fun atmosphere and Spiral Diner is a must-frequent favorite. And let’s not forget – Sunday is all-you-can-eat-pancake day! We will definitely be back.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

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