Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jerusalem Hills

We are here in Tel Aviv for my partner's work.  He's in academia, and he's here on a two-year Fulbright post-doctoral grant.  While we are here, the Fulbright program sponsors trips and events around the country.  This past week we were supposed to visit Jerusalem and check out the Old City, but we had to change our plans due to the security risks.  Currently Jerusalem is in turmoil, especially in the Old City area. 

The new itinerary did have us in Jerusalem for one night, including dinner at Eucalyptus restaurant.  I wasn't able to take pics but everything was delicious, based on the seven species that are traditional to Israeli cooking, merged with an Arabic influence.

We scoped out the mazes of rock dwellings at Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park, including caves used to house and train doves, cistern systems, olive oil processing, and burial caves.

Columbarium Caves for dove training; each dove got a little nook to themselves.
Some caverns had high ceilings...
...while others were small little nooks.
Sidonian Burial Caves
Out of all the interesting art and ye olde graffiti, I decided to take a pic of the elephant, obviously.

The bell caves were much more spacious.  We saw a bride and groom taking pictures!
After the caverns, we passed through the agricultural terraces in Sataf, along with the Scroll of Fire, a Holocaust memorial sculpture by Nathan Rapoport.  The Scroll is located in the Forest of the Martyrs, which will eventually contain six million trees to symbolize the Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust.

View from the terraces.

Scroll of Fire in the Forest of the Martyrs
The right scroll represents oppression, the left represents rebellion and freedom.
Our final stop on the sightseeing tour of the Jerusalem hills was the Sorek Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve, the only stalagmite cave in Israel.  It was discovered fairly recently, 1968, so it is well preserved and has been carefully maintained over the years.

It was cool, but the lighting reminded me of a ride in Disney Land.  I half expected a mine cart filled with singing Pirates of the Caribbean to whip around a corner.
We closed out the trip with lunch at a funky little place called Grandpa's Gallery in Tzafririm that acts as a sculpture gallery, hair salon, Kurdistan cultural center, and restaurant (for larger groups, by appointment only).  Oh. Em. Gee. This. Food. Was. Flawless.  Very vegan friendly!  Everything was so simple, yet perfectly seasoned.  Even for the meat eaters, vegetables are the center of most meals in this area, which I love.
Counter-clockwise from upper left: vegetable and semolina dumplings in a stew; stuffed grape leaves, onions and cabbage; pickled vegetables; halva cookies; mint tea.
I wanted to buy at least four sculptures, or at the very least, just the peacock; AP said no.  Grrr.
I am so grateful that we have this opportunity to explore the beautiful countries of Israel and Palestine; we'd never have thought to explored these parks on our own, and we would certainly have never found the gallery!  It was a lovely way to start our overseas adventure.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Penne Ratatouille Bolognese

There is so much delicious vegan food here in Tel Aviv, my bank account is in serious danger!  Now that the holidays are over and we're getting settled into a regular routine, we've been cooking most of our meals at home.  

Last night I had some whole wheat pasta in the pantry that I wanted to use up.  I messed around and ended up with a delicious sauce, something in between ratatouille and bolognese.  In the US, "bolognese" generally indicates tomato sauce with meat in it, but traditionally bolognese is a sauce comprised mainly of meat with tomato added as flavoring.  So this is a mish-mosh recipe, but it's totally traditional as well. ;)

It's not a fancy recipe but it turned out so well that I had to share it!  

There's no way to make this pretty, but trust me, it was delish.
Penne Ratatouille Bolognese

8 oz penne
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
1 medium eggplant, diced to 1 inch
1 red bell pepper, diced to 1 inch
1 onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vegetarian burger crumbles (I rehydrated plain dry TVP and it worked perfectly)
3 tablespoons dried basil, or 1/2 cup fresh
salt and pepper to taste
6-8 oz tomato paste
1/2 - 1 cup water
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (optional)
1 tablespoon tamari (optional)

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Make sure to use a huge pot of water, salted liberally once the water comes to a rolling boil. 

Meanwhile, heat a thin layer of olive oil on medium-high in a large, deep pan.  Once the oil is very hot, add the eggplant, season liberally with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5-10 minutes. Drain the eggplant on a paper towel and set aside.

