Restaurant Review: The Green Owl Cafe

Friday, April 30, 2010

So being fairly new to Madison, I have discovered that this city has a great love for good food and eclectic restaurants. Even before I went vegan, Julian and my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles were all vegan places, and there was literally one on every corner of that city! Now, there are restaurants on every corner (I read somewhere that Madison has the largest restaurant:people ratio in the country!), but not very many strictly vegan/vegetarian ones. In fact, the only one we have come across thus far is called The Green Owl. That’s not to say that it’s the only place in town I can get a good vegan meal, because there are TONS of places that I have had amazing dishes at, but this place is unique in the city for being the only meat-free zone in Madison! I discovered this place as I was looking through Yelp for any vegan bakeries or restaurants, just to scope out my options here. The place had amazing reviews, was apparently very new (only opened a month before we moved here!), and the menu looked amazing. It also looked like someplace that a meat-eater could go and be perfectly satisfied as well. So, on a bitter cold Friday night, we ventured in to this adorable little nook in the heart of town.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised when we walked in. There was not an empty table in the place, and it smelled delicious!! Clearly, business was good! And the only way a restaurant has good business is if the food is good! We waited about 15 minutes for a table (we could have sat at the bar, but it was right next to the door, and it had just begun to snow, so it didn’t seem like the best idea!) and were greeted by the sweetest server! She fully explained everything on the menu, and we both ordered a beer and started with their Mediterranean Platter, which was a gigantic platter of warm soft pita, vegetables, and four different dips ranging from hummus to muhumarra. Every single bite was incredible! Then, our main courses came out. We decided to just get sandwiches, because we wanted to save room for dessert. I got an “Italian Beef” Sandwich, and Julian got the “Crab cake” po’ boy. We tried a little off of each others, and both of our plates were cleaned off pretty quickly! Julian loved his crab cakes made of tofu (even though he insists he hates the stuff…hahaha), and my seitan beef with delicious pickled veggies was definitely something to write home about. Well, it came time for dessert. Of course, we had to try the nightly special, which was a vegan grasshopper cheesecake, complete with whipped ‘cream’ topping and all! With every bite, I melted a little more into my seat as the smooth creamy cheesecake literally melted away in my mouth with just the perfect amount of minty-ness.

Amazing food, amazing service, great atmosphere, what’s not to love about this place?!?! I’m writing because I am hoping that maybe at least a few people from Madison will read this (I’m sure all my followers are not from Wisconsin), and that they will have an opportunity to experience this absolutely amazing restaurant. Please support this local gem, let’s hope it lasts. This city needs amazing and unique food that the Green Owl brings!! Check it Out!!!!

Delicious-looking Empanadas:

Mouth-watering Gyros:

Vegan Lava Cake I'd do illegal things for:

Vegan Marshmallow Mud Pie...yum!:

All photos used are from the Green Owl Facebook Fan Page

Fiesta Food!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Well, it’s official – I’m getting old. I’m beginning to get excited over things that I used to think were just for “old” people – grocery shopping, cooking, sleeping…ha! I went grocery shopping last night, and I just want to say that since removing all meat, dairy, processed food from our house (aside from eggs, which the man still can’t get enough of…yuck! Luckily I was never a huge fan of chicken fetus!) had made our grocery bill drop IMMENSELY! We bought about two months worth of beans and grains, too, on top of all of our fresh produce, frozen produce, breads, and stuff that needs to be replenished more often, and our bill was less than it usually is for one week’s worth of our old groceries! Easy on the body, environment, and the pocketbook!! That’s what I like!

So, after grocery shopping, I wasn’t in the best cooking mood, so I just threw something together super quick that was absolutely delicious!! So, without anymore rambling from me, I give to you:

Vegan Mexican Pizza

1 whole grain tortilla
1/8 can of vegan refried beans
½ can green chiles
2 tblsp Tofutti “Sour Cream”
1 medium size tomato, chopped
Chile Limon or other Mexican spice (I use this one, because I love things super spicy!)
Thinly sliced bell peppers (doesn’t matter what color, I like to use red, green, and yellow to make it pretty, but it honestly doesn’t make a difference)
1 small can of black olives, sliced in half lengthwise

Preheat oven to 400. In a small skillet, sauté peppers until soft.

