Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fresh from the Garden Vegan Cooking Demo

Summer is in full swing with hot and humid days followed by thunderstormy nights, which is the perfect weather for our gardens.  And they're abundant!  I was happy to give a cooking demonstration at Cora J. Belden Library in Rocky Hill, CT last night featuring a veggies from the summer garden:  zucchini, green beans and corn.  I picked up these beauties from Northfordy Farm at the City Seed Farmers Market in Wooster Square.

This time of year is perfect for Three Sisters Stew, a recipe featuring the Native American trio of squash, beans and corn which grow together in perfect harmony and taste great together, too.  The squash grows low to the ground and crowds out the weeds while beans vine up the tall stalks of corn.  The corn and beans also form a complete protein of all the essential amino acids the body can't produce, so it's the perfect one-dish meal.  The stew is seasoned with cumin, red pepper flakes and oregano to add a spicy, savory component.

I augmented the recipe just a bit by plating the stew on top of a bed of polenta, then garnished with a drizzle of parsley pistou and sprinkle of toasted pepitas.  This makes for a simple and satisfying meal that has a pleasing balance of color, flavor and texture.  All of these recipes can be found in my new cookbook, Easy Peasy Vegan Eats.

I was really happy to see many people come up for seconds, even two young girls who politely asked for more.  Now, when kids eat your food - especially when they want another serving - you know you have a winning recipe!

I also enjoyed reading class evaluations afterward with statements like:

"It was informative and fun to watch as the cooking process and flavors unfolded."

"Great class!!  I enjoyed it very much.  Mary is an excellent teacher/demonstrator, very thorough.  She explained everything as she went along." 

"The chef was very patient to answer questions and kept the class lively."

and my favorite

"I really enjoyed this demo.  From what I learned I would like to try having more vegan meals.  Thank you!"

Thank you to Carole Fisher and friends of Cora J. Belden Library for inviting me to give this presentation, and to everyone who attended.  You inspire me to make vegan food that is easy to prepare, healthy to eat and delicious!  I hope you will share what you learned with family and friends.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Easy Peasy Vegan Eats Book Launch

Earlier this month I held a book signing and raw food demonstration to celebrate the launch of my new cookbook, Easy Peasy Vegan Eats.  It seemed appropriate to hold this event at a place that has inspired me along my journey, Your Community Yoga Center in Hamden, where I take yoga classes and attend weekly meditation.  I am grateful to Jen Brosious for offering this lovely space as the setting to share what I do with you.

I don't always remember to take group shots, but I did a quick one before getting started.  It was nice to see every seat filled by the time I began my presentation.

I shared three raw recipes from the cookbook:  two were variations on cashew cheese sauces, one with horseradish and the other seasoned with chipotle pepper.  I piped the sauce in endive leaves and on zucchini rounds.

The other recipe was raw cacao coconut hemp truffles.  These were deliciously decadent, yet relatively guilt-free.

Thank you to everyone who came to this presentation and for listening to my stories of how I made the vegan transition.  As you know, making the decision to become vegan had a powerful effect on my life because it changed me in so many ways.  I'm glad to be able to share my experience with you.

Friday, June 20, 2014

This Week's Menu

It's been feeling like summer this week, and the menu reflects entrees suitable to warmer weather.  These are some of my favorites which I haven't cooked in awhile.

Tempeh stroganoff with broccoli on brown rice

Ratatouille and cannelini beans with fire-roatsed tomato marinara on penne

Thai coconut yellow curry on brown rice

Baked tofu with arugula pesto, mashed potatoes and broccoli

Eggplant caponata on baked polenta with green bean and shiitake sautee

Baked portobello with wilted escarole and cannelini bean on brown rice

Monday, June 16, 2014

WIn a FREE Copy of EZPZ Vegan Eats!

We're just a few days away from the official Easy Peasy Vegan Eats Book Signing to kickoff my summer book tour.  I will be traveling widely over the next few months to give lectures, cooking demos, classes and presentations at vegetarian festivals to promote my cookbook and get to know all of you.  

To get the party started, I will be giving away cookbooks and gift certificates for services from Well on Wheels at this special event.  All you have to do is "like" us on Facebook to enter and come to the book signing to find out if you're a lucky winner.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bethlehem Health Fair

I recently set up a table at the Bethlehem Health Fair in Bethlehem, CT to introduce visitors to some vegan treats.  Enthusiasm and interest in learning about healthy eating was high, and I was happy to share my experience of transitioning to a healthy diet 18 years ago.

I made a quick and easy Cannelini Artichoke Heart Dip that I spooned into a pastry bag and piped onto endive leaves and zucchini rounds for a pretty presentation.  These little bite-sized hors d'oeuvres pack a ton of flavor and everyone raved about how delicious they were.

The recipe can be found in my new cookbook, Easy Peasy Vegan Eats, which contains over 100 gluten-free vegan recipes that are simple to prepare, yet also healthy and delicious.  I was happy to surprise even skeptics that vegan food can be tasty!

Several people came to me with health-related questions.  One woman had recently discovered she's allergic to eggs and dairy and needs to stay away from wheat.  She was depressed at the thought of giving up so many foods she's eaten her whole life, but after we talked for a little while, she was happy to learn that my cookbook covered all of those bases and offered some exciting new ways to prepare ingredients that were new to her.  She eagerly bought a copy and said she couldn't wait to get started!

