Monday, September 28, 2009

Meatless Monday: Fast Food

So, as I may have mentioned, I'm in the process of moving. The prospect of doing such a thing always sounds so easy, but of course it's not. The movers come tomorrow, so I've been frantically trying to get every little trapping of my material life stuffed into boxes over the past couple of days.

Last night, I packed up the last of the kitchen items. As you might imagine, it's a little difficult to cook without pots, pans, spices, utensils, and whatnot. Couple that with the dilemma of not having very much time to eat and an inevitable evil looms in the near future . . . FAST FOOD! How's a girl to eat healthy and, today, meatless with the kind of options available at your average fast food restaurant, where sometimes the "healthy" items rack up just as much fat and and as many calories as a burger-and-fries combo meal?!

I'm not going to eat at your average fast food restaurant, that's how! In California, I've got some great options . . .

California Crisp
This small chain only has 7 locations, but they're worth seeking out. A lot of items on their menu come with chicken, but you can always ask them to hold it. Try their BBQ Chicken Wrap sans chicken. The sauce is yummy and the jicama adds a great juicy crunch. LOVE jicama.

Natural Cafe
This restaurant only has 10 locations, but, as with California Crisp, they're worth seeking out. Their menu offers a HUGE list of vegetarian options. I'm a big fan of the "Mr. Natural" - fresh, seasonal vegetables steamed and served over short-grain brown rice. I get it with sauteed tofu. I don't know what they cook the tofu in, but it is DELICIOUS!

Orean's Health Express, Inc.
Where I'm moving is relatively close to Pasadena, which means I'll finally get a chance to check out Orean's, which touts itself as "the first vegetarian fast-food take-out." Their menu is definitely more fast-food-y than the first two places I've mentioned here, offering items like burgers, dogs, burritos, and fries. Their website says they're open from 9:30a - 9:00p, but I remember trying to go at least twice when I lived in Pasadena and it being closed. If memory serves, I think both times might have been a Sunday, so maybe they're closed on Sundays. I drove by a couple of Saturdays ago when we were still house hunting, though, and saw that they were open. So, fair warning, African Burrito - You Will Be Mine!

Hopefully someday on-the-go vegetarian places will be as ubiquitous as McDonald's. Until then, . . .

If you know any good fast-food vegetarian places (or fast-food places with good veggie options), please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Monday, September 21, 2009

Meatless Monday: Cucumber Soup

I'm in such denial that the summer is officially coming to a close. Well, I guess you could say I've actually been in perpetual denial since I moved to the west coast . . . but, seriously, even though the weather here will be mild in the fall and winter, there's still something about the carefree days of summer I'll miss - more BBQs, warm weather in other states I like to visit, weddings, vacations, AND light and delicious summer dishes.

One light summer treat we had recently for the first time was the cucumber soup at Il Tramezzino that I mentioned last week. I liked it so much, I immediately started looking for recipes when I got home. I found the following one on and gave it a whirl.

Cucumber Soup

This is so quick and easy to make, but there are a couple of things I would suggest doing to make it even better. First, I would recommend using either an English cucumber (as someone suggests in the 'comments' section of the recipe) or a couple small Persian cucumbers. This is important (!) . . . and I say that from experience. I started out with a regular ol' run-of-the-mill cucumber and that first batch came out yucky because the cucumber had a bitter taste to it. You won't find that with an English or Persian cucumber. Second, I would recommend adding fresh dill to the recipe - both when you blend it and as a garnish. And, third, if the sour cream is a little too much for you, you might consider using a light, plain yogurt (as many other cucumber soup recipes suggest). Fourth, the recipe calls for chicken broth, but you can substitute vegetable broth or water with equally yummy results.

This makes a fantastic side dish for a sandwich or salad lunch. Whip some up for yourself and hold on to the memories of summer just a little bit longer.

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Monday, September 14, 2009

Meatless Monday: Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese

Hope you didn't think I forgot all about Meatless Mondays! Don't worry, I haven't been secretly hiding in the shadowy corners up to my molars on a leg of mutton. I've just been busy orchestrating a relocation. Sadly, the move will place us outside of convenient driving distance of Underwood Farms, so we'll have to cancel our CSA subscription (*sniff*), BUT it will place us within walking distance of a fantastic weekly farmer's market. Yay!

The CSA program has been terrific - it taught me to choose items that are locally grown and in season, I felt really good about supporting a local business, and the fruits and veggies have been so fresh - but I've really missed being able to choose which seasonal fruits and veggies I bring home every week. For instance, I won't miss suffering through multiple weeks of pounds upon pounds of carrots and radishes. So, I think switching to buying produce at a farmer's market again is going to be a great change for us.

So, as I alluded, while I was spending a lot of time on the road driving around looking at potential new homes recently, I didn't neglect my Meatless Monday pledge. We found some great meatless meals on the go at places like Il Tramezzino. (The soup and 1/2 sandwich special was perfect at $9.99. I got their cold cucumber soup and grilled Sicilian sandwich. Yum!) And we also had time to make a few of our own delicious meatless dishes at home. We had the corn soup I made a couple of weekend ago again (because it was so good, I had to have more!). And we finally got around to making a dish from the Food Network that a friend recommended to us quite a while ago. So glad we checked that last recipe out, because now I can share that experience with you now!

Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese

I know what you're thinking - Bolognese? Isn't a Bolognese sauce by definition a meat sauce?? Okay, sure, this recipe does stretch the limits of traditional food definitions, but with good cause. The sauce actually does do an amazing job of mimicking the mouthfeel and appearance of a meat sauce (you know, without the actual icky meat). The porcini mushrooms - with their brown color, toothsome texture, and earthy flavor - can take most of the credit for that.

I bought all the ingredients for this recipe with the full intention of making it that same day or the very next, but we found ourselves running off to house-viewing appointments every time we turned around, so my best efforts were often dashed. By the time I got around to cutting up the veggies, I discovered that my red pepper - that still looked perfect from the outside - had mold on the inside. Ewww. We didn't really have time to run out to the store to pick up a new one, so we just substituted some tomato (with the seed goop removed). Came out great! When I make this again and have a non-mold-filled red pepper to put in it, I will probably roast the pepper and remove the skin before combining it with the other ingredients (as I've recommended before).

A bonus? This is definitely a dish that improves with reheating. Yay for leftovers!

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts