June 30, 2013

National Vegan Pizza Day delivery

When we lived in upstate New York, there was a late night TV commercial that flashed a gorgeous pizza on the screen while a deep and melodious voice asked, "Are you hungry right now? Just pick up the phone and dial. Your pizza will be delivered fast, hot and delicious."

"Hell Yeah," was usually our response, followed by a lament that it was just an ad, and the real pizza probably sucked. We never ordered. One night though, the 'hell yeah' was followed by a "let's do it just this once." When it arrived, of course we were sorely disappointed because ... it sucked. And it wasn't even fast or hot. Bummer.

Every so often these days we get an urge to order a pizza. Hard as it may be to believe, we can order a gluten-free vegan pizza and it WILL arrive hot and delicious. No kidding. Last night, in honor of National Vegan Pizza Day, we ordered the garden special from Razzi's Italian Restaurant  — roasted eggplant, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, fresh garlic, and Daiya mozzarella with homemade organic pizza sauce. Sometimes the crust seems so good I find myself questioning whether it's really GF, but I never get stomach pains after I eat it so I guess it really is an especially well-done GF version.

Razzi's is like a 'normal' neighborhood Italian restaurant except they have four different menus — traditional, gluten-free, vegan, and gluten-free vegan. Even more unusual, the offerings on each menu are virtually the same. If you want calzones you can get them on any of the menus. Gyros, grinders, hummus and pita? They're all there. They even have something called "sorta-sausage" on the vegan/GF menu. And they deliver — in case we're too tired or lazy to drive to the restaurant.

Not that I want to make you jealous, but we also have a very well-regarded vegan-owned, all-vegan pizzaria in Seattle called Pizza Pi. We don't eat pizza very often, but when we're in the mood for it, and don't feel like cooking, it's nice to know we have so many choices. Do you have restaurants like these in your city?

June 26, 2013

Solstice weekend: The Fremont Solstice Parade, and a birthday dinner

Not your ordinary marching band-members.

Every year the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle hosts a Solstice party. Fremont, otherwise known as the Center of the Universe, is not your ordinary neighborhood — it's a little weirder than most places.

One of the big events at the Solstice Fair is the parade. I've written about the Fremont Fair nude bikers, and the floats, in the past so I won't go into too many details here, but I'll tell you that the parade is not your ordinary public event.

The parade starts with about 200 nude bicyclists, and continues with a couple of hours of bands and floats. The floats must be manually pulled because this is a very ecologically-oriented eventno motor vehicles allowed.

You might think the ladies on the left are wearing bathing suits. They're not.

Most bicyclists wear costumes made from paint — some so clever that you might not notice the rider is stark naked — and others choose to ride au naturel, or with polka dots or hearts, or something. Although their costumes weren't the flashiest, the two women wearing "bathing attire" were among my favorites this year. Their painted-on suits were hilariously realistic, though you probably shouldn't try this at a public beach.

Many of the costumes are quite complex and require props.

And I noticed at least two dogs riding in this year's parade.

This was the first time I've been to the Solstice parade when it wasn't drizzling and cool, and it was much harder to get good photos in the blinding light. The parade was moved to 3 p.m., and the sun was high in the sky, creating difficulties. Miss E, a true child of the PNW, was complaining about the heat — a blistering 75˚. Ha.

Miss E's brother, Little E was attending his first Solstice Parade, and was quite amenable to both the heat and the commotion.

Eventually, though, he needed a little nap to refresh from the hard work of watching the parade.

The parade goes on for a couple of hours but we needed to leave long before it ended. The fair has lots of interesting booths and events that you can read about on the Web page. I've barely scratched the surface of the three-day event.

The parade was on Saturday, and my husband's birthday was on Sunday. This year, our middle son and his partner hosted the family birthday celebration. It was a delicious affair with everyone contributing food. Taryn brought a delicious tapenade with crackers, and a great salad with homegrown lettuce. Kate made a wonderful dal and Aaron made irresistible roasted cauliflower. I brought cake.

I was so into eating the terrific food that I completely forgot about taking photos until all that remained was a little bit of dal in my bowl.

