August 29, 2014

HappyCow Cookbook review and giveaway

Is there a traveling vegan or vegetarian who hasn't looked at the HappyCow review list of vegan/vegetarian-friendly places to eat? I doubt it. We always check the list when we're heading to a new location, and even sometimes when we're going out to eat at home, to see what food options are available. It's such a terrific resource. We used it a lot in July and August when we were on the road between Seattle and Madison, and when we went to Cape Cod for several days to attend a wedding. We found interesting places we never would have known about otherwise.

Now there is a HappyCow cookbook by Eric Brent, the creator of HappyCow, and Glen Merzer, co-author of Better Than Vegan, and I'm happy to help introduce the book as part of the Summer Road Trip HappyCow Blog Tour. The HappyCow Cookbook is a collection of interviews with the owners and/or chefs of more than 40 favorite HappyCow-listed restaurants from the United States and abroad, plus one or two favorite recipes from each establishment. Not only is it fun to find recipes from favorite restaurants where I've dined, but I had a great time looking up recipes from places I've always wanted to try. Candle Café, Karyn's On Green, Hangawi, Millennium, Native Foods and Sublime are just a few of the restaurants in the book.

raw Green coconut curry

I was asked to try recipes from, and generally highlight, the Seattle establishments, since that's where I now live, and there are two Seattle vegan restaurants in the collection — Chaco Canyon and Wayward Vegan Café. I've been to both many, many times. I've even taken a raw foods cooking class from two of Chaco's cooks. (One of the dishes we made was green coconut curry, which I photographed (above) on one of our visits to the restaurant.) Chaco serves both raw and cooked vegan food, and in addition to the curry, I'm very fond of their simple "bowls." I didn't find any of my favorite dishes from Chaco in the cookbook, but the quinoa tabbouleh that we made, is now a new favorite. It was easy to make and extremely delicious. Quinoa is probably my favorite grain, and I think I liked the Chaco version of quinoa tabbouleh better than a traditional wheat-based one. Thanks to the publisher, I can share the recipe with you. I just want to note that we used half the amount of oil called for and half the salt. Also, I think the quantity will probably serve at least eight, in spite of what the recipe says.

Quinoa Tabbouleh
From Chaco Canyon in Seattle, WA
Serves 4–6 (as a side dish)

Quinoa is a grainlike crop originally grown in the mountainous regions of Ecuador, Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia. It’s considered a complete protein for humans, as it contains a balanced set of essential amino acids. It’s gluten-free and easily digestible, making it an excellent grain alternative. This is a great way to use extra quinoa.
  • 2½ cups quinoa
  • 3¼ cups water
  • 1 cup minced fresh parsley (about ½ bunch)
  • 2 cups peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber
  • Leaves from 3 stalks of mint, minced
  • ¼ cup diced red onion (¼" dices)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
Combine the quinoa with 3-1/4 cups water in a pot. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for an additional 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork and cover and cool it in the refrigerator at least 4 hours. Once chilled, add quinoa to a large bowl with all the other ingredients. Mix together with a spoon and serve immediately or chill.

Tip: It’s easy to make variations on this recipe. You can mix red and black quinoa together with white (for example, cook 2 cups white quinoa with ½ cup red quinoa or ½ cup black quinoa) or use other grains like barley, farro, red rice, buckwheat, or millet.                                          
Homemade nutloaf served for lunch with summer squash and salad.

The second Seattle restaurant in the HappyCow cookbook is Wayward Vegan Café. Wayward is a vegan comfort food sort of place, and we've been going there since long before we moved to Seattle, when they were still at their old location. Back in the days before I had to give up gluten, my favorite dish was the nutloaf — except I think it was called a nutlet. I would order it exactly like you see it in the photo below — as an open-faced hot sandwich on grilled sourdough topped with mushroom gravy and a side of garlic steamed kale. Sometimes I'd get mashed potatoes, too, just to make the plate perfect.
The recipe for nutloaf isn't gluten-free, but was very easy to convert. I had planned to use leftover quinoa instead of breadcrumbs, but my husband 'accidentally' ate the quinoa, so I used some gf breadcrumbs that I'd made from a failed bread attempt, and stashed in the freezer. I also used two tablespoons of chia seeds instead of xanthan gum and flax, TSP* instead of TVP, and olive oil instead of vegan margarine. But even with the changes, it tasted exactly like I remember. I'm so happy to have my nutlet cutlet back!

