Monday, May 10, 2010

feelin' a little saucy

I am officially sick of Springtime.  In addition to the wildly erratic weather, which is reason enough to hate this cursed season, everyone I've ever known has died in the spring, so the time between March and June is just rife with anniversaries of loved ones leaving my life.

I don't want to dwell on morbidity, though, so we'll talk about my temporary Summertime.  By the way, there are at least two seasons I prefer over Summer, but it still beats Spring.  Anyway, in thirtysome hours, I will find myself on a westbound plane for the first time since my honeymoon.  Mister and I are really bad at vacations.  Before our honeymoon, our last real vacation had been to the very same place but four years earlier.  It will probably be another two and a half years before we find our way to the airport again, since we planned our 5th anniversary trip almost as soon as we got home from our honeymoon (and it WILL be a financial doozy).

We'll be winging our way out to Arizona to visit with my sister a little and see her graduate before hopping a plane that same day and heading home so Mister can get to work the next day.  I am having mixed feelings about the break from cooking.  On the one hand, I love cooking and creating and experimenting.  On the other hand, eating other people's food inspires me to recreate it in my own [more affordable] way.  It's also really nice to have someone else serving me food and cleaning up after me for a change.  In case you were wondering, Angst did not make me breakfast in bed, did not take me to brunch or dinner, and did not make me a Mother's Day card.

My sister helped me scope out a few dining establishments, because it occurred to me well after I'd committed my trusty sidekick and I to this trip that we would be leaving our comfort zone of veg-friendly urban restaurants and grocery stores.  According to dear sis, Tucson has a pretty decent vegan scene, and from the number of restaurants I saw offering tofu scrambles, vegan breakfast burritos, and espresso drinks made with soymilk, I have shaken off my concern and realized that this could be an incredible culinary adventure!  Here is the hit list:

Lovin' Spoonfuls which serves a completely vegan menu and was apparently the brainchild of a woman who converted from a "hard core carnivore" to a vegan in just an hour (as the result of a meeting she attended on vivisection - you can read about her journey on the website) but didn't know what vegans ate.  Her experiments and cooking prowess led her to a culinary talent her friends recognized and urged her to start a restaurant.  Personally, I just really enjoy being able to look at a menu and know that I can choose anything on it.  I may have to go there every day.

Blue Willow Restaurant, Bakery, and Gift Shop which is not completely vegan, but has some really interesting sounding things and it serves breakfast all day, which makes it a winner in Mister's book.  It appears to be right around the corner from the hotel where we'll be staying, and I like that it has a gift shop because even when they're cheesy, they're still fun!

The Cup Cafe @ Hotel Congress - we almost booked a room at Hotel Congress, but I couldn't see from the pictures if they were charmingly vintage or just out-dated and really didn't want to find out once we were there and it was too late.  Mister and I have both had some pretty awful hotel fact the room we stayed in the weekend we became engaged was not quite...clean.  I remember Mister calling maintenance and asking them to come clean our bathtub and them offering to provide him with supplies (to do it himself).  Considering this is going to be our best attempt at a vacation in a while, I didn't want to accidentally book a decrepit room in an overpriced hotel (even if it IS located dead-center of all the excitement).

Anyway, according to my sister, Hotel Congress, along with its club and cafe, is the happening place in Tucson.  I don't think we'll be hitting the club, but everyone needs a trusty coffeeshop and I like two kinds the most: one that is so cozy you get warm inside just looking at it OR a hip, modern, trendy hotspot.  Cup Cafe appears to be the latter and I could use a little glamour.

Hopefully, three things will occur on this vacation that have never happened before:
1. I will remember to take my camera.
2. I will remember to use my camera.
3. I will realize that none of these people will know who I am or ever see me again (with the exception of my sister and possibly her friends) and therefore it doesn't matter if I'm the weirdo taking pictures of her food in the restaurant.  If the food is nearly as awesome as I imagine it will be, I would really like to share pictures here since my growing group of followers indicates that some people really do find me interesting enough to read on a regular basis.  Plus, for those people, I'll have to find some way to make up for my absence Tuesday through Friday and it seems like pictures fix everything.  Here's one now!

Tonight I made Broccoli Pasta with Savory Sauce because Mister's belly wasn't feeling like Punjabi Peppers and Tofu was a good idea.  It was very good, though I think the sauce might take some tweaking.  This won't be the last time I make it, but I do want to share the recipe - I've noticed that I tend to be more creative and inspired when I'm under a great amount of stress.  I've been under a great amount of stress recently, in case you haven't picked that up from, well, every post this month.  Anyway, enjoy the recipe, and as always, please leave me a comment and let me know how it came out for you if you try it!

1 lb of broccoli florets (1 bag of frozen or two large crowns, fresh)
1/2 lb of pasta (I used gemelli, but rotini or cavatappi would also hold the sauce well)
14.5 oz can of tomato sauce
3 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp tamari/soy sauce
1 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce

1/2 Tbsp harissa (I left this out for Mister's belly problems, but I can imagine how it will enhance the taste)
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp raw agave nectar

Boil pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, steam the broccoli in a basket for about 7 minutes, until bright green but still crisp.
While pasta is boiling and broccoli is steaming, simmer tomato sauce in a medium saucepan.  When it is steaming, add the peanut butter and stir until thoroughly combined.  Once the PB is smoothly mixed into the tomato sauce, stir in tamari, worcestershire sauce, harissa, vinegar, and agave nectar.  Allow to simmer gently for about 5 minutes.  Drain the pasta and return to the pot, add the broccoli and the sauce and toss to coat evenly.  Serve with a crisp green salad and a bowl of marinated olives.  If you want to, that is :)

Bonus picture!

My beautiful sister glamming it up in the pimped out limo our wedding party took to the reception.

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