I made the cake — a gluten-free chocolate chip cake — and my oldest son gets the credit for photographing it. If you think the candle doesn't look quite right, perhaps you can remind me to buy some birthday candles. The cake is one I make often because it always works, and Miss E likes it. It's covered with a simple ganache made by heating 1/2 cup of almond milk to a low boil, removing the pan from the heat, then adding 3/4 cup of vegan chocolate chips and stirring until they are melted. I let it cool for 10 minutes then gently and slowly poured the chocolate over the cake, in thin layers. I put the cake into the fridge to solidify the chocolate.

If you would like to see more images from the Solstice parade, here are a few links to earlier posts:

Father's Day | Birthday | Fremont Solstice parade (nudity alert) -2010

Simple GF pancakes | Naked Solstice fun -2012

The Vegg | Cookbook love | Solstice parade part 2 -2012

June 23, 2013

San Francisco weekend, day three — Muir Woods, Marin farmers market, Sausalito, Gracias Madre

We awoke early on Sunday morning because we had a goal to get to the Muir Woods parking lot before it filled up. Although we arrived before the typical fill-up hour, the lot was packed, and we had to seek parking a short hike away. Lucky for us we found what looked like the last space in an small lot down the hilly road.

Spending Father's Day morning at Muir Woods.

Muir Woods, in case you don't know, is an ancient redwood forest in which many of the trees are more than 600 years old — the oldest trees exceed 1000 years of age. Most ancient coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) have been cut, but the redwoods in Muir Woods are protected, and have never been logged.

The trees are BIG.

Coast redwoods are nature's tallest living things, the tallest ones in Muir Woods reaching heights of more than 250 feet and diameters of 14 feet. Redwoods are fascinating trees with the ability to withstand fire and the capability of reproducing from both burls or seeds. We saw a new tree sprouting from a decomposing log.

The trails in Muir Woods are paved, easy to navigate, and crowded, but if you follow them onto the unpaved hiking trails of Mt. Tamalpais State Park, the crowds melt away and you can continue on longer hikes.

I was still favoring an injured toe which made my hiking boots uncomfortable to wear, so we stuck to the lower, somewhat level park trails, but there are elevated more challenging trails in the park that I would have liked to hike. We hiked for several miles through the gorgeous forest before heading to our next destination — the Marin farmers market.

Photo from tofu yu

Our purpose at the market was to find something to eat for lunch before going to Sausalito. We perused the market offerings, munching samples and marveling at all the vegan and gluten-free options. We found a Mariposa bakery stand again, and purchased another baguette, and then we came to the Tofu Yu stand. Whoa. They were selling all manner of magical tofu and yuba dishes made with their own tofu. After a couple of samples, I grabbed a package of unbelievably tasty spicy veggie wraps made with yuba — a little salty but so good. I love yuba. I tried to share equally but it was really hard, and I ate three wraps.

Photo from tofu yu

My husband also picked up a package of quinoa sushi which he liked but I didn't — too much seaweed. I love nori and I used to enjoy most sea vegetables, but ever since my dinner at Prasad in Portland, I've been put off by all sea veggies except nori.

In addition to the lunch, we bought a bag of toasted lentil snacks to bring home to Miss E, and some dates for us. I love the Marin farmers market — actually I love every farmers market I've been to in California. There is a mesmerizing variety of fresh fruits and vegetables unlike any I've seen in other places.

We all wanted to see the city of Sausalito, but the big motivation for visiting was the Heath Pottery outlet store. Jordan and Alison are interested in acquiring some dishes, and wanted to see if they could find better prices at the outlet. There were some beautiful pieces there but very expensive, which tends to be the case with premium, lead-free dishes made in the U.S. No purchases were made ... yet.

We wandered around downtown Sausalito enjoying the fabulous weather and gorgeous scenery, and wondered what it would be like to live in a place so filled with tourists.

I don't know. What do you think? Do you live in a tourist-filled vacation destination in a gorgeous seaside town?

We had been planning a walk on a beach but it was getting late and Jordan and Alison still needed to get their laundry done before dinner, so we headed back to San Francisco, where the weather was a lot cooler and the wind more brisk — a rude reminder that not every place in Northern California enjoys the same amount of sunny warmth.

Back at the Airbnb, I had to photograph the pocket garden just down the street from our building. There was so much charm tucked into a small space that it made me smile every time I passed by.

