Saturday, April 19, 2014

Things will never change if we remain the same

In hopes that Spring is coming, we've made a few salad-y type dinners recently that have made the days seem a bit warmer! We actually traveled to Florida last week - and while we enjoyed the 85 degree weather, it had snowed at our house in PA! I'm ready for spring and warm weather.

I love the idea of making home-made hummus  - however all of my past attempts did not meet my expectations. Perhaps I just love Sabra hummus and the creamy texture, that when I made it at home the texture never seemed quite the same. However, I read online that the "trick" to Sabra-like hummus is to de-skin each chickpea. To me, this seemed pretty easy at first. However, after skinning 2 cans of chickpeas (who knows how many hundred chickpeas that is!) - by the end I was hoping this would be worth the effort!

I made roasted red pepper hummus - adding the red peppers in at the end. This was well worth the effort and I could definitely tell a difference between skinned-chickpea hummus and just throwing the chickpeas in as is.

What goes better with hummus than Falafel and Tabbouleh! I used a boxed mix for the falafel by Fantastic Foods - which is my usual go-to for quick falafel.

I also decided to make the cauliflower tabbouleh from Oh She Glows. She calls this recipe her Detox Tabbouleh - but I loved that it used so much cauliflower instead of a grain since cauliflowers are delicious and on sale! :) I'm usually not a huge fan of raw cauliflower - I prefer it cooked, but it tasted really great in this recipe with the vinegars and cilantro.

Sabra-Like Hummus:
1 15 oz can chickpeas
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 Tablespoon water
3-4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 Tablespoon tahini
1/4 t salt and pepper
6 oz roasted red pepper

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Then peel each of the chickpeas "skin" off and discard. Add garlic clove to food processor and pulse until chopped. Add the chickpeas, water, lemon juice and pulse until broken up. Add tahini, salt and pepper, and roasted red peppers and let run until creamy.

This kept in the fridge for a week and was great on top of salads.

Another salad friendly dinner we had was the Caesar Salad with Eggplant Bacon from Appetite for Reduction. Of course, anything I make from this book I have no doubts it will be amazing.

I am not the biggest fan of eggplant, but the eggplant "bacon" on this salad was delicious even for non-eggplant lovers. The caesar dressing was a great vegan friendly-creamy alternative and pulled the salad together.

Vegan Caesar Chavez Dressing (From Appetite for Reduction):
2 Tablespoons of chopped shallot
2 Tablespoons of raw cashew pieces
1 Tablespoon of tahini
1 Tablespoon of miso
1/3 cup water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/8 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until creamy. 
The original recipe calls for capers - however we have a slight aversion to capers so we chose to leave these out and it was still delicious!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Las Vegan Pt 2

For part one of our trip March 2014 to Las Vegas - see here
To see the recap of our trip to Las Vegas June 2013 - see here

After we had Lakeside for dinner our first night, we had high expectations for the rest of the places we set out to try.

Wandering the streets and gambling a bit was a fun way to spend the day - and we actually did well this time money-wise! We're probably the cheapest gamblers you'll meet - I usually walk away when I lose $10...but this time we both were pretty lucky - and Jason did really great before I even got there! Must've been making up for previous trips... :)

All that wandering we stumbled upon an amazing vegan-friendly ice cream shop! This was called Ice Pan and was located upstairs in Harrah's.

Quite a cool concept - you choose what flavor you'd like your ice cream to be, choose your milk (of course, I chose soy), and choose your toppings. The employees were so fun and friendly and really knew what different vegan options I could do and made their own suggestions.

Ice cream action! He basically poured the flavor and milk mixture onto the frozen plate and then continuously moved and slapped the batter until it magically became ice cream! So magical...

End result - perfect delicious vegan ice cream. Mine on the left is peanut butter oreo ice cream and Jason's on the right is mint chocolate with oreo. They were really excited to add oreos to we couldn't say no. 

For dinner on our last night, we set out to Slice of Vegas Pizza located in Mandalay Bay.

So many fabulous vegan options! I didn't know where to start...

When a place has vegan wings...I usually always have to try them. Which is odd - I don't think I ever ate wings pre-vegetarian days...although I was only 11 so wings probably don't seem that delicious to a 10 year old. But I do love hot sauce - and anything with hot sauce now. These were awesome and I was excited for the vegan ranch sauce it came with as well!

My pizza - after debating doing a "Create your own" I chose the Vegan Faux Pie. This had Daiya cheese, red onions, zucchini, squash, roasted pepper, and eggplant. So delicious! And even better with the leftover hot sauce from the wings. :) Hot sauce = good on anything.

