Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve cookies

Chocolate Nut Cookies
Here's my final recipe from the VegCookbookClub December pick, Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas. I made these spicy chocolate nut cookies for a weekend party but still have some extra for New Year's Eve. I used granulated sugar for topping rather than powdered sugar. It gives the cookies a snowy, sparkly look--very fitting for the holiday.

I enjoyed Nava Atlas' cookbook and will surely return to it for special occasions. But I'm eager to quit overindulgent, seasonal eating. Next up is January's book, Crazy Sexy Kitchen. I scored a copy from the public library and am excited to dig into it. Kris Carr's motto is "Make juice not war!"

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas brunch: vegan ebcb

Here's a photo of the British-style brunch plate that my boyfriend, Matt, dished up this Christmas. He is a long-time fan of ebcb reviews on the blog eggbaconchipsandbeans. I guess this non-traditional, vegan version could be called ttcb, for tofu, tempeh, chips, and beans.

Matt made a delicious silken tofu "scrambled egg" and baked fat and crispy sweet potato chips. He served these with Lightlife's organic smoky tempeh and Whole Foods' 365 Organic baked beans. For condiments, we had ketchup and malt vinegar on hand. Sadly, no brown sauce, which I guess is proper. Served up with piping hot tea.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday drinks

Here are two holiday drink recipes from the VegCookbookClub December pick, Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas. I used some Kraken Black Spiced Rum for these but they'd be excellent virgin too. Cheers!
"Vegg" Nog
I couldn't find cheap cashew butter, so I made the drink base from raw cashews, blended in my food processor. Just add almond milk, agave, vanilla extract, and nutmeg to taste. I can't remember what egg nog is actually supposed to taste like, but this is a sweet, creamy, and rich treat.
Hot Spiced Apple Cider
When my parents visited last week, they left me some apple cranberry cider, which worked well with this recipe. It calls for a spicy simmering mix of orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. I skipped the cloves (and the cheesecloth), adding an orange slice to each mug and plenty of nutmeg. It seemed sweet enough, so I didn't add any extra sugar.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pot pie and dilly dip

Here are two more recipes from the VegCookbookClub December pick, Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas. The cashew chocolate mousse pie that I made last week turned out great! My parents were impressed and I had a left-over pie crust. So this time, I tried a savory pot pie recipe and a quick appetizer.

Hearty Vegetable Pot Pie
Above and below are two photos of the vegetable pot pie. I'd never made a pot pie before but I remember them from my childhood. This recipe had lots of room for play. I got to choose 3 veggies: collard greens, broccoli, and mushrooms. Then I swapped Japanese sweet potatoes for the regular white potatoes. I "made" the breadcrumbs as directed, which wasn't hard at all. And used a Penzeys salt-free seasoning blend called "Forward!," instead of Spike or Mrs. Dash. Overall, I was happy with this recipe. It didn't slice perfectly, but I really stuffed it with ribbony and chunky veggies. I'm certain to make the pot pie again with other variations.
Pot pie cross-section
Dilled Miso-Tahini Dip
This creamy, versatile dip was a cinch to make with soft tofu, tahini, and white miso blended together with lemon juice, dill, and scallions. I left out the optional nutritional yeast but added garlic, giving it a "hummus flavor." This recipe makes a thick dip that really clings to your crudités. (I recommend raw broccoli.) It also makes a nice sandwich spread and a handy dressing for massaged salads.

