July 23, 2010

Funning ourselves ragged | The Green Owl | ice cream sundaes with balsamic pineapple topping

The weather has been hot and humid and most folks are complaining. Two years ago I would probably have been complaining, too, but after a long winter, spring and early summer in the heat-and-sun deprived Pacific Northwest, I feel the heat seeping into my core and warming my bones. It feels restorative and comforting, and I'm drinking it in. Can't say how I'll feel about it next week but at this moment, it's a pleasure.

We arrived in Madison from Seattle last Friday night after four days on the road, and have been dividing our time between doing necessary upkeep on our house (servicing the furnace, cleaning the chimney, plunging the bathtub drain, blah, blah, blah) and and socializing. I mean SOCIALIZING. We've been going day and night. Wednesday, for example, began for me with an energetic early morning walk with a friend, continued with an afternoon of errands, an early evening visit with another friend, and an night of folk dancing and catching up with more old friends. I didn't get to bed until midnight, then was up for another early morning walk the next day. I'm too old for this. :) Fortunately, the walk was canceled because of a dramatic rain storm, and I had a chance to sort cupboards until our lunch dates arrived. (short restaurant review follows.)

Yes, I ate the whole thing for lunch today.
I'm sure the pace will slow down but right now it's pretty hectic, and I haven't been doing much cooking, existing in between restaurant dates on coconut milk yogurt and fruit for breakfast and salad and hummus for lunch (as in above photo). We've had a couple of simple stir-fries for supper and now we're about to enter a new round of restaurant dining for the next few days.

We had lunch yesterday at The Green Owl, Madison's newest and only vegetarian restaurant. Most of the menu items are vegan and some of the vegetarian items can be made vegan. They also have a gluten-free menu available. I'd heard that the restaurant specialized in making familiar regular food vegan rather than creatively using vegetables and fruits to create signature dishes, and this may be true, but I totally enjoyed my lunch.

I had a Crabby Cake Po'Boy, ($9) which consisted of two crabby cakes on a roll with lettuce, tomato and chipotle rémoulade. It came with a side of yummy kale chips. (I could have chosen oven-roasted red potatoes or a salad but I always choose kale.) I've never had actual crab cakes so these didn't serve as a substitution for me, and I didn't compare them to the real thing. I would have preferred them less salty and in a whole grain bun, but they were delicious. Totally yummy and I'd order this sandwich again. I couldn't really taste the chipotle, though.

My husband had the Middle-Eastern Platter, consisting of hummus, tabooli, muhammara and baba ganoush served with toasted pita, olives and pickled vegetables. ($8.50) He said it was delicious, but a little too rich for him, and it upset his stomach. (It was a large quantity of food and maybe he over-consumed?)

Our two dining companions both ordered the TLT, ($9), with avocado, smoky baked tempeh, lettuce and tomato served on Madison Sourdough wheat bread with a vegan aioli. Both seemed to really enjoy their meal.

We ordered one dessert to share — a slice of cheesecake with a praline topping and vegan whipped cream. It was very creamy but I have a super sensitive tofu detector, and it tasted a little like tofu to me. Everyone else thought it was delicious. We're going back to The Green Owl for dinner tonight with friends, so I'll get to try a completely different menu item.

Last night we had dinner at the home of friends, and we brought the dessert. We're not stocking many ingredients in our pantry since we're here for such a short time, so it was a simple concoction. But, hey, summer is all about simple — and easy cooking is my specialty, right? We brought the ingredients for ice cream sundaes topped with balsamic pineapple sauce. The sauce was nothing fancy but it added a nice touch to the other flavors. We purchased my favorite flavor of So Delicious soy ice cream, mocha fudge, plus organic blueberries and strawberries. The pineapple was from a can our previous renters had left in the pantry. It was pineapple rings, which I cut into smallish pieces after I drained the juice.

