Archive forDecember, 2010

Shepherd’s Pie

Once again finding myself with leftover mashed potatoes, I was trying to find a use for them. Shepherd’s Pie fit the bill!

Shepherd’s Pie

1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cups vegan “beef” broth
8 oz tomato sauce
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 14.5 oz can your choice of beans (I used pinto)
1 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
TVP, optional
3-4 cups mashed potatoes
vegan cheddar “cheese”, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the carrots, onions, celery, broth, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and thyme in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are just tender, about 5-8 minutes. Add the beans and frozen peas.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan then whisk in the flour, forming a roux.

Cook for a couple of minutes, then transfer to the Dutch oven and whisk until it thickens to a gravy. I seemed to have a higher gravy-to-veggie ratio than I wanted, so I added in some TVP to soak up some of the liquid, which ended up being good because pinto beans are so creamy, the TVP gave the final dish some needed texture.

Spread the mashed potatoes on top.

I had an open package of Daiya cheddar, so I sprinkled that on top. That’s totally optional, though.

Bake for half an hour. The gravy bubbled up around my mashed potatoes. It’s definitely not the prettiest dish.

Although it’s impossible to make this shepherd’s pie look attractive in photographs, it was really tasty. I don’t think food gets more comforting than this. Mark literally licked his bowl clean. I will be making this again.

In craft news, after a particularly mighty battle with my sewing machine while making my fabric gift bags this year, I finally broke down and bought a new one. I’d resisted for a while because I didn’t want to spend money on a sewing machine when I hate sewing. Nonetheless, I do actually sew from time to time and I decided my sanity when doing so was worth $159 (which was the price I paid a few weeks ago). So far I’m really liking the new machine, although I haven’t done much more than make the gift bags so far. My dream sewing machine has long been an antique Singer, converted for electricity (honestly, I wasn’t even sure about the electricity) – I just assume they don’t make them like they used to – but I must say, this one seems pretty good and although I always thought it was silly for sewing machines to do all kinds of crazy stitches I’ll never need, some of these ARE pretty neat:

Anyway, does anyone have any favorite sewing projects for relative beginners? Since I’ve forked over the money for the machine, I might as well put it to use. I’ve already decided to make a rag quilt, but my ultimate goal is to be able to make my own clothes. If there are any sewers out there with suggestions for things to keep my interest without frustrating me too much right off the bat, let’s hear them!

And speaking of sewing, although I suck at it, my mother does not. She recently made the kittens a kitty bed. It contains a heating element, and with all this blustery, cold weather we’ve been having, the warm kitten bed is getting a lot of use. Often both kittens are snuggled up on it together. You can’t see much of Mom’s handiwork in this picture (just the blue edges sticking up from the cat tree I’ve set it in), but here is how you’ll usually find the kittens these days:

And with that, I wish everyone a very happy Hogmanay. (I just finished reading a Scottish book that takes place during this time of year, so New Year’s Eve is Hogmanay to me right now. Bring on the vegan haggis!) (The Crow Road, Zoa – don’t want you burning with curiosity!)

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“Cream” of Asparagus Soup

Will I ever be not busy? It doesn’t seem like it, but I think my life should calm down in January, so hopefully then I’ll be back to posting more regularly, with my normal obnoxious photographing-every-little-step posts. In the meantime, here is a quick post featuring some soup I made for dinner tonight. It’s really just this Cream of Asparagus Soup recipe on AllRecipes, veganized, though it is also very similar to the Creamless Cream of Asparagus Soup I made earlier this year.

“Cream” of Asparagus Soup

3 Tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups vegan broth
1 bundle asparagus, chopped
1 large or 2 small potatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp soy sauce
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven, then add the onion and celery and saute until soft and golden. Stir in the flour, stirring until completely smooth to avoid lumps. Add the vegan broth – I like to heat water to a boil in my electric kettle, then pour it into the pot and add the bouillon – and stir until smooth and thickened. Add the asparagus, potatoes, and soy sauce and bring to a boil …

… then reduce heat and simmer for half an hour or until potatoes and asparagus are soft. Season with as much freshly ground pepper as you’d like. Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender, or let cool for a while and transfer to a blender in batches and blend …

… then return to pot and bring back up to temperature if necessary before serving.

It doesn’t look all that exciting, but looks can be deceiving – this is really tasty. Mark informed me this was “completely awesome” and had two huge servings…then later while doing the dishes lamented the fact that he ate too much. Mark added rice to his for some texture; I ate mine plain and spooned barbecued beans over my portion of rice. Either way it’s quick, easy, healthy, and delicious.

