Golden Potato Soup

Ingredients:

1 large baking potato, cubed
2 cans chickpeas
2 cups prepared hummus
2 cups white or cremini mushrooms, quartered
6 cups vegetable broth
1 small onion, finely diced
1/4 cup whole almonds
1/2 t. turmeric
1 t. fresh parsley
1 t. fresh cilantro
4-6 cloves garlic
1/4 t. cumin
1/2 t. marjoram
2 T. soy sauce
1 t. fresh round black pepper
1 T. crushed red pepper (optional)
1 T. vegetable oil

Preparation:
This soup is Middle Eastern/North African inspired but is in no way traditional. It’s warm and comforting and great on a chilly day. In a stock pot sauté the mushrooms, onion and garlic until the mushrooms soften and the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the cubed potatoes and allow to crisp somewhat on the outside. This step isn’t strictly necessary but it does give a nice texture to the finished potatoes. Add the spices to and stir to combine until all of the veggies are a uniform yellow-gold. Add the hummus and stir to combine. Add the broth and remaining ingredients. Allow to come to a boil. Reduce and simmer for 20-30 minutes. The time is really dependent on who firm you like your potatoes. Make sure to wait until the soup is boiling until you add the fresh herbs otherwise they will wilt and turn to mush long before the soup is done.

Houston Vegan Eats: Niko Nikos

When you think Greek food in Houston you think of two places Greek Village aka Biba’s/One’s a Meal and Niko Nikos.

In pre-gan days I was a stalwart adhereant of Biba’s as it was open 24-Hours and had an awesome breakfast and pizza. These were staples of my diet in my early twenties and it shows.

I had never been to Niko Nikos until Monday night. I was missing out. It was much better than Bibas, even for an omni. Where Bibas is on the expensive side, Niko Nikos was a good value. The sandwiches and plates both were under $12 and the plates were enough to feed two people easily. They had clearly marked vegetarian options which, with a little editing, became Vegan. They also had hummus, which Bibas does not serve, amazingly. Some have sugggested that hummus isn’t actually Greek but Middle Eastern, so that may be why.

Here’s the break down:

The parking was crazy but it was a constant flow so we didn’t have to drive around the lot very long before we got a space right by the door. The seating was expansive both inside and out but there was a dearth of big tables for large groups and pushing tables together really disrupted the traffic flow.

I like the counter service. I’m not a fan of table service most of the time becasue I feel like: “I have feet why should I ahve to tip someone to get my food and refills on my beverage.” The line was somewhat long but moved very quickly and our overall wait in line was less than ten minutes. The counter person was curteous and friendly and knew the menu well. We were given a LED buzzer thingie and went off to fill our drinks and find seating for five,which is always an adventure.

The salads and hummus made a near immediate appearance and the cooked food took less than 15 minutes. Not a bad wait, but it was a Monday night so I can’t speak for REALLY busy nights.

The Hummus was a full order for almost nine bucks, so I expected a sizable portion. In reality I got a lot of crudite and pita bread and a rather paltry serving of hummus. Apprantly chickpeas are more pricey than I thought, as my hummus was more expenisve than my wife’s falafel pita and fries but was comparatively tiny. I’ll not order that again.

When my fries arrived they were a huge protion for 2.50, but they were covered with Feta cheese. I realize now, looking at the menu, that the guy ASSUMED that I wanted the Feta fries despite the fact that I ordered french fies. They were some of the best fries in the city once I had scalped the dairy off and passed it to the lovely Greek girl who was treating my wife and I to dinner.

My wife’s falafel pita was huge and I’ll defintely order that in the future. The hot sauce that came with it was great. I loved the flavor of it. I see that I can order extra falafel on the side for 95 cents a piece so that would be a great deal with a couple of extra falafel for more protein as three is a bit on the short side for my tastes. It was crammed with fresh salad veggies and came with a tahini sauce that we hope was vegan as it was tasty. It came with a mound of fries as well and I ended up eating quite a few of my wife’s fries on top of my own.

We were dining with three young ladies who are all omnivores. The Greek had Greek salad and Gyro with Greek home fries. One of the other women had fried oysters and the other had a gyro platter. Both were piled high with more food than any four people really need.

