wanderlust wednesdays – bouldin creek el tipico

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today for wanderlust wednesdays i decided to perform a daydreaming exercise: if i could be magicked away to anywhere right now, to eat anything, where would i go and what would i pick? to be honest, i didn’t have to deliberate for very long.

my city: austin, texas. and my meal? el tipico at bouldin creek.

i have a well-documented fondness for el tipico. i’ve blogged about it several times, so i’ll just be lazy/obnoxious and link to a couple of those here. and here. but the long and the short of it is: bouldin creek is a restaurant that we first discovered after moving away from austin (sad but true), and when we first visited, we both made a point of ordering breakfasts that involved their rather unusual take on tofu scramble. their scramble is SO GOOD, you guys. and you get can get it in a lot of different dishes, but el tipico is best, because it is comprised of scramble AND breakfast tacos.

el tipico

so you get the delectable scramble (lookit that nooch!), plus lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, and a potato hash cake (so good!), and a little handful of tortillas. perfection. this meal is such a huge favorite of mine that if i am in austin long enough to visit bouldin creek four times, i will order el tipico every. friggin’. time. without fail. i can’t tell you how often i’ve agonized over the menu, thinking i should really try something else, and then ordered el tipico anyway. countless times. thankfully i have a husband who is more adventurous (and generous), so when he gets the awesome stuff that i considered ordering but didn’t, he still lets me taste bites of his meal.

el tipico, i love you. it’s been too long. <3

hometown tuesdays – babe’s ice cream

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today i’m going to showcase a little ice cream shop in bay view that has been very, very, very nice to milwaukee vegans. babe’s opened a few years ago, and word quickly spread along the vegan grapevine that they carried a couple of vegan flavors. i think back then, they had two vegan ice creams (rotating flavors) and one or two sorbets every day. yippee!

we rewarded them with a bunch of excited purchases, and babe’s responded by continually expanding their vegan offerings. nowadays, they usually have two sorbets and six(!) vegan ice creams (rotating flavors) on any given day, and on top of that they have a bunch of vegan toppings, so you can get vegan sundaes and the whole deal. they carry vegan whipped cream, for crying out loud! they have soymilk, and therefore have vegan shakes!

raspberry nebula shake

ultimate oreo shake

and they readily they advertise their vegan-friendliness, which i ADORE.

babe's window sign

babe's vegan signage

and they have vegan ice cream cakes!! i mean, where can you get vegan ice cream cakes? at babe’s in bay view, that’s where. they also partner with a local vegan bakery (east side ovens) and offer vegan-cookie-ice-cream-sandwiches in the freezer case. they’re enormous and amazing.

and the ice cream, you guys. it’s so very delicious. the vegan flavors in their rotation are: ultimate oreo (aka chocolate cookies & cream), espresso oreo, raspberry nebula (black raspberry ice cream with chocolate bits), butter pecan, plain ol’ chocolate, vanilla chocolate chip, blue raspberry sorbet, watermelon sorbet, cherry sorbet, carrot mango sorbet (which sounds a little weird but is actually extremely tasty)… i could go on, but instead, here’s a bunch of ice cream picspam.

raspberry nebula + butter pecan

ultimate oreo & raspberry nebula

vanilla chocolate chip

raspberry nebula & butter pecan + chocolate

watermelon sorbet

i seriously can’t rave about them enough. it’s a good thing babe’s is 15-20 minutes from my house, because if they were right smack in my neighborhood i’d be made of ice cream from the inside out.

mac & cheese mondays – cauli mac

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welcome back to mac & cheese mondays! the time is really starting to fly by, isn’t it? today is going to be a bit of a change of pace… a recipe rather than a review of the boxed stuff, and a baked mac & cheese rather than a stovetop. let’s go!

as i mentioned the past couple of mondays, i’ve traditionally been a stovetop kind of girl, but erik found a version of this recipe in runner’s world magazine a few years ago, and he thought it sounded right up my alley. he got to veganizing, it was a wild success, and it’s been a staple in our house ever since. the cauliflower does its magic and gets everything super creamy and delicious, making this recipe even halfway decent, health-wise. bonus!

