18 June 2013

Eden Prairie: Kona Grill

For vegans, Eden Prairie is a blighted wasteland.  Sure, we can go to places like Buca or Biaggi's and get an appetizer.  Sometimes with a server's help we can even fudge something on the menu into a passably edible vegan entree.  There's Osaka and Chipotle.  True.  But what if your sister's gluten free and your mom is super classy and sick of Japanese all the time and wants to take you somewhere nice, damnit?

The answer is... Dickey's Barbeque Pit.

Ha, ew.  (Although the aforementioned is allegedly a real, non-imaginary restaurant in Eden Prairie.)  The answer is Kona.

Kona Grill
11997 Singletree Ln
Eden Prairie, MN  55344
(952) 941-3262

Forget the trendy mood-lighting, cruise ship ambience, and fancy meat.  Kona is special because it's got a vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free menu.  Just request one from your server when you sit down, throw the V-word in your order, and you'll be all set.

If you're interested in edamame, you'll face a difficult decision.  Do you want traditional or angry style?  Traditional is $4.50, angry is a buck more.  All I can tell you is... listen to your heart.

Traditional is good.  Actually, Sister and Talia are convinced it's the best edamame they've ever had! It's good, salty, and, you know, like buttery or something.

Talia got a Vegetarian Roll with asparagus, avocado, cucumber, sprouts, and yamagobo (pickled burdock root, as if I know what that is) for $6.25.  It was super fresh, right down to the just-made rice.  Delish.

It came with more than 2 pieces, don't worry.

Then I got this awesome thing.  OMG.  It was incredible.  Look.

Pan-Asian Noodles: udon, tofu, veggies, and black bean garlic sauce.  Oh, it was so good!  The sauce had a kick to it, the noodles were perfect, the vegetables were crisp and wonderful.  Flavor abounds.  The tofu tasted amazing, what with all the spices encrusted into the breading.

I ate the whole thing!  As this is unusual for me, Mom called me a pig.  Then I think she called me skinny.  I felt honored.  I love you too, Mom.

07 June 2013

recipe: chocolate mousse

I am so excited to share this with you, I might pee my pants.  This is probably a sign that I should get up and use the bathroom, but I'mna hammer this out instead.  Now that you know that essential information, I can continue speaking in a normal, human-like manner!

So remember when we went to Boston, and I blogged about that amazing incredible mousse from Myers+Chang?  The one that gave all of us an out-of-body experience with just 3 ingredients?  It's time to make it.  Your life will change.  Never look back.  Etc.

Chocolate Mousse
GF - 15 minutes - serves 8

1 12oz. package Mori-nu Silken Tofu (the kind in the cardboard box that you don't have to refrigerate before opening)
2c semisweet or dark chocolate chips
1/8t sea salt

Optional: 1t cinnamon

First, a note on your chocolate.  This is going to be your most important ingredient and will determine entirely the quality of your mousse.  Make sure you select something vegan, first of all, and gluten-free if you need it. The best chocolate has very few ingredients, and they should be listed in the following order: cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, salt.  For a sweeter mousse, grab chips that put sugar at the top of the list.

Blend up your tofu.  Whether you use a food processor, stand blender, or immersion blender (like me!), you're gonna have to do a lot of side-scraping with your spatula.  Almost an annoying amount.  Don't worry - you'll have amazing mousse at the end of this and will forget entirely the first-world problems that went into it.  Just make the tofu as smooth as you can.

Set your chocolate in a saucepan and put the heat on really low.  Stir it constantly.  And by constantly, I actually do mean constantly, because you're not supposed to heat chocolate up directly like this.  I, always a rebel, do it anyway, and have never had a bad experience, but that's only because I never stop stirring once the heat is on.  Eventually your chocolate will melt into a deliciously gooey liquid state.  Once it's 100% smooth, pour it into your blender with the tofu.

Sprinkle your salt in there - and cinnamon, if using - and blend everybody together.  Once more, lots and lots of backbreaking side-scraping will ensue.  Be strong.  Everything has to be smooth like Earth Balance.  If it's too thick, add 2T of lukewarm water, blend it, and check again.  You should be able to work lots of air into the mouuse to make it nice and fluffy.  Add water until you reach the desired consistency.  If you wind up adding water a couple of times, try transferring your mousse to a bowl and mixing it with a strong fork to get some air in.

Once it's ready, you can really just eat it right away.  Some people put it in the fridge for some reason, or put it in separate containers.  Matt and I usually just grab spoons, turn on the Star Treks, and go at it out of the big bowl.  If it's another crappy DS9 episode, we're so busy enjoying the mousse that we don't even remember to wish it was Game of Thrones.

recipe: superfood salad

Becca is a genius.  Did you know she can peel an orange all in one strip with nothing but her thumb nails and her no-nonsense steely gaze?  There's this other thing she does: every weekend, she makes her lunches for work all at once.  This way, when left-overs aren't readily available, she doesn't have to scramble or settle for a PB&J.  Not that there's anything wrong with a PB&J.

I shamelessly stole her idea and warped it to my own devices.  Now, I am unstoppable.  My lunches are just that good.

