Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Happy belated Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a lovely time with family and friends.

I spent my Thanksgiving in Iowa for the first time since 2004. Our guest list was small, and the humans were outnumbered by the pets: my parents, brother, grandma and grandpa versus two dogs, six puppies and a 17-year-old cat. Here's what our meal looked like:

Can you tell which plate is vegan? The Tofurky gives it away, but in case you were wondering, the plate on the left is vegan. Clockwise from the Tofurky, there is stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes and in the middle we have a mashed sweet potato-banana combo. Bonus points to Mom for trying something new and crazy she saw on the Today Show! The plate on the right (my Mom's plate) has some green beans on it. I passed on these...don't even get me started on canned vegetables. That's a topic for another day.

As you can see, vegans don't suffer when it comes to food. That's probably the biggest misconception about being vegan. As long as you are not a total lazy bum, there is a way to make a vegan version of all of your favorite foods. Though I understand that Tofurky is not quite the same as actual turkey. But, my friends, check out two tiny carnivores who were sneaking bits of Tofurky from me:

Bonito and Lucky were begging for more Tofurky!

I must confess that my plate was not 100% vegan. This is one of the occasions where I step off my soap box (and in some ways step onto a totally different soap box). The seasoned croutons my mom used in making the stuffing had "2% or less" of whey. When anyone, especially my mother, goes to the trouble of making me special vegan dishes, and one of the ingredients of one of the dishes is 1/50 non-vegan, how on earth could I refuse? That would be incredibly rude and disrespectful of someone really trying to minimize the animal products in the food s/he was serving. So some vegans may say I'm making excuses, but I said my thanks for the cows who give us whey and dug into my "vegan" stuffing. In my book, sometimes it really is the thought that counts.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Carnivale came early this year

We're going back to basics for this post. What does a vegan do when going out for a nice dinner in Chicago with her meat-eating (yet totally fabulous) girlfriends?

Back in October, Ali and I won a gift certificate for $100 to Carnivale (702 W. Fulton Market), an upscale and totally hip restaurant with a Latin-themed menu. So last week we went out for dinner, and we brought our friend Kate B. (who is an extremely watchable actress, by the way) because she's just so much fun.

Kate was loving the Carnivale Margarita, Ali enjoyed the caipirinha, and I sampled the white sangria and Green City Market Caipirinha. The guacamole was absolutely delicious and the accompanying tortilla chips are that fat-laden kind you always hope the restaurant serves. (Ali and Kate shared the mixto ceviche...for you none-vegans I'm told it was absolutely delightful.)

After an hour of drinks and appetizers we finally opened our menus. The waitress was very knowledgeable about the menu and helped guide me to all the dishes that could be veganized. I settled on an entree called "Quinotto" that I had never seen before but makes so much sense. It's like risotto, my favorite Italian dish, but in place of arborio rice they used quinoa, a nutritious little South American grain. Also in the Quinotto were onions, Brussels sprouts, pine nuts, mushrooms and a chile sauce on the side. Behold:

Isn't it lovely? This dish was unbelievable. I of course requested this without the goat cheese that this Quinotto normally includes. The mushrooms gave it that extra dose of "umami" I've been hearing so much about lately.
After my experience I would highly recommend a night out at Carnivale if you are a vegan but have meat-craving dining companions. They have all kinds of seafood and the steak for which Latin America is famous. (Yum?)

I'm off to Iowa today for Thanksgiving festivities. I was planning to cook an elaborate vegan meal at my apartment for my parents and brother, but last week my brother's dog had a surprise litter of puppies. So I'm riding back to Sioux City tonight to see the six little puppies. In the words of my brother, prepare yourself for some pretty extreme cuteness:

I have been looking at this photo every 30 seconds for the past two days. I can assure you that it does not get old.

Product of the Day: Obviously I'm going with a vegan's best Thanksgiving weapon, the Tofurky. I can't wait to eat this tomorrow. If you're lucky enough to be in Sioux City, they have them at Hy-Vee on Hamilton Blvd. If you are not in the vicinity of a Hy-Vee, on the Tofurky website you can find a list of retailers so you can get your own spherical bundle of meatless joy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Everyone knows that the cover models are airbrushed

Someday my cookies will be cover-worthy. In the meantime, they taste pretty good.

The oft-neglected polenta and BOOTS OMG BOOTS!

For dinner the past two nights I made polenta with spinach, tomato sauce, garlic and olives. That's it!

Slice the polenta (you can find this little Italian import in a tube package near the pasta), layer the slices in a small Pyrex baking dish, cover it in frozen chopped spinach, sauce, garlic and olives. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, longer if your spinach is really frozen.

Recently I bought my first garlic press at Ikea for $3, and I highly recommend getting yourself one. Crushing the garlic really brings out the flavor.

Layer the polenta slices and spinach like this!

Dinner is served. Yes, those are kalamata olives. Vegecagoan is equal-opportunity and this dish is part Greek.

Product of the Day: Report Over-the-knee faux suede boots. I just got a pair of my own in black. I sleep in these things, I love them so much.