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).

Little Africa, Marie’s BBQ Tofu, and Abe

So, I had a couple farewell dinners this week with friends who are moving away. Although I hoped to eat at Little Africa twice this week, the only thing consistent about the hours there is you never know when they might be open. At least we made it Tuesday.

One friend is moving to Chicago, which isn’t so bad I guess, especially considering he’ll come back to visit as soon as next week. But still. We got the All You Can Eat special, but I think he wasn’t pulling his weight because we couldn’t finish the second platter. Or maybe I just can’t eat like I used to, that would be sad.

But we still ate so much, we needed to go for a long walk afterwards.

We parked on Jefferson and walked up State Street and visited the oldest building in Grand Rapids, which for some reason I didn’t bother to take a picture of – the Calkins Law Office built in 1836. I guess I was more interested in the bust of Abraham Lincoln that stands out front, facing the building.

Calkins Law Office
But here’s a picture I lifted from a Grand Rapids Press article.

Some info about the building and Lincoln bust. The bust was made in 1912 by Adolph Alexander Weinman, the gentleman who designed the Mercury Head dime.

We also peeked in the windows of the old Public Museum, but couldn’t go in. I took some pictures a couple years ago during ArtPrize, you can see the museum Here.

So then last night I had dinner with another friend who’s moving to Minnesota. We met up at Little Africa around 4:30, but…nobody was there 🙁 So we walked to Marie’s.

The dinner special last night was an open face BBQ tofu sandwich: Vegan green onion cornbread topped with BBQ tofu and a kale sweet corn slaw, and a big old smear of garlicky vegenaise.

The tofu had a nice, firm texture, not mushy or rubbery. It hadn’t really absorbed the BBQ flavor, so it was more like BBQ flavor on the outside while the tofu itself had almost a cheesy flavor – I mean, a vegan cheesy flavor, ya know? Maybe they marinated it in something.

The cornbread on its was mostly neutral and a little dry, but it needed to be because of all the flavor of the slaw. When you took a bite of everything together, making sure to dip it in the vegenaise, it was just perfect.

I ended my meal with a QUADRUPLE Chocolate vegan cupcake. The cake tasted like it was made with an extra dark cocoa powder, and it was really dense and moist. Topped with thick, creamy chocolate buttercream frosting, mini chocolate chips, and drizzled with a chocolate syrup.

Having a nice meal together is my favorite way to say goodbye to a friend since stuffing my face is my favorite thing to do when I’m sad. I hate goodbyes, but good food kind of takes the sting out of it a little 🙂 What’s your favorite thing to eat when you have a case of the blues?

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!

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!

bishops and baby showers!

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This was a VERY busy weekend! Bishop Anthony was visiting our sister parish, but he came to our church Friday since we were hosting the final Akathist service. Saturday I had a baby shower in the afternoon, Vespers with the bishop at the other church, grabbed dinner at my favorite restaurant, then a long drive out to a family gathering. Today after church, I came home and slept on the couch for 4 hours. Here are some shots from the weekend:

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Priests, deacons and acolytes during the Akathist

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Our Bishop!

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I asked to prepare the Bishop’s table, where he’d sit during the presentation after the Akathist (our guest speaker was a representative of International Orthodox Christian Charities). I hope I didn’t make it too girly with the flowers and floral napkins, I just wanted it to be beautiful. I baked the cookies & cupcakes on the left, behind the flowers – I’ll post about those later. I brought some fruit & olives and made my beans in coconut milk (not pictured), and others brought the rest.

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Bishop Anthony, Dn. Clem & Fr. Gregory

After a late night Friday, I got to relax and enjoy some great company at what was probably the cutest baby shower I’ve ever been to.

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This shower was hosted by my friend over at TheShooz. As one guest pointed out, we wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up all over Pinterest!

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Since the gender of little Baby VanB is a surprise, the color theme was a gender-neutral yellow, green & white.

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The owls were handmade by our host

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Are you noticing this? Even the food matches the color theme…

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and there were vegan cupcakes! With avocado frosting. It took a lot of effort to only eat one, but I got to take one home, too.

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The beverage bar

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I just wanted a picture of the buffet : ) But also shown here…

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the party favors – little pretzel rods dipped in chocolate and silver sugar

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There were lovely little pennants,

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and big paper flowers hung from the ceiling.

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And a table with stamps, various sizes of colored and patterned paper, and pens so we could write a little note to our dear expectant friend. The table itself was covered in a big sheet of brown paper, just in case anyone got carried away, I think.

Then after all this fun, I headed over to St. George

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The priests and deacons, on their way to receive a blessing from the bishop before vesting

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Bishop Anthony & the chanters. At the end of Vespers, a parishioner was ordained a subdeacon. I didn’t get so many pictures of this, but I made a bunch of videos. Maybe I’ll post them later.

And then…DINNER!