Our last meal together in San Francisco was at one of my favorite places — Gracias Madre. Initially, my son had vetoed Gracias Madre, but by Sunday night he'd changed his mind and agreed we should go. I'm so glad we did. I ordered tacos filled with a choice of seasonal vegetables, and my choices were roasted poblano chilies and leeks, sautéed kale with garlic and toasted cumin, and sautéed snap peas with garlic and chili flakes. The tacos were topped with cashew cheese and served with black beans — excellent. I was sure I'd be taking some home for breakfast, but nope, I ate the whole thing, and enjoyed every delicious bite. (My husband snapped the photo with his phone because I was too lazy to bring my camera along.) Because I didn't photograph the food — it's so dark in the restaurant — I can't remember what else was on the table except for a bowl of posole. I do remember that everyone at the table was very happy with their selections.

Here's Ken in our lovely Airbnb kitchen filling the kettle for a cup of tea before we left for the airport Monday morning. I don't think I'd want to actually live in the apartment, but it made a great vacation rental — more charm and space than a hotel room at much less cost.

One last food-related item I want to point out is the box of curry tofu nuggets we purchased at the market. I thought we got it in Marin but my son insists it came from the Ferry Building market, and he's probably right. Inside the box was a vacuum-sealed bag of smallish tofu nuggets as pictured on the box front. We carried it home in Ken's backpack along with the sauerkraut, and no one stopped us when we went through security. (I got patted down because of the nifty hidden zippered pocket in my shirt seam but no one seemed to care that we were packing large quantities of tofu and kraut.) We ate the nuggets for lunch when we arrived home on Monday, and they were spectacular. The texture was springy and chewy, kind of like I remember cheese curds, and the flavor was delicious. I wonder how they do it.

Previous posts about San Francisco:  
A weekend in San Francisco - days one and two-2013
San Francisco: day 1 highlights

San Francisco highlights: day 2 | Burma Superstar | Gracias Madre -2012

June 19, 2013

A weekend in San Francisco - days one and two

Luminous red onions at the Ferry Building farmers market.

We spent Father's Day weekend in San Francisco, visiting our son and his girlfriend. The trip had a rough start — just after we went through security at the Seattle airport, I asked my husband to hold my camera while I went to the restroom. I didn't take it back when I came out,  when we stopped to buy a magazine or when we went to the gate, since he offered to carry it for me. Just as we were about to board, I asked, "do you have my camera?" I was shocked to find out that he didn't. I was quietly freaking as he ran off to retrace his steps thinking he'd left it in the men's room — a situation that was probably not going to end well. He came back empty-handed, and I refused to board the plane. The Alaska Airlines agent calmly and sympathetically re-booked us on a flight one hour later, and my husband ran off again to check with the distant lost and found. In my agitated mind I was already considering which camera I would buy to replace mine, but when Ken returned, he handed me my camera! With no luck at lost and found, he'd returned to the magazine store and the clerk had the camera behind the counter. Can you believe it? I get tense just thinking about it now.

Since we had been added last minute to a later flight, Ken and I weren't sitting together, and my seatmate looked and talked exactly like Alec Baldwin. There were moments when I thought all the stuff he was telling me was an act and he really was Alec Baldwin, but I'm sure the real Alec Baldwin would be in first class. Wouldn't he?

A corner of the kitchen at our Airbnb.

Once we finally got to San Francisco, we settled into our Airbnb apartment on Duboce Triangle. The apartment was old and quaint — furnished with quirky antiques, and much larger than we had imagined. The location was perfect — a two block walk to our son's apartment.

We had an early dinner reservation at Dosa, a South Indian restaurant that we really like. Dosa isn't vegetarian or vegan but they have a separate vegan, gluten-free menu, and the food is delicious. I had a dosa stuffed with collards, peppers, spiced potatoes and caramelized onions. It came with spicy soup and two sauces into which I dipped the dosa and indulged my taste buds. It was scrumptious.

On Saturday morning we took the Muni to the Ferry Building farmers market where we wandered around gawking at gorgeous California fruits, vegetables, and other stuff.

Lobster MUSHROOMS, mind you.

You can find pretty much anything you're looking for at the indoor/outdoor market, as well as things you've never heard of. And there are so many samples. When you taste an amazing apricot, it's hard not to buy a few.

