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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Here's to healthy gallbladders and no mosquitoes!

This is how long it's been since I've even looked at my blog... I logged on to type a new entry and I found this one that was already written, just never published! I wrote it back on 4/27/11. So without further ado, here are a couple of radish and fennel recipes that will improve your digestion and ward off mosquitoes!

For those of you who don't get out much have the luxury to peruse fresh produce stands, you may be stuck with whatever Publix has to offer. If that's your situation, I am so sad for you. Maybe take a Saturday and check out some of the produce stands that are a little out of your way. It's worth it!!

Radishes are one of my favorite vegetables. I enjoy them cut up raw on a salad but recently I discovered how great they are when you roast them. The flavor it less sharp and slightly sweeter. Very tasty! If you turn your nose at radishes, here are a few reasons to give them a try. Radishes are an excellent source of vitamin C, calcium, and contain cancer-protective properties! They also increase the flow of bile, therefore they help to maintain a healthy gallbladder and liver, and improve digestion.

Now I know you can find radishes in Publix but it's usually without their green stems still attached. If you can find radishes with the greens still attached at the top then definitely buy those! The radishes you find at produce stands will have the greens attached usually.   Radish greens are very sandy and gritty.  Make sure you wash them in a couple changes of water and spin dry.  I wouldn't skip adding the greens to this salad.  I think they really add to the look and flavor!

Roasted Radish & Potato Salad
For the vinaigrette, whisk:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard (I used 1 tbsp because I love Dijon!)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad, toss:
1 lb radishes, trimmed and quartered (reserve radish greens)
1 lb new potatoes, quartered
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions (about 3)

Preheat oven to 425 F with a large baking sheet inside.  For the vinaigrette, whisk together vinegar, 3 tbsp oil, Dijon, parsley, and dill in a bowl until combined; season with salt and pepper and set aside.  For the salad, toss radishes, potatoes, 2 tbsp oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl to coat.  Transfer mixture to hot baking sheet in oven.  Roast mixture until golden, 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through roasting.  Stir radish greens into roasted radishes and potatoes; return to oven for 2 minutes more.  Transfer roasted mixture to a large bowl and toss with vinaigrette and scallions until all the ingredients are coated.  Season salad with salt and pepper.

Fennel is another one of those vegetables that some might be afraid to try. Don't be. Fennel is a very flavorful vegetable with a licoricey flavor. You can eat them raw or cooked. This is another vegetable that is delightfully sweet when roasted. Just chop the stems off and cut up the bulb like you would cut up an onion.  I think fennel is a great compliment to salads and just so happens to go perfectly with the carrot puree recipe below.  Both recipes come from the book Color Me Vegan.

Roasted Fennel
4 fennel bulbs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cut off the stems of the fennel, slice the fennel in half lengthwise, place the cut side down, and cut into 1/2 inch slices.  Toss on a baking sheet with oil and vinegar (I would whisk them together first and then drizzle over fennel to coat), and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread evenly on baking sheet.  Roast for 25-30 minutes until tender, turning the slices after about 15 minutes. 

Fun facts about fennel:  Fennel has been found to have potent antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.  It is also an effective repellent against mosquitoes.

Carrot Puree
1/2 cup vegetable stock
5 or 6 large carrots, cut into uniform chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/8 tsp ground cloves (I would say more like just a pinch, or 1/16 tsp)
1 to 2 tbsp nondairy milk (soy, rice, or almond- whatever you have on hand)
1 tbsp light brown sugar or maple syrup
1 tbsp nondairy butter (Earth Balance)

Bring stock to a boil.  Add the carrots and salt.  Cover and cook until soft, about 20 minutes, adjusting the heat to maintain a slow simmer.  Drain the carrots (save the broth) and transfer to a food processor along with the ground cloves.  Add the broth and milk (enough to get the consistency you want) and puree until almost smooth.  Add the brown sugar and butter and continue pureeing.  Add more salt to taste.

If you're making this to go with the roasted fennel then just plate the fennel and then place a dollop of the carrot puree over the fennel.  The flavor combination on this is very tasty!

I hope that you will give these unique recipes a try! It's worth the trip to the produce stand.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Super "Kale" afragalisticexpialadoshus

I really wanted to write a blog about kale because before I started on this vegan journey I pretty much hated kale, and for no good reason at all. I thought it was a strictly decorative green that no one really ate. It's most commonly recognized as the tough, little, green, shrubby thing on the corner or your dinner plate that I would usually offer a friend five bucks to eat just for laughs. I now know that kale is a wonderful, delicious green that gets a lot of flack.

Before I get into the part of the recipe portion of this blog entry I want to just say a few positive things about kale for all those kale-haters out there. According to many nutritionists, kale can lower your cholesterol and it reduces the risk for some cancers including cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate. And finally, kale acts as an antioxidant and and anti-inflammatory. So go get yourself a big bunch of it and start cooking!

One of my first blog entries included a recipe for kale chips. Kale chips are a wonderfully nutritious replacement for fried potato chips. When kale is baked and sprinkled with a little sea salt, they become tasty little leaves that I actually prefer over greasy potato chips. They are super light and very crispy. Anytime I'm preparing something in the kitchen my dogs assume their positions in what I call "the drop zone." Chloe backs herself into the corner of the kitchen where I do most of my prep and Millie stands right under the sink where all of my vegetable scraps go. Millie particularly loves kale. As I pull the leafy parts of the kale away from the stem, she gives me the look reminding me that she was once a homeless, starving little street dog that often ate leaves and dirt for meals (it's amazing what you can read from a dog's face, haha). So I give her the kale stems and she is the happiest little girl in the world. Chloe, on the other hand, would never accept a vegetable scrap unless it was covered in cheese or peanut butter.

So here is a recipe for kale chips (again). Give it a try. I bet you won't be disappointed. And to go along with this recipe I am including a little video clip of Millie enjoying the finished product so that you can see how really crispy these chips turn out. Turn up your volume and listen for the crunch!

Baked crispy kale chips
The biggest secret to getting the kale super-crisp is to dry them in a salad spinner. If there is moisture on the leaves, the kale will steam, not crisp. Also, do not salt the kale until after they have come out of the oven. If you salt beforehand, the salt will just cause the kale to release moisture, thus steaming instead of crisping.

