Life + Kitchen - August

  

Hi friends –

Phew – this past month has certainly been a busy one.  I have a lot (too much?) to fill you all in on, so I’m excited to write another monthly update post.

Home Sweet Evanston

Most significantly, this month Mike & I closed on a house, packed, and moved in!  Despite the efforts & frustration of packing and moving, we could not be happier.

Our house is truly our dream home with so much sunshine, a beautiful yard, and an amazing community – including Mike’s parents who are just a 10-minute drive away and the most welcoming family next-door I could imagine.

We are hoping to make this house our “forever home” to live in for the next 20+ years.  It’s mind-boggling to think so far into the future, of all that may happen in our lives within these walls.

My first time unlocking the door.
(Behind the scenes: Amid all the joy, I got my thumb jammed badly in the door moments after opening it. It was partially numb for a week – So much for holding the door open for Mike!)

We’ll miss ya, Oak Park!

As excited as we are to be Evanstonians (the lake!, Blind Faith Cafe, LYFE Kitchen…), a piece of me will always miss Oak Park.  We were lucky enough to live in the central, downtown area of Oak Park, such a vibrant area full of restaurants & retail, parks, and a fabulous library.  We also loved attending as many local events as possible including the Saturday Farmers markets, the Thursday Night Out summer events, and the annual Microbrew festival.

Under the Train Tracks, a mural of Oak Park’s Lake St Movie Theatre, among others

 

Most of all though, I’m going to miss Munch – Oak Park’s only 100% Vegetarian restaurant.  We went there dozens of times throughout our 2 years in Oak Park, even going 3 days in a row the week of our big move. 

Vegan Cookie Dough “Temptation” Ice Cream + Munch’s amazing BLT with Upton’s Bacon Seitan

Summer Camp 

Before the move, Mike & I also squeezed in a short visit to my family’s ‘camp’ in Upstate New York.  As always, it was such a relaxing trip complete with hikes through the woods & along the beach, blueberry picking, kayaking, and catching up with family.

Family Meals

And as always, my parents made sure we were very well-fed.  We enjoyed fresh cherries, wild rice saladmy Aunt Joan’s rhubarb coffee-cake, and a sweet & sour rhubarb compote.

I am so glad I gave my mom a copy of Eat Drink & Be Vegan for Christmas! She brought it with her to the cabin and made us two dinners from the book:

  • Polenta Casserole – I definitely want to make this again! I loved the mexican flavors of this bean & corn casserole and Dreena’s trick of grating the store-bought polenta yielded a fantastic texture.
  • Popeye Pasta – A classic and very veggie-filled pasta dish. It was tasty but the addition of a protein (i.e. beans, “meat”balls, or a tofu ricotta) would have made it much more filling.

 And of course, we enjoyed some of Dad’s famous oatmeal.

Dad also took us to a nearby farm where we were able to purchase Maple Syrup directly from the guy who made it.  And have you ever heard of Maple Cream? It’s Maple Syrup that’s boiled until it thickens and sugar crystals start to form, and is absolutely addicting!

 

Strong Hearts Cafe

While in Upstate New York, I convinced my parents to take us to Strong Hearts Cafe, a 100% Vegan Cafe in downtown Syracuse that I’d been curious to try.

We went for a mid-morning breakfast on a Friday and enjoyed their casual & friendly vibe & hearty food.  My mom tried the “Egg Trick Muffin”, my Dad & I each got Tofu Scrambles (mine was the Spicy Scramble, and his was a customized “Loaded Scramble”), and though it was only 10am – Mike got lunch – a BBQ Tempeh Sandwich.  

We all left satisfied, though their fantastic looking lunch & dinner menu made me wish we had come a little later in the day!

Clockwise from Top-Left: Egg Trick Muffin, BBQ Tempeh Sandwich,
Loaded Tofu Scramble, Spicy Tofu Scramble

 

O Canada

Another day, we ventured up to Canada, just about an hour’s drive from where we were staying.  

BOLDT CASTLE

First, we visited Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands region.  A walk around the castle gives an interesting glimpse into what it’s like to be rich beyond measure and also serves as a potent reminder that money can’t buy happiness. 

Back in 1900, hotel magnate (and inventor of Thousand Island Dressing), George C. Boldt began construction of this property as a tribute to his beloved wife Lousia.  Sadly, shortly before it’s completion, she passed away. Construction stopped immediately and it is believed that George  never again returned to the property.  

