February 29, 2008

Rustic farro soup

I walked into the family room on Saturday to find my husband watching Christina Cooks, a vegan cooking show on public television. Christina was rhapsodising about farro, which I now know, thanks to about.com, "has a long and glorious history: it is the original grain from which all others derive, and fed the Mediterranean and Near Eastern populations for thousands of years." Apparently it doesn't produce large yields and has been mostly replaced with more modern grains. Anyway, Christina was making a farro salad and was pouring on the olive oil and folding in heaps of fresh basil and stuff and it was all looking really good but, we're up to our armpits in snow and ice here, and seeing the fresh basil just made me mad. (I'm starting to get a little cranky about the weather.) She was urging her viewers to try to find farro even though it might be hard. Ken was really into it. I could see he was determined to make farro no matter what, so off we went to Whole Foods to do our part to keep the grain alive. As I was starting my second search of the bulk bins, Ken came running over waving a package of organic farro. Looks like barley, I thought.

After we got home, he went off to find another recipe that didn't involve fresh basil and I started to read the fine (very fine I must say) print on the package, and */%#, you have to soak the stuff for eight hours before you use it. Ken was not discouraged. He really likes Christina and wanted to do as she said.

Well. I've been debating with myself about whether or not to post this recipe because I've been pretty careful to post things that match the theme of "easy." This recipe is easy, no question, but it involves an extra step that means you have to plan ahead. Planning ahead is the part that's not easy. My husband pointed out that soaking something overnight isn't hard. And the result is fantastic, so here goes.

Ken made the soup except for the last part, and then was off to the airport, and I finished the cooking and had it for supper. I must say I was surprised by the incredible flavor. It's fabulous. Make this soup. You won't be sorry. I will also tell you that Ken made his own quick vegetable stock but you can use a ready-made version of low sodium stock.
Rustic farro soup (adapted from a Whole Foods recipe)

  • 7 ounces farro (whole, not cracked, triticum dicoccum)
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup carrots, small diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, small diced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onions, small diced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes and juice, canned
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 5 cups low sodium veggie broth
  • crushed red pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces escarole, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

Rinse and then soak the farro 8 hours or overnight.
In a soup pot, heat the oil on medium and add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic and slowly sauté until the onions are translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid. Add the tomatoes, wine, broth, red pepper and soaked farro. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the farro is almost tender, about 30 minutes. Add the chopped escarole, salt and pepper. Simmer about three minutes (just enough to cook the escarole). Add the thyme. Serve piping hot.

note: Good news! I've been doing a bit more research on the Web and several sources say you don't have to soak the farro, and it will cook in about 20-30 minutes - one cup of farro to three cups of water. Christina herself says you don't have to soak it. In fact, I'm finding the information about farro to be quite varied. One site says it's a kind of wheat and another says it has no connection to wheat and is an entirely separate grain. Most sources say it should be firm and chewy, and the method we used for the soup produced a very soft (but very pleasant) result. All sources say that farro is a nutritionally superior food. Since this was my first experience with farro, I'm unable to be more precise about cooking it. I'll have to experiment with the rest of the package and see what happens. Please leave comments about your results or your experience with this grain.

February 26, 2008

Braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins over oven-baked polenta

Don't let the long title scare you. This fabulous dish is so easy to make you may find yourself standing around the kitchen looking for something to do. It's very versatile, too. You could leave out the tofu and polenta, for example, and serve the braised kale as a vegetable. Or serve it over basmati rice or rice thread noodles. I highly recommend trying the polenta, though. It's delish and serves four.

The polenta is based on a recipe from Passionate Vegetarian. The author says it's an old Tuscan peasant recipe. Here it is:
-1 cup course grind cornmeal (our co-op sells a bulk course grind labeled "polenta") or fine grind cornmeal
-3 1/2 cups water
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 tablespoon yeast flakes (not brewers yeast powder), optional but recommended

Oil a 3 quart oven-proof skillet or dish. Put all ingredients in dish and mix together casually.
Put the dish, uncovered, in a pre-heated 350˚ oven. Bake for 40 minutes, undisturbed. After 40 minutes, stir and bake 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes. Creamy, dreamy, heartwarming polenta. mmm.

I always make this polenta in a 3 1/2 quart enamelled cast iron casserole pan from Le Creuset. It's one of three pieces of this cookware that I own, and it gets used nearly every day. Because the pan isn't supposed to go directly from cold to hot, I put it in the oven when I turn it on to pre-heat, and start the timer when the oven reaches the correct temperature.

Braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins
-1 pound kale (or other sturdy greens like mustard) I used a bunch of kale -no idea what it weighed
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1/2 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon tamari
-1/4 cup cashews
-1/2 cup bread crumbs (one slice of bread should be about right)
-1/4 cup raisins
-1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
-one good sized carrot, peeled
-1/2 teaspoon natural sugar
-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (unseasoned)
-freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse greens, remove thick stems, coursely shred and set aside.
3. Place the tofu cubes in a small bowl and drizzle with one teaspoon tamari. Toss to coat all the cubes. Let sit five minutes.
3. Heat one tablespoon oil in wok or skillet. Add the tofu cubes and cook over high heat until browned.
4. Turn the heat down. Add the mushrooms, cashews and bread crumbs and sauté until they are lightly browned. Stir in the raisins. Remove mixture from pan and set aside.
5. Add the other tablespoon of oil to pan, shred the carrot right into the pan, increase heat to high and add the greens. Stir to mix, then cover and cook about three minutes until the greens have wilted but are still bright green. (Be careful not to burn them.)
6. Reduce heat, stir in sugar and vinegar, and season to taste. Add the tofu mixture. Spread over polenta.

Sometimes I spread the polenta on a large serving platter and place the veggies on top. You can decorate with parsley and olives.

The whole vegetable part took about 15-20 minutes including prep time, so plan accordingly so you can have the veggies and polenta finish cooking about the same time. This part of the recipe is based on a recipe that I think is from the NY Times. I'm not sure though.

March 19 Update:
I'm in Seattle visiting family and doubled this recipe to feed five or six adults with lots of leftovers. When I went to stir the polenta after 40 minutes, it was still liquidy. I panicked. Did I forget to double the cornmeal? Was the oven temperature wrong? Then I realized that of course, larger amounts of food require longer cooking times. Duh. After another half hour, it was ready to stir. In the meantime, I cut up all the ingredients and put them into little bowls, ready to go. When the polenta was done, I turned off the oven but left the dutch oven in there. Then I prepared the braised veggies, and I felt like a TV cook! You know how they make it look so easy in those TV kitchens by having all the ingredients in little dishes and just popping the stuff into the pan. Well, it really IS easy to have the ingredients on hand.

February 25, 2008

Fried rice

No recipe tonight - just a photo of the fried rice I made for supper. It was just a simple stir fry with lots of baby broccoli, carrots, yellow and orange peppers, onion, mushrooms and leftover rice. I seasoned it with a spice mixture from Penzeys called Bangkok Blend, and tamari. Even when I don't think I have enough energy left to make dinner, something as simple as this still beats some over-seasoned convenience food. Yeah.

February 22, 2008

Potato stuffing/potato kugel

I'm going to share an old family recipe with you. I got it from my mother, who got it from her mother, who got it from her mother and so on. It originally came from Russia with my great-great grandmother. I have no idea how the recipe may have changed over the years except for the changes I've made. Even though I've altered the recipe a little, it still tastes the same to me as when my mother made it. The original recipe from my mother had an egg in it, and she dotted it before baking with butter or margarine. The recipe has bread in it but sometimes I use cooked buckwheat instead. In the "olden days" everything was grated by hand, but a food processor makes the prep very fast.