4 giant handfuls of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces and tough stems removed (about 1/3 pound)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place the kale leaves into a salad spinner and spin all of the water out of the kale. Dump the water and repeat one or two times more just to make sure that the kale is extra dizzy and dry. Use a towel to blot any extra water on the leaves. Place the kale on the baking sheet.
3. Drizzle olive oil over the kale leaves and use your hands to toss and coat the leaves. Bake in the oven for 12-20 minutes until leaves are crisp. Take a peek at the 12 minute mark - the timing all depends on how much olive oil you use. Just use a spatula or tongs to touch the leaves, if they are paper-thin crackly, the kale is done. If the leaves are still a bit soft, leave them in for another 2 minutes. Do not let the leaves turn brown (they'll be burnt and bitter) Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and serve.

When I made these kale chips I had a lot of left over kale because my produce stand sells kale in ridiculously large (and ridiculously cheap, about $1) bunches.  I wasn't going to let it go to waste of course so I searched Google for more kale recipes.  I stumbled across this blog called 365 Days of Kale.  Now, it's not a vegan blog, but it certainly gives you some great uses for kale.  One of my favorite things in the world of food is potato pancakes!  There's nothing like a little, brown potato pancake with a dollop of good apple sauce on top.  So YUM!  So this is a recipe for potato pancakes with kale, obviously, and carrot, onion, and herbs. They came out very good! Initially I thought I might not put onion in them next time but I had three other people try them and they all said they would leave them as is. You can really make these your own and get creative with the ingredients. I think next time I will try them with zucchini instead of carrot.

Potato Pancakes with Kale

6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
2 large carrots, scraped
1 medium yellow or white (not sweet) onion, peeled
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup parsley, finely minced (or use other green herbs you might have on hand)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen kale, (remove the large center stems and then chop small)
2 large eggs (obviously use a vegan substitute here; I used 1 tbsp ground flax whisked together with 3 tbsp water)
1 Tbsp canola or extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Applesauce, for garnish (I prefer a good, chunky applesauce)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Spray large non-stick baking sheet with cooking spray or cut parchment paper to fit a baking sheet.

Using a food processor or large hand grater, coarsely grate potatoes and carrots and onion. Place grated vegetables in large colander. Set colander into large bowl so it nestles securely. Hand-squeeze vegetables to wring out as much liquid as possible (you can save this liquid for future soup broth). If vegetables still feel wet, pat dry with paper towels. Transfer vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Stir in flour, parsley/herbs, kale, eggs (egg sub), oil, salt and pepper, making sure ingredients are well combined.

Spoon small mounds of potato mixture on baking sheet to form 2 1/2 inch pancakes (about 12 per cookie sheet), leaving a 1/2 inch between each. Pat down flat gently if needed. Bake pancakes until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes per side, turning once with spatula. Transfer to plates or platter and serve at once with applesauce. Makes about 24 - 2-½ inch pancakes or 8-12 servings.

Even after the kale chips and the potato pancakes I STILL had more kale to use. Not much, but I wasn't going to waste it. I wanted to saute it this time. So I decided to make one of these make-it-up-as-you-go-along, use-up-leftover-stuff recipes. Yes, that's a technical term. I had about a single serving of pasta to use, some kale, and about a 1/3 of a package of dried porcini mushrooms. Basically I just reconstituted the mushrooms in some white wine and vegetable broth. Cooked the pasta. Sauteed the kale in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. I added a little bit of corn starch to the liquid used for the mushrooms to let it thicken slightly to make a light sauce, then I tossed it all together. It was one of the most delicious dinners I've ever made. I just love it when things work out!

Well, I guess that's about all I have on kale for right now. I hope I have inspired you to give kale a chance.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bake yourself silly!

It seems like forever ago that I've posted new recipes and now I have a bit of a back-log. So this blog will contain a few recipes for baked goods that I've tried and enjoyed.  I'll have to write a separate blog for the non-baked, more savory dishes so you are no inundated with a bunch of random recipes.

First up are scones!  I love scones.  They are like fancy, triangular biscuits.  I have tried sweet and savory varieties and I have found that when it comes to scones, I don't discriminate!  Last weekend I made Skinny Bitch Orange Scones, recipe by the skinny bitch herself, Kim Barnouin.  The recipe worked perfectly.  These have a lovely orange essence and light orange flavor yet they aren't really sweet, which makes it perfect for adding a nice jam on top.  YUM!!

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar (plus 1 tbs for later)
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup orange juice (plus 1 tbs for later)
1 tbs orange zest
1 tsp orange extract (I used lemon because I didn't have orange)
1/2 cup Earth Balance

Set oven to 350 F.  Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In another bowl, whisk together orange juice, orange extract and orange zest. Then add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the Earth Balance and mix well. Lightly flour a flat surface. Knead dough for a minute, then form into a small pizza crust shape, lightly flattening it into desired thickness. Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place on a baking sheet. Use your finger or pastry brush to spread the extra orange juice on each scone, then sprinkle with the extra sugar. Bake 15 minutes. Let cool. Serve with your favorite jam.

Here's another oh-so-yummy one to try, Raspberry Jam Swirl Crumbcake.  I found this recipe on Post Punk Kitchen.  This recipe turns out so moist a delicious. You could really use whatever flavor jam that you like best, or none at all.

For the cake:
3/4 cup soy milk (or any non-dairy milk)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup raspberry jam (My FAVORITE jam is Polaner Fancy Fruit with Fiber, with only 6 grams of sugar and 3 grams of fiber per tbs!!)

For the topping:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease an 8×8 round springform pan or regular square pan. Measure out the soy milk for the cake and add the teaspoon of apple cider vinegar; set aside to curdle. Then begin preparing the topping.

Make the topping:
In a small mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Drizzle in the canola oil by the tablespoonful (you can eyeball it, no reason to whip out a tablespoon.) Use your fingers to swish around the mixture until crumbs form. Alternate swishing and adding canola oil until all oil is used and large crumbs have formed. Some of the topping is still going to be sandy and that’s fine, just so long as you have mostly nice big crumbs. You can add another tablespoon of oil if needed.

Make the cake:
In a large mixing bowl, mix together curdled milk, sugar, canola oil and vanilla. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until smooth. Pour cake batter into prepared pan. Add spoonfuls of jam randomly on top of the batter and use a knife to swirl it in. Evenly sprinkle on the topping and pat it down just a bit. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted through the center comes out clean.