creamy cauliflower mac (adapted from a recipe in runner’s world)

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into large pieces (you can also use frozen if you like!)
1 lb pasta, in whatever shape you prefer
3/4 cup vegan cheese (we use daiya), divided into two amounts: 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup bread crumbs

heat oven to 400° F. boil a pot of salted water.

in a saucepan, warm veggie stock and bay leaves on medium-low heat for 5 minutes; turn off heat.

either: (a) cook cauliflower in boiling water for 25 minutes, or (b) microwave in a covered dish with some water in the bottom for about 10 minutes.  put cooked cauliflower in a food processor.

cook pasta in boiling water for 8 minutes. drain and rinse to cool; put pasta in a greased 9×13 baking dish.

process cauliflower with stock (discard bay leaves), 1/2 cup of cheese, oil, mustard, nutmeg, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper, working in batches.

pour sauce over pasta, toss, and spread evenly in dish. top with 1/4 cup vegan cheese and bread crumbs, then bake for 20 minutes.

let cool for a bit, and bask in its glory while it sits on the counter. voila!

cauli mac pan

i really, really love this cauli mac. it’s so creamy and comfort food-y, and it makes a lot, so you can have leftovers for awhile, which is always awesome. we usually eat ours with a side of something green (roasted brussels sprouts, broccoli, etc.) to punch it up a bit, but it’s also good with chik nuggets or thanksgiving dinner. it’s versatile! the other night, we had ours with peas & edamame, which is my favorite side. erik isn’t wild about peas, so i always know he’s feeling extra charitable when he makes this meal for me:

cauli mac plate

love! this recipe is currently my runner-up for favorite homemade mac & cheese. we eat it fairly regularly, because erik likes it too. and the leftovers are just as delicious as the first night. i hope you like it!

sunday sharing – amanda’s s’mores cookies

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i’m back with another recipe inspired by marshmallow-evil-genius amandabear. she’s up to no good, i tell you! she recently posted an adorable and delicious-sounding illustrated recipe on her blog for s’mores cookies, and i immediately bookmarked it (and you should too!). her original inspiration came from this recipe, which she then tinkered with slightly, and illustrated. i am a sucker for recipes that are comprised of things i happen to have in my house already, so i was pretty psyched when i realized i had everything in my pantry. i followed up with amanda to clarify one question i had about the graham crackers (it’s 4 “full” rectangle sheets of graham crackers, FYI), and then i got to baking!

i pretty much followed amanda’s version to the letter, with the following notes: for the graham crackers, i broke up about half of them into “bite-size-ish” pieces and then used the beaters to incorporate them with the rest of the batter. then, i did the same routine with the other half of them, but just folded those in with a wooden spoon, so that they wouldn’t get broken up too small.

and, a note about chopping up the dandies: HOLY GOOD GRACIOUS I WANTED TO STAB MYSELF IN THE EAR WHILE I WAS DOING THIS PART. i had the ‘jumbo’ dandies in the house, but i wasn’t sure if i’d have quite enough (plus, they weren’t super fresh), so erik sweetly volunteered to go grab me another bag from whole foods. yay! so nice! i got started on the rest of the ingredients, and at some point he showed up with my fresh bag of jumbo dandies. well, i grabbed one, along with a sharp paring knife, and set out to chop it into about 8 pieces. from the get-go, this was an entirely futile endeavor. i could have recorded the entire thing and set it to benny hill music and it would have gone viral. marshmallow piece stuck to the knife, then stuck to my thumb, then stuck to the knife, then stuck to my fingernail, then stuck to the top edge of the measuring cup, then stuck to the knife again… it took me something like five minutes just to get the FIRST chopped-up marshmallow off of my person and into the measuring cup. i thought i would go out of my mind. i switched back to the older bag of dandies, hoping they’d be slightly less sticky, and that did help a little, but it was still pretty torturous. plus, then i ran out of those and had to go back to the fresh ones anyway. and then i was worried about incorporating them into the batter, because i didn’t want them to just reconstitute into one or two ginormous marshmallow clumps. it was an ordeal, is what i’m saying.

as i was recounting this story to erik later that evening, he said, “well they had mini dandies at the store, i could have just bought those.” you could have heard a pin drop in my kitchen. so yep, i will most definitely be buying dandies in the mini size for future batches of s’mores cookies. whew!

anyhow, here’s how they looked after my valiant marshmallow-chopping battle, on their way into the oven:

s'mores cookies tray

and here’s how they looked right after they came out of the oven:

s'mores cookeis oven

…and here’s how they looked as they were cooling on a rack and i was about to shove one in my face!

s'mores cookies cooling

i took these to school on the first day, because two of my TAs were celebrating birthdays that week, and i always bring treats for their birthdays. (more on that next week, because i also brought something else.) anyhow, they went over really well, and the recipe made enough that we also had plenty to keep at home for ourselves. these are pretty sweet little buggers, and they go really nicely with a glass of almond milk. enjoy!

taco or beer challenge

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welp, i skipped posting on friday out of sheer exhaustion and burnout (neither of which are mofo-related; just life-related), so i’m going to make it up by posting a bonus entry today. my friend katie over at the awesome don’t eat off the sidewalk (and also lights camera vegan) tagged me in the taco or beer challenge, and i’m here to make good on a promise.

so! if you haven’t heard of the taco or beer challenge yet (and you haven’t clicked on any of those links i just posted, heh), it’s basically a spinoff of the ice bucket challenge, except with more donations, fewer goofy videos, more pro-choice activism, and 1000% more tacos. woo! the gist of it is: you eat a taco, or drink a beer, or both… and then donate to an abortion fund. that’s it! last night we found ourselves with perfectly-ripe avocados in the house, so erik whipped up a batch of stupendous taco fixings, and we got to it! here’s what mine looked like:

taco or beer challenge

from the bottom up, we’ve got baby spinach, beyond meat crumbles (feisty flavor!), refried black beans, daiya, tomatoes, avocados, and chili lime cholula. YUM. and i don’t drink alcohol, but i still wanted to play along, so i paired my delicious tacos with the always-delightful ginger root beer from zevia:

zevia root beer

root beer counts, right? right. and THEN, because i’m only human, i went back for another taco. i mean, i really couldn’t help myself:

another taco

and finally, after filling my gullet with tacos & root beer, i used the fund abortion now state list, and donated to the women’s medical fund in wisconsin. i read an article about the woman who started this fund a few years back (she’s currently 87 and still being awesome), which i remembered when i was scanning the list of wisconsin funds, so i thought i’d link to that here as well. enjoy!

if you haven’t yet performed the taco or beer challenge but you’d like to do so: please consider yourself tagged!

saturday snacks – chips & queso

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okay, guys, real talk: i eat an INTENSE amount of chips & queso. this is probably my favorite snack, hands-down. i’ll use any excuse to heat up some queso and hunker down with a bag of chips, and it got to the point where i talked about queso so much that one of my grad students gave me several jars as a thank you gift once. <3

i think i have my austin days to thank for this obsession; when we lived in austin there was an abundance of queso in restaurants, and i got hooked on the idea pretty quickly. my two favorites were at guero’s and kerbey lane, and i ordered them quite regularly. after moving back home to milwaukee, it just sort of left my life, but then when the vegan quesos started cropping up, it was a fun re-discovery process for me.

i’ve tried several brands of prepared queso. way back when, i had the chicago vegan foods nacho teese sauce, and i quite liked it. it’s reminiscent of “pump cheese” (i say that with love), like what you’d get with your chips at taco bell, or with your soft pretzel bites at the movie theatre. it won me over with nostalgia points. i also like nacheez. it reminds me of mac & cheeze sauce, which is not a bad thing, but it also didn’t quite capture the queso memories i had from austin. fittingly, my favorite, favorite, favorite queso is from food for lovers, which is based in austin. they have two flavors, original (my preference) and mild:

