Month: May 2012

Des Moines Road Trip

Last Sunday I went on a road trip to Des Moines, Iowa for a friend’s daughter’s wedding (that makes me feel old!) The wedding was at 3:00 in Ames (even farther), so we got an early start. Our first rest stop was the World’s Largest Truckstop. It was quite large; no false advertising here. Besides the gas pumps and convenience store, there was a food court, buffet and a Caribou Coffee. The Caribou Coffee does offer soy milk, but it’s 70 cents! I guess its hard to find soy milk in the middle of nowhere Iowa and you have to pay a premium. However, there is a 50 cent sustainability discount for bringing your own cup, which is way more generous than Starbucks 10 cents.

After we checked in to the hotel, we went looking for a place to eat. We stumbled upon the Royal Mile, a Scottish pub.  They have a curry vegetable wrap on the menu, which sounded good and a little different than your typical veggie wrap. It is usually prepared with butter, but they can make it without butter if you ask. It was so dark inside that I did not even attempt to take a picture.

The wedding ceremony was  lovely and the reception was a lot of fun. We danced and danced and danced. I got two compliments on my Beyond Skin shoes and one girl even asked me where I got them, so I was able to introduce her to the awesomeness that is vegan shoes.

The reception was at the Marriott and I ordered the vegetarian dish, which was a portabella mushroom. The description did not mention cheese, but it came out covered in it. It was a creamy cheese, so it wasn’t even something I could peel off. I was going to let it go. I’m not going to request a special meal at someone’s wedding. But my table flagged a server down and I explained that I don’t eat dairy. The kitchen put together a pasta dish for me, which was very nice of them. It was pretty good, too. There was a spicy tomato sauce and lots of vegetables, including delicious roasted artichoke hearts.

My view of Des Moines at night from the 23rd floor.


Because I was at the wedding with running friends, the first thing we did on Monday was go out for a run. We ran by the river and a park. It was nice that early in the morning, but you could tell it was going to be a hot day.

After cleaning up and packing up, we went out to breakfast at Java Joe’s.  It’s a cute little place with pretty good coffee and a vegetarian menu. Even though it was only 9:30 in the morning, I got the vegetable hummus wrap. They have several other options, which can be made vegan upon request.


My soy latte. They also offer rice milk.


The hummus wrap with chips and a pickle.


Not exactly a beautiful dish, but tasty enough. Breakfast is hard for vegans, so I was just glad we weren’t at a diner that only served eggs and bacon.


Good-bye, Des Moines. Probably won’t be back again. (Although if I am, I will make sure to come on a non-holiday weekend so I can go to Ritual Cafe).


The state capital building. Keep Right!


First Farmers Market

The Woodstock Farmers Market has actually been going on for three weeks, but this is the first time I made it this year. I only had $7 in cash, but I knew I wanted asparagus. The best thing about late spring is asparagus. I bought a couple bunches of it for $5 and a bag of spinach for $2 (love the prices at the farmers market). I was going to make risotto, but this dish was so loaded with veggies, I’m not sure it can even be considered risotto. It certainly didn’t meet the Top Chef criteria of spreading. But whatever its called, it tasted good.

  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance
  • 1 1/2 shallots, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice
  • 4 cups of chick’n or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • tons of farmers market veggies
  • chopped chives
  • splash of fresh lemon juice

Saute shallots in margarine until soft. Add garlic and saute a minute longer. Add rice and stir for a couple minutes. Add 1/2-1 cup of liquid at a time (starting with the broth and ending with the wine) and stir until rice is soft. Stir in veggies (the spinach wilted in the hot rice, but I steamed the asparagus before adding it) Stir in chives and lemon juice.

Served with a Gardein scallopini.

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pl8 in Barrington

The downside of H’s new schedule is that now he is on call every other weekend instead of one out of three. That means we have to stay in the vicinity of the three hospitals (about Schaumberg to Woodstock). We are getting bored of the two half-way decent restaurants in Woodstock, so we decided to make an effort to explore the surrounding burbs. In particular, Barrington, because that’s supposed to be fancy. Last night we went to pl8, which despite its ridiculous name, is not that bad. It is in a place called the Foundry. Doesn’t that sound fancy? Well, it’s still a strip mall on a highway, even if the buildings have brick facades. Pl8 is pan-Asian. You wouldn’t come here for authentic Asian food, but it’s good for western-style Asian, the kind that goes well with a cocktail ending in “-tini.”