photo and recipe courtesy of BenBella Books and Wayward Café

From Wayward Café in Seattle, Wash.
Serves 6
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 large white onion, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 1 12-ounce block medium-firm tofu
  • ½ cup textured vegetable protein (TVP) granules
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • ⅓ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon vegan chicken broth powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 tablespoons vegan margarine, softened
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor grind the walnuts and almonds until they resemble a meal. Place all ingredients, including the processed nuts, in a large mixing bowl. Using clean hands, mash everything together into a paste. Mix very well. Spray a small cookie sheet with nonstick oil. Put the nutloaf dough onto the cookie sheet and spread evenly, filling all sides to the edge of the cookie sheet. Smooth the top to make sure the dough is level. Place the cookie sheet in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly before cutting.

Served as we do at our restaurant: either in a cold sandwich on toasted French bread with vegan mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato, or in an open-faced hot sandwich on grilled sourdough topped with mushroom gravy and a side of garlic steamed kale. 
 (*I don't usually use TVP, and when I recently read a description of how it's made, I was leery of buying it for the nutloaf recipe, and eating it. However, I decided that a different form of the product, organic TSP, might be a reasonable choice. TVP is made using hexane, a chemical I'd like to avoid in my food. The organic TSP from Bob's Red Mill, is not. It's not something I'd want to eat every day, but occasionally consuming it seems reasonable. I had to order it online as I was unable to find TSP locally. Bob's also makes TVP, and that was all I could find at Whole Foods and our co-op. What do you think about these products?)

There are quite a number of recipes in The HappyCow Cookbook that I want to try, like the Thai Red Curry from Sublime, or the Moroccan Tajine from SunCafé Organic. Some of the recipes I would make as is, but many have way too much fat and salt for me, because this is restaurant food after all. While there are many recipes that look interesting, there are a few that appear overly complicated, and some where the directions seem unclear. But, it's a treat to be able to choose from so many esteemed-menu items and attempt them at home. And I can certainly alter the ingredients to suit my taste. Thanks to BenBella Books, you have a chance to win a copy of the HappyCow Cookbook so you, too, can recreate your favorite restaurant's dishes in your own kitchen. Just leave a comment telling me if you've ever used HappyCow, and if you have, name a great restaurant you found. (You needn't have used HappyCow to enter.) You have until Sept. 8 to enter. I'll randomly choose a winner and announce the results on the blog. Sorry, but the book can only be sent to addresses in the U.S. and Canada.

Thanks for all your comments. The giveaway has now ended.The winner was Lynsi, of Girl Goes Veggie!

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of the HappyCow cookbook for review. All opinions are my own. Recipes and nutloaf photo reprinted with permission.

August 24, 2014

It's been a long — and short — summer

Found in a box of photos.

Obviously, I've been away. We left Seattle June 30 and headed east to Madison, Wis. to clean out our beloved house in preparation for selling it. We had been renting it out the past five years while we adjusted to life in Seattle, but after a particularly gnarly and stressful winter, We decided we just couldn't do it anymore. Our tenants left the house unattended for two weeks during the polar vortex, and the day they left the house, the heat went off causing all the radiators and pipes to freeze and crack. (The house was heated by fuel oil, and a delivery was made the day the tenants left. Three weeks later when the oil company returned to deliver another load, the tank was still full.) We don't know if they turned the heat too low, accidentally turned it off, or what, but by the time they returned two weeks later, the house was a disaster requiring $72,000 in repairs.

To make the situation even more disheartening, the tenants not only took no responsibility, they demanded to be paid for time and effort spent mopping up water after the radiators began to warm up. We didn't blame the tenants for the destruction, and our insurance paid for most of the repairs (though not the two trips Ken made to the house), but we were harassed and sent degrading emails during the three-month restoration ordeal. They called us bullies and dishonest, and if anything describes us as landlords, it's not that. (They must have forgotten that we let them pay $200 less per month for two years, and no rent at all for a month last summer while they went to their family lake house up North. Duh.) We chose to have a new gas-fired high-efficiency heating system installed at our expense even though the heating company could find nothing wrong with the existing boiler. When the house was ready for occupancy in mid-April, we told the tenants they could live free for two weeks and begin paying again on May 1, but for various trumped-up reasons, they felt the $700+ they would not have to pay was inadequate compensation for the three days of mopping floors. There is much more to the story, of course, but that's all I can stand to retell.

