Grocery Sampling in Austria

travel

As our plane flew through a dusky violet sky and touched down at the Vienna Airport , I quickly sauntered to the baggage carousel to retrieve my luggage so that I could check-in to the hotel, grab dinner, and rest in preparation for nightlife festivities. Besides having booked a room at the Moxy Hotel which was within walking distance of the airport, all activities for the night were going to be improv’d. Within minutes of exiting the airport, I arrived at the Moxy Hotel Vienna which is extremely affordable for the quality. The eccentric, quirky, yet aesthetic hotel provides a surfeit of amenities such as printing, web surfing, hot drinks, board games, a gym, and much more. Keep in mind that Europe, unlike America, charges for almost everything, including public restrooms, napkins, and extra McDonalds sauce so the amenities provided in the hotel are quite rare. Thus, I recommend taking advantage of what is provided and enjoy your time at the relaxing hotel. I paid 95 Euros that night for 2 people, and it included breakfast. I got a good deal through Expedia, so a little bit of planning and the use of booking websites can save tourists plenty of money. Of course, if money is not an issue, then lucky you :). Below are some pics of the Moxy lobby that I absolutely adored. All through the late night, chill music played as friends and families drank, laughed, played card games, or worked on their laptops. The environment was very cordial.

 

 

 

Little was near the airport, mostly rental car stations, banks, and a few high rises. But off into the distance, a bright red and yellow sign caught my attention among  a sea of not so colorful signs. Something about it’s appearance just lead me to the conclusion that it was a grocery store and when I arrived, I took my time and went on a 25 Euro shopping spree to purchase some delectables. I certainly splurged and bought far more than necessary, but some interesting items caught my eyes and the inner food in me was eager to try some European goods. I did a taste test on the products and graded them:

  1. Head cheese– a nondairy cheese (not actually cheese) that combines meat pieces from the head of land animals and stuffs it into a gel that is then brined in a vinegar solution. The slab of head cheese was really cheap, approx. 2 Euros for the pack, and it looked a somewhat delicious pile of meat trimmings so I was very excited to give it a try. I cut a hearty portion onto a slice of pretzel bread and took a large bite… Bleghh, YIKES. I mean, it wasn’t terrible really… but the vinegar/mint/spice-like flavor was so offputting I really wanted to toss the whole pack away. I love vinegar, but something about this was horrid. I suppose that’s why head cheese was peasant food back in the days…

Appearance: 2/10        Flavor: 2.5/10

Image result for head cheese

2. Muscatel Grapes: These grapes were crazy expensive. At 7 Euros per pound, they better have curing properties. The small orbs were tinted light green and pink, and they smelled very sweet so I was pretty stoked to try these. And after all, how bad could grapes taste?

These grapes were hands down the best grapes I have ever tasted! They don’t sell these in the states so I’ve never heard them before but I later realized that Muscat wine is made from these, but the wine doesn’t taste that great… The grapes tasted like lychee Hi-Chew candies. So Sweet, I could’ve sworn I was eating candy!

Appearance: 9/10          Taste: 10/10

Image result for muscatel grapes

3. Paprika chips: Never heard of such a flavor before, but I was eager to give it a try. In general, paprika doesn’t have much flavor so I was wondering if the chips would be bland, but they really just tasted like barbeque chips. Nothing special and no surprises so I was a tad disappointed.

Appearance: 7/10             Taste: 7.5/10

Image result for german paprika chips

4. German Apple cider: I was certainly expecting a drink similar to apple juice, but I instead got a very alcoholic drink that tasted nothing like apples. I was basically drinking warm beer and as a “hater” of alcohol, I spat it out and gave the rest away to my brother. bleghhh I was fooled…

Appearance: 8/10         Taste: 3/10 (because I don’t like alcohol)

5. Currywurst: Who knew such a fusion food existed? I love curry and sausages are a German staple so I knew this was something I needed to taste. The wurst was pretty long and cost 3 Euros.

WOWWW!! I’m not a huge fan of sausages but this wurst was juicy, yet not too fatty, and the curry-ketchup sauce was so good. I wish I had gotten more sauce but the flavor was so potent that it was enough. Really a big fan of currywurst and I must emulate this sauce recipe at home.

Appearance: 7/10          Taste: 9.5/10

Image result for currywurst in bun

This concluded my taste test. I also ate pretzel bun sandwiches and tuna salads, but nothing special there so I did not feel it was necessary to grade them!