Friday, December 14, 2012

VegCookbookClub for December

My library hold finally became available for the VegCookbookClub's December selection, Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas. This cookbook is a hardback collection of over 200 recipes with some great photos by Susan Voisin. It has a charming introduction with sage advice for vegan holiday meals, such as "If you're going to be the lone vegan..bring a main dish, at the very least. Bring plenty of what you'll be eating, because everyone will want some..."(ix). How true! I'm interested in trying some of Atlas' go-to holiday fare. I decided to start with these two simple recipes.
Cashew Chocolate Mousse Pie
This chocolate tofu pie, from Chapter One: Thanksgiving, was a breeze to assemble. It requires soaking cashews, then blending the cashew butter with silken tofu. You heat that mixture, melting in chocolate chips and adding maple syrup to taste. I used a store-bought whole wheat pie crust, and topped it with some stray mini chips before baking. I'll have to report back on the results because I'm saving it for my parents' visit this weekend, as a belated Thanksgiving treat.
Baked Tofu-Tortilla Extravaganza 
I did taste this dish, which comes from the small brunch section in the final chapter of the book, Chapter Six: Brunches, Appetizers, and Potluck Dishes. Perhaps this casserole should be called Extra-Vergüenza because, much to my shame, it looked solid in the pan but fell apart when served. Maybe I should have used a shallower dish? It was an easy recipe to throw together, almost like making a tortilla lasagna but without all the fuss of layering. It has tofu, onion, garlic, corn tortillas, tomatoes, chili peppers, spices, and some grated vegan cheese on top. Next time, I'd leave off the fake cheese and add nutritional yeast.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Brunch spot: Meridian Pint

Curried Tofu Scramble
DC is loaded with brunch spots, although few of them are vegan-friendly. I've posted about Smoke and Barrel, which has a brunch buffet with vegan options. Here is a report from their sister restaurant, Meridian Pint. Located at 3400 11th ST NW, Meridian Pint is about a block from Sticky Fingers, (another extremely popular and all-vegan option for weekend brunch). Meridian Pint was busy when we visited, with strollers parking up the front entrance. However, they didn't have a 30-minute wait or a line stretching out the door. With two spacious floors and large front windows, the restaurant's interior also didn't feel too crowded.  
Grilled Tofu Sandwich with Sweet Potato Wedges
I got the curried tofu scramble (top), a solid version of a typical brunch dish. It came with some excellent roasted potatoes and a boring cup of cubed melon. My boyfriend ordered a regular menu item: the grilled tofu sandwich (above). This tofu sandwich was similar to a bahn mi with lightly grilled, creamy tofu topped with pickled cucumbers, carrots, and daikon. Plus, they added a mild sesame sauce and sprouts. 

The dark objects that appear on the side of the baguette are sweet potato wedges. These wedges were odd--with a soft, sweet interior and crunchy, bitter exterior. I've had them before and this blackened-style seems to be overdone on purpose. Dousing them with Cholula hot sauce (available upon request), helped with the burnt flavor.  

Sadly, we didn't order any American craft beer, which is Meridian Pint's true specialty. We did sit under a big WPA-style mural, proclaiming, "Beer is Proof that God Lives." We'll have to return and examine the evidence closely.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Soup's On, Baltimore

Soup's On, located at 11 West Preston Street, is a great quick stop if you are in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore and require a fresh bowl of soup. They are located up a steep staircase, directly above OK Natural Food Store. It's a unique row house space with cool alcoves and artsy tables that have, you guessed it, soup themes painted on them. I visited recently for lunch and found the place packed with starving students and hungry office workers. 

The restaurant's operating procedures are admiringly efficient and economical. You order at the front counter, from a small chalkboard menu that changes daily. Like the menu, their condiments are very streamlined: Old Bay and large canisters of sea salt are the only options. The sea salt comes in handy, as they make their soups extremely low-sodium. They also offer free water, which you need when you go overboard with the salt.  
Soup's On always offers a vegan soup option. The day I visited, it was a creamy Mediterranean-spiced stew with chickpeas and brown rice (top). Excellent, seasoned crostini accompany the soup. I ordered the combo deal (above), which also comes with a sandwich. The vegan sandwich--featuring roasted eggplant, mushroom, and red pepper--was served open-faced with ample arugula.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Willa Cather's birthday with cornbread and tea

Today is the birthday of Willa Cather! I've been reading her novels all year long, taking the 2012 Willa Cather Novel Reading Challenge hosted by WildmooBooks

Here is a list of Willa Cather's twelve novels with links to my Goodreads reviews.   

I was going to make a fancy dessert to celebrate but decided upon a simple tea time snack in homage to Cather's Southern roots. This cornbread and tea combination is based on her final novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl. Food is very important in this historical drama, set in Old Virginia. Cornbread is the stuff of slaves, unlike "light bread" made of wheat flour, which confers a higher social distinction and goes to the slave owners' tables.