And one last baked item for you. This one is from Color Me Vegan.  I thought the Kiwi Banana Muffins from the Green Chapter sounded interesting.  I knew I liked kiwi and banana, but I wasn't sure how I felt about them all smushed together in a muffin.  They came out pretty good.  I thought the kiwi was slightly sour when paired with the banana so I'm still kind of on the fence about how I really feel about these.  I brought them to work though and asked for an honest opinion and I was told they were good.  I will say that the baking time on these (for my oven, which may need to be replaced soon) was WAY off!  I ended up baking mine for about 3 times longer than this recipe suggests.  Just a heads-up on that.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Zest from 1 medium orange
3 ripe bananas, peeled
8 ripe kiwis, peeled, divided
1/2 cup nondairy butter (Earth Balance)
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a muffin tin or fill with cupcake liners. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Set aside. In a medium bowl, or in a food processor or blender, mash (or puree) the bananas and 5 of the kiwis until smooth. Add the butter and sugar and stir to combine. Chop the remaining 3 kiwis into bite-sized pieces. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, add the chopped kiwi, and stir to combine. Spoon the batter into the individual muffin tins and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. This might take longer if your muffins are on the larger side. Cool for 10 minutes on wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Non-food vegan reviews: Arbonne

I'd like to start this blog by thanking all of my blog followers and loyal readers. I have loved writing about my vegan experiences and hope it has inspired you to just give it a try, even if only for one day. I often wonder exactly who is out there reading (people besides my few close friends that are here for moral support). Turns out there are others out there that are actually reading this which is so exciting to me! After one of my many Darbster reviews, I received an e-mail from, Nancy, a district manager for Arbonne International. My first reaction was excitement because I was so happy to receive a message from someone I didn't know who was actually reading my blog. And my second reaction was even more excitement because Nancy offered to give me some samples to try out so that I could review them on my blog. How cool is that?!?

Before I get into the tofu and potatoes of my review, I'll just quickly say a few things about Arbonne. Before Nancy messaged me, I had never heard of Arbonne.  Arbonne offers 100% vegan-certified beauty, health & wellness products that are NEVER tested on animals and they do not contain any animal by-products (which is extremely rare in the world of cosmetics).  Using animal-friendly products has always been very important to me, however it's becoming nearly impossible to avoid buying the "mean products."  You may see the words "final product not tested on animals," but that doesn't mean that the company doesn't test on animals at all, they just don't test the "final product."  So Arbonne makes it easy for us and doesn't test or use animals in any capacity.  And that's just the beginning.  Their products are made up of premium botanical ingredients that are 100% pure and totally safe for your skin, and the Earth.  I think when it comes to shopping for cruelty-free products, the eco-friendly part may be just an afterthought.  Not with Arbonne.  Check out the Arbonne Green Commitment!

I'm going to start out with some skincare products that I tried. Nancy gave me six samples from
the Arbonne FC5 line. FC stands for the fresh cell technology, and the 5 is for the nutrients that are extracted from 5 different fruits and vegetables.    I tried the following face products: Hydrating Cleanser + Refresher, Nurturing Day Lotion with SPF 20, Moisturizing Night Creme, and the Hydrating Eye Creme.  All of these products have a lovely, natural, and "fruity" smell.  And by fruity I don't mean too sweet or perfumey.  They are all very pure smelling.  The cleanser has fresh strawberry cell extracts.  You can tell based on the thick texture and consistency of these products that they are very concentrated and a little goes a long way.  I loved that the Day Lotion, made with fresh kiwi cell extracts, had an SPF 20.  I have found it hard to find lotions with sunscreen in them that aren't too greasy or cause added shine throughout the day.  This lotion absorbed into my skin very well and was not greasy at all.  The Night Creme has fresh mango cell extracts and also absorbed quite well, just somewhat slower.  Most night creams tend to be thicker to keep your skin hydrated throughout the night.  It went on nicely and wasn't uncomfortable to sleep in at all.  (Plus is makes your pillows smell like a very fancy spa-- bonus!) The Eye Creme, also containing kiwi extracts, was equally as nice.  Nancy also gave me the following FC5 body products: Invigorating Body Cleanser and Conditioning Body Moisturizer. The cleanser was light a fresh and not drying at all. I felt like it really did do it's job by cleansing my skin and again, the smell was lovely. I really liked the Body Moisture too. It contains fresh pumpkin cell extracts, however it does not smell like pumpkins. It has the same light and fresh smell that all the FC5 products have. I moisturized my legs in the morning and they were still soft and smooth by the end of the day. Overall, I was thrilled with the results of these products. 

At 28 years old, I still have the occasional breakout and blemishes so I was definitely interested in the Arbonne Clear Advantage products. The key ingredients are Salicylic acid (1%), alfalfa, dandelion leaf, licorice root, peppermint, orange peel, mallow flower, wild pansy, hops extract, vitamins A, C and E.  I have tried SO many products like this over the years. Some have worked as far as eliminating the blemish, but it usually leaves your skin somewhat dry. Once again, a little goes a long way with the Clarifying Wash. As soon as you squeeze it from the tube you can tell how thick and concentrated it is. It's clear and does not contain any of those harsh, sandpaper-like scrubbers. Since I use a Clarisonic, I don't prefer the little exfoliating scrubber bits. Another thing I liked about this product is that it never left my skin looking red or inflamed. I have very sensitive skin, so a lot of acne-related products tend to make me look a bit red. Not the case with this one.

I was lucky enough to be able to try a couple of cosmetic items, too. The makeup primer is the BEST makeup primer I have ever used. I am generally not a fan of makeup primers because it's just yet another thing to smear on your face and it can tend to feel heavy. This is the lightest, most silky primer. It doesn't really have any kind of scent, which I like because it doesn't compete or clash with the scents of the face wash and lotion. It creates the perfect, super-thin barrier between your face and the makeup, not that the makeup would hurt your skin, but it may absorb into your skin throughout the day.
I mentioned to Nancy that I am a lip gloss junkie. I always have at least two or three lip glosses with me at any given time. I tried out all the Lip Polish colors and my favorite was the Posh color. It's a light, nude-pink color. I think it looks great with any type of eye makeup because it's so soft and neutral. It's also not sticky or slimy and most importantly, it's not glittery! I cannot stand when cosmetic companies put shimmer and glitter in their lip glosses. Arbonne's gloss, which contains mango butter, aloe, sunflower oil, and vitamins A and E, gives you a subtle shine without looking like a pre-teen on her way to a Miley Cyrus concert. And I loved the fact that it wasn't flavored. I don't know why so many lip glosses are flavored. I'm not eating my lip gloss, are you? And I also don't need flavoring on my mouth at all times. So thank you, Arbonne, for making a great, adult lip gloss. I am definitely going to ordering it in Posh!

And finally, I asked to try the Arbonne Protein Shakes from the Arbonne Essentials line of products. Before going vegan, I occasionally would drink a protein shake before a work out. And let me tell you, when it comes to protein shakes, all are NOT created equal. Many of them are just not pleasant tasting at all and some contain milk and whey products making them no good for vegans. I was very surprised and pleased with Arbonne's protein shake. I tasted both the chocolate and vanilla flavors. They didn't have that gross, chalky texture and taste. They were very milkshake-like and just yummy! I love to drink them before my workouts during the week. They are just the ticket to cure my late afternoon sweet tooth and they don't leave me feeling too full or bloated. Another plus, they contain calcium AND folic acid, both of which are very important to women's health. I love these protein shakes!

And since I love to share-the-love when possible, I told Claudia that I was in touch with Nancy from Arbonne. Nancy was nice enough to let Claudia take home the Arbonne RE9 Advanced anti-aging system for a few days. Claudia reported back with satisfaction. She loved the citrusy scent and liked that the Day Creme had a non-greasy SPF 20. These products, like the ones that I tried, are also very concentrated so a little bit goes a long way. I know I have said that a lot in this review but I think it's important because you are making an investment in high-quality products so it's nice to know that you are getting more than just a few uses from them.  PS- Arbonne doesn't forget about the guys!  There are skincare and wellness products for men, too!  There are also products for kids and babies!

I love everything I tried from Arbonne and will definitely be purchasing some products. If you would like additional information on any of these products, or if you would like to know what else is available (like vitamins!), check out the Arbonne website and contact Nancy Kumpulainen (561-254-6519 or  Also check out

Thanks you so much, Nancy, for the awesome opportunity to include these great vegan products in my blog!  I will be spreading the word for sure!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A few rawviews

I think everyone pretty much knows by now what the vegan "diet" consists of. I use the air bunnies because I hate the word diet then I talk about veganism, but you get what I mean. In a nutshell it's no meat, dairy, or eggs... it's 100% plant-based. So there's the vegan "diet" and then there's the raw "diet." Raw food is vegan by default, but it's different in that the foods you are eating are uncooked and unprocessed.

It was a Friday and we needed to order lunch at the office. Unfortunately, there aren't too many places around us to order a vegan meal that's actually good, so occasionally we drive downtown to The Raw Kitchen or to Darbster. I'll start with The Raw Kitchen. Since it was difficult to decide on one dish, we ordered two and split them so that we would have the opportunity to experience both. On the left is the Nori Wrap made up of fresh coconut meat, marinated sprouted teff and white sesame seeds, julienned market vegetables wrapped in nori roll with sesame ginger sauce. And on the right is the Mac Daddy which is a macadamia nut salad layered with zucchini, avocado, tomato, turmeric, scallions with eggplant pancetta on a bed of spinach with smokey chipotle vegan mayonnaise. Both were good choices however we declared the nori wrap as the winner.
I love the "sea" taste of the nori and the light, fresh taste of the raw veggies together. (In case you don't know what nori is, it's a type of edible seaweed that is often sold in sheets and used in many varieties of sushi rolls.) The coconut meat also provided a pleasant, subtle sweetness which went great with the sesame ginger sauce. I also enjoyed the crunch of the teff and the sesame seeds. It made for great texture. The Mac Daddy was good, however I probably wouldn't order it again. It was mostly avocado, which I happen to love, but I felt like I needed to eat it with chips. It was more like a big pile of really good guacamole. The macadamia nuts were marinated which made them soft. Oh, I forgot to mention the eggplant pancetta! That was very good. It was salty and smokey and I thought it was a nice compliment to the salad. It wasn't bad, but it just didn't knock my socks off. I would definitely order the nori wrap again though!

My second raw review is from Darbster. My mom, Jack, and I went there for brunch last Sunday. Jack and I were brave and went for a raw selection. My mom had the challah french toast, still vegan of course, but not raw. I'll take what I can get at this point. Anyway, I ordered the Raw Wild Berry Pancakes served with eggplant bacon, portabella sausage, raw agave syrup, and fruit. This was AWESOME!! My favorite raw food meal to date. The pancakes are made from bananas, nuts and other fruits. The dominant flavor is banana. They were very good. The closest thing I can compare the flavor to is banana-nut bread. They were thin, yet moist. The texture is obviously not similar to a fluffy buttermilk pancake, but it's not trying to be. It was served with fresh blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and sliced banana. The raw agave syrup was every bit as good, if not better than what most people consider to be "normal" pancake syrup, i.e. Aunt Jemima's high-fructose-corn-syrup-infused "maple syrup." The agave syrup also paired quite well with the portabella sausage. This didn't have a "sausagey" flavor, but it was still savory and delicious.
The eggplant bacon was very similar to the eggplant pancetta that The Raw Kitchen served with their Mac Daddy salad. It was seasoned a little differently but the texture was the same. It was smokey, salty, and yummy! As you can see by my plate, I didn't really enjoy my meal! Haha... I seriously don't know how Chef Seth continues to turn out delicious and healthy meals. I also wanted to comment on how magnificent the orange juice was! Fresh-squeezed, I'm sure. The color was as glorious as the taste! Another A++++++ for Darbster!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Leggo my eggo...plant!

Every time I go to the produce stand I see all these different types of eggplant (please disregard the rutabagas that creeped into the picture). I have been wanting to try a recipe for baba ganoush. If you don't know what baba ganoush is, then be prepared to be enlightened. Baba ganoush is an Arab dish that is essentially mashed up eggplant dip. Translation: a glorious, creamy, smokey dip that is as fun to eat as it is to say- BABA GANOUSH!! :) It is easy to make and it's a good reason to eat veggies since it's a dip. According to, another reason to nosh on this purple gift from nature is because it's a very good source of antioxidants and dietary fiber. Because of its low soluble carbohydrate content and high fiber, it is the best diet choice for diabetics. One full serving of eggplant is very low in calories. A cup full of sliced one-inch cubes contains only 33 calories. Eggplant is also rich in minerals such as copper, potassium and manganese and is a very good source of Vitamins B1 and B6. So what are you waiting for?

Here is a recipe for baba ganoush.

1 large eggplant (or two small/medium eggplants)
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic (fine chop)
1 pinch cumin (ground)
1 tablespoon flaxseed oil (optional)
1-1/2 teaspoons Italian parsley
1 teaspoons cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and broil in the oven for 8-10 minutes (or until the skin is all charred). Then flip it over, flesh-side up, and broil another 6-8 minutes. Take out and let cool. Remove the stem and charred skin. It's okay not to get every single piece of skin. I think it adds to the smokey flavor of the dip a little bit. So then you just add the eggplant to a food processor along with all the other ingredients and pulse until smooth. Baba ganoush is generally served cold but I can't help myself and I usually snag a few bites while it's still hot. This is great served with pita chips and fresh veggies. Enjoy!