For the rest of the night, I spent 4 euros and bought a round trip train ticket to the Vienna City Centre. Night life was bustling as people sat at outdoor cafes under sun umbrellas as live music played out loud. I guided myself through the winding cobblestone roads for the city was constructed like a maze with marble and stone buildings in all directions. Even late at night, hordes of people were visiting St. Stephens Cathedral and buying gelato cones and wursts from food stands.

3 Ingredient Vegan Chinese Turnip Cake

food

The Chinese turnip cake or Chinese LuoBuoGao, is a staple found in dim sum restaurants all over the world. The savory cake is a starchy, rectangular cake commonly filled with shiitake mushrooms and sausage. At about $3 a plate when eating out, it is actually a very affordable dish to make and acts as an excellent alternative for rice and noodles. The next time you become tired or rice, I highly recommend attempting to make turnip cakes!! Almost all variations aren’t vegan because they will toss sausage into the mix, but this recipe is one of the simplest turnip cake recipes ever and requires only 4 main ingredients. Chances are, you probably have salt, white pepper, and water at home so the base of the turnip cake is very simple to make.


Vegan Turnip Cake (3 Ingredients)

yield: 9 x 3 in cake-size

Ingredients:

  • approx. 2 ft. long worth of daikon root (measurement does not have to be exact. The more daikon, the better)
  • 1 bag rice flour (CLICK HERE to see what brand and size used)
  • 9 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 5 c. water
  • 1 tbsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch (optional)
  • 5 tbsp. vegetable oil OR any flavorless oil

Special equipment needed: Springform pan (I used 9 x 3 in), steam-safe plastic wrap, cheesecloth, large steamer

Instructions:

daikons

Main ingredients

  1. Soak the shiitake mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, or until fully soft. Once hydrated, chop the mushrooms into small square pieces.
shrooms

chopped mushrooms

2. Peel the daikon root and slice into thin strips.

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thinly sliced daikon

3. In a large wok, heat up 5 tbsp. oil and toss in the mushrooms to saute over high heat until lightly golden brown.

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saute mushrooms

4. Toss in the daikon strips and saute for approx. 5 min. After 5 min, add in 3 c. of water , salt, white pepper, sugar, and corn starch (if using), stir, and let the mixture simmer for 20-25 min. over medium heat until daikon becomes translucent (check image below). Stir the mixture every 5 min.

chopped

translucent daikon

5. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of water with 1 entire bag of rice flour. Mix until combined. Then slowly pour the mixture into the daikon and stir until a thick paste is formed. The paste will form quickly and will require arm strength to mix. Make sure all contents are evenly incorporated.

mix

pour rice flour mixture into daikon

mess

mix until paste forms

6. Set the mixture aside. Take the springform pan and remove the bottom. Take the circular portion of the pan and lay a cheesecloth on top of it. Then lay one sheet of steam-free plastic on top. Pat the cheese cloth and plastic down so that they line the rim of the pan. Place in the steamer and then scoop in the daikon mixture.

dop

scoop mixture into springform pan

7. Steam the daikon cake over medium heat for 1 hour. Take the cake out and allow it to cool and firm for about 30 min.

cake

steamed daikon cake

8. Cut the cake into rectangular pieces and enjoy steamed or pan-fried. I personally enjoy it pan fried since it creates a crispy exterior. Dip in flavored soy sauce or hot sauce.

radish

pan-fried cakes

 

Green Goddess Salad (Vegan)

food, Healthy Lunch Idea

Kale is a difficult vegetable to enjoy due to its rough texture and odd flavor that resembles the dollar weeds thriving in my back yard. Sauteeing or transforming them into kale chips are great alternatives, but nutrients for kale are at its peak when eaten raw, but the problem lies there… I’ve eaten kale salads but the plethora of toppings and dressing to mask the weed-like flavor defeat the purpose of eating kale in the first place. However, healthy fats, vegetables, and dressings can can easily turn the high fiber vegetable into a decadent, protein-packed meal that’ll have you wanting for more. I experimented with ingredients I had at home and whipped up a delicious kale salad that is definitely one for the books. Topped with avocado, pumpkin seeds, roasted brussels sprouts, soy protein, and an almond butter dressing, I seriously think even non-salad lovers would enjoy the flavors and health benefits of this magnificent bowl.