We called this recipe "stuffing" in my family, because that's how it was used - to stuff a turkey for a holiday dinner. There was always a huge pan of it in addition to the stuffed version, because we could never get enough. It even tastes amazing re-heated, or just cold. My mother served it for every holiday dinner and we never tired of it. Over the years of raising a family, I have served it for every holiday, too, and now my kids are continuing the tradition. The first time I made it, I was delighted to discover that the enticing smell I associated with holidays came from the stuffing, and not the turkey. Yay.

I think that because I associated making the stuffing with hectic holiday cooking for a crowd, I thought it might be too much trouble to present on an easy cooking blog, but really, it's a snap. It took me no time to make a recipe. (For holidays I usually make two or three recipes, depending on who's coming. If my middle son will be there, for example, I have to make a lot!) Now I think I won't wait for a holiday to make it, it would be an interesting side dish to share with friends or family at any meal.

Potato "stuffing" (kugel) serves 4 to 6
-three medium potatoes, peeled (I used organic russet potatoes.)
-three medium onions
-three slices sandwich bread (I used whole wheat)
-two large cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper
-olive oil or margarine (optional but recommended)
food processor (or fine hand grater for you traditionalists)

Peel the potatoes and put them in a bowl of cold water so they won't turn weird colors. Peel the onions and cut into small cubes. Cut the bread into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside. Put about one onion into the processor bowl and process until nearly smooth. Cut a potato into small cubes and add to processor. (Processing an onion before adding the potato seems to keep the potato white) Alternate cubed onion and potato until all is smooth. As the food processor fills, empty the mixture into a large bowl. If there are a few potato lumps it won't matter. When the potatoes and onions are all in the bowl, add the garlic and mix. Add the salt (more or less to taste) and pepper and mix. Stir in the bread cubes. If there seems to be a lot of liquid from the potatoes in the mix, stir in a tablespoon of matzoh meal or flour.

Place the mix into an oiled 9-inch square baking dish or any casserole dish of about 1-1/2 quarts. (I used a Le Creuset ceramic dish but sometimes I use a stainless steel pan and sometimes a ceramic baking dish I made) Sprinkle with paprika, and drizzle with olive oil or dot with margarine, if desired. I drizzled mine with two teaspoons of olive oil. Cover with foil and bake about one hour in a pre-heated 350˚oven. Uncover and bake 20 minutes more until the top is brown and the edges are crispy. Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish. (Different kinds of potatoes and different shaped dishes can require different baking times. Taste a little bit from the center to see if it tastes cooked, and if it is, uncover it to brown and crisp.)

Instead of bread, you can add a cup of cooked buckwheat to the potato-onion mix. It's really good and a little heartier.

You can double, triple, whatever, the recipe to serve the number of people you have. I usually make two or three recipes. It will take about twice as long to bake a double recipe. Cold leftovers are delicious!

February 19, 2008

Gingery bars

The house smells so good. And in spite of the endless snow, the kitchen is warm and spicy. I decided it was time to make something to distract me, however briefly, from the wreckage outside. This is a variation on an old recipe passed on to me by a co-worker.
Gingery bars
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar (evaporated cane juice)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2-1/2 cups sifted (or well-stirred) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (scant)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup soymilk
  • 1/2 cup molasses ( blackstrap, sorghum and Barbados will all give slightly different results. The ones pictured were made with sorghum)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • two bowls and a glass measuring cup
  • 9 x 13-inch greased and floured baking pan (don't forget the sides)
  1. Mix oil and sugar in larger bowl
  2. Sift dry ingredients together
  3. Combine soymilk and molasses in measuring cup
  4. Add dry ingredients alternating with wet ingredients to sugar/oil mix
  5. Add raisins
  6. Spead as evenly as you can in the pan. Batter is thick.
  7. Bake 20-25 minutes in preheated 350˚ oven (will still be soft-don't overbake!)
  8. Cool in pan 15 minutes, then cut into bars. Makes 16 large bars or 32 smaller ones.
The bars are at their best when completely cool. They are addictively chewy and cakey at the same time. I froze my leftovers so I wouldn't eat them all at once. These are good! (And they taste good frozen, too.)
Here are two pictures of the street where we live—just in case you think I'm making up the stuff I write about the snow. They were taken right outside our house.

