What I ate Wednesday: a restaurant review and rediscovering sweet lentils

Look who’s joining Jenn’s weekly food party! It feels like forever since my last What I ate Wednesday. Today’s post will also be quite interesting for Vegan Wednesday visitors as you’ll see in a minute. Thanks to our hosts!

WIAW_new2015

Going along with one of my goals and the accountability coming along with it I decided I’d [try to] document my times eating out through restaurant reviews. Especially because I like reading those myself before choosing a place to eat and I’ve never done those before. It’s a further incentive to seek out new eateries. Without further ado: my first one.

The location: Vengo in Bremen [Ostertorsteinweg 91] – an all-vegetarian, mostly vegan venue focusing on fresh vegetables and whole foods without artificial flavourings or additives. It’s a small restaurant located amidst many little clothing stores and right next to a larger health food store [a “Reformhaus” in this case].

20150207_Vengo_impression

Overall atmosphere: A hint of flower power hippie flair is surrounding the venue and I liked it a lot. You shouldn’t be afraid of making fairly close contact with strangers. Being a small and apparently popular place with only a few larger tables you’re likely to share one with others. I didn’t mind and the people-watching and getting a chance to glance at others’ plates before placing your order is always a bonus to me. We were lucky to share our table with nice strangers.

20150207_Vengo tea

The service: absolutely flawless. Fitting right in with above-mentioned hippie flair the waiters were very friendly, relaxed and happy despite the restaurant being crowded. They immediately made us feel home and like at a friend’s place.

The food: nothing short of amazing. From past restaurant mentions you might remember my disappointment in vegan dishes at ‘regular’  restaurants. However, Vengo as a vegetarian venue hit. the. spot for me. The menu consists of two soups plus three entrees and changes weekly. Additionally, there’s a selection of housemade cakes and cupcakes plus a huge salad/tapas bar.

20150207_Mum's entree

My mum ordered a large plate of mixed salad bar items – choice of either Asian or Mediterranean focus – as her main. My choice was the Morrocan stewed vegetables with couscous from the weekly menu. Aside from the vegetables being slightly too tender for my liking I enjoyed this dish a lot.

20150207_Vengo_Morrocan Vegetables_Couscous

The serving sizes were perfect, too. I often find restaurant servings either  too large or too small – and too greasy. Neither was the case here. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure I’d be satisfied when I first saw my plate. But I took my time eating and found it was just right. My mum was happy, too. She ended up feeling like dessert, too, so selected a peach upside – down cake from the dessert case. I’m noticing more and more I’m not a cake person [definitely a chocolate fiend, though] so I wasn’t too impressed but given my mum liked it I won’t let that deter my opinion of the Restaurant.

20150207_Vengo cake

Final verdict: I’d come back to Vengo any day and whole-heartedly recommend it to anybody visiting the Northern German area. Delicious fresh vegetable-centered cuisine void of vegetarian fake-meats at reasonable prices – five stars.

Because we’re on the topic of  my food-related goals already it seems like the right time to share my progress in another area: trying other bloggers’ recipes. To end on a sweet note once again first up on my list were Ambitious Kitchen’s Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lentil Blondies.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lentil Blondies

That’s a moutful to say – and eat. I was very skeptical of the lentil base here. Previous attempts at legume-based baked goods were a-okay for me but not what I’d have shared with colleagues. These, however? No need to worry. Monique knows what she’s doing and peanut butter

If you can’t visit Vengo – and yes, I realize a lot you of won’t unless you finally decide to pack your bags and come visit me 😉 I recommend drowning your sorrows in these peanut butter chocolate chip bars. They’re basically health food after all. You’re probably in the kitchen already or at least off to track down some food – it’s no secret reading WIAWs makes one hungry reader – so:

Talk to you soon!

Happiness-inducing today: Returning home after work to find a surprise package from my sister in the mail.

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What are your experiences with legume-based sweet baked goods? Feel free to share a link to your favorite recipe – if you have one – in the comments.

Restaurant reviews: yay or nay?

Tell me about your favorite meal out lately!