The house sold without going on the market, and at first that seemed great, but the buyers have been very demanding, and the drama continues. On Aug. 25, we close on the house, and it will no longer be ours — for better or worse. It was a wrenching experience clearing our lives from the house and parting with so much "stuff," but it had to be done. We had an estate sale run by a church, and their share of the profits went to supporting homeless shelters and food banks, so I feel happy about that, but it sure was hard to say goodbye to so many things connected with my life.

We used the large basket on the right for storing out-of-season clothes.

We sold nearly all of the furniture and household items, including loads of baskets and other collections from around the world. I think there are now African baskets decorating the homes of many of my former neighbors. As I looked at each piece of furniture, I could remember where I had gotten it and who I was with when I'd found it. Lots of the pieces were antiques found at auctions and estate sales long ago, objects gathered from world travels, or pieces connected to late family members, and all were attached to fond memories.

We happened upon a jazz concert on a street corner near our house.

Letting go of 'things' was hard enough, but letting go of Madison was also hard. Madison is such a great place to live — in spite of the 'complicated' weather and prevalence of summer mosquitoes. I love it there, and will miss the city and the many, many wonderful people I've come to know and love.

Callie came with us on the trip, and I think she got a little tired of the incessant sorting and packing. I'm pretty sure she wasn't as emotional when we finally hit the road as we were.

We didn't do much cooking while we were working on the house. Wait, what am I saying — we didn't do ANY cooking. We usually ate fruit for breakfast and a big salad for either lunch or dinner, depending on which meal we ate outside the house. We bought bags of arugula, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and toasted sunflower seeds from Trader Joe's and heaped those items into our large enamel camping bowls at least once a day. The best meals were provided by friends, but we also ate in a number of vegan-friendly restaurants. Although I always asked for gluten-free food, I had stomach pains on many occasions following dinner. One place I never felt sick was Maharaja Indian restaurant, and we enjoyed many meals there.

Sweet potato hash with tofu scramble, fresh fruit and a side of broccoli (instead of toast).

Another restaurant where we ate a couple of times was Monty's Blue Plate — a comfort food style restaurant with vegan and gluten-free menu options clearly marked on the menu. I love when restaurants identify which items are vegan and gf. The food tastes really good at Monty's, but sometimes my husband and I both feel stomach distress after eating there. Their tofu scramble is pretty great, though. Oh well.

Much to my surprise, we've come to depend on Chipotlé while traveling. Believe it or not, I'd never tasted Chipotlé food before, but it was really handy to be able to have a sofrito salad bowl when everything else seemed too heavy, or making our own dinner seemed too hard. I like the ease with which I can customize my order, and I've never felt sick after eating the food. One order of salad was enough for two meals for me.

My friend and neighbor, Claudia, overcame her fear of feeding vegans and prepared an amazing, elegant supper of quinoa pilaf, roasted veggies and salad. It was delicious.

Eating at friends' houses was the best, and we're grateful for folks like Betsy, and Gary and Lanette for inviting us to share delicious meals with them.

A hiking trail at Gov. Dodge State Park.

In addition to seeing friends, we took time out from our work schedule to visit beautiful places — my friend Mari introduced me to a natural area just outside the city where I'd never been before. And we hiked at Gov. Dodge State Park. We were pretty surprised to find that about half the trails, including our favorite, were closed because of tornado damage in June.

Along The Lakeshore Path.

We walked out to Picnic Point and in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, as well as Allen Centennial Gardens, Olbrich Gardens and other points of beauty and respite.

It seemed like we were in Madison for a really long time — until the day we left when it suddenly seemed very short. Now that we're back in Seattle, it's hard to believe the summer is almost over.

Have you ever been in a position of having to downsize your stuff? Are you a saver or a cleaner?

I'll share more about our summer over the next couple of posts, including a getaway to Cape Cod that includes a look at the greatest wedding food surprise ever!