In the same pan, add a little more olive oil on medium.  Once the oil is hot, add in the onions and garlic.  Cook for 10 minutes until everything begins caramelizing, then add the red pepper.  Cook for another 5 minutes, then add in the TVP or crumbles and the basil.  Cook for another 5-10 minutes, adding a dash of salt and pepper.

Add in the tomato paste and work it through the crumbles to evenly coat them.  Add in about half a cup of water and see how everything looks- it should be the consistency of a sloppy joe or a chili, not a sauce.  Add more tomato paste if it is too thin, or more water if it's too thick.  Add in the toasted sesame and tamari, if using (not necessary but it gives the dish a little extra depth), and add the cooked eggplant back to the pan.  Turn heat down to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference. 

Add the drained pasta and toss to coat.  Serve with bread slathered in (vegan) butter and nutritional yeast on the side for sprinkling.

Dinner on the balcony.  I'm having a nooch bowl at every meal from now on.
Notes and Thoughts:
-Adding some zucchini would be nice for next time.
-I'm still building my spice cabinet little by little (based on what I can translate at the store), I'd pick up some red pepper flakes next time.
-If you don't do pasta this would be delicious served over roasted potatoes, or even on it's own as a stew.
-If you are TVP adverse, you could sub in cooked brown lentils instead.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Husky On Board

As you know, we brought our 80-lb huskamute Pup with us to the holy land.  It was never a question of whether or not to bring him- he is part of our little family, and we stick together like the codependent nuts we are.

Regarding the logistics, the amount of time, money and sanity that I lost during the process is laughable.  Here are some notes so that others may be spared the ulcers and eye twitches that I had to endure.

Husky Pup Travel Checklist (see here)
1. Proof of Rabies Vaccination, Confirmed via Titer Test
Obviously!  What sort of pet owner doesn't vaccinate for rabies?  And surely it won't be hard to get this confirmed.

2. Electronic Microchip
Well of course if you're dragging your pup halfway around the world you'll want to keep tabs on him, so you've already microchipped him and are good to go here!  Right?

3. Certificate of Heath from your USDA Certified Vet (Endorsed by USDA)
No worries, your pup is healthy, and the certificate has to be signed and filed within 2-10 days of travel so there's no real rush.  Did you even need to start all of this paperwork three months in advance?  Probably not, but geez, better early than late!  You are so on the ball it's sickening.

4. Airline-Appropriate Crate
Done and Done.

Luckily he likes small cozy spaces, so he got used to his crate quickly.

Husky Pup Travel Checklist Reality Check
1. Proof of Rabies Vaccination, Confirmed via Titer Test
Oh, there's only one lab in the US that is USDA certified for titer tests?  In Kansas? And it takes up to 6 weeks to get results?  That's ok, we have plenty of time.

2. Electronic Microchip
Oh crap, the Pup's microchip isn't international?  That's ok, you can just get him re-microchipped.  What do you mean, he'll need to get re-vaccinated for rabies if he gets a new microchip?  Do microchips cancel out rabies vaccines?  Does the vet use old needles from the wild raccoon section of animal control for microchipping? Fine, you'll just re-vaccinate him then... WUT, then you have to wait 30 days before doing the titer test?  And then wait 6 more weeks for Kansas to get back with the results? That's cutting it awfully close.  Ugh, fine, you'll just pay $300 for a scanner and bring it along with you.  This doesn't solve the issue of what happens if your Pup makes a break for it in Israel, but whatevs, you can worry about that later.

3. Certificate of Heath from your USDA Certified Vet (Endorsed by USDA)
LOL there are like 4 USDA certified vets in South Jersey and they are all ignoring your calls!  Great, your old vet in California wrote down the wrong microchip number on the Pup's files and now the new USDA vet is like, how do I even know that these files are for this husky, the microchip number is one digit off so I can't do the health certificate and maybe we need to re-do all of his vaccinations.  Meanwhile the CA vet is like, we refuse to fix the mistake on our paperwork for no good reason!  Ha!  You eat three packages of snack cakes and cry on the couch, then call the microchipping service and both vets in infinite loop until somehow it works out at the last possible minute.

4. Airline-Appropriate Crate
Your Pup chews up all the bedding in the crate and then gets an intestinal blockage requiring surgery.  Just to keep things interesting.

