San Francisco’s Underdog

Underdog Organic Vegan Smoked Chipotle Sausage

I’m at the point where I only eat vegan hot dogs when traveling or on some sort of excursion. It’s the same with veggie burgers. There was a time when I ate them at home but now I reserve them exclusivity for eating out just so I don’t get tire or burnt out eating such things. Plus, it makes it much more of a treat.

Last time was last year when I tried the vegan frankfurter at AT&T Park during a Giants game. This time, this year, it’s right before going to the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.

Located close by on Irving Street between 17th and 18th Avenue is Underdog: The First Organic Hot Dog Joint. It’s a teeny-tiny spot serving both meaty and vegan hot dogs and sausages. You can kinda see how small it is, the red in the photo is the front door and window and that’s the entire width of the space inside. Outside, there’s a large mural on the side wall. Looks very San Francisco-ish, no?

San Francisco Underdog Side Wall

From at least a half dozen vegan options to choose from, I got the Vegan Smoked Chipotle Sausage on a toasted wheat bun with grilled onions and a side of baked tater tots. The sausage tasted like it’s from Field Roast, which you know is good. The taters could have been just a tad more crispy. But overall, it was just the thing to fill me up before going to gawk at museum paintings.

All of the condiments are organic and you just help yourself. I piled on handcrafted sauerkraut, relish and ketchup after I snapped the photo. Sides are organic too, those that are vegan include coleslaw, potato salad and chili.

Underdog Organic Homemade Soda

To drink, Underdog has a selection of homemade sodas along with bottled or canned organic juices and sodas. Pictured is the homemade mango vanilla soda served in a mason jar with a paper straw. I don’t normally drink sodas but I’ll make an exception for homemade.

Super friendly and they do their best to be a socially responsible business from recycling to using sustainable and biodegradable products. And they donate a portion of their profits to local charities. They may be the underdog but they sure are kicking butt.

Vegan Cream Cheese and Coconut Bacon Bagel

Vegan Cream Cheese and Coconut Bacon Bagel

In the midst of the busy holidays, I managed to cook up a batch of coconut bacon for the first time. After trying a bag of Phoney Baloney’s Coconut Bacon, there’s no way my wallet was going to survive that addiction.

Especially not when it’s so easy to make at home. I actually made it while visiting at my parent’s house, everyone was wondering what I was making and why did it smell like bacon. Although all of the little kids came sniffing around, not one would touch the coconut bacon. The adults all liked sampling it but I don’t see anyone giving up regular bacon anytime soon. Oh well, more for me.

I used the recipe from Fettle Vegan but halved it as my parents have an extra small built-in wall oven. A full baking sheet pan doesn’t even fit, just a half sheet and there’s not much clearance on the sides. It’s a little like baking in a toy oven but with coconut bacon as the treat.

What’s its Name Beet Soup

Beet Soup

I didn’t set out to make beet soup. It’s just that sometimes my fridge can be so bossy, telling me what to make for dinner.

Fridge: Hey you, yeah you. You gotta cook the beets.
Me: Uh, I don’t really feel like eating them right now.
Fridge: They’ve been sitting around for awhile; they won’t last much longer.
Me: Oh, I didn’t realize that, I guess I should make something with them.
Fridge: Dumb ass.

Besides the beets, I threw in a bunch of other vegetables that I had lying around so the fridge doesn’t get all snippy about those too. It has far more ingredients than in a more traditional beet soup recipe. But with such a beautiful red hue, I’m still calling it beet soup.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

Me: Who’s a dumb ass now?
Fridge: Shut up and eat your soup.

Beet Soup
Makes 6 servings

1/2 medium head cauliflower
1 large sweet potato, about 13 ounces, peeled and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 medium beets, peeled and chopped
1/2 small white onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small red potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 teaspoon olive oil
Plain soy yogurt for garnish
Handful of parsley, chopped, for garnish

In a soup pot, heat the oil until hot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots and celery, sauté for a minute or so. Add the cauliflower, red potatoes, beets and sauté for another minute.

Add the vegetable broth, stir to mix well. Cover and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the soy milk and corn and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Puree the soup with an immersion blender. To serve, top with a bit of the yogurt and parsley if desired.

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Spicy Pumpkin Wonton Soup
Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup
Butternut Squash Soup

Super Easy Peppermint Bark

Super Easy Peppermint Bark

Need something fun and festive to do while waiting for Santa? Peppermint bark is super easy, even small children can do it. And you probably have everything you need already. Who doesn’t have a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips hanging out in the cupboard? or candy canes coming out of your ears?

You can make as much or as little as you like. Just melt some of the chocolate chips in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time until smooth and melted (small children should not do this part). Crush a few candy canes, use a hammer if you like (small children can and will gleefully do this part).

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Pour the melted chocolate onto the baking tray and spread out to your desired thickness with a spatula. Sprinkle with the crushed candy canes and gently press down.

Refrigerate or freeze for at least 1 hour until the chocolate has completely hardened. Break into pieces.

Super Easy Peppermint Bark

Don’t be sad, the peppermint bark is suppose to be broken into pieces. It makes it easier to share. Store any extra in an airtight container in the fridge. Happy Holidays!

Pot Pie Paradise

Vegan Jerk Tempeh Pot Pie

Somehow I always end up trying something new for my holiday meal. It’s kind of a tradition now, the trying-something-new. This year, I skipped the mock meaties, the un-this, roast-that and went with a humble pot pie. But not any ol’ pie, vegan ones from Pot Pie Paradise in Hayward, CA.

Tucked away in an industrial park, this no-frills deli isn’t just a slice of paradise but the whole pie. Focusing on healthy ingredients and creative fillings, they have a selection of homemade pot pies that changes daily, including a nice variety of vegan and vegetarian ones. I got three to try out:

Jerk Tempeh Vegan (pictured above)
Sometimes I’m a little wary of getting tempeh in restaurants (it can be bitter if not prepared properly) but the pie was delicious. Great jerk flavor, plenty of tempeh and veggies, nicely spiced.

Vegan Pot Pie

Piccata Mushroom Vegan (not pictured)
Even though the directions say it can be microwaved. Don’t. It leaves the crust soggy. Reheating in the oven is way better, resulting in a beautiful crust, flaky and buttery as it’s meant to be. No photo as there’s no point in taking one of a soggy crust (or maybe I should have as an example of what not to do). The filling is a mushroom lover’s dream – shiitake, oyster, portobello, along with orzo and fresh herbs.

Sweet Potato Thai Curry Vegan (pictured above, fresh out of the oven)
Filled with vegetables and Thai curry flavor but it seemed a bit drier than the other two. I would have liked more sauce. It’s the only quibble really. Overall, it’s pretty good.

But there’s still other vegan flavors to try such as Tikka Masala or Tuscan Delight and there’s dessert pies too. Besides the buttery crust, I really liked their range of atypical fillings. I can see why they were on the pot pie episode of Travel Channel’s Food Paradise. If you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely a must try.

Posts of Christmas Past
A Very Crabby Holiday
Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk’y
Smoked Vegetarian Goose for the Holidays

Amella Vegan Caramels

Amella Vegan Coconut Almond Caramels

Many seasons have come and gone since I last had a piece of chocolate covered candy. But childhood memories of past holidays are still vivid – having the chocolate gift box passed to me when it was my turn, doing my best to discreetly push down on each one trying in vain to figure out the filling inside.

The chocolate covered nut clusters were always gone first, they were easy to spot and everyone’s favorite. Somehow I would pick wrong and end up with the caramel. Never my favorite, I remember it as being rather hard and extremely chewy to eat.

The Amella vegan caramels are the exact opposite. So smooth and buttery, soft and chewy, they’re a real joy to eat. The secret ingredient is pure cocoa butter.

