Tuesday, June 26, 2012

End of June Garden Update

Everything is growing wonderfully in the garden and some things are even ready to be picked! A couple of days ago, we picked a few radishes that were ready to be eaten. Today, we picked these bunching onions. We've never grown onions like this before, so it was interesting that they all were growing together in one big clump from the bulb. Separating them out, there were seven delicious onions that were sliced into our salad tonight! Also, we used some salad greens growing in the garden for the salad, too! There is nothing like picking your own vegetables fresh from the backyard and eating them in your dinner that night!

Here are some more pictures of how the garden is progressing. Many of the pepper plants are growing tons of peppers, all green at the moment, but they will ripen soon. The tomatoes are all beginning to sprout some fruit as well. Even the Chinese Five-Colour Hot Pepper plants are starting to grow tiny, purple peppers (that will eventually change colours five different times from purple, white, yellow, orange, and red!).

Red Rocket Hot Pepper

Tequila Sunrise Sweet Pepper

Hot Banana Pepper

Cayenne Pepper

Chinese Five-Color Hot Pepper
Red Pear Cherry Tomato

Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato

More Cherry Tomatoes!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Strong Hearts Cafe - Syracuse, NY (100% Vegan!)

On our weekend trip to New York State, we stopped for dinner at a 100% Vegan restaurant that I was very excited to try - Strong Hearts Cafe in Syracuse, NY. I'd read about Strong Hearts on their website and was delighted to see a ton of delicious vegan choices on their menu. In fact, it was difficult narrowing it down. I only wish that Strong Hearts existed in my town so I could eat there all the time.

The philosophy behind Strong Hearts is to serve "affordable and delicious animal, earth and health friendly food". Sounds good to me! They have some wonderful policies at the restaurant, such as protecting the environment by not using plastics, styrofoam containers, and composting waste.  They also sell 100% fair-trade and organic coffee and tea. Furthermore, their ingredients are locally grown and are purchased at local farmer's markets. And of course, there is no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no artificial sweetners, no high-fructose corn syrup; simply put, only the best food is here!

So, here's what we ended up ordering! Paul and I both ended up deciding to eat the same thing! Great minds think alike. We got the Chipotle Potato Salad as a side dish, which was spicy, smokey, and super creamy.

As our main meal, we both got the BBQ Tempeh Sandwich. Believe it or not, this was both of our first times having a BBQ Tempeh Sandwich and it was amazing! It was so saucy and delicious. The thick slices of tempeh were very satisfying after a long day of driving, shopping, and playing (at the National Museum of Play in Rochester, no less!). The toppings complimented the tempeh and the barbeque sauce wonderfully - I will never say no to caramelized onions! It also came topped with spinach, tomatoes, and vegan cheese. And the bread was toasted just right!

My apologies that the pictures are a little bit blurry - it was nighttime and the lighting wasn't the best! If dinner weren't so satisfying (I was so full after eating!), I would have tried one of their milkshakes - they had so many different kinds and they all sounded so yummy. They also had some baked goods that I would have had for dessert with a coffee. I'll have to save that for next time! I have no idea when we'll be through Syracuse next, but we will definitely make a point of stopping at Strong Hearts!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Radishes are Rad!

Here are some Cherrybelle Radishes, freshly plucked from our garden! These three were ready to be picked with more on the way. I love how vibrant they look and they're going to taste great in a salad tonight!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Vegan Mini Donuts

I am so happy and amazed by how cute this mini donuts turned out! Not only do they look adorable, but they taste fantastic. They are light, fluffy, and flavorful. Plus, they're vegan and baked instead of fried. I'm not under the illusion that these are healthy in any way since they're still baked goods; however, they're donuts that I can actually eat and I'm sure they're slightly healthier considering they aren't fried in oil and don't contain all sorts of animal ingredients.

The flavors that I made were vanilla with sprinkles, cinnamon sugar, and French toast (aka. maple). My favorite was definitely the cinnamon sugar, followed by the sprinkles, and lastly, the maple. I thought I'd like the maple the best, but the maple flavor didn't come through as strong as I would have liked it.

The recipe is from Vegan Yum Yum! I wouldn't change anything about the actual batter recipe as they turned out perfectly. Oh, I should add that you'll need a Mini Donut Pan to make these, available on Amazon or perhaps a specialty bake ware shop.

Here's the recipe (makes 24 donuts):

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp (scant) nutmeg
1 tiny pinch or shake cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:
1/2 cup soymilk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
egg replacer for 1 egg
4 tbsp Earth Balance

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients with a whisk to mix thoroughly. Combine wet ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium low heat and mix until earth balance is melted. This mixture should NOT get too hot - it should feel slightly warm.

Add wet to dry and mix until just combined. It should form a very soft dough.

Pour the mixture into the mini donut pan, smoothing the batter out with your finger when it's in the pan. Make sure that the mixture fills each place about 3/4 full and doesn't cover the space in the middle (the part that makes the donut hole). Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool before decorating.

To make the vanilla with sprinkles:
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp soymilk

Mix together. Put into a bowl that you can dip the tops of the donuts into. Then, dip the donut into a small bowl of sprinkles.

To make the cinnamon sugar:
1/8 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix together. Dip the donuts into the vanilla icing first, and then into the cinnamon sugar.

To make the French toast:
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp soy milk
1 tsp maple syrup

Mix together and dip the donuts into the mixture. I found that the maple flavor didn't really come through, so I might try to find maple extract to add to the mix, or maybe increase the amount of maple syrup for next time. They still tasted good, but I just wish they were a little more maple-y.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Brunch at The Owl House in Rochester, NY

Over the weekend just after my 30th birthday (June 9 and 10), Paul and I went for a little road trip through New York State with stops in Rochester, Waterloo, Syracuse, Watertown, and Alexandria Bay. Our main plan was to visit Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands, but we also made a few other stops along the way. I did some research in advance for delicious vegan eats and managed to find two fantastic restaurants in some of those cities. I'll be posting about the other one tomorrow. Our first stop was at The Owl House in Rochester.