LA is beginning to seem like so long ago, but I promised you a Cats of LA photo essay, so here you go:

My gosh doesn’t this look like Brachtune?!

Oh wait, that last cat isn’t of LA….yet ..?

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I Ate Too Much in L.A. Cabbage Barley Tomato Soup

OH MY GOD I ate a lot of food in L.A.! By the last day I was starting to miss homecooked meals and swore I was going to eat nothing but salad for the next month to atone for my gluttony. Well, I could happily eat a salad every day for a month, but obviously I’m going to need more than that. I still want to keep things light this week though, so I decided to make soup and salad for dinner last night. Here is the soup I made:

Cabbage Barley Tomato Soup

1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large or 2 small carrots, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 cups veggie broth
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
1 14.5 oz can Great Northern (or other similar) beans
1/3 cup pearled barley
several leaves cabbage (I used savoy), chiffonaded or chopped
lots of freshly ground pepper

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven, then add the onions, celery, and carrots, and saute until onions are starting to brown. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Deglaze the pot with some sherry, wine, or broth, then add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until barley is cooked and soup is slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

This was pretty good; hearty enough to fill me up (accompanied by a salad) but light enough to not make me feel fat. It tasted even better for lunch today.

I don’t have anything else food related to tell you about L.A., so if you’re here only for the food, that wraps up today’s post. Those interested in a few travel photos can stick around, although I’ll have to warn you I didn’t take any photos at all that I consider particularly great. I don’t usually go for particularly touristy things and I don’t like celebrities, so I didn’t go on any tours or anything and most of what I did was what any resident of the city would do: eat, read, and shop. Of course, my shopping was limited to book and thrift stores, which is all the shopping I can tolerate – no Rodeo Drive for me, thanks. I’ve mentioned some of the bookstores already, but if you didn’t know, L.A. is a great town for thrifting. I went home with 2 or 3 times as many clothes as I arrived with and I think I spent a total of $50 on clothes.

Anyway, on with a pictorial representation of my visit. Here is where you can legally graffiti on Venice Beach:

Obligatory shots of the ubiquitous Hollywood sign:

From Runyon Canyon

From the Observatory

Close up

Foucault pendulum in the Griffith Observatory:

(By the way, I read Foucault’s Pendulum this year and hated it, but I still think the device is neat.)

One of Fortinbras’ favorite places is the Getty Villa and he was anxious to share it with us. It’s a beautiful museum devoted to Greek and Roman antiquity. Half of the beauty of this place is its serene setting; just walking around the grounds is nearly as exciting as looking at the art and artifacts and the architecture of the place itself is in fact true artwork. Here are some random photos:

This is an herb garden. It also contains citrus trees, from which Fortinbras says you can pluck fruit for free in season, however I wouldn’t take Fort’s word for it because he’s a known liar.

When we were reviewing my pics later, Fort wanted to make this one his desktop.

This is papyrus.

Fort’s favorite sculpture; he likes to pretend he is this drunk guy slurring his words at a party.

He also likes this one:

Mark, however, apparently prefers this one:

(This is a reproduction statue visitors are encouraged to touch by the way; Mark doesn’t molest real art.)

The Getty Villa apparently does this to me:

Stay tuned next time for The Cats of L.A., a photo essay by Renae.

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Los Angeles, Part 2

It’s Saturday evening and Mark and I are preparing to head home tomorrow. I’m becoming extremely anxious to see the kittens, but I’ll be sorry to leave our friends – and all this delicious food – behind and am looking forward to returning soon. Unfortunately, Virgin America may end up charging me for two seats I’ve eaten so much!

Earlier in the week, Fortinbras and I went hiking in Runyon Canyon and afterward stopped at the first vegan restaurant we came to, California Vegan on Sunset Blvd, which had a very similar menu to Lotus Vegan, which I discussed in the previous post, although that just meant it was delicious. I had the baked soy “fish” with vegetables:

For dinner that evening, Fortinbras found and wanted to check out Veggie Grill, which Fort kept calling “vegan fast food”, but it was so much more than that. We started with the wings, which were incredibly tasty:

Fort ordered the Carne Asada on a bed of kale instead of a bun. He absolutely loved it.

I had the Bayou Chickin’, the char-grill taste of which was amazing, and the mac & cheese, which seemed to use Daiya (which impressed Fortinbras, although I’ve made very similar at home).

Veggie Grill also has beer and wine (a house red and white on tap; the red was really pretty good). Fort’s planning to go back often.

