Monthly Archives: June 2010

Crepe Day

This is another restaurant review. I haven’t been cooking much exciting lately since I’ve been broke, in the middle of moving, working, and taking four hour long classes. I’ve been mostly subsisting off of oatmeal, bagels, and take out.  Today I met with my friend Cindy for lunch at Sweet Pea’s Cafe in Los Gatos. Los Gatos is an affluent suburb of San Jose, located right at the foot of the Santa Cruz mountains. There is another Sweet Pea’s Cafe located in Capitola (a beach town near Santa Cruz).

This place was packed when I arrived at quarter to one. My friend hadn’t arrived yet so I decided to order an iced coffee. The girl at the register took about five minutes to acknowledge that I was there and then when I asked for an iced coffee she told me that even though it was on the chalk board they did not have iced coffee. I got a hot coffee instead even though it was about eighty degrees out.  The coffee was good and hot.

When Cindy got there we lined up to get our order. Cindy got the chicken salad sandwich which she seemed to enjoy. I ordered the mushroom, spinach, and feta on an original crepe (they give you a choice of wheat or original). In retrospect I should have ordered wheat. The mushroom, spinach, and feta crepe is the only vegetarian savory crepe available. There are many sweet vegetarian options and one or two vegetarian breakfast crepes. There is one vegetarian sandwich, daily soup options, and a couple salads.

I got my crepe without the mushrooms because I’m not a mushroom fan. The crepe was great tasting, but the  filling was a little bland. The mushroom sauce was incredibly bland. It just tasted like cream. There was no salt, pepper, or mushroom taste. The spinach in the filling was not seasoned. The feta was nice and salty so when the two mixed together it was much better.

The location is great and I would definitely go to Sweet Pea’s Cafe in Los Gatos again and try the one in Capitola. I think I would get the breakfast crepe without the meat next time.

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Restaurant Reviews: The Bagelry

I love carbohydrates, I love bread, and I love bagels. I love all the different kinds of bagels: bagels from Noah’s, bagels from Safeway (the really big chewy ones), the bagels from the express store at the Bay Tree bookstore with the pesto and cheese in the middle, and bagels from the Bagelry. The only bagels I don’t really like are those bagged kind from the grocery store. They’re okay. I’ll eat them if they’re around, but they’re just not as good as a bagel from a bagel shop.

I do like cream cheese. I can also dig on the Tofutti cream cheese stuff. I like neufchatel cheese as well. That’s kind of like cream cheese but without a lot of the fat. Nonfat cream cheese is disgusting. It’s grainy tasting. I just don’t do that.

Today I visited my friend’s new house in Soquel. There are Bagelry shops throughout Santa Cruz county and there is one right in the middle of Soquel Village. We went there for lunch. Now normally I’ve liked everything I’ve gotten from the Bagelry: day old bagels by the half dozen, bagel with Royal Palm mix (cream cheese, honey, dates, and walnuts), the scrambagels, the lox and cream cheese, and the hot albacore tuna on a bagel. Those are all delicious adventures. However, today I tried the Luna because everyone on Yelp was talking about how great the Luna was. I was excited to try it. I thought it sounded good: ricotta cheese, pesto, and chopped almonds. Okay the toasted chopped almonds were kind of weird, but still it sounded good enough to get. When I got it it was totally not what I expected. The pesto, nuts, and ricotta cheese were all mixed together. I don’t do things like that all mixed together. I’m weird about textures. Okay, so I can get over that. But then there were also green onions or celery or something like that and that really bothers. I don’t like crispy things with creamy things at all. I especially do not like onions or despise celery. I had to spend a long time picking those things out. It did not say anywhere on the menu that it included green onions or celery. Green onions and celery do not go in pesto, they are not almonds, and they are not an ingredient in ricotta cheese. Why were they in there and why did no one tell me?

I ended up eating it but I wasn’t stoked and didn’t love on it the way I have other things from the Bagelry. I would never order it again and I would not recommend it to anyone. I would eat at the Bagelry again though because everything else there has been delicious. I just wish it wasn’t cash only.

Rice with Poached Egg

I am terrible at making rice without a rice maker. I can never seem to get the texture correct. The outside is mushy and the inside is undercooked. I always do the right proportion of water to rice, I cook it the amount of time that the recipe says, yet I am a failure at making rice. However, the rice is not inedible so I will end up eating at least one serving of it and throwing the rest out.

This week I made brown rice with a broth, blanched asparagus, and a poached egg. The egg, broth, and asparagus came out nicely. I will have to keep working on my rice cooking skills.

Rice with Poached Egg

  • one serving of cooked brown rice (you can also use white rice, if you like)
  • one egg
  • water
  • soy sauce
  • sriracha sauce
  • not-chicken chicken broth (this comes in a powder at one of the grocery stores I shop at)
  • nutritional yeast

Note: I made this broth on the fly and I didn’t measure anything. It definitely came out with an Asian influenced flavor.