Honorable mention places: We went back to Ronald's Donuts again. Can't go to Vegas without a trip there..we also ate dinner one night at Mint Indian restaurant - that despite their "V" for vegan all over the menu..I wasn't anymore impressed than I am with places near us at home. 

Although who knows when we will be back to Vegas this time..we both had a blast and definitely preferred the 80 degree weather in March over the 112 in June!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We interrupt food for...the big 3-0

No, not my 30th birthday (I still have 5 years..thank you...)
but my parent's 30th anniversary.

I try not to get into too much personal stuff on the blog, sticking mostly to food and restaurants - however this warrants a post. I consider myself very fortunate to not only have parents together for 30 years, but to have them be two amazing parents that have stuck by me for my whole life and stuck by each other.

Having parents like mine truly make going home feel like "home" - and having them come up to visit us helps me know that they are only a quick drive away and continue to be a huge part of my life. Shopping trips with my mom are always a fun adventure and meeting up with my Dad for dinners mid-week is something I always look forward to. It's the simple things that remind me of my childhood and how much I looked up to them.

You both have made a wonderful family and we are all so lucky to have you as our parents!

I really look up to their marriage and getting through things together as a great incentive for my own marriage. Although they have 28 years of being together ahead of us, I know it was their parenting and seeing them together that has molded me into who I am today. So Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad and I hope you cherish the next 30+ years! :)

I love you both so much.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Las Vegan pt 1

So we went to Las Vegas back in June 2013 to celebrate my husband's 30th bday...we both had a fabulous time but left thinking we were glad to go, but would be okay if we never had the opportunity to go back since there are so many places we want to travel to! Don't get me wrong - Vegas is a fantastic city with plenty to do and see (and vegan friendly!), but I guess since we went when it was 112 degrees we mostly saw the inside of casinos since walking around would get quite exhausting in the heat.

Fast forward to last weekend - Jason had the opportunity to go to Vegas for a business conference - and I was more than excited to jump on board to accompany him mid-way through the week! He left on Sunday - I met him there Wednesday evening and we spent the rest of the week/weekend relaxing and enjoying the beautiful 85 degree Vegas..ahh much better!

It was really fun to be back so soon and feel familiar with the area and where we liked the previous time we had gone. We didn't feel like such newbies this time around!

Onto the food..since Vegas is SO vegan friendly, I was excited to try out some new places and revisit some of the places we went to during out first trip.

Steven Wynn - the owner of the Wynn and Encore and many other casinos in Vegas went vegan a few years ago and thus added a vegan menu to every restaurant in his hotels! Last time we tried Sinatra which was Italian based food and amazing, so this time we made a reservation for Lakeside (a seafood based restaurant) located in the Wynn casino.

Growing up I remember many a night eating creamy Campbell's New England clam chowder as a child. Although not the most gourmet meal, this meal reminds me of the comfort of home and I was excited to see it as a vegan option at Lakeside! However - due to my high dislike of mushrooms - I asked the server if it was too mushroomy for my taste - and he concluded that it was very mushroom-filled. I knew I would not feel the same comfort from the can that I remembered as a child, so unfortunately I did opt out of that. But for mushroom lovers - do try it! I've heard good things..

As Sinatra started with a bread basket and vegan butter, so did Lakeside. This is fabulous for vegans that usually feel left out of the typical bread & butter basket.

To start, we split the Truffle Arancini with roasted garlic aioli.

These were cute little balls of risotto goodness with a magical vegan garlic sauce. We definitely loved these! Great way to start the meal.

For my entree - I was back and forth between a few dishes - wanting a good mix of veggies with whatever protein. I ended up choosing the Walnut Crusted Gardein Chicken Breast (can they really call it this??) with red pepper coulis and balsamic sherry reduction - and ordered a side of their Grilled Green Asparagus to split with Jason - because I had a fear of not having enough vegetables (vegan problems...).

Somehow even their asparagus was out of this world amazing. No doubt about it - Wynn restaurants are 100% gourmet delicious Vegan food that both omnivores and vegans can enjoy in harmony. So zen..

And as much as Jason had to twist my arm to get dessert (I am a sweet tooth lady and never say no to vegan dessert...) we tried the vegan Carrot Cake option to end the meal with. It was a small piece that was perfect to split and end with - absolutely delicious!


I have two other amazing "Las Vegan" reviews - but I shall save them for the next post to prevent it from being too filled up. But get excited for ice cream made in your face and vegan pizza! :)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Like a room without a roof

Last weekend was exciting since we had my parents come up! Usually we'll try to find a cool place around town to go to dinner with them, but Jason had really wanted to cook instead. Jason is a really great cook - although most of the time it is me cooking the dinners. So when he said he would opt to cook, I knew it would be a good idea!