The black tea is rum-less. In the novel, the protagonist Sapphira pours tea for her husband, "smuggling in a good tot of Jamaica rum." This is her secret weapon for coping with domestic unhappiness. Her husband is taken aback: "That's why it tastes so good! I must try to get up here oftener when you're having your tea."

The cornbread recipe (from Lindsay S. Nixon via Nava Atlas' VegKitchen website) is quick and simple. Not overly sweet and with a good texture. I think Willa Cather would approve.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

NYC bites: Chinatown feasts

Pumpkin Cheesecake from Wild Ginger
Here's part two of my NYC food photos, with Chinatown spots highlighted. My boyfriend and I didn't make it outside of Manhattan this trip. As usual though, we made a beeline for Chinatown on our first night and ended our trip with a similar, hugely satisfying meal. I think we overdosed on mock seafood but overall it was a delightful warm-up to our traditional Christmas-time Asian food & a movie combination.

Buddha Bodai
In Chinatown, we visited Buddha Bodai at 5 Mott Street. This vegetarian and kosher restaurant has an ambitious menu with color photos. We started our meal with two soups, both featuring bright and fresh-flavored spinach. The spinach and corn soup (on left) was beautiful to behold and fun to eat, as every bite formed a sweet yin-yang symbol in your spoon. The spinach and mushroom soup (on right) boasted three different types of mushrooms.
For a main course, my boyfriend ordered David's Special (below on left), which was sliced veggie fish and veggie shrimp with baby bok choy in black bean sauce. I ordered what proved to be our favorite dish of the trip: shredded gluten with pickled vegetables (blurry photo on right). Of course, Buddha Bodai offered brown rice. The restaurant was rather busy on a quiet night in Chinatown. It is directly opposite the forlorn Chinatown Fair video arcade.
Wild Ginger
We also hit Wild Ginger on our way out of town. At 380 Broome Street, Wild Ginger is closer to Little Italy than Chinatown proper. It was our third visit to this Pan-Asian vegan restaurant. (We also ate at their Brooklyn location years ago.) You enter the small restaurant through curtains, which I always find charming. Once inside, we ordered a whole pot of tea and two large mains. 
My boyfriend went with the Fisherman's plate (above) with veggie seafood, mushrooms, and asparagus. I was hankering for bibimbap (below). The huge and delicious rice bowl included seitan, avocado, seaweed, chickpeas, spinach, kimchee, and sprouts. However the mango salsa in the middle seemed strangely out of place to me. My bowl also came with an excellent pumpkin soup (not photographed). Somehow we managed to order dessert and devoured the dense pumpkin cheesecake slice pictured at the top of this post.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

NYC bites: Upper West Side lunches

Here are some photos from a recent mini trip to NYC, aka "vegan Mecca." I really need to get up to that happening city more often. Every visit my boyfriend and I eat until we burst. This post features our Upper West Side eats, spots not far from our budget hotel. Chinatown pics will appear tomorrow.

Blossom Du Jour
We first stopped at this outpost of Blossom, located at 165 Amsterdam Avenue near West 67th. This vegan takeaway spot was tiny (only 3 stools) but the sandwiches were extra large. Above are the Midtown Melt and the Skyscraper Burger. They both were excellent, with vegan cheese, mayo, and other special sauces. The veggie burger was stacked so high, it was hard to eat. (Yes, that is an onion ring in that stack.) We washed these down with Blossom's own brand of cold pressed juice. "Pretty in Pink" (which seems to be the go-to name for most beet juice concoctions) was a perfectly balanced blend of beet, pineapple, and apple; not too earthy.

This was only my second time to Peacefood Cafe. What an oasis of good humor and calm! The large, sunny cafe is located at 460 Amsterdam Avenue at 82nd Street. We started our lunch with big salads (above), a constant travel hankering. On the left is the Asian Greens Salad with marinated and baked tempeh. On the right is the fluffy quinoa salad with an out-of-this-world creamy lime mustard vinaigrette, under all that avocado.
My boyfriend also got the fried seitan medallion panini (above) that wowed him last visit. I had a bland yet comforting special kale and lentil soup (below). And we split an acai smoothie, which was milkshake thick and packed with berries. This giant lunch fueled a long day of art & culture tourism and made us feel healthy on the road. Maybe for our next visit we can save room for dessert from Peacefood's tantalizing bakery display cases.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market haul

Here's a photo from my latest farmers' market haul. My boyfriend and I just returned from a short trip to NYC, where we ate and ate and ate. (I'll post some NYC food photos soon.) We came home to an empty refrigerator and the strong desire to eat healthy. So I made a quick trip to the large and bustling Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market to stock up on salad greens and a few other veggies. I went solo, hence the light load. Just two types of kale, two types of choi, collards, apples, broccoli, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts.