We arrived in the morning and we were able to order from their Breakfast and Lunch menus. The Owl House is not a vegan restaurant, but it definitely caters to vegetarians and vegans. Mostly every item on the menu can be made vegan, and it seems as though the menu was written with vegan dishes in mind and not as an afterthought. They use fresh ingredients that are sourced locally as much as possible, and many items on the menu are gluten-free.

Paul's vegetarian lunch
My vegan lunch
Paul had the "Hash N Eggs" for brunch (from the menu: Two Eggs Any Style or Scrambled Organic Tofu; Summer Hash w/ Smoked Tempeh, Peppers, Onions, Roasted Corn, Potatoes & Cajun Seasoning; Toast). I sampled some of the hash and it was so delicious and had a great spicing from the smokiness of the tempeh and the cajun spices.

I had the Lentil Burger (from the menu: Housemade Lentil Burger, Tomato, Red Onion, Sprouts, Dill Pickles, Roasted Garlic Vegenaise on an Onion Roll).  It came with a side salad with a light dressing. I also got some Daiya cheddar on my burger. The lentil burger was really good and the onion roll was super delicious. I believe the pickles were homemade as they tasted like tangy, crunchy, pickled cucumber slices. The onion, sprouts, and garlic Vegenaise made for the best toppings on this burger and I wouldn't have changed a thing!

We also split a plate of Rosemary and Cracked Black Pepper Fries with House Spiced Ketchup that were wonderful!

Some other menu items include:  the Saigon sandwich (House Smoked Tofu, Pickled Cucumber & Carrot, Baby Arugula, Cilantro-Lime Marmalade, Roasted Garlic Vegenaise on Baguette), Vegan Mozzarella Sticks, Olek's Buffalo Stance sandwich (Buffalo Spiced Tempeh, Pickled Red Onion, Baby Arugula on Baguette), and Viva Verde Tacos (Three Soft Corn Tortillas with Smoked Tofu, Salsa Verde, Guacamole, Roasted Garlic Vegenaise, Cabbage Slaw, Black Bean & Sweet Corn Salad).

They also had a huge selection of beer from local microbreweries, local wines, and even some interesting cocktails made from house-infused alcohol! Some of these mixtures include their House Infused Sage Whiskey, their Lavender Earl Grey Tea Vodka, and their House Cocao Whiskey and Bourbon. I stuck with my coffee since it was early in the morning, but some of those drinks sounded intriguing!

You can find The Owl House at 75 Marshall Street in Rochester. Their hours are 11:00am-10:30pm from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Monday).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

More Garden Goodness!

Here are a few more photos from our veggie garden from today. I noticed that we have a hot pepper growing already! I believe this one is a cayenne pepper.

In addition to the other small tomatoes growing, we have these plum-shaped tomatoes as well. I didn't check the label, but I'm fairly certain these are the Red Pear Tomatoes.

I think we'll have to wait a few more days at least, but the radishes are growing in the ground quite nicely and I can see their red tops emerging from the soil!

And lastly, it looks like some of the bush beans are starting to grow buds on them! I can't wait to watch these ones grow! And then eat them. Yum!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Veggie Garden Keeps Growing!

Since planting our garden last month, these veggies have been growing like crazy! We've been having great success with just about everything this year and I think it is due to the fact that our weather has been so hot and sunny over the past month. This photo above shows some of the herbs growing on a shelf near the house. Those mustard greens and lettuce leaves in the foreground are probably going to be cut as baby greens for tonight's dinner.

And here you can see the basil a bit better in the background (four different kinds!), as well as Zaatar growing up towards the camera and lemongrass just chilling beside it.

Underneath the shelf, the mint plants are happily growing in partial-shade. The dill and cilantro are still growing, although they are starting to go to seed and might be done pretty soon. We have another cilantro plant growing by a window inside the house and we will probably plant some more seeds so we can keep our supply of cilantro going all summer (gotta have enough for when the tomatoes are ready to make some salsa!). We don't use the dill very much since Paul doesn't care for dill, but we did use about half of the plant when we made another batch of refrigerator pickles a few weeks ago.

The other six planters of herbs are growing very nicely (oregano, rosemary, garlic chives, Vietnamese cilantro, and lavender) and as you can see, I noticed just this morning that the lavender is starting to grow flowers!

These are bush beans in pots and they're growing up nicely. There are four other bean plants in the garden plot, too:

This plot of mostly shaded dirt in the backyard was mostly an experiment to see what would grow there over the summer. It seems that the green onions are still doing fine, and the beans are growing great! I also am not sure what is growing where anymore - I drew a nice diagram as to where the seeds were planted, but I think some of the seeds may have shifted around after watering them. I'm not sure what things might be weeds and what might be plants, so I'm going to wait a little while longer and see how they grow. I'm fairly certain that we have a row of radishes and a row of endive. I also think that we have a few kale plants and hopefully some rainbow swiss chard. The Bloody Dock and Sushni are still growing in the back corner of the plot.

And now onto the tomatoes and peppers...the main reason for growing the garden!

Look at how big everything has grown over the past month! Let's compare to what it looked like less than a month ago:

We had to space everything out a bit more because the tomato plants are growing wildly all over the place. All of the pepper plants are starting to form some small flowers:

And some of the tomato plants are even starting to grow....tiny little tomatoes!!!