June 25, 2011

Spanish potato tortilla (gluten-free)

I bookmarked a recipe for a Spanish potato-filled tortilla quite a while ago because it looked so mouthwatering, and when I finally got around to trying it this week, I was delighted with the results. So delighted in fact, that most of the half of my tortilla I was planning to save for lunch went into my stomach instead, and I had to make it again the next day, because having it just once wasn't enough.

Since I'm living in my Wisconsin house only for the summer, I don't have a complete pantry, and don't want to duplicate all the stuff I have in Seattle, which leaves me with a limited selection of what are usually pantry staples, like granulated onion and garlic, and nutritional yeast. So, I had to make some changes to the recipe. But this recipe is ripe for changes, as its creator, River from Wing it Vegan, mentions in her post.

Cooking the tortilla on the first side.

Instead of using onion and garlic powders, I sautéed half of a chopped large onion, and a chopped large clove of fresh garlic, and left out the yeast. I baked my potato in a toaster oven instead of a microwave, and instead of cornstarch I used arrowroot powder. (I'll probably use potato starch once I get back to my main supplies.) Other than these few alterations I pretty much followed River's directions. I cooked my first tortilla in a non-stick pan as recommended in the recipe, and it worked perfectly. The second day (tortilla not pictured beause it looked pretty much the same as the first, and anyway, I ate it) I used my trusty and very well-seasoned flat bottom wok, because non-stick pans make me a little nervous. It wasn't quite as easy to flip the tortilla, but not too bad.

The flipped tortilla cooking on the second side.

The second day I was out of potatoes, so I used 3/4 cup chopped broccoli, four sliced baby bella mushrooms and half a chopped jalapeño along with the onion and garlic. I had so much filling, and a slightly small cooking surface, that I ended up making two tortillas. With a big salad and a vegetable, the two tortillas should probably serve two as a light supper. Or — ahem, cough cough — maybe only one. This fabulous recipe, which I recommend you try ASAP, is gluten-free.

All that was left of the first tortilla, requiring me to make
another one (two actually) the next day.

I think the tortilla would be wonderful with chopped green onions and turmeric added. You can find the scrumptious recipe here.

This recipe has been entered in the Bookmarked Recipes challenge hosted by Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes. Ruth from Ruth's Kitchen Experiments is the founder of the challenge.


Here are some completely gratuitous photos of Miss E running to meet her mom at the finish line of her mom's first marathon. They were taken by Miss E's dad and used without permission. ;)

June 20, 2011

Mad City Vegan Fest

Yesterday I attended the first ever Madison Vegan Fest, and it was a great success. In fact, the organizers were very surprised at the astounding turnout. I volunteered to take some photos, and when I arrived around noon, I was pretty overwhelmed by the packed venue and the difficulty of getting near the vendors and samples. I knew something was up when I had to park four blocks away, but was still taken aback by the huge crowd. One of the organizers told me they'd had to turn away vendors due to space constraints, and next year's fest will definitely move to larger quarters.

I'd say Madison has come a long way as a vegan-friendly city over the past 10 years. Madison's vegan-friendliness can seem hidden to the casual visitor; for example, there are only a few explicitly vegetarian/vegan businesses. There's exactly one vegan/vegetarian restaurant, one coffee house, one food cart, etc. I've never had trouble dining in restaurants here since there are so many establishments that offer vegan-friendly menu choices, but to the uninitiated, it can appear limited. The biggest change I'm seeing is the establishment of a larger vegan community presence. The strong veg meetup group is one example of the growing vegan community. And new businesses selling vegan goods, like a regular bakery (check out the menu at Bloom) that also offers vegan and gluten-free delights, are another. I think it's pretty great that an event like Vegan Fest has finally happened in Mad City!

In addition to taking photos, I also sampled some of the food offerings.

Tex Tubb's Taco Palace was sampling chili and homemade chips, and handing out vegan take-out menus from Monty's blue Plate Diner, which is owned by the same group of restaurateurs. Monty's has always been vegan-friendly, but I'd never seen those menus before. Now, in addition to the regular menu, Monty's has gluten-free and vegan menus. Way to go, Monty's! Tex Tubb's is newly vegan friendly.

I tasted some incredible chocolate from Chocolate Inspirations, but unfortunately it went right into my mouth, bypassing the camera lens. It was being handed out by the woman pictured above, who said I was tasting English toffee and chocolate peanut butter. This stuff made my eyebrows lift in appreciative surprise. Fabulous!