Some ingredients in here might make you feel uncomfortable.  Nutritional yeast?  Kimchee?  Umeboshi plum?  Seaweed?  But don't worry.  These things are crazy good for you - that's why it's a superfood salad!  Nutritional yeast even has B12.  No neurological disorders for you, muffins.

Superfood Salad
GF - 30 minutes - serves 4

1c quinoa
2c water
1T miso paste
1T Earth Balance
2t cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4c nutritional yeast

4c mixed greens
1c loosely packed seaweed such as nori or the flavored snack variety, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch scallions, green parts only, chopped
1/3c peanuts
1/4c sesame seeds
2T kimchee

1/3c tahini
Juice of 1 lime
2T soy sauce or tamari
2T brown rice vinegar
1T Sriracha
1 umeboshi plum, minced (or 1T umeboshi paste)
2t ginger, minced
1t agave

First, get your quinoa going on the stove.  Combine your grain with the water, miso, Earth Balance, cumin, and garlic - the nutritional yeast (or nooch, as we vegans most affectionately call it) is for later.  Boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.

While that's bubbling away, throw all the salad ingredients in a big mixing bowl.  Have a bite of your snacky snacky seaweed.  That stuff is addictive.

Mix the dressing ingredients together - you should be able to fit them all in a one-cup liquid measuring cup.  If you have a tiny whisk like I do, break it out!  It's for moments like these that those cute little suckers exist. You might need to whisk it for a minute to get everything emulsified - you want it smooth and creamy.

When the quinoa's done, turn off the heat and pour the dressing into it.  Mix it all up - it'll make that gooey sticky Kraft mac and cheese sound.  Add the nooch and mix that in, too.  If it's still kind of drippy, or you can see liquid settling at the bottom, add more nooch - or even some cornstarch.

Lastly, throw that flavor-filled quinoa into the salad bowl and mix everybody up!  There should be quinoa coating every leaf and veggie bit.  At this point I like to think about how much time I just saved by not letting the quinoa cool to room temperature.  If you must, or if you have time, of course you can do so and save a little crispiness in your greens.

If you do indeed use this salad for your work lunches, put it into 4 separate meal-sized tupperwares so all you gotta do in the morning is reach into your fridge and grab one on your way out the door.  So slick!

Salads, as you know, are endlessly customizable.  You don't want peanuts?  Trade them out for sliced almonds.  Mixed greens not healthy enough for you?  Use baby spinach instead!  Just listen to what your heart tells you.  That's what I do.  And it tells me to use umeboshi plums.

Or, wait.  That was Alicia Silverstone, telling me that.  I get confused.

Minneapolis: Red Stag Supper Club

Ahh, summer.  You know that feeling of wanting to eat oatmeal all day and get a tan with your racerback tank-top on that looks totally weird when you're in a strapless dress with your hair up?  Me neither.  Nevertheless, some things are inevitable.

So Matt and I celebrated our 8-year dating anniversary (sometimes referred to as Malliversary in our native language side effects may include nausea) and to give this special occasion an appropriate venue, we ventured up to Northeast.

Red Stag Supper Club
509 1st Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 767-7766

Red Stag is the quintessential fancy urban restaurant of Minneapolis.  Imagine Kincaid's if hipsters took it over and redecorated, then added vegan options to the menu because they were vegan before it was cool.  Side note: vegans, don't go to Kincaid's.  Ever.  You say the word vegan in there, I'm pretty sure they call the fire department.  The best you can hope for is a baked potato.  But hallelujah: Red Stag knows what's up.

As you peruse the menu, on which there are options - plural - you get some free bread.  Ours was lovely and dense, full of fresh dill and with a nice East European feel.  Crispy crust, moist middle.  It came with a non-vegan spread: a bean dip made with butter.  That's alright.  Bread's good by itself.

If I'd wanted, I'm sure I could've ordered the risotto vegan.  Instead I went for the Crispy Tofu for $17, and specifically asked for a vegan preparation.  You should drop the v-word, too.

Holy mother of vegan pearl, this thing was incredible.  I know I keep finding amazing vegan fried tofu and telling you it's the best vegan fried tofu I've ever had, but this one.  This one.  Is the one.  Not even kidding.  It is perfect in every way.  The crisp, the penetration of flavor, the combination with the surrounding foods on the plate... $17 is a lot to pay for one meal.  But muffins.  SO worth it.  The sauce was almost as magic as the tofu: a slightly spicy peanut concoction that went amazingly with the Asian flavor blend of warm, creamy lentils, crunchy peanuts, steamed asparagus, and crispy tofu.

We shared a scoop of Pineapple Strawberry Sorbet for $3.  And by shared, I mean I had one and a half bites.  The stuff was way too sweet for me (think airy strawberry ice cream with a pineapple tang), but Matt really enjoyed the lightness.

Then we went home and Captain Adventure was so utterly sleep deprived that he gently batted at my face (much like a cat would, but with his big ol' man-hands) while giggling - I'm not exaggerating, it was definitely not laughing but giggling - for about 30 minutes.  Good anniversary.