A man came to me explaining that he had heart disease and seven stents, and his doctor recommended he lose weight.  He had recently seen the documentary Forks Over Knives and was considering switching to a vegan diet.  After we spoke for a while and I answered many of his questions, he left for a bit, then came back with his wife because she's the one who does the cooking.  After she tasted the bean dip, she was happy to buy a cookbook and said was looking forward to making it at home for them.

This was a great opportunity to advocate a whole foods vegan diet for health, and I also provided free literature from Vegan Outreach to expose attendees to the ethical reasons as well.  I'm glad to have been part of this event.  Thank you Pat and Erika Ueberbacher for your hard work and invitation to participate, and for taking photos!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Vegan Culinary Tour of New Haven

What do you get when you combine 5 of the best places in New Haven for vegan eats into one 4-hour gustatory extravaganza?  The Vegan Culinary Tour of New Haven!!  Twelve lucky participants gathered together Saturday morning to tour the finest establishments in town and sample some heavenly vegan treats including slow-drip coffee, vegan danish, tofu scramble breakfast wraps, vegan fudge, specialty pizza with vegan cheese, bacon and pepperoni, vegan sushi and hand-crafted Japanese knotweed sake.  They also received goodie bags packed with coupon books for Tofurky artisan  sausage (YUM!) and Attune Foods Erewhon Cereal (my favorite breakfast!), and some handmade raw cacao hemp seed truffles.  Yes, indeed, this was a fabulous way to spend the morning.

We gathered together bright and early on June 7 to begin our whirlwind tour.  First Stop:  The Coffee Pedaler (605 East Street).

Owner Ryan Taylor gave us the history of this young coffee shop which has only been on the scene for 8 months.  He utilizes a slow-drip technique to produce a heavenly, rich coffee like no other in the area.  The shop also offers delicious vegan breakfast danish made exclusively by Bread & Chocolate in Hamden as well as a light vegan lunch menu.  Future expansion plans include lectures and workshops and a mobile bicycle cart serving up their unique brew.

Stop #2 brought us to Fuel Coffee Shop (516 Chapel Street) in Wooster Square.

Owner Courtney Ciesla treated us to some amazing tofu scramble wraps, which are a customer favorite (ours too!!), and some decadent Mister Sister Classic Fudge.  This casual and comfy eatery is hopping on a Saturday morning as visitors to the nearby Farmers Market stop in for a quick bite.

We headed north for our next destination which brought us to the all-vegetarian health food store, Edge of the Woods (379 Whalley Avenue).  This independent grocer has been bringing good health to the New Haven community for decades.  They have an extensive organic produce section, an array of packaged items, abundant bulk goods, an entire upstairs devoted to health supplements and body care, and an almost entirely vegan bakery.  This is where we headed for some delectable treats.

Our lovely kitchen assistant brought out a huge platter of vegan baked goods including brownies, chocolate chip blondies, blueberry cake, cinnamon coffee cake and linzer cookies.  It's amazing to see how quickly vegans can ravage a plate of goodies!

After recovering from this sugary binge, we headed down to State Street for some pizza. Diehard pizza fans know New Haven's thin crust pizza is the best around, but what's a vegan to do at these regular places?  Sure, we could ask for no cheese and load up our pies with veggies.  That's ok, but nothing compared to what you'll find at Da Legna's.

We indulged in two huge pies loaded with such toppings as vegan bacon, vegan pepperoni, Daiya "cheese," fresh spinach and fresh basil.  There is no sacrifice here, and even the nonvegans in the group were won over.  Nothing makes us happier than to be able to enjoy pigging out on pizza like "normal" people do. ;-)

Our final stop on the tour brought us to Miya's, the home of creative, sustainable sushi.  Owner Bun Lai has won numerous accolades for his interpretations of sushi, serving up invasive plants and even insects in his rolls.  We stuck with the plants.

My favorite is the Voompa roll, which is made with roasted eggplant, avocado and jalapeno cashew cheese, then dipped in a spicy fenugreek spice mix.   I also enjoyed the little ball of rice stuffed with Mugwort, a common garden weed that had an earthy, floral taste.

We toasted the Vegan Culinary Tour with a bottle of Japanese Knotweed sake, foraged and crafted by Bun.  It had a refreshing, citrusy flavor reminiscent of lemonade which was perfect for dining al fresco.

Though our tour had reached its final destination, I believe there were many new beginnings as everyone who attended vowed to return to these fine establishments.  I am truly honored to be part of this amazing and supportive community and know the hardworking people behind the scenes who make vegan dining in the city such an enjoyable experience.

A special "thank you!!" to the tour hosts for welcoming vegan customers and for being so generous:  Ryan Taylor (The Coffee Pedaler), Courtney Ciesla (Fuel Coffee Shop), Peter Dodge (Edge of the Woods), Dan Parillo (Da Legna Pizza), and Bun Lai (Miya's Sushi).  

Proceeds from the tour will be donated to Locket's Meadow Farm in Bethany which rescues farm animals and PMU horses destined for slaughter.  

Thank you to all for making this such a successful event!  I look forward to hosting the next Vegan Culinary Tour later this summer.  Contact me for details!

More fun photos from the tour: