10/17/10

Tao Natural Foods – Minneapolis, MN

Tao Natural Foods
2200 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Phone: (612) 377-4630
http://www.taonaturalfoods.com/

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Alas, inspiration! After a couple of months of laying low, I was finally impressed enough to write. I loved the feel of this health store / cafe. It was light, airy and hip. Large picture windows made the sidewalk dining area feel like an extension of the kitchen. Plants spill over the counters, evoking an overall greenhouse vibe. The clientele felt like regulars and the retro diner seating encouraged conversation with the cooks. The servers were a little cold, but warmed up once I started asking questions. After a long morning of travel, I was thrilled to find this place.

I tried the AVOCADO RICE PLATE. The bowl of brown rice was topped with black beans, tomato, avocado, sliced red onion, tempeh and finished with toasted sesame oil. It was one of the most simple, yet perfect, meals I’ve had in a while. This huge plate of food that was more than fairly priced at $10.50.

This place just got it. I wish I could have tried another meal, but I liked my lunch so much that I have attempted to replicate the dish at home. Tao has become the gift that will keep on giving (once I get the recipe just right).

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08/28/10

In Praise of Canning

After months of searching for canning classes in Nashville, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take two classes this week.

I learned about the first from the East Nashville Crop Swap. This group gets together every other week to discuss organic gardening and trade herbs, fruit and vegetables. The owners of All Seasons Gardening & Brewing Company were generous enough to offer to host a free class in their store.

The second class was organized by Green Wagon. Green Wagon tweeted the announcement and the demand was so great, they were forced to hold two classes. Alan Powell (Long Hungry Creek Farm) taught the class. He will also teach pickling and fermenting classes in the future.

After these two, I’m excited to learn more and start preserving all the delicious produce for the winter!

Canned Salsa

It’s fascinating that the art of canning seemingly skipped a generation, however, it has recently become popular again. I believe the resurgence is a combination of factors – the nation’s desire to move closer to sustainability, the slow food movement, a larger population of health conscious individuals, the DIY movement, the ever-growing “foodies” who desire to enjoy fresh produce all year round and lastly, the economy.

NPR posted an article yesterday about canning:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129402166

Interested in canning?

University of Tennessee Extension, Canning Foods

Ball Blue Book

08/15/10

DC Vegetarian – Portland, OR

DC Vegetarian
430 SW 3rd Ave
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 317-4448

http://twitter.com/DCVegetarian

www.dcvegetarian.com

Everyone knows one of the greatest things about Portland, Oregon is their abundance of street food carts. According to FoodCartsPortland.com, Portland has over 200 food carts available at any given time. As a city that strives to continually provide fresh produce, especially in the summer months, it seems only natural that a vegetarian street food cart would exist. Aren’t we all a little vegetarian in the summer?

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It was a warm spring day when I visited. People were wandering around this block on SW 3rd Avenue (between Washington and Stark) trying to decide what to have for lunch. There were a few people in front of me, but I only waited about 10 minutes to eat. I liked that this cart also offered call in orders – perfect for the busy person who can barely escape for even 30 minutes during their workday.

The menu was mostly soups and sandwiches with plentiful vegan options. I opted for the vegan grilled cheddar cheese with tomato, vegetarian bacon and avocado. The cost was $4.50. There were a few picnic tables available, so I sat outside and enjoyed this tasty sandwich. It wasn’t as light as I would have preferred, but it was delicious! The vegetarian bacon added the perfect amount of crunchiness to an otherwise soft, yet crisp, sandwich.

I also may have hit up a group of food carts in another area later that night and devoured some of the most decadent macaroni and cheese I’ve ever tasted, but there is no photographic evidence of this, so did it actually happen?

D C Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

08/7/10

Vegan Red Velvet Cake with Vegan Cream Cheese Icing

After unsuccessfully attempting to pawn off some unused CSA vegetables to my friend for his birthday dinner, I promised I would make a vegan red velvet cake. I don’t know where it came from and I had never baked any vegan desserts, so I was a little nervous. Luckily, I found a great recipe online from Mac & Cheese, a vegetarian Philadelphia based food blog. The direct link is below.

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Steps not pictured: Kate nervously peering through the oven window. Kate prematurely texting her friend with an update on the “great” vegan cake for his party. Kate almost crying when the first cake wouldn’t come out of the pan. Kate “fixing” the holes in the bottom layer with gobs of icing. Kate almost deciding to decorate the cake with funky cocoa powder designs, but realizing she shouldn’t push it.

Time: 1 1/2 hours

Cost: $25 (I had some ingredients already and I had some items leftover after this was made.)

Tips: I used too much cooking spray on the cake pans. The vegetable oil made the cake somewhat crumbly. I’d like to experiment with other ingredients next time. Read the labels before you purchase the red food dye. Cochineal / Carmine is made from beetles (sometimes labeled E120). Red #40 is made from coal. The recipe is for cupcakes, but a commenter leaves instructions for a cake.

Edit: Putting this cake in the refrigerator for a few hours prior to serving solved the crumbling problems. Plus, I think it tasted better cold. It was a hit!

Recipe: Mac & Cheese

Overall Rating: I made a test batch of 4 cupcakes to make sure the cake tasted OK. The cake is good, but the icing is great.

08/4/10

Wild Cow – Nashville, TN

The Wild Cow
1896 Eastland Avenue
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 262-2717

http://www.thewildcow.com

The Wild Cow has been working very hard lately on their vegan and raw desserts. Most days, they offer at least four different options. These are listed on their website daily. Tonight, we braved the two block trek in unforgiving 100 degree heat for carrot cake and chocolate rosewater vegan cupcakes.

The verdict is in – sinfully moist and delicious.

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The Wild Cow on Urbanspoon

08/3/10

Pasta Substitutes? – Take Two

After the cucumber noodle failure, I was feeling dismal about the possibility of ever finding a low calorie substitute until I stumbled upon TOFU SHIRATAKI.

The entire bag is 40 calories, 0 grams of fat and vegan! There is angel hair, spaghetti and fettuccine. Each bag costs about $2.50 at Whole Foods. It takes 2 minutes to prepare – simply drop the noodles into boiling water for a few minutes, lightly pull apart, strain and serve. A good homemade sauce completes the meal. Farewell, Kroger brand pasta…

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Suggestions:

1. Strain well or your bowl of pasta will be too watery.
2. The noodles have a strange smell when they first come out of the bag, but boiling for a few minutes eliminates this!
3. Eat with a hearty sauce. Remember, the whole bag is only 40 calories!
4. Eat often.

07/31/10

Asian Summer Vegetable Tofu Scramble

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1 small summer squash
2 small banana peppers
handful of cherry tomatoes halved
1/2 package of crumbled tofu
1/4 fresh lemon

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper as needed
3-4 cloves of fresh minced garlic

low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of ginger (ground)
pinch of sugar

1. Start with ½ package of tofu. Cut in half and remove excess water. Put a
few tablespoons of olive oil into a pan and cook crumbled tofu until slightly brown.
Periodically sprinkle in salt and pepper. Remove tofu and set aside.

2. Sauté chopped summer squash, banana peppers and cherry tomatoes with
fresh minced garlic. Add crumbled tofu. Squeeze ¼ fresh lemon into mixture and
sauté for a few more minutes.

3. Add ginger, soy sauce, a small amount of rice wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar.
Mix and sauté for a few minutes. Serve immediately.

07/25/10

Field of Green’s – Houston, TX

Field of Green’s Healthy Cuisine
2320 W. Alabama
Houston, TX 77098
Phone: (713) 533-0029
http://www.fieldofgreenscuisine.com/index.html

When I pulled into the parking lot and saw the large sign reading “Field of Green’s” I was afraid that I had made a grave mistake. Surely a place that paid such close attention to organic and vegan ingredients would also be aware of basic spelling and grammar. I was relieved to quickly the learn the full name was actually “Field of Green’s Healthy Cuisine.”

This place is tiny; it’s a very bare-bones restaurant located in a strip center near Whole Foods. The ambiance is very simple, but the service is super friendly and the music was hip. The crowd appeared to be younger, but I’d bet the location attracts a variety of ages.

The menu offered a good variety and considered fish eating vegetarians by offering salmon in some dishes. I had so much trouble deciding from all the options, I had to ask my server for a suggestion. I finally settled on the VEGAN FISH TACO PLATTER. The dish consisted of grilled seaweed soy fish, pico, lettuce and lemon dill in a whole wheat tortilla. It also came with a small salad. This meal cost $11.

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I should have read the menu a little more carefully before ordering. I was imagining soft tacos for this plate, so was slightly disappointed. I’ve since realized that I don’t care for soy fish of any kind. Despite these two oversights, I could taste that the ingredients were fresh and I ate half the meal. It wasn’t bad, but I’d definitely order differently next time. I only wish that I had the opportunity to give this restaurant a second chance. I can tell this is a staple of the Houston vegetarian scene.

Field of Greens on Urbanspoon

07/18/10

Cafe Gratitude – Berkeley, CA

Cafe Gratitude
1730 Shattuck Ave (@ Virginia)
Berkeley, CA 94709
Phone: (510) 725-4418
Hours: 10 am to 10 pm
http://www.cafegratitude.com/

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To the average diner, the attitude of this restaurant might seem a little intimidating. The concept began with a couple who challenged one another to “live their lives together following and trusting intuition.” Their commitment inspired the development of the Abounding River Game. It’s an interactive game to share with a partner based around what they believed were important qualities to aspire to: Love & Acceptance, Generosity, Worth, Gratitude, and Creation or Responsibility. Cafe Gratitude was created initially as a meeting place for others to play this game.

Then, one of the owners stumbled upon a book about live foods and they experimented with this lifestyle for a month. They felt so good, they decided to create a menu for the cafe. Most of the food at this restaurant is organic, raw and vegan.

Sound like a lot to take in? I thought so, too, but once I arrived with my family my skepticism subsided. The Berkeley location isn’t large. Most of the tables were full on a Saturday for a late lunch. We were offered a cozy area with two couches and large coffee table connecting the space. Overall, the ambiance is calm, even soothing and casual.

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We started with the I AM ABUNDANT sampler plate. For $16, you’ll receive sprouted almond hummus, Asian kale-sea vegetable salad, hempseed pesto crustini, spicy cashew nacho cheese w/ flax chips, olive tapenade, buckwheat crackers, spring roll & mini house soup served on a large plate for sharing. These items taste great paired together. I especially liked the house soup and almond hummus.

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For my entree, I tried I AM WHOLE. This macrobiotic bowl contained shredded kale, sea vegetables, house made kim chee, sprouts, teriyaki almonds, quinoa, brown rice and a garlic-tahini sauce. I strongly recommend the 1/2 order ($10). Despite my best efforts, I was unable to finish. I felt satisfied, but not like I had overeaten.

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I AM RAPTURE completed our meal, with a scoop of creamy vanilla nut-milk ice cream. It was extremely had to believe this chocolate layer cake was vegan or raw. Bravo!

Without experiencing this place, the concept seems easy to ridicule, however, I encourage skeptics to open their mind and try it. The food is delicious and you’ll experience of the best feel-good meals you’ve had in a long time.

Cafe Gratitude on Urbanspoon

07/5/10

105degrees – Oklahoma City, OK

105degrees
5820 North Classen Boulevard
Suite 1
Oklahoma City, OK 73118
(405) 842-1050
105degrees.com

After my recent raw tiramisu adventure, I found this place on Yelp and I immediately became interested. I stopped in on a Thursday afternoon for lunch and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people dining. I loved the open, modern decor – steel frames and large glass windows throughout. The architecture alone may have tempted me to walk in and peruse a menu.

I spotted the CHEDDAR KALE CRISPS one table over and knew I had to try them. They were generously coated with cheddar cheese and baked to perfection. I felt jealous that I hadn’t thought of this fabulous use for kale when the never-ending-kale reared its ugly head during the first month of our CSA. Let’s face it, there are limited creative uses for kale; this recipe is fantastic and it’s perfectly priced at $5.

Next, I tried the RAW ARRABIATA. This was a wonderful combination of ingredients: gnocchi, crushed chili-tomato sauce, wilted spinach, aged chevre and basil. Being Italian, I felt nervous trying gnocchi in the raw form, but it was incredible. I was full after eating only half and felt this was also well-priced at $11.

I loved everything about this restaurant except for the service. They were slightly pretentious and not very attentive. They did suggest my entree, however, and I didn’t need much, so all was well. This place was much more than just a restaurant. It also offered a healthy living store and cooking classes. I would have loved to learn more if my time were not limited.

105degrees Academy

You win, Oklahoma City.

105degrees on Urbanspoon