"Reinventing Indulgence" One meal at a time!

Posts tagged ‘vegan’

Sprouted Chick Pea – Red Pepper Hummus

Vegans and hummus go hand in hand. More frequently than not, it’s our saviour. Well.. mine anyway. It’s like a safe food. Non-vegans generally adore it and so will offer it as a snack at parties. Many restaurants will carry it, especially the Mediterranean ones and for sure.. a falalfa place is always nearby. In New york at least!

HummuIMG_4799s goes well with breads, crackers, crisps as well as carrots, celery, peppers and other raw vegetables. I’m starting to see snack pack sizes of hummus in the grocery stores- that’s a positive move for kids and people on the go.

On the flip side, it’s actually really easy to make it yourself. I have blogged hummus many times;  I even thought I specifically blogged “sprouted chick pea hummus” but I guess I didn’t. I’m gearing up to go raw vegan (join me) for a little while, since the weather is finally breaking into consectutive days of sunshine and warmth here in New York.

Raw vegan for me- means it’s time to get sprouting. I starting to soak a few things the other day and Instagramed it. Someone asked me to post the outcomes so here goes one of them:

Recipe and how to make:
Sprouted Chick Pea – Red Pepper Hummus:

  • I soak the chick peas overnight and then dIMG_4794rain and rinse them.IMG_4792
  • Let them sit until you see the sprouts coming out. Usually within one or two days (even three). It’s good to rinse them and move them around to shake the water off.
  • Now I have a live food full of enzymes.
    I like this quote from Brenda Davis:
    “We can live about 3 weeks without food and 3 days without water, but we would likely survive only about 3 minutes without enzymes.”
  • I toss a little over one cup of the sprouted chick peas into the food processor
  • I put in my tahini and extra virgin olive oil; at least two big tablespoons of both. Taste test as you go!
  • Crush some garlic and let it sit for a few minutes, then add it in
  • Add freshly squeezed lemon; i used a few cut wedges
  • Hot sauce; the title should really be Sprouted Chick Pea – Red Pepper Hummus; the Spicy Version!
  • Organic red pepper cut into pieces and then added to food processor
  • Sea salt

So delicious!

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Buffalo Cauliflower bites

IMG_4502Let’s cut to the chase- you could make anything “buffalo” style, serve it with a great dip and it would taste good. Admit it! I have never seen such a reaction to my vegan food as with this picture. It’s not like my friends are about to become vegan (although a girl can wish) but moreso that they can see the connection between something not healthy to something healthier. I’m all for that! Hence, my mission and name – Reinventing Indulgence.

Perhaps others can share my early addiction to buffalo chicken wings. One thing for sure, I had the best comparison there is. The best wings I had ever indulged in were at BJ’s in Fredonia, upstate New York and they were 10 cents; sorry folks but I don’t think it’s there anymore. I have been to Anchor bar in Bufflao where they boast “Home of the Original Buffalo Wing”; they were good but I still thought BJ’s wings were better- crispy not wet. Anyone from Buffalo can tell ya.. they know wings! It’s interesting how we all get so far removed from the animal when discussing eating choices, good times and the memories associated. It’s actually so odd now even saying it.. wings. We eat (ate) the wings off a bird and deep fry them in hot sauce. It’s kinda gross and of course not to mention – cruel. So I’m glad to see the craze returning for something that does not involve an animal part. Although like I said, you can pretty much deep fry anything and throw it in hot sauce.

Cauliflower. Here we go – you don’t have to deep fry or even fry it. You can bake these. I have heard a few of my friends making these and have been excited to try it. I have had pretty good vegan wings – V Spot in Brooklyn, made from soy and Champs, also in Brooklyn, made from tempeh.

Cauliflower works for me so I made a first attempt.

IMG_4428IMG_4430Umm- not so good!
I somewhat followed a PETA recipe with my nonchalant ADD type of way.
Take (1) – it didn’t taste very well. I used whole wheat flour. I have four flours in my home at the moment – coconut, potato, whole wheat and Teff. The funny part is- I don’t even use them except to experiment. And that’s what this was. I used the whole wheat flour and soy milk. I dipped the cauliflower pieces in and baked it.

