Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Strange Thing Happened at Trader Joe's...

Photo Source: Food Hacks
A strange thing happened to me recently while I was at the register checking out at my local Trader Joe's. The woman who was scanning and bagging my groceries remarked about mid-way through, "So, I take it you're vegetarian, right?" I guess it was the week's worth of tofu, veggie burgers, chicken-less strips, dairy-free ice cream and the like that tipped her off. "Yes, actually, we're all vegan," I replied, nodding towards my toddler who was still sitting in the cart, and my infant daughter strapped to my chest in the carrier. "But... how did you do that?" she asked me. Somewhat puzzled and not clear on what exactly she was asking me about, I asked her, "What do you mean? Do you mean how was I vegan while pregnant?" She nodded. I told her that I had no problems at all while I was pregnant. Well, no problems related to being vegan, at least. I indulged my cravings for sweets (especially ice cream), and pizza, I took my prenatal vitamin every day, I didn't have any of those non-vegan cravings I had heard so often about. You know, like your long-time veg friend or friend-of-a-friend who suddenly started craving steaks as soon as she got pregnant and just had to eat meat. Both of my babies were born and continue to be perfectly healthy, so there is no reason to think a vegan pregnancy is difficult or ill-advised. 

This exchange was all pretty normal. It doesn't really happen to me that often, so when a stranger asks about being vegan I am more than happy to share my experiences. But what she said next really surprised me: "I've been vegan about 15 years but I just don't think my diet know... sustain a baby!" Whaaaat???!!!

Her revelation totally surprised me in the moment but later when I was still thinking about it, made me really sad. There are many reasons to go vegan and I assume that she probably does it for the animals rather than for health reasons, so it's certainly not a given that any vegan (including this one) would necessarily be an expert on health or nutrition. But one would think that somewhere over the course of 15 years one might have learned a thing or two about how vegan food tends to be healthier than, you know, the average meat-eater's diet. Something about a long-time vegan doubting herself to the point of thinking that she couldn't sustain a vegan pregnancy made me feel incredibly discouraged. Just when you think that veganism is becoming more mainstream, with countless studies touting the health benefits of a vegan diet, you mean to tell me that there are vegans who themselves don't trust that it's the healthiest possible option? How are we going to convince non-vegans if can't even convince actual vegans?! 

So maybe this woman was just unusually clueless and I'm overreacting, or maybe this particular vegan lives on a diet of Oreo cookies and tequila, in which case she might be justified in wondering if she could nutritionally sustain a pregnancy. But I'm still completely befuddled that a vegan - a vegan who works at Trader Joe's for crying out loud, with plenty of healthy vegan food options literally staring her in the face all day - would find it surprising that another vegan managed to survive two pregnancies without, you know, needing more protein or something

I'd be happy to hear what anyone else thinks about this exchange, as it is entirely possible that I'm reading too much into it or making a big deal out of nothing. Am I? Was this conversation as strange as I think it was? 

Anyway, just to make sure I'm not going crazy in my thinking that Trader Joe's is a treasure trove of vegan delights, here is an actual list of TJ's vegan options, here is a 10 Best Vegan Items list, Vegansaurus's TJ's Pinterest page, and even a vegan TJ's Tumblr. Myself, I'm a big fan of their Soy Chorizo, the Vegetable Masala Burgers, the Speculoos Cookie Butter (duh), and their coconut milk yogurts are fantastic. My son especially loves the Chicken-less Mandarin Orange Morsels (stir fry with some broccoli - delish), and the Japanese Style Fried Rice. Oh, and we just tried their Chili Pepper Sauce and their Sriracha Sauce, and both are awesome! I don't know what took me so long to discover those!

Please stay tuned for the next post in which I preview for you some good things I tested for Annie Shannon's next cookbook. Now there's a vegan mama for you who knows what's what. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Doughnut. Ice Cream. Sundaes. Need I say more?

What is this thing of beauty, you ask? Well let me tell you! This, my dears, is a Dunwell Doughnut ice cream sundae! I'm sure you've all have heard by now of the award-winning vegan doughnuts from this super cute shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But you may or may not know that you can also get a doughnut topped with vegan (of course) ice cream, chocolate sauce, sprinkles, and then pass out from the excitement of it all. Oh it is so difficult to be a deprived vegan, living off nuts and berries, isn't it? 

The obscenely decadent and delicious creation above was a pistachio doughnut topped with orange vanilla ice cream, the ice cream totally reminiscent of, but even better than, the Creamsicle memories of my childhood. And the one below (did you think I was going to share?) was a vanilla sprinkle doughnut with a scoop of cherry vanilla. So good it should be illegal.

