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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ethos Planetware - Tableware Made From Plants

The nice folks at Ethos Planetware sent me some samples of their new plant-based tableware to try. That's right, dishes made out of plants! It makes great sense that we would want to eat our plants off of plates made from plants! Here's a bit of explanation from their blog:

"Ethos Planetware is a brand focused on promoting a sustainable lifestyle. We design and develop a line of tableware products that are made from 100% recycled plants! Our products consist of bamboo, rice, and cornstarch and all of the dyes used are derived from natural plant sources. Ethos is also dishwasher and microwave safe, shatter proof, and commercially compostable."

It's a cool concept, and a dandy product. I love the look and feel of my pretty plate, bowl, and cup, and I love that they're sustainably made by a Portland based company. As much as I'm enjoying using these at home, I can see even greater possibilities for them in restaurants and other areas of food service. And if we still had an RV, these would be the absolute perfect dishes to travel with because they're light weight, tough as can be, and still pretty, unlike most "camping" dishes.

The next step for Planetware is a Kickstarter campaign, which you'll fine HERE. You can keep in touch with the Ethos people on their Facebook page. And below is a short Vimeo for you with more information. 

Let's all support this project and help Planetware find its way into the world!

My very own blue plate special.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Why Faux Meat Can Be Perfect for Meat Eaters

Fake meat gets a lot of criticism from meat eaters and vegans alike. I hear it all the time - "If you're going to eat meat, eat meat" - or - "If you don't eat meat, why eat fake meat?" Aside from the animal and environmental issues, (which I'm not going to go into, because they aren't in any way positive), I've discovered a whole other reason for cooking with faux meat. It makes my dad happy.

Every so often I spend a block of time with my dad at his house in San Jose, the house I grew up in, where he still lives, by himself, at the tender age of eighty-five. When I'm there, I cook for him, which is a pretty daunting task. Not only am I in Mom's kitchen, where a pretty high culinary standard was set many years ago - I'm cooking for Dad, who was a very enthusiastic hunter when my sisters and I were growing up. I remember a lot of family weekends with all of us sitting in freezing, muddy rice fields waiting for ducks to fly over. The man likes his meat, and even though I'm thoroughly opposed to cooking it for him, I'm also opposed to denying him anything I can possibly do for him at this point in his life. After all, he's been there for me for over 57 years.

On my most recent visit, I decided to take a chance and fix up some really simple, familiar dishes for him, but using fake meat. I wasn't really trying to trick him, but I'll admit I didn't say anything until he asked about it. Surely he must have guessed that since I was eating the same thing he was eating, something was up, but he played along. Dad is a good sport, and he likes good food, which is what I gave him.

I started out by making a simple pasta dish with mushrooms, spinach, and Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles stirred into the sauce. He ate, he enjoyed, he didn't ask. When I heated up some of the leftovers for lunch the next day, he finally commented, "There sure is a lot of meat in here. Is it real?"  I told him the truth. He nodded, scooped up another bite, and said, "This is really good." Score one for Team Kim!

Next I made a veggie stir fry with brown rice, orange sauce, and Gardein Beefless Tips. They looked like real chunks of meat to me, so I knew I was on the right track. This dinner was a huge hit,  and when Dad speared a bite of "beef" and held it up to me, again asking, "Is it real?," I didn't hesitate to tell him what he was eating. His comment was, "It tastes really good... and it's so tender..."

That's where it all fell into place for me. Not only did he like it, it's healthy for his heart, and he can chew it. Tough, gnarly food no longer works for him, and the good quality fake meat I served made him happy because he could actually have his meat and chew it too. This makes me so, so happy.

From here on, when someone wants to engage in the faux meat debate, I'll have my response ready. It's good for the animals, good for the environment, good for our health, and, most importantly, it makes my dad happy. Any argument that needs to go on beyond that can just go on without me.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Vegan Breakfast Anywhere

Going out for breakfast with non-vegans at mainstream restaurants can be a challenge. You peruse an enormous menu, only to realize that nothing listed can be veganized because everything contains eggs or cheese, even if you find something you can leave the meat out of. My most recent solution to the dilemma is to flip straight to the side dishes. Most often I'll find a perfect little "shopping list" of items to mix and match for a satisfying breakfast I can enjoy with my friends without being a big weirdo and picking apart one go the chef's specials. Sometimes it's easier for all concerned to just start from scratch and ask for what we want.