1. Boil water and add chicken broth powder. Stir in the rest of spices and nutritional yeast. Once boiling, bring down to a simmer. Crack egg into broth. Do not disrupt the egg at this point. You want to keep your white and yolk whole.

Note: To make sure an egg is fresh fill a cup with cold water. Add the egg to the cup. If the egg floats then the egg is bad. If it sinks to the bottom it is still good to use.

2. Remove the egg from the broth with a slotted spoon once the white has set and the yolk gives but is slightly firm to the touch. If you prefer a harder yolk then let it cook for longer. Put this aside with your rice.

3. Add chopped asparagus to the broth and cook briefly. Put in a cup of cold water to cool it down and stop the cooking the process. This is one of those things that I keep checking for doneness. I like my asparagus still fairly crisp, but not bitter the way raw asparagus can be.

4. Place rice in a bowl, top with poached egg, pour broth over egg and rice. Then add the asparagus. Enjoy!

Recipe Reviews: The Veganomicon

I’ve been slowly working my way through some of the recipes in the Veganomicon that interest me. I think they have a lot of great recipes. It is an informative book and the descriptions before each recipe are cute and humorous. My main issue with the recipes are the fact that they do not take into account the time that prep work takes. My carrots, peppers, onions, garlic do not always come magically sliced, minced or chopped. Since I am not a professional cook and have very limited machinery, slicing onions take forever and I’m very sensitive to the sulphur (which means that I cry like a little girl whose just lost their favorite doll). I’ve been mostly satisfied with the recipes in the book, but they are time consuming. Very time consuming.

This last weekend I decided to throw a BBQ to celebrate being accepted into my credential program at San Jose State. I wanted to make one vegetarian dish and Andrew was going to bbq some meat. I ate red meat for the first time in a couple months, but more on that later. I decided to make the Manzana Chili Verde and Skillet Corn Bread. I adapted the corn bread to be made in a piece of bakeware and with spelt flour. I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of white flour that I use.

I’m not going to write the recipe for the Manzana Chili Verde since it’s incredibly long, but I will note that the recipe says 1 hour to make. This is ridiculously underestimated. You would have to be Speedy Gonzalez or Flash Gordon to make this recipe in an hour. It took me at least an hour and a half, probably closer to two hours. The prep work took me forever since I’m a slow cutter. The recipe does not include the prep time for cutting all the vegetables. Also, I had to extra beans to make this hearty enough to be a chili. We ended up using it more like a dip than eating it out of a bowl. It was very tasty, but I don’t think I would make it again.

I will give the recipe for the cornbread since I made some adaptions. I really enjoy the way it came out. It has a heavy corn taste and a very dense moist texture from the spelt flour. The only critique I have of the recipe is that it also took much longer than it said in the book. The book says that it needs to cook for 30-32 minutes. Mine nearly took forty-five minutes. I find that this is a trend in this book. Either my oven is screwed up or the authors of this book have a super oven.

Skillet Corn Bread (Basic Corn Bread)

  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (recipe uses soy)
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup spelt flour (original recipe uses all-purpose flour)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup oil

1. Preheat the oven 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a square baking pan with spray oil or whichever type of grease you like.

2. Combing the milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside to curdle as you prepare everything else. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Create a well in the center and add the milk mixture adn oil. Use a spoon to mix together until just combined; some small lumps are okay, but try to get rid of large lumps.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 30-32 minutes. Now, mine took much longer than this. Keep checking with a sharp knife or toothpick to see if ti comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit before serving.

Today I some of my leftover cornbread with a third of a can of black beans, some mozzarella cheese, and tapatio sauce. It made for a tasty, delicious lunch.

Oven Roasted Asparagus and Dal

Today for lunch I picked up a bunch of asparagus at Scotts Valley Market along with a packet of dal (Indian lentil soup) spices. I love asparagus. It’s definitely my favorite vegetable. Though I love the way Andrew cooks his asparagus I’m always experimenting. In the Veganomicon they highly recommend oven roasting asparagus. I wanted to try it and see if it was yummy, easy way to cook asparagus. My verdict: disgusting. I hated it! My garlic ended up burning, the asparagus was mushy (even though I cooked it for the lesser amount of time), and it was very greasy. It wasn’t as flavorful as the kind Andrew made either. I’m definitely not cooking it this way again. I was able to get down two stems before throwing it away.

I also made dal with chickpeas and whole grain naan. I bought the naan at the grocery store and cooked it in the oven for a few minutes, turning it over once. I cooked the dal according to the spice package. I had to add salt, curry powder, and chili flakes to make it tastier. I didn’t get a picture because my camera battery ran out before I was done.

