"Reinventing Indulgence" One meal at a time!

Cheers to the sweet potato!

“I’ll start juicing as soon as I get the right juicer or blender –
which one should I get?”
How many times have you said that? Anything to procrastinate right?

I might have a Vitamix but my Mom has style and grace! I was going for a pre-Thanksgiving day visit (yes it’s time to catch up on my blog entries). I had been on a smoothie kick and wanted to try something new and see if my Mom would get into smoothie making. It’s a quick and easy way to have a nutritious meal or snack. I was tempted to bring my Vitamix but figured my Mom would for sure have a blender. She has every kitchen appliance you could imagine or so I thought. I was bummed out with my sweet potato in hand as I realized there was no blender to be found. There was just a cheap $15 shaker/ mixer from who knows where. I was determined to make this shake even if it meant whisking or beating the ingredients by hand! It was called a Thanksgiving smoothie.

Don’t worry as I catch up on blog posts; you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to have this. It’s super healthy and packed with nutrition. Besides, everyday should be Thanksgiving anyway!

Sweet Potato Nutrition

  • Exceptionally rich in beta-carotene which the body converts to Vitamin A
  • Vitamin A is important for eyesight, growth & tissue healing, healthy skin, antioxidant protection and our overall immune system health.
  • Not considered a “nightshade” vegetable for those interested in reducing inflammation

I was amazed that this cheap little plastic shaker not only worked but did the job quite well. You know what that means right? NO EXCUSES! Anyone can do this anytime. The only real catch here is that you have to bake a sweet potato in advance. Sweet potatoes are amazing – loaded with nutrients. You can make a few at a time, refrigerate and then throw them in this smoothie to go.

 

IMG_3021I pretty much just followed the recipe here.

Spinach
Almond milk
Sweet potato (baked)
Frozen mango
Nutmeg
Cinnamon

A bit nervous about drinking my typical Thanksgiving vegetables, I was amazed how good this tasted. Although we began with a cheap shaker, I for sure couldn’t beat my Mom’s glassware and table setting.
It turned out to be a wonderful smoothie lesson. If anyone is procrastinating, now you know just go for it!

 

Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

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IMG_2746Before the day and age of Pinterest, one would simply rip a recipe out of a magazine and go make it. My Mom still likes to do this. So there we were driving upstate and discussing the ingredients. It’s a good thing too because after the pumpkin picking, we headed into the Woodstock supermarket without, of course, the recipe and ingredient list. We lost it – for the record, this is why Pinterest is better lol. We winged it. I believe I had made them before except with wild rice. The couscous came out delicious. We stuffed them in the peppers and had a few light yet satisfying meals.

IMG_2748Couscous
Vegetable stock
Onions
Scallions
Cilantro
Grape tomatoes
Chick peas
Sea salt
Bell peppers
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

IMG_2764We cooked the couscous at about a 1.5 : 1 ratio of liquid to grain and then simply mixed in the spices, scallions, finely chopped cilantro and chick peas. It was already delicious right here. Then we stuffed it into the bell peppers and baked them. Afterwards online, I noticed that some people keep the tops to the bell peppers to put on after they are baked for a photo. I missed that photo opt. This is a great mini meal- healthy, tasty and fulfilling.

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Yes I confess, that is cheese on the left side. My Mom and I cooked this dish together. She supports my vegan lifestyle and helps with ideas. I can only push my values so far. I’m not going to argue with the one who brought me into this world lol. I wouldn’t win anyway. Cheese it was (on her side) and when I make it again, I will be prepared to sneak in the vegan cheese. Shhh.

Eat it RAW.. or not.

I guess you can say I have been in a spaghetti zone lately. It comes and goes but this week has been a hit with an amazing spaghetti squash recipe that I made. Those with addictive tendencies know that when we have something on our mind- it’s not over til’ it’s over. Might as well take that as an opportunity to “reinvent the indulgence”. The spaghetti squash was delicious and put me in the mood for another variety of spaghetti- this time with zucchini.

IMG_2859I began with the raw version. That’s the beauty of zucchini spaghetti- you can eat it raw, I was in the mood for a salad and of course I am far from boring in that department. I went for it. I have to say that I do love my spiralizer. It gives vegetables a twist.. literally! The zucchini spaghetti is probably the most famous of it’s uses although, I really need to experiment more with the other blades.

For now, it was about the gorgeous long strings of this spaghetti. I still had a garden fresh tomato so it was salad time.

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Zucchini strings

Fresh tomato
Finely chopped onion
Bell pepper chopped
Avocado
Artichokes
Olive Oil
Sea salt
Tossed and topped with a few pine nuts!

 

Some days I am in the mood for a salad and others I just need that home cooked feeling. I literally split this all in half and saved the second portion for a meal the next day – this time cooked.
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For the cooked version, I added some chick peas, tofu and more artichokes that I had in the refrigerator. Of course I didn’t cook the avocado! avocado never makes it past the moment in my place- it’s just too dam good! I was feeling hot and spicy today so I added some vegan hot sauce and splurged with my low calorie spaghetti indulgence.

I even made my own vegan parmesan that I saw on a vegan Facebook site. It was so simple: 1 cup un-salted cashews to 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, sea salt and pulsed in a food processor.

I heated the pan with some coconut oil and did this quick sauté. I was actually feeling guilty afterwards but really there was no need. Luckily, after an hour or so, the guilt was replaced with an avocado chocolate mousse dessert that I knew I could indulge in. This too was vegan of course- I have blogged it before. Check it out!
All is well!

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Overwhelmed with social media?– guilty as charged. I almost forget sometimes- did I blog it, instagram it, tweet or Facebook it. I feel I am redundant but let’s be honest- with today’s attention span, most probably don’t remember and the rest probably didn’t even see it. Whatever, I still like to be authentic and not repeat myself. I’m like that DJ who doesn’t want to play the same song twice even though no one cares. Give the people what they want lol. I posted this photo in a couple of media outlets including a vegan group. I had no intention to blog it yet again but since it received so many raves with people asking for recipes.. hey why not?

IMG_2856This was one of my best ever spaghetti squashes. I made it for my Mom who is generally the one cooking for me- even the vegan dishes. This one’s for you Mom!

1 beautiful fall yellow spaghetti squash from the local farm stand! Shout out to upstate NY!
Glass baking dish with an inch or so of water.
I put the spaghetti squash in whole with nothing covering it. The oven was on 350 degrees which is why this one probably took longer than normal. Depending on the temperature, I’d say anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Turn it a few times so both sides cook evenly.

In the meantime, I took it back to a recipe my grampa used to make:

Grampa’s string bean, potato & swiss chard stew.  I did a version similar to this.

I put on a vegan sauce with onions, garlic, olive oil, basil, sea salt, black pepper, hot peppers and crushed tomatoes. I let this cook for a while and then added a huge bunch of farm fresh swiss chard and chick peas. Chick peas have been my go-to lately for vitamins and minerals. This was cooking beautifully as the squash was almost ready.
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I pulled the squash out and let it cool for a few minutes and then sliced it in half lengthwise. I love looking at it and watching it turn from this vegetable form into the most amazing and delicious spaghetti – full of flavor on it’s own. I scooped out the seeds gently and then forked away. You got it.. FORK IT! I placed the spaghetti on a plate and then poured my grampa’s recipe right over the top.

Amazing!

In the trending quest to learn more about vegan food and lifestyle, this is probably the most common phrase around: Is it vegan?
Girls night out at NOBU!IMG_2644
This time it was about celebrating not just birthdays but also wonderful life events  and friendships all in one. The funny thing is my girlfriend asked if I would be ok eating at Nobu, for example, was there anything there vegan for me to eat. That was probably code for “are you going to make a scene?” lol

I do love the consideration, but as a vegan it’s pretty easy to eat at most Japanese and Asian venues. In New York, my favorite vegan restaurants are Korean. Asian influenced cuisine will generally always have tofu so one doesn’t have to resort to a dish of dry potatoes over iceberg lettuce. At the end of the evening upon exiting, I noticed that Nobu had a “Vegetable Dishes at Nobu” cookbook. This makes total sense in retrospect, because their menu was one of the most vegetarian friendly ones that I have seen in quite some time.

IMG_2646The options were almost endless.  I must add here that I love when restaurants use “v” or “ve” for vegan. It makes it easy for both of us and we don’t have to play is it vegan or the replacement game .

IMG_2651 I was impressed to say the least at the vegetarian entrees. I knew at first glance I was having the tofu steak so we go from there.  I was delighted to sit next to a new vegetarian friend and have the pleasure of sharing appetizers, salads and entrees. As I sit here writing, it’s apparent that we had many dishes- and all amazing!

