Month: July 2012

Pablo’s Mexican Restaurant

We tried a new Crystal Lake restaurant last night – that doesn’t happen very often- Pablo’s Mexican Restaurant and Cantina. The good news is that its beans are lard-free (both the black beans and refried beans). The bad news is that it uses chicken stock in the rice, so don’t order that. I ordered a fresh-squeezed margarita. It was good, but it doesn’t compare to Mixteca.


The worst thing about Pablo’s was the chips and salsa. The salsa was chunky!! Isn’t there a law that requires Mexican restaurants to serve smooth salsa?! I doubt we’ll go back, because of the salsa.


I had the vegetarian fajitas for dinner. You get an interesting mix of vegetables – more than just peppers and onions. It was a little strange to eat green beans, broccoli and carrots with a tortilla, but it worked. It’s not fresh guacamole, which makes me glad I didn’t order any to go with the chips. I did like the black bean option.

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Presidential Cookie Bake Off – Veganized

Since 1992, Family Circle has held a Presidential Bake-off with recipes from the wives of presidential candidates. It’s a contest that is both delicious and sexist, but let’s focus on the positive. The recipes from Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are not vegan (I imagine the dairy lobbyists would burn down the White House if that happened), but with some simple changes, the presidential bake-off can be cruelty-free.  If only Dennis Kucinich was running for president, then we’d have a cookie recipe from Elizabeth.

Michelle Obama’s White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

MAKES 2 1/2 dozen cookies

PREP 15 minutes

BAKE at 375° for 12 minutes per batch

  • 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) Earth Balance
  • 1 stick Earth Balance vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar – half granulated and half packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon egg replacer
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup each white chocolate chips, semisweet chocolate chips and mint chocolate chips (I don’t know if anyone makes vegan mint chocolate chips, but the recipe said you could substitute Andes mint pieces, so I just chopped up a mint chocolate bar. I used Equal Exchange’s Organic Mint Chocolate with a Delicate Crunch)
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 375°. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream margarine, shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.  In a small bowl, whisk egg replacer with water and add to butter mixture.   On low speed, beat in flour mixture. By hand, stir in white chocolate chips, chocolate chips and mint chips. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.


Ann Romney’s M&M’s Cookies

MAKES 1 1/2 dozen cookies

PREP 15 minutes

BAKE at 325° for 18 minutes

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups crunchy creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup (such as Karo)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons egg replacer
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 ounces chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup Holy Cow Dark Chocolate beans (Vegan M&Ms)

Heat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, cream sugars, margarine, peanut butter and corn syrup on high speed until well combined. In a small bowl, whisk egg replacer with water and add to peanut butter mixture.  Beat in vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, mix together oats and baking soda. Stir into peanut butter mixture until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and M&M’s. Using a standard-size ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets (about 9 per sheet). Bake at 325° for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.


The result? Ann’s cookies looked better, but the mint chocolate in Michelle’s cookies knocks it out of the park.  Michelle lost to Cindy McCain last time, so she definitely stepped it up for 2012.

Taste of Chicago

Yesterday, H and I took a little day trip to Chicago to go to the beach (pre-rain) and Taste of Chicago (during the torrential downpour).


We met up with some friends just before 2:00 and almost immediately it started to pour. Six of us huddled under 2 umbrellas, but we still go soaked. When the rain finally let up, I went on the search for vegan food.  I read something about Karyn’s on Green being at Taste. Unfortunately, I did not pay attention to the details, because it is one of the pop up restaurants and it is only there on Sunday (so if you are in Chicago today, go check them out!). The Nile was one of yesterday’s pop up restaurants and they served a vegan falafel sandwich. It was good, but it does not compare to Expressly Leslie.  I also found butter-free corn on the cob from Abbey Pub and orange Italian ice from Tutto Italiano.


Buckingham Fountain

Ombré Cake


I got the idea off of Pinterest (I am officially addicted to the website – so many recipes and cake ideas, so little time). The cake in the original blog post was pink, and it looks incredible. Check it out here. I did a purple cake for  our legal assistant Carolyn’s birthday. I only did 4 layers, but still had room for 4 swirl colors.  I used the vanilla cake recipe from Sticky Fingers. I doubled it and added Wilton’s violet food coloring to 3 of the cake layers.

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Barrington Country Bistro

At the end of a very long week (it’s always hard after a holiday), H and I ventured back out to the Foundry in Barrington to dine at Barrington Country Bistro.  We ate outside on the patio, which was quite nice, because the restaurant was freezing. We started off with elderflower martinis, which were lovely.

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We ordered some olive tapenade to go with our bread. I can’t believe I wasted so much of my life hating olives, because they are delicious, especially all chopped up in a tapenade and spread over bread.

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I ordered organic bistro salad with balsamic vinaigrette; it usually comes with a dijon balsamic emulsion, but that has egg in it.


BCC labels its vegetarian and gluten-free menu options. It also states that it can “accommodate most dietary restrictions and preferences.” I asked if vegan was one of those dietary restrictions that they could accommodate. Our very friendly server said he would check with the chef.  This is what he came up with: roasted root vegetables, heirloom cherry tomatoes,  red quinoa and a red sauce. I wish I could remember what the sauce was called, because it was very good. I even ate most of beets, which I usually despise.

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H ordered some frites, which they made without cheese so I could eat some, too.


There are some sorbets on the dessert menu, but we were too full. We ordered coffee and headed back to the cornfields of Woodstock.

Summer Cookout: Binghamton Style

The menu:

Spiedies: tofu skewers (the proper way) and Gardein chicken marinated in Spiedie sauce, but pan-fried. Eat with Italian bread.  I halved this recipe and used one bag of Gardein scallopini and one container of tofu. It was probably enough for another half, or maybe even full, container of tofu. It’s probably been about 18 years since I had spiedies but it was just like I remember.


The sides: Midsummer potato salad from Vegan Holiday Kitchen. Potatoes and summer squash from the farmers’ market.


Kale (also from the farmers’ market) with tahini dressing.


Hot chocolate ice cream from last summer’s VegNews (delicious!)


Fourth of July Recap

My parents are in town and we started the celebration of America’s birthday with America’s pastime. It was my first time to US Cellular Field. The White Sox were playing the Texas Rangers. The White Sox soundly beat the Rangers, 19-2. Not that I go to a lot of baseball games, but this is the most runs I have ever seen scored. It made for a very exciting game.


I heard there was a vegan Sloppy Joe at the ballpark, but during the third inning or so, I read that it is only available on the club level. Unfortunately, you cannot get there without club level tickets and they are quite strict about it. I was a little annoyed about that, because, besides that MLB website, no one bothered to mention the Sloppy Jane was only for the elite. According to the concession stand workers, the veggie burger is vegan. However, the veggie dog is not.


The one bad thing about the evening was the trip home. We took the 11:30 train, which only goes to Crystal Lake. There are always cabs at Crystal Lake station, except Tuesday night. We couldn’t get a cab to come, so we just waited. Of course, 10 minutes before the next train came in (the one that went to Woodstock), three cabs show up! At that point it was quicker and cheaper to take the train. We didn’t get home until after 2 a.m., so our plan to go to Moraine State Park in the morning was scrapped.

On Wednesday morning, we started off with a patriotic breakfast: granola, strawberries, blueberries and vanilla coconut yogurt.


That afternoon, we drove up to Lake Geneva, WI with a picnic lunch. We totally lucked out and found a nice shady spot with a picnic table.


I made festive five bean salad from Vegan Holiday Kitchen; red, white & blue potato salad from Party Vegan; and red pepper, artichoke and pesto sandwiches from The Vegan Table.

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And of course, cupcakes. Chocolate stout cupcakes from Sticky Fingers Sweets with leftover cream cheese frosting from the Uncle Same cake. Unfortunately, the cream cheese frosting did not travel well. 20120705-111345.jpg

After lunch, we walked around the lake and some of the shops.


For dinner, we went to the Baker House. It’s a lovely old house with lots of hats, which patrons are encouraged to wear.

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The cocktails were pretty good. I ordered a bellini.


The gazpacho was good, too. In fact, I probably should have just ordered a big bowl of soup.


But instead, I let the chef get “creative” and this is what I got: overcooked veggies, enough rice for a family of twelve and a paper American flag.


After dinner there was a sunset toast. Everyone moved outside for free champagne. We got a little history of the house. Like most houses around the lake, it was once a summer house.

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I was previously informed that the dark chocolate fondue was dairy-free. Of course, on July 4th, they ran out and made their own dark chocolate with butter. So I had a couple bites of fruit and pretzels for dessert.


We ended the evening with fireworks over the lake.