Homemade Nut Butter

I was about to buy one of those fancypants high-speed blenders (Vitamix) just so I could try making nut butters at home. Fortunately, in all that research for blenders, I learned that food processors would work too so I tried that.

Redskin Peanut Butter

It was so easy to make in the food processor and I’m glad I’ve found a new use for this kitchen tool. It took a matter of minutes to blitz peanuts into a jar of peanut butter and it’s actually smoother than the kind I get from Mom’s.

In terms of cost savings, I’m not so sure. It takes a whole lotta nuts to make a jar of nut butter. Maybe two cups of nuts become one cup of nut butter? For the effort, cleanup, etc. I highly recommend just buying the stuff. For the customization, smoothness, flavoring, experimentation, go for it.

For my next batch I plan to make a frankenstein nut butter. All the nuts and maybe even some seeds mixed into one. I have pecans, walnuts, cashews, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and peanuts. A nut allergy nightmare.

The food in New Orleans, LA

The one thing I’d heard over and over from multiple sources about New Orleans was the food there is AMAZING. I put it on my list of places to visit for the creole, etouffee, gumbo, fried anything, beans and rice, and on and on. Then after I started eating plant-based, I wrote it off. So when I visited last week, I really had managed expectations despite what I’d heard about it being some kind of food mecca.  I thought I’d for sure have to duck into some greasy junky Chinese restaurant to find a plant-based meal.  I seriously entertained the idea of looking for a Panda Express. But holy moly was I utterly wrong about that.  NOLA has the best (plant-based) food I’ve had in all my travels since I started eating plant-based. They have plenty of restaurants (way more options than I can find in DC) and they’re all knocked-it-out-of-the-park excellent and the ones I had were all within a 5 mile walkable or transit-able distance.

Even if you don’t eat totally plant-based, you’re going to love this food. It’s just good food period. Here’s what they served.

  • A well-thought menu, with well-crafted dishes.  Not a burger patty made with rice or quinoa slapped between a hamburger bun. Not a salad minus the cheese.  Not some afterthought of side dishes slapped together.  It has cooked beans or lentils.  It incorporates fresh vegetables and whole grains.  It’s not overly fried or salted or made with unrecognizable composites and called “chick’n”.  It’s real food made with real ingredients.
  • Hearty and filling food.  The portions are generous enough for me to say “I’m full and satisfied” at the end of the meal.  And let’s just say I’ve had enough people gawk at me as I take seconds or thirds to recognize that I have a very healthy appetite.
  • Tasty and fresh ingredients made with plenty of flavorful spices enough to inspire me or give me new ingredients to experiment with when I cook again.  And it’s also flavors I don’t make at home.  It’s new and interesting to me.

These places I went to in NOLA all fit the bill.  I wanted to take them all home with me and I miss them now even as I reminisce.

These first two on my list I declared as “my favorite” “number 1” “this is the place to go if you only get one meal in NOLA” each time I ate at each place.  So it’s a toss up.  I ate at both places, one after the other, on my last day before catching the flight home.

Sweet Soulfood
Sweet Soulfood

Walking in here, you’re hit with a steam sauna of flavor. They cook everything fresh and it steams up the little diner. Everything is plant-based and it’s all so hearty and delicious, I wanted everything. Their portions are generous enough to fill me up. The dishes are made with fresh ingredients and they have rotating daily specials. This meal’s daily special was the barbecue cauliflower. I love their jambalaya and cornbread. They do use some vegan sausages for some dishes, like the jambalaya, but it’s not heavy-handed and you will find bay leaves in the food because they actually cook with real seasonings. So good! I’m going to be saying that a lot here.

Good Karma
Good Karma
This place is such a hippie-dippie-coffee-tea-organic-plant-based-gluten-free-namaste-yoga-hang-out-and-relax kind of cafe. Seriously, it’s connected to a yoga studio. Their food is phenomenal and I said that every time I dug into their daily soup and veggie special. It’s inspired me to cook with lemongrass, galangal, and lime juice more, though I doubt I could create any of these dishes. I need this restaurant in my life. The food is incredibly warm and delicious. I think we ate here for four meals.

Seed
Seed
This place is a lot more fancypants then the first two places. They have table service. They also serve cocktails. The nice thing about NOLA is I can order a bourbon drink before noon and it’s perfectly whatever. Also, it was so good I noted the mix: Buffalo Trace, lemon juice, and hot sauce. I will definitely make that at home. This is also an all plant-based restaurant, but the options lean a tad more vegan-junk-food. Fried seitan nuggets for example. However, you can get hearty non-junky things too like gumbo and etouffee. Wonderfully warm and flavorful.