My go-to side dish right now is potatoes. I love potatoes, and many restaurants make wonderful homestyle spuds fried up with onions and seasonings. There's usually a lot of oil too, but I don't go out for breakfast that often, so when I do, I just enjoy my fried taters and don't worry about it. 

My favorite combination is potatoes with salsa and avocado. On a recent visit to the San Jose Cafe, where I met up with a childhood friend for a bit of catching up, I was able to get just what I wanted, and even had them throw in some fresh spinach. The result was a comforting plateful of potato love. 

I liked it so much, I told the waitress to give the cook a kiss for me. She reported back that he was all grins, and that really made his day. It's good to show appreciation, and good to find easy ways of eating out with friends. I love getting together with my old pals when I visit San Jose. And now I have a new breakfast pal, the humble potato, with all the veggie fixings.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

TBT - For Lucy, Sweet Potato Dog Treats

In honor of our dear old Lucy, who quietly passed on at home this week, after almost 13 years of happy snacking, today's ThrowBackThursday takes us back to one of her all time favorites, Sweet Potato Dog Treats. Maybe is was goodies like these that helped her live so long. Make some for your favorite pup, and enjoy the wonderful aroma in your kitchen while they bake.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My New Vitamix, Peanut Butter, and The Best Darn Sandwiches Ever

I did it. I finally bought a Vitamix. I've been wanting one for several years, pretty much since the moment I went vegan. Everybody told me that every vegan must possess a Vitamix (or other high end, high speed blender.) I resisted. It's a big expense. I wanted to see how much I could do without one, and if you read back through the blog, you'll see I've done plenty. Certainly one can be vegan without a blender of any kind. Just as certainly, it's more fun and creative with one.

I bought a "regular" blender, and used it for a while. Then I bought a NutriBullet, which I had a lengthy love-hate relationship with. My blog post on the Bullet stirred a lot of conversation, and has more comments than any other post I've written. I'll have to go back over there once more and note that I finally decided to spring for the Vitamix. And, as many people told me would happen, I have a bit of reverse buyer's remorse, as in, Why didn't I do this sooner???

My bullet is going to live at my Dad's, so I can use it for simple things when I visit him, and my beloved food processor so far seems kind of redundant in the presence of the mighty Vitamix. I've tucked it away in a cabinet, just in case, but so far, the right tool for every job so far is my one and only new favorite "Barbie Dream Blender," the elegantly hulking Vitamix.

The other morning I was writing up a post for Eating Vegan In Portland, about PBJ's Grilled, up on 23rd. Talking up those miraculous peanut butter sandwiches, I found myself yearning for one right that very minute. I headed straight for my micro-kitchen to see how well the Vitamix makes peanut butter. I heard that it could. I've seen the videos. But I wasn't going to believe it until I tried it for myself. I filled 'er up about half full of peanuts, flipped the dials and switches, and moments later I had a vat of warm, fresh peanut butter. (Oh, heaven. Hand me a spoon.) Sandwiches were on the way, but not before I planned ahead to dinner and made peanut sauce too. It's the perfect way to "clean" all the peanut butter from the blender. By making a sauce, it was thinned down enough that it was easy to pour and scrape out nearly every last bit. And this way I only had to do the soapy cleanup once. Kind of brilliant, I think.

On to the next round - grilled PB and J's with... drumroll... caramelized onions, jalapeƱos, apples, and cranberries. Oh yes indeed. Inspired by my new favorite food cart, these delectables are hopping out of my ever-so-lightly-oiled skillet left and right these days. The first one I tried was peanut butter (store bought, but still good), apricot jam, grilled apples, fresh rosemary, lemon zest, and Daiya Cheddar. Swoon.

The original from the PBJ's food cart is PB, marmalade, fresh basil, Sriracha sauce, and curry powder. It's incredible.

My mind is swimming with possibilities, and the experiment with caramelized onions was a great success. Do try this at home.

Peanut butter, from a Vitamix or from a jar, can be more magical than you ever imagined. And yes, having one powerful, versatile, wonderful machine is every bit as satisfying as I'd hoped it would be. Plus it allowed me to clear some counter space, which is a very big deal in a small kitchen.