The castle was left vacant and deteriorating for over 70 years but now is partially restored, giving an interesting peek into the finest things of that era.

THE SLEEPLESS GOAT

Next, we ventured further north to the city of Kingston, Ontario which served as the country’s first capital back in 1841.  In addition to the city’s history, today it boasts a charming downtown area with plenty of shops and restaurants.

We all enjoyed a late lunch at The Sleepless Goat, vegetarian workers cooperative.  Veggie-filled Burritos and Quesadillas were had, but I especially enjoyed my Dad’s bowl of Curried Sweet Potato Soup served with incredibly fresh & hearty bread, the delicious side salad with mustard-vinaigrette that came with my hummus wrap, and the Fig & Oat bar we all shared.

Afterwards, we walked around the town for a bit and then enjoyed a Ferry ride back to New York State.

Favorite Links

Inspired by Ali, I thought it would be fun to start including some of my favorite links & eats in my monthly roundups.  Here are some of the most interesting links that came across my desk smart-phone in August:

  • Robin Williams + Koko the Gorilla:  Such a touching story of the human & animal bond.  In this footage from 2001, notice that Robin made Koko smile — something she hadn’t done for over six months, ever since her childhood gorilla companion had passed away. 
  • Vacation Equality Project – While my summer vacation felt very short to me, I try to remind myself to think about the 1 in 4 American workers that don’t receive any paid vacation or holidays.  The US is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee any paid vacation days, so I love that there’s a movement working to change that.  

Favorite Meals from my Kitchen

Garden of Eatin’

First up, Mike’s Dad has an amazing garden and loaded us up with produce each time we came to Evanston.  We ate that entire bowl of tomatoes in just 3 days, eating them like apples.  He also gave us a mixed bag of tomatillos, kohlrabi, kale, cucumbers, green beans and squash. I had so much fun improvising in the kitchen with these veggies.

I was so surprised by how easy it was to create such different flavor profiles with only a few ingredients besides the vegetables themselves.

  • Cool & Crunchy Salad – I diced half the kohlrabi and tossed it in a bowl with the cucumber, celery, and Newman’s Lite Italian dressing.
  • German-Inspired Root Veggies – I sauteed the other half of the kohlrabi with onions, carrots and broccoli and seasoned it with a small splash of white wine vinegar and a generous grind of fresh black pepper.
  • A Mid-Summer Night’s Sautee – I water-sauteed the Tomatillos, Kale, and Squash with some Onions.  Near the end, I tossed in a bag of frozen corn, a tomato, and a few shakes of cajun seasoning.

Simple Eats

In the weeks before our move, we tried to keep most of our meals as simple as possible.  For lunches one week, instead of my usual hot meals, I decided to make simple  5-ingredient wraps:

    • Whole Wheat Tortillas
    • Store-bought Hummus (I swear by the 365 brand – it’s delicious and oil-free!)
    • Water-packed Roasted Red Peppers, julienned
    • Grated Carrots
    • Shredded Red Cabbage

Not only did each wrap come together in just a minute, these were also one of the tastiest lunches I’ve packed in a long time.

 Cleaning out the Kitchen 

In preparation for our move, we were also making a huge effort to use up as much food in our pantry, fridge, and freezer as possible.  This Creamy Cajun Spaetzle was not only delicious but also emptied a lot of bags and jars too!  I used the bag of artisinal Spaetzle that I received from Kristin and dressed it with a saute of frozen kale, frozen cauliflower, baby carrots and onions.  I then tossed it all with Field Roast Chipotle sausages, Reduced Fat Vegenaise and plenty of Cajun Seasoning.

Favorite Restaurant Eats

  • Over lunch with my friend Hiral, I tried Native Foods Cafe’s new Amazonian Jungle Toss Salad.  I loved the summery combo of Green Papaya, Jerk Tempeh and Mango-Lime Vinaigrette.
  • Although it has been on the menu at Munch for a long time, I finally tried their Tarragon “ Instedda Chicken” Wrap.  It’s comfort food at it’s finest complete with juicy tomatoes, caramelized onions & herbed Vegenaise.  Now there’s only 2 items on their menu that I haven’t tried –  the Ginger Earth Salad and the Wrap Italiano, both relatively new.
  • As a flexi-vegan, I’ve been splurging on Sugar Fixe Patisserie’s not-vegan Macarons.  I especially loved the Mint-Chocolate Macaron pictured below and their Nutella Macarons as well.

I’d love to hear from you!

What’s the best meal you ate in August? 

What did you do for summer vacation?