Green Goddess Salad (Vegan)

yield: 2 servings/bowls

Ingredients:

For the salad:

  • 1/2 stalk kale, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 small avocado
  • 3 tbsp. pumpkin seeds
  • 8 large brussels sprouts, each one vertically cut into threes
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper to taste
  • 1 oz. soy protein like tempeh or tofu, I used a homemade soy product

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 c. almond butter
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened warm almond milk OR warm water
  • 1 tsp honey
  • salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Toss the brussels sprouts with oil, salt, and pepper and bake in the oven for 30 min, turning the sprouts every 5-7 min.
  3. Pan fry the soy protein with salt or soy sauce.
  4. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour on top of the kale in a large bowl. Use bare hands to massage the kale for approx. 2 minutes to soften the kale and infuse the flavors.
  5. Toss the pumpkin seeds into the salad and combine.
  6. After the brussels sprouts have been baked, top them onto the salad or toss them in, along with avocado and soy protein.
green bowl

Green Goddess bowl

brussel sprouts

raw brussels sprouts

kale

dressed kale

On my journey to consuming less meat, this salad makes it difficult to not consume meat. While I know that I will never become full vegetarian since my parents do not permit it, it has been 2 weeks since I have eaten meat and it feels great. Additionally, kale is packed with fiber, iron, and has anti-inflammatory agents, so am definitely now a promoter of kale!

Europe Day 1: Welcome to Frankfurt on Christmas Eve

food, travel

This post is long overdue, so flashback to 4 months ago and the date is December 24th, 2017; location: Frankfurt, Germany.

Eight hours had passed and only four prolonged hours remained until the crammed and chilly plane touched down on the runway of Frankfurt International airport. The sky turned from blue to orange, with a tinge of pink and yellow as the golden orb made its debut from within the clouds, scattering blinding light in all directions.

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Morning light

My head instantly swerved away from the window as I dodged the rays of piercing white light, an indicator that the breakfast cart was about to make its presence. What was for breakfast, I wondered while keeping my expectations quite low because United Airlines is quite sub-par when it comes to food. Indeed, a sad breakfast of a buttered croissant, strawberry yogurt, and juice on a tray was served and I instantly lost my appetite. I’m not generally a picky eater but the breakfast was heavy; full of carbs, fat, and plain sugar. Nonetheless, I managed to eat the croissant and drink some juice as I propped open my journal to scribble down my musings to pass time.

When the plane finally touched down at 11 PM, I was ecstatic to set foot in a new country and explore the architecture, culture, lifestyle, and most importantly, the food:) The day was bleak, windy, and 35 F without snow. The absence of snow lead to an assumption that it wasn’t very cold, but the windchill factor was crazy and I ran back into the airport to put on additional layers of clothing.

As I stood huddled in clothing in the near-empty and old airport, waves of fear ran through my body. It was Christmas Eve so everybody was huddled at home, my surroundings looked deserted, and I had absolutely no clue how to get around the city. And with a quick peak from outside, many homeless people lay on the streets, some yelling at others while newspaper clippings and plastic wrappers flew in the air from large gusts of winds. The desolate scene was quite intimidating, but the beauty of the infrastructure ensured me everything would be just fine. I purchased a Deutsche bahn (local train) day pass for only 6 Euros and hopped on and off at random stops to explore the city. All stores were closed and few people roamed the streets, but spectacular church steeples, the Main river, and Baroque and Renaissance architecture kept me intrigued.

bike

A deflated bike in Frankfurt

I didn’t view globally famous destinations such as the Brandenburg gate or Neuschwanstein Castle, but the simplicity of strolling for free without hordes of tourists is one of the best ways to fathom a country. After many photos and thousands of steps were taken, I realized it was well past 3 PM and I had not eaten since the sad croissant from the flight. Ideally, a grocery store would be in sight so that I could purchase a sandwich or a meal, but nothing was open, so I hungrily hopped back onto the tram and rode to the “Frankfurt City Centre” as I supposed this stop was probably the main hub.

The City Centre was quite packed, and I was grateful to see a good amount of people, happily enjoying Christmas Eve with their families. Furthermore, some restaurants were open so that truly made me happy. The time was 3:20 PM when I decided I would have an early dinner so that I wouldn’t be hungry anymore. The very first restaurant I saw was Zum Standesamtchen, a cozy and warm restaurant, with a spiral staircase and all wooden furniture. The interior was quaint with very little space, but very welcoming. I was seated at a corner table underneath the spiral staircase, and it was after this dining experience that reminded me of the difference of dining cultures in Europe vs. America. One, water is never free. Two, tax is already included in the price. Three, sometimes tip is included in the price so I honestly never knew when to tip, but the waiter here semi-rudely made certain that I tipped him…

