Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pizza Break

I am not posting so much these days, sorry! The last couple of weeks have been super busy, and the next couple will be super busy as well. Thus, my posts will continue to be a little more sparse than every other day. Or at least shorter - like this one!

The above picture is of a vegan pizza slice from The Parlour on 43rd and Guadalupe. Back in the day a friend and I had a mutual guilty pleasure of pineapple and pepperoni pizza from Papa Murphy's, and turns out the vegan version is as delicious. This here has vegan pepperoni, pineapple and vegan cheese. It still makes my tummy hurt, but, man, it seems worth it at the time. With beer, this really hits the spot after a long day. The location itself is pretty rad, too. Currently they are displaying the art from a recent pizza box art competition they had. Some neat and impressive stuff is up (like a sculptured robot!), so you should check it out if you can.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

There's at least corn and mashed potatoes...

Every now and then (and this happens more often these days now that I am living near family), I am in a situation where I am hungry and in a restaurant where there is either nothing appetizing or remotely healthy that I would care to eat. What do I do? In Texas at least, I can always count on corn and mashed potatoes. Not necessarily vegetarian, but edible. It's hard to mess up corn and mashed potatoes, and I quite enjoy the taste (especially the texture) when mixed up.

I don't know why, but my family loves Furr's and Luby's. I know of no difference between the two, but I guess some do. They are both cafeteria style restaurants, with your general, run of the mill, "family dining" fare - comfort food and lots of meat that's all probably been sitting out for a little while. I used to eat at these places with no problem, but since I left Texas for college about 7 years ago, I have been incredibly averse to everything I've had there (except the corn and mashed potatoes). I don't know what happened; I suppose I could have snobbed up to it, having exposed my taste buds to tasty northwest cuisine. Regardless, I kind of cringe a little when I hear my mom say we're meeting relatives at Furr's. This last time I was there was pretty interesting. There weren't a lot of people there, but there was a lone clown at the front making balloon animals...but for whom?

I was happy to have my standby of corn and mashed potatoes at least. In fact, I found myself eating a lot of corn and mashed potatoes during my family lunches/dinners for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Do you have any standbys at awkward dinners or strange restaurants? The garden salad? Soup? Do you find an appetizer? Chips and salsa perhaps? That is one nice thing about most restaurants in Texas. You can count on there being either corn and mashed potatoes or chips and salsa. One or the other is almost guaranteed to be on the menu.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two Meals Out

While my parents were in town for Thanksgiving weekend, they took Nathan and me out for lunch. Unfortunately, our first choice of restaurant was closed (I’ve been wanting to try Foodheads for awhile now. It beckons me.), so we went to another place I’d been curious about, New World Deli. The spelling of the name at their location is NeWorlDeli, which I hate, but I’d heard that they had decent sandwiches. And at this point I hadn’t had bread in so long, I was craving a sammich.

My dad was very happy with his meal. I believe he had a tuna sandwich. Oh, no, it was a curried chicken salad sandwich. I didn’t try it, but he looked pretty content with it. Nathan had a Reuben, my mom had a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich, and I had a turkey and havarti sandwich. I went all out, what can I say. I think Nathan’s Reuben was the star of the lunch, if not also the greasiest. My mom’s sandwich was pretty good, too. I wanted to get that one myself, but couldn’t get over the fact that I could make something like that at home pretty easily. Same thing with my sandwich, though. It was just okay. I should have gotten it toasted. All in all, New World Deli was pretty good. Next time I will have a better idea of what to get (and to get it toasted!), though I don’t see myself coming here often. Price-wise, it wasn’t too expensive, but not so cheap.

The other meal I had out was later that day, for dinner! Woo! Nathan and I went to Amaya’s, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants here, but also so, so bad for me. They have some knock-your-socks-off tacos, though. Their tortillas are home-made and fried up for their special crispy, “Village Tacos”. Yum, and way better than your run of the mill corn tortillas. Plus, the tacos are stuffed with super tender chicken, crunchy iceberg lettuce and a TON of jack and American cheese. It’s so bad, and so, so yum. Their beans and rice are also pretty tasty, their chips are fresh, salsa good, and the service is spot-on. Tummy-ache is inevitable, though, so I don’t think I’ll be going to this place much at all, but I will tell everyone I know with a tougher tum all about it. AMAYA’S TACOS ARE DELICIOUSLY BAD FOR YOU.

