Foraging for Wild Vegan Food in Grand Rapids

Mumra signed us up for a free three-hour foraging class recently. She said it started at 1pm, so of course I got to her house around 5 after. And she still wasn’t ready yet. When we arrived at the park at 1:15, there was a guy in the pavilion talking about organic gardening, but no sign of foragers anywhere. I thought Mumra was going to cry.

I looked up the event to see how many people actually signed up for the class because it seemed weird they’d just disappear in the park. What I saw is there were three different classes, each an hour long, and ours hadn’t started yet!

So naturally we decided to make an ice cream run at Furniture City Creamery. Mumra got the avocado lime, I got toasted coconut chocolate chip…

with caramel sauce. I love that caramel sauce (the chocolate sauce is vegan, too).

We got back to the park just in time for the foraging class. After about half an hour of talking, we were shown four plants…all of them plants Mumra is familiar with because they’re growing in her backyard garden. Oh well.

Since the class ended an hour earlier than planned, we went foraging at Little Africa. We’re familiar with all the plant foods there and know what’s safe to eat (everything).

Pizza Week 2015, Day 4: Injera Pizza with Berbere

Pizza Week is such a happy time! A party last night, and an Ethiopian-inspired pizza tonight. The only thing that could make this week better…

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Getting a free lunch from Gursha earlier this week! The guy really loaded up the boxes, and as usual…

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there was a TON of leftover injera. And I love finding new ways to use leftover injera.

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I also like finding new ways to use the takeout box – Wilson kept me company while I was alone in the office. Anyway.
Preheat your oven to 425.

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I really can’t give you any measurements ’cause it depends on how much injera you have leftover. That’s why we call this intuitive cooking, if you didn’t notice at the top of the blog there. Anyway (again), chop up the injera. Meanwhile,

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we’re gonna need some margarine, and some Daiya mozzarella shreds. It’s pretty similar to how we start out making injera porridge.

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Melt it down – you may need to stir it up a little.

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Add the chopped injera,

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stir to coat. Stir and stir and stir. It might clump a little, just keep stirring!

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Season to taste with berbere, turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder, maybe a little salt and nutritional yeast.

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STIR. By this time the bread will be starting to soften and shrink. Add water a little at a time and KEEP STIRRING.

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The injera will start to break down and become smooth – it doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth, stop adding water when it starts to smooth out. How many more times will I say smooth??

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Turn the injera mixture out onto a pizza pan covered with parchment paper. You might be safe just greasing the pan, but I was afraid the melted cheese might stick.

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Press it out with your fingers. In my family it’s really cool if you can touch burning hot food with your bare hands, so that’s what I did. You can let it cool a little if ya want to, though.

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Bake the crust at 425 until it gets crispy around the edges.

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Meanwhile, saute onions in margarine and season with berbere and a little salt.

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The other night I wasted some of this Daiya provolone on that crock pot pizza, so I had to redeem myself tonight!

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There’s no sauce on this pizza, just add a layer of Daiya provolone to start.

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Top with baby spinach and the sauteed onions,

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more Daiya shreds (and I tore up the last piece of the provolone and threw that on, too),

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and tomoato. Then drizzle with a little olive oil. I also sprinkled a little berbere on top.
Bake at 425 until the cheese is nice and melty and beginning to brown.

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The edges of the crust will also brown up nicely and get extra crispy. It really only gets that way around the edges, but the inner part of the crust does firm up.

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The Daiya slices melt faster than the shreds,

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but I think they also help the shreds melt – I noticed when I bake the shreds with a liquid (like drizzled oil, hot sauce, and in this case the melty slices) they melt better.

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And I like combining the two because the shreds add the stretchy, chewiness the slices are lacking. They have two distinct flavors that are great together.

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BUT THAT CRUST, THO. The injera with the spices, cheese, veggies………

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Yes. Yes, I love this pizza. I love the onions and spinach. The big chunks of tomatoes with the sourness of injera crust remind me of the tomato salad at Little Africa. I know it’s pretty fattening, but we’re basically in the middle of Fat Week (can you believe some people only have Fat Tuesday??). I can usually put away a whole vegan pizza easy, but the injera crust is very filling. I have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
Oh, and I started eating the pizza with a fork and knife because I could tell the inner crust was way softer than the edges, but I actually was able to pick the slices up like regular ol’ pizza.

I think this probably my favorite use so far for leftover injera. What’s yours?

OH, I almost forgot – traditional injera is made with 100% teff flour and is gluten free! Sometimes it’s Americanized with other flours to kill the unique sour taste, so watch out for that.

Lenten Little Africa

Guess who’s back?!

After a month-long vacation, Little Africa is open again. Well, to be fair, Loul was back February 25, but I just finally had a chance to stop in. I went with a big group of friends, there were 11 of us, and we were so lucky to get the big table and a little one next to it. The restaurant was way busier than it’s been in years! And he no longer has a helper so it’s a bit of a wait for the food, but still totally worth it.