Spread refried beans on a whole grain tortilla. Sprinkle half of your green chili on top. Over this, spread “sour cream”, then sprinkle with as little or as much chile limon you can handle! Cover this with the sautéed peppers and chopped tomatoes, and sprinkle the remaining half of your green chili on top. Place on a baking sheet or pizza sheet (really doesn’t matter) and bake for 10 minutes, or until hot. Put on a sombrero, sip a margarita, and enjoy!!

p.s. Feel free to add vegan cheese, avocado, corn, or whatever flips your skirt up on this one...these are just the ingredients I used this time. Trust me, if I hadn't been too lazy to peel up an avocado (like I said before, really wasn't in the mood to cook!), it would have definitely been topping off this delicious quick meal!

Shoutout to Tom's Shoes!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So yesterday was a very sad day for me. I’m a mini-hoarder, you may say. To me, if something is still useable, than there’s no way you are going to get me to give it up! Well, I decided it was finally time to do some cleanup. I ended up loading two bags of stuff to take to Goodwill, and unfortunately, throwing some things away that just couldn’t be salvaged. One of those things were my beloved Tom’s Shoes. I have had this particular pair of shoes for almost five years. Beautiful olive green plaid canvas shoes that were the most comfortable things I have ever owned. Even recently, I slide them on to go to the market or wherever, regardless of the holes in them and the large holes in the soles. Alas, all good things must come to an end. But, on the bright side, this just means that I can get a new pair now!! I absolutely love supporting this company, and if you haven’t heard of them, I definitely think you should all take a look at what they have to offer. Most of their shoes are vegan, but not 100% of them, but if you go on their website, it’s easy to navigate directly to their vegan shoes. The best part about these shoes? Well, for every pair of shoes you buy, the company donates a pair to a child in need. Even in an economy like this, there is a company that is still totally about helping save the world, and not just about the bottom line. Some people may think that spending $50 on a pair of fabric slip-on shoes is a lot, but when you think about it, you’re actually buying two pairs of shoes! And seriously, these shoes are super cute, ultra comfy, and they last forever! I honestly wore mine at least 4-5 times a week, basically any time I wasn’t working, these were the shoes I wore! You definitely get your money’s worth from these shoes, and at the same time, you are helping a child in need! Plus, no animals are harmed in the making of these shoes, and some are even made out of recycled items like tires and plastic bottles and such! The company ensures that human rights standards are constantly adhered to in their factories, and they don’t pay their workers crap wages either. Eco-friendly, animal-friendly, people-friendly…what is not to love about this company?!

Learn more here:

Pathetic Selection in Southern States!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend! For me, this weekend was consumed with travelling to the “Dirty South” to see my fiance’s brother before he heads off to Afghanistan this week for anywhere from 3-12 months. The drive from Madison, WI to Myrtle Beach, SC was about 17 hours, and obviously, a girl’s gotta eat, but I discovered how few and far between my options became the further south we ventured…
The first time we stopped was at a semi-fast food joint called Culvers, which is a staple in the Midwest. We stopped here because they actually do have a good amount of vegan-friendly options on their menu. I got the Deluxe Veggie Burger Basket (vegan Boca patty) with green beans (no butter) and a fresh squeezed lemonade. Perfect! By the time we stopped for a second time, we were on the TN/NC border, and let me tell you, they had plenty of Waffle Houses and McDonalds’, but not much else! We finally found a Subway attached to a gas station, where I got a breakfast “sandwich” consisting of a vegan muffin (the lady was nice enough to let me see the ingredient list!) with tomato, peppers and olives. This Subway did not have spinach or avocado or any vegan-friendly dressings, so that was it. It was dry and bland and not tasty at all, but I didn’t really have a choice at this point! I decided to stop into the gas station convenience store as well and picked up a bag of Sunflower Seeds, as a snack to hold me over. Not my ideal breakfast, but success nonetheless. It really made me sad to see towns literally overcrowded with Fast Food restaurants and unhealthy chains with literally NO healthy eating options. There was one corner in Myrtle Beach that literally had 9 Fast Food restaurants on one block! It's no wonder the South is the most overweight area in the entire country! Then, we finally arrived at Julian’s family home!

His mother greeted me with an amazing spinach and arugula salad with cucumbers, avocado and olives with an oil and vinegar dressing and a gigantic bowl of Italian 5-bean soup, made “vegan” style just for me! Add to that a side of breaded eggplant (no egg in the breading mix!) and I was in Heaven after a long and unsatisfying car ride!! All weekend, she strived to make amazing foods for me, and not once was I disappointed! She is even going to send me all her recipes, which I am definitely looking forward to! We only ate out once while visiting and the family decided on Abuelos, which is a Mexican-inspired restaurant. Well, I hadn’t heard the most vegan-friendly reviews about this place, so I was pretty much prepared to eat very little while there. Well, I found a meal that looked fairly decent, and ordered the 2-enchilada platter with an avocado enchilada and a spinach enchilada and asked for no cheese on them. As soon as I said that, our super-friendly waiter asked me if I was vegan. He recognized!! I smiled and said yes, and he told me that the spinach enchilada had cheese inside, so to order two avocado ones instead. He told me which sauce to get drizzled on them, and then let me know that all of the sides were made with lard, but the kitchen could steam some broccoli for no extra charge. How nice is that?! My avocado enchiladas were absolutely incredible, and I couldn’t have been more thankful for having such a knowledgeable waiter!!