The Dupont market is held every Sunday--spanning 20th ST NW between Massachusetts and Connecticut Avenues and taking over the parking lot of the PNC bank. It is also super transit-handy, located directly above the north exit of the Dupont Circle Metro Station. This month the market runs from 8:30am-1pm. In January, it switches to Winter hours and opens at 10am. I predict that this market will become our main produce fix when our wee neighborhood markets end for the year. I also noticed that SouperGirl has opened a stand, so I'm eager to check out their vegan soups.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Smoothie and stack of books

Here's a final smoothie from Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook. I really enjoyed the smoothie ideas in this cookbook. Although, I did end up bagging the recommended Medjool dates; they were too sweet for my blood. This Mean Green Smoothie has kale, apples, bananas, and unsweetened almond milk. Plus, I added matcha and flax seed.
Next to the smoothie is my latest stack of books. (I've requested the December VegCookBook Club pick, Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas, from the library too.)

Meanwhile, I'm hoping to read:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
Stone Upon Stone by Wieslaw Mysliwski
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Millet time!

Here are two millet recipes from Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook, the November VegCookBook Club pick. I've been wanting to experiment with this grain, on the unsolicited recommendation of an OK Natural Food Store counter person. While millet isn't "the new quinoa" in my opinion, it does offer variety from brown rice, barley, and other staple whole grains.

Millet Loaf Balls
The cookbook has a two-page recipe for this plant-based take on traditional meatloaf. The loaf recipe itself isn't too complex but it appears with two detailed variations: BBQ balls and Swedish Meatballs. I ended up making balls, without BBQ sauce, as the millet loaf didn't bind very well on the initial bake. (In fact, it ungraciously slopped out of the loaf pan.) This simple variation only took another 15 minutes to bake. I served them like mini build-your-own sandwiches with small squares of bread, extra ketchup, and two types of mustard: Dijon and horseradish.
Millet Stew
The millet worked better in this stew recipe, which featured North African-inspired spices. I didn't have any cauliflower on hand, so I added broccoli, okra, and mushrooms for the main veggies. This recipe was too cinnamony for me and could benefit from the addition of chickpeas or another bean. The cookbook has definitely inspired me to use millet in my future soup-making.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pakha's Thai House: An oasis in Dillsburg, PA

For Thanksgiving, my boyfriend and I traveled to Central PA to visit his family. There aren't a lot of vegan-friendly spots on US 15, the highway north from DC. Mainly there are gas stations and bars with names like "Drinkin' Bone." One sparkling oasis on this route is Pakha's Thai House in Dillsburg, PA. We've dined there many times before, often as a halfway meeting point for PA relatives. 

Located at 3 South US Highway 15, Pakha's is well worth braking for, with delightful aromas and a calm, old school ambiance just inside its doors. They also have clean restrooms. (Although the women's room is oddly arranged with two toilets and no individual stall doors. Maybe it is family style?)

This visit we weren't even planning to stop in for lunch, but Pakha's activated its tractor beam pull. We were actually the only people in the restaurant on the holiday afternoon. So the service was speedy and attentive. We started our meal with tofu triangles, perfectly fried and served with a peanut-laden sauce.    
Next we ordered two excellent noodles dishes, our usual picks. Above is the Drunken Noodles; below is the extra soupy Rad Na. Both dishes were mildly spiced, satisfying portions. My boyfriend called this our "pregame meal" for his family's dinner, which I neglected to photograph but was a delicious feast.    

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vegan pizza at Astor Mediterranean

Astor Mediterranean has been on my radar because it tops VegDC's alphabetical list of places that serve vegan cheese pizza. Located at 1829 Columbia Road NW in Adams Morgan, this restaurant is more of a take-out spot than a place to wine and dine. In fact, although beer and wine are listed on the menu, they don't serve alcohol. For that you need to travel to their sister restaurant in remote Arlington (not Metro-handy).