And just in case you aren't ready to run out the door and race over to Dunwell, I'll also share this pic of my Mother's Day morning assortment. Clockwise, starting from top left: French Toast, Strawberry (I think? It was a while ago), Vanilla with Chocolate Sprinkles, Chocolate Glazed, Peanut Butter and Jelly filled, and Pistachio. 

Ok, so I did share. Just a little bit.

So this is ice cream, you say? I think I like this stuff.

Dunwell Doughnuts
222 Montrose Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11206

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hi again.

Gosh, I've really been the worst blogger ever. Here it is mid-July and I think this is my first post of the year. I pretty much abandoned this baby for a while, mostly because I had my second (actual human) baby in December and managing two wee ones full time takes up pretty much all the time and energy I have. But like I said in my last post, about a million years ago, I really miss it. I really, really miss connecting with people and I miss the creative outlet that this blog provides me. And I miss the fun of posting vegan food porn.

This is the sweet pea, Dahlia, two months in this photo but seven months old already, who is taking up so much of my time and attention these days, along with her very active toddler brother. (This awesome vegan onesie was courtesy of Marisa, from Vegucated fame.) Just when I was barely getting a handle on being a mother of one, along came this little bundle to again turn everything upside down. I'm happy to say though that this time 'round feels a lot easier, even though it's still crazy hard work. I don't know if it's because girls are easier than boys, or because she's just an easier baby, or because this is the second one so maybe we know what we're doing this time, or what. But at any rate, it sure is an adventure with these two little peanuts, and damn if I'm not freaking exhausted all the time. 

Which is to say that I've really lost my cooking mojo over the last several months. Or year. Years. Two years. It's hard enough finding the time and energy to just get SOMETHING, ANYTHING ready in time for dinner, let alone the colossal task I face now of preparing meals to satisfy the grown-ups, a picky toddler, and an infant who is just starting solid foods. But lately I've been finding some inspiration again, leafing through cooking magazines and books, catching up on some long-forgotten blogs, and even some recipe testing for my friend Annie's forthcoming second cookbook (more on that in a minute). So I'm dipping my toes in the water, hoping I can carve out some time to begin posting regularly again. 

My own home-cooked meals have been less than blog-worthy lately, but I can at least share with you a few good eats we discovered on a recent trip to Cape May, NJ. I'm so out-of-practice that I forgot to photograph many items we ate (breaking the cardinal rule of food bloggers), but here are a few good things:

Our first stop in town after a 2 1/2 hour drive with emergency stops for breastfeeding was at The Wild Burrito. They actually had tons of vegan options, like all-day tofu scramble breakfast tacos, and a BBQ seitan burrito, and everything tasted super fresh, especially this perfect batch of just-made guacamole, which we inhaled within minutes. Super friendly service and the guy (owner?) even mentioned to us that they always use separate pans and cookware for the vegan items. We would definitely stop there again. 

Another place we visited was Good Earth Organic Eatery. A small, somewhat hidden, friendly cafe, they do serve fish but are mostly vegetarian. There were plenty of vegan options though, and a surprising find was this spaghetti with fresh-squeezed carrot and ginger sauce (above). I'm not going to lie, when my husband ordered it, I thought it kind of sounded like a hippie health food dish, and you should know by now I'm not really that kind of vegan. But I was pleasantly surprised, the ginger was subtle and this was really a fresh, warming, very satisfying and delicious dish. I am definitely inspired to try to recreate this one at home. 

I ordered the Sunflower Seed Pesto pasta (below) which was also really delicious. Creamy, nutty, nicely spiced, Bodhi and I ate this one together and loved it. 

We really enjoyed our entrees at Good Earth, but the cake we took back to the hotel for dessert left a lot to be desired. And the fish smell in the restaurant was kind of overwhelming. I sort of feel that even if a restaurant serves fish, if it's fresh, it shouldn't smell, you know, fishy. But at any rate, it's one of the few veg-friendly places in the area, and they do have some good things going for them, so I'd still say they're worth checking out if you're in the area. 

The best place in town for breakfast was at Bella Vida Cafe. A super casual, diner-type spot, it offers vegan pancakes, waffles, and the tempeh scramble above. I loved the tempeh scramble, it was hearty and chock full of vegetables, black beans, and topped with Daiya cheese. Sorry about the photo - I forgot to take it until I was almost finished eating. I told you I'm out of practice with this food blogging thing. 

That's all I've got for now, but as I mentioned earlier I've just started some recipe testing for my friend Annie's second cookbook, her follow up to the ever popular Betty Goes Vegan. I'll be posting about that soon, to give you a teaser of what to expect. Hint: it's good. 