Long story short... hire a pet transport service.  It's gonna be expensive no matter which way you do it, and their experience is worth way more than you're paying.  With all of the above drama, we'd have never been able to get Pups onto the plane on our own, but even if things had gone smoothly there are still so many little steps, such as endorsing the paperwork and filing with the USDA and Israel (remember, Israel has a different work week than the U.S.!), that we didn't have to worry about since we had someone who knew exactly how to fill it out, what the possible hurdles would be, and how to deal with the roadblocks as they arose.  We used Premier Pet Relocation and and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Such a pain in the ass...

But worth it! :)

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Greetings from Tel Aviv!

Beach life!
We finally made it!  AP, Pups and I are all safely in Israel and beginning our two year adventure here.  Or possibly, our two years of doing the same boring shit we'd be doing in the US, just in a different time zone.  

We've been exploring our neighborhood and getting a feel for the area.  It's Sukkot so a lot of people are on vacation.  Still, we've been able to get our ducks in a row with regards to our banking and home life situations.  We're walking everywhere- it's so nice to be mobile again after a month and a half in suburbia, land of minivans and drive-throughs.

Our new spot for bathroom breaks at the park down the street.
There are parks all over the city.

Mall rats are universal.
Veganism is huge in Israel - up to 4% of the population identifies as vegan - so I've been enjoying awesome meals everywhere I go!  I haven't had a dish yet that has not been amazing.  The produce here has so much flavor.  AP is eating veggies at every meal and loving it, I'm shocked.  Here's a sampling but check out my Instagram for more food porn.

Salad is served at almost every meal, including breakfast.

Simple roasted veggies in a pastry.  So fresh and tasty!
The best falafel in the city at Hakosem ("The Magician").
Bowls of salad and curries from Villiage Green all-vegan cafe.
ALERT:  There is vegan ice cream at every single ice cream shop
Stay tuned for more posts from the holy land.  It's been a whirlwind getting here, but we're ready to dive in and have a blast in this beautiful country.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Vegan Road Trip, Day 6

Tonight is our last night on the road... by this time tomorrow we'll be in New Jersey and officially starting our slacker summer.

We grabbed breakfast at Indie Coffee in Madison before hitting the road.  They have a few vegan wrap options, but since it was breakfast I went with the PB&J.  It comes warm, panini-pressed style, and it was just the ticket to start a long day of driving.

PB&J is a classic for a reason, show some respect.
We didn't stop much today, and the state welcome signs for Indiana, Illinois and Ohio were not conducive to stopping for a pic. 

I did get this one outside for a rest stop though.  Classy.
Pups napped most of the day, although he did get to sniff around a bit at random points along the Illinois tollway.

Pups in nature
Lunch was at True BBQ, a place we found along our route that has a whole separate vegan menu.  Vegans are everywhere!  AP got the BBQ seitan sandwich and I got the smokey tempeh burger.  The BBQ seitan was awesome- crispy and tangy topped with coleslaw.  My tempeh burger was ok- it would be better labeled as a tempeh-bean burger.  Next time I'd get the seitan, or at least add BBQ sauce to the burger.  Both sandwiches came with house made potaqto chips that were bomb.

AP's seitan, NOMS!!
My tempeh burger- needed some pizazz.  And better lettuce.
We are in Perrysburg, Ohio for the evening.  Pups and I scouted around and found a cute park nearby.

The majestic huskamute.
Dinner was from Zingo's, a Mediterranean place that has vegetarian and vegan options clearly labeled on the menu.  We grabbed some grub and ate at the park, enjoying the chirping bugs and sunset over the river.

Ok this looks gross.  But it was delicious, I swear.  AP got the falafel wrap with hummus and tabbouleh.
I got the rice almond salad with lemon dressing- so refreshing on a warm evening.
Tomato lentil soup.. sorta like spaghetti-o's.  I thought it was a good thing, AP thought it was a bad thing.
The piece de resistance- vegan chocolate cupcakes!!  I have half left for breakfast tomorrow.
Time to have a drink and watch cartoons.  Catch you tomorrow on our last day on the road!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Vegan Road Trip, Day 5

Greetings from Madison, Wisconsin!  Only two more days left on the road until we are settled in New Jersey.  Pups is getting tired of the open road, or at least tired of hopping in and out of our rental truck.