In other news... one of the blogs I follow, Diet, Dessert and Dogs, posted a recipe for "happy brownies" that contain hemp seed, hence the name. They sounded yummy and I thought it would be a good opportunity to use hemp seed. According to The Nourishing Gourmet, hemp is a high protein seed containing all nine of the essential amino acids (like flax) and is supposed to be very digestible. It also has high amounts of fatty acids and fiber and vitamin E. And, get this, unlike soy which has super high amounts of phytic acid (that anti-nutrient that prevents us from absorbing minerals), hemp seed doesn’t contain phytic acid. At the very least, this makes hemp seed a step up from soy. So anyway, I wanted to make the brownies so I went to Whole Foods for just a few ingredients that I didn't have. I realized very quickly that I was going to need to get a second job if I wanted to make these "happy brownies." The coconut sugar was $12 a bag. The vanilla stevia was $9, and the hemp seed was $17/lb (even though I only needed about 1/8 lb. So I nixed the brownies and just decided to get my hemp fix from hemp milk ice cream! I do it for you, my loyal blog followers! Haha, any excuse to eat ice cream. I got the coffee biscotti flavor and ate it with a vegan chocolate chip cookie from the bakery at Whole Foods (those are just too good to be true) and it was very tasty and much less stressful than baking a $100 batch of not-so-happy brownies.

Oh, and one more thing before I go... I went out to dinner with my Mom last week. She was in the mood for Mexican food. I knew I was going to make my selection from the vegetarian menu. I was brave and ordered a burrito (minus cheese and sour cream) that had sauteed cactus inside. I was thrilled with my decision because it had a very unique, tangy and sour flavor that was unexpected and quite delicious! So next time you're in a Mexican restaurant, go for the cactus!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Darbster's does it again!

I have to open with this picture because just when I thought I loved Darbster, I had this and now I'm officially obsessed!!! Chef Seth, you've really outdone yourself this time. I hope you add this to your menu (I'm begging!) because I am having withdrawals already and it's only been a week! (Also- I apologize for the picture... there is a piece of sushi missing because I ate it... sorry, I just couldn't help myself.) Ok, let me just calm down and explain. This AMAZING dish was a special last week. It's Spicy "Tuna" Black Rice Sushi with Wakame Salad. It was made with roasted organic beets as the "tuna," sriracha mayo, and tempura avocado in a nori wrap. Now, all you non-vegans out there, please don't be turned off by the beets. I actually have grown to love beets so I had no problem with it, however, if you think you don't like beets then I'd be willing to bet a LOT of money that this dish would change your mind. I don't even know where to start.
It was spicy, SO flavorful, and the tempura avocado was this delicious, creamy little bonus in the middle. Then with the soy sauce and spicy sriracha mayo on the side... oh, just stop it!!! It's insanely good. I've been dreaming about it ever since that night. The sushi was the star of the night but I also have to mention the soup AND dessert I had. Equally as great, I started with the Smokey Organic Split Pea Soup. The flavor and texture was right on! It was smooth and creamy and full of great flavor. It was a breezy night on that deck so it warmed me up perfectly. Split pea soup is one of my all-time favorite soups and needless to say, Darbster, once again, did not disappoint!

In addition to the food, one of the things that I just love about eating at Darbster is the casual, peaceful atmosphere. It's outside, beautifully landscaped all around and there are always fresh flowers on the tables which I LOVE! To me, there's nothing more tacky than silk flowers (that are dusty more times than not) on a table where you will be eating the most amazing food. So I'll get right to the dessert now. I really hate that I tend to overuse OMG, but I'm sorry... OMG! Oreo & Creme Cheezcake (gluten free). You had me at Oreo. Yes, we'll take one with two spoons please! Seriously... if you're wondering if vegan cheezcake is really that good, stop wondering and go get yourself a piece! Hurry! YUMMMMMMMMMMMM!!! You can just see the texture and yummy layers of flavor in this cheezcake. It was the perfect balance of cream-cheezy and chocolaty flavors. Wonderfully rich.... it was really hard to share this one!

Last week I also went to The Raw Kitchen in downtown West Palm Beach for lunch with Claudia and Tracy. I had a Groupon so that really helped because it's a tad on the pricey side. It's pretty new and small, yet welcoming inside. I ordered the Pasta Primavera which was fresh zucchini spiral spaghetti, marinated in olive oil and a hint of garlic then topped with a variety of seasoned organic vegetables and basil chiffonade. They brought it out and it looked so colorful and delicious, however it needed a sauce I thought. Once I got past the vegetables on top I was just left with the raw zucchini that was cut in the shape
of thin noodles. I love the idea of the zucchini noodles though. Claudia ordered the Pad Thai. It was thin, flat zucchini noodles with julienned vegetables, savory-sweet almond sauce with a touch of serrano pepper. The sauce on this was was really good! I ended up ordering a side of it to put over my noodles. And you ought to know by now, I almost always order dessert. This time we ordered the Chocolate Coconut Parfait, a delectable chocolate mousse, fresh coconut, goji berries and vanilla cream. Now THIS was great!! The mousse was so rich! The three of us split this, well actually Claudia just had one bite and then Tracy and I polished it off. I'm just thankful that it's all the way downtown and not so easy to "swing by" and pick up some mousse! For my first raw dining experience I thought it went well. I'm definitely not opposed to raw meals, but I doubt I could eat raw all the time. Sometimes I want a little tempura avocado with my sushi!! :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hummus shmummus

It's only Thursday and already I have so much to share! Getting right to it, I gathered my shopping list to make 3 little recipes for the week, spicy black bean "hummus" (I will explain the air bunnies* in a minute), bok choy and Chinese mushrooms over soba noodles, and Asian edamame salad. All are pretty basic recipes so I made my veggie list and hit the produce stand. This week I treated myself and went to Rorabeck's on Military. It's pretty much out of the way for me but I just happened to be in the area. I much prefer it to the one near my house! I know this sounds nerdy, but I just love being there and looking at all the great colors and fresh vegetables. You find yourself picking up peppers that you don't even need for a recipe. And their apples are just gorgeous and huge! There's just something about a huge mound of lemons that makes me happy and reminds me of summer.