CALRVBrWgAAcqOvThey looked, felt and tasted gummy – in addition, I made a mess. The messy part was not surprising but the gummy was. Yuk. I dosed it in this amazing Brown’s Tahini Buffalo sauce that I bought at this past NYCVEGFEST. It was beginning to taste pretty good. I re-baked it like a few recipes say to do. The flavor seemed to get lost a bit. Afterwards, it was just ok. (For the record they were better on day 2.)

I had to try it again.

Take (2). This time I asked my friend Rachna and she jumped in excitement with her method which was using chick pea flour and club soda. Hmm.. now it’s getting interesting. I bought another head of cauliflower and tried it again. This time though I didn’t have that cool hot sauce. I had mexican hot sauce. I stopped by my favorite place to pay for over market-price fun niche items. I went in for E3 Live- came out spending $166 and didn’t even get the hot sauce because they didnt have Franks, which is my favorite. Funny thing, Whole Foods had a bunch of other sauces but I had to put a few down because of corn syrup (GMO) and egg whites, butter etc. It really shouldn’t be so difficult. It’s just hot sauce. It’s suppose to be vegan. IMG_4493

Back to the recipe; The buffalo sauce part called for butter – us vegans.. we got butter! No probs.. lets do this. I start mixing my hot sauce but it was super hot and not that thick so I had to add more butter. I started thinking.. this is not healthy lol But hey.. you think it is right because it’s cauliflower. I didn’t even get to the dip part. Just because it’s vegan- doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So I try to stop adding butter because I dont want a heart attack. I instead switch to tahini. Ok.. I like this. Next time though, when I’m in the mood for this, it’s Frank’s Red Hot or that cool Brown’s Tahini Buffalo sauce. Frank’s Original is definitely vegan. Surprisingly, even though the Frank’s “Wings” sauce says Natural Butter Type Flavor – it too is VEGAN! Major score!

Back to the butter ingredient in the recipe for a moment; dairy butter is fattening with a higher percentage of saturated fat than the vegan butter. It also comes from dairy cows fed a diet of GMO feed. Knock yourself out with the argument that you are using grass fed butter. Maybe one in 100k of you are. Do what you want but it’s still abuse at the animal level. As for those who want to indulge in vegan butter, it isn’t the healthiest thing either although you aren’t hurting any animals or supporting the dairy industry. There is plenty of research that saturated fats (especially from animals) and excess omega 6 fats should be minimized and I will definitely add to that and say especially when heated. That being said, remember my Mom’s favorite words.. “everything in moderation”! Food for thought: some doctors even say “no oil” at all – have you ever heard Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn MD. It’s definitely worth checking out. My favorite fats are flax, avocado, raw cacao, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil (not for heat) and extra virgin coconut oil, raw or to heat for sautés.

I know this blog is for my non-vegan friends so let me get to it:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Wash and cut the cauliflower into bite size pieces like 1 to 2 inches
  • Make a flour batter. I used Bob Mills garbanzo & Fava flour but regular garbanzo bean flour is good. I used between 1/4 to 1/3 of the bag for one head of cauliflower.
  • Mix it with some club soda– not too little, not too much. You don’t want the batter dripping thin but also not too thick and clunky. My friend said to use a cookie wire rack for the pieces of cauliflower to drip off after you dip them in the batter. I said, “do I look like a cookie maker to you?” lol. I had no idea what she was talking about! If you have it – use it!  You can put tin foil underneath so you don’t make a mess like I did. Actually, it’s called a cooling rack. I learn something new everyday! I’m not sure if they are technically made for inside the oven so please check what it’s made of. Many people do use it for that purpose but you should be careful of non stick surfaces in high oven temperatures. My friend likes it because the cauliflower can cook from underneath while dripping off excess batter. I am researching as I write; the oven friendly version is called a roasting pan if you want to get fancy.
  • Cook for 18 minutes. This is important. It’s best you don’t over cook it or they will be mushy. If you aren’t a professional baker with all sorts of equipment, then they might stick to the pan even, if you did grease it with coconut oil like I did.
  • Prepare the hot sauce mixture: approximately, 1 cup hot sauce and 1 tablespoon of vegan butter (have extra on hand of both if needed). I’d be lying if I didn’t say I used less hot sauce and more vegan butter. I added tahini as well. As previously mentioned, next time I will use Frank’s Red Hot and follow the recipe more precisely.
  • I put the baked cauliflower in a stainless steel bowl. I slowly and gently added the hot sauce mixture. You dont want the cauliflower to break apart or get mushy.
  • IMG_4495The recipes generally say to “rebake” for another 8 – 10 minutes. My friend said don’t rebake.”  I agree. I may try it again and do a taste test. Honestly, it was already great! How was i to wait another 10-15 minutes to eat it?
  • The “blue cheese”. Urgh.. you know how I feel about the overrated marketing trap of the dairy industry. Who needs blue cheese? The Buffalo Cauliflower Dip I made was so delicious. I used Hampton Creek’s JUST MAYO. Non vegans are raving about this. Weird but great! I roughly followed this recipe from 86lemons except I used more tahini and forgot about the tofu. Will try that next time.
  • So to sum up the dip part: I used approximately 3/4 cup Just Mayo, 1/4 cup tahini, fresh squeezed lemon, teaspoon apple cider vinegar, almost a tablespoon red wine vinegar and then garlic powder, give or take. I’m sorry, I need a class in recipe writing for sure!

Whatever the wing is.. soy, tempeh, cauliflower or any other vegetable, it’s still going to be all about the hot sauce, the dip and the lovely cut carrots and celery that make you feel like you didn’t just consume 500 calories. But hey.. if that helps you save the wings of one chicken then so be it. Go for it!

Visit my Pinterest to see other fun things you can do with cauliflower. Next up for me is cauliflower pizza. Enjoy!

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.

My visit to CAS; Catskill Animal Sanctuary

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Catskill Animal Sanctuary

Disconnect. That’s it. I was looking for the right word to sum up my feeling as I was walking up the winding road away from Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS) in upstate New York. I was torn between disconnect and desensitized. I’m talking about people here not the animals. I feel that if the average person knew what went on with factory farming specifically, they would never eat meat again. I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule but for the most part I would like to believe in the more compassionate side of human beings. So, why do most people not know? For one, they do not want to know because then they will not be able to consume meat again, which many treasure for a variety of reasons. Others, are just disconnected, moreso I believe rather than desensitized although ultimately, the two go hand in hand. It’s quite obvious that for the most part one does not connect a brightly colored, cleanly wrapped, package of boneless meat from a grocery store to the real life of a commercial farm animal with a fully functioning nervous system, a dreadful story of torture and a genetically altered diet living as a commodity in a sales and yield driven money empowered environment. For the record and so you know if you don’t already, farm animals are exempt from animal cruelty laws. They are actually not even seen as animals; they are commodities. Therefore, if your heart melts because a cat is left in the cold without food, a dog is being abused by it’s owner, a horse is driving tourists around in a crowded polluted city or a pitbull is in a dog fight for money; well, then you can’t even imagine what goes on in factory farms. I’m not about to get into it now but please make it your priority to learn about this on your own. The tipping point with regard to the future of food is arriving and hopefully you will get aboard and make the change that you want to see in the world. Every person can and will make a difference. 

What pops up in my head immediately though is the anti-movement. By this, I mean the distortion of the truth under the disguise of “increased health”; Whole Foods in one aspect and then the paleo movement overall. Whole Foods, which I do like as a mega store for the record, has an ongoing campaign of knowing where your food comes from. This is marketing at it’s best. They want you to get the impression that your food comes from a pretty farm where animals run free and have a magnificent life and then sacrifice it for your food. Don’t be fooled by this. It’s far from reality. Although these farms may have existed in the past, or throughout rural parts of the world or even possibly today on an “organic”, “grass fed” or “sustainable” farm, it’s is simply so small in comparison that I will almost say that it doesn’t exist. I recall, only a couple years ago, arguing with a paleo friend of mine who said that they eat grass fed beef. I researched it to find that only 3% of the beef eating market actually buys this. True paleo diets do not revolve around eating meat all day long nor in every meal. It’s suppose to actually revolve around plants with 3 – 4 ounces (of meat) a day, not an hour!  Furthermore, you can’t be paleo with the belief in your head that you are eating “GMO free” meat when you really do not know. Dining out and eating on the run, two popular American lifestyles, are generally far from organic. Oh please.. I see so many stores and restaurants slap that “organic” word on their window so that you believe it’s healthy. Just because they have one organic item doesn’t make them a source of organics. Back to Whole Foods with their pictures of a model holding a chicken or pretty farmland in the background; it’s almost as good as the dairy industry’s GOT MILK campaign. Ok, well it isn’t that good. That’s probably the best food marketing (and farce) of all time. Whole Foods wants you to think that they are a leader in making that connection. They leave out the whole story though. I don’t believe first of all that everything they have is even 50% organic. I remember looking for grass fed liver to feed my dogs back in the day and it was hardly ever in stock. Is there a demand for that which I do not know about? I look around the meat case and I see hardly any of it is grass fed. Next to the meat case and my biggest gripe of the Whole Foods in Brooklyn, are the hanging carcasses. People like this? Are you serious? Most meat eaters I know don’t want to see that. They want their disconnect or a make believe story that everything is ok. The ones who like seeing that; well they are the desensitized ones. As for the paleo people losing weight by eating “meat” like their ancestors lol come on. Just maybe you are losing that weight because you are dropping GMOS, junk food, processed crap – and you are eating a pound of vegetables every day. I can’t get into it right now. I will get more sidetracked.