Last night Mark and I dragged V to Shin Barbecue, which I was dying to go to after reading Quarry Girl‘s post about it. Now, one of my all-time favorite meals is dolsot bibimbap and I have no problem going into a “normal” Korean restaurant and asking them to make it veggie for me even if it’s not on the menu. But I could absolutely not pass up the opportunity to check out a Korean restaurant offering vegan meals right on the menu, separately prepared from the meat in the kitchen. Boy am I glad we didn’t miss this! Our waiter was extremely helpful when I told him we were vegan; the service was really outstanding. And the food? Incredible! Really, really good.

We got six vegan banchan, including the kimchee, which was vegan! Yum, yum, yum. We ate it too quickly for me to get a picture, although we also later got refills.

Then, our appetizer, the tofu steak:

Next up the kimchee fried rice. I’m not always a huge fan of fried rice because it seems so greasy and heavy, but this was soooo good! It was not at all greasy and seemed almost light.

And the seitan bulgogi, which Mark in particular loved. We had intended to actually barbecue this at our table, but the kitchen forgot and sent it out already grilled. I wouldn’t have said anything in the first place, but the waiter brought it out with apologies, then brought us some beautifully sliced, marinated veggies for us to play with on the barbecue to make up for it! (As if we needed more food…)

We also got the kimchee soup, which they made vegan for us (it usually has beef broth). Oh, yumminess in a bowl!

This morning we went to the Getty Villa and afterward wanted lunch. Fortinbras found a vegan restaurant just a few miles from the museum, but either Mark entered the address into the GPS wrong or the GPS just hates us, because we ended up on I-10 nowhere near the alleged restaurant. So we decided to just head back to Fort’s ‘hood, but the GPS wasn’t done messing with us and delivered us to some heavy off-highway traffic. I was started to get cranky-hungry and was quite displeased, when I happened to look over to my left as I was driving and see “Ethiopian Vegan Restaurant” in big green letters. So I pulled into a very handy parking spot and we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat vegan buffet for $9.99 each. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Ethiopian food? Well, I do, and this was all-vegan and all-amazing. A very happy detour indeed! The restaurant was Rahel Ethiopian and I wish it would relocate to Northern Virginia.

So, the question everyone is asking is: am I going to move out here or what? Well, quite frankly, I would actually consider moving here solely for the food. And the lack of snow. There is still a lot to explore and I’m eager to return; this city is very large. I didn’t take many great photos on this trip for various reasons, but here are a few sort of crappy ones that show some of the non-food-related things I did.

Jathan took us to Venice Beach, where Mark was interested in the graffiti artists.

(By the way, Jathan also showed us the Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which was really good. Watch it if you can.)

I didn’t know there were really canals in Venice until Jathan showed them to us and now Mark and I are both dying to live in one of the houses that line them. (I saw a lot of cats here, too.)

Mark and I accidentally found ourselves on Mulholland Drive one evening around sunset and very much enjoyed the views. This was taken with my phone and looks like a fake movie backdrop to me.

Fortinbras and I went hiking in Runyon Canyon, which gave me my first close glimpse of the Hollywood sign:

V and Mark and I went to the Griffith Observatory, which has fabulous views of the city, although it was so smoggy or hazy when we went that my pictures aren’t that great. The Hollywood sign is actually behind me in this picture, but you can’t see it.

Not a great picture, but from the Observatory, here’s the city at sunset.

All of tomorrow will be consumed by travel and time zone changes, but the reward will be two sweet, probably very confused kittens whom I miss very much!

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Greetings from Los Angeles

Hello from L.A.! I’ve been here for nearly a week and so far I can say L.A. is hands down the best city I’ve ever been to for food. It seems like there is a vegan restaurant on every corner, and every one I’ve been to has been really good. We’re here for 11 days, and ordinarily when I’m staying with friends or renting an apartment, I look forward to cooking in several nights. But, my friends, 11 days is not enough to eat everything I need to eat in this town!

Our second day here, our friends were trying to decide where we should eat dinner and, after googling, suggested Native Foods, mostly because it was nearby. I didn’t realize at first the restaurant was completely vegan, and was overwhelmed once I did. I finally chose the bacon cheeseburger because I thought it was a funny thing for a vegan to order:

Mark ordered the reuben:

Both were delicious and the chef even stopped by our table to see if we liked it. The omnivores we were with also enjoyed their meals – although I’ve found non-vegetarians usually don’t like fake meat, the bacon cheeseburger even went over very well. Unfortunately, things disintegrated to this shortly before we left:

Our hosts Jathan and Travis requested that I make dinner the following night and to that end took me to their neighborhood produce store. A produce store is pretty much all the greatness of Super H minus all the badness. That is, it’s a store almost entirely filled with produce, including exotic Asian fruits and vegetables, with a couple of aisles of rice and other staples, but with no meat, squid machines, or tentacles. I’m terrible at deciding what to make under pressure, but Mark came to my rescue and suggested stuffed peppers, I think mostly because Jathan and Travis found some TVP and were somewhat frightened of it and Mark thought it would be funny if we made them eat it. I made the recipe up on the fly; it was wild rice, TVP, onion, veggie broth, tomatoes, a chili pepper, and various seasonings. I also made a quick pasta dish to accompany it. I’m pleased to say that all plates were cleaned so I guess I didn’t screw it up too much, and the TVP wasn’t too scary.