Over the summer he surprised me with the cookbook Vegan Cooking for Carnivores by Roberto Martin - aka Ellen & Portia's vegan chef.

The recipes all look amazing - perhaps some of them a bit time-consuming and good for a Sunday night meal. Jason had made the Shepherd's Pie for me in the past, so he wanted to make that again for when my parents came up.

Jason stirring the potatoes - with a knife no less. I don't judge how he cooks :)

I added my own contribution with my favorite salad recipe - Asparagus, Almond, and Tomato salad with Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette. It is from The Candle Café Cookbook and I've made it many times as a side for meals. The dressing and additions to the salad make it perfect - although we did not add the almonds this time.

The table was set and the shepherd's pie looked delicious! In my notes for this recipe, I put "Takes a while but well worth it!" Which is very true - definitely not a weeknight meal but so worth it for guests or if you have some time!

Asparagus, Almond, and Tomato Salad with Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette: (adapted from Candle Café Cookbook)
Serves 6
2 1/2 pounds asparagus
6 cups salad greens
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup sliced almonds (I've made this without and still good..but the almonds do add a nice crunch!)

Break off the tough woody ends of the asparagus stalks. In a large skillet, bring enough lightly salted water to cover the asparagus to a boil over high heat. Add asparagus, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 3-5 minutes, just until tender. Drain and chill asparagus while prepping the rest of the salad.
Make the vinaigrette:
1/4 c olive oil
3/4 cup water
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 c fresh dill
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Toss the greens and tomatoes together with about 1/3 c of the dressing. Toss the asparagus in a separate bowl with about 2 Tablespoons of dressing, then place over salad greens. Sprinkle with almonds and add a bit more dressing if desired.

Shepherd's Pie: (from Vegan Cooking for Carnivores)
1 bag of boca meatless crumbles
2 pounds russet potatoes
4 Tablespoons of vegan butter (we use smart balance)
1/2 cup almond milk
1 Tablespoon of chopped chives
sprinkle of salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons of oil
1 white onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large carrot, cut into small dice
1 tsp dried thyme
3 Tablespoons of flour
1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 cup frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees. Place boca crumbles in pot and warm over the stove top. Peel and rinse the potatoes and place them in a large pot. Fill the pot with water to at least 3 inches above the potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are soft.
Drain the potatoes and put them in an ovenproof baking dish or pan. Bake them for 5 minutes, to remove excess moisture and leave the oven on. Working quickly, mash the potatoes. Add the melted butter, warm milk, and chopped chives and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a large sauté pan on medium heat, add the oil and let heat. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic, celery, carrot, and thyme and cook for 3 minutes more.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir in.
Pour the broth into the pan and stir until incorporated. Stir in the boca and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the peas and season to taste.
 Spread mixture evenly into a casserole pan/baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mix from bubbling up. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and bake for 25 minutes.

So yes this dish takes a while, but so worth it! We've made a few other recipes from this book and have been very impressed.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

no this is how it works, you peer inside yourself

For Valentine's day Jason & I stayed Saturday night in Philadelphia to have a close-by getaway.
The weather was not too cooperative, and it was freezing and snowing/raining during the day of walking around the city, but despite that we had a great time.

To keep out of the cold, we went to the Franklin Institute - which I had never been to before. It was really interesting and made me excited for potential future field trips when I become a teacher!

For dinner, we went to Farmicia. We had been there about a year or so ago while in the city for brunch - which did not disappoint! After reviewing their dinner menu online, I knew it was a great place to try for dinner as well.

 As you can see the bottom of the menu has the vegan friendly options. It was tough to pick between the choices, but since  I had already looked online earlier - I knew what I was most likely going to get.

Farmicia's dining room is very dimly-lit and cozy. When we were there for brunch, it was very bright and welcoming since the sun shines right through all of the windows.


To start, there was only one vegan appetizer listed on the menu. For some reason, reading it quickly - I thought it stated "Cannellini & Sautéed Tofu" - however it stated "Capellini & Sauteed Tofu" I was expecting white beans with tofu, not pasta! This was good none the less though - just kind of an awkward start to the meal.
This was roasted tomatoes, red chili, mint, and crushed pine nuts with the pasta and roasted tofu.

For my meal I chose the Butternut Squash Risotto croquets. This came with roasted cauliflower, sautéed spinach, and walnut-sage pesto. These were more like patties than croquets, but very delicious and I loved the pesto!

Valentine's dinner is not complete without dessert of course. We were thinking of going to Vedge that night to grab dessert, but Farmicia had a banana cupcake on their menu that sounded really good! It came with vegan caramel and banana ice cream. Perfect ending to the meal. :) 

FARMiCiA Restaurant
15 S 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Well we've got the land but they've got the view.