Amella Vegan Coconut Almond Caramels

From Amella’s many caramels, I received the two vegan options to review. Handmade with organic and fair trade ingredients, no refined sugars, non GMO, gluten free, preservative free and kosher.

Pictured above is the Vegan Coconut Almond Caramels in 66% Dark Chocolate. It has a nice crunch from the lightly roasted California almond on top and a hint of coconut flavor.

Amella Vegan Sea Salt Caramels

The other is Vegan Gray Salt Caramels in 66% Dark Chocolate. Softer and smoother than the almond coconut caramel, the butteriness really stands out. That and the salty-sweet flavor combo.

Amella Vegan Sea Salt Caramels

Either flavor is a solid choice which I’m positive will pass the family’s smell and taste test. Packaged in a box of 6 or a pack of 2, they’re the perfect stocking stuffer. Available from Amella’s online store or Amazon.

Disclosure: I received the products free of charge from the company to review. The opinions and experience with the product expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.

This post also contains an Amazon link, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on the link and make a purchase of anything.

Asian Lentil Loaf

Asian Lentil Loaf

I thought I was done with messing around with the lentil loaf recipe after making the copycat Amy’s version. Apparently my taste buds were not. They wanted something new and different – an Asian flavored loaf with Chinese dried shiitake mushrooms, ginger, leeks and water chestnuts. They were right, it’s now my favorite version.

Served with miso mashed potatoes and stir-fried Chinese greens. It’s sorta like a square egg foo young, but without the egg or the tofu (the usual, default replacement for the eggs). It’s lentils but I wouldn’t say it’s beany tasting. Super easy to make, it’ll put an Asian twist to your holiday meal.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake with Butterscotch Buttercream

And for dessert, a freshly made Sweet Aha! vegan chocolate cupcake with butterscotch buttercream from the College of San Mateo farmer’s market. Except that I ate the cupcake first because 1) it’s always best to eat dessert when it’s nice and fresh and 2) the cupcakes are so light and fluffy I couldn’t wait. This is not the first time I’ve eaten dessert before a meal, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Asian Lentil Loaf
Makes 4-6 servings

6 Chinese dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft, then chopped
1 medium leek, white and some of the green part, chopped
4 ounces water chestnuts, chopped
2 cups cooked and seasoned lentils
2 handfuls panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Oil to grease pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the lentils. Add in the rest of the ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

In a well-oiled 8.5 x 8.5 inch square baking pan, pour in the lentil mixture and pack into the pan, tightly pressing into the bottom. Bake for about 30 – 40 minutes until browned and pulling away from the edges. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.

Serve with miso mashed potatoes, teriyaki sauce or gravy and stir-fried Chinese greens.

Related Posts
Mini Savory Lentil Cupcakes
Sweet Aha! Vegan Cupcakes

Strawberry Tabouli

Strawberry Tabouli

It’s November and there’s still fresh organic strawberries to be had at the local farmer’s market and not the scrawny, no flavor kind either. Although not quite as good as when they’re at the peak of the season but still pretty good for being at the end. I’m not sure how much longer they’re going to be available, I’m just getting ‘em while the gettin’ is still good.

Besides just eating the strawberries plain as a snack, I also made strawberry tabouli – a raw variation that has strawberries subbing in for tomatoes and cauliflower for bulgar wheat. Except for the olive oil and the salt and pepper, I got everything pictured at the farmers market, even the falafels and lemon hummus.

Strawberry Tabouli
Makes about 4 – 6 servings

6 fresh strawberries, cut into small chunks
1/2 cauliflower head
4 – 6 lacinato kale leaves
1 green onion, finely chopped
Handful fresh parsley, minced
Handful fresh mint, minced

1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, grate the cauliflower with a box grater using the large holes side. De-stem the kale leaves and cut into thin strips and add to the bowl. Add in the strawberries, green onions, parsley and mint. Mix well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Related Posts
Baked Falafel

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