We ordered dessert to go on the way out. I’m not sure what the other ladies got as we were in a hurry to get home at that point but it was something with egg custard or some such. We had baklava since we are honey eating vegans. It was drenched in Niko Nikos honey sauce. The sauce was very runny and thin but did taste of honey. The baklava itself was very tasty if a bit chewy and despite the honey sauce’s apparant wetness it did nothing to moisten the overbaked phyllo dough. It was ok baklava. It wasn’t worth $3.25, in my opinion, but it was ok. I’d rather eat baklava at Dimassi’s where I can eat as many pieces as I have appetite for with no extra charge.

All in all Niko Nikos was pretty darn good and well worth the trip into Montrose and fiasco of parking in the crowded parking lot. The food was great and the atmosphere was “Greekish” if a bit busy and crowded. I see why this place made it onto Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

Houston Vegan Eats, Round 3 – Dimassi’s

On Friday night we wanted to eat out. My wife wanted Fadi’s, which is an awesome choice but it’s a little far into town to any of their locations from where we live and the wife was meeting me there with our son. I was on my way home from work so we figured somewhere on the Southwest Freeway would be best, to keep it simple.
Since Fadi’s was already out there as a preference, the new Dimassi’s on 59 between West Airport and Kirkwood was a natural choice.
They took an old, short-lived attempt at a Cajun restaurant, called Gringeaux ala Pappadeux, by nearby Gringo’s and basically refurnished it.
Like most Dimassi’s location it’s NOT about how the place looks but how the food tastes. This location happens to look like it belongs in the French Quarter of New Orleans, but inside it’s generic restaurant decor with comfortable tables and lots of seating. Another plus is the large parking lot, which you won’t find at some of the other Mediterranean restaurants in town.

The buffet was attractive and well stocked. The food was all the right temperature and the falafel were so hot I nearly burned myself retrieving the tasty nuggets.

Everything was delicious. I had falafel, baba ganoush, hummus, cucumber salad, tabbouleh, rice and lentils, rice pilaf, seasoned potatoes, and lots of pitas.

I did not like the tabbouleh but it tasted very flavorful and my wife liked it a lot so that was probably just me. I also didn’t care for some kind of potato-salad like dish that was served cold. IT was ok but not my favorite and you when you have so many dishes which vie for the title of awesome there’s no reason to eat the mediocre. The pita were a little tough and not as yummy as Fadi’s, as their’s are straight out of the brick oven, but I could also eat a bunch of them without paying $.50 for each one after the first so that mitigates the fact that the were a little tough.

The baklava…fantastic. The lady fingers were also good and my son liked the jam cookies. The semolina cakes had yogurt so naturally we avoided those.

We paid less than $35 for the three of us including drinks and desserts, of course.

We’ll definitely be going back as it was nearly as good as Fadi’s and they have slightly different stuff. If you’re near a Dimassi’s you should definitely give it a try. Oh and they plenty of meat dishes and fresh-baked pizza for the Omnis in your family/friends.

Black Bean Hummus & Amy’s Kitchen

So, I had some black bean hummus for lunch today. This came about because I realized that I could eat various types of bean dips everyday and never get tired of eating them. Since I eat them on romaine leaves I’m not getting any extra abundance of grains which I generally try to limit so I can continue to lose weight.

Basic Black Bean Hummus Recipe

2 cans black beans (drained and well-rinsed)
2 T. Tahini paste or unsweetend peanut butter
1/4 cup mild salsa
2 T. Lemon juice
1 t. cumin
1 T. chili powder
2 T. EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 onion

Throw it all in the food processor or Vita-Mix if you have one and blend until smooth. It tastes great right away or you can chill for a couple of hours to let the flavors blend. I actually add much more lemon juice as much 1/4 cup as I like it to be “a kick in the face,” as my wife notes. I also add 1 t. of Vietnamese style chili-garlic paste so as to sear off my taste buds. I usually add the chili-garlic paste after portioning so as to spare my wife the fire. She doesn’t like her food hot.

You can eat this on or in almost anything. It’s also a great addition to soups to protein pack them. My mother’s always nagging me about getting enough protein because she was raised in the South and down here they LOVE the meat. We really don’t NEED 30-40 g of protein a day, seriously. Not to mention beans and nuts are protein packed and this has both, as does traditional hummus.

On to a tangent!!