Quick ice cream sundaes with balsamic pineapple sauce
  • vegan ice cream of choice (So Delicious mocha fudge is pretty great.)
  • fresh blueberries
  • fresh strawberries, sliced
  • vegan bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can (8 oz.) pineapple rings in 100% pineapple juice (pineapple cut into small pieces)
  • 3 tablespoons evaporated cane juice or rice syrup
  • 2 level teaspoons arrowroot (or cornstarch)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  1. Mix together the blueberries and strawberries.
  2. Drain the pineapple juice into a small pot.
  3. Dissolve the arrowroot in 1 tablespoon of water in a small dish. (always add the water to the arrowroot or it will lump.)
  4. Add the sugar and dissolved arrowroot to the pineapple juice, and stir over low heat to dissolve sugar. When the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat and bubble gently for a minute or two until the juice thickens and clarifies. Add the cut-up pineapple pieces and turn off the heat.
  5. Add 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and taste. Add the other 1/2 teaspoon if needed. Chill if desired. (I chilled mine but I'd like to try it warm.)
  6. Scoop ice cream into four bowls. Spoon berries over ice cream. Add some chocolate chips. Top with pineapple sauce.
note: If you use arrowroot and make this sauce ahead, don't try reheating it because arrowroot sauce will become thin if reheated. This quality makes arrowroot a good choice as a thickener for vegan cheese sauces that you want to become melt-y on a pizza or in mac and cheese.


  1. What a fun few days you've had! The Green Owl sounds great, and so do your sundaes. What are your thoughts about being back? Leaning towards staying for good or heading back to the family?

  2. Glad you hear you're getting your fix of hot weather and spending time with old friends. Sounds like a wonderful parade of dining out and catching up. All the food looks and sounds great, but I'm especially interested in the balsamic pineapple syrup...sounds wonderful!

  3. Hi! I love huge salads for lunch too; people get frightened by the size of them. :D And very creative idea with the sundae toppings. Lucky pantry find with the canned pineapples haha. Looks yummy!!

  4. Trinity,
    We're still not sure what to do. We have to go back for another year and then we'll decide. We love being near the family but our hearts are really in the Midwest.

    We are definitely enjoying ourselves. I think there's real potential in the pineapple sauce, though I didn't spend enough time perfecting it. I bet it would be really good with fresh pineapple — or peaches. I'm going to make a peach topping, next.

    Huge salads on a hot day are very appealing. I'd rather have avocado and no oil with maybe a splash of vinegar or lemon. So refreshing!

    I'm looking forward to more fruit-topped summer sundaes — fruit makes it healthier, right? :)

  5. It sounds like you have been super busy! All the food looks yummy, and I'm with you about the tofu detector - I'm not a big fan of tofu in desserts. Enjoy Madison! :)

  6. Glad to hear you're having such a fun time! The food looks great especially the ice cream sundaes. Love how much fruit you pile on there. :-)

  7. River,
    Super busy with friends is much more fun than super busy pulling weeds, but weeds are on today's agenda. Oh well.

    Chow vegan,
    Yes, lots of fruit AND chocolate chips!

  8. Glad you're enjoying yourself so much. Your friends must be so pleased to see you again.
    That food all looks good, but the thing I want NOW is the balsamic pineapple juice on icecream! My mouth is literally watering!!!

  9. "I have a super sensitive tofu detector"; priceless! (I also hate tasting tofu in dessert).

  10. I hope you are enjoying your trip and that things have calmed down a bit for you :-)

    Are you sick of the humidity yet?!? I know I am, lol :-) Do you have AC in your old house? I guess I wouldn't mind it so much if I had AC. I am fine all day at work, but it is when I get home that I melt and dream of fall... :-)


  11. Penny,
    I might be enjoying myself too much — not enough gardening and house shape-up seems to be happening. But, oh well. I think I should go finish off that ice cream now.

    I wonder why tofu desserts taste so good to some and so nasty to others — kind of like cilantro, I guess.

    I've been enjoying the weather, though today was kind of hotter than necessary. It hasn't seemed that humid to me. Today I walked a LOT in the mid-day heat and it started to get to me a little.

    We don't have AC in the house though we do have a window unit we could put in the bedroom. We haven't put it in, though. We have ceiling fans and window fans.

  12. I've never tried balsamic vinegar with pineapple, but it sounds very interesting. This looks like such a yummy dish, I've got to try to make it sometime this weekend. Thanks for sharing!



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