Why all the talk of the disconnected and desensitized ones? Because the changing of hearts and minds can be greatly attributed to all of the animal rescue organizations around the world – they are the solution. Truly, we need to meet, appreciate and respect the animals. They have souls, they can feel joy, they are intelligent and many have a story. I highly recommend visiting an animal rescue facility. I finally visited a farm animal sanctuary: CAS. I encourage these visits for anyone looking to develop their compassion – for all living beings

My venture kicked off with a quick visit to my friend’s bakery. I stop in to see two of my favorite people and also of course to nudge them along to carry some vegan bakery items. Either they are afraid of the word or they don’t think it will sell. I keep telling them how to market it and remind them that half of the world is lactose intolerant. As I am leaving, I meet a few native Italian friends of the family.  We talk about farms for a minute but the discussion ends in horse farms and not the ones you see as pets or sporting.  Naive that it could relate to Italy, I said what? Horses for meat? My friend looks at me and says she doesn’t eat the meat when she goes there – horses are beautiful. Luckily, the women who told me the story said their family doesn’t do that anymore. But two things I’m left with: First, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Here is a beautiful campaign (from Mercy for Animals) if you haven’t already seen it: How do u love one and eat the other.

loveeat1

loveeat2

I can find the beauty in all of them. Second, lucky are those who escape consumption. I couldn’t help but think how lucky these sanctuary animals are. Think of the number alone. I found this link listing the farm sanctuaries in the United States.

http://www.sanctuaries.org

One would have to count and compare this number to the 9 billion that are slaughtered for food each year in the US alone (70 billion worldwide). One million are slaughtered per hour in our country. That’s crazy. Putting that in perspective and then meeting these lucky animals blows my mind.

IMG_3199I arrive at the sanctuary and make my way down to meet everyone. The first day was quiet. It was late in the afternoon and most were just fed or still eating. The horses on one side loved the attention. I even felt they were fighting over me lol. Quite the contrary, with the horses on the other side; they were only interested in food and water at that time. I was overly excited to see the pigs. It was interesting to watch them especially as they came right up to the fence. I must say too that they have such nice eyelashes. IMG_3335

Pigs, as I was told the next day, are the fifth smartest animals. I generally say they are smarter than a three-year old child and have more sensitivity then a dog.  I found these lists and videos of the “smartest animals” quite interesting:

http://animals.howstuffworks.com/animal-facts/10-smartest-animals.htm#page=0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnMkvpCT8IA#t=19

The sheep were beautiful as they just literally starred at me. And I starred right back at them thinking about how I need to never wear wool again. I only buy vegan now but it’s interesting having had to go back into my closet to see exactly how many things I needed to remove from my wardrobe. I think I am there now.

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Tucker

I hung out with the cows.  I have seen cows before especially when I was younger but honestly, I have never seen a cow this big in my life or a pig for that matter. I learned that farm animals are even more manipulated than I thought. They aren’t necessarily genetically modified (for food consumption) as in the definition of GMO; not yet anyway although it’s certainly in the works.

Shirely

Shirely

Farm animals in general eat a diet full of GMOs. Apparently, the alterations here are more along the lines of breeding and of course all the tricks that farmers do to fatten and enlarge both the animals and their pocket books. I know about some of these practices but certainly not all. I was also amazed at each story and where they came from. Although they were all saved from slaughter, it wasn’t like I had imagined. Some were from an illegal slaughterhouse that was shut down, some from a zoo, some from hoarders and so on. I need about ten more tours before I will get it right and their names. I want to remember them all. 

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Arthur

After a wonderful tofu scramble in the guesthouse, The Homestead, I had the pleasure of an amazing personal tour with Erica. She must be in really good with them because what a difference the next day.  It was early and everyone was out. We were greeted by Shirley and a few of her friends.. and then there was Arthur. First impressions do matter because I will tell you now – I already love and miss Arthur. I know it’s not right to have favorites but his personality stuck with me. If I could sneak him out, I would lol. All of the animals there flocked to Erica. It was like walking into a party, meeting everyone and trying to remember their names.

me_EmmetFirst we hugged Emmet. Then we walked down to see Buddy, the blind horse. http://www.amazon.com/Where-Blind-Horse-Sings-Sanctuary-ebook/dp/B00558B5YC

Along the way, I met Bobby, Amos and Jessie.

Shortly after, we noticed quite a bit of commotion. I watched in amazement. The farm staff was running the pigs into different pastures. There were no trucks, cages or leashes – more like hey follow me! It was exciting. Kathy Stevens, founder and president of CAS, was even there enjoying the smiles and happiness coming from the pigs all over. I was able to witness the running around of the pigs and their curly tails twirling. Happy pig day! Even the other animals were watching. With gorgeous eyes I might add.

We went on to meet the sheep more closely. They stare one day and then run away the next. I know the feeling. I met Bruce the duck and was up close and personal with the chicks. I was also able to spend a second time watching Tucker, the big cow. You can read about their stories on CAS website: https://casanctuary.org/about/meet-animals-new/

Here are some photos I took of my new friends:

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If you would like to donate:

https://secure.casanctuary.org/np/clients/catskillanimal/donation.jsp?campaign=1&

I can’t wait to go back. It’s like a drop of hope in a sea of torture.

CAS is located in upstate New York by the Kingston exit #19 from the NYS Thruway. 316 Old Stage Road, Saugerties

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Dining out vegan – tips for the newbie

15 years ago or so I tried to go vegan for two weeks. I redefined the word bitch and nearly killed a few people with my impatience and sarcasm. Not very compassionate at all. I didn’t know then one tenth of what I know today. There also were very few options available and most people with whom I ran circles with were all about partying and indulging. Hey me too! I was and still am, but differently now and with much more compassion. So back then I remember going to my favorite restaurants with my friends and just torturing myself as they sat there and ordered all my favorite dishes. I couldn’t even get a decent order in; the place really had nothing vegan. [Vegan side note: I know! The animals are the ones who are literally tortured, not us with our meaningless cravings and gluttony behavior. I’m talking from my pre-vegan years when I was straight up ignorant and uneducated with regards to the food industry.]

Usually, when I am focused on healthier eating, white pasta, white flours and white rices come out first. Hence.. the bitchiness! Who attempts to eat vegan on top of eliminating refined junk food while simultaneously knowing nothing about juicing or even eating vegetables for that matter. Seriously, how is one door suppose to open until the other is closed. How does one go from junk to health. Oh, for the record, this was an attempt at going vegan for health and diet; not necessarily at this point knowing anything about the animals. There is a difference and in the long run, it does matter.

So I’m trying to order something exciting in a seafood place. All they had to offer me was lettuce and tomato. Just a heads up.. this is when I get really nasty. lol. Where did all that anger come from anyway? I’m guessing people experience moods or feelings of deprivation and lash out. It’s not like I was starving by any means. I was a brat and an indulgent one at that. Why go to a seafood place if you are vegan anyway? I can just hear the waiter thinking it.

