Vegan Family Style Meals

So, here we are at my first Friday as a resident of Romania–officially–and my belly is full. Not stuffed, mind you, just that I have been indulging a little more than I should on some fine Romanian food that my mother-in-law has graciously made while we get our place set up, our fridge filled with food and as we shake off the final dregs of moving.

Have I mentioned how much I loath moving? Not the whole adventure of going to a new place and learning about their culture, their customs and of course, their cuisine. But just the packing and cleaning, even more cleaning and then unpacking and rearranging. All of that I could totally do without. But it is a necessary evil and now that it’s in my past I am determined to forget it.

Until the next move.

Over the past few days despite the warmer than usual for October weather outside, we have been eating soup. A lot of soup. Part of it is due to the fact that Romanian cuisine, much like American cuisine (And German, and Hungarian…just sayin’) is wholly based around animals. Meat and cheese reign supreme here, which means that even my well-meaning MIL has trouble coming up with meals that don’t include meat.

Or a side of meat.

Or a side of brânză (cheese).

Happy October…from Romania!!!

Hello! Ce Faci! And HAPPY HALLOWEEN MONTH!!!!

As you probably noticed, I missed yesterday’s post and the reason is because I have been incredibly busy moving from Germany to Romania. Moving always sucks but driving across four countries in the span of 48 hours is more than a task, it is a complete and total THING! I thought packing and hauling boxes would be the hardest part but endless hours in the car behind the movers was a bit of an ordeal.

On the upside, there were some really beautiful sights along the way. Once we made it out of  Germany, Austria was next and that place is magnificent. Back in 2015 I spent a week in Stubai skiing with friends and it was gorgeous but winter so a wholly different type of beauty. This time there was endless seas of greenery. Trees of all stripes growing together, some in that transformative state indicating autumn is well on her way with leaves gold and green and red, not to mention my favorite orange leaves.

We stopped at a little roadside rest area and the sight was magnificent. After hours and hours of trees, which were beautiful, I came upon the most delightful little scene…

Yep, four cows just chilling on the hillside and totally ignoring the view of the mountains and lake beside them. Apparently they were so jaded they didn’t feel the need to enjoy it the way I did. Though maybe the sun had something to do with it. 😀

As you can see I had no problem at all with the view. After snapping a few photos with the hubs, we went for a long walk enjoying the sun glinting off the water.

And that…was Austria. A few hours of it.

Then we spent about 8 hours in Hungary but most of it was spent asleep in a funky little place called Hotel Paprika.

It was as you might guess, a rustic style hotel but it was way snazzier than I was expecting. The rooms were big and spacious and even though it was my first time in Hungary AND my first time in a European hotel where I couldn’t find an episode of Law & Order on the hotel TV, it was pretty cool. What I did find was the movie Hitman: Agent 47 in Hungarian which was…odd. Unlike most languages I’ve encountered so far there was no way possible to pick up a word here or there, even while watching something I’d seen before. Let’s just say it’s a language I’m glad I don’t have to learn because I’m pretty sure I never would.

Even thought we didn’t spend much time in Hungary we did go down to the hotel restaurant, Csarda Paprika. Unfortunately they had less than zero options for the vegan eater. There was page after page of meat and when there was no meat, there was cheese. So other than a really good beer, Sopoka Demon, we ate steamed vegetables, croquettes and mushroom rice. The mushrooms were canned so yuck but the highlight was Hungarian paprika. Spicy and smoky and delicious.

There was this weird toy for kids and it was so creepy I had to capture it for posterity!

Three hundred and fifty kilometers later and we were in Romania.

Finally.

Our first stop was at a nice restaurant that was all old school Romanian, complete with old school music which was pretty enjoyable. But again there were no vegan options beyond salad and fries. Not even a vegetable Ciorbă (soup) to speak of. But there was beer. It was–allegedly–a dark beer. It wasn’t but it also wasn’t all that bad.

 

My husband told me a fun story about the guy on the glass. Apparently he’s a literary figure from his hometown but I haven’t verified the story so if and when I do, I’ll happily share it with you!

After all the trouble finding places to eat, you can imagine how happy I was that I had the foresight to pack some vegan deli sandwiches for the long drive, which totally came in handy. But then my mother-in-law said the two words I never thought I’d hear from her lips or anyone else’s: vegan sarmale.

If you’re not familiar with Romanian food then you’re missing out. Sarmale is a cabbage wrapped meat and rice dish filled with herbs and spices. It’s similar to dolma but with a very different flavor profile. But my mama in law made them vegan, using mushrooms instead of meat and with Mămăligă on the side. For the uninitiated, Mămăligă is polenta. Delicious, hearty polenta. And it was so tasty I didn’t even think twice about eating it before photographing it so you’ll have to take my word for it.

