Posts tagged review

Superb Holiday Gift Ideas

Happy Holidays, little squashes! It is fracking cold in Raleigh these days, and I’ve mostly been staying in, decorating my Domo-sized Christmas tree and making really pathetic looking cookies. I will work on the cookies later, but for now my mind is on shopping. I did most of my gift-shopping online this year, because it really is the best alternative to the inevitable half-hour mall parking lot scenario of doom. But I have this problem wherein my shopping for other people’s gifts leads to me pining for things I otherwise wouldn’t be. Does anyone else fall into that trap?

If you need some great gift ideas, here they are:

1. Vegan treats from Allison’s Gourmet Bakery

Chocolate Lover's Gift Set

Chocolate Lover's Gift Set – $42

$42 buys you gourmet vegan almond toffee, peanut brittle, and chocolate caramels. The treats are fair-trade and organic, to boot. Allison’s also offers cookie, brownie, and fudge-of-the-month clubs (for a hefty price).

A cheaper alternative: the holiday dark chocolate Godiva bar is insanely delicious and on sale at CVS right now for 3 bucks.

2. Handmade jewelry from Raleigh-based Tree Round Designs

Red Hand Blown Glass Earrings

Red Hand Blown Glass Earrings – $18

Sister team Trisha and Colleen make nature-inspired accessories and sell them through their Etsy shop, Tree Round Designs. These gorgeous hand-blown glass earrings are only $18. Another favorite of mine is their zodiac necklace.

3. Ike & Sam’s Kettlecorn

Ike & Sam's

Ike & Sam's Kettlecorn – $3.59

If you are a popcorn fan and haven’t tried Ike & Sam’s Kettlecorn, you are seriously missing out. This Brooklyn-based company makes heavenly popcorn in several flavors, including “Kickin’ Cayenne,” “Crunchy Caramel” (my favorite), and original “Sweet & Salty.” Unlike other pre-popped popcorn (a.k.a Smartfood brand), Ike & Sam’s doesn’t taste stale at all, and it’s made with only three or four ingredients, including NON-GMO corn. They do have two flavors that contain cheddar, so if you’re veeg, just watch out for those. This stuff rocks, and it’s sold online, as well as at Earth Fare and Harris Teeter in Raleigh.

4. Moustache Pig from Angry Birds

Moustache Pig

Moustache Pig Plush Toy – $14.99

This nefarious little porcine thief is Just So Cute! Get him for all the angry birds in your life. The only bummer: they don’t start shipping until January.

5. Rice Crispy Treats from Sweet & Sara

Rice Crispy Treat

Rice Crispy Treats – $1.99 each

Rice crispy treats are sort of like the holy grail of vegan desserts. That’s because they contain marshmallows, which 99% of the time are made with gelatin. I tried to make my own RCTs one time with a vegan marshmallow fluff I found at Earth Fare. They were… interesting? Luckily Sweet & Sara sells vegan marshmallows in an array of flavors, as well as marshmallowy pre-made treats. Yum!

6. Adopt a Bomb-Sniffing Rat Friend from HeroRats

Hero Rat

Adopt a Hero Rat - 5 euros/month

You know what is cooler than a rat trained to detect landmines and tuberculosis? NOTHING. That’s right, the fluffy friends at HeroRats save lives through their amazing sense of smell! So how does it work? The HeroRats organization works in Tanzania and Mozambique to train rats for olfactory detection. The giant African pouched rats they use have an incredible sense of smell, and they are actively saving lives by sniffing out hidden landmines, and by identifying tuberculosis patients whose diagnosis was missed by hospitals. The HeroRat website says:

A trained HeroRAT can clear 100 square meters in 20 minutes, equivalent to two days work for a manual deminer. A rat can evaluate 40 [tuberculosis] samples in seven minutes, equal to what a skilled lab technician, using microscopy, will do in one day.

Through the Adopt-a-Rat program, you can choose to sponsor Chosen One, Kim, Tyson, or Ziko for 5 euros a month or 60 euros a year. I first learned about HeroRats when my aunt Cynthia adopted Tyson the rat for my dad last Christmas. We all agreed it was the absolute coolest Christmas present ever. Yay for brave rats!