I bet the same thome_teaughts go through most minds as if, especially in todays age, there isn’t already enough to worry about with concern for allergies. Oh these vegans, why do they eat here? First of all, there were no vegan restaurants 15 – 20 years ago. Ok.. I exaggerate. I think Souen and Angelica’s Kitchen were around (NYC), both of which weren’t exclusively vegan back then. I could be wrong. Second, if I’m going out socially, my friends are all non-vegan and don’t want to go. Again, I’m talking years ago. Now it’s different. There are options and I have new friends. Hahaha j/k. My friends do love me and will definitely eat vegan to hang out and catch up. If I have no choice though, I will go out non-vegan so here is my survival guide. Keep in mind that I’m vegan and healthatarian – no white crap refined junk. Any place that can create something better than a dish of lettuce, tomato and cucumber is going to be ok. With that in mind, it will be alright and if not, just have a drink and or a cup of tea and be hospitable!

Here is my advice.

(1) Go ethnic.

Japanese is fantastic. I will tell you this though; I have walked out of many a Japanese restaurant for not having brown rice. Don’t get me excited about a maki roll only to tell me you can’t make the rice stick. We all know you add stuff to that sticky rice anyway lol and probably sugar too! Hey.. that’s the hazard of dining out; and this is the good option. They also sneak sugar into the hijiki seaweed salad. At least they have seaweed, and pickled foods, all kinds of tofu, papaya or avocado salads, veggie rolls, miso soup and more. I usually ask if the miso soup has fish. For the record, you can’t say is it vegetarian. Sometimes, people think fish is vegetarian. I get sweet potato rolls if I’m lucky or some cool roll with mango and avocado. The default here is always cucumber avocado.

Korean  restaurants will also usually have a nice tofu dish. They do those sizzling hot bibimbop bowls. Delicious!

Chinese is a good choice but please, if you go out to dinner with me- REMIND ME- sauce on the side! Otherwise that dish of brown rice and veggies is now swimming in a heart attack of high sodium.

Mexican is a favorite of mine. I hate to compromise my values but GMO VS. VEGAN, vegan will win. At least until they genetically modify a burger from some chemical concoction. I think the closest is called in-vitro aka lab meat. Then I will be for it (to cut down the mass production of factory farming); although I won’t eat it. That is a whole nother blog.  So when dining Mexican, I refuse the flour tortilla and go with the GMO corn. Oops.. did I say GMO VS. VEGAN; I meant GMO VS. HEALTHATARIAN. I will not eat white flour. Corn tortilla it will be. I do wish for organic ones but that’s not going to happen mainstream while the entire corn industry is subsidized. Guacamole is a lock but easy on the deep fried chips. Beans and mushrooms are usually an option at Mexican restaurants. Make sure the beans have no animal ingredients. If you are eating at a food truck, be careful; a guy once told me the beans were vegetarian with a little bit of pork fat. You see what I’m saying! Interestingly, I will never buy anything with GMO corn or soy, but if I’m stuck dining out somewhere with not great options, I do cave in. It’s almost always a corn tortilla or a piece of soy chicken. I’m trying! Vegan restaurants are super guilty of this too.  

Indian yes, of course!. They will always have a vegetarian menu. Remember: milk, cheese and eggs are NOT VEGAN! Lentils and peas are my best friends.

Middle Eastern is another good one. Falafel is vegan. Say no more! Well, just one more thing; I love my hummus and vegan sides with whole wheat pita.

Moving along, NO my Italian  brothers and sisters – you are far from making the cut. Why? Perhaps because the only green vegetable you know is broccoli rabe. Annoying. Your spinach is super sautéed with butter and sometimes grated cheese. I can ask for olive oil and then secretly, the next thing I want to know is if it’s a blend. Don’t you dare sneak those GMO oils in my food. All of sudden, I forget I am a vegan and the anti-Monsanto anger comes out. Perhaps I am angry. But today it’s for a reason and it’s targeted! It’s to the factory farming production and it’s supporters and to big bio-tech firms destroying our food, water, air and earth under the good name of saving the world. Honestly, who wouldn’t be mad. Or perhaps too, it’s just because I suspended pasta from my diet. That probably adds to it lol. Once, in an Italian restaurant, the professional waiter said the polenta was vegan no meat. There were no physical signs of meat, as he puts it, and he swears no dairy but personally, it was probably chicken stock, milk, cheese and GMO corn. Sarcasm aside, you could have pasta just fine if you want. Ask questions, learn and move on. For me, Italian is out.