The Wild Burrito
6300 New Jersey Ave 
Wildwood CrestNew Jersey 08260

Good Earth Organic Eatery
600 Park Blvd 
West Cape MayNew Jersey 08204

Bella Vida Cafe
406 N Broadway (Eldredge)
West Cape MayNew Jersey 08204

Monday, October 7, 2013

Soba Noodles with Miso-Glazed Tofu & Vegetables

This is the BEST thing I've eaten in a long time. The photo probably doesn't do it justice, you'll just have to believe me. I had some tofu and asparagus in my fridge that I wanted to use, and came across this recipe from the May issue of Cooking Light. It was a perfect use for my tofu and asparagus and, amazingly, I already had all the other ingredients as well. If you cook Asian food on a semi-regular basis, you'll probably have the staples like rice vinegar, miso, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil as well. If not, you should, because those are all delicious good things to have on hand!

The other bonus was that the recipe was already vegan, so I didn't have to change a thing. These noodles are light and savory, with just the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and umami flavors. It was also super easy to make. The miso glaze gives the tofu a perfect golden sear on the outside, I imagine that it would turn even the most skeptical tofu-phobe into a true believer. This dish is simply delicious. Go to the recipe at the link and make it now!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Potato, Poblano, & Vegan Chorizo Tacos

Well I had been preparing a new post recently, I was going to share with you some excellent vegan eats I'd had recently in Brooklyn, like from my new favorite place Clementine Bakery. It's been open over a year already, but we just hadn't made it over there yet for some strange reason. Now that we've been, I'm going every chance I get. They have a variety of vegan sandwiches and baked goods - we tried savory pastries, brownies, a peach blackberry cheesecake, and a sundae made with the amazing DF Mavens ice cream. This bakery is absolutely adorable, with the friendliest and cutest kitchen staff, and everything we have tried so far has been 100% delicious.

I was also going to share with you some eats we had at the Sunday Smorgasburg in Dumbo. We love this food market, adjacent to one of our favorite parks and Jane's Carousel, as it is a true foodie heaven. I even spotted Gail Simmons from Top Chef there once, so there you go. What is especially amazing is the number of vegan and vegan-friendly food vendors there. On our most recent visit, we had a seitan "steak" sandwich from the talented people at Monk's Meats, a bahn mi sandwich from Regal Vegan, and a jaw-droppingly delicious scoop of chocolate chai-spice ice cream from Alchemy Creamery.

But now we get to the sad part of the story. Why am I not posting food porn-tastic pictures to go with my recap of all these incredible eats? Because about two weeks ago, my iPhone was stolen. The phone can be replaced, but what disappeared along with it was about four months of photos and video of my son that I stupidly had not backed up to my computer. Oh yeah, and all the food pics I'd taken as well. Losing that many baby pictures was devastating and I could just kick myself for not being more diligent in backing up all my info. Always back your stuff up people!

So yeah, I lost a lot of food pics that I wanted to share with you, so that sucks. But when life hands you lemons, you make tacos. Or... whatever, you know what I mean. I made some awesome tacos. Which reminds me that if you are unaware, Vegan Mofo is in full swing and one of my favorite themes of this year's Mofo is Lazy Smurf's Taco Cleanse. Now that is my kind of cleanse. Screw you, juice!

But back to my tacos. I tore out this recipe from the May issue of Cooking Light, and thought it would be a good way to use up some end-of-summer corn that I had. I veganized it using Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo (although there are other brands available), and vegetable instead of chicken stock. I didn't add any vegan cheese because I thought these were hearty and flavorful enough without it, but something like Daiya cheddar or pepperjack shreds would be perfect with these, if you feel like it. Here's my version of the recipe:

Potato, Poblano, and Vegan Chorizo Tacos
serves 4 (2 tacos each, with 2 lime wedges)

2 poblano chiles 
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil 
2 cups white potato, diced
1 cup onion, chopped  
1 cup fresh corn kernels 
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper 
3 garlic cloves, minced 
6 ounces (1/2 package) vegan chorizo 
3/4 cup vegetable stock 
salt and pepper 
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas  
1/4 cup sliced green onions 
About 1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese (optional) 
8 lime wedges

1. Preheat broiler to high. Cut poblanos in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place poblano halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil for 8 minutes or until blackened. Place in a paper bag; fold to close tightly. Let stand 5 minutes. Peel; coarsely chop.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add potato; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove potato; place in a large bowl. Add onion to pan; cook 3 minutes. Add poblano, corn, red pepper, and garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add onion mixture to potato. Add chorizo to pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes, stirring to crumble. Return potato mixture to pan. Stir in stock, season with salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 6 minutes or until potato is tender and liquid almost evaporates.