Although we had a large kitchen at our disposal, we weren't cooking, so we tried to control our impuse to buy everything we saw and tasted. We did buy a chewy and delicious gluten-free vegan baguette from Mariposa Bakery. Most of their baked goods were not vegan so we were limited in what we could choose, but the bread was excellent.

Doesn't everyone long to travel on a plane with a container of fragrant sauerkraut in their backpack? You see, all the vendors give out samples, and the kraut was so good we couldn't resist. The woman who sold us the kraut said she makes it in her house in Santa Cruz.

As you can see, the lovely cauliflower curry kraut made it home safely and it didn't scare the other passengers off the plane.

We also bought apricots.

After the market, we returned to home base and climbed into Alison's car for a drive to Berkeley and Café Gratitude, for lunch. I had a fabulous bowl called I am whole with a substitution of kale for the sea vegetables. I could only finish about half but I enjoyed every bite.

My husband had I am abundant — a raw Mediterranean sampler —  that he loved. Jordan had raw sushi and Alison had soup and salad, I think. I really can't remember and the photos didn't turn out.

This was our first visit to Café Gratitude and we were all impressed with both the serene atmosphere and the food. It may sound corny, but I left the restaurant with a deep sense of calm that lasted through the day.

Carnivorous pitcher plants at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden.

Our next stop was the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden — a wonderland of beauty. It's organized by areas of the world (Asian Collection, Eastern North American Collection, Southern African Collection, etc.) as well as by special collections like Chinese medicinal herbs, old rose collection and more.

We passed through a building housing a spectacular collection of very strange cacti.

And then headed into the New World Desert, which was pretty spectacular.

There was weird and wonderful beauty wherever we wandered.

At one point, my son and I got a little sidetracked by bees, and couldn't seem to stop taking photos of them.

The bee seemed to be rolling around in the pollen — acting like it was taking a bath, or was perhaps intoxicated.

I wish I could remember what part of the world this lovely flower is from.

Or this one. We ambled around for a couple of hours, and were trying to decide which area to explore next, when a voice came booming over the loudspeaker yelling, "the gate will be closing in five minutes. If you don't leave you will be locked inside." The voice was in direct contrast with the beautiful surroundings and we were startled into seeking the most direct path to the gate — not an easy task in such a large place. You'd think they'd give us 10 minutes to find our way out.

We returned to San Francisco for a rest before heading out to a late dinner at Thai Idea, a vegetarian Thai restaurant. My husband and I shared an appetizer of fresh spring rolls, and a dish of vegetables and rice. It was pretty, but very plain — probably because I asked for it to be gluten-free. Jordan and Alison had more interesting dishes but it was too dark for good photos.

Tired but happy, we headed back to the Airbnb for a good night's sleep.

Previous posts about San Francisco: 
San Francisco: day 1 highlights -2012 San Francisco highlights: day 2 | Burma Superstar | Gracias Madre -2012

June 15, 2013

Fab roasted cauliflower | Cookbooklette winners

The other day I happened to catch a facebook post from Dreena Burton offering a link to the recipe for her almond-roasted cauliflower from her cookbook, "Let Them Eat Vegan."I don't know why I don't already own the book, but I don't, so I quickly followed the link and made the dish for dinner.

We love roasted vegetables at our house and enjoy them often —  cauliflower is a favorite. Dreena's simple addition of a couple of extra ingredients made a favorite food even more delicious. You should try it.


Zine winners
Callie posing with some of the entries after making her selections.

I made a slight change in my usual method of using a random number generator to select the recipients of the cooking zine — I hope you don't mind. I put the names on same-sized pieces of paper, placed the papers on the floor, and called Callie. She chose two winners at random — the first with her nose and the second with her paw. Then I made her pose near the papers, and she was concerned that she'd done something wrong. But I think she did a fine job choosing Food Feud and Radioactive vegan to win copies of the zine.

Thank you to everyone who entered. I wish I could send a copy to each of you. But, if you really want one, there might still be some available here. The winners have been notified and the prizes are on their way!


Dining advice needed
Any suggestions for restaurants in San Francisco and the surrounding area? Thanks!

June 11, 2013

Grills Gone Vegan, a review

Grills Gone Vegan is a very comprehensive guide to all you need to know about vegan grilling. I mistakenly thought it was just about cooking on an outdoor barbecue, but I was wrong. Tamasin Noyes covers all the options from a stove-top grill pan or an electric indoor grill, to an outdoor charcoal or gas barbecue. Once you get the tools and techniques down, you're free to grill in the heat of summer or during the worst blizzard of winter.