queso jars

once i tried food for lovers, i was sold. plus, the couple behind the company, chris and crystal, are pretty much the sweetest, most adorable couple you’ve ever met in your entire life. so FFL became my One True Queso, and i made it my job to have a couple of jars in the house at absolutely all times. now, here’s the part where everything gets all heart-break-y: food for lovers isn’t making their queso anymore these days. *sob* they were in the process of building and moving into their own facility, as well as tweaking their queso recipe to be gluten-free, as well as introducing a line of salsas… only to run into super sad problems with the city that thwarted them at every turn. as a result, they’ve decided to take a break and regroup (you can read the details on their facebook page, linked above). i can’t say that i blame them (it sounds like they really got put through the wringer), but i also am sooooo very sad. i had been hoarding queso when i noticed it was getting harder to procure, and then after they announced they were officially taking a break, i found one jar of mild, and bought it instantly. so behold, two of the last jars of FFL queso in the entire world, y’all:

queso & chips

*sniffle*

i’ve been hanging onto these for awhile now, but i just checked the dates and they’re technically getting long in the tooth now, so i should probably eat them. it will be bittersweet. i really, really hope that things clear up for chris and crystal and they can resume their business someday when it suits them. <3

meanwhile, erik has taken to trying out homemade queso recipes and surprising me with a fresh batch now and then. woo! below is a batch he made just today:

queso stove

it’s so nice to have queso in the house on a regular basis again! in keeping with today’s “snack” theme, i typically just eat queso with chips (those yellow ones in the picture up there are my favorites), but i need to do a better job remembering to use it for other non-snack things, like a big ol’ plate of deluxe vegan nachos, or as a topping for tacos or burritos. queso makes everything a little better.

throwback thursdays – tropical source chocolate chips

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omg, you guys, remember these? if you’ve been vegan a long long time, you probably even remember when they looked like this. so quirky! (i’m using links there because i don’t want to steal anyone’s pictures. sorry if that’s goofy.)

when i first went vegan, i wasn’t sure what the heck to do about chocolate chips. my lifelong g0-to had been hershey’s semi-sweet, and they don’t make a vegan option. boooo. i knew there were plenty of vegan chocolate options out there (and i made it my mission to try pretty much every single one, har har), but i wasn’t sure about chocolate chips, per se. growing up, my mom was serious about chocolate chips. i use to think of it as “fridge door chocolate” because we always, always had a bag in the fridge for chocolate emergencies. sometimes, you just need a little handful of chocolate chips, am i right? i carried this habit into my own adulthood, so i was in a mild panic when i wasn’t sure how to find vegan chocolate chips.

eventually, i learned about the tropical source chips, and i found them at my local hippie co-op grocery store. when i tried them, i was so excited — they were SO GOOD! i mean, the perfect amount of semi-sweetness and so creamy and perfect. just top notch, for real. my only mini-complaint was that they were sold in 10-ounce bags (most chocolate chips come in 12-ounce bags), so the first time i tried to make my veganized peanut butter bars, i was in for a little surprise when the chocolate layer didn’t go as far as i’d expected. whoops. lesson learned.

anyscoot, at some point the tropical source bags started to become more and more scarce, and then they disappeared entirely. vegans all over the country commiserated and hoped for the best, but apparently they were gone for good. boo!

i ended up switching to the ghirardelli semi-sweet chips, which were available much more widely (and usually at lower prices), so it wasn’t a total loss, but to be honest i always preferred the taste of the tropical source. there was this whole weird transition time toward the end there, where tropical source “improved” their formula (air quotes definitely there for a reason), but i won’t bother dredging all of that up right now… i was sad to see them go, regardless.

so anyhow, my staple is now the ghirardelli chips, BUT i just remembered this as i was writing… there are new-ish chips out there that erik bought for me once, which are made by sunspire (who bought tropical source eleventy years ago, around the time of the “improved” formula), and they tasted very reminiscent of the tropical source chips! they’re called chocolate dream and they look like this. i ate that entire bag as snacking chocolate, and i can’t believe i forgot about it until this very moment. i need to buy some more. i think i’ve basically become so used to the ghirardelli ones (and the typically lower prices) that now they’re my new habit. but i resolve to buy a bag of the chocolate dream on my next grocery trip to have another taste test. maybe we can all recapture the magic of the good old days.