Just as a side note, although it didn’t happen tonight- I am quite often asked if I eat fish.  That’s cute but not really. As a good (non vegetarian) friend once said to me in my shrimp loving days – “shrimps have Mommies & Daddies too”.  Seafood and especially shellfish was probably among my all time favorites. IMG_2649
I don’t really look back now due to the fact that most seafood, although healthy in some regards, suffer from pollution and toxins pretty heavily. You have to really know your stuff to get through the fish maze. Is it farmed? Is it genetically engineered?  Where is it on the food chain?  Which oceans does it come from? What’s the mercury levels? Oil spills.. radiation etc.?

I do believe in the anti-inflammatory benefits of cold water fish for non-vegans but oh the questions that you need to research- good luck! It’s almost harder than is it vegan and simply put by the way, it’s not vegan because fish have a central nervous system.

IMG_2650Continuing on.. dairy means butter, cheese, milk and derivatives like whey etc.  People sometimes think eggs are included with the dairy discussion but technically they aren’t. If you are afraid to use the V word or you are somewhere where people don’t fully understand it’s depth, then it’s best to ask for dairy free, milk free, egg free and pretend you have allergies – that is, if you aren’t in the mood for a food breakdown of animal ingredient conversation.

Back to ordering!
At Nobu, they know what vegan means. We order away asking if the appetizers and such are vegan friendly. I believe everything was but there were bottles of champagne flowing so don’t quote me.

IMG_2655 We decided on vegetable hand rolls, okra vegetable maki, mini tacos, a gorgeous shitake mushroom salad and the the outstanding tofu steak with a side of beautiful roasted vegetables.

Each dish was amazing, again, my favorite being the tofu steak.  It was dark in Nobu, so of course the photographer in me had to come out so I would get great food shots. I guess that’s an advantage of having two phones. One for stage lighting and one for the photo opt.

IMG_2662It was wonderful company all night as we laughed and had fun. At dessert time that we noticed a pitcher of table water with a stick in it.  What was it? I had to google away and figure it out. It was a water filtration carbon stick. Now of course I want one.

IMG_2663After being back home for a few days, I decide to research it further to be sure it’s vegan. You never know- I hear about filtration systems all the time that aren’t vegan like in the processing of cane sugar and beverages like the wildly famous Guinness beer.

Basically, after a few YouTube videos, I learned that the carbon stick comes from charcoal and you can even make your own if you wanted to. Fascinating! This is good to know if I am ever traveling somewhere where the water is not purified.

IMG_2666The dessert by the way was the perfect vegan icing to a wonderful dinner. I think I was happy just to see the option on the menu. It’s the little things in life that excite me.  

Happy vegan travels friends!

How to Make a Charcoal Water Filter

and if you want to take it a step further: you can make your own charcoal too!

I really should blog my vegan travels more often. Last year for my birthday I was in Amsterdam and Berlin. I will say that although I didn’t blog it because I was probably too busy eating, that dining in Berlin completely exceeded my expectations. I would still like to reflect back with a photo journal of that week for my vegan travel records. Perhaps, it too will be handy for the vegan tourist who like me, will travel far for vegan food.

IMG_2367This time it is about falafel. Surprise #1- I had the best vegan falafel ever! Today it wasn’t about me..  just about finding a spot which served some late breakfast and was somewhat veggie friendly. We stumbled onto this cozy cafe upstairs from a local shop. Somewhere back in my service industry work experiences, I recall learning about the 30 second rule. This is a rule of thumb for a business to welcome or acknowledge you within the first thirty seconds or they could potentially lose business. Well “Americana me” shouldn’t share that with a Brit. Next thing I know the conversation switches to how we are in England not America – and especially not in New York.  Ok fine, I admit that I’m an on-the-go New Yorker with a lack of patience – guilty as charged! It’s true too that I’m on vacation and totally not in a rush. I’ll keep my service industry comments to myself. Lol. The service picked up and they were not only super polite but also extremely accommodating.

I ordered direct off the menu – a vegan falafel. This was the best falafel I have ever had. Being a New Yorker, I think I’m a pretty good judge of falafel. I didn’t ask for this “veganized” since it already was. The falafel sandwich was made with a shaved carrot, radish or cabbage finish and this amazing secret sweet chili sauce. Really wonderful flavor; something like a chutney- they should bottle that dressing alone.