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Cozy comfort food and Christmas cookies

Look who’s back with the second What I ate Wednesday and Vegan Wednesday in a row? That’s not usual for me anymore these days and I won’t make any promises of keeping up the [good] habit every week.  This time, however,  I was rolling with it for the fact I was rolling dough that turned into a share-worthy outcome on the weekend and have been eating some delicious lunches as well. Actually, we’re not just talking about the second consecutive WIAW but also the second time I tried a few new recipes from other bloggers.

wiaw fall into good habits button

 

I might like my apartment but the lighting situation is breaking my blogger heart. It’s not like I was sitting in darkness – even if the food pictures make it seem like that – but somehow there’s no space to apptly position my food -and- get a good picture. Either way, this Cauliflower Potato Kale Casserole is too good not to mention it. By now it’s pretty much unneccessary to say I tinkered the recipe to my liking.  Out went the leeks I didn’t have on hand, in went mushrooms and – surprise! – chickpeas.  I also subbed the vegan butter for coconut oil and oooh my. I never want to eat mashed potatoes without this again. Best ever vegan mash I’ve eaten so far. Try it – you can thank me later ! And we also cannot forget about the crispy fried shallots. I’m pretty sure I made some inappropriate noises while eating this.

Cauliflower Potato Kale Casserole_vegan_theveganpact

Following up one casserolw with another? Boring. How about a little guessing game? After finally ringing in the Christmas bakery fun for this season last week I went with another relaxing – yes, I find it to be oddly relaxing – little baking action this weekend. Any guess on what these delicious plump little dough balls became?? Scrolling down doesn’t count but you might want to take a look into a certain recent post

Cookie dough ball_Christmas

Participating in Elf for Health this year it was our challenge to meal prep for the week.  I’ve already been doing that to some extent since moving here but made the extra effort to try some new meals.  And cook a different grain to last me for the week. I’m pretty obsessed with it after its first appearance in my life in months so fingers crossed I’ll actually have some left later in the week. .. Wondering about that mysterious grain?  Short grain brown rice! Probably not exciting to you but it clearly was for me after it took a considerable amount of searching. Believe it or not but unlike where I lived before it’s super hard to find here. I layered it casserole-style with my rendition of Hannah’s vegan hash .

Brown rice_casserole_vegan hash

Marmorkipferl. Like every country Germany has its specific Christmas cookie classics and Vanillekipferl are high on top of that list. While my grandma and mum have been making these every year I’d never tried my hand at them before.  If you saw my recent good good links you’ll probably  [or not if you don’t speak German] remember the recipe for vegan Marmorkipferl on the list. As much as I like classics I’m a fan of new adaptions. Especially if it includes getting to eat chocolatey dough they’re looking even prettier than the original.

Kipferl_Marmorkipferl_Christmas cookies

If you haven’t been baking any cookies this season yet I highly recommend starting. Kneading the dough [it’s called baking therapy for a reason], singing along the Christmas music playing [a neccessity] and spreading the love/cookies are part of what really makes this season. What are you waiting for?!

Happiness-inducing today: Getting a compliment for my outfit at work – new boots included – and feeling good. Despite the cold. I.can’t. stand.it.

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Christmas cookies: Do you stick with the classics or look for new ideas every year?

Share the link of  your favourite seasonal cookie recipe in the comments – vegan preferred but no must!

Back on [the Pinterest] food track

It’s been a while since my last Pinterest-inspired What I ate Wednesday post – too long. For some reason I tend to put unneccessary pressure on myself to create own recipes rather than follow others‘.  Ridiculous much? Absolutely. But this is me and I never claimed to be normal.  Anyway,  as an attempt to fall into good habits I tried a few dishes by fellow bloggers. And  put my own spin on them . Don’t tell me you were surprised by that bit.

wiaw fall into good habits button

Inspired by Khushboo who created a chia pudding like no other I finally broke my snack rut. With December and all things Christmas right around the corner I [obviously] couldn’t follow her recipe but had to tweak it. Can you say Coconutty Cocoa Gingerbread Pear Chia Pudding?  It looks like mush but tastes so good – a recipe coming your way soon. I’m not a fan of regular chia pudding because while a staple in my oat bran for me the texture of the gelled seeds isn’t appealing in large amounts .  Here,  my dear favourite coconut flour is the main player with the chia seeds as a pleasant side kick.

 Gingerbread chia pudding

We’ll get a little sweeter again in a minute but first I have to proudly say I tried another dish featured in my very recent good good links. I wasn’t kidding when I said Hannah’s hash was totally up my alley.  The only problem I had when adding the recipe to my post was not having any butternut squash on hand.  Yet I couldn’t get over how delicious the dish looked. Enter zucchini aka summer “squash” jumping in.

Kale_chickpea_lentil hash

That’s a huge stretch because I never think of zucchini as a member of the squash family. But it was what I had at hand so I followed Hannah’s instructions loosely. Here are my changes : zucchini and cauliflower instead of squash,  chickpeas for the kidney beans called for, canned lentils. Also, I turned this into a casserole for my work day lunches so added tomato sauce, poured the “stew” into a baking dish and topped it with creamy polenta post-picture. What will I not casserole-ify*?