The book starts with advice on buying outdoor and indoor grilling devices, and essential utensils to make grilling more convenient. She then explains how to maximize grill flavors with marinades, wet and dry rubs, and smoker boxes. Next is a short course on how to grill — preparing the grill, choosing and prepping the ingredients, and stocking the pantry. There's also a section at the back filled with amazing-sounding sauces and dressings.

I have to admit that when we barbecue at our house, it's usually a simple affair of slapping various veggies, tofu or tempeh on the grill — nothing fancy. We love the taste of grilled food in all its simplicity, but the idea of spiffing up our grilling and finding new ways to enjoy our beloved barbecue was very appealing. Since my husband usually wields the barbecue tools, he picked out the first recipe to try — portobellos smothered in ratatouille. Doesn't that sound good? I don't know exactly what went wrong but though he worked at it for 1-1/2 hours, the end result was not good. Neither of us enjoyed the meal and it didn't look good enough to photograph. Bummer. I think maybe it had too many steps for someone used to keeping things simple.

After a certain amount of resting from the exhaustion of grilling, he tried again, this time with a simpler marinated and grilled tofu — five-spice tofu. (He probably chose it because the marinade contained sriracha.) I wish the cookbook had pictures to reinforce the recipes — it helps a lot to see what a food is supposed to look like. Perhaps if my husband had been looking at a photo of glistening tofu slabs searing on the grill, he wouldn't have chosen to cut the tofu into cubes and skewer it with mushrooms.

In spite of his efforts to foil Tamasin's excellent recipe, the tofu was delicious, and we enjoyed our meal. He even managed to get the requisite grill marks on some of the cubes. Although the tofu was tasty, the amount of time it takes to marinate (eight hours to three days) will probably keep it off our grill list unless we learn how to plan ahead instead of being the last-minute grillers that we are. Potato slices are more our speed. But don't let our sloth-like ways inhibit your creative grilling impulses.

For the last recipe test, I took over, and decided to grill in the kitchen, the fresh bunch of asparagus we had just purchased at the farmers market. Although the recipe is presented as a salad with Chinese cabbage, I chose to make Tamasin's side dish variation of Asian asparagus spears.

I don't own a bona fide grill pan with ridges, but I do have a round cast iron griddle, and took some liberties with the definition of indoor grilling, to use it. The recipe was easy, and basically involved tossing the grilled asparagus with a light sauce. The result was delicious and visually appealing — something I would be proud to serve to guests. Although it was supposed to serve four, it was so good the two of us gobbled it up ourselves — along with pasta and soy curls with marinara sauce.

This is not a grab-a few-things-from-the-pantry-and-slap-them-on-the-grill kind of book. The recipes, for the most part, require a bit of thought and planning, but if you are looking for creative and delicious ways to make the most out of your grilling experience, you might want to take a look. "Grills Gone Vegan" will elevate your grilling skills into the realm of gourmet cooking, and you will discover new and unexpected ways to enjoy grilled foods.

I focused only on gluten-free recipes, but there are many recipes for seitan, and even desserts you may be interested in. Here's another review by Chow Vegan with different recipe selections. 

Asian asparagus spears
  • 8 ounces asparagus
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium tamari
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  1. Preheat a grill, grill pan or electric grill to medium heat.
  2. Put the asparagus in a medium bowl. Drizzle with canola oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss gently until the asparagus is evenly coated. 
  3. Put the asparagus on the grill and cook, turning occasionally until marked, tender and bright green, about eight minutes. (If using an electric grill, keep it open and cook a few minutes longer if necessary.)
  4. Toss the spears with the sesame seeds, tamari, vinegar, and sesame oil as soon as they come off the grill.
My recipe notes: I used 12 ounces of asparagus without changing the quantities of the other ingredients and it worked perfectly. I used less than 1/4 teaspoon of salt. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of your asparagus spears. My asparagus was very thin and cooked in just a few minutes. I used unseasoned rice vinegar.

The recipe was reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Book Publishing Company.
Full disclosure: The book was sent to me free of charge. All opinions are my own. I was not paid to review the book.