*Refer to the Kiss me, I'm vegan blog to find out about air bunnies.

I walked in and filled my bag with all the veggies I needed for the week, and some fruit. I bought 5 baby bok choy, a bunch of green onions, garlic, a shallot, some lemons, 3 plums (not pictured), a hunk of ginger, and a huge jalapeno. My total came to $4.47! I get home and get everything unloaded when I realize that I forgot to buy an avocado. Bummer! So I wasn't about to go back to the produce stand for just one avocado when there is a Publix within walking distance. I go to Publix, pick out my avocado and go to the checkout. I almost fell over when I saw the total on the screen. $3.69 for ONE measly avocado!!! Are you kidding me?? I almost didn't buy it because I was so outraged... but I really needed it. How irritating though!!

The first thing I made was the black bean "hummus." The reason it's called "hummus" is because the word hummus means mashed chickpea. So technically this recipe isn't hummus because it's made out of black beans, but who cares, right? Hummus-shmummus! I was very impressed with how this turned out. It is definitely my favorite hummus so far!! This is a MUST try!  It's hearty and spicy, just an all-around satisying dip.  Ok, I'm a nerd and arranged mine on a plate with the perfect amount of hummus on a corn tortilla chip and a piece of avocado to top it off. I then squeezed some lime over all of it and hit with with some salt. The flavor combo was great!! I think these would be super-simple little finger-foods for entertaining.  And no, you can't taste the olives, all you olive-haters!  It just adds some saltiness.  I used pitted kalamata olives.

Spicy Black Bean and Olive "Hummus"
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
10 black olives, pitted
1 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame tahini
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Paprika or chili power for garnish

Add the beans, olives, pepper, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper to a food processor or blender. Process or blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Garnish with paprika and serve. Yield: 1 1/4 cups

The second recipe I made was Asian edamame salad. This was so simple. It can be enjoyed as a side dish or served over a nice, leafy salad. The tangy, Asian dressing is full of great flavor. It contains toasted sesame oil, one of my favorite flavors! This is too good and too simple not to make from time to time. It's a perfect snack to keep in the fridge.

Asian-Inspired Edamame Salad
8 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
16 ounces frozen, shelled edamame
1/4 cup seasoned or plain rice vinegar
1 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 carrots, shredded
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (raw or toasted)

Place the water and salt in a soup pot, and bring to a boil. Add the edamame, and cook for five minutes. Rinse immediately with cold water, drain well, and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, tamari, agave, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the drained edamame to the bowl, along with the carrots and sesame seeds. Toss well to combine. Chill at least two hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Yield: 3 cups

If you can't find frozen edamame for this recipe, which is what happened to me, you can use the pre-cooked edemame that is vacuum-packed and just skip all the prep for the beans. Just make the dressing and toss together with the carrots and sesame seeds! By the way, I'm still mad that Publix didn't have frozen edemame! They had at least 5 or 6 different brands of lima beans but not one kind of edamame. Very annoying!!  Both the hummus and the edamame salad recipes came from Color Me Vegan.

I found this next recipe on I made my own adjustments and it was a winner for sure!!! This is the closest to that real, yummy Chinese take-out that you can get, only it's a billion times better because you know what went into it. Soba noodles go great with this but you can also serve it over rice or any other grain.

Bok Choy & Chinese Mushrooms
1 1/2 cups vegetarian flavored broth (I used this to reconstitute my mushrooms first, then re-used it to saute the onions and garlic)
2 green onions, sliced thin, divided
1 largish clove fresh garlic, minced or pressed
1" piece fresh ginger, minced or pressed
8 - 12 oz mushrooms, cut to 1/2" pieces (I used 8 oz fresh shiitakes plus 1/3 oz dried procini mushrooms which I reconstituted in vegetable broth to yield about 4 oz of mushrooms)
5 baby bok choy, quartered (use stems and green parts)
2 tablespoons cornstarch + 1/4 cup cool water
Salt and pepper to season

1. Pour broth into skillet. Add 1/2 green onion, the garlic and the ginger. Saute for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms.
2. Add the bok choy, reduce to low heat and cover. Steam bok choy for 5 or 6 minutes.
3. Thicken the broth with corn starch mixture. Make it slightly thicker than you want the sauce to be, since the moisture from the boy choy will thin it a bit.
4. Serve over soba noodles or rice.

That's pretty much it as far as recipes I tried for the first time. I am going to need another blog entry to share my next restaurant reviews!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What up, yo.... gurt?

Before I went vegan, one of my go-to breakfasts during the work week was yogurt with some Kashi Go Lean cereal on top. It seemed to keep me full until lunch. So when I went vegan I was experimenting with different types of non-dairy milks with cereal. My two favorites turned out to be rice milk (original flavor) and almond milk (vanilla). I love the lightness, and for lack of better words, wateriness, of the rice milk. I thought it had a nice, neutral flavor and went well with cereals. The almond milk was slightly sweeter and thicker. The thickness still kind of creeps me out. It feels like I'm drinking coffee creamer or something. After trying out the different milks I moved on to yogurt. The best thing about yogurt is that it's grab-and-go and already in a container, which makes it perfect to have before or at work. I went to Whole Foods and found the yogurt section. It is literally a wall of yogurt. So many different brands and flavors, how would I ever decide?? I picked five. One made from rice, one from almond, one from coconut, and two from soy; all strawberry flavor.

I put all five to the test to find the best brand out there that, in my opinion, was the closest to the yogurt I was used to eating made from cow's milk. All 5 were graded on taste, appearance, texture, nutritional value, and price on a scale from 1 to 5; 1 being poor and 5 being excellent. The brands tested were Wildwood Probiotic Soyogurt, Silk Live! Soy Yogurt, SO Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk Yogurt, Ricera Rice Yogurt, and Amande Cultured Almond Milk Yogurt. After sampling all of them over a week's time, the results are in! I'll go from worst to best.

#5 - Ricera Rice Yogurt -- I have no choice but to start off with YUCK! It scored the lowest in the appearance category. I bought strawberry flavor and it was the grossest shade of pinkish-brown. So NOT appetizing. It makes it hard to enjoy when you can't even stand looking at it. It totally tasted ricey; like someone put rice into a blender. The texture scored in the middle, not good, not bad, as was the price. The plus sides here are that it's low in fat (1 gram) and you get 20% of your daily value of calcium. It's overall score was a 2.4 out of 5.