*[That should totally be a word because it’s so true for me these days. It’s cold, soup won’t cut it, so casserole-ifying it is.]

Casserole_beans

Do you feel the urge to spread the Christmas cheer with others when the temperatures drop and cozying up inside becomes a lot more appealing than setting foot outside? Just me?? Either that or I’ve just been bitten by the baking bug. After last week’s no-bake sweet action  I felt like turning on the oven for the first Christmas cookies of the season – and the first time playing my favourite Christmas tunes. These so-called Traumstücke were  a hit with everybody last year so I knew my first pick was going to be a success. Honestly,  it’s unbelievable how a recipe this simple can be so incredibly amazing.

Lebkuchen-Traumstücke

My neighbours also accepted several packages for me lately because I’m at work when the postman rings.  I’m glad they saved me the trip to the overcrowded post office on Saturday morning so cookies seemed like the perfect thank you gift. And because they – like all of my meals in this post – are vegan, too, I’m joining Vegan Wednesday, too. Whether you’re stopping by from there or WIAW these cookies should totally make it onto your baking list.

Happiness-inducing today: My first Yogi wisdom of the day becoming reality.

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Have you started baking Christmas cookies yet? Which ones?

What’s the latest recipe you pinned and tried?

Oh, crunchy crunchety!

Oh, hi, we haven’t talked about food in a while, no? I’m a fan of keeping things  [semi-]regular  [interpret that whichever way you want to …] so here goes another What I ate Wednesday. I can’t promise I’ll be able to keep up the weekly or even bi-weekly posts but I’ll just roll with the flow and sprinkle in some food posts every now and then. Because we all need to eat and at least sometimes I actually remember/ am not too lazy to get out my camera.

One more note on the title of this post – or two, actually: a) I like themes and the amount of crunchy, crispy food made this a[n almost] no-brainer and b) I’ve been crunched for time [what’s new?]. No matter how little in general, though, there’s always time for food. Good food. Let’s get talking!

wiaw fall into good habits button

Breakfast. .. is such a classic over here I can’t wow you anymore.  How about we skip to snacks right there? Good. The first one is proof I can’t resist new products all the way even if they bite a hole into my budget before I can get a bite of them. Pretzel Thins, friends.  How good are they??! They’ve only been making appearance on store shelves around here since earlier this year. Too bad these are so. very.  good … I don’t like macro talk but: why am I even surprised they are? They’re crispy. Carbs.  Salt. A winning combination.

November - 2nd swoosh 109

While we’re at carbs,  salt and winning combinations let’s add cheese – I know Meg agrees. Gah. So good. I could easily write a whole post on this dish.  Actually,  I  will because this recipe needs to find its way into my personal recipe book. For now I’ll leave it at saying it is another autumnal dish with an addictive crunchy cheesy potato topping.  Who said healthy food was boring?  I’m a smidgen proud to say it got my mum’s seal of approval – a rare happening – when I prepared it on Saturday.  Another bonus of her stopping by – aside from the fact itself: help in shredding potatoes. And by help I obviously mean she did the whole task.

Crispy potato topping

On the sweet side another classic made an appearance again to save me. Save me  because the current intern at our office brought in storebought cake on Friday. Am I sensing a competition for employee of the month?  Watch out, friend, I’m up for it ;). Only I couldn’t be bothered to turn on the oven so no-bake it was.  Amanda’s krispie rice cereal energie squares have yet to disappoint me.  I’ve made them more times than I can recount and don’t think I’ve used the same combination of cereal twice so far. Though the best part is obviously that non-optional chocolate drizzle …

Chocolate drizzle_cereal bars

In its whole beauty below.  Preparing it Saturday night/Sunday morning was dangerous because I had to break of those imperfect bits and bites. Pre-breakfast nibbles of cereal bars? Why not. Probably mention-worthy would be that I just try to keep up the volume of cereal when making these, sub peanut for almond butter [more budget-friendly and there are no almond butter jars that haven’t undergone double-dipping action around these parts …] and omitting the protein powder. If the cereal mixture appears too sticky I’ll add some quick-cooking oats. Et violà: cereal bar perfection.

Cereal bars_whole

 

Wouldn’t you want me to be your colleague?! I hope my colleagues will appreciate the huge lot of work that went into these 😉 . [Edited: Demolished and my boss asked what kind of cake I’d bring tomorrow. They clearly hated these treats.]