liver dumpling

Liver dumplings

escalope

Wiener Schnitzel

Despite the semi-rude waiter who probably made me tip excessively, I had a good time here. I must say, Germany is not known for its food and that was certainly evident. We were served 3 entrees and everything was meat and potatoes and not a single trace of a vegetable besides the miniature side salad that accompanied the Schnitzel. Salty, meaty, and carby, my heart was warm and my stomach was full after consuming their Schnitzel with green sauce (a local special), roast pork leg, and liver dumplings. I don’t think I have eaten so many potatoes in one day, but in a hungry moment, that was all I could eat besides meat. After ordering a bottle of water for 8 Euros and changing my mind before it even came, the waiter told me that he had already put it into the system and that he couldn’t change it. This was perhaps the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard, I ordered a drink, changed my mind after a minute, and was told that I’d have to pay for it anyways… Well it was Christmas Eve and I was in no mood to be in a grudge and so I paid for the meal, paid for the water, and paid for 25% tip. 25% seems rather excessive, but the waiter said I must tip 25% and he watched me calculate and write the tip on the receipt. I don’t know why he was scrutinizing me like that, but like I said, I was in no mood to be in a grudge. With a warm and happy heart, I walked several thousand more steps until the sun had set, with which I rode the tram back home. Tonight’s home was Moxy Hotel, one of my favorite hotel chains in Europe. I had previously stayed at the Moxy in Vienna and was extremely happy to return to the hip, colorful, and lively hotel. I then went to sleep early in preparation for tomorrow’s greater adventure.

moxy

The Moxy Hotel lobby

moxy1

Moxy Hotel Frankfurt

 

Vegan Chocolate Lava Cake

food

I realized whenever people ask what my sweet craving is, my go to is chocolate lava cake. A warm chocolate lava cake with a gooey interior  that is so rich a decadent it puts you on cloud 9; YES HANDS DOWN THAT IS WHAT I WANT. I don’t want a regular chocolate cake, I want the LAVA!!! Now, I’ve been experimenting with lava cakes, trying to see if an alternative recipe can be made. Possibly a vegan one? Or low fat? Or gluten free? It has been difficult because the science behind the cake requires eggs, butter, gluten, etc. I’m still constantly experimenting, but I have come up with a glorious vegan recipe that is out of this world! I’m so excited to share it because it’s pretty darn good.


Vegan Chocolate Lava Cake

yield: 3 lava cakes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. all-purpose
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 4 1/2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. margarine or oil
  • 1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c. cold water
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 squares of baking dark chocolate (I used Baker’s chocolate)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat  oven to 395 F. And lightly grease all all of the inside of 3 ramekins. Set them aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk sugar and water until completely dissolved. Add melted margarine (at a very slow rate and whisking rapidly to prevent chunks) OR oil. Add vinegar or lemon juice and lemon and whisk.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt into a bowl.
  4. Slowly incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry and fold or whisk gently until evenly incorporated. Pour batter into ramekins until 3/4 full and add 2 pieces of dark chocolate into the center of each lava cake.
  5. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes and cool on a cooling rack for 3 min. when finished baking.
  6. Dust lava cake with powdered sugar or a generous scoop of ice cream.
lava cake

Vegan Chocolate lava cake

The recipe easily serves 3 people with 3 scrumptious cakes, but I may have eaten 2 in one sitting, which I highly recommend against but I honestly could not control myself. And I’ve been craving a lava cake for so ages, so eating 2 in moderation is totally fine!

These lava cakes are the ultimate crowd pleaser and it’s difficult to fathom that they are vegan! What are you waiting for? It’s time to make this right NOW!

 

Creamy Spinach Pot Pie

food

The perfect Winter dish to battle the unforgiving cold outdoors is one that pipes clouds of steam and consists of rich, creamy sauces. With a dearth of fresh ingredients at home, I had to cleverly improvise a recipe to finish off all the perishable products in the fridge so that I could head out for a trip without coming home to spoiled food.

Thus, this isn’t your traditional pot pie. It’s simply a mix of things cooked together to form a beautiful product. I was pleased with the outcome, and I served it to a few friends who thankfully all enjoyed the “pot pie”! It is simple, cheap, quick, and easy to make and could be the star of an elegant Winter dinner.