Steak house in. Crazy as it sounds and only if I am forced, I will go and get better vegetables there then most restaurants. One can survive quite nicely on sides. Scared to out yourself as vegan?Just tell them you are allergic to milk and cheese. Don’t assume they know how to define the word vegan. For the record, only my Mom on Mother’s Day or a best friend’s wedding will get me at a steakhouse, otherwise, hell no!

(2) Live on the sideline.

It won’t kill you to amp up your vegetables. Order just sides. Try it. You will be surprised how many things all of a sudden have milk and cheese in it. Otherwise, they are fried, which is a healthatarian no no. It’s getting better in this department. If it’s a good restaurant, they will make your sides look pretty and everyone will be staring at your dish.

2014-11-16 17.17.50 copy(3) Build your own salad.

If in doubt, go green. This used to scare me because of the experience 15 years ago but it’s better now, although I’m not sure by how much. They have to have something, right? Scan the salads and the menu. Choose what you want and tell them. I will generally ask for a combination of salads and then kindly tell them I am a good tipper. I want spinach or kale to be exact. I want something other than tomato and cucumber – say maybe endive, sun dried tomato, carrots, peppers, avocado. Then go for the kill- ask for your protein. Do you have walnuts, almond slices, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds or chick peas? Top that beautiful salad off with some sliced apple or pear and dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds. Now we are talking. They have a grain? – well then, fabulous! For the record, if a restaurant has an avocado, my day is complete. Best salad to date was in the tiny town of Pine Hill, upstate New York, in the middle of nowhere. The picture is right here: mixed greens, quinoa, chick peas, tomato, cucumber, squash and guacamole without me even asking a thing!

(4) Power grains and legumes.

Don’t listen to paleo heads. Do you really want to take advice from someone that compares themselves to a caveman. I won’t get started here because that blog is already in the works.  All grains are not created equal. Yeah, avoid processed ones. Reduce your addiction to bread if you have one. If you are lucky, they will have a dish that is a good grain and vegetable combo. You don’t have to have high protein all day long nor do you have to have a protein and a big carbohydrate together in every meal. Your digestion system would actually prefer that you don’t. You can combine either though with greens and vegetables. With these and other choices, your body can still gather all the amino acids necessary to build complete proteins.

Suggestions: Simple.

  • Brown rice with bok choy and acorn squash
  • Wild rice with brussels sprouts
  • Quinoa with asparagus
  • Amaranth with kale and broccoli
  • Lentils with spinach
  • Chick peas with artichoke hearts
  • Black beans and corn
  • Cannellini beans with swiss chard and string beans
  • Barley with mushrooms (not gluten-free)

Speaking of mushrooms, that’s a meal and a half. If you see large portabella mushroom caps –jackpot! It’s a vegan steak. Take it and run.

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If you are super lucky, you will see a nice tofu dish..  seared or grilled; something fancy! I’m not just talking Asian cuisine; some places will go all out. Now if you are really in the right place at the right time look out. I have had quinoa risotto with plantains in a Spanish restaurant done really well. I have had seitan cutlets in a few places. The best yet though, was the cauliflower steak. It was three vegans, three non vegans and six cauliflower steaks. Those copy cats! It could happen.

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(5) You could always call ahead!

They are much more accommodating on the phone prior to a reservation being made. Hosts and managers sometimes have more insight, professionalism and patience than a rushed waiter. They can tell you right away what is vegan and what is not. You can check the online menu too. To be competitive now, restaurants really have to offer something for everyone- vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, nut-free, kosher, vegan and so on. Being vegan today isn’t as hard as years ago.

If you are a newbie, remember to come out of the vegan closet! Represent.. ask questions, make suggestions, be vocal about what you want; spread the love and awareness and heighten the desire for vegan food. With increased demand, comes supply. Support the vegan restaurants and places that go out of their way to veganize. A great example that I have seen lately, is the Yard House with a special GARDEIN section. Some restaurants will have a separate vegan menu altogether. Even Chipotle introduced a vegan item: Sofritas. It has to be something cool – not just an improvised salad or side. Give us some substance that isn’t pasta, GMO corn or cheap nutritionally deficient white bread or white rice. They need to get creative and step up their game. Never know when Beyoncé might pop in.

 

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.

NOBU- the queen of Japanese dining in London; Is it vegan?

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!

Vegan surprises in Bath England

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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