Currently I've been super into breakfast tacos, eating way too many eggs. My mom went to Juan in a Million the other day, a place I've been meaning to try for awhile now, and she loved it. So many places to try...mmm. There really are a TON of taco stands and restaurants in town. Not a lot of veggie options, but more than you'd think for a Texas town.

You can find Amaya’s at Village Capital Plaza 5405 N. IH-35. Austin, TX 78723.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thanksgiving Post (Finally)

I’ve been trying to catch up on these pictures I have back-logged, so I’m just now getting to my Thanksgiving dinner, which was incredibly traditional. This was my first Thanksgiving spent with family in 7 years! And, boy, dinners with family are pretty different from those with friends. Especially if that family is a traditional Mexican-American family in central Texas, and the friends a misfit and lovable bunch of ex-hippies, ex-goths, and ex-ravers in Portland, Oregon. I love them both, but it’s really like night and day, these Thanksgiving suppers. For example, both holiday settings have good food and end with a full tummy, though I end up painfully (and happily) stuffed when celebrating with friends. Eating with the fam, I was restrained and sober, which translates here to very much not stuffed. Here's an incredibly unattractive picture of my plate:

I really just couldn’t eat so much with my family because so much of the food had a meat or dairy substance. I did indulge and have some mashed potatoes and turkey. Other than that I had a bit of my mediocre vegan contribution of lasagna. More people ate it than I thought, and I got some compliments, but I was not impressed. I’ve made it a couple of times and this dish was not nearly as nice as others before. I tried to make it gluten-free and messed up the noodles.

I know what I could have done differently, so I’m going to try this recipe again sometime when I have money to burn on good ingredients. I guess I didn’t soak the noodles enough. It’s lame, because I remember when I was cooking all of the various parts of the lasagna filling I was super excited because each individual element was so freaking delicious. I made an AMAZING stir-fry with Gimmee Lean sausage (NOT gluten-free at all, heh) and hella spices and veggies. That alone would have been a hit. Also, I made, for the first time without any help from the recipe creator, my own vegan ricotta, which was also AMAZING. I was dipping my finger in there for an awful lot of tastes, it was so good. I had a good store-bought sauce, a decent vegan cheese topping, everything seemed in control. But the effin’ noodles. I popped (heh, accidently typed “poop” at first there) the lasagna into the oven an hour or so before we had to head out and up to the last minute the noodles still didn’t look done. Yeah, not soaked enough. Oh well, a lot of people actually complimented me on the dish, because I guess the lasagna was pretty decent if you had managed to avoid the way too al dente top layer. Uck.

My big success was the pie. Seriously, I have been making this pie nonstop since Thanksgiving, still. In fact I’m making it AGAIN tonight. It’s so ridiculously easy, and maybe the best pumpkin pie I have had. You’ll find the recipe here, at Karina's Kitchen, an awesome gluten-free blog, and let me tell you, this recipe does not play. And if you add even more spices than the recipe calls for, it would officially fail P.E., because this pie DOES NOT PLAY. MMMM!

I have had food on the brain so much these days. Maybe it’s starting the blog…maybe it’s just getting hired (finally! I am employed!) in a natural food store…maybe it’s talking food with buds. Either way, it’s pretty neat.

I’m obnoxiously happy these days.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Have You Had Migas Yet? Really?

Texture means a lot to me in a meal. I’m always a fan of a successful combination of chewy and crunch. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of biting into a taco or sandwich or cookie or whatever when it manages to successfully combine the two qualities. Maybe it’s the Libra in me, but, dammit, the balance is divine.

In elementary school (and many times after), I used to squish chips into my sandwiches. When Taco Bell came out with their Double Decker, a hard taco INSIDE a soft taco, it was a glorious day for my stoner high school days. Sober, turned out that taco was effin’ disgusting, as the hard taco would get all soft and gooey from the crappy refried beans smashed around the taco shell, but since then I’ve moved on to much better things (Thankfully, NOT this.). Things like: Soft cookies with crunchy pecans inside! Carrots dipped in hummus! Eggs scrambled with crunchy corn tortillas! Woot!

