Friday, May 29, 2009

Black Bean Avocado Dip

Need a great fun summer dip that isn't just your regular guacamole? Try this dip for your next gathering, picnic, appetizer and you will not be disappointed! Quick and easy and equally scrumptious!

  • 1 can sweet corn
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  1. Chop up tomatoes, red onion and cilantro.
  2. Put beans, corn, red onion, tomatoes and cilantro in a bowl.
  3. Combine dressing ingredients and pour into bowl.
  4. Add avocado just before you're ready to serve dip and enjoy with your favorite chips!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chain Champ: Flat Top Grill

538 N. Midvale Blvd.
Madison, WI 53705
Phone: 608-236-0500


2751 N. Mayfair Road
Wauwatosa, WI 53222
Phone: 414-258-7676

I should preface this review by saying, Flat Top is not a national chain (yet?). It is located in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana currently. I was introduced to Flat Top Grill for the first time in Chicago with two girlfriends over two years ago. Then, I was thrilled to find out that Madison opened the restaurant in Hilldale and now I found out Wauwatosa has a location in Mayfair, which is exciting since I'll be moving to Milwaukee in less than a month!

Flat Top has always been a flavor explosion when I go. It's fun to try new sauce combinations, and I've never had the same meal twice (even when I've tried). I love the Roti Prata bread that you get with the blue stick and add a brown stick, and you get deliciously browned tofu. Yum! The greatest thing about Flat Top, is the fact that my carnivore boyfriend is happy and so am I. I love the great selection of fresh veggies, brown and white rice, noodles, tofu and the sauce choices. My bowl is usually heaping and a struggle to finish. My second time there, it was a struggle because I made it so damn spicy I thought I was going to die. (The waiter helped me fix that before I sweated out the joint).

What I don't love about Flat Top, the price for dinner... A bowl, while extremely satisfying and filling, is $13.00 for dinner (unless you have a student ID, in which case, you get a $2 discount). I love the lunch price, which is under $10.00. Despite the fact you get up and fill your own bowl, then sit and are served your bowl once it's cooked stir-fry style, you still need to tip (and I hope you are all nice tippers). So, if you get a drink, it can get a little pricey for rice and veggies. You can also pay a buck or two more to get the endless bowls (which I cannot imagine finishing more than one) but you have to pay extra to take your leftovers. I enjoy having all those choices so much, that it's worth the price once and awhile.

The best part about Flat Top is that you can have an incredible vegan meal without giving the waiter the third degree about ingredients and explaining that yes, even butter is an animal product. Overall, a place I will continue to go and dine. Plus, it's a restaurant that can please just about anybody.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Chain Champ: Chili's

Even though I try to avoid chain restaurants for the most part, sometimes it's the only thing that seems to please the whole party and it's unavoidable. So, the Veg Vixens will also be reviewing the chains and letting you know the good, the bad and the ugly.

When I have gone to Chili's, I have really enjoyed their Guiltless Black Bean Burger. It's nicely seasoned and has whole black beans in the patty. In my few experiences here, they are also willing to accommodate vegetarians, since the options aren't plentiful. I've modified the fajitas to be just veggie and that's been satisfying for the most part as well. The downside is the very very limited choices, especially if you are vegan. The upside is, the choices that are there, I think are pretty delicious, though I am huge black bean burger lover, so I might be easier to please than most.

I'd love to see more chain restaurants offering meat substitutes (like marinated portobellos, tofu, seitan) though I think that might be wishful thinking for now. Overall, if you're in the mood for a black bean burger or veggie fajitas, go for it, if not, good luck and plan on filling yourself with a garden salad or sides. Vegans beware!

Brasserie V- Madison, WI

Brasserie V
1923 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711

This has become my most favorite restaurant in Madison. I have never had something on the menu that I did not LOVE and I mean LOVE. It is a casual, but seemingly upscale restaurant with an incredible selection of beer. The first experience there, I had my most intense foodgasm with the Apple & Provolone Sandwich. I have since recreated this sandwich from home many times with equal satisfaction. It is tucked away on Monroe Street, and prior to hearing about the restaurant, I had walked by it several times without knowing what it was.

I was turned onto this restaurant by Picky Pepper, who raved about the Cucumber & Cream Cheese Sandwich. So the three of veg vixens made it a lunch date back in January, and since then, I have been back there once a month. It's very difficult for me not to order the same thing that I know I love so dearly, but I have always been pleased when I try something new. However, I have only been to Brasserie V for lunch, never dinner yet. I love the lunch menu, even with just a few choices, it's often very difficult for me to choose what to eat. I love the Baby Spinach Salad, Grilled Portobello, the Muffaletta (without meat of course), and of course, being the salt lover that I am, I also love the Frites. The sides have never been disappointing and in my visits have ranged from a fresh cucumber salad, to a carrot curry soup, a potato and leek soup and a delicious quiona spring salad. Each time extremely full of flavor and very satisfying.

I'm anxious to go there for dinner to try two salads, the Pear & Brie and the Tarragon & Radish salads. The one downside to dinner, is that the vegetarian options for dinner are more limited than at lunch.