#4 - Wildwood Probiotic Soyogurt -- The packaging on this one boasts high fiber, which is true. It had the most amount of fiber, 5 grams. However, this was NOT GOOD! It scored the lowest in the taste category and highest in the price category ($0.99). It's texture and appearance were actually very good, but I was unpleasantly surprised when I tasted it! It had a very sour, pungent flavor. I could barely tell it was strawberry. One other plus (which does not mean I'm recommending it) is you get the most protein, 7 grams! Just eat some extra beans or tofu, trust me on this one!

#3 - SO Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk Yogurt -- I was actually really sad that this one only came in 3rd place. I really liked it. It scored very high in taste and highest in appearance and texture. You are also getting 25% of your daily value for calcium with this along with 30% DV of vitamin B12. It's relatively low calorie, 140 calories. Yes, that seems high for a yogurt, which is why I said relatively. I have found that most vegan yogurts average about 150 calories per cup. So this was somewhat on the low side. BUT this big downfalls here are 6 grams of fat and only 1 measly gram of protein. Not exactly worth your time for breakfast. Major bummer.

#2 - Amande Cultured Almond Milk Yogurt -- This one was pretty average. It has decent nutritional value, but has slightly less sugar and slightly more protein and fiber than the coconut one had. In fact, I think it's safe to declare #2 & #3 a tie. I preferred the taste of the coconut one, but this one was slightly more nutritional. Not much to really say about it. It tastes a lot like almond milk.

And the winner is......

#1 - Silk Live! Soy Yogurt -- Scoring the highest in the taste category, the Silk brand had the most genuine yogurt taste, and let's be real, taste really is the most important criteria (second to nutritional value of course). With this one you're getting only 2 grams of fat and 4 grams of protein. Also, 30% DV of calcium and 50% DV of vitamin C ain't bad! The price was a little on the low side at $1.09.

So there you have it, folks. I know you will all sleep much better tonight knowing I have taken the guesswork out of shopping for yogurt.

And just a little bonus restaurant review for you now... I went to Mellow Mushroom in Delray today. The place was very cool. Great atmosphere. It has a big menu that is sure to please everyone. They even had some vegan options which is always nice to see. They had Diaya cheese as an option for pizzas (or an anything else that you would want cheese on or in). I was very excited because when I had the grilled cheese at Darbster, it was made with the "cheddar" Daiya cheese and it was great! Since we were ordering a pizza, they used the shredded Daiya in "mozzarella" flavor. We ordered a mushroom, onion, and sun dried tomato pizza with vegan cheese. It came out and looked awesome! The service was great as well. So I grab my slice and take a bite. My first reaction was "well this is different." The texture of the melted Daiya cheese was kind of gooey and it stuck to my teeth a little bit. The flavor was just okay, I thought. I couldn't tell if it was the powerful flavor of the sun dried tomatoes or the cheese, but something was a bit off. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't great either. I think next time we order a pizza we'll just skip the cheese all together and pile on more veggies. Super cool place though. I'll give Mellow Mushroom another try.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kiss me, I'm vegan!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!! I wanted to do an Irish-themed blog for St. Paddy's day so I figured I'd make a drink. After all, it is what the Irish do best. However this is a drink that you will feel much better about the morning after you shake your shamrocks! GREEN SMOOTHIES!!
This was my first green smoothie, and I can promise you that it won't be my last! I spent some time searching online for green smoothie recipes and there are literally hundreds of different recipes. Since I am the queen of indecision, I figured I'd just make my own. And not to toot my own horn ((TOOT TOOT!!)) but I did good. Here's my special concoction.

Jenny's Green Gulp
1 green apple
2 kiwi
1 frozen banana
1 mango, diced and frozen
1 small cucumber, peeled
1/2 bag of spinach leaves
1/2 to 1 cup of water, depending on desired thickness

Put it in the blender and blend away!

In my searching online for smoothie ideas, I read that fruit and veggie smoothies are a great way for your body to absorb a lot more nutrients! When you just eat vegetables in their whole form, your body is only able to absorb so much. When you throw it all in the blender, everything gets pulverized and many more cells of the vegetable are opened up so when you drink it your body absorbs much more. Plus, it's an EASY and delicious way of getting half a bag of spinach in you, plus all the other stuff you put in it. It's also totally fat free! The only other ingredient besides fruits and veggies is water.

This occasion calls for a good 'ol Irish toast.
May the winds of fortune sail you,
May you sail a gentle sea.
May it always be the other guy
who says, "this drink's on me."

Now, second order of business tonight... another visit to Darbster (well, technically I went last night). You all know by now I have a mild addiction to this place. Ok, let's be honest... it's more than mild. Anyway, I'm always SO excited to go there with people that turn their noses when they hear the words "vegan food." I think it was a success! We had a party of eight this time. It was a rare occasion for several of the court reporters to get together, so aside from the food being nothing less than amazing, the company was nice too. To start out, I had a cup of the Organic Cheddar IPA Chowder. IPA stands of Indiana Pale Ale. It was very, very good. One of my all time favorite foods (and most definitely my favorite soup) before I went vegan was beer-cheese soup. And I have missed it dearly... until last night! This was great. It was more like a chowder with chunks of potato and it had a perfectly spicy flavor in the background. For my main course, I had the Falafel Salad with Tahini Dressing. The falafels were perfect! So fresh! The greens were perfectly dressed with the most flavorful lemony tahini dressing. I couldn't finish it all (partly because I saw that there was Nutella Cheezecake as a dessert special). Brenda and Tracy both had a bite and said it was very good!
This was Tracy's second time at Darbster. Both times she was amazed that the food she was eating was vegan! Last night she ordered chicken and steak soft tacos and raved about them. (I think we have a convert!!) She likes to tease me about my "rabbit food" diet, but I think she's a closet fake-meat lover! Ha! Last night was Brenda's fist time and I think she enjoyed what she ordered, too.
She had the cheddar-ale soup with the palm cakes. And really, what's not to love about Darbster's palm cakes? They are little, fried pieces of heaven. Just perfection! Crispy on the outside, delicious and creamy on the inside. Claudia, a fellow Darbster-fan and vegan, ordered the Chile Relleno. I didn't taste this, but it looked awesome! Chile relleno is a chile usually stuffed with tons of cheese, meat, and some veggies. Darbster's version is stuffed with lots of veggies and topped with a "cheese" sauce. Claudia was still talking about how good it was the next day!
I will surely be ordering this next time I go for dinner! The problem with Darbster is their menu is full of great choices. Everything sounds so good it's hard to narrow it down to just one thing. Then to make matters worse, their specials are consistently innovative, interesting, mouth-watering, and fresh. I mean, if you're going to have problems, these are the kind of problems you want to have!! Darbster's chef extraordinaire, Seth, came out to our table and described his creations. His explanations were full of "air bunnies." (That's a Modern Family reference, and I'll say it again- is you haven't seen that show, stop what you're doing right now, well maybe finish reading my blog first, but the stop what you're doing and do whatever it is you need to do to get your hands on season 1. You'll thank me. And since we're on the topic, I just have to take this moment to profess my love for Cam!!) Ok, back to Chef Seth and the "air bunnies," which are air-quotes that he uses when referring to meats, cheeses, and other non-vegan ingredients that he uses vegan-versions of.
He started to tell us about the dessert specials. "Tonight we have for you 'Nutella' Chee--." Stop right there, mister! You had me at Nutella, even with the air-bunnies! I'll take it. I don't care what it is. I am kind of obsessed with Nutella. Of course this isn't real Nutella, so he veganized it and made it into to Nutella Cheezecake!! Hold the phones, people. This is serious. Yes, you read that right; Nutella Cheezecake. After patiently waiting (it was quite busy) we received our dessert. I'm glad that we were too full to eat more than a couple of bites because it was even better the next day after it spent all night in the fridge! YUMMMM! Wow. That's all I can say. Kudos to you, Seth.