IMG_2365Not that we were competing today but.. I WIN! My friend had a beautiful vegetarian frittata, although it looked something between a quiche and a potato lasagna.  The best part was that when my friend wanted a coke but couldn’t get the waiter’s attention, her British self actually had to eventually get up and get her hehe. Patience! I did get a chuckle. This place I believe was pretty much a vegetarian cafe. They didn’t have any vegan desserts but they are working on it. They had lots of gluten-free options as well soya milk for a latte. Metropolitan Cafe, Bath, England well worth the wait!

During our after lunch stroll around town, I found myself literally being pulled into the Fudge Kitchenfrom the aroma and interesting views through the window. They make the fudge right there in front of you. Of course me… IS IT VEGAN?

I must admit tIMG_2518hat I get somewhat disappointed when places don’t have vegan options. With all of today’s allergies, is it really that difficult to offer something milk free, for example. It’s not just for vegans but most of the world actually is lactose intolerant.

Anyway, I politely make my requests and was thrilled with excitement over his answer;  the gentleman said – sure I can make that fudge dairy free, which one would you like? Like a kid literally in a candy store, I jumped up like a rocket with “Salted Caramel PLEASE”.


IMG_2522Surprise #2 – Salted Caramel Fudge veganized.
The next day we picked it up and I was on a sugar high until it was completely out of my system. I’m good now for another year to my next birthday.

Vegan birthday dinner in Bath

How is it that a non vegan can out order me when it comes to a vegan meal at a vegan restaurant.. and even on my vegan birthday?. I guess sometimes a restaurant can take an ordinary dish and make it exquisite and vice a versa. In any case, it was simply great vs. amazing. I’m delighted that my friends and loved ones can dine out vegan with me on a regular basis. Somehow, my birthday food turned into an exciting foodie competition without really planning on it.

Round one went to my girlfriend. I was totally in the mood for this pâté starter. IMG_2335It reminded me of a few raw pâté dishes that I had learned to make from a Gourmet Institute Raw Food Intensive I had taken a while back.  It was smooth, flavorful and delicious, however it wasn’t made raw which for some reason I had anticipated. Expectations – they always seem to factor in. None the less, this dish was still super: It was the Carrot and Cashew Pâté. This restaurant is so charming too as it left on the side a few cards with the history of the place and a few recipes- this one being included as seen here. IMG_2338

The waiter had suggested the broccoli truffle but my girlfriend went with the squash dish. Again.. Expectations! I had recently had a mediocre squash appetizer somewhere and so therefore didn’t event think to try this. She won. IMG_2336The squash was outstanding and served with a lime freeze which brought out the varied yet complimentary tastes. I have never had this lime freeze before. I would highly recommend it as an accent to a flavorful vegetable dish. I won’t really ever know how the broccoli dish was as this restaurant was all the way over in Bath England. My birthday gift spa day topped off with this amazing dinner at Acorn. As I look back now to add the link, I remember that this is a vegetarian restaurant and the dishes were marked with VG for vegan, GF for gluten-free and N for nuts. I‘m pretty sure my never-ending words “is it vegan” still came out of my mouth.

Round two. I ordered the mushroom dish. IMG_2341 I was thinking it sounded like a hearty type dish with mashed potatoes on the side. I like to get my mushroom quota in whenever I can as they are a healthy super food on their own. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but there is such a thing as too much mushrooms (from a flavor perspective). This dish was a simple portobella with baby mushrooms on the side. It was served on top of what looked like and almost tasted like a vegan mash athough it wasn’t. It was a celeriac puree, like a sauce. This was super delicious but the mushrooms needed a little something (I’m not sure what) or perhaps just another vegetable to accent the dish.

My girlfriend ordered this Chick Pea Fritter. I guess I sometimes stay away from fried dishes but this dish was so much more. It took me a whole bunch of stolen bites to figure out the flavors.  Chick peas, legumes, tiny vegetables and a hint of Indian flavors all stuffed in the fritters as well as under the array of roasted potatoes, cauliflower and baby mushroom caps. IMG_2339 I highly recommend this dish. I should have known she was going to be spoiled here which I am truly happy about. Anytime we can convert anyone for even one meal, the animals secretly thank us. She started the night with a muddled cucumber mint martini. Exactly whose birthday is it?  Just kidding- I’m thrilled to share the vegan love!

Dessert. I rarely lose in this category. The chocolate tart (with raspberry sorbet on the side) that I ordered was amazing!  I thought I won but she raved on and on about her coconut ice scream, sesame candy and how beautiful it was served with the thinly shaved pineapple carpaccio. Ok whatever.. you are my girlfriend after all. You can win it all if it means unlimited future vegan dinners!

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