All in all, the weekend was a success!! I even got to hold a baby chicken and rescued a baby turtle from being eaten by hungry kitties! The turtle was honestly the size of my thumbnail…precious!! So, what did YOU do this weekend??

Earth Day and Pasta!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day, one and all! This has always been one of my favorite days of the year. I remember growing up, we always got to plant trees at my hippy Elementary School on the Southern coast of Oregon, and always being the little tree-hugger that I was, I would literally count down until the day I got to plant trees with my class and learn how to plant a garden and all that fun stuff! I sure hope that schools still do those kinds of things, it honestly does teach a child valuable lessons about the planet we live on. Sometimes I think that we spend too much time worrying about other planets and outer space, when we really know so little about the land we walk on each day! But I’m not here to get all political with everyone, I just hope that today you can all be a little more aware of the beautiful planet that we have been blessed with, and maybe, gradually, we can move through each and every day with the same feelings toward our home!

On another note, I am happy to report that my omnivore fiancé is really beginning to see the amazing transformations I have been going through on this journey. I told him from day one that this is something that I would never force on him, and I would not judge what he ate so long as he supported me. He was completely on board with me going vegan, but said that there was no way he’d do it. Well, it only took a little over a month for him to finally come around to the idea! He told me that when we eat at home (which is nearly every meal), he wants to eat whatever I am eating, but when we go out to eat he may or may not still eat carcasses or puss products (meat and dairy). I thought that this was amazing! The only difference between our diets at home is that he really needs something to substitute his meat with. So, we picked up some Gardein products for him to add to his meals, since he isn’t quite ready to try things like tempeh or seitan yet! So last night, I made a quick pasta dish. I wanted to use up all of our veggies that were in the fridge, since we are going out of town tonight and won’t be back until Monday evening, so I figured I could puree all of our veggies into a nice sauce so that we not only used up our perishables, but also got a nice hearty, healthy meal! So here we go!

Linguine with Vegetable Tomato Sauce (and Gardein for the new convert!)

½ box brown rice or whole grain linguine (take your pick on your favorite brand)
1 summer squash, sliced into 1/4inch rounds
1 head broccoli, chopped
8 pieces asparagus, chopped
1 handful spinach
1 can pureed tomatoes (or fresh equivalent, I was just using what we had)
2 tblsp minced garlic
1 tblsp EVOO
2 tblsp balsamic vinaigrette
1 tomato, chopped
Garlic powder (to taste)
Onion powder (to taste)
Fresh Basil (to taste)
(Optional) Gardein Chikn’ Scallopini breast

In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook/drain your linguine (if you don’t know how to do this, then I’m sorry, but I can’t help you anymore!)

In a blender or food processor, puree squash, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, and can of tomatoes. Pour this lovely veggie sauce into a small pan and slowly heat through, adding garlic powder, onion powder and fresh basil to taste.
In a small skillet, warm the EVOO, balsamic, minced garlic and more basil. When warm, add Gardein product. Cook all the way through, flipping over halfway (follow cooking time on bag depending on frozen or thawed product). When there are only a few minutes left to cook, throw in your chopped tomato and allow to lightly sauté in the oil mixture with the Gardein.

Mix the linguine and sauce together once warm, place Gardein on top (or without) and cover with sautéed tomatoes. Sprinkle on nutritional yeast if you like, and viola! A simple, 15 minute vegan culinary masterpiece!

I had mine without the Gardein, but made it for my man, since I’m so happy he is “converting”! And if making him a little bit of processed vegan food is what it takes to wean him off the meat, than I’m all over that!

Image is not too great...snapped a quick shot with the cellie before my boy dug in!

Flower Composting!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Administrative Professionals Day!! Yeah, quite honestly, I had no idea this pseudo-holiday existed until today, but I’m glad it does, because I got beautiful flowers from my bosses today!! I love flowers, and have recently discovered how great they can be once they are past their ‘viewing’ prime. I like rinsing off the leaves and petals really well and giving my Bearded Dragon Shredder a lovely treat! The parts that he doesn’t eat are great for composting! You can make the most amazing soil for your gardens, but make sure not to add the water the flowers were sitting in to your compost pile! Most florists add chemicals that you don’t want in your compost pile! I have started a small compost pile on my balcony. When it rained a few weeks ago, there seemed to be an earthworm infestation in our driveway, so I gathered up as many of the little guys as I could, and started my own compost pile! Not only is it amazing how quickly they multiply, but it’s incredible to see how quickly they break things down! Nearly all of our food scraps, peels, etc. go to our compost pile (it’s actually a bucket, but I digress) and within days these amazing guys break it down into a soil! Not only am I getting the best possible soil for my herbs to grow in, but it cuts down on our trash significantly!! I highly recommend getting a compost bucket to anyone who wants the most amazing soil for their gardens!
On another note, I tried a vegan frozen dinner last night, and I have to admit, it was pretty amazing!! It was a Non-Dairy, Gluten-Free Rice Macaroni and Cheeze by Amy’s Organics, and no lie, I liked it better than any REAL mac ‘n cheese that I’ve ever had!! It was delicious!! Definitely check out t his review for some super tasty pictures too! But honestly, if you’re in a rush and don’t have time to cook, these are simply amazing, and I’m pretty sure you can find them in any grocery store too, and not just health food stores! Give it a shot if you’re in a rush. They are not only gluten-free, but soy-free as well, so literally anyone can eat this tasty tasty meal!

Spicy Vegan Potstickers

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

So I know that I said yesterday that I would be putting up a recipe for the most amazing Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie you’ll ever have, but meh, I changed my mind. It’s my blog; I’m allowed to do that, right?! Regardless, I made a freaking amazing dinner last night that I really felt like sharing with you! This was kind of my first foray into Asian cooking, so I was pretty proud of the outcome! These pot stickers were not only delicious, but they were super easy to make, very little prep time, and are enjoyed by anybody! And the best part is you can get totally creative with them! Stuff them with seasoned seitan, or shredded cabbage and carrots, or whatever you’re in the mood for! I love discovering how much fun this whole cooking thing can actually be! I know that those of you who liked my last blog remember me as the anti-cook, but I have a new found passion for the stove! I’m not just a baker anymore!! So, without further adieu, here are your spinach and chile-stuffed pot stickers:
Large Skillet
Asian Wok
Japanese Gyoza wrappers (I found these at my local grocery store, but some people may need to venture out to an Asian market. Also, there were a few different kinds, read the ingredients and make sure they are egg-free!!)
Fresh spinach, finely chopped
Crushed red peppers
Small onion, finely chopped
Cooking oil of your choice
Shoyu or Soy Sauce
A Crisp White Wine (for the cook! I believe you cook better when you have a glass of wine in hand!)

In the wok, add a little of your cooking oil and stir fry the onion and pepper. When it’s nearly finished, add in the spinach and cook until it begins to wilt. Remove from heat.

I like to use my hands, so you may want to let this mixture cool down a bit before the next step (something I forgot to do!). Lay out your Gyoza wrappers on a flat surface. Place a generous amount of the filling in the center of the wrap. To me, it looked like about a Tablespoon of filling. Then, fold the wrap into a half-circle, pressing out all the air before pinching the edges together.

Add a little oil to the skillet, enough to coat the bottom. Let this get warm before you add your pot stickers. Set them on the skillet with the seam facing upward, trying to flatten the bottom when you do. Once the bottoms of the pot stickers are golden brown, add about ½ cup of water and a few shakes of shoyu to the skillet and cover. Let them steam for about 10-15 minutes, and then they are ready to be enjoyed!!

These are a great main course, but can also be used as an appetizer as well. I served them with some steamed green beans and brown rice…delish!!

Also, I’m certain that there are probably plenty of recipes for the pot sticker wrappers and they are more than likely super simple, but it was my first attempt at an Asian dish, so I didn’t dive in 100%. Next time I make these (probably with different filling as I like to experiment), I will try to find a good recipe for the wrappers to share. Or, if you have a good one, please feel free to share it as well! You probably noticed as well that I don't have amounts on my ingredients. Well, I'm not gonna lie, it's because I didn't really pay attention. But I think that this, as with most dishes, you need to cater to your own liking, and your own appetite. This is just the skeleton of your own culinary creativity. So get in the kitchen, and experiment!!

(Photo not taken by me, posted with permission from Vega Cruz, who is also the one who told me how easy these were to make!)