Such as the lucky pl8-tini: grey goose lapoire vodka, pear puree and asian pear sake (randomly served with a skewered olive, which I think must have been for another customer’s drink). This was delicious.


pl8 marks vegetarian items with a green circle. Spicy items have a red circle. I order the wok tossed gailan, which you can’t see from the screenshot of the menu, has a green and red circle.


I also got some edamame and a veggie lover’s roll (cucumber, pickled radish, avocado and mushrooms). The edamame wasn’t that great, but the sushi roll was nice. Pickled radishes and mushrooms are not available in Woodstock.


The wok tossed gailan (Chinese broccoli) was tasty. It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, spicy. Not even mildly so. It makes me wonder if items without a red circle would have any flavor at all.


I’m getting the mapo tofu the next time. That will be the true test of the red circle.

Piggin’ Out in Dixie: All Day Tempeh Stew

If you were to ask me to quickly name three ingredients that do not go together, I would answer: soy sauce, red wine, & peanut butter. Yet, these are the three strongest flavors in All Day Tempeh Stew and somehow it works. At least as far as how it tastes, it still doesn’t smell very good. Despite this, it somehow won an H’s favorite award. (Not that this is the stinky tofu of southern cooking, but besides convenience, the other reason you use a slow cooker is to walk into a delicious smelling home after a long day of work).

All Day Tempeh Stew

  • 2 packages of tempeh, cubed
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup ground dried shittake mushrooms
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tps ground pepper
  • 1 14 oz-can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Vegetarian “beef” broth to cover (1 needed 2 cups of water and threw in 1 “beef” bouillon cube)

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.


Piggin’ Out in Dixie recommends serving it with cornbread, but I made these sweet potato biscuits (or Sweet Tater’ Biscuits as they are called in POID).

  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 4 tbs. Earth Balance shortening
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potatoes pureed
  • soy milk, if needed

Preheat oven to 400F. Sift dry ingredients together.  Cut in shortening.  Add sweet potato puree. If the dough is too thick, add soy milk. It should be firm, but not too stiff.  On a floured surface, cut dough with a biscuit cutter. Place on parchment lined pan and bake 20-25 minutes until browned.


Chef H’s Vegan Adventure


H started a new position this week. He now works only in the hospitals and has one out of every three weeks off. (Why did I go to law school instead of medical school?!?) With the extra time off he is going to focus on vegan cooking. Last night he made noodles (which did not live up to his expectations, but I thought they were fine), Gardein chick’n with red peppers and black bean sauce (delicious!) and spicy vegan Chinatown crab with green beans.

It looks just like chicken. I almost thought he made a separate chicken dish for himself.

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Some noodles were a little dry, but H admitted he didn’t read the directions. Brown rice noodles are cooked a little differently than regular pasta. Upton’s Naturals seitan was added as the “pork.”


Spinach and garlic- I could eat this all day


A whole vegan “fish.” It was interesting.

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Our plan for Saturday night was to get a drink at the Prudential Tower, watch the sunset, and then get dinner in Little Italy. But as we were headed out, H realized he lost his jacket and went back to the conference to look for it. When he came back (still without his jacket), we didn’t have time to go to the Prudential Tower and make our 9:30 reservation at Taranta, so we just headed to Little Italy. We walked around for a while looking in all the cute restaurants and being amazed at the long line outside Modern Pastry. We popped into Caffe Vittoria for a drink. The cappuccinos looked amazing and they do offer soymilk, but I couldn’t say no to the North End Express: vodka, Kahlua, and espresso.

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We had a short wait for a table before being offered one in the basement. I was a bit skeptical, but the corner table we were offered was cozy and separated from the other tables.


Across from our table was a cigarette vending machine. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those. Maybe it was just decoration.


After we paid the bill (cash only at Caffe Vittoria), we walked down to Taranta, which offers Southern Italian and Peruvian Cuisine. It’s a certified green restaurant; it’s not vegan, but at least they know what “vegan” means.