3. Working with 1 tortilla at a time, heat tortillas over medium-high heat directly on the eye of a burner for about 15 seconds on each side or until lightly charred. Arrange about 1/3 cup potato mixture in center of each tortilla; top with 1 1/2 teaspoons green onions and 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese, if using. Serve with lime wedges.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cookbook Review: The Sexy Vegan's Happy Hour at Home (with recipes!)

The Starburst Cocktail. Photo Credit: Dan Boissy

This is a loooong overdue post. I've had my copy of Brian Patton's (aka The Sexy Vegan) Happy Hour at Home for many months now, but as I mentioned in my last post, the arrival of my copy of Brian's latest book coincided with the arrival of a three month bout of morning sickness. While I still won't be drinking any cocktails for the foreseeable future, I've been getting my cooking (and eating) mojo back, thanks in large part to this new book.

I reviewed Brian's first book last year, and it's no secret that I'm a big fan of the guy. He's totally hilarious, and the fact that he floated the idea of naming his second book Sexy 2: Electric Vindaloo means that we are kindred spirits, because if you find a way to toss this particular movie reference into a conversation, I will totally be your BFF. But hilarity aside, the best part of Brian's cookbooks are, naturally, the amazing recipes. Happy Hour at Home is divided into themed menus, each serving four people (more than four is a dinner party), and each accompanied by suggested cocktail/drink pairings. I also really, really appreciate that Brian gives you shopping lists for each menu, and advice on shortcuts like using store-bought pizza dough if you don't have time to make his recipe, for example.

There are so many recipes that I have flagged to make, but the first one I did was the Stromboli. I did use store-bought pizza dough from Trader Joe's, because I don't have time for all that kneading and rising business. This recipe is packed full of veggies - broccoli, mushrooms, olives, peppers - and plenty of vegan cheese (I used Daiya). It was absolutely delicious, and surprisingly easy to make. Although it is meant to serve four people, between my husband and this pregnant woman with pizza cravings, it was more two and a half servings.

These Cannoli Cups are part of the "Holy Stromboli" menu and you wouldn't even believe how easy they were to make. The hardest part was finding the little phyllo dough cups, which we eventually got from Whole Foods, because my neighborhood grocery store really sucks. The cashew/cream cheese filling takes only seconds to whip up in your blender or food processor, and the result is an elegant, not-too-sweet, tasty little bite-sized dessert. Perfect after that not-so-dainty stromboli feast.

I also made these Tamale Bites with Tomatillo Salsa Avocado-Walnut Puree, which have all the flavor of tamales with none of that pesky cornhusk assembly and steaming drudgery. The base is simply baked rounds of prepared polenta, topped with a spicy lentil mixture and the aforementioned salsa and avocado-walnut puree. These were spicy and delicious and again, we stuffed ourselves so much that we were glad we didn't invite over two more happy hour guests. We were plenty happy on our own.

Like I mentioned, there are so many more recipes I'm excited to try out in this book - like the New England jackfruit "Crab" Roll, Samosa Pizzas, or the portobello mushroom version of Unagi Nigiri (my favorite kind of sushi when I still ate seafood). But if you're looking for a recipe to try from this book, you can't go wrong with the Stromboli, which Brian's publisher has been kind enough to let me publish here, below. And as a bonus, you even get the recipe for the Starburst cocktail (pictured at the top of this post), which is Brian's recommended drink to go with the Stromboli, in nostalgic remembrance of his college rager days. Enjoy! And be sexy!

This Stromboli recipe is from the Holy Stromboli Happy Hour Menu that also includes recipes for Quick Giardiniera and Cannoli Cups.

There also is a video for this recipe here

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 pound button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups bite-size broccoli florets
Unbleached all-purpose flour for dusting the work surface
1 pound store-bought pizza dough or Basic Pizza Dough (recipe follows), at room temperature
8 ounces mozzarella-style vegan cheeze, shredded
1/4 cup sliced pitted black or kalamata olives
2 cups marinara sauce, warmed

Preheat your pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven for 1 hour at 400°F. Yeah, you have to — just open your windows and stop whining about the heat.

In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, onion, oregano, basil, and a pinch of salt. Cook for 3 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook for 3 to 4 more minutes, until the mushrooms are tender, then add the broccoli. Once the broccoli is tender, about 4 more minutes, season the veggies with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the veggies to a bowl and let cool.

On a floured surface, roll the pizza dough into an oval that is approximately 13 to 14 inches long and 9 to 10 inches wide. Transfer the dough to a floured pizza peel — one of those giant spatulas they use to put the pizzas in the oven at pizzerias. You have one, remember? I told you to buy one in my first book; therefore, you did.

