Sunday, March 27, 2011

Veg on the Road Pt. 2: Kansas City, Kansas

This past week was my first back since Spring Break and I have to admit, it took a toll on me. So, to try and keep my spirits up, I have decided to write an ode to my favorite spring break eatery on my 19 hour journey from Texas to Minneapolis, Minnesota: Noodles & Company.
In case you haven't already figured it out, Fort Worth is pretty much the least vegetarian friendly place to live in, which always makes it fun to go out of town and enjoy a plethora of restaurants that have veg fare. Over the summer this past year, I made the first of many trips up to Minnesota (my best friends Brandon and Courtney are getting married there) and stumbled upon this gem of a restaurant chain while shopping in Roseville. Noodles & Company, founded in 1995 in Boulder, CO, offers noodles, salads and sandwiches with flavors and flair from all corners of the world. Their menu is broken down into three sections: Asian, Mediterranean, and American. Once you figure out which of the dishes you want, you choose the size of your dish (sizes are regular for $5.50 and small for $4.50). For an additional $2.25 you can add your protein, which for my fellow vegetarians would be the organic tofu. This is something I love, because non-organic tofu can be made from GMO (genetically modified) soy beans, which is not so great for your health.
On our way up to Minnesota, Brandon and I spotted our first Noodles & Company in Kansas City, Kansas, and were beyond stoked to eat there again. This time around, I decided to try the Indonesian Peanut Saute, described as the spiciest dish on their menu. Though I do admit it packed a lot of heat, it was nothing my Texas taste buds couldn't handle. Full of a great mix of veggies and tofu, this Asian noodle dish also contained fresh, crispy bean sprouts, which gives your tongue a break from the spicy flavors. Overall, I though the dish was pretty well-rounded in taste and nutrition.
This past month, Noodles & Company has really been boosting their street cred by using social media to create a buzz about their Mac and Cheese. Though I am lactose intolerant, I sometimes break the rules (oops) and this is one of those times a girl has to make an exception. The Wisconsin Mac and Cheese trumps any Kraft you have in a box at home, and you can get your dose of veggies by adding broccoli for only an additional 75 cents. Totally worth it.
I am dying for Noodles & Company to come to Fort Worth, but at the moment, the closest one slated to open is going to be in Austin, TX. Check out their site and follow Noodles and Company on twitter (@noodlescompany) to learn more about their history, food and more.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Veg on the Road: Abilene, Texas

Since I began blogging about my vegetarian lifestyle, I have mainly written about restaurants in the DFW area. I have turned into what some call a locavore, one who primarily eats and shops at local businesses, or eats food that was grown or made within a certain radius of their home town. It is a movement designed to decrease your carbon footprint and become a more sustainable consumer.
 However, I decided it was time to shake things up a bit and write about someplace new. I recently visited my friends Brandon and Courtney in Abilene, Texas for Abilene Christian University's big event of the year, Sing Song, and it didn't take long for them to introduce me to the local vegetarian fare.
Abilene, Texas, is a relatively small town (in comparison to DFW) and gave my friends quite some trouble finding vegetarian-friendly places to eat when they decided to first make this lifestyle change. They would constantly have to make trips home to Fort Worth to stock up on vegetarian essentials, a huge inconvenience to them since Abilene is about 2 and a half hours away. Luckily, they stumbled upon an Abilene gem: the Natural Food Center.

At first glance, the simple colors of the store front don't suggest the Natural Food Center may have anything special to offer. However, this simple store-and-restaurant offers a wide selection of vegetarian essentials, as well as a cafe side where you can order for lunch or dinner. They have a rotating menu which offers vegetarian options daily-- a surprising find in the 'Lene. 
I jumped at the chance to try something, but had a tought time deciding between the Curried Quinoa, Vegetarian Frito Pie, or the homemade Veggie Burger. Eventually I settled on the Vegetarian Frito Pie, since I had had little to no chances to try a vegetarian chili since giving up meat. I paired it with a Blue Sky Natural Orange Cream soda from a cold case in the store, which was also awesome since I have tried hard to give up products containing HFCS. Needless to say, it was delicious! The chili was a great substitute to the ones I used to eat (though it still isn't the same as having one made by Mom), and the melted cheese on top was the perfect way to top of an old favorite. 
After eating, I took to perusing the ailes of the Natural Food Center. They offered multiple types of flour, soy products, LARA bars, drinks, tofu and other things that aren't typically found at a grocery store. They also offered great vegan and natural beauty products, among them being the Nature's Gate line (which I am currenly using and LOVE). Beyond the shampoos, they had a wide selection of natural deodorants, skin care products, and oral mouthcare products. If you are looking for a guilt-free place to shop in Abilene, the Natural Food Center is the place to go, and I cannot wait til I can pay another visit to this store. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vegan Pancakes

Before Sprouts opened off of I-20 in February, i took a trip out to Whole Foods to stock up on some necessities and decided to look for a vegan pancake mix for those Sundays I can't make it to Spiral for their brunch special. I ended up buying a bag of Organic Oat Bran Pancake and Waffle Mix from Organic Arrowhead Mills.
When I went to Abilene to visit a few friends, I brought his with me for a brunch party we decided to have and the pancakes we a hit! The batter looks a little thick initially, but once they cook up, the texture is perfect and they taste delicious. We added bananas and vegan chocolate chips to them and topped them off with some agave syrup for a filling meal. I can't wait to have them again and figure out different things to add to the mix. Check for it next time you decide you want to make a big breakfast (or have breakfast for dinner).

Fort Worth Fave: Spiral Diner

Favorites. We all have them. They are what we use to describe ourselves, characteristics that people use to distinguish you from all others. Since I began writing this blog, people regularly ask me where in Fort Worth I enjoy eating the most, and the answer is simple: Spiral.
The Spiral Diner I frequent is one of two locations and can be found on Magnolia in the Near Southside of Fort Worth, Texas. A vegan restaurant with a classic diner feel, this restaurant has a friendly staff and a menu to satisfy any taste. All dishes on the menu are 100% vegan, and owner Amy McNutt is dedicated to using quality local and organic ingredients as often as possible. Each month, Spiral offers three to four blue plate specials and a seasonal soup (my favorite of these having been the butternut fennel soup in November).
For the months February and March, my favorite of the blue plate specials was the Teriyaki Bowl. It includes teriyaki-marinated tempeh and pineapple with carrots, broccoli, bell peppers and onions, all served atop hot steamed brown rice. I could not get over this dish! I am a huge fan of Asian flavors, and I will admit that since being vegetarian I have not found a place that makes a good teriyaki dish til now.
The same day I decided to try this bowl, my friend and seasoned Spiral waitress Britney suggested I try their latest flavor of "i-scream", Salted Caramel, in their latte shake. This lovely number has salted caramel ice-cream blended with a shot of espresso and topped with dairy-free whipped topping and caramel drizzle. The salt from the i-scream brings out awesome flavors from the espresso, and since then, I have been back twice just for the shake.
For those who don't care for shakes, Spiral also specializes in vegan baked goods. These include (but aren't limited to) brownies, cookies, cupcakes, tortes, cobblers, and cinnamon rolls that are large enough for two people. They also make cakes for special occasions, such as weddings or birthdays.
Each Sunday, Spiral Diner offers a pancakes brunch special that anyone (vegan or not) must try. For $6.95, you are privy to as many vegan pancakes as you can eat and can choose between either plain or the featured pancake for the week. Top it off with warmed agave to give it that homemade touch.
If you are ever feeling adventurous, or just want some down home vegan cooking, hit up Spiral and tend to your appetite.