As soon as we got to Texas, I introduced Nathan to migas – a concoction, essentially, of eggs and (usually) tortilla chips, scrambled (usually) with onions, bell peppers, salsa, whatever. I’d never had migas in a restaurant actually until I was living in Portland, Oregon. A restaurant near my house at the time had it on the menu, as chilaquiles, and I was hit with nostalgia and so much salivation. The description was just what I remembered migas to be – corn chips scrambled with eggs and other stuff. Growing up, my mom would make me migas on special days, and basically whenever I wanted, because she’s awesome. Her way was with fresh corn tortillas, torn into little pieces, sautéed with oil on the stovetop until they were crunchy, and then scrambled with eggs. At the time I hated onions AND tomatoes (I know, crazy), so my migas were pretty plain, but I loved LOVED them. Turns out chilaquiles are not quite the same thing. From wikipedia:

Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of fried or dried tortilla chips, bathed in green or red salsa or mole, and broiled or grilled with a cheese topping. Sometimes chicken strips are mixed into the sauce, or the dish can be served with a fried egg on top or a strip of meat alongside.

They are most commonly eaten at breakfast time, served alongside with fried or scrambled eggs or a Mexican style grilled beef. Moreover, chilaquiles are often lauded as a cure for la cruda--the common hangover.

Unlike nachos, which are served as a crispy snack, chilaquiles are a main dish and are not served until the tortilla chips are thoroughly soaked and softened by the salsa. This makes them a popular recipe for stale chips, or those with a bad taste, as the other flavors mask that of the chips'.

In Texas, migas (also known as migajas) is a traditional breakfast dish in Tex-Mex cuisine. Originally eaten during Lent, this meatless dish consists of egg scrambled and sauteed together in butter or oil with torn strips of corn tortillas, diced onions, sliced chile peppers, diced fresh tomatoes, and cheese, plus various spices and condiments (e.g. salsa, pico de gallo). Migas are typically served with refried beans, and corn or flour tortillas are used to enfold all of the ingredients into delicious migas tacos. The traditional Mexican main-course dish chilaquiles is similar to migas in some respects.
I am biased towards Migas, I have to say. And I have yet to find a migas dish in a restaurant that even comes close to the migas I can throw together myself. Nathan liked the dish a lot at the restaurants we went to when we first got to Texas. Since I’ve made it for him at the house, he halfway demands it on some mornings. This stuff is so easy though, it’s nice for a lazy evening when you don’t feel like a full-blown supper and all you have in the refrigerator is a dozen eggs and that 100-count bag of corn tortillas you’ve barely put a dent in. Plus, this dish is so freaking delicious. It is a match of chewy and crunchy made in heaven. (Drool….)

Now this is definitely not the healthiest thing ever, and it’s obviously not vegan. But it is cheap and yummy, and, for me, that’s okay sometimes.
Poor Man’s Migas

Serves two hungry people

6 corn tortillas, torn into bite-sized pieces, about 1 inch x 1 inch or smaller
1 small onion, chopped
1 (maybe 2?) tablespoon canola oil
6 eggs
Salt, to taste
Salsa, or just a tasty hot sauce
I had some feta and cilantro laying around, they go nicely with this

Heat the oil on a large sauté pan with medium-high heat. When oil is hot, but not smoky, add the tortillas, stirring to coat in oil. Try to use all of the surface area of the pan, and stir every now and then to alternate sides of the tortilla pieces. If they are burning and/or look pretty dry still, either add more oil or turn down the heat. You want them to get crunchy, not blackened. It’s not a big deal though, it’ll be delicious either way. This takes about 5-6 minutes. When nice and crunchy, put aside on paper towel to soak up any extra oil if you got oil-happy.