Review: Spring Rolls Restaurant, Raleigh

Sesame Soy Gluten

Sesame Soy Gluten

Vegan and vegetarian foodies have scored a major win in Raleigh, NC. A self-described Asian Fusion restaurant has opened in the North Hills shopping area, bringing with it an entire menu of vegetarian (mostly vegan) options. Spring Rolls Restaurant offers Chinese and Thai cuisine made with quality ingredients that bring out the natural flavors of each dish.

I went to Spring Rolls last night with my bff over at Cuisine Vegan. The service was excellent – our waitress was friendly, helpful and honest, and shared her excitement that just yesterday Spring Rolls obtained a liquor license. Even though the bar was not yet stocked, our waitress told us about the Total Wine within walking distance and even offered to call the security transport to pick us up, take us to get our wine, and bring us back. She really wanted us to feel at home, which made our meal even better.

My friend ordered the General Tao’s Soy Protein, I got the Sesame Soy Gluten, and we shared a serving of veggie spring rolls. The spring rolls were the best I’ve ever had. They were crispy without being overly greasy, and the cabbage and carrot tasted sharp and fresh. My real love affair, though, was with my soy gluten. What is gluten, you ask? Wikipedia answers:

Gluten (from Latin gluten “glue”) is a protein composite which appears in foods processed from wheat and related species including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture.

So it makes sense to use gluten’s chewy consistency to mimic the texture of chicken. Soy gluten is made from a combination of the gluten in soy beans and wheat. I like gluten as a non-tofu meat alternative, because the texture is perfect when fried: crispy  on the outside and dense, moist, and chewy on the inside. When sesame sauce is added, it’s like little nuggets of heaven. My sesame soy gluten was nestled in a bed of crispy rice noodles, with a small side of steamed broccoli, and a side of brown rice. The sauce was rich and dark, with a mild sweetness, not at all greasy like you might find at cheaper strip-mall style Chinese joints.

Susan and Eddie Tu

Sister and brother team Susan and Eddie Tu, co-owners of Spring Rolls Restaurant

During our meal, Susan and Eddie Tu, the owners of Spring Rolls, stopped by our table to chat with us. As Eddie said, they were eager to talk to fellow foodies and get honest feedback. The Tus told us about their commitment to using fresh foods –Eddie said they only have a small freezer in the kitchen – and their desire to cater to the herbivore crowd. They were both so sweet and obviously passionate about what they do. We had a great time chatting about the Raleigh food scene.

Spring Rolls just might be my new favorite restaurant in Raleigh.

**UPDATE 1/26/2011**
I’ve now been to Spring Rolls three or four times, and while all of my experiences have been superb, I would like to append this review with one note. A few weeks ago, my date ordered the General Tao’s Soy Protein, and hated it. I tasted it, and I have to agree that it was a weird consistency (like eyeballs maybe?) and also pretty flavorless. I talked to the server about this on my most recent visit, and she gave me this breakdown of all the vegetarian meat options: The Soy Gluten is meant to be a chicken substitute; the Seitan is meant to be a beef or sausage substitute, and the Soy Protein is meant to be a shrimp substitute. Which sort of explains the eyeball consistency issue. I hope this helps anyone who reads the menu and gets overwhelmed. Maybe in the future, Spring Rolls will add these descriptions somewhere on the vegetarian page of their menu. In any case, I personally recommend the heavenly soy gluten.

Spring Rolls on Urbanspoon

Broccoli Risotto from Vegan Dad’s Blog

Vegan Dad
is a recipe blog that I regularly check out for inspiration.  My boy and I tried his Broccoli Risotto recipe, and we loved the creamy consistency and perfectly crisp broccoli florets.

Risotto is a great “all-in-one” meal, perfect for when you don’t have the patience to make a bunch of sides. It does require a lot of stirring time, so bring a book to the oven if you get bored easily. Remember to have arborio rice handy, since other rices do not absorb liquid in the same manner and can leave you with a crunchy risotto.

I followed Vegan Dad’s advice and made my own vegetable stock because I had the veggies handy and I didn’t want to have to pay for 7 cups of premade broth. It was easy and I think it was worth it. I also learned a new veggie slang word from this recipe: “nooch” is short for nutritional yeast. How adorable!

Broccoli Risotto

Broccoli Risotto

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