Well I hope everyone enjoyed their Saint Patrick's Day! I think my next blog will be a yogurt comparison. I'll be comparing yogurts made from soy, rice, almond, and coconut milks and they will be graded! Who will come out on top?? Stay tuned!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Well color me happy, there's a sofa in here for two!

This blog has nothing to do with sofas. As I was sitting here thinking of a title, the great recipes I tried came to mind. Both were from my new book, Color Me Vegan by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.
So next, my mind went naturally to color me happy... which obviously takes you right back to 1990. (And a little visual just for fun... sorry, had to.) A hooker (played by the fabulous Julia Roberts), who thinks her wig is a little Carol Channing-esque, walks into an elevator, plops down on the luxurious, upholstered bench (after all this is the Reg-Bev-Wil) and exclaims "well color me happy, there's a sofa in here for two!" This explanation could go on for a while. It's suddenly dawned on me that I have seen Pretty Woman WAY too many times and know every word in the movie. Sick. So back to the point of this blog entry so that you have enough time to veg out. Lay like broccoli. (okay, okay... I'll stop.)

I made a couple of recipes from Color Me Vegan last weekend and just wanted to share the love. Basically I made the Indian-style black bean and veggie burritos (page 238 from the Rainbow chapter). The author suggested making the pineapple-mango chutney (page 74) to serve with the burritos, so I did. Now, I will say, if you try to attempt both of these recipes in the same day you may end up wanting to kill me, especially after that whole Pretty Woman debacle in the first paragraph. Take my advice, do not try and do them both in one day... annnndd rent Pretty Woman, for old times sake. Here's what I did and it worked out perfectly. I made the chutney the day before I knew I was going to have the burritos. It takes some time but is WELL worth it! While I was making the chutney, I baked my sweet potato for the burrito recipe. You will see in a minute that in the burrito recipe that you are to put the diced sweet potato in raw and cook for 15 minutes. No thank you. I baked mine the day before, diced it up, and stored it in the fridge. That way when I went to make the burritos I saved myself 15 minutes! You're welcome. So here are the recipes and my results.

Pineapple Mango Chutney
2 tablespoons oil or water, for sauteing (I used the pineapple juice from the fresh pineapple that I cut up)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large yellow bell pepper, diced
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and diced
1 small pineapple, peeled and diced
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Heat the oil (or whatever liquid you are using to saute; in my case it was the fresh pineapple juice) in a large pan over medium heat. Stir in the red pepper flakes until they begin to sizzle, about 1 minute, and then add the minced onion. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 7 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and stir in the ginger, bell pepper, mangoes, pineapple, brown sugar, curry powder, and vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool the chutney and store in airtight containers in the refrigerator. I added a touch of black pepper to mine, as you can see in the photo. I like it a little extra peppery. After all, pepper is a good source of antioxidants (lol, seriously... who eats that much pepper??)

Indian-Style Black Bean & Veggie Burritos

1 tablespoon oil or water, for sauteing
2 bell peppers cut into strips
1 large onion, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 sweet potato
1 teaspoon garam masala*
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup cooked brown basmati rice
1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
Pineapple Mango Chutney, or salsa
4 large burrito-size whole wheat tortillas

Heat oil in large saute pan. Saute bell peppers, onion, garlic, and ginger over medium heat for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the peppers and onions are soft. Add the sweet potato and garam masala (*spice mix made up of peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, and anise) and mix well. Add the stock and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the potato is tender.

** Now remember, if you planned ahead you can just add the diced up sweet potato that you baked the day before and just heat them through. No need to cover the pan either. And I used the same amount of stock, plus a little more actually because it reduced very fast. Also, I didn't have garam masala so I just used 1/8 teaspoons of cumin, nutmeg, pepper, ground cloves, and added coriander just for the heck of it, plus 1 bay leaf. **
At the very end of the cooking time, add the beans and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes longer and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the vegetable and bean mixture, rice, lettuce, and chutney evenly down the center of the tortilla and then roll it up. (warm the tortillas up to make them more pliable)

I'm telling you what... talk about a party for your mouth! YUM!! I will be making these a lot! So simple and SO tasty! These do not disappoint. Another thing that does not disappoint is Darbster. Yes, I went AGAIN! You really just cannot keep me out of that place. They always have the most interesting specials. Sunday night they featured a BLT sandwich made with tempeh. I guess that would technically make it a TLT, just sayin. This was my first time trying tempeh (imitation meat, in this case bacon). Tempeh is made from soy beans but does not have that soy-beany flavor that plain tofu does. The texture is meaty. I think when it comes to tempeh, like tofu, it's all about how you flavor it and prepare it. Well I don't know how Chef Seth did it, but it was so delicious. They added some sliced avocado to the sandwich, always a welcomed ingredient in my opinion. AND, we got 20%  off since we brought a dog! Yay!

Talk about a perfect weekend! I got to spend time on the beach with a good friend. Came home and got a head start on the burritos to make for the following day, and then headed to Darbster's for the prefect ending to a perfect weekend! This is truly the life! Until next time...

Oh, and before I go, I just want to give major kudos to my new iPhone 4. This thing takes awesome pictures!! I am very impressed... and obsessed!

The recipes from this blog were written by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.