Last night on the way home the wife and I were both starving, it being nearly 10 PM and we had not eaten since who knows when. We made a veganizing trip to the local Chick-fil-a. I had a large fruit cup and a large waffle fry. My wife had a side salad, from which she then had to pick processed cheese, and a large waffle fry. This was almost $13 bucks with a large and medium drink, an expensive snack/late night meal. I mentioned the need for emergency food at the house and the idea of a plethora of hummus/bean dip varieties was born.

Today I was reading through Sara Jelley’s Examiner articles and came across an almost fangirl-esque entry on Amy’s Kitchen. I’ve seen these before and even had some enchiladas back in my pre-Vegan days. I went to the website and found 86 different Vegan products. Most of which are available in the Mega-marts of the world!

Let me repeat that they 86 Vegan products.

Many of their products approximate convenience foods that Omnis eat like hot pockets, but with better nutrition and higher quality ingredients.
I am not an advocate for processed foods. I joined the Vegan fold to better my health and shed the extra pounds I’ve been carrying around for most of my life. As such processed foods are on my list of “not very often, if ever” foods. Amy’s makes it easier to sure that the processing isn’t making the food unhealthy and full of chemicals.

Oh and the girl the company is named for writes a pretty good blog, too.

Check out Amy’s Journal.

Big Trucks and Breakfast.

Some people like to stereotype Texas as a land of cowboys and rugged Marlboro man types.

I hate this idea. Yes, it’s part of our history. Legendary figures like General Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin are prominent in the Texas pantheon of heroes. I’m proud of these men and the values that they espoused. They were took care of the Texans that were their people.

Nevertheless, this image has remained in popular culture so much that people still think we ride horses to work and wear ten-gallon hats. Those men do exist. We have plenty of ranches in Texas, but so do the states of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. Simply put, this stereotype isn’t applicable to the all of the estimated 23,904,380 (estimated by the census bureau in 2007) people living in Texas and really only applies to very few of them.

That being said there ARE others who want nothing more than to embrace this ideal and make themselves over as the biggest cowpokes to ever ride a dually truck down the wide rivers of asphalt that crisscross our great state.

This is one of them

This is one of them

I can’t even fathom what would motivate someone to put snorkel exhaust on a pick-up truck in Suburban Houston. The sheer cost must be insane. The customization probably cost more than my car. Sometimes it’s hard to be a Texan and not want to kill everyone around you for the good of the REST of humanity.

*SIGH*

On to other things. I wrote yesterday about my discovery of savory oatmeal.

I’m sticking with that. Today I was  abit low on pre-cooked oatmeal so I added brccoli, bean sprouts, onions and musrooms. It tasted great. How it looked…

not so great looking

not so great looking

But it was super tasty.

Looks should not deter you from eating something. Likewise just because something looks good doesn’t mean it is.

American food producers and restaurants spend billions of dollars on advertising to make associations in our brain so that we falsely think something tastes good even when it doesn’t. I was hooked on hamburgers and fast food for years. I also watched lots of television. There’s certainly a correlation with the amount of advertising you consume and the amount of junk you put into your mouth.

The new blog

I’ve been considering for some time getting a new blog.

I have a livejournal and i have had one for years. It’s a personal blog and always has been. Its more of the “traditional” journal style of blog. Just whatever comes to mind and lots of silly quizzes that are much to do about nothing.

I’ve been uphappy with my username and format over at LJ for years but I’m unwilling to shell out the $30 it will take to change my format and user name and then I’m stuck with it unless I keep paying. I’m not a CSS wizard. I’m just a guy who knows how to use a computer and has thoughts about things. I don’t want my blog to be a hassle.

Also I want to get a wider audience to my blog and I really don’t want people in general stomping through my archived 20s. Feel free to do so but I warn you my personal growth  has changed me a lot over the last few years and what came before may not be something worth reading or even knowing about me.

So what am I going to talk about? Well if you’ve read my profile page you might already a have a pretty good idea. I’m going to talk about politics, values, as I see them, our society, Buddhism, other religions, Veganism, gardening, the law, the environment, and “green” issues. I also talk about products that interest me. I’m a Taurus so I tend to be acquisitive but I try to limit it to virtual things so as not to accumulate worldly goods of low quality and form unnecessary attachments to them. I might also mention other bloggers that I’m fascinated/in awe of.