Thursday, January 28, 2010

La Table - In Ottawa - another buffet by weight

The buffet by weight model seems to be standard in Ottawa, with this restaurant being my second try in the vegetarian dining scene. Although the atmosphere was much better than the sometimes overcrowded cafeteria style of The Green Door, La Table offers a smaller selection, many of which are tofu based. I think this place could do better with more choice and other meat alternatives like seitan and tempeh....  Any suggestions for eating out in Ottawa, as I'll be working here several days a week for the next couple of weeks? I'd love to try something different.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cooking with what's in your cupboard

I love soup. It's an amazing catch all for sad looking vegetables and any leftover grains and beans that would otherwise be insufficient to make as a centerpiece recipe. Thanks to my handy slow cooker and food processor, I whipped a vegetable lentil soup in 10 minutes and left it simmering all afternoon.

Vegetable Soup

  • 3 small onions, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cabbage, sliced 
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced
  • 20 baby carrots, sliced
  • 1 19oz can diced tomatoes 
  • Roughly 3/4 of a cup of green and red lentils, rinced and sorted
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable broth concentrate
  • 1 tablespoons sherry vinegar (amazing with lentils!)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons no salt seasoning from Costco
  • 2 tablespoons of Braggs
  • Enough water to cover the vegetables in the slow cooker
I combined all the ingredients in the slow cooker and brought up to a boil and then simmered for 4 hours. It made about 2 liters of soups, so roughly 8 to 10 servings.

For dessert, I made a berry and apple strussel pie - all vegan! I used instant oatmeal to make the strussel.

For the apple and berry pie,  I used:
  • 1 pre-made vegan pie crust - bottom shell only - I precooked it at 425F for 20 minutes, while I prepared the ingredients below.
  • 3 seeded, peeled and diced McIntosh apples
  • 3 cups frozen berries 
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 2 tablespoon Earthwise margarine
In a saucepan, bring the filling ingredients to a boil and reduce until it starts to get sticky and thick. Set aside. 

Strussel-like topping
  • 2 packets instant oatmeal - I used cinnamon spice
  • 2 tablespoon kamut flour
  • 2 tablespoon Earthwise margarine
  • 1/4 water
With a fork, mix the flour and oatmeal and cut in the butter until you have a very coarse crumb. Slowly add the water and mix until you have a cookie dough consistency. Set aside.

Make sure your stove is pre-heated to 425.

Add the filling to the cooked pie crust shell. Then spoon the strussel batter on top to cover the filling. You will likely not have enough to completely cover the pie. Cook for 20 minutes, until the oatmeal strussel is cooked through - the toothpick test.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Resolutions for 2010? No thanks, but here's what I learned in 2009.

Bring in the new year, it's that time again of resolutions. I'm not a fan of them personally, they just seem like an opportunity to set yourself up failure. However, there are a few things I've learned in the 1.3 years I've been a vegetarian.
  1. It's very likely that you will gain weight by going vegetarian. Most omnivores will be shocked to hear this, but it's true. I've packed a jolly 10 pounds since I started. How? Think about it, chips, fries, pizza sans the meat, all pack a calorie wallop. 
  2. Most restaurants will accommodate you when you mention that you are vegetarian. If they don't have veggie items, they can usually whip up something for you. But don't expect miracles. I've had undercooked risotto @ L'Orignal and 3 kinds of over salted over buttered potatoes at the very prestigious Procope, in Paris.
  3. Seitan is really amazingly delicious! Other than its fun name, mention in passing that you braise seitan and wait for a reaction, you can barbecue some wicked ribz.
  4. You'll never be vegetarian enough for some. I've switched for dietary reasons and that's just not enough for some. I'm not considered serious or sincere because my beau eats meat and I accept it. Tough nuggets peeps, I'm not doing this to make friends or be cool.
  5. You'll always be too vegetarian for some. I've learned to not talk about it at all. I hate the conversation, the questions, the justifications and heaven forbid if you do it because you love the furry little critters. It's almost like religion and politics, just walk away.
  6. Frozen vegetables make meals easy. Most people I know shudder at the idea of using frozen vegetables. However, I eat 5 to 10 servings of vegetables a day. Peeling and prepping all of that, every day? Sorry, but no time!
  7. Always read ingredient labels. It's amazing how fish can be furtively added... Think BBQ sauces, breads - yes breads that boast high omega content. It's even worse if you are trying to avoid dairy and eggs. 
  8. Mushrooms are your best friend for flavor, texture and nutrition. Dried, they can make great stock and be added to soups and stews. Fresh, they can be eaten raw or cooked, pan fried, braised, stewed, etc. Combined with tamari, you have a flavorful, earthy meat replacement.
  9. You eventually stop eating premade mock meats. Ok, I haven't completely stopped but I've weened myself off pretty quickly. 
  10. Farts, they are a fact of vegetarian life. Learn to laugh about it. You'll become a ninja in no time! Beano helps somewhat, but you'll still be tootin'.
  11. Canned beans are convenient. I occasionally make my own from scratch, you can't beat the convenience of canned beans. However, watch the sodium!
  12. Worried about calcium? Go for tofu made with calcium but make sure your tofu is organic. I prefer the texture of that tofu over the ones made with magnesium.
  13. If you eat enough calories in a day, you'll get all the protein you need!
  14. You don't get sick as often, and not as severely when you go veg. It's true.
  15. Take a vitamin supplement. You are probably not as vitamin deficient as any omnivore, but it pays to cover all your bases, no?
  16. Vegetarian and vegan restaurants are amazing. You can have everything on the menu.
  17. Go for whole grains and eat a wide variety. I'm quinoa crazy but brown rice makes me happy. Barley can be used to make a wicked risotto. Have you ever tried pasta made without wheat? Pretty darn tasty. Kasha and millet makes great ground beef replacements in pies and casseroles.
  18. Slow cookers are also handy for vegetarians. The number of soups and stews I've had simmering in mine...
  19. Invest in a good knife. This goes for any diet. Just get yourself a good chefs knife and treat yourself to a yearly professional sharpening. 
  20. Smile! Even if Copenhagen was a monumental failure and I'm ashamed of Stephen Harper, I can rest easy on thinking that I've seriously decreased my carbon footprint. It's not perfect and I have ways to go but it's certainly better than most.
Happy New Year my fellow veggie enthusiasts and friends!