Chocolate Inspirations table

I also tried these spectacular cookies from the Whole Foods table. I don't know if they are from the WF bakery or are a packaged brand.

Speaking of bakeries, I tasted samples of vegan, gluten-free cake from Bloom, mentioned above. Although served as little cake squares at Vegan Fest, these are usually in cupcake form at the bakery. They were remarkable — so delicate and light. When I asked how they were able to create such a light and delicious gluten-free product, I was told the secret ingredient was magic. With cake this wonderful, how could I not believe it? In addition to always having vegan and gluten-free cake available, Bloom will create fabulous cakes for special occasions.

Honest Tea samples

Vegan Fest participants taking an Honest Tea break

What would a vegan festival be without Seattle's Field Roast? I felt right at home sampling several different varieties of Field Roast sausages, my favorite being the apple-sage.

A chiropractic check at Vegan Fest

I had my first taste of Sheese, and maybe I just don't like cheese anymore, but it wasn't something I'd choose to eat with a cracker. The spreadable kind in the container tasted pretty good, though. I'd eat that!

Happy Vegan Fest participants.

Filling out a raffle ticket at the Arbonne table

The good people from Alliance for Animals

A table hosted by Monkey Bar Gym

In addition to the sampling and service tables, there were also several food vendors selling delicious vegan food. Plus the event had a full roster of notable speakers including Kelly Peloza, Jasmin Singer, Mariann Sullivan, Terry Hope Romero and others.

So, after I got home, I still had two unopened samples in my bag, just begging to be consumed. You know I never eat junk food like potato chips, right? You don't either, I'm sure. But these were baked chips — so low in fat as to be practically diet food. (Though not exactly diet food.) Yeah. If I'm going to eat chips in the near future, I sure hope these are the ones because they were the best chips I've ever tasted, except for being too salty. But everything tastes too salty to me so I just have to compromise sometimes.

V-dog, and I gave it to my sweet, old dog, who's been turning her nose up at just about everything, lately. She liked it!

Listen to a podcast by Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer from Our Hen House about their Madison experience as visitors to the city and speakers at Mad City Vegan Fest.

June 15, 2011

Bean blues

My husband and I attended a benefit auction for a wonderful organization. The event included a dinner, and through a series of detailed conversations, we arranged a vegan meal with the event organizer. The auction/dinner was held at a community college with a well-regarded chef program, so we thought we were in good hands. When we arrived at the event, we even found little place cards at the table that said "vegan" on them under our names.

The appetizer table contained the usual cheese and crackers, but also a bowl of hummus, and carrots and celery. It was a good sign. The first course was a salad with an un-vegan piece of garlic bread, but the bread was easily removed. No problem. For our main course, we were brought plates of grilled fish. Um, this isn't vegan, we said, politely. We were then brought the same salads we'd just had. I was thinking we should just eat them, but the other people at the table, all omnivores, were upset and told the waiters we'd already had salad. Then they brought us chicken. Next came what you see above — a plate of mushy, inedible, overcooked string beans — and a message from the cook that this was the best he could do. Fortunately, there was still a little hummus on the appetizer table, so we went and got some of that.

Oh well. I really don't get too upset about this sort of thing, but I was surprised that the cook couldn't have at least stir fried a few veggies for us. Everyone else had potatoes, and I would have been happy with a plain baked potato and a salad. The plate of unpalatable beans was the strangest vegan meal I've been served in a long time, and was a reminder that although it often seems that vegan diets have gone mainstream, this may not quite be the case.

What was the most uncreative vegan or vegetarian meal you've been served at an event?

June 12, 2011

A night at The Nile

One of the things I look forward to when I come back to Madison for a visit is dinner with the Madison Area Veg Meetup Group. Dave, the group's organizational genius, plans the best dinners and events. The dinners are so popular that they always sell out very fast, no matter if there are 50 available spots or 80. As soon as I knew the dates I would be here, I signed up for two events. Dave finds great restaurants that agree to prepare a completely vegan meal for $15 per person. Besides great food, other things I like about the group are, it's very friendly, and very age-diverse. There are singles, young families, older folks — a real range of attendees. And you never know who might turn up; I and each of the four people I went with, all unexpectedly ran into someone they knew.

My friend, Claudia

The dinner I just attended was held at The Nile, a new restaurant run by the former manager of Lulu's, a beloved Middle Eastern restaurant that fell victim to the redevelopment of the neighborhood in which it was located. While the food at the event was excellent, I think the number of diners overwhelmed the kitchen, and the quantity was a little slim. I had just enough to eat without feeling full, but there were a couple of things I didn't get to taste, and at least one dish that never made it to our table. We were at a very large table and received the same size platters as the smaller tables did, resulting in the five of us at the end of the table scraping out the remaining dregs on the plate. I was at the wrong end of the table for taking photos, that's for sure. I never got to photograph the lovely platters, just the little I managed to get on my plate — no zucchini on the couscous for me.