In same pan, now that the tortilla pieces have been placed aside, reheat pan and (making sure there is enough oil still on the pan), sauté the onions until translucent. Lower the heat to medium and n a small bowl, break eggs and stir, adding salt, and spices if you are feeling fancy. Once that’s all mixed together, pour into pan with onions and stir. Once eggs start to cook a bit, about halfway, add crunchy tortilla pieces. If you add them too soon they will get soggy and you will have failed! (Just kidding, it will still be good.) At this point if you have feta, I highly recommend crumbling some of that into the scramble. Once the eggs are cooked, turn off heat and serve asap. Garnish with cilantro and you can either scramble in the salsa or put it on the table for others to add at their leisure.

Hope that makes sense. I’m not so seasoned (no pun intended) with writing recipes. And this was a super basic one. It’s super open and you can add all sorts of things to it, depending on what you have around the kitchen, like chopped tomatoes, cumin, paprika, coriander, avocado, peppers, or heat up some flour tortillas and make migas tacos! WHOA.

Again, it’s not the healthiest meal, so you don’t want to make this all the time, every day. But it’s a nice treat and impresses visiting friends and lovers. And, for me, it’s nostalgic yumminess that takes me back to those wonderful days when mom could make everything better and I was blissfully ignorant of my own egotism. Awww. Actually, those things may still be the case.

Wow, I wrote a lot.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sweet Tooth

I have been with a bit of a sweet tooth lately. After the detox, it came with a vengeance once I started eating sweeter things again. I have been treating myself a lot lately, and I think it has to do with my unemployment more than anything. Settling back into the states has been a lot harder than I had anticipated. When I left, I left a good paying job (that I was not at all personally invested in), amazing friends, a healthy social life, and a dream house with dream housemates. I left and traveled around the states and then moved to Argentina for nine months. It was an amazing experience, and I don’t regret any of it, but, man, being in a new town without any job prospects and only a handful of friends, there are definitely times when I pine for familiarity. Eesh, I need a cookie. Having your own troubles in our crappy economy? Maybe you need a cookie, too.

I currently have some very special cookies in my pantry. When in Argentina one of my favorite mid-day mate snacks were these Frutigran cookies. Really, my interest began with just spotting the package in a store one day and LOVING the name. It’s crazy adorable, especially with the Argentine accent. Once I finally got a package, though, I was hooked. They have a super satisfying crunch and are not too sweet at all. It’s kind of funny actually, I guess I proselytized the deliciousness of these cookies so much to friends that people I knew in Argentina now associate their memories of me with these cookies. Twice so far I have been the recipient of packages of Frutigran from friends who have either come back to the states and towed some over with me in mind, or sent packages along with another to hand over to me. I have no shame in this. In fact, I’m down to one package left, and if anyone out there happens to be in Argentina or anywhere that has access to Frutigran, pass ‘em along! Too many of these does make my tum hurt, but two or three with some almond milk or tea is blissful.

This package of cookies Nathan and I did NOT eat all in one night, and I was very proud of us, because they are good. This was my find in Wheatsville Co-op when I was looking for a gluten-free cookie (thanks to Wheatsville's neon-green "gluten-free" labels). They turned out to be very high in the yum-factor. Soft and chewy, with a satisfying texture. You can definitely taste the almonds. I highly recommend these cookies, but watch out. They are small enough to eat quite a few and by the time you know it – a full and aching tummy.

I haven't been eating so many cookies these days and I take that as a good thing. Plus, I only have one more Frutigran pack!

Now to take a nap!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Convenience Food Guilty Pleasures

What else are we going to have as our dinner default than tacos? We’re in Austin – the taco mecca. Plus, we got a 100-count package of corn tortillas from Fiesta the other day and we have some taco-making to do. I will find other things to do with the tortillas, no doubt, depending on how inspired I feel. I’m thinking it would be nice to make my own tortilla chips one of these days.

These tacos had pretty much the basics – Morningstar Crumbles, avocados, tomatoes, cilantro and Valentina sauce. We were out of onions unfortunately, but they were delicious regardless. It’s hard to stray from something so consistently good. Still, I think I’m going to make my own taco filling next time. The meat crumbles are nice (and Nathan is addicted to them), but expensive. Plus it’s weird that the only place I can find them is at Target. Why? Oh, I guess I haven’t looked at Central Market, but they are probably more expensive there! Still, I don’t like buying food at Target. It doesn’t feel right, if that makes any sense.