I missed this tea 🙂 One of our group described it as tasting like Christmas – cinnamon, cloves, anise, some sort of black tea (I think) and lots of sugar.

And I missed the All You Can Eat special!

I even missed those beets.

We really did wait a very long time to get our second round of food, but when it finally came…

We think he must’ve been cooking up a fresh batch of everything because the dishes were seasoned just a little differently, and everything was fresh and really hot (temperature-wise). It was so wonderful.

If you’d like to see more of my adventures at Little Africa, or check out other great places for vegan food around Grand Rapids, take a look at my Vegan in Grand Rapids page!

Gursha menu

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So, on my second trip to Gursha in Kentwood, MI, I took a couple shots of the menu. You can’t see the whole thing, but it gives you a pretty good idea of the variety and prices of both the vegan/vegetarian items & the meaty stuff.

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Okay, now that I’m looking up close at the menu myself, I see they do have an Ethiopian Salad! (someone asked on my last post) At Little Africa, the closest thing to this is the tomato salad – it’s just romaine lettuce & tomatoes with lemon, oil, salt, and garlic.
Anyway, as you can see, the appetizers and sides are very reasonably priced.

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I really like that the vegetarian/vegan entrees are cheaper than the meat & fish. Usually it seems like the more you take out of a dish (meat, eggs, dairy), the more it costs. And that VegeCombo for $9.99 includes one serving of each of those sides we saw on the previous menu page!

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Here’s a close-up of the Komodoro Fetfet, our favorite so far. The dressing on it is just like what you get on the tomato salad at Little Africa, but there are also green bell peppers and jalapenos mixed in the salad, along with torn up, juice-soaked pieces of injera. I believe the addition of the torn injera is what makes a dish a “fetfet”.
I think that’s misser wat in the back left corner, and takil gomen alicha on the right.

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In this box we have gomen, shiro, kik alicha, qosta, and more takil gomen alicha. You get one free side with your entree, btw.

I also want to add this: last night I was up until the wee hours replying to comments from a certain reader. I think she read my entire blog in one night. Is anybody else out here with us? I just love hearing from you all! Feel free to comment anywhere on the blog, or over on the OhSheCooks facebook page. We can talk about food all day. It’ll be great!

Kale & Kidney Bean Injera Porridge (fir-fir)

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Okay, I’m way behind on posting recipes because I’ve been working on the new recipe index!!! I still have quite a ways to go, but I think it’s probably not as exciting for all of you as it is for me. So. Food. I love making fir-fir, which is basically an injera porridge.

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Just like Little Africa, Gursha gives a ton of extra injera. I know some people like to take a huge piece of bread and a tiny scoop of the food, but not me. I do the opposite, and I always have bread left over.

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So this time I started by cooking a ton of onions and fresh garlic in about 1/4 C margarine. Traditionally you’d use clarified butter, but then it wouldn’t be vegan, ya know? So I use Smart Balance. When the onions begin to soften, add kidney beans. My were from a can this time – drain, rinse & drain before adding.

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Season with berbere spice blend, turmeric for a lovely neon yellow color, and nutritional yeast is optional (to taste). I also added a touch of black pepper. It’s already going to be a little salty because of the margarine, so you probably won’t need any extra. Stir it all up. Meanwhile…

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I cut the hard center out of a few giant leaves of kale (I believe this is the “premier” variety) and tore them up into small pieces.

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By now the onions are soft and clear, and the beans have had a chance to soak up all the flavor.

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Add the kale. If there’s too much to stir at first, cover and let it cook a few minutes until it shrinks.

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Stir it in…

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Cut the injera into very small pieces, add to the pot.

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Stir until the bread is coated with the margarine and spices. Let it cook for another 5 minutes or so. After that, I like to turn the heat up and brown it a little, stirring every so often, but it’s not necessary. Just a texture preference 🙂

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You won’t need anything but a beverage to go with this, it’s quite filling on its own.

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You get the slightly sour taste of the injera with the smooth taste of the kidney beans, the fresh flavor of kale, and the warm spiciness of the berbere. Oh. Plus the onions and garlic…it’s so wonderful.
It’s also gluten free if your injera is made the traditional way, using only teff flour. How do you use up leftover injera?

Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant

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Saturday I decided to treat myself to dinner. The weather wasn’t very nice, so I called Little Africa to make sure they were open before I headed over…nope. Loul is on vacation for a month, and Little Africa is closed until February 25! I was really upset until I remembered a new restaurant I’d noticed a couple weeks earlier, and it was also recommended by a friend.

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I couldn’t get a good picture of the sign out front with my camera phone, but here’s a bit of the interior of Gursha. As you can see, they could really use more business. Actually, I’m not sure, but just as the “they” at Little Africa is really just a “he,” I think “they” at Gursha might just be “she.”

I walked up to the counter to see if They did takeout. There was one women working there by herself, waiting tables and cooking all the food from scratch. I could see her cooking greens in a giant pan when I peaked in. Ethiopian music played in the background. Great atmosphere.