For Christmas I was hoping to get the new cookbook from Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Luckily - my husband is a great gift-giver and I received it! Between moving, I haven't gotten a chance to make as many recipes as I'd like - but the few that I have made so far from Isa Does It have been amazing. I didn't have any doubts that they would be.

I've been a huge fan of Isa since Veganomicon when I first went vegan in 2009 - Blast from the past when first cooking with Veganomicon. Since then I've fallen in love with her dessert books - Vegan Cupcakes take over the world, Vegan Cookies invade the cookie jar.. and my favorite for dinners that never disappoint - Appetite for Reduction.

You might say I have a #wcw on Isa...
Onto the recipes!

First up I wanted to try a simple and warm recipe. The Lentil-Quinoa Stew (with Lots of Kale) stuck out to me since it was ingredients I knew I had on hand and sounded very comforting. Although I am not a fan of kale (but sure have I tried to be!) I knew I could alter this recipe to be something that would be great for a weeknight meal.

I made a few alterations, which I've included in this recipe:

Lentil-Bulgar Stew (adapted from Isa Does It):
Serves 6
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp dried thyme
6 c vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup carrots, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
3/4 c dry lentils
1 c bulgar
1/2 t ground pepper
1 bag of spinach
1-2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

Preheat a 4-quart soup pot over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray or use water to coat the pan for cooking. Saute the onion with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 15 seconds, then add the thyme and Italian seasoning. Add the broth, bay leaf, carrots, celery, lentils, bulgar, salt, and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium and cook for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender. Add the spinach and stir frequently until it is wilted. Add balsamic vinegar, taste for salt, and let the stew sit for 10 minutes or so off the heat. Thin with water/broth if necessary, and serve.

As per most of my dishes, hot sauce was already on the table and ready when this was finished - so add to your own liking.

As previous posts have shown, waffles are very common in our house. Usually on weekends we are home, Sundays = Waffles in the morning. Isa had a great recipe that I read reviews on stating they were the "best pancakes ever" I knew I had to disrupt our waffle theme.

Vegan Pancakes (adapted from Puffy Pillow Pancakes from Isa Does It):
Makes 6 pancakes
1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 truvia packet
1 cup almond milk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and truvia. Make a well in the center. measure the milk into a small bowl. Add the vinegar and Ener-G, use a fork to vigorously mix the ingredients until foamy. Pour the milk mix into the center of dry ingredients. Add the water, apple sauce, and vanilla and use a fork to mix until a thick, lumpy batter forms. It doesn't need to be smooth - just make sure all ingredients are mixed.
Preheat a pan or griddle over medium-low heat and let the batter rest for 10 minutes.
Lightly spray the pan with cooking spray. Add 1/3 cup of the batter to the pan and cook for 4 minutes until puffy. Flip the pancake, adding new spray if needed and cook another 3 minutes. Let them rest on a cooling rack with aluminum foil until ready to serve.

After making these, I remembered why I prefer waffles - SO much easier to cook. I was not gifted with the flipping of pancake talent, luckily Jason is better at it than I am so he took on that job. Waffles are way easier since they just sit in the iron and the light turns green when they are ready. :)

One final recipe to review from Isa Does It is her Tempeh Giardino. We are not tempeh fans - although my older posts may have said differently - so I knew I wanted to recreate this dish using tofu.

Tofu Giardino (adapted from Isa Does it):
Serves 4
1 block of tofu, pressed and then cut into smaller cubes
1/2 t salt
1 small red onion, diced
1 yellow squash, cut lengthwise and into 1/4" thick moons
1 zucchini squash, cut lengthwise and into 1/4" moons
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chopped tomat
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

Preheat large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Saute the tofu with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned, tossing frequently.
Add the onion and sauté for another 3 minutes - adding water if needed to prevent burning. After translucent, transfer tofu and onion to a large bowl.
Spray pan again and add zucchini and squash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes, tossing frequently until lightly browned. Move squash to one side and add more cooking spray along with minced garlic. Work quickly so garlic doesn't burn, add chopped tomato to garlic and salt and toss to coat. Cook for 1 minutes then toss the squash and add the tofu and onion back in pan. Mix everything, add the basil, and cook for another 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Although we made this recipe in January - it would definitely be perfect for a light spring/summer dish! I'm excited to try it again with more in season tomatoes and produce.

Other honorable mentions from Isa Does It that are not shown:
Pesto Soup, Baked Garlic Curry Fries, Sun-Dried Tomato Penne, Chana Masala, and Alphabet Soup.

I know my next go-to will be her Malai Kafta, which is Jason's favorite indian dish. I feel it will be a great weekend dinner that I know we will love. :)