And instead enjoy the photo of vegan borscht with potatoes and yep, you guessed it…more Mămăligă!

I ate two bowls of it…as did my hubs and we ate nearly ALL of the Mămăligă! The highlight was the fresh dill, which somehow transformed the dish into something hearty and delicious and the perfect respite from a day of unpacking and setting up.

Oh, and learning Romanian!

And now…back to unpacking.

 

 

Our Trip to Würzburg ~ A Day of Walking, a Fortress and Vegan Eats

We recently took a day trip to Würzburg, a small town of about 100,000 people in the Bavaria region of Germany. This place is what you think of when you think of idyllic small towns, except it is filled with some truly amazing architecture. Now full disclosure; I’m no art expert but I fall into the I like what I like school of thought, so take what I say with a grain of Himalaya sea salt. 😉

When we first started planning this trip I was pretty resigned to the fact that I’d be partaking in lots of wine–famous in the region–along with salad and pommes (fries). Imagine my surprise when a quick Google search of ‘Würzburg + vegan’ revealed not one, but two different eateries!! In the end we opted for the full-blown restaurant instead of the cafe that had mostly vegetarian options. Vrohstoff was our top choice and I’ll be honest, after looking up the menu online I was super excited about our options.

This place was AMAZING. And that’s coming from a woman who no one would ever describe as effusive. Everything about the place screamed fresh, natural food. One wall was filled with pots of fresh herbs and relaxing music greeted us when we made our first stop for a quick breakfast. It was relatively quiet because it was a Monday morning and most people in town were at work…I assume.

We sat down and even though I’d spent plenty of time browsing the menu in the days leading up to the trip, I took my time until I spotted the perfect breakfast drink. Fresh and natural ginger and mint tea. It was damn delicious!

vegan tea mint ginger

The little cup was so adorable with an outer plastic bubble to keep my hands nice and un-burned while I drank my weight in tea!

Now…back to breakfast!

 

The hubs had this dish which was a tofu “egg” scramble which was absolutely delicious and that’s coming from someone who only recently started to enjoy tofu! The salad had a light vinaigrette and the veggies on the side were grilled eggplant, onions. For him, the sesame seed dipped avocados were the highlight because…look how perfectly ripe they are!

For my über delicious vegan breakfast I chose a little bit of everything. The bread up top tasted like potato bread but I forgot to ask what it was made of, but it made a delicious sandwich with the vegan cheese slices and the cucumber, tomato & salad sandwich, also with a light vinaigrette. Bottom left is vegan butter with basil (the basil went on my sandwich!). But the real star of this breakfast was the lentil hummus which was buttery with a hint of smokiness that I’m pretty sure came from cumin. The extra bread was a bonus (mmmm, carbs) and I smeared the lentil hummus on it and ate it. Full disclosure: I slid that avocado slice on over to the hubs because, ewww, avocado. (I know it’s healthy and all that but it’s just not my thing.)

After such a healthy breakfast I was ready to get my tourist-ing on! We both commented on how light and energetic we felt which turned out to be perfect because the Marienberg Fortress was a MASSIVE CLIMB that I would not have been able to make with a greasy breakfast.

But, don’t get it twisted, I do love to eat a healthy plant based diet but I do have a weakness; booze. And we were in wine country so I did have a little bit of a boost to get me up the fortress.

The big castle over my shoulder is Marienberg and that’s a dry rose that was SO COLD and delicious as it went down. It kept me refreshed for the monster climb but the climb did kind of destroy my buzz!

(No, I don’t know the gentleman behind me he was an accidental photobomb.)

We spent quite a bit of time at the Fortress because there were amazing views of the entire town and I got some great panorama shots! After a day of sightseeing at least a half dozen cathedrals, vineyards, gardens and art galleries we made our way back to Vrohstoff. The dinner menu was so mouthwatering but we were both fatigued from all the walking around in the sun that we went for the easy-ish option.

He got soup. A potato and leek soup with a hint of tumeric. It was delicious and I might have had a spoonful. Or two.

I got salad with tomatoes, apples, 3 types of lettuce, carrot spirals, shaved nuts and orange slices.

And then we both got…burgers! They were amazing and the sweet potato fries were OUT OF THIS WORLD!

HE got the ‘Der Mexikaner’ or the Mexican burger, which included a black bean burger with: beets, vegan cheddar, corn, cucumber relish and corn chips. And that little red & white cup? homemade ketchup with vegan mayo that was made with a coconut cream base. It was tasty but a tad too sweet with the sweet potato fries. He ate every bite, though!

