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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Overdosing on fried foods, a Guy Fieri-inspired post

If you are looking for a laugh, I recommend two recent reviews of Food Network star Guy Fieri's new Times Square restaurant. One in The New York Times (paywall) and another in The New York Observer. I read these articles with schadenfreude and some regret. Because I too fell into a Fieri-style trap and overdosed on unhealthy fried foods last weekend.
Clare and Don's Beach Shack is the scene of my crime, located at 130 North Washington Street in Falls Church, Virginia. This beach-themed restaurant in a landlocked suburb is a 20-minute walk from the Metro. That long walk was the only thing healthy about my Clare and Don's visit.
When you ask about vegan options here, the staff digs out a much-worn pink menu with the vegan and vegetarian preparation options detailed in full. It's painful to admit that my boyfriend and I didn't even attempt to order something redeeming from this menu, like a side veg or chopped salad. 

Photographed here are three deep fried dishes, with "dippin' sauce." From the top is the "Phish and Chips," in the middle is the "Uncrabcake Sandwich" and below are "Tofu Balls."  All of these dishes ended up tasting the exact same. They had a great first bite but crashed me into the fried foods wall quickly. Just looking at the photos, days later, makes me nauseous. I think I've now officially exceeded my annual quota for battered and fried tofu. Maybe I'll skip it entirely in 2013.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mock meats at North Sea Restaurant

Something about the approaching holidays makes me crave Chinese food, especially the excellent mock meats I've enjoyed in Philly and New York's Chinatowns. For a local fix, I consulted VegDC's mockmeat listings and found North Sea Restaurant, located at 2479 18th St NW. Its elaborate "Asian Fusion" menu includes Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes, as well as sushi and organic options.

North Sea has a cramped yet cozy dine-in area. The restaurant focuses more on take out and delivery than table service. They also do brisk cigarettes, gum, and alcohol sales at the front counter. The beer and wine is actually to-go only. (The patient waitress had to explain this to several tables the night I was there.) The to-go dinner rush was great people-watching. Chardonnay seemed to be the most popular carry-out pairing.  
Above are the main dishes that we ordered, featuring the two types of soy-bean mock meats available. (Sadly, they didn't have veggie shrimp on the menu anymore, as the VegDC listing describes.) On the left is the Hunan Stir-fry "Chicken" and on the right is the Kung Pao Peanut "Beef." The veggie chicken dish had a variety of vegetables and a tasty brown sauce. The veggie beef dish was much spicier with some serious hot peppers. We were also able to score brown rice (for an extra fee).   

We had two standard appetizers: steamed dumplings and spring rolls. These apps shared the same veggie filling but came with different sauces. They were served on unappetizing beds of iceberg lettuce. Still, I'm glad we ordered them, as our entrées took awhile, perhaps due to the brown rice request or the highly popular carry-out menu.   

Monday, November 12, 2012

More VegCookbookClub with the Forks Over Knives Cookbook

Maple-Mustard Dressing
Here are two more recipes that I tried from Forks Over Knives--The Cookbook, the November VegCookbook selection. I'm finding that this cookbook is accurate with its serving sizes. Both recipes really could serve 6.
Kale salad close-up
Kale Salad with Maple-Mustard Dressing
This recipe by Julieanna Hever features a thick, flavorful oil-free dressing. It is a tasty blend of beans, tahini, mustard, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, maple syrup, and lemon. I used garbanzo rather than cannellini beans in the dressing. I also added two cloves of garlic for even more "hummus" flavor. My boyfriend said this made the dressing taste like falafel sauce.

For the salad veggies, the recipe called for kale, red cabbage, carrots, and broccoli. I swapped arugula for the red cabbage, because I had that on hand. I also added some yellow pear tomatoes and the remaining tin of chickpeas to the mix. Overall, I thought this salad was great--a meal in itself.

Sweet Potato Bisque
This was my first attempt at making a bisque and it turned out creamy and smooth. The cookbook describes this as almost "a dessert soup." It did have a pumpkin pie flavor with ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, as well as the zest and juice of an orange. It calls for only three types of veggies (onions, garlic, and sweet potatoes), veggie broth, and unsweetened almond milk--so the spices are pronounced and clear. It was fun to dust off my immersion blender too.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Joining the VegCookbook Club for November

I was feeling rudderless without VeganMoFo, so I have decided to join the VegCookbookClub for their November cookbook choice. Happily, my public library had an available copy of the current selection: Forks Over Knives--The Cookbook by Del Sroufe.

Last week I finally watched the documentary Forks Over Knives on Netflix streaming. (I'm not sure how I missed its theatrical release.) The film was engaging, focusing on people adopting vegan diets for health reasons rather than for animal rights/ethical reasons. The film's original companion book, Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health, featured 125 recipes, from a variety of contributors.
Forks Over Knives--The Cookbook
This new sequel by vegan chef Del Sroufe continues the Forks Over Knives brand and the message of food as medicine. The cookbook offers 300 whole foods, plant-based recipes and many general cooking how-tos.  It also features a decadent desserts chapter by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  Bonus!