All in all, the staff is extremely friendly and knowledgable, plus the service in my five visits has always been excellent. They use local ingredients when available and take good food very seriously. The beer selection is impressive, if not overwhelming, even for a beer drinking Wisconsin girl. I cannot recommend this place strongly or highly enough. I'm a huge fan.

Hubbard Street Diner - Middleton, WI

Hubbard Street Diner
7445 Hubbard Ave

Middleton, WI 53562
(608) 831-6800

As a nice Memorial Weekend brunch on Sunday, my parents, my boyfriend and I headed to downtown Middleton and had a very lovely brunch. Here's what was ordered:
  • My mom had the Spicy Szechuan Salad with marinated portobello mushrooms in place of grilled chicken.
  • My dad ordered the Daily Double, two eggs (over-hard), two buckwheat pancakes and two sausage patties :(
  • Ryan had the Breakfast Quesadilla which was spicy black beans, scrambled eggs, salsa, cheddar cheese all folded in a flour tortilla with hash browns.
  • Since I'm not big on breakfast foods, I ordered the Mid-town Portobello Sandwich, which was a marinated portobello, peppers, onions and Monterey Jack cheese on focaccia bread with pesto aioli (a new favorite sandwich spread of mine).
Out of everything that was ordered, my mom's salad was my favorite. Full of flavor, spice and deliciousness. My dad's pancakes were fantastic and very hearty. Ryan's quesadilla was good, but not enough flavor and spice for me, plus it's something you could very easily make at home. My sandwich was delicious, very flavorful and scrumptious. My only compliant on my sandwich was that the portobello mushroom was so marinated that it was almost too much (pretty salty and very juicy) and somewhat of a drippy mess. However, it was still fantastic flavor. This diner is famous for pie, which we didn't even consider because we were left so full from our brunch. Plus, I'm not big on sweets, more a salty girl, so it didn't appeal to me that much. Though, the carmel apple walnut pie did look enticing, along with the carrot cake. So, perhaps, this will become our next dessert stop when the meal isn't filling enough. Overall, everyone seemed very happy with their food and I'd definitely go back again, since there were plenty of veggie choices and prices are fairly reasonable. If you are a dessert lover, this is probably a place for you to be!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hi-Fi Cafe Milwaukee, WI

Hi-Fi Cafe
2640 S Kinnickinnic Ave

Milwaukee, WI 53207
(414) 486-0504

This place was our usual meet up spot with our Realtor while we were house hunting but we never got anything to eat, because of being so anxious to get going to look at houses. However, now, I'm killing some time before going to our home inspection and I got a little hungry, so I ordered myself lunch.

YUM! There are lots of veggie options including, Avo Sandwich, Falafil Sandwich, Gardenburger, Jean Genie, Veggie Baguette Sandwich, Hot Hi-Di-Ho, pasta, soup, snacks and pizza also. Today, I was pretty set on a sandwich and I went witht he Veggie D (Lux Interior) and deluxe is right! It is spinach, provolone toasted on a pita with avocado, sprouts, red onion, tomato, dijon and mayo. I cannot say it enough, YUM! I choose to get the pasta salad as my side and again YUM! It's nice and toasty warm today, and this was delightful. Light, delicious and a taste explosion. The dijon and mayo are not just normal dijon and mayo, there is something so tasty in it that is divine. The pasta salad was filled with peppers, tomato and onions along with penne pasta in a light tangy and slightly spicy dressing with tons of fresh black pepper.

Overall, a perfect light lunch in a hip and decked out cafe. The only drawback for me, is the smoking (and there's quite a bit of it around me right now). Though, if you can stand that, the food is definitely worth it and resonably priced. Most sandwiches run $5-$8 and they have beer, tea (cold and hot), smoothies and lots of coffee. I'll definitely be back when I'm in the mood for a pizza, because I just saw someone order it and it looks scrumptious!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Apple, Provolone, Pesto Aioli Sandwich

I have not been good about taking pictures at all. I made this sandwich twice last week. Once for some lovely fellow teachers (all of whom oohed and ahhhed over it) and then again for my mother on Mother's Day. But both times I was so preoccupied with devouring the sandwich, that I completely forgot to take pictures, so I promise as soon as I make it again, I will post a picture.

This has become my staple sandwich. It is mimicked from Brasserie V's menu in Madison, WI. I LOVE this sandwich with my whole heart. I have definitely always been a sandwich lover, and this one is deliciously filling and satisfying. Plus, it's quick and easy! Again, I'm big into the semi-homemade, so I buy a jar of pesto and combine it with Organic Veganaise, but there are some great recipes out there for your own homemade recipe, especially if you grow your own basil!