And speaking of work that’s where I’ll likely be the moment you’re reading this so:

Happy Wednesday and see you again tomorrow for some Thinking out loud!

 

 

Happiness-inducing today:

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Are ’employee of the month’ run-ups actually a thing? Enlighten me! And: Do you think I’d win 😉 ??

What are your favourite treats to bring to work?

Pretzels, pretzel things, chips: what’s your salty snack of choice?

The little things that make life better.

I’m a firm believer that waiting for the big and bold happenings to make us happy is an almost surefire guarantee to keep us unhappy. Oh, the irony. If we only ever hang around wondering why we didn’t win the lottery or why that guy has yet to notice us we miss out on many occasions to smile. How this all relates to What I ate Wednesday? Well, the way I see it food shouldn’t be the only thing making us happy but if it’s one of them that’s pretty good in my book.

wiaw fall into good habits button

The little thing at breakfast: perfect setting and food. Kabocha that has that irresistible flaky-dry texture, the right balance of sweet- and starchiness. My favourite tea from one of my new favourite mugs. A side of brain food [to any Germans: Das Kreuz mit den Worten in Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin is my love-hate brain food of choice. So difficult. So addictive.]

Kabocha_breakfast

If you’re less quirky than me/haven’t jumped on the squash-for-breakfast train yet [why not???] this could be the perfect bowl of oatmeal. And maybe a side of sudoku or a cross-word puzzle. Yes, I’m a granny there but I can’t go without these.

I might be the very last one to figure out how to break the soup-for-lunch-at-work spell but I bought my first set of microwave dishes on a whim the other day. There’s no looking back. This is my personal lunch revolution. Even with my self-proclaimed soup lady status I can’t pretend I was too happy slurping them anymore after a few weeks. These wonderful dishes have allowed me to bring casseroles of all kinds to work and actually make me look forward to lunch time. Okay, I did before, too, but the perspective of hearty polenta-topped chili is much more alluring than a less chew-able stew. The dish below is an adapted version of my Polenta Chili Bake.

polenta chili_microwave bowl

This week’s snack number one: Crack. Pure, high-quality crack. The kind that you can only keep in your apartment at the most immense safety measures. We’re talking hidden in the back of your pantry, consumed only with closed blinds so the neighbours won’t see you. Okay, to lift the fog and back up a little: I won Meghan’s giveaway for some homemade granola straight from her kitchen recently a while ago forever ago. The reason I only received it right now is not the fault of everybody’s favourite Cleveland blogger [trying to remember if I know any other Cleveland bloggers who might get angry reading this …]. I asked Meghan to hold off shipping the granola until I had moved into my new apartment. Because first I had to try eat up some of the cereal, granola, what-not-all I’d been hoarding pre-move and then settle into the new place.

Granola_1

After a few bites I can safely tell you I will definitely not enter another granola giveaway at Meghan’s. Because I clearly hated this one. Kidding. The reason I [pretend] I won’t is because somebody else deserves to be treated to this deliciousness. It is SO ridiculously good – crack, remember? – that I refused to let my mum who was visiting the day I picked it up pack some as a snack for the road trip back home.

To be fair, though, I offered her some before which she enjoyed.  But a whole container as a snack? No way. Another fun bit I should add is my mum had a handful from the jar – by the way: how pretty did Meghan pack this up?? – and thought it was trail mix. That’s what Meghan meant when she called her nut: oat ratio high. And she was sweet enough to customize it for me nixing the walnuts and using a mix of cashews, almonds and peanuts. So so good. Oh, I mentioned that before?!

Granola_Meghan_2

For anybody who doesn’t live in Meghan’s immediate neighbourhood, is too impatient to wait for another giveaway or simply needs this granola in their lives – trust me you all do! – here’s the recipe. It’s vegan, too, for anybody stopping by from Vegan Wednesday. I hope sharing recipes for crack isn’t criminal.  If you don’t hear from me again I might have gottten arrested and in that case I hope you’ll send me granola care packages.

That’s it from me for today’s food inspiration but you might not even read this anymore as you’re already in your kitchen baking granola …

Happy Wednesday!

 

 

Happiness-inducing today: Finding that some essentials I needed to pick up at the store were on offer. Nothing like a good deal, right?!

 

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What are some little things that make your life better?

Are you a crack granola addict, too? What’s your favourite recipe?

WIAW: Ditch the itch!