BUT, speaking of Target, for about a week Nathan and I have been going through these Simply Limeades like they was water (very aware of my grammar discrepancies, thankyouverymuch). Seriously. And we can’t find them any cheaper than in Target. So there you go. We actually have gone on two trips to Target where we only purchased Morningstar Crumbles and Limeade. Thankfully, the Limeade phase has passed, but I make no promises once I have more spending money. Times are too tough for Limeade and Morningstar sprees. Next time I will not only make my own tortilla chips, but I WILL make my own vegan taco filling! Poverty is inspiring the DIY'er in my lazy cooking. Yay. I'm going to go learn a new origami fold now and think about decorating the apartment!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mind in the Gutter

Nathan was kind enough to cook dinner this night. I do love how he puts in the effort to make his dishes presentable, but I was a bit hesitant to post this one up, mostly because my mind is in the gutter 24/7 and I can't get away from how vaginal his presentation came out. Heehee. Now I will talk about the food.

Suffice to say, it was delicious. We've been really into red quinoa ever since we tried it in this, so we decided to make a salad with it. We decided, but Nathan ended up doing all of the work. I don't even remember all of the goodies that were in this dish (other than what you see in the pic), but mixed all together we had an incredibly scrumptious and healthy meal, if also vaginal. *Giggle*

For dessert, Nathan shined again. He's got a lot of delicious tricks up his sleeves, and tonight he brought out a family favorite - Baked Apples!! Again, I'm not sure what all he put in the apple, but I know that he cored it up and stuffed it with cinnamon, cloves and other yummy spices.

All in all a very comforting meal, especially since it was not made by me.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Grocery Store Finds

I got this Nasi Goreng (Oriental Fried Rice anyone?) package randomly from Fiesta the other day. The ingredients didn't look too scary, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Plus, it was like 80 cents and I was already on a grocery store high. This was my first time going to the 24 hour Fiesta Mart near I-35. It was a religious experience. I went alone, which was perfect because I could peruse the aisles one section at a time. Their produce section is inspiring - not a lot of organic stuff, but a HUGE array of vegetables and fruit, a lot of which I'd never heard of, and won't even try to remember. The most exciting area of the store (though the section for work pants, cowboy hats and belts is pretty awesome) is the International section. There's an aisle for Indian, Thai, Chinese, but also Caribbean, Columbian, Russian, and more! They even had a tiny Argentine section I was happy to find, with cheap mate and all. This place is amazing. So by the time I got to the last aisle of the International section, I wanted to try something, and I wanted it to be cheap, so I spontaneously picked this up. We had some leftover brown rice at the house anyways.

The packet is harmless enough, but it looks kind of gross before you mix it in:

I threw in some chopped carrots, peas, some cayenne and a little bit of light sesame oil, what I fried the rice in before adding the Nasi Goreng package. Once mixed in, it looked much, much better and tasted quite nice. I added some avocado.

It's hard to mess up fried rice, though I accomplished just that plenty of time in my early cooking days (less than two years ago I was just beginning to cook for myself for realz). This package, for anyone who can find it or has access to Fiesta, is not bad and really nice for a lazy supper. The ingredients aren't horrifying either, here they are: Shallots, Tomato, Soy sauce, Vegetable oil, Salt, Chili, Garlic, Herbs, Sugar, Flavor enhancer (yeast extract), Antioxidant (Tocopherol).

For dessert, I treated myself to a piece of vegan Chocolate Ginger Cake from Wheatsville Co-op. My god, was this decadent like nothing I'd had in awhile. I can't believe I ate the whole thing, but I did. It was a night of total indulgence, and it was heavenly. I took a long hot bath and read for a long time. Then I realized I was getting light-headed and dehydrated and luckily right then Nathan got home from his improv classes just in time to catch me giggling, goofy and near faint and he helped me to bed. The End.