Here it is March 16 and I'm in Seattle meeting my brand new, very beautiful granddaughter. Yesterday, everyone was craving a treat, so I made the gingery bars. I made them with blackstrap molasses because that's what we had, and I over-baked them because the baby started crying and what with the diaper changing and comforting, we forgot about the bars and they over-baked. Babies will cause that to happen. Happily, the bars still tasted great! I removed the note about not using blackstrap, but I still recommend not over-baking.
update2: I got this recipe from a co-worker who got it from her grandmother. She even has a scan of a very old letter written to or by her grandmother that contained this recipe. My co-worker was stunned when I told her I had found the recipe on several places on the Web and that it wasn't original. Obviously it must have come from an old cookbook and no one remembers which one, or has chosen not to mention it. Even when I've changed a recipe, I like to credit the source, so if you ever come across this recipe in a book, let me know. I think the original bars were called "hermits."

February 16, 2008

Tuscan stew

As I write this, there is a serious glut of snow and frozen snow outside. I can't even begin to tell you just how much snow there is, but it's ridiculous. I know the skiers are thrilled, and it's pretty, but enough is enough. There's lots more on the way and it's too cold. The only thing to do is make soup.

I'm going to give you the "actual" recipe and tell you what I changed. It's really an ideal soup to make in the summer, but it's hearty enough to enjoy on a wintry day as well. With a couple of substitutions, it works as a satisfying meal on a cold, and I mean really cold, winter evening. The recipe calls for a medium zucchini for which I substituted a white turnip, and swiss chard for which I substituted bok choy. I also think escarole or spinach would be a good choice for the chard. (I'm not a big fan of chard, but if this were summer and we had some in our CSA box, I would have used it.) There are also sprigs of fresh rosemary, but if you don't have any, used dried. For the bread, I used a 100% whole wheat baguette from Whole Foods. It was just the right combination of crusty and chewy, but it wasn't stale. I didn't have stock on hand so I used water and miso.

Tuscan Stew
4 to 6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, 1/2 inch dice
2 medium carrots, 1/2 inch dice
1 medium zucchini, sliced (or turnip, 1/2 inch dice)
2 sprigs rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 cup red wine
1 can diced tomatoes (use fresh tomatoes in the summer)
1 can small white beans
4 cups torn stale crusty bread
chopped swiss chard (or other green like bok choy or escarole)
6 cups stock (or water)
2 level tablespoons red miso (or salt to taste)
olive oil
In a large stock pot (5-6 quarts), saute for a few minutes in 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, the onion, carrot, zucchini (or turnip) until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the wine and cook 8 minutes. Add the tomato and stock (or water). Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer. If you are using water, put 2 tablespoons miso in a small measuring cup and add a small amount of hot liquid from the pot. Stir to dissolve the miso in the cup then add to the pot. If you are using stock, you may need less miso so taste the soup before dissolving the miso and adding to the pot. Stir in the chopped greens, bread, beans and rosemary. You can add cayenne if you like your stew spicy. Grind fresh pepper over individual bowls.
p.s. I had this soup reheated for lunch the next day at work, and it tasted even better. It was rich and satisfying.We loved this stew so much we made it twice in one week. The second time, I had my husband make it to "test" the recipe. Because this blog is geared towards fast and easy cooking, I usually use canned beans and such. But cooking beans from scratch results in a richer dish, and while it takes a little more time, it's not really hard. Here's a speedy "no-soak" method for cooking beans. Put one cup of washed beans in the pressure cooker with eight cups of water and bring it to pressure. This takes about ten minutes. Turn it off and let the pressure come down natually. This also takes about 10 minutes. Drain the beans and add eight new cups of cold water. Bring to pressure and cook about 10 minutes. When the pressure comes down, skim out the beans and measure the liquid to have the six cups needed for the recipe. Add more water if needed. Proceed with the rest of the recipe. My husband seasoned the resulting stew with 1/2 teaspoon of salt (add more or less according to taste) instead of miso. He also used a stale loaf of unbleached white sourdough baguette from Trader Joe's. Another great stew.