Fold the mozzarella and olives into the bowl of veggies — this is your filling. Place the filling in an elongated pile in the middle of the dough, making sure that there are 2 to 3 inches between the edges of the dough and the filling on all sides. Fold in the short sides of the dough so that they cover a couple inches of the filling. Then take one long side of the dough and fold it in half so that the long sides meet, completely covering the filling. Pinch the edges of the dough together.

With a paring knife, make three 1-inch slits in the top of the stromboli to release steam. Brush the top of the stromboli with a generous amount of olive oil. At this point the dough might be sticking to the peel, so gently run your hands under the stromboli to make sure it’s not sticking. Just before transferring the stromboli to the pizza stone, give it a little shimmy shake to make sure it will slide off. Then with one easy motion, thrust the peel forward over the stone, then quickly pull back to let the stromboli slide off.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until the top is browned and crisp. Let cool for 5 minutes, then cut crosswise into 4 pieces. Serve with the warmed marinara.

Basic Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
One 7-gram package or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to coat the dough and bowl
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Healthy pinch of salt
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface

In a bowl, combine the water, yeast, 1 tablespoon oil, agave nectar, and salt. Gently mix it all together and let it sit for 5 minutes, until it starts to froth. This ensures the yeast is active and has not expired. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix it up (I do it by hand, but you could use a stand mixer with a dough hook). Continue to slowly add the rest of the flour until you have a slightly sticky ball. Then knead the dough by hand or in your stand mixer. You can add a little flour if the dough starts to stick to your hands. You’ll need to knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic; this will take about 10 minutes by hand (or 5 minutes on medium speed if you’re using a stand mixer). After kneading, form it into a ball.

Coat a large bowl with olive oil. (The dough is going to double in size in that bowl, so make sure the bowl is big enough.) Also coat the dough in olive oil. Put the dough in the bowl, cover it with a damp kitchen towel, and stash it someplace warm for 90 minutes for its first rise. I find that turning my oven on to 200°F for 2 minutes,
then turning it off, creates the perfect environment for rising dough. After the first rise, give the dough a couple of light, open-handed slaps to make it collapse so that it’s flattened out. Then let it rise for 40 more minutes.

Now your dough is ready to use and is the equivalent of 1 pound of store-bought dough.

The Starburst
Makes 1 cocktail

Ice cubes
1 1/2 fluid ounces (1 shot) strawberry vodka
2 fluid ounces fresh carrot juice
2 fluid ounces fresh orange juice
Splash of pineapple juice
1 teaspoon agave nectar
2 fluid ounces club soda
1 lemon wedge
1 lime wedge

Fill a tumbler halfway with ice cubes. Add the vodka, carrot juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, agave nectar, and club soda. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon and lime wedges and drop the wedges into the drink. Stir with a long spoon.

Both recipes excerpted with permission from The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home ©2013 by Brian Patton. Published with permission of New World Library

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Vegan Good Things is Back!

Photograph by Dominic Neitz for Laika Magazine
Hello friends. Vegan Good Things is back after a very extended absence. I hope you will forgive me for my blog neglect, but you see, I have spent the past three months, I'm talking a solid three months, suffering from severe nausea, vomiting, and basically wanting to die if I even thought about or looked at food. If you haven't guessed the cause yet, it's a pretty rough case of morning sickness that I've been experiencing. Yep, I'm pregnant again and we've just found out that it's a little girl I'll be having this December!

Announcing that we have another vegan baby on the way is a great segue to tell you about the newest Summer issue of Laika Magazine, in which we are featured in their Plant Based Since Day One spread about vegan families and parenting. I am SO VERY PROUD to be included in this feature, which also includes an essay I penned titled Birthday Parties, which shares my thoughts on the ethics, hopes, and fears that I have as a vegan parent. If you haven't discovered Laika yet, you must immediately order your digital or print copy or find a newsstand near you that carries it. It is absolutely beautiful in its layout and design, full of thought-provoking writing, and 100% vegan. This is their second issue and they deserve our support. Please check it out and read my essay!

Now that my morning sickness has mostly subsided, I have big plans to get back in the kitchen and try out some new recipes that I've had flagged for a long time. I also have some new cookbooks to review, including my current favorite, The Sexy Vegan's Happy Hour at Home. Full of fantastic menu ideas, each paired with a cocktail that I would pretty much give my left leg to be able to taste right now, this book looks amazing. It's going to be quite a while before I get to savor any cocktails, but I am excited to test out some of his recipes. Please check back soon for some new posts, and thanks for not forgetting about me after so many months of silence!