However, this Astor location does serve food. The dining area is small with oppressive fluorescent lighting. You order at the counter, above which hangs a menu with the prices blackened out. (There are paper menus available that list prices and handy icons denoting vegan and vegetarian items.) A small, cheery sign also advertises the vegan Teese pizza. We ordered a large Teese veggie pie, plus a beet salad and fava bean dip.
The pizza (above) was the winner, although very heavy on the fake cheese. This soy-based "cheese" appeared to be crumbled on top only, but further investigation revealed a solid Teese core in the middle of the pie. The pizza's crust was speckled with anise seeds, a surprisingly refreshing detail. The red sauce and veggies were also tasty. The toppings included: spinach, eggplant, tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms, and olives.
The beet salad was oily but flavorful with rather hard beet cubes in a vinegar marinade. The fava bean dip was spicy and rich; a nice alternative to hummus. And it came with vegan pita bread, which can be hard to find at other area Mediterranean spots.

We did have to wait awhile for our food, as everyone else was getting speedy to-go orders. When the food did arrive, it came all at once. We had to ask for plates and there was a severe condiment shortage. While we ate, the counter staff played a mix of fun Bollywood tunes and bad 80's rock. I plan to revisit Astor someday for lunch, when the outdoor seating area is open, to see how the pizza tastes alfresco.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pasta: TV show/condiment recommendation

This post is a condiment recommendation inspired by the 2010 Korean television show, Pasta, now available on Netflix streaming. This delightful rom-com is about the misadventures of a young woman, Seo Yoo-kyung, as she strives to become a pasta cook in an Italian restaurant. I'm only a quarter of the way through its 20-episode run but I highly recommend this show, especially if you are looking for something addictive and silly to fill your holiday weekend.  
Pasta (2010) poster
I was smitten with episode 4, in which the Mr. Darcy-like chef lays down the following new kitchen rules:
1. No foie gras allowed on the menu. (Due to cruelty to animals!)
2. No spoons or bowls allowed for eating pasta.
3. No more hidden sugar allowed in sauces or in table pickles. Pickles are out altogether.

The kitchen staff is floored by the chef's dramatic proclamations, particularly number 3. The heroine Seo Yoo-kyung asks: "How can you eat pasta without pickle?" In attacking cucumber pickles, the chef is viewed as attacking kimchi, the national dish, and Korean food culture in general. The show demonstrates that pickles are an essential condiment, expected by restaurant patrons. Later in the series, "diabetic"-style pickles (without sugar) make a triumphant return on the Italian restaurant's tables and restore harmony in the kitchen.

Inspired by Pasta, I decided to try pickles as an accompaniment with my next plate of pasta. The TV show focuses on the stripped-down purity of pasta aglio olio. This plate of whole wheat spaghetti (below) was heartier fare with tomato sauce, mushrooms, beans, and spinach. The sugar-free pickles did prove a great addition to the meal. I'm sure to try this condiment suggestion again, as Pasta makes me hungry for pasta--and now pickles--with each episode.
Pasta with pickles

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pumpkin sweets from Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook

Here are two more recipes that I tried for VegCookBook Club. These are both pumpkin-themed and come from Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook.
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
This smoothie really did taste like decadent, creamy pumpkin pie filling. I made this simple smoothie twice, each time cutting back on the Medjool dates called for in the recipe. (I don't know why but I can't handle the intense sweetness of dates. And I think pumpkin is delectable enough plain.) I also went heavy on the cinnamon and nutmeg.
Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf
I finally tried one of the Isa Chandra Moskowitz dessert recipes. Actually, I followed her Post Punk Kitchen variation, which lacks the almond butter in the cookbook version. This loaf wasn't too pumpkin-pie like. Instead it was more like a tea bread; a nice mix of chocolate and spices. My apartment smelled like a holiday candle while it baked. However I think it came out a bit dry. (Maybe it is my oven?) I recommend serving slices while warm, or ice cold from the refrigerator, with hot tea.
Loaf cross-section