Now a little caveat. I was attempting to double check the cooking times for pressure cooking the beans so I could be accurate, but around the same time, I received the news that my first little grandchild, a beautiful little girl, had just been born in Seattle. Amidst all the excitement, phone calls, video chats and emails, I kind of lost control of the timing thing. I think I'm close, based on experience, but please forgive me if I've erred! I'll try again in the near future and correct the recipe if needed. In any case, this proves that cooking beans can be easy and requires minimal attention!

February 13, 2008

Cranberry fizz

Here's an easy, appropriately colored, non-alchoholic beverage to serve on Valentine's Day—or any day. In the fall it can be made with fresh cranberries, but frozen cranberries also work well. I love cranberries, and tart things in general - not much of a sweet eater - but if this is too tart for you, add the sweetener of your choice to the blender. I think it's very refreshing and pleasingly sweet without being too sweet.
Cranberry Fizz
2 cups sparkling water, chilled
2 cups apple cider or apple juice, chilled
1 ripe banana (must be ripe)
1/2 cup raw cranberries (at this time of year, these would be frozen)

Whiz the cider, banana and cranberries in a blender for three minutes at high speed until smooth. Stir in the sparkling water just before serving. It will be a beautiful, rosey pink with dark red flecks.

February 09, 2008

Valentine dessert

When the kids were growing up, I always made a Valentine dessert. It was literally a valentine from me to them and it was a family tradition. Every year I tried to come up with a new version to bake in my heart-shaped pan. It usually involved some sort of cake, cookie, or pastry base with non-dairy ice cream and/or frosting and/or a red fruit filling or topping. It was usually pretty good and visually impressive. One year it was so good that I wrote down the recipe. (I must have it somewhere.)

This year I made a dessert for the blog. Maybe my heart wasn't totally in it like when I made it for the kids, but it doesn't look quite as spectacular as I remember. Maybe my little camera isn't up to rendering valentines or maybe I rushed. The yummy taste is there, but I'm sure you can be more artistic than I if you try!

This year I used the chocolate chip cookie recipe posted 1/15/08 for the base. I used 1/2 recipe and pressed it into an 8 x 8 heart-shaped pan. (I just went ahead and made the whole recipe, used half for the heart and made cookies with the rest. The cookies freeze well so I froze them.) I used a non-dairy vanilla ice cream for the center and a bittersweet chocolate frosting for the top. The icing is BITTERSWEET in a big way and will appeal to people who like bittersweet chocolate. If you like your chocolate sweeter, leave out the coffee and add a little maple syrup. I used frozen raspberries to decorate the edge because I had some in the freezer, but use your favorite fruit. I think cherries would be good. You could use fresh fruit if you add it just before serving. Just a thought - if all this seems like a lot of work, you could just serve the cookie with ice cream on the side! One thing I noticed, and should mention, is while this combination tastes great, the cookies are very crisp and a bit hard to cut, especially when frozen. You might want to assemble this dessert closer to when you plan to serve it so it doesn't stay in the freezer too long, or plan to let it sit out for five minutes or so before attempting to cut it. And use a sharp knife! Maybe slightly underbaking the cookie would also help. Mine will be in the freezer for five days before I serve it. It's in a freezer bag inside a plastic container. I'm hoping for the best!