I got the ‘Der Greiche’ or The Greek burger that was complete with a bean & olive pattie tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives, mint pesto, vegan tzatziki and…parsnip chips. It was very filling or maybe it was all the wine I drank but either way I rolled myself out of there and made my way to the car.

Somehow.

We took a break after the fortress to rest our aching feet over a cocktail or two and this went rolling past!

 

Come back soon and I’ll share with you the loot of wine I picked up in Würzburg!

Caille à Vin (Quail in Wine)

20140729_154427One of the things you may not know about me, and how would you since it’s the first time I’ve mentioned it, is that I am a total Francophile. Ever since I was a young girl I have admire just about everything French from the beauty of the sensual language to the buttery croissants and of course…the wine. So it should come as no surprise that I have tried my hand—not with a ton of success if I’m being honest—at several of the less complicated French dishes.

I have mastered the traditional coq au vin and one day I may even show you my efforts. As you can imagine it is difficult to make this dish with a vegetarian spouse, but I just make half the chicken and only serve him the veggies, sauce and rice or noodles. It works.

Throw in my need (compulsion?) to make traditional dishes in my own way and you can see how I thought this dish would be a good idea. Just ask my husband or my friends, you will often find on my menu things like steak-less Pepper Steak or Welsh Rarebit Mac & Cheese. I’m just a big fan of taking something I have always loved and changing it up to match how I eat now. I love macaroni and cheese, like freakin’ rub it all over my body LOVE it. But you will never catch me noshing on electric orange powder mac & cheese…EVER. I make my own cheese sauce so I can change it up and make it more grown up.

Hence my need to try something else au vin because, let’s face it, food drenched in wine is a pretty good idea. One of the best from the French which I think we should all embrace!

Spicy Coconut Moqueca

When it comes to TV chefs everyone has their favorites. I’m partial to Rachel Ray mostly because it was her easy and accessible style of cooking that prompted me to change my life by cooking my own meals and becoming more conscious of what I put in my body. Of course Rachel’s portion sizes leave something to be desired but I can’t fault her for that. I also love Tyler Florence because he’s all big and Southern and the man can cook! He’s definitely tested my skills as an amateur chef but I do make a few mean dishes thanks to his TV guidance.

But my TV chef crush, if you put a gun to my head, is Anthony Bourdain. That deep voice and the way he uses his words in that Beat Generation cadence…well let’s just say the food he introduces me to from all parts of the globe isn’t the only thing that gets my mouth watering. Given my desire to see as much of the world as I can before these lids shut permanently, it makes sense that I’d flock to this type of food appreciation show now that I am on my own journey to visit far flung regions of the world.

What’s my point, other than giving you way too much information into my Bourdain crush? Well it was an episode of Parts Unknown that inspired me to try out this Moqueca (sounds like MO-Cake-Kah) recipe. Of course I have neither the access to, nor the skill to handle blowfish so I used plain old white fish in my recipe. Specifically I used cod filets which I often have on hand because you’ll never know when a fish & chips craving will strike. Anyway I saw this recipe and I knew I’d have to try it and this is my first attempt.

Beer & Seafood Soup in a Bread Bowl

I wouldn’t say that I lead a sheltered life as a young child but I was a fully grown adult before I had the luxury of eating soup from a bowl made out of bread. I was living in Boston back in 2004 and working hard for John Kerry and sharing a huge coastal house with a bunch of college grads. We decided to go to New Hampshire to look around and check out the ‘Live Free or Die’ state. After indulging the guys in endless hours and thousands of bullets at a gun range we were in search of nourishment.

Since none of us were from the Northeast we were all New Hampshire virgins but we stopped at this really great seafood restaurant on the water. In addition to having some of the bluest water I’d ever seen at the time, this place made a killer lobster bisque in a delicious sourdough bread bowl. Maybe it was the booze, or maybe it was the MJ but I ate nearly every inch of that bowl except the über soggy bottom section.

Creamy French Onion Soup

Since the weather here in Stuttgart doesn’t seem to be anywhere near Spring-like figured it was time to revisit a soup that I’ve only grown to love as an adult.

A few years ago I lived in Boston and enjoyed many of the best things the city has to offer, including lunch and Shakespeare in the Commons. But one of my favorite things was French onion soup at the Beantown Pub. It wasn’t an everyday menu special but if you got there on the right day you’d get a delicious soup with caramelized onions and a hearty broth. Maybe I enjoyed it so much because we’d wash it down with a few cold glasses of Guinness Extra Stout, but whatever the reason it was a great way to kill a few hours during lunchtime.