Friends, Donna and George. Claire was there, too, but somehow didn't make it into a photo. :(

The meal started with hummus, falafel and fresh pita. The flavors and textures were excellent, even if the quantity was scarce. The pita was perfectly warm and chewy.

The yellow split pea soup that followed was amazing. Perfectly spiced and creamy, it was the soup I can never seem to get right at home. We each got our own little cup, so no shortages for this course!

Salad with lemon and olive oil dressing followed the soup, and it was fresh and crisp.

There were several entrées, the first of which was spinach pie, theoretically served with tabbouleh, but our table didn't receive tabbouleh. The delicious pastry contained spinach, chopped onions and walnuts layered in thin dough and baked.

Couscous with vegetable stew came next. I often used to order the couscous at Lulu's, one of our favorite restaurants when we lived in Madison. The wonderfully fragrant stew with carrots, zucchini, potatoes and tomato sauce, was delicious as always, but my portion was mostly sauce, as most of the vegetables had disappeared long before the plate reached our end of the table. I never did get to try the zucchini, but I still enjoyed my portion, even though the couscous was a little too salty, in my opinion.

What you're seeing here is a little take-out container of Egyptian kushari. It's pasta and rice tossed with brown lentils and fried onions, served with a light, spicy, garlic tomato sauce. It looked and smelled great but I can't tell you how it tasted because our poor, neglected table didn't get any. The staff brought little to-go packs of leftovers from the kitchen, and gave them to our table — not enough for everyone, though. At that point, I'd already had dessert, and passed up an offered taste from one of the lucky recipients.

Dessert, of course, was baklava, and it was really good. Really good. I'd already dug into it when I remembered to take a picture. The entire dinner was delicious, and I definitely want to go back and enjoy another meal there. Although some people at the dinner were still hungry, I was happy to leave without the over-stuffed feeling I sometimes have at restaurants if I over-indulge. But I'm a somewhat light eater, so I can certainly see where my fellow diner's complaints were valid.

June 07, 2011

Back from wherever ...

Photos of the house when we first saw it.

Well, maybe you're wondering where I've been ... or maybe not ... but I've been taking a little break from blogging, and now I seem to be having more than a little trouble getting back into it. You know, I think the problem actually started back with VeganMofo, when I went a little beyond my personal blogging capacity, and instead of being inspired, I kind of slowly burned out. Then, in March, my husband and I decided to buy a small home in Seattle, where we'd been renting for the past two years, and I became totally involved in the process.

A wall of windows in the dining room and a remodeled kitchen

Blame it on my Libra makeup, where I agonize over every detail, analyzing both sides of each issue until making a clear decision becomes nearly impossible, but buying this house (or investing in property as I prefer to think of it) was a trying ordeal. Houses are way overpriced in Seattle, making a tough decision even harder for a cheapskate like me. My husband and I made a decision to downsize, and live a simpler life, choosing a smaller house than we probably would have in a more reasonably priced area. We ended up with a 1200 square foot two bedroom one bath house with a small "bonus room" upstairs. It's a nice house in a great neighborhood, but it's pretty small. It's amazing how big the real estate photos make the house look.

I'm actually in Wisconsin now, living in our house here, that we can't bear to part with, and which we rent out to visiting faculty for most of the year. We got possession of the Seattle house on May 27 and haven't moved in yet, but my husband has to stay in Seattle until June 30 for work, so he's been moving things in and looking for furniture. Currently, I'm obsessed with two somewhat opposing forces — HGTV and Craig's List. If only HGTV would come and decorate my new house — or landscape it. Will they find me if I hang out at Home Depot or Lowes? Since most of what I see on HGTV is out of reach, I prowl Craig's List and send my husband out to look at, and potentially buy, my finds. So far he's purchased a dining table and chairs, and before I left we bought a bed frame, cabinet, and wicker chair. The mattress is coming from an actual store, and a sofa probably will, too.

The lazy person's quick meal — microwaved potato with leftover chili.

I have lots of food photos saved up and now that I've taken the plunge and finally posted something, I can start sharing. Just want to mention that I've been eating a very simple diet — delicious but pretty boring. I'll get to that later.

note: House photos stolen from the house listing.