Green Goddess
This place is not entirely plant-based but they have multiple vegan entrees and they’re all well done and satisfying. It’s conveniently located in the French Quarter and if it were located here in DC, it would easily be one of my favorite places to eat. In NOLA though, with all those other places competing, this one is just okay. I have to give them credit for well-designed dishes though, beans, rice, vegetables all freshly prepared.

Satsumas
Satsumas
Ok, not a restaurant, but easily our favorite food in New Orleans. They’re a local in-season fruit and they are so juicy, sweet, easy to peel, and thirst quenching. We walked or took the trolley 3 miles each way to get these at a local grocery store three times for a total of maybe seven dozen satsumas. At first glance they don’t look all that great. Green tangerines. I expected them to be sour. But nope, they were awesome little fruits. I think my favorite thing to do whenever I travel is visit grocery stores and local markets.

So in short, New Orleans is a food mecca. It’s dirty, it’s gritty, it rained every dang day we were there. But the food. Man! The food! It can only come from a city with so much love you can taste it.

Cava

Not to be mistaken with their sit down table service restaurant, Cava is like the Chipotle of Mediterranean cuisine. It’s a fast casual place that dishes up bowls of food with mix and match combinations of rice, lentils, salad greens, hummus, vegetables and on and on. It’s about $10 for a bowl and while I still prefer Mom’s Naked Lunch, this came in a close second. I really enjoyed the crunchy salad mix they had (Splendid/Supergreens) and the lentils and hummus made it filling. Would I come back? Do I recommend? Sure and sure!

Grain of salt: I have been having difficulty finding proper meals dining out and I’m probably not the best judge of restaurants anymore. But I really thought it was good and I have a coworker who says she and her boyfriend eat here at least once a week! That must count for something right?

Also I forgot to get a picture before I dug in. It looked like a bowl of greens and vegetables.

Back to CA

We just got back from another visit to California as I mentioned earlier. Two visits within a year. That’s a first for me – anywhere. This second visit was to attend a wedding. By the way, my fave part of the wedding might have been the bride and groom’s choice of wedding bands. They were fashioned out of leaves from a tree in her backyard and they lasted not too long beyond the first half of the reception. For folks who aren’t jewelry wearers, it’s perfect. While there, we hit up our favorite places to eat and this time around, maybe because we’d just visited several months earlier, a lot of the places were just okay. Ippuku, I’m looking at you. And also like in the case of Chez Panisse, their vegetable entree left me still hungry. I needed more food. Cancun Taqueria was tasty and filling. I’m not sure, I think the food in the area is losing its sparkle for me. Again, maybe it’s because we had it too frequently having gone twice within a year’s time whereas before we’d only visit once every 3 years or so. So this time we ate out less frequently and made some food from the farmers market and those turned out to my favorite meals. Beans, random mushrooms we don’t get back home easily (maitake, chanterelles), fennel, dandelion, kale, fresh zucchini. Fennel grows everywhere in that region. It’s a weed! A tasty weed. Well, so’s dandelion. So my favorite place to eat there is now the farmer’s market.

Beans!

I bought about 20 lbs of beans at a little market in California. They’re all beans I’d never heard of like Black Valentine.
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Or Snowcap.
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So far, I’ve cooked Hutterite Soup, Tiger Eye, and Flor de Mayo beans. The Hutterite is a very light white bean. It has a delicate skin so a good amount of it breaks up in the soup and makes it creamy. The Flor de Mayo has the thickest skin of the three. Almost like kidney beans. The Tiger Eye is good for it’s chewy starchy texture. Almost like a waxy New England potato. I love that sort of texture.
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Chaia

I met a friend for lunch at Chaia in Georgetown. It’s a little taco shop that sells vegetarian food. The nice thing is, it’s in Georgetown which is kind of fun to go to sometimes. It’s all fancy and whatnot. The not nice thing is, it’s in Georgetown which means it’s expensive and it was. Their tacos are tiny. I’ve said this before, getting full off plants requires bigger food portions. Plants are mostly low calorie density foods. Volume is necessary. I think I probably already eat bigger portions than many anyway. At least by my and many of my friends observations. I eat a lot of food to feel satiated. So $15 for lunch that felt more like a mini snack doesn’t make me want to go back. I hate leaving a meal feeling hungry and unsatisfied, regardless of price point. If you serve it up, call it a meal, it had better fill me up. Plus, I hate vegan food that’s poorly designed. Aside from the too small portions, it was basically mushrooms in a tiny corn tortilla. Zucchini in a corn tortilla. Where are my pulses? Where’s the protein? Where are the greens? And I don’t mean a few sprouts for garnish. No wonder omni’s think vegans are weird and starving. If I had that regularly, I would be! So yeah, I haven’t been eating out much lately and it’s because there’s not much out there. Portions are too small (regardless of price point). Macros are wrong. Some are chock full of processed nonsense (what the hell is chick’n?!). Eating out for me is a way to get meals that I can’t get at home. Lately, every time I eat out, I leave thinking I make better. Maybe I’ve just grown accustomed to my own food. And it’s just as well. The reason why a lot of restaurant food tastes better is because it’s full of salt, oil, and sugar. And while I enjoy the dishes in the moment, they make me feel like shit afterwards. And I’m usually still hungry. Actually, one little side bonus of not eating out as frequently, it’s a moneysaver. $120 per week to feed two people, which is actually probably on the high side, but if I’m not eating out, I splurge on whatever I want at the produce aisle.