Then we moved from Jathan and Travis’ house to Fortinbras’s place in Studio City, where he took us to Lotus Vegan, which he hadn’t been to although it’s right down the street from him. Apparently he’d been waiting for me. He got a “chicken” lunch:

And I got the yellow curry with “fish”:

Fortinbras was in raptures over both meals, but when he ordered dessert, I thought he was going to explode from happiness:

This chocolate cheesecake was probably – okay, definitely – the best vegan cheesecake I’ve ever had, or at least it was until we returned later that night with Mark in tow and tried the strawberry cheesecake which may have been even better. Now, remember Fortinbras is not even remotely vegan, but he still thought it was one of the best cheesecakes he’s ever had, vegan or not. He was also head over heels in love with the coconut ice cream that he ordered to accompany it. Fort’s going to be a regular at this place now.

For dinner, Fortinbras, Mark, and I went to Leonor’s Vegetarian Restaurant, which is not entirely vegan (it is vegetarian), though they are planning to begin using Daiya instead of their current non-vegan soy cheese soon. They were very helpful about making sure our meals were vegan after we asked about the cheese situation. It can be tricky to find vegan Mexican food, so I was excited to order these “shrimp” tacos:

They were pretty good, although I really prefer burritos to tacos.

In the midst of scouting out used bookstores today, I stopped for lunch at Daichan, which serves “Japanese soul food”. It’s a cute little place filled with Japanese tchotchkes.

I had the vegetable poki, which was not necessarily the most exciting meal I’ve ever eaten, but a nice, healthy, refreshing lunch, especially after all the other stuff I’ve been cramming down my throat since I got out here, most of which has been amazingly delicious but not exactly health food. It also seemed like something easy to replicate at home, which I think I will be doing.

Tonight Mark and I went to Pure Luck. I told him that they were known for their carnitas tacos made with jackfruit, although since he also prefers burritos to tacos, he ordered the carnitas burrito:

I ordered the BBQ sandwich, also made with jackfruit:

Both of these were really, really good. Mark declared my BBQ sandwich to be the best thing we’ve had here, although he thoroughly enjoyed his burrito as well. I think he might make me go back to Pure Luck again before we leave, he liked it so much. Although I’m trying to fit all the restaurants I want to try in, I won’t argue about going back there.

All in all, the food in this city is absolutely AMAZING. I thought San Francisco and NYC were good for vegans, but now I don’t think you can beat L.A.

Mostly I’ve been eating, but I’ve also done quite a bit of thrift and book store shopping. I absolutely loved Small World Books in Venice Beach. They had a great selection and a cat named Conan. All book stores need a cat, in my opinion.

Today I went to Iliad Bookshop, which is a huge and wonderful used book store. I really wish this store was in Northern Virginia. I have no idea how I think I’m getting my suitcase home after visiting this place; it’s going to weigh a ton. Of course they also have a cat! She looks very much like Brachtune except she’s missing an eye, due to mistreatment by her former owners before she was rescued by the book store staff.

Think it’s strange I saw a one-eyed cat? Well, the aforementioned Travis has a no-eyed cat, Radar:

Travis actually rescued Radar a few years ago after seeing a story about him on the DC news: he was in an animal shelter volunteer’s car when it was stolen right out from under her. He was eventually found again, and Travis felt the need to adopt him after watching the news segment. Radar is a super, super awesome cat. Watching him play is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. He’s also very sweet and affectionate and slept with Mark and I most nights we were there.

When Travis adopted Radar, the shelter made him adopt Radar’s buddy at the same time because they had bonded. Demon has both his eyes and I guess he’s supposed to look out for Radar, but Radar doesn’t seem to need much help, and moreover, Radar seems to enjoy attacking Demon. Nonetheless, they are best friends, and Demon is an extremely cute, affectionate, and playful – and very large – boy. He also slept with us, although he took up most of the bed.

I’m running into tons of cats here, but as this has gotten very long I’ll spare you any more photos for now. It’s great that I’m getting so much kitty contact, but I’m starting to really miss those kittens of mine. Their sitter tells me they are doing fine, but I’ll be extremely happy to see them when we return home.

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