Valentine dessert
Chocolate chip oatmeal cookie base (this is 1/2 of the normal recipe)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (stir it up before measuring)
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/4 cup Sucanot (evaporated cane juice)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 or more tablespoons water

-Combine flour, oatmeal, Sucanot, salt and baking soda in large bowl. Stir in chips.
-Mix oil, vanilla and 1 tablespoons water in glass measuring cup.
-Stir the wet into the dry until flour is absorbed. Batter will be thick but if it's too stiff to work with, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
-Press into a lightly oiled 8 x 8 heart-shaped pan.
-Bake on center shelf of preheated 375˚ oven until lightly browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes (or until edges start to brown).
-Cool in pan 10 minutes, loosen edges with a knife and then invert over a wire rack. Tap the pan bottom gently to release the cookie. Carefully turn right side up.
The filling
Rinse out the pan and maybe oil it for the next step. I never do but maybe the ice cream would come out more easily. Anyway, this part can be interesting. I've noticed that some non-dairy ice creams (especially my favorites) seem to go from rock hard to liquid without passing through a soft stage. I used a rice-based product this time and was a little nervous about it liquefying so I cut hard chunks out of the carton with a butter knife and pressed it quickly into the heart pan with the back of a wooden spoon. It actually wasn't too bad. I used about 3/4 of a pint (got tired of pressing) but you can use it all if you want. When I had the surface all smooth and even I put the pan back in the freezer. Leave it there for an hour or two to firm up. While it's firming, make the frosting.

The frosting
My mother didn't make a lot of desserts but when one of us kids had a birthday, she was there for us with cake made from scratch and bittersweet chocolate fudge frosting. I never had much of a sweet tooth but I loved that frosting. Once in elementary school, when we had to memorize a story or poem to present to the class, I memorized the frosting recipe. I wish I could still recite it, but all I can remember is 11 tablespoons of cocoa and 11 tablespoons of sugar. Sound familiar?

Lately I've been using a frosting based on a recipe from Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon. Her recipe uses sour cream and I have substituted soy yoghurt. I've also made it slightly softer so it would spread easily over the ice cream. It's amazingly fast and easy and meets my need for chocolate to be as bittersweet as possible! With this dessert, even spreading on as much as my conscience allowed, I still had leftovers. (To spread on the leftover cookies from the other half of the recipe!)

Bittersweet frosting
6 ounces semisweet vegan chocolate chips.
one 6-ounce carton of vanilla soy yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon decaffeinated coffee crystals dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water
-Put the chocolate in the top half of a double boiler and melt over hot water. Stir often. I just put a stainless bowl over a pot of boiling water and it works fine.
-Remove from heat and stir in yogurt, vanilla and coffee. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and glossy. Place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to cool it down but not so long as to make it hard to spread.

cookie-heart base
ice cream heart
bittersweet frosting
frozen or fresh fruit
unsweetened shredded coconut or other decoration of your choice

Place the cookie on a nice plate where it can lie flat. Get the ice cream heart from the freezer and run hot water over the bottom of the pan for about 10 seconds to loosen it. Run a knife around the edge of the ice cream. Dry the pan and invert the pan over the cookie. It should fit perfectly since it's the same exact size. Thump gently on the pan bottom, and with a little luck, the ice cream should fall right into place on top of the cookie. Good luck. When the ice cream is successfully in place, put the dessert in the freezer for about 1/2 hour or so, to firm up the ice cream.

Spread the cooled frosting on the frozen ice cream. Work quickly so the ice cream doesn't melt. You can frost the top and sides or just the top. I did just the top and left a little white showing. Put the plate back in the freezer and get the fruit for the edge ready. Put it in a bowl so you can get to it quickly. Get the dessert from the freezer and arrange fruit around the edge or however you see fit. Sprinkle with shredded coconut or decoration of your choice. You're done.

February 05, 2008

Traveling vegan (lots of eating-no cooking)

Since we were taking a four-day weekend to visit relatives in Florida and I couldn't do any cooking, I decided to document what a vegan might find to eat in Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the airports along the way. When we got to the Madison airport (where we could certainly find vegan food) we found our flight to Milwaukee had been cancelled, and we were to be bused to Milwaukee airport (MKE) in time to catch our flight to Ft. Lauderdale. As far as we knew, we'd be in Florida by 6 p.m. — in time for dinner.

