And so we’ve come to the end of another month. I hope you were able to slide through April Fool’s Day unscathed. Today I’m looking back on some (mostly food) highlights from March.
Spring is here again, which means all things asparagus. The ladies in our household are particular fans, and so Jezebel and I have been eating it at every opportunity. I serve mine with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. On the side, a salad & dolmas.
Jezebel likes hers roasted with a pinch of salt.I also used the return of asparagus season as an opportunity to re-shoot & update this recipe for roasted asparagus with chickpeas & spinach. I served it over polenta, but it also works well with rice.
When we were in Portland last year, my friend, Julie, gave us a couple of her gluten-free & vegan baking mixes. We hadn’t used the white cake mix yet. So when David’s parents came up to celebrate his dad’s birthday with us, it was the perfect opportunity to use it.
David made the white cake and topped it with this classic vegan frosting. (He added about a tablespoon of cocoa powder to it, so that it would be chocolate flavored.) Then he finely grated a couple of non-dairy chocolate chips over the top of it.
The cake was a crowd pleaser all around. It had excellent crumb and a nice amount of moistness. Gluten-free baking can be intimidating, and this boxed mix takes all of the worry out of it.
On the grill
March brought some warmer days. So I made grilled lemon rosemary tofu. It’s so good, and the marinating time on the tofu means those flavors are really stuck in there. I’ve been making this recipe forever, and I used the opportunity to take new, updated photographs. As we’re edging closer to grilling season, keep this one in your repertoire.
I served it with a kale-only version of kale salad and lemon tahini dressing.
Goodies from Herbivorous Butcher
Our friends, Hannah & Carl, went to Minneapolis. While they were there, they visited Herbivorous Butcher (of course), and even brought us back some of their seitan. Hannah asked what I’d like, and I requested their hickory bacon & pastrami. (Yes, that is a painting of Mr. T behind me. I made it several years ago. It says, “I pity tofu.”)
The hickory bacon was used on several breakfasts, pizza with pineapple, and a few BLT’s. (In this case, it was a BLTG – seitan bacon, lettuce, tomato, and guacamole. I was all out of avocado.) We ate the pastrami with several vegan charcuterie boards.
Speaking of vegan charcuterie boards, we’ve been all over “nibbly nights.” (Nibbly nights are when you eat a bunch of nibbles from your fridge. They’re pretty much the best kind of dinners.)
These are glorious times when it comes to vegan cheese. There are so many terrific options. My preferences for vegan cheese vary depending on the use. For nibbly nights I like anything from Miyoko’s, Treeline, Punk Rawk, and both types of chévre from Heidi Ho. Any of them are just beautiful with crackers for spreading.
Then we fill out the meal with sliced red bell peppers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, berries, grapefruit, and fresh pineapple. I pull out lots of pickled things like Castelvetrano olives, grilled artichoke hearts, jalapeño pepper slices, pickles, and dolmas.
No matter how often we have it, a nibbly night always sounds like fun. Plus, it’s easy to vary the options to keep things interesting, and it’s a great way to use up leftovers since they can be quickly added to the mix.
Vegan options around Iowa
Big Grove Brewery opened a new location in Iowa City.
They already had a location in Solon, Iowa, which is consistently busy. I’ve dined there in the past and was able to work out an off-menu cheeseless pizza and some Castelvetrano olives. However, they don’t have listed vegan options on the menu, which can mean that ordering takes a bit more of a conversation than you may want when you’re there with a large group. That’s not a problem, though, at their Iowa City location. They have several options that are clearly marked. (No pizzas at this location, though.)
For appetizers, they have chips, guacamole, and salsa. They all tasted very fresh and vibrant.
David and I ordered 4 hongos tacos, which come on corn tortillas. These mushroom tacos are topped with poblano rajas, pickled onions, and roasted salsa verde. (They are usually served with dairy-based cheese as well, and so be sure to ask that they omit it.) The salsa verde was on the wet side, and so I recommend eating quickly, so that the tortillas don’t fall apart on you.
My friend, Hannah, got the chipotle mushroom torta. The toppings on it are similar to the tacos I ordered. It also usually comes with dairy-based cheese, and so be sure to specify that you want the vegan option.
Hannah also asked about the cauliflower wings on the menu, which aren’t marked. The staff told her that the cauliflower wings with any of the three sauces are vegan. So we’ll have to try that on our next visit. Update: I asked about the cauliflower wings on a second visit and was told they are NOT VEGAN. There’s dairy in the sauce.
For more vegan options in Iowa City, check out this vegan Iowa City post.
David and I also visited Mantra Indian Cuisine in Davenport.
We hadn’t been there in a while, but we got a gift certificate at Christmas that was burning a hole in my wallet.
When it comes to appetizers, getting their mirchi pakora is non-negotiable. I’m a huge fan of all things spicy, and this Indian answer to jalapeño poppers is a big hit. Although, all 3 times I’ve ordered it, the staff has tried to talk me out of it. “It’s really spicy. Do you like spicy?” Yes, I like spicy.
Since it’s made with fresh jalapeños, the amount of heat varies by pepper. This time around, mine wasn’t too hot, but there have been times I’ve been gulping down water with it. The peppers are stuffed with samosa-style potatoes, battered and fried. Aren’t they pretty?
For a milder option, we also ordered batata vada. These fried balls of potatoes and peas are nicely spiced and come with a tray of house-made chutneys. We weren’t able to finish all of these, but they re-heat beautifully in the air fryer as luck would have it.
For our entrées, we ordered chana masala and aloo gobhi. Their chana masala may be my favorite in the state. It has a deep dark color and rich flavor that has a depth you don’t often find in chana masala. I wasn’t a big fan of the aloo gobhi, which seemed a little astringent and oily for my tastes. However, David liked it and was happy to finish leftovers the next day.
Our animal friends
The bird feeder continues to be quite popular. Although, we may need to change the name to squirrel feeder or deer feeder. David, Avon, Jezebel, and I look forward to the regular times of day that our woodland friends drop by for a snack.