My Most Delicious Green Bean Experience

Growing up I hated green beans. In fact, growing up I disliked most vegetables and a lot of other things. The problem was I was a kid and my mother couldn’t cook. If your parent doesn’t know how to cook vegetables (or anything else, sorry Mom!) then you don’t grow up loving your veggies. There are vegetables I’ve always loved for sure: peas, carrots, brocolli, and lettuce. There are others that I’ve grown to like over the years that I didn’t like as a kid: brussel’s sprouts, cabbage, and onions. There were others that I never tried as a kid and was able to try as an adult: beets, asparagus, parsnips, bok choy, and other leafy greens. There are still more vegetables that I have tried again as an adult that I will never enjoy: celery, tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers. One vegetable that I thought I would never like is green beans. I thought green beans were awful growing up and as an adult I still didn’t like them. The thing was, I always had them canned or frozen. They almost always tasted like sand to me. It wasn’t until today that I learned that green beans can taste delicious and this is all thanks to Andrew.

Now Andrew and I manage to cook fairly well together. Or I manage to cook and Andrew cleans up for me and does prep work. I’ve been able to teach him how to make pizza dough, chicken and rice soup, noodle soup, and a couple other things. We work well as a team in the kitchen. Today Andrew was able to show me how he makes asparagus and green beans. They turned out delicious. Really delicious. One of the best vegetable experiences ever. Seriously, I will be eating more vegetables now that I know how to do this.

It’s very simple.

Andrew’s Amazingly Delicious Lemony Veggies

Ingredients

  • asparagus
  • green beans
  • generous amounts of lemon juice
  • olive oil so the veggies don’t stick

1. Prep your vegetables. This means snapping the woody stem part of the asparagus off. I bend the asparagus and wherever it snaps naturally is where I snap it. For the green beans I cut the stem end off each green bean.

2. Heat your skillet with oil to medium. Add vegetables and generous amounts of lemon juice. Cook until vegetables are brown, crispy, and tender.  Large asparagus generally takes about fifteen minutes and green beans take less time than this so cook them separately.

Chickpea Cutlets and Vegetables

Last weekend I got the Veganomicon at Urban Outfitters for less than ten dollars. This book runs retail at around thirty dollars, so I was stoked to find it for so cheap. The binding and cover was a little damaged and there was some strange purple ink going on inside the book, but I don’t care: it’s a cookbook, it will get banged up around the kitchen.

It’s been inspiring to read all the recipes. One of the recipes that I was most interested in when I first saw the book was the chickpea cutlet recipe. One of the most difficult things about being vegetarian/vegan is finding meat substitutes. I’m sure that the need to have something meaty wears off as time goes by but I’ve only been doing this for a couple months so that desire is still there. I’ve tried tofu, seitan, TVP, and tempeh. I only like tofu and tempeh fried which isn’t the best thing for you. Plus unfermented soy is not good for the digestive system. I only like TVP when it comes pre-packaged as ground beef, but when I make it tastes like salty corn flakes: disgusting. Seitan is good but it takes a while to make and that much gluten is not good for your digestive tract. The chickpea cutlet is a mixture of mashed chickpeas, vital wheat gluten (what makes your seitan and the stuff that makes your bread chewy), bread crumbs, etc. I liked the idea of getting good protein from beans and the chewiness of wheat gluten.

The chickpea cutlets were simple to make and they came out amazing. I was completely surprised by how chewy, savory, and “meaty” they were. I even made some at my boyfriend’s parent’s house and they tried them and enjoyed them. They’re definitely big meat eaters and they enjoyed the meatiness of the cutlet. Andrew also liked them which is saying a lot since he’s a super picky eater. I was very pleased with the results.

One thing I do not recommend is re-heating these babies. They came out tasting like those frozen vegetarian fake meat products. It was gross, I couldn’t finish eating it. However, when they are fresh they are fantastic and would definitely impress veggies and meat eaters across the board. They however, are not for those who have to be gluten free unfortunately. Sorry guys, my body is fine with the gluten.

Chickpea Cutlets

Adapted from the Veganomicon

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned chickpeas (The original recipe says cooked, but I buy canned organic chickpeas)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (the original recipe called for 2 cloves of garlic pressed, but I buy pre-minced garlic to save time)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (this is my addition)

Note: The original recipe also called for 1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika, 1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage, and 1/2 lemon zest, but I did not have these things on hand. I also made this recipe with 1/4 cup water instead of vegetable broth and Italian seasoned bread crumbs instead of plain bread crumbs. I am eventually going to try this with different seasonings and types of beans.

1. Pre-heat an oven to 375° F. In a mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas together with oil until no whole chickpeas are left. The first time I did this I used a food processor for this step. It goes much quicker and you come up with a less chunky “batter”. However, the second time I made it I just used my hands and a fork and it came out fine. Add the remaining ingredients and knead for about 3 minutes, until strings of gluten have formed.

2. Divide dough into four equal pieces. Knead each piece in your hand for a few moments and then flatten and stretch each into rectangle. Mine were not perfectly rectangular. Meat is not perfectly rectangular so why should other sources of protein come in funky shapes? I don’t like meat shapes.  Once they are shaped stretch them so they are about 1/2 inch thick.

3. Brush each side of cutlet with olive oil. Then place on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake for twenty minutes then flip them over and bake for another 8-10 minutes. Serve with a sauce of your choice.