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At my favorite restaurant ever in the whole world: Little Africa

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Round one

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Round two (I didn’t eat it *all* myself, I was sharing!)

I didn’t get pictures at the family gathering, but it was pretty wild. My cousin just moved into a HUGE house that looks like a log cabin-type lodge. She and her mom are in the food business, so there was tons to eat everywhere (even some vegan stuff, but I couldn’t eat anymore). Upstairs in a large room, perfect for hosting parties, a band played. Yes. A band. In the house. It was impressive.

And now that I’ve recovered with a nice, long nap, I’m planning to bake cookies late into the night. How was your weekend?

Little Africa Ethiopian Cuisine in Grand Rapids, MI

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.

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.

Little Africa Ethiopian Cuisine. Grand Rapids | Orthodox and Vegan
Either way, I love it when I get to bring someone in for the their first time. I wish I got referral points.

Little Africa Ethiopian Cuisine, Grand Rapids | Orthodox and Vegan
*UPDATE: Unfortunately the All You Can Eat special is no longer available, but you can still get a combo platter for two or more people for $11.50 per person, and it’s a pretty decent amount of food! When you order the combo for at least two people, you get a taste of nearly everything. This platter is for a larger group. Starting at the top center and moving clockwise, it includes:
Alicha Cabbage, Potatoes, Carrots & Green Beans (mild)
Shiro Chickpea Flour and Spices (medium)
Seasonal Pumpkin (mild)
Azifa Green Lentils (mild)
Kik Split Peas (mild)
Soy Curry TVP and Spices (hot)
Mesir Red Lentils, this dish has a unique smoky flavor (medium)
Ethiopian Salad, with Romaine Lettuce, Tomatoes, and a Sesame Ginger Lime Dressing (mild)
Beets (medium)
Gomen Collard Greens (mild)

The one item not shown is Firfir, a wonderful dish traditionally made of leftover injera bread. The bread is combined with a tomato-based berbere sauce until it becomes a kind of thick porridge. It is heavenly, and usually a little hotter than the soy curry.

All of this goodness is served on injera, a flat bread that resembles a pancake covered with little air holes. For an extra $4, you can order the naturally gluten-free teff injera, made with only teff flour. Otherwise, your meal will come with injera made with a blend of teff, wheat, and barley flour. In both cases, the flour is simply mixed with water and left to ferment. This gives the injera its signature mildly sour flavor.

Don’t expect any silverware! The extra bread on the platter is torn into pieces and used to scoop. DO NOT fall into the trap of using a huge piece of bread to scoop a small amount of food! You’ll fill up quickly. Instead, use a small piece of bread to scoop as much food as you can without looking ridiculous 🙂 Don’t worry if your hands get a little messy, each person will be given a small bowl of water for hand washing.

Seasoned Tea is the most popular beverage at Little Africa, but if you’re worried about spicy food I suggest ordering a mango or guava juice. They work as well as milk at cooling your tongue.

Questions or Comments? Leave them below!

hospital food and re-re-re-repeats

Yesterday turned out to be a very long day for me and Mumra. And have you ever tried to find delicious, healthy food at a hospital? Well, at least at this particular hospital, you’d be out of luck.

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They did have a salad bar, definitely nothing like my beloved Whole Foods salad bar, though! But…it was okay. They had veggie burgers, but they weren’t vegan. All the actual meals included meat or fish, and everything else had dairy in it, except the fries. The fries were OK. In the refrigerated section, I did manage to find some hummus.

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It’s nice that it’s filled with love, but store-bought hummus just isn’t the same as homemade. It’s always just a little off – maybe because it’s made with oil or something? But anyway, it did fill me up.

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After 7+ hours at the hospital (for me, but many more for Mumra), we needed some real GOOD food. And hot drinks, like maybe…spiced tea at Little Africa. And the all-you-can-eat special.

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By the way, here I am, showing my face on the blog for the first time ever. This is my special blog smile – I tried to use only the most flattering picture….

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The first round…

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The second round. We didn’t quite clean the plate like usual, but I cannot believe how much we ate. I think the two of us ate as much last night as three of us ate Thursday night. The worst part is I got up extra early Friday morning to go to the gym and work off Thursday’s dinner. And then. I ate even more Friday night. It will take me two hours Monday to get back on track!

obligatory Little Africa post

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It seems like it’s been too long since the last time I posted anything about my favorite restaurant ever, in the world, Little Africa. JMoney and I went tonight, and it just so happened J’s BFF was free, and decided to join us.

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I don’t know what I liked best – the food, or these two guys together.

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Don’t drink this water, it is for hand washing. Yes, someone did drink it at least once….
(take a moment and enjoy the bling)

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After eating all of this, we had a bit more of our favorites brought out. Big mistake. I really have to get to bed so I can get up early and hop on the AMT for an hour before work. Yikes. But everything was So. Good.

Thanks for dinner, JMoney – and thank you, Prototeeze, for the drinks!