Look at that cake. Isn't it just so seductive? That little flap of cream coming off the edge in its little come-hither stance. It's actually kind of adorable.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Vegan Tex-Mex Bowl

This bowl puts together some of my all-time favorites in the tex-mex food genre: avocados, corn, brown rice, tomatoes, cilantro, those damn Morningstar Crumbles, lime and corn tortillas. I also had chips and salsa with this. Delicious. You know, it was incredibly simple to put this together. Really, not much needs to be done. Just chop the veggies, heat up the fake meat (I've never heated it in the microwave because I like making it just a tiny bit crispy on the stovetop), and cook the beans and corn. Nice to put some spices in with the beans, like paprika, salt, cumin, garlic powder. And Valentina sauce at the end! And warm the tortillas. Always warm the tortillas. It is ALWAYS worth the effort.

That is all from me. I just got home from an incredibly intoxicating Thai dinner (Titaya's - way better than Thai Kitchen), treated by Nathan. I'm going to go eat some pie now and veg like I have never vegged.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Delicious Beer, How I Love Thee, How You Hurt Me

It’s so sad. New Belgium’s Mothership Wit, my body can’t deal with you anymore. You hurt me. Where did I go wrong? In Portland, we got along so well. Things were good, right? But something happened, hm?

A friend brought over a 12 pack sampler of New Belgium beers. Our favorite by far was the Giddy Up!, with lemon peel and espresso – YUM. My standby was the Mothership Wit (an organic wheat beer), because I tend to enjoy wheat beers in general; I haven’t met one I didn’t like, but apparently it’s not about liking it or not liking it in this case. My body hated it. Oh man, it was baaaad. I had two beers all in all, and there was nothing new in the food I ate. My stomach felt horrible! There were seriously moments when I could barely move, the cramps were SO bad. It felt like how I imagine it feels to be stabbed in the stomach.

I think I’m going to have to stop drinking beer. After this night, I went to the Alamo Drafthouse (best theater ever) and got the Real Ale’s Coffee Porter (Texas, represent!). Oh man, I am a sucker for coffee/espresso beers, and it was great. Again, though, my stomach was hurting a ton by the end of the movie. So I haven’t had beer in about a week now, and I’m guessing that the cravings will go away eventually – that’s pretty much what is happening with my cravings for cheese, something I thought impossible. Yet, the sadness lingers. I am breaking up with beer; it’s really happening. I’m sure I’ll be getting sips from friends’ drinks (though beer has not been so agreeable with Nathan), but it’s not the same! Ugh, well, at least I’m not in Portland anymore. This would sting more if I was in Portland.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Lazy Kamut Salad with Feta

Oh, wow, this was good. I had some kamut leftover from the salad I made awhile back, and decided to whip up an on-the-spot mix right before a potluck I was hosting. This was a totally different experience - a little oily-er, not as much texture variation, and not vegan, but, really, it was effin' good. ESPECIALLY accompanied with delicious hummous and some tasty, toasted bread.

Both of the above brands are fairly expensive for someone as cheap as I, but when friends bring these guys over to the potluck, let me tell you, they are delicious. Not gluten-free, but that is not my concern here, obviously. Anyways, this hummous is gluten-free at least, and it is one of the smoothest, tastiest store-bought hummous I've had. I actually had it for the first time when visiting friends in Los Angeles this summer. Nathan's friend got this stuff from a local grocery store in Santa Monica, and for some reason I just assumed it was one of those brands specific to tiny grocery stores, unknown to the masses, but a staple for those "in the know." Apparently I was totally wrong. Sabra (watch out for music if you click on that link) can be found here in Austin, at HEB and Central Market, at least.

So with the hummous and kamut salad, wrapped in some o' that naan (which, honestly, I would only have if someone else brought it; it's super expensive), we were making some nutritious and tasty tasty wraps. So good. Let me give you that salad recipe, because just alone this stuff is worth making. Measurements are approximate.

Kamut Salad with Feta

4 cups cooked kamut
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 of a medium red onion, chopped
4-5 marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (a nice pantry item for just such spontaneous salads, or you could make your own)
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons herbed oil (I used the oil from the artichoke marinade)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Some olives, chopped
Hella cilantro, chopped
Salt, to taste
Crumbled feta

Mix everything with the kamut. Adjust to taste.

There you go, a nice lazy salad for those occasions when you are hosting a potluck and don't feel like cooking anything. =)