This morning we swung through Starbucks for breakfast, an easy vegan staple.  I got a ginormous unsweetened iced green tea along with their oatmeal.

Healthy and tasty!
I added the dried fruit and nuts, skipped the sugar packet though.
On the way to breakfast I made a friend!  I had to take this pic stealthily since it's on the lawn of a corporate building and I didn't want to get hassled by some poor office person who has to chase douchey tourists off the lawn sixteen times a day.

We took a stroll through Falls Park before we left.  It was adorable!  Pups and I did get in trouble with AP for sneaking into the creek and getting all wet though.  Whatever, AP, we do what we want.
Pups in his element.
Lunch on the road was Chipotle, another vegan chain staple.  Say what you will, Chipotle is a gift from the gods and I might not survive this summer without it.

I get the same order every time: salad with sofritas, fajitas, corn salsa, mild salsa, and guac.  I save my carbs for a side of chips ;)
Crossing the might Mississippi

We are crashing in Madison for the night, right by UW Madison.  I took Pups on a walk through the engineering campus and Camp Randall.

Pups learning some history facts.
Scholarly Pups!
AP grabbed us vegan sausages and fries at OSS Madison for dinner!  We watched Rick and Morty while snarfing these bad boys down. 

Apple Sage Field Roast, baby.
Now it's time to bed down and rest up for tomorrow.  Pups is one step ahead of us as usual.

Pups has found his Spot for the evening.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Vegan Road Trip, Day 4

We are at the halfway mark in our cross country trek.  This morning we packed up in Spearfish South Dakota and ended up in Sioux Falls- the first day we did not cross state lines.

Pups waiting morosely for his dad to return with breakfast.
AP grabbed us a quick breakfast at Common Grounds before we hit the road.  I had been craving oatmeal (wtf?) so he found this little cup thing.  It looked weird but it was surprisingly tasty and filling.

But actually yummy!
We drove through Deadwood; I am a fan of the HBO show and was excited to see the town but it's less historical and more bikini bike wash these days, especially so close to the Sturgis rally.  Still pretty interesting, but I felt weird snapping pics since it was so crowded.

We blew off Mount Rushmore in favor of the Crazy Horse Memorial. It's a work in progress over multiple generations, and it's very moving to see a project like this in progress. The project receives no funding from the government and relies on donations to further monument construction, run the facilities and support the native community.

Check out their mission statement here.

Chubbly huskamutes are not allowed on the bus that takes you up close and personal with the monument (can't blame 'em) so this is as close as we got.
This is going to be enormous.  I'm honored that I got a chance to see it in progress.

There is a 9-11 memorial there as well.
There's also another statue of two fighting stallions.  Pictures don't so it justice.  Just go there now and experience it for yourself.

Lunch was at a lonely rest stop in SD at a chain that I had not heard of before.  I got the veggie sandwich sans cheese and mayo, but it seems that the bread is not vegan there due to some weird additive that's animal derived (hence why I'm not mentioning their name).  Still, I'm not overly concerned.  I am vegan for ethical reasons, not for weird personal purity issues.   I will not eat there again, but I'm not going to freak about hidden ingredients.  Live and learn.  In any case, this veggie sandwich staved off starvation and got me through a log driving shift.

Plain, yes, but surprisingly substantial for a road trip.

Dessert was shaved ice!  Cool and refreshing on a hot day.m  I avoided red flavors in fear of cochineal (see, I can be a good vegan!) and went with mango.

We also stopped by... [drum-roll] the Corn Palace!!!  The only one like it in the world (because why would you make another??)

OMG we are so excited!!

All corncobs, bitches.

Dinner was at the legendary Taco John's!  AP had been there before and had talked up the potato oles so you know I had to try that shit.  They were very accommodating to my substitution requests to make things veggie- AP got the super burrito meal sans meat, and I got the two taco meal (hard tacos) with beans instead of meat, no cheese.  Add a side of guac and some pico de gallo from the salsa bar, and you have a sweet meal, way better thank Taco Bell (aka the salt lick of fast food, blech).

We're bedding down for the night in Sioux Falls and our hotel was recently renovated with local art... who doesn't love old white dudes watching them sleep?? :/