Alicia Silverstone's Cheezy, Oozey, Guacamole Dip

Monday, April 19, 2010

Okay, so I really felt the need to post this recipe today, as it is one of my absolute favorites to make/eat/share at parties and get-togethers. This recipe is from Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet and any time I serve this to the meat-eating, cheese loving public, it is devoured within minutes!! I like to serve this with Pita Chips or my new favorite Trader Joe’s “Tortilla Chips with an Identity Crisis” which are super yummy! I also top mine off with some pickled jalepeno peppers for that little extra spice! Also, I know it sounds silly, but try switching around the layers that you put the ingredients in...I swear the layers being in different orders totally changes how it tastes (or mabye I'm just nuts!)!! Hope you enjoy!!

1 (16-ounce) can refried beans

3 large avocados

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 (8-ounce) containers nondairy sour cream
1 packet vegan taco seasoning
1/2 cup diced mild green chiles, drained

1/2 cup sliced black olives, or more if you like (I used 1 ½ cups, just because I love olives!)
5 tomatoes, chopped

2 cups shredded vegan Cheddar cheese
(I like Daiya, but use whatever you like)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Spread a layer of refried beans in the bottom of an 8 inch by 8 inch quart glass baking dish. 

Pit and peel the avocados, and place in a bowl. 

Mash the avocados together with the lime juice, and spread on top of the refried beans.
Stir together the sour cream and taco seasoning, and spread over the avocado.

Sprinkle the chiles over the sour cream, and top with a layer of black olives.

Add the tomatoes, and sprinkle with the cheese.

Heat the dip for 15-30 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is a bit melted.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Coming up tomorrow...Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie!!!

Welcome to my Cruelty-Free World

Hi, my name is Danielle, and I’m a vegan.

I dunno, it sounded like the best way to introduce this. But really, that’s what I’m here to ‘blog’ about in a few short words. How did I get here? Well, once upon a time…
I grew up in a very healthy family…homemade baby food, breads, etc. My mother knew how important setting her kids up on the right path to nutrition was. McDonald’s was a rare occurrence in our household, and not a nightly dinner as it has become in many, and I am thankful every day for the healthy life my mother started me out on. Did we eat meat? Of course we did, but that’s another story for another time.
In college, I bought the book Skinny Bitch simply because the title caught my eye, and I thought it sounded hilarious. I actually didn’t read the cover or anything, and had no idea what it was really about, I just thought it looked cute and funny! Turns out, it was a book on veganism! Sneaky, sneaky, I know! However, this book quickly became my Bible in a way, because it truly opened my eyes and gave me a completely new perspective on everything that I did in my daily life. I read the book in a day, and the next day proudly proclaimed to my fiancé and anyone else who would listen, “I’m vegan now!!!” Yeah, well that lasted all of 3 days, until my hunger for fatty, delicious cheese soon took over again. Fail! Well, from that point on, I was always very conscious about what I was putting into my body, although I’d still eat things that I knew I shouldn’t be eating. I loved eating at Vegan restaurants in LA and ate a lot more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and even though I would go vegetarian for sometimes up to a month at a time, in the long run I just couldn’t give up my meat and cheese.
Well, in November, we moved from Los Angeles to Madison, WI. Now you’re probably thinking that I’m a complete carnivore after moving to the land of cheese and beef, but wrong! My mother purchased the book The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone for me after I told her on the phone that I re-read Skinny Bitch and really wanted to stop eating carcasses and nipple puss. When I received it, I read that one in a day too, and since February 28, 2010, I have been 100% vegan, and could not be happier! Yes, I spent my first couple of months in Wisconsin completely indulging on burgers and cheese and this amazing Wisconsin creation called Frozen Custard, but I knew that this was not how I was supposed to live. I was battling severe insomnia, joint pain, and this 25 year old was told by her chiropractor that I had a 70-year olds back. It hurt to exercise so I always made excuses not to do it, and I started growing out of my clothes in ways that no woman wants to do. It was time for a change.

Well, it’s been a month and a half, and I’m a new person! I lost 9 pounds the first month, just eating vegan “junk” food (meat alternatives, vegan baked goods, etc.) and I haven’t had a cheese craving yet! I can sleep through the night, my digestive system doesn’t feel like it’s fighting against me anymore, and I’m not trying to brag or anything, but my skin looks freaking amazing! I feel so good, and have found a new appreciation for that room in my apartment I always tried to avoid…the kitchen!

So here I am, a month and a half into this journey to my new life. I invite you to join me on this journey, or just stop by to see what kinds of vegan friendly places I find in my new city, or to snatch a yummy recipe, or if curiosity just gets the best of you. Welcome to my new cruelty-free world!

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