So in short, I left hungry and dissatisfied and don’t plan on going back.

Not my day

Today was mostly okay until I went to go catch a bus for an appointment. (Metro is doing track work and telling everybody to stay home, go on vacay, or find another mode of transportation, which is usually unheard of since they’re hurtin’ for money, but I’m glad they’re finally giving metro’s infrastructure the much needed attention). The first bus came and drove right by me (why do they do that?!!). And in the 10 minutes I stood to wait for the next bus (thankfully it was just 10 or so mins), mosquitoes attacked me. I was bit probably close to 10 times. The saving grace, there was a torrential downpour (the kind that flip umbrellas inside out) just as I hopped onto the next bus, and by the time I got to where I was going, the rain had stopped. So maybe missing that first bus was a blessing in disguise a la that movie, Sliding Doors (where Gwyneth Paltrow misses a train in one universe and catches it in another and her life is totally different because of that train.) Not that my life was so altered. I don’t think anyway. I guess I’ll never know since I didn’t catch that bus. At any rate, I imagine I would have had to get off the bus right in the middle of the pouring rain and I would have waited at the bus shelter until the storm ebbed and not gotten attacked by the hungry mosquitoes. No biggie. Anyway, I came home and had a bowl of rice and miso paste to feel better. It’s my new favorite food lately. I wrap it in nori. It’s like omusubi without the effort of turning it into a triangle. I feel better now.

Ramen Side-by-Side

Last year, I went with my friend to Hanabi and I can only describe her reaction as thoroughly disappointed.  She said I had to try the vegetable ramen at Daikaya. She said it would knock my socks off.

We finally went to Daikaya a few weeks ago and I don’t know if it’s because of the monster appetite I’d worked up earlier from the gym (See?  I DO use my leggings!!  What’s another piddley lil pair of Girlfriend Collective leggings?), but that bowl of ramen knocked my socks clear off.
Here is a picture of it for your viewing pleasure. Well, really for mine because I relive the moment of slurping the rich hot soup.
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I think I know why she likes it better. Daikaya stir fries their vegetables in a searing hot wok to give it a greasy smokey flavor. The soup is really rich too.

The following week, I went back to Hanabi to give it another go. It’s still as oishi as I remembered. Their soup isn’t as greasy and the vegetables are cooked in hot water so they’re blander.
Vegetable Ramen from Hanabi
Of the two, I think I slightly prefer Hanabi.

One of my biggest gripes about ramen (eating out in general) is everything is too dang salty. What is wrong with the chefs in this town? They burn their tastebuds off or something? They add more and more salt!! Hanabi’s ramen is still salty but the salt and grease is much less overpowering. Yes, salt and grease = big flavor but I’d still like to taste the vegetables and ingredients.

Overall I’d eat at either place anytime.

“Rice”

Just about the weirdest allergy I have is rice. I’ve eaten it all my life and will continue to eat it. Even though it’s like giving milk to a lactose intolerant. I call it jet fuel. Not sure about the people around me, but mostly I don’t mind it. I’m so used to it because I’ve been eating it all my life and dealing with the consequences. In fact, I thought everyone bloated after eating. But now that I know the cause I do try to limit it. Granted when I’m traveling and Chinese is the only option I have, well, let’s just say I could start a forest fire with my ass.

That’s the long way of saying this is how I came up with my new “rice” which is quinoa, cauliflower, lentils, and oatmeal. It cooks up like a gloopy blob of “rice” and I can have it with just about anything I would have with rice.

Pickled Onions

I have been making this regularly for the past few months. It makes an easy vegetable side dish that goes with everything savory. Noodles, rice, tofu, avocado toast.

Chop up a bag of red onions.
pickled onions

Boil salt, sugar and water. Let it cool. Add apple cider vinegar to the brine. Pour it over the sliced onions. Refrigerate for a couple of days and it’s ready to eat. I keep two jars going all the time. The brine is re-useable, but I top off with more brine each time because I use the brine in salad dressings and for avocado toast.

If I had to guess amounts, maybe 2 tablespoons of sea salt, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 3 cups of water. And a half cup of ACV. I could be totally off here. Just experiment.