Can we please pretend it wasn’t today yet WIAW-wise? What I ate Wednesday and Vegan Wednesday came early for me this week. Not like I didn’t rejoice im the fact we’re halfway through the work week already. But thanks to an inflammated throat that’s been bugging me for more than a week my meals have felt very basic and uninspired. Luckily, nothing will ever stop me from eating completely so while I might not have been able to fully enjoy food with all sense I still had some good eats. All the while trying to ditch the itch with smooth and creamy food – not the worst choices.

wiaw fall into good habits button

Today that I’m writing this is the first day of being able to actually enjoy all kinds of food again. One I wasn’t able to eat well – its upside of containing lots of little fruit and nut bits and pieces was a downside for an itchy throat: Nakd bars.  I received samples way back and had meant to post a proper review by now but have yet to. Maybe because I keep saving them for emergency snacks?? Good emergency snacks.  Pictured below is the Cocoa Delight bar which I didn’t enjoy as much as you’d prbably expect from a chocolate fiend. But that exactly is the point: I’m super picky when it comes to chocolate-y foods. And while not bad the cocoa taste in here wasn’t intense enough for me with the dried fruit being overpowering.

Another one I’ve tried recently was the Cocoa Mint flavour and one of my chocolatey favourites.  I was skeptical of how well the mint would go with the taste of dried fruit – don’t ask me why exactly – but it works well and was just the right amount of refreshing minty-ness. Though yes, this one could use a deeper chocolate flavour [= higher cocoa content], too. But that’s just me being picky.

Nakd bar_cocoa delight

Am I even surprising you with my breakfast anymore? Kabocha is just so good I don’t see myself changing it anymore – until I run out, that is. What I didn’t reveal yet was my perfect way of preparing it that’s probably slightly OCD. My method of choice is to boil it until it’s tender, them mash some pieces to create a creamy sauce and add coconut oil for taste and saturation. Rather than just throw all chunks into the pot,  though, I’ve found I got the best results by organizing them neatly. Think of it as a little puzzle action in the morning.  Only with an acceptable amount of pieces – I wouldn’t be capable of the other kind  this early in the AM. And then I add just an inch or so of water, close the pot with a tightly-fitting lid and bring it to the boil.  Then I turn off the heat but do -not- open the lid. After about 10 minutes – insert morning routine – I come back to perfectly tender kabocha. Creamy-smooth enough to lower the amount of throat itching.

kabocha_pot

While you’re reading this I might be eating the dish below. It’s an old favourite that I decided to bring back: kidney bean pot-pie with mashed parsnip topping. One can only eat so much soups or stews until it gets boring and lunch time at work becomes a matter of ‘oh well, I’ll eat it because I’m hungry’. This was my effort to bring excitement back by preparing a dish that required a little more effort on Sunday. Really just a little more, though. The kidney bean filling comes together like 1-2-3 and the topping? Cleaning the blender is the most labor-intense part. Only I didn’t have enough parsnips on hand so I used the remainder of those, russet potatoes and cauliflower.

kidney bean filling

Parpoflower? Caulitatosnips? Either way,  it was delicious when prepping this already. This was one of the times where I was glad to have a blog.  Okay, I always am. But I’d completely forgotten what went into the dish and this way it took me a few clicks and I had a print-out of the recipe at hand.  Don’t you like when that happens? I wouldn’t have been patient enough to look through my previous ‘recipe organization’ – read: piles of loose papers with notes scribbled down.

pot pie_mashed

One of my recent sweet breaks included tea, chocolate and a magazine.  More specifically: tea from a newly purchased mug because I couldn’t resist the owls in different colours.  Chocolate was the far-travelled OmBar though my itchy throat took over my tastebuds, too, so I’ll save most of it for once they’re fully back at work again. And the magazine in the picture? The latest issue of Women’s Health.  It’s the only women’s magazine I buy and while I don’t agree with everything they write either, it’s better than most others in my opinion.

OmBar cocomylk_chocolate_raw

How was that for a random tangent?  Touching the issue of health and fitness magazines when I was talking about food only just a second ago. I won’t go into the issue in any more detail today but I do have a decided opinion on the influence on the media’s influence on our individual live. Clearly a topic for a future episode of Thinking out loud. Not tomorrow’s, though, but there’s another subject on my mind that I hope you’ll chime in on tomorrow. Until then:

Happy Wednesday!

Happiness-inducing today: One of my colleagues asking me to proof-read her page when just shortly ago she doubted I was even able to do that yet.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
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Bloggers: do you ever forget any of your own recipes and have to go back to look them up?

 Which magazines do you read [not just food and health, any you read on the regular]? Aside from Women’s Health I’m a huge fan of brand eins. And to all German readers: yes, I do realize these couldn’t be more different from each other.