When we got to MKE and went to our gate we saw that our flight was delayed. And delayed. And delayed. We also discovered that nearly all the food places and shops were on the other side of security. We'd brought some baked tofu slices and crackers with us as well as some nuts and Clif bars, but they were mainly supposed to be snacks and to tide us over until dinner. But, it became increasingly clear that we wouldn't be arriving at dinner time. If we didn't find some food, the snacks would be our lunch and dinner. We wanted something to take on the plane - assuming we would get on the plane. The only thing we could find in the gate area was a bottle of Dole smoothie and some under-ripe bananas. I passed them up. Even Starbucks, which usually has veggie wraps and salads in other airports, only had pastry.

With a sigh, we crossed back over the security line. We hung out for a while in the used book store (MKE actually has a good used book store with knowledgeable staff) and then set about searching for vegan vittles. Too bad for us. MKE is a meat-eatin' kind of place. The only thing I could find was a side dish of wild rice salad at a very crowded sit-down restaurant. Duh. And it had ingredients that I wouldn't really want to eat. We went back through security empty handed and bought the smoothie and banana. I had the smoothie, a banana and the Clif Bar for dinner. I can tell you that MKE is NOT vegan friendly. (The Detroit airport, on the other hand, has Japanese and Middle Eastern restaurants—but that's another story.) We finally landed in Ft. Lauderdale about 11 p.m. and went straight to our hotel and to sleep.

Our room package included breakfast and we went to the hotel restaurant the next morning quite starved.

The breakfast menu included a tofu scramble and it wasn't bad. It came with fresh squeezed oj, roasted potatoes, whole wheat toast and Tazo tea. Ate every bite. (The restaurant also had several vegan options for lunch and one for dinner but we didn't have time to try those.)

We spent the day with family, and that evening we all went out to a "Nouveau Thai" restaurant that was supposed to be fabulous and veg friendly. We ended up ordering an appetizer salad, a vegetable side dish and rice, because it was all we could find on the menu. And it actually took 1 1/2 hours before our table received food. Although I'm really not a big eater, I was still hungry. I wanted to photograph the extremely attractive food but it was too dark in the room. Each thing I had was tasty but small. And expensive.

The next morning at the hotel we opted for the stone-cut oatmeal with raisins, juice, toast and tea. I've never heard of stone-cut oats but it was delicious. (And it wasn't steel-cut oats. I know what that is.) It was huge and filling and we left feeling happy and healthy.

Early that afternoon my kind sister-in-law and brother served a large lunch with bagels and vegan cream cheese, mock chopped liver, eggplant salsa, and salad stuff for the vegans and fishy stuff for the non-vegans. Later in the day, when the Super Bowl came on, she put out a big tray of chips, veggies, hummus, tapenade and other stuff that we snacked on. They know how to treat their guests well! After stuffing myself and, not much into football, I went out for a while with my other sister-in-law and niece.

About 9 p.m., although not really very hungry, my husband and I decided to go to dinner at the renowned Ft.Lauderdale vegan restaurant, Sublime. I have mixed feelings about this restaurant but, on the other hand, it's such a relief to go to a restaurant where everything is vegan. I think they try too hard to make the food seem like it's not vegan rather than try to make delicious food from vegan ingredients. There are lots of meat substitutes and not enough creatively used vegetables. The manager once bragged to me that most of the people who eat there are not vegetarian. Maybe they have to take this direction to survive—and I hope they continue to find success.

That said, there are a couple of things I really like, even though I think they are too fattening. There's frito misto which is crispy, crusted, fried-I-guess cauliflower with sweet and sour sauce. It's so addictive. And I also like the portobella steak with spicy tomato confiture, whipped mashed potatoes and garlic spinach. It also comes with three, huge french-fried onion rings which I try to only eat one of (photo at top of post).  My husband got a cup of quinoa soup which was delicious, and a salad. The desserts are yummy but we couldn't possibly eat any more food so we declined.

We opted for the oatmeal again the next morning and set off for another unexpectedly long day of travel and food deprivation, but at least we'd been more than well-fed over the weekend.