Saturday, October 29, 2011

Where to Eat Vegan: Life Alive

Where do I start with Life Alive. I stayed in the Boston area for 3 days and I went to Life Alive 3 times. This hip joint touts itself as an urban oasis and during this first cold weekend of the winter season it was definitely feeling like a warm, safe haven from the streets.

The Carrot Cake Smoothie is pictured above and was sooooo good. Hemp protein, carrot, banana, coconut ice cream, almond milk and cinnamon. I added ginger as suggested by one of the friendly employees and I was not disappointed.

From soups to salads to rice bowls to smoothies, this place offered a variety of options full of fresh produce and whole grains. I quickly learned that getting a smoothie, cup of soup and rice bowl was way more food than I needed but I happily polished it all off. The next trip I opted for two "demi" sized portions. I really liked how they gave the option of a '"filling bowl", a "demi" portion or they were happy to make the whole thing into a "handy wrap".

With dish names like The Emperor, The Lover, The Adventurer, The Magician and The Feisty Child they certainly aren't the type of place to take themselves too seriously but their food was seriously amazing. My fellow customers were friendly (I made a friend!) and the staff was even friendlier. They sell dried fruit, nuts and chocolate treats by the pound and they have a healthy collection of loose teas that they encourage you to open and sniff.

Every day they serve two vegan soups. I tried a cup of their chipotle sweet potato soup.

Two demi sized plates: the Goddess rice bowl on the right (their signature dish) and the Warrior Salad on the left. The Goddess is comprised of carrots, beets, broccoli, dark greens, tofu and short grain brown rice topped with the Ginger Nama Shoyu Sauce. They reccommend adding avocado, which of course I did! The Warrior Salad is red lentil humms with tofu, peppitas, carrots, spring greens and a sweet miso sauce.

Located on 765 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge MA their hours are 8am to 10pm Monday through Saturday and 11am to 7pm on Sunday. Open every day of the week so you have no excuses not to go if you are in this area!

Vegan Mofo: Boston Beans

In preperation for my weekend in Boston I decided to indulge in a little beans for breakfast (I know it's a British thing but whatever) on toast. Words aren't very necessary here - just construct and broil until hot and melty. Simple.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Vegan Mofo: Liebster

Rachel at Passing Daisies was kind enough to award me a Liebster!

Basically, this liebster means "dearest," "beloved," or "favorite" in German, and this award is to spread love and bring attention to blogs with under 200 followers during VeganMoFo! It is a shout out to your favorite blogs. A "hey look at these blogs you may not know yet" to your followers, and just a general pat on the back to pass along. How sweet!

Here's how it works:
1. You show your thanks to the blogger who gave it to you by linking back to them.
2. You reveal YOUR top 5 pics for bloggers with less than 200 followers, and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the internet and fellow vegan mofos!

My awards go to:

1. Sonnet of For the Love of Food. This Seattle girl makes my list because she combines great food, travel, photography and homemade beauty products in such an enjoyable way.

2. Richa of Hobby and More who also happens to be a Seattle girl has this great blog where she not only posts her original recipes, many of them Indian and veganized, but she has also been posting a weekly charity or aid group that she loves. Her most recent one featured Help For Animals India which features Menaka - this lovely elephant pictured above.

3. Jen of The Raw Cooked Vegan because she makes raw food look delicious - like these raw tacos! I would love to try to incorporate more raw food into my diet -sans cashew because I'm allergic :(

4. Monica of Dorm Room Kitchen for her colorful, lovely photography and hand drawn sketches. So pretty!

5. And of course Miss Vanessa K Rees of V. K. Rees Photography. She may be new to the world of food photography but she is in no way new to the world of vegan food or photography in their own rights. I asked her recently about her process and she said she likes to think of it as a painting. She includes the 6 elements of style (shape, form, color, texture, space and value) and voila - beautiful art. Currently she is calling for recipes! Give her things to make and photograph and she will even send you the photograph for use on your own blog.

So there you have it - go visit their blogs and give them some love!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vegan Mofo: The Best Fried Rice and Chocolate Avocado Pudding

One of my favorite things to make is fried rice. It's easy, it's tasty and it's filling. The oils that I use in my fried rice were originally gathered by Alicia Silverstone in the Kind Diet but we differ on ingredients to go in the rice. This dish is great because it's customizable. You don't need to measure things, you don't have to follow a set of ingredients, just keep tasting till it tastes right! As with a lot of Asian dishes, I have found, a lot of knowing when the dish is done is based on smell. If you want your fried rice to have a saltier flavor, add more tamari till it smells salty. If you want it to be more vinegary add more vinegar until it smells like you have enough. Personally I prefer more salt to vinegar but to each his own.

Fried Rice for 2

1 cup basmati brown rice, cooked
3 organic carrots, sliced into rounds but not peeled
1/2 red onion, diced
1 portobella cap, cleaned and sliced
toasted sesame oil
brown rice vinegar
braggs liquid amino or tamari
(also consider things like peas, kale - which should be added at the same time as the rice, cabbage, daikon, adzuki beans or water chestnuts)

1. Heat about two tablespoons of toasted sesame oil in your cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and mushrooms. Sautee until the onions are getting translucent and the carrots and mushrooms have taken on a darker, saturated color - about 3 or 4 minutes.

2. Add the already cooked brown basmati rice. Stir the veggies and rice together to mix. Start adding your vinegar and tamari a little at a time. I tend to do about 1-2 tablespoons worth of tamari first, then about a teaspoon of vinegar. Taste.

3. Let the rice and veggies keep cooking until the carrots are soft but certainly not mushy. Keep seasoning as needed. I would guess that I use roughly 3 tbsp of tamari and perhaps 2 tsp of vinegar in all. Serve hot topped with sesame seeds, shriracha or just as is!

For dessert I have been somewhat obsessed with avocado pudding lately. I don't remember where I first saw it but I jotted down the ingredients from somewhere and then just finally got around to making it. SO GOOD!

Oh were you expecting a picture of it? I ate it all....

Avocado Pudding

2 ripe avocados
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp carob or chocolate powder

1. Put it all in a blender. Blend. Eat.

This dessert is so simple and so tasty. Everyone I have made it for, and I have made both carob and chocolate, agree that it has so much more complexity and character than your standard pudding, while still satisfying that fat-kid desire to finish (or start) the meal with a Snack Pack.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vegan Mofo Pumpkin Recipe Roundup

Hey Mofos! I don't have any food pictures to share with you today. My dear friend Katie brought me some apple galettes she made from Veganomicon and I wanted to take a picture of them to post but...then I ate them all. So in the meantime - here are some recipes that I would love to make!

Oh Lady Cakes' pumpkin spice granola and her raw pumpkin pie

Oh She Glow's pumpkin gingerbread smoothie - which I will be making for breakfast tomorrow and her maple baked bean cornbread casserole AND her pumpkin gingerbread with spiced buttercream

Vegan Dad's pumpkin pull apart rolls

Anchor and Feathers' pumpkin syrup

Vanessa K Rees' pumpkin pancakes

Healthy Happy Life's 5 ingredient pumpkin pie which I made for Thanksgiving last year and my Grandma said she liked it better than normal pumpkin pie!

Daily Green's pumpkin sage pate

Manifest Vegan's pumpkin alfredo

Until I get to make all of these goodies I will be longingly thinking of pumpkin patch adventures and keeping a snuff box of pumpkin spices close by for frequent sniffs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vegan Mofo: Where to eat vegan: Chocola Tree Cafe - Sedona, Arizona

Over the summer I got to visit Arizona and during our daytrip to Sedona we stopped at Chocola Tree Cafe for lunch. This cafe actually boasts itself as a sanctuary BEFORE a restaurant, but rest assured, the food is delicious. Part garden, part community space, part gallery, part bakery and raw, live, organic food mecca. Open 7 days a week 9am to 9pm, you have no excuse to not visit if you're in the area!

Check out their menu for such exciting and cute dishes as their Enlightenment Waffles - homemade buckwheat waffles served with a chocolate nut filled Buddha & Coconut creme Om.

The almond chili sauce on the raw kale salad was amazing and even won Rachel over to the dark side of kale! This was one of my first experiences with raw foods and while I was skeptical about raw falafel, I think we were all pleasantly surprised.

Served out in the garden, we ate out meal off of a giant tree stump under the shade of a neighboring tree. Before our food came out we wandered around the garden snapping pictures of flowers and finding all the hidden statues.

Soft Tacos

Raw Falafel Platter - served with creamy garlic dill dip and veggie hummus

Raw Viva Burrito - sundried tomato wrap filled with red bell peppers, red onion, cabbage, vegan cheese, pica de gallo and guacamole

Relaxing in the garden and relishing our spread of food, I believe we would all recommend this place for a satisfying and filling but at the same time light and clean-feelings meal.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Vegan Mofo: Early Fall Avocado Kale Salad

You know those first few days when it first starts to get blustery and the first few leaves begin to shift in color? That time of year is certainly upon us! Soup! Boots! Hot Tea! Everything to get excited for. But I must admit, the end of summer has it's sadness too. The saddest part of summer ending for me is the disappearance or scarcity of some of my favorite summer eats like sweet corn, tomatoes and avocados.

While I'll admit I eat avocados all year round, like its my job, like its going out of style, like your mama gave you...wait that doesn't work....they have a tendency to get, shall we say, poopy after the summer months. So as my last hurrahs of summer come to an end I have been adding in the last of the summer avocados to my salads, sammies and puddings.

This salad is a massaged kale salad. That is, you wont SEE the avocado because it's been used as a massage oil to slap the kale into a more digestible and palatable form.

Massaged Avocado and Kale Salad

1 cup chopped and washed kale, tough end of stems removed
1 cup chopped and washed chard
2 ripe avocados
2 ripe red plums, sliced
juice of half a lemon
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tbsp chia seeds

1. Place the greens in a large bowl. Scoop both avocados out of their shells and into the bowl. Add the lemon juice. Use your hands to massage the avocado into the kale until the greens are soft and dark green. This takes several minutes.

2. Top the salad with plums, raisins and chia seeds. Sprinkle a touch or salt and pepper if desired.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Roasted Sherry Portobellos

Portobellos are a wonderful thing. They can also be an annoying thing because they seem to have made it on the list of "what vegetarians/vegans eat" along with hummus and oreos. Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of those. It's just gets tired of eating the same few staples at every party, bbq and restaurant.

Nevertheless, I still love a good roasted shroom. This week I bought the caps with the intention of experimenting a bit. Thanksgiving is right around the corner it seems and this year I was thinking of adding a portobello to my list of things I will slave over and probably be the only one to eat (Little do they know I'm ok with that! All the treats for me!) during the feast.

Pre vegetarian/vegan Lacey was a nut for meat. Especially turkey. I've been contemplating what to cook that will satisfy all my taste cravings. My family has a tradition of making Drunk Turkey. Every year we buy bottles of sherry and baste and baste and baste the poor turkey until the house is full of the sweet smell of syrupy alcohol.

So here it is - Test One of Sherry Shrooms

1/2 cup sherry
2 tbsp each of Tamari, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
the juice of half a lemon

Whisk all the ingredients together.

Place the 3 to 4 cleaned caps in a casserole facing up, gills exposed, and spoon half of the sherry mixture into the caps and pour the rest into the bottom of the dish so both sides of the mushrooms get coated. Marinate for half an hour.

Heat the oven to 400. Roast, covered with a lid or aluminum foil for half an hour. Flip the caps over and roast for another 15 minutes or so, uncovered. Serve hot or let them cool and slice them.

These portobellos turned out well but more work must be done. The sherry was actually a bit overpowering. I will be trying them again soon but they worked wonderfully in the sandwich I had for lunch.

Sherry Portobello Sammy with Lemony Spinach and Basil Pesto

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vegan Mofo: Asylum, DC

For almost a year now I have been wanting to try Asylum's vegan brunch. Hugged up next to lots of other great bars and food joints in Adam's Morgan, it's taken me some time to get around to it but this past Sunday I made it a point to get there.

The decor was what I expected. Chains, skulls and dark black booths with heavy drones of metal playing over the speakers. So far so good. I can get into this - now get to the food!

We sat for a while and waited for menus. None came so we got up and politely asked the busy waitress. When she brought them over she apologetically explained that only the back of the menu would be available. This left us with the vegan options of pancakes, french toast, BBQ tofu and grits or a tofu scramble burrito.

I ordered the pancakes, which are pictured above (Oh did you think those were tortillas too? Nope.) and my friend ordered the burritos. If I had to describe the meal in one word: abysmal. The only flavor I could discern in the pancakes was cinnamon. Cinnamon? They arrived lukewarm so my vegan spread never melted. The sweet potato home fries were soggy. My friend said his burrito was fine but also lukewarm and the Daiya thrown on top of the tofu and beans was done so with no attempt to heat it up or melt it.

While all of use have had to struggle through a subpar meal in our lives, I usually just remind myself that it is only one meal of my life and let it go. As a vegan I know what it's like to eat a baked potato while my family feasts. And that's fine, most places don't cater to vegans. But if an establishment does cater to vegans, and even boasts that they cater to vegans, you expect the food to be good.

The food served to us at brunch this weekend was embarrassing. I couldn't help thinking, as I chewed my tasteless paper-thin pancakes, that this is what people think of when they think of vegan food. This is why they are hesitant when I offer to cook for them or share my food. As any vegan foodie - aspiring home chef will tell you, this simply is not necessary. I've won over many a timid taster with my own vegan cooking. Bad vegan restaurant food is just plain embarrassing.

If you read the yelp reviews of the brunch you'll see mention of vegan chili cheese fries, waffle fries piled high with Daiya, a vegan breakfast bowl, biscuits, and copious sides of tempeh. All of these items were unavailable this past weekend. Were they hiding the real menu from me? I'll never know. Their online menu is chock full of vegan bar food delights.

Maybe they were having an off night. Or maybe an off week. The yelp reviews from this past weekend seemed equally unfavorable. Unfortunately, with so many great places to try in the District, its unlikely I will be going out of my way to eat there again anytime soon. If you want a guaranteed good meal or you want to show-off to your friends by treating them to some vegan eats, my recommendation - skip Asylum. Or at the very least call ahead and make sure they're offering the full menu.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vegan Mofo: Apple Picking

Saturday this week I joined some friends for a little ol' fashioned apple picking. It was one of the first crisp fall days we've had and the air was full of cinnamon aroma and to our surprise the sun peeked out from the rain-clouds just as we got there.

Living in a city, our grocery stores are often stuffed with a vast array of top-dollar produce, but sometimes you need to get out of the smog and spend a day in the woods...or orchard I suppose.

We drove out to Stribling Orchard in Markham Virginia. For my fellow DC folks it's about an hour or so out of the city - sans traffic - so count on a little longer. At the moment you can pick Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Jonathan, Rome and Stayman apples. Of course we sampled all 5!

Picking your own apples is great because it gets you out on the farm and you don't have to worry about apples that were shipped across the continent or that yucky wax coating that gets put on grocery store apples! There are tons of options for pick-your-own places. Check here for farms near you.

I haven't decided what to make just yet. My go to is usually Love Soup's Apple Crumble. Any suggestions for me?

Also, check out these fellow MoFo-ers recipes!

Sour Cream and Onion Kale Chips at Cupcakes and Kale

Smokey Mushroom Slowcooker Soup at Vegan Yack Attack

Herbivore Cheese Scones at Vegan Chicks Rock -I can't wait to make these! Reminds me of the only reason I loved Red Lobster, the cheese biscuits!

Vegan Candy Apples done seven ways for each dwarf (she makes her food on movie themes!) at Vegan Cine Grub

Velvety Collard Soup at In My Vegan Life

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegan Mofo: Black Bean Zucchini Patties

Hey everyone, it's MOFO time! As I mentioned in a previous post I will only be blogging about vegan food this month so all my Buddhism, relationship, yoga talk will have to be put on hold. But for now, let's talk about food!

These patties are an adaptation from a Whole Living recipe. The patties were meant to be a twist on falafel I believe but I chose to make them more Mexican inspired by switching out the beans, adding spices and changing the topping and of course I veganized it.

1 zucchini
half of a red onion
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs*
2 tbsp ground flax seed whisked with 3 tbsp warm water
salt and cracked pepper to taste
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
fresh spinach
pita bread cut into halves
several tbsp roasted corn salsa

To make the patties:

1. Throw the black beans in a large bowl and with a potato masher or sturdy fork mash the black beans down until it forms a paste. Having some whole or partially uncrushed black beans is just fine.

2. In a food processor (or by hand if you want to go all natural!) shred the zucchini and red onion.

3. Add the shredded veggies, cup of breadcrumbs, whisked flaxseeds and spices to the black bean bowl. Use your hands to mix everything together well and then form the mixture into 8 patties.

4. Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of your skillet (cast iron! I can't tell you enough how awesome cast iron is for this kind of stuff) over medium heat. Fry each patty until its brown and crisp on both sides then remove them to a plate.

5. Stuff each pita with fresh spinach or green of your choice. Place a patty on top of the spinach and serve with salsa.

To take the patties to go I found it better to slice them in half and then wrap them in a whole wheat wrap with the spinach, reserving the salsa on the side until you're ready to eat the sandwich.

* To make breadcrumbs place several slices of stale whole grain bread in the food processor and then pulse until the bread is reduced to crumbs. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toasted, at 400 degrees.