She gave me a menu to look over. The menu is much larger than Little Africa’s and includes dairy and meat, but there are still several vegan options. There were about half a dozen sides that appeared to be vegan, and all three of the items in the vegetarian section are vegan. The sides are $2 each, and entrees were about $9.99 each. There is a vegetarian combo for $9.99, I thought it would be a little of each of the three vegetarian items, but no –

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it’s ONE OF EACH SIDE DISH! For $9.99. I ordered the combo. Minus the one side that contains dairy and eggs, it includes beet salad with tangy dressing, alicha (cabbage & carrots), gomen (collard greens), some delicious yellow stuff – not sure what it was, lentils with onion and bell pepper, and spinach sauteed with garlic.

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And I also got an order of shiro (ground chickpeas). Since it was included in my box with the veggie combo I’m not sure if it’s included with the sides, or if she was just giving me extra. Hard to tell since she included more of the sides with my shiro.

Just like at Little Africa, there is a pretty decent wait time. In fact, the wait was longer than at Little Africa, I’d say at least half an hour once my order was placed. I’m pretty sure it’s because she was making a lot of the food from scratch after I ordered, whereas at Little Africa many of the dishes are made in large batches waiting to be ordered.
I have to admit, when Little Africa opens again I’ll have a hard time choosing between these two. I love the way everything is heavily seasoned at Little A, but the food from Gursha tasted really clean. I really tasted all different vegetables, the seasonings were just kind of quiet background noise. And…I think there is hardly any salt! I love salt, but the food was still so great somehow 🙂 I tried to eat everything in one sitting, but for $20 I got enough food to cover two meals and a snack. I think two people could definitely share the veggie combo.

I hate to give Gursha too good of a review because Little Africa will always be my favorite and have a special place in my heart…but Gursha really fills a special place in my stomach.

(Gursha is located in the Town & Country Plaza near 44th & Kalamazoo, in the same lot with Mediterranean, Florentine’s, and Cone City.)

Feast of the Holy Transfiguration

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Today the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. Since this is a major feast day, the fast for the Dormition is relaxed and oil is permitted. You know what that means (apart from having a Liturgy this morning)…

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Little Africa for lunch! I had a late lunch and took a long nap when I got home, so I’m not sure if I’ll eat more than a popsicle for dinner. If I do, I’ll post again later.

Wishing a Joyous Feast to all 🙂

Marie’s sweet potato & quinoa burger

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I admit it, I went to Marie Catrib’s two days in a row. Last week for my birthday I wanted to go for vegan hot dog day, then I went back with my dad & Tete for dinner the next night. I was hoping there would be a vegan special because I was pretty sure I already had every vegan thing on the regular menu. Well, I was wrong on both counts, but everything turned out just fine.

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Even though Marie’s supposedly closes at 8pm on weekdays, there was a line at the door right up until 7:45. We waited in the deli for our table, and I showed my dad all the cool vegan stuff – it was his & Tete’s first time there. Suddenly dad had a wonderful idea…

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Why not have a calzone while we wait?

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Why not, indeed. The marinara sauce was excellent, and the yummy flaky dough was also stuffed with vegan pepperoni and giant mushrooms. Tete hates mushrooms, but we told her a little white lie and got her to take a bite, and she liked it!
We were already feeling a bit full by the time we got our table, but that didn’t stop us from ordering an appetizer.

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The hummus was nice and salty, and the pita chips were covered in tons of herbs. It was great. While I looked over the menu I realized the last time I had a quinoa burger was actually at Stella’s. So…

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I decided to try Marie’s and see how it compared.

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I was not disappointed. The curried veganaise is awesome, I would like to eat a bowl of it with a spoon. Dad and I could only eat half our sandwiches, but amazingly, Tete managed to put away an entire giant BLT on challah. It was the first time she didn’t have one complaint about her meal 🙂 Even though we were quite full, it was a birthday celebration. So…

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Almond Joy Cake (dad’s choice)

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding (my choice)

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The pudding was crazy thick, nice and smooth and rich with no weird vegan-y aftertaste (I mean, not there is such a thing).

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We didn’t even come close to finishing the desserts,

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so we took home a huge bag of leftovers that fed us for the next day or two.

While we’re talking about habit-forming foods, I might as well tell you about another thing that happened during my birthday week.

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I went to Little Africa for lunch with Fr. R at 3pm,

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knowing full well I’d be back there for dinner with A at 7:30. I don’t think I can ever live in the East Hills area, I’d probably never cook again!

a little more Little Africa

Allow me to plug my favorite restaurant once again. The past two weeks I was hoping to go to Little Africa for lunch and it never happened, but finally on Saturday I got my wish.

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After Vespers, on a whim, I invited a friend to join me.

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Okay, so going to Little Africa wasn’t a “whim” since I was thinking about it for several days, but I guess inviting a friend was the whimsical part. Or else I just didn’t want to be the weirdo eating the All You Can Eat special alone.

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Either way, I love it when I get to bring someone in for the their first time. I wish I got referral points.