The Pappardelle con funghi porcini (wild mushrooms, porcini and white truffle oil) with Orecchiette and no parmesan is vegan. There were a lot of mushrooms, which is generally the problem I have with restaurant pasta dishes: a gigantic plate of pasta with a couple pieces of vegetable. The pictures are bad, but at least you can see how generous they are with the mushrooms. The bottom layer of mushrooms and pasta was soaking in the truffle oil, so the end of the meal actually tasted better than the first few bites.

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H had to get up early for his conference and I had a two hour run, so we never made it to the Prudential Tower. But here is my one night shot of Boston.


On Sunday morning, I woke up earlier, finished the Boston creme pie from Veggie Galaxy and went out for a run. It was a beautiful morning for a run. Running along the Charles River made me miss Chicago and DC. Running in Woodstock isn’t very scenic.

The afternoon portion of H’s conference was not relevant to his practice, so he skipped it to hang out with me. We were going to go to The Other Side for lunch, but when we got there it was closed. For good. Apparently, we missed it by three weeks. So we walked down Newbury Street for an outside cafe with a vegan option and Cafeteria Boston was the first acceptable option. I ordered the gazpacho, which was by far the best part of the meal. And very pretty.


I ordered the white wine sangria to drink; it was fine.


H ordered the cherry coke cocktail, which was just as gross as a real cherry coke.


For my entree, I ordered the hummus sandwich (Kalamata olive hummus, roasted red peppers, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes) with a salad. It was huge, but I was able to take half of it with me for dinner on the plane. United was serving dinner, but there were no special meal options.

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After lunch, we walked down Newbury Street (window shopping only) to the public garden.

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I convinced H to go on a swan boat ride, which at $2.75 per person is totally worth it.

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Look how much fun he is having!

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We wandered through Boston Commons and back to our hotel via Faneuil Hall. We watched some street performers and looked for a replacement jacket for H. Our flight was two hours delayed, but eventually we had to accept that our trip was over and we would have a long wait at the airport. This was a last minute flight, so it was very expensive (the hospital paid for H’s ticket though), but I didn’t realize when I bought the tickets that our return trip was in first class. It’s really not worth the price, but flying first class is much more enjoyable. We sat on the runway for a while before the pilot announced that weather in Chicago meant an additional 58 minute delay. We eventually got a new route and were able to leave before that 58 minutes was up, but we still landed in Chicago three hours late. At least it was the return trip with comfy seats, wine and hot stale nuts that was delayed and not the flight into Boston where we were not even seated together in the back middle seats of the plane.


My Day in Cambridge

Fortunately, doctors have continuing medical education requirements and many of them in fun cities. H is attending one in Boston, so I tagged along. I had a great run by the Charles River and then met H for lunch. We went to Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, which is what I wish the Olympic in Crystal Lake was. It’s 100% vegetarian and very vegan friendly. I ordered The Club sandwich: tofu, tempeh bacon, pesto, mayo and tomatoes on rye.

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I was so full after the huge meal, but I had to try something from the vegan bakery.


I went with the Boston Creme Pie (to go).

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I spent the afternoon wandering around Cambridge. There is a vegan shoe store, Sudo, so obviously I had to check it out. You can find cheap shoes in the burbs that happen to be vegan, but there is no place like this. It was fun to see and touch the shoes I’ve Pinned. I bought a pair of Beyond Skin nude suede pumps. I walked from Porter Square to Harvard Square and stopped at Crema Cafe for a watermelon limeade, and Mint Julep, which sounds like a name for a boutique in Savannah, not Cambridge. Mint Julep has lots of cute dresses. I found a fun zigzag dress to wear Saturday night (and a wedding next weekend). It matches my new shoes.

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Cake Decorating 2

I finished Cake Decorating 2 last week. It was a lot of fun and I’m always looking for an excuse to bake and decorate a cake.

Refreshing my skills from Cake Decorating 1:  loop border, shell border and roses.

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Fondant class – the boxed stuff tastes terrible, but it sure looks pretty. Some time I will try making my own.

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Final class

I made cupcakes for a friend’s bake sale to try mums. You can tell I started with purple. I gradually got better by the last pink flower.

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I also made coffee-flavored cupcakes with espresso creme filling and buttercream frosting and chocolate cupcakes with chocolate  peanut butter frosting.

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And finally, the cake. I spent a little too much time on the mums cupcakes, so I was rushed on the top, but I like how the borders turned out.

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The cake was a layer of chocolate, coffee and vanilla with espresso cream in the middle.

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