I decided to delve into this cookbook by trying two easy recipes: a breakfast smoothie and a basic fake cheese sauce.
Banana Cranberry Smoothie
This banana cranberry smoothie was super easy, with just four ingredients: banana, cranberries, dates, and vegan milk. This recipe made a bit more than a single portion. I'd never used cranberries in a smoothie before and was pleased with the results. They were a tangy addition, a nice change of pace from my average smoothie. 

Almost all of the smoothie recipes in this cookbook require dates. I like dates but they are super sweet here, almost overpowering the drink. I think I'd skip the dates next time and add ground chia or flax seeds instead.
No-Cheese Sauce
This no-cheese sauce is a winner. It's another basic recipe with five ingredients. You blend together onion, red bell pepper, cashews, tahini, and nutritional yeast.  These are some of my favorite ingredients and they combine into a creamy, smooth taste sensation.

I put the no-cheese sauce on a pizza and the "dollops" blended together as it baked. I still have extra sauce and plan to add it to burritos. This recipe pops up in other dishes throughout the cookbook. It seems adaptable for a variety of purposes. I'd like to use it as a dip for crudités.
Pizza with no cheese sauce close-up

Monday, November 5, 2012

On Sala Thai and flat rice noodles

Sala Thai is a small Thai restaurant chain with locations in Maryland and the District. My boyfriend and I recently visited their U Street location, at 1301 U Street NW, for dinner. The restaurant was rather dead on a weeknight but they were doing an impressive carry-out business. In general, we were satisfied with our rather predictable meal. I do realize that I'm a tad jaded when I describe Sala Thai's offerings as "standard." However there are so many great Thai restaurants to choose from these days that it is hard not to compare and contrast.   
Close-up of Kee Mao J with flat rice noodles
Not to boast too much about DC's excellent Thai restaurants--but they have the freshest, most choice flat rice noodles that I've ever encountered. (I think the noodles may be supplied by China Boy in Chinatown. You can also buy them at Asian grocery stores in the area, including Baltimore's Potung Trading Company.) These local flat rice noodles are thicker and broader than regular wide rice noodles. They truly melt in your mouth. DC's edgy Italian restaurant, Graffiato, boasts a ham bar. Blech! I'd much rather encounter a flat rice noodle bar.
Sala Thai's menu offers these perfect flat rice noodles and other Thai food staples. The restaurant also has an extensive vegetarian menu with soups and apps, as well as entrées. On our visit, we ordered two starters. The veggie Tom Yum Hed soup (on left) had a tangy broth and lots of ginger. The Garden Roll (on right) was average with too much lettuce. I ordered the Kee Mao J, aka Drunken Noodles, which is my go-to dish. Sala Thai's spicy version had lovely charred noodles. My boyfriend got another noodle dish, the Pad See Ew J (not photographed). He thought his dish was oily with too much cabbage. Still, it had the rock star noodles.  

Sala Thai also has a large sushi menu that we didn't explore this trip. It seems like every Asian restaurant is turning into a "& sushi" spot these days. It must be popular with the DC business lunch crowd.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Meiwah in West End

I recently visited Meiwah Restaurant, located at 1200 New Hampshire Avenue NW, in DC's West End. My boyfriend and I were in the neighborhood for a movie at the nearby indie theater, West End Cinema.

Meiwah is a classic, old-school Chinese restaurant. It is the kind of place where you have to ask for chopsticks. I found this restaurant listed in the Veg DC guide, an essential resource compiled by Compassion Over Killing. The guide recommended this restaurant for having a vegetarian section on the menu. Upon visiting, I noticed that the menu had a "vegetables" section rather than one that was labeled "vegetarian." However the staff helped us to make sure that our dishes would be vegetarian and egg-free.
We started with some appetizers--vegetarian dumplings and veggie spring rolls (pictured on the far left). These appetizers both seemed to have the same veggie mash filling inside them. They came with the standard dipping sauces, including an intense horseradish mustard. I liked the cute soya "bottie" container too. And the restaurant offers brown rice (for an extra charge), which is always a plus!    
For our main dishes we ordered bean curd with mixed vegetables (pictured on the left).  This dish had a "brown sauce" (that was more of a tan color) with a mild ginger-flavor. We also had stir-fried spinach. Both entrées were nothing special; just what you'd expect as standard Chinese restaurant offerings. 

The ambiance of the restaurant was more interesting than the bland food. It has invitingly retro decor, with celebrity photos on the walls. (In DC, celebrities = mostly politicians.) Overall, if you are looking for vegetarian Chinese food in a comfortable setting before a movie at West End Cinema, this is an option.