Creamy Spinach Pot Pie

yield: 4 pies

Ingredients:

  • 1 8 oz. can pillsbury crescent rolls
  • 2 large carrots
  • 7 oz. frozen spinach
  • 1 pkg. cream cheese
  • 3 tbsp. milk
  • 5 oz. frozen peas
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheese (optional; use for extra goodness)
  • 3 strips bacon (I used turkey bacon)
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)

Directions (photos below!):

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
  2. Thinly slice the carrots into circles and dice the bacon into cubes.
  3. Cook the bacon in a pan until the fat is rendered and drain the bacon and set aside. Using the bacon grease, saute the carrots for about 5 minutes and then toss in the frozen peas and spinach until all the vegetables are completely cooked and combined.
  4. Add the cream cheese into the vegetables and stir slowly until the cream cheese is completely melted. Add the 3 tbsp. of milk to thin the mixture. Add in the bacon and stir until mixture is completely combined.
  5. Let the mixture simmer for a couple minutes until a rich, thick consistency is reached.
  6. Roll out the chilled crescent dough and using the ramekin as the template, cut 1 cm. around the ramekin to form the circle of dough that will cover the pot pie. You can also use a mini cookie cutter to cut out a shape to garnish the top of the pie. I used a mini star cookie cutter.
  7. Once the dough shapes are cut out, take the ramekins and spray the insides with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon in the ramekins about 1/2 c. of the vegetable, cream mixture, sprinkle with shredded cheese, and top with the crescent dough. Using a fork, press down the outsides of the dough against the ramekin rim.
  8. Beat an egg in a small bowl, and using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash onto the crescent dough.
  9. Repeat until all ramekins are complete. Bake at 350 °F for 10 min.

 

Spoon the vegetables into the ramekins

cut the dough

Use a fork to press down the edges of the crescent dough

covered pies

brush

egg wash

fresh out the oven

perfect winter meal

Forget about the gym at the moment and make these pot pies! I promise you that they will be a huge hit among the dinner table!

Vegan Queso (No Cashews!)

food, healthy

When Vegans say nutritional yeast “really does taste like cheese!” I always mutter mmhmm under my breath and roll my eyes a bit. Cheese is cheese. I may be the biggest cheese lover in the world, so I WILL know if I am eating fake cheese. So the thought of some orange flaky bits being able to replace the gooey goodness of cheese seems too good to be true, but was it too good to be true?

…………………

OK. Yes. It was too good to be true and the nutritional yeast vegan queso was simply not up to par as the traditional non-vegan queso, but I do have to say it comes in a close second and serves as a wonderful guilt-free snack. I’ll still relish on my favorite Torchy’s show-stopping queso here and there, but nutritional yeast queso is something I’m going to eat pretty regularly since it actually contains the good stuff. The good stuff, you know? The B-vitamins, folate, zinc, and all other immune-boosting nutrients that trump all the saturated fat in real cheese.


Vegan Cheese (No Cashews)

yield: approx. 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. potatoes diced
  • 1 c. carrots diced
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (optional)
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder (opt.)
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder (opt.)
  • 1/4 c. nutritional yeast flakes

Instructions:

  1. Boil the potatoes and carrots together until soft and tender. I like to boil on high, turn the water off and let the remaining heat soften the vegetables to save energy!
  2. Drain the vegetables and let them cool a bit but not completely.
  3. Place the vegetables in a high-speed blender along with all other ingredients and blend until completely smooth and creamy.
  4. The texture should greatly resemble queso. It should be gooey and melty.
vegan cheese

look at that queso!

I’m not a food chemist so I don’t understand how this vegan queso gets its gooey consistency, but the resemblance with traditional queso is uncanny. Also, if you’d like to spice up your queso, by all means you may add a roasted pepper!! Now the holidays have rolled around, this is a great dip for parties so go ahead and deceive your friends!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (GF)

food
Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

almond flour cookies

Vegan AND gluten-free???? That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. As much as I love “treat yo self” days where I can enjoy a warm, gooey pizookie with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, my GI tract often feels discomfort from the gluten and lactose gone into those cookies due to my unfortunate food intolerance to the two. However, when I made these vegan chocolate chip cookies, I felt more energized and suffered no discomfort at all because everything that went in to the cookie was really clean, pure, and minimally processed!!


 

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (GF)

yield: 14 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. almond flour/almond meal
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 flax/chia egg (3 tbsp. water + 1 tbsp. flax meal/chia seeds)
  • 3 tbsp. vegan sweetener (or honey if not vegan)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash of vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/4 c. dark chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine water and flax/chia and set for a minimum of 5 minutes for the chia egg to form.
  2. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, baking soda, and salt and combine well.
  3. Add the solid yet softened coconut oil, sweetener, vanilla, and egg until all the contents are mixed throughout. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees C. Form the cookies and place on a non stick baking tray.
  5. Bake the cookies for approx. 11 minutes or until the cookie is baked completely through.

These cookies are really to die for and I’ll often eat one as part of my breakfast or as a snack on the go. They also freeze really well so you could make a big batch and save them up, but I honestly finished all these cookies in just a few days :/

-Jamie