Apple, Provolone, Pesto Aioli Sandwich

What you need:
  • Red apple
  • Provolone cheese (can be omitted if you wish to make it vegan)
  • Basil Pesto
  • Veganaise
  • Delicious soft bread of your choice (buns or rolls work best)
  • Spinach
  • Red Onion
  1. Prepare the Pesto Aioli (can be made and kept for up to 2 weeks). I combine half cup of veganaise with half cup of basil pesto. You can make as much or as little as you wish!
  2. Cut red apple into very thin slices, wash spinach, cut red onion thinly.
  3. Cut and lightly toast the soft bread of your choice (I have been loving Woodman's Split Top Wheat Rolls, they are very soft and nice and large. I also enjoy Madison Sourdough or Breadsmith Rolls).
  4. First layer the apple slices onto the bread, add provolone cheese, then spinach and red onion. Spread a nice layer of pesto aioli on the top bread. Then smoosh it together, cut and enjoy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How do you Dine?

Recently while out to lunch with my boyfriend, my sister, two of my cousins and a boyfriend of my cousin, we all started to pass around the food and sample everyone's food. This is how I grew up, everyone passing, sharing, sampling and often just grabbing off of someone else's plate without asking. So, this seemed to be very normal behavior to my sister and my cousins and me. However, to the two boyfriends, this seemed ridiculous and even somewhat annoying. The boys claimed that no other families do what we do. That when they go out to eat, everyone keeps their food to themselves and that's that. Getting into a little debate about what was better or more normal, I decided that I'd try to post something about this and get feedback from innocent strangers.

Personally, I'm biased as I love to try as many things on a menu as possible, since there is such a wide variety of foods I love. However, my boyfriend claims he knows what he wants and that's why he orders what he wants and he likes to keep it to himself. I've been out to eat with teachers and friends and generally, we all pass around things to share and enjoy several things at once. I have given up this habit with my boyfriend since he's a meat eater and I no longer am. (I think it pleases him greatly that I no longer wish to try his meal).

So, the question to all of you, are you a sharer or keep-to-yourself diner? Let me know, as I'm really hoping to settle this debate once and for awhile and prove that there are more people out there like my family and me. Perhaps, though, I am crazy and it isn't normal dining behavior...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Spinach Strawberry and Spiced Pecan Salad

I'm big into the semi-homemade idea. This is my go-to spring and summer salad. It's quick, easy, nutritious and delicious! Adapt it to make it your own, I know my recipe always changes based on what fruit I have in the house.

  • Pre-washed organic spinach (of Farmer's Market when possible)!
  • Washed and cut strawberries
  • I often also add blueberries, mandarin oranges, blackberries or raspberries if I'm feeling really fruity
  • Feta cheese (optional)
Or if you prefer homemade, I like this:
  • 1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
Toasted Pecans:
  • 1 /4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (use a little less if you don't want them as spicy)
  • 1 (10 or 12-ounce) package of whole pecans or pecan halves
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Combine butter, cumin, ground red pepper, sugar and salt in a large skillet over medium heat. Once butter begins to melt, add pecans. Stir up pecans and butter and keep stirring until pecans begin to brown slightly. Spread over paper towel to cool then add to salad for a delicious spicy crunch!

Fantastic Fruit Pizza

My favorite "weather is getting warmer" dessert is by far this recipe for fantastic Fruit Pizza. This recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember. I'm not much of a dessert person, but this dessert I could eat for my meal and then again for dessert. Plus, I find something very calming and exciting in arranging the fruit into fun patterns (strange, I know). This recipe could easily be made vegan with butter and cream cheese substitutes. Here's the recipe:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground nuts (I usually use almonds or walnuts)
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Pat onto a lightly greased pizza sized circle pan or small cookie sheet. Put into the oven to bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes (or until edges turn a very light brown).

While the crust is cooling, begin to mix the filling. Wait to spread filling until crust has completely cooled.

  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese block
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until soft and smooth. Spread the filling across the crust from end to end so that it is nice and even.

Fruit Topping:
  • Cut up your favorite fruit and add on top of filling.
  • The only fruit I would stay away from is bananas and apples since they tend to go brown once cut.
Glaze Topping (optional, but highly recommended):
  • 1 cup fruit juice (in my experience apple and orange taste the best and work the best)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
Make sure your fruit is ready before you start the glaze, since it needs to be poured over the top of the fruit while still warm so it doesn't set in the pan! In a medium sized saucepan pour in 1 cup fruit juice. Turn burner onto a medium heat, slowly stir in the sugar and cornstarch. Keep stirring until it gets a syrupy texture and turns somewhat clear. Then while it is still warm, pour glaze and smooth over fruit.

Let your pizza set in the fridge for at least a half hour, then cut, serve and enjoy!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Quick Breakfast Recommendation

Really enjoyed this breakfast burrito yesterday. I bought it because it was on sale and wanted to try it. This is a vegan burrito with black beans, tomatoes, potatoes, tofu and salsa. It may have been because I was hungry, but it was delicious. I did add more of my own salsa to the burrito. It has 250 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein.

My normal breakfast consists of just fruit or sometimes a peanut butter toast, or on a real hungry morning, lots of oatmeal. I ran a long distance, came home and was hungry, had this burrito and a banana and I was not hungry again all morning. As a result of this burrito, I may have to try to make my own Mexican tofu breakfast scramblers when I have more time. So, this is a burrito, that I highly recommend!