Monday, December 28, 2009

Good Morning Connecticut

I recently appeared on Channel 8 WTNH's "Good Morning Connecticut" to talk about being vegan for the holidays. The video clip is right here for those who weren't able to wake up bright and early on a Saturday morning to view it. Enjoy! And Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vegan Dinner Party

It's always nice to share vegan food with nonvegans who are willing to experiment. Most find that the flavors make them forget to think that anything is missing, and instead they enjoy the adventure. Such was the case with the dinner party I catered for one of my clients this week.

Guests were traveling from out of town for the week, and rather than dining in another restaurant (though, to be sure, New Haven certainly has plenty that are remarkable), they decided to dine in and have me cook. I was happy to oblige!

We chose an Italian theme for the menu, figuring it would be the most familiar for guests.

Baby Field Green Salad with Candied Pecans, Dried Cranberries, and Balsamic Vinaigrette
Creamy Butternut Squash, Leek, and Shiitake Mushroom Risotto
Escarole and Cannelini Beans
Chocolate Ambrosia Tart with Macadamia Coconut Crust and Fresh Raspberries

It was the perfect comfort food for a frigid night. And I think the dessert was particularly a hit. Yummmm....

Happy holidays!!

2009 Holiday Survival Guide for Vegans

I must admit, I have mixed feelings when it comes to holidays. While it's great to get together with family and friends we don't often see, it can be difficult to be seated at a table overflowing with pot roast, sliced ham and meatballs. I often find that this can add to the typical stresses of shopping, wrapping presents, gift giving and driving around from party to party.

To keep upbeat this holiday season, I've prepared a few simple party tips for vegans. Let's call it the "Holiday Survival Guide for Vegans." Whether it's your party or someone else's, the most important thing is to think like a Boy Scout and always be prepared. Oh yeah, and try to have fun, too.

1. Plan ahead. You might want to call the host or hostess to let them know ahead what you can and can't eat. Ask if there's a special dish you can bring to share with others. This will help make it easier on your host/hostess and also ensure there's at least one thing you can eat.

2. Eat ahead. If you don't know what will be on the menu, eat a full meal ahead of time so you won't wither away at the dinner table.

3. Grab a snack. I always pack a snack in my pocketbook just in case hunger pangs strike before, during or after the party. Fresh fruits like oranges and apples, dried fruits and nuts travel particularly well. Larabar makes a great raw snack that keeps well, too.

4. Drink plenty of water. Hold onto a glass of water throughout the evening and take a few sips here and there to help hydrate and prevent headaches. This will also make you feel less hungry if you haven't found much to graze on.

5. Breathe deeply. Think of the delicious meal you're about to enjoy or the one you've already eaten at home as you inhale and exhale deeply. Visualize a pleasant dining experience of good conversation, a bounty of food and peaceful contentment.

6. Take small bites. If you're lucky enough to be gathered at a table which includes an array of veggies among the offerings, don't hesitate to take a second serving. Then make it last as long as you can.

7. Compliment your host/hostess. Enjoy what you can, and let the chef know how much you appreciate that they included some yummy foods you can eat.

If you'll be hosting your own holiday party this year, BRAVO! Make it a healthy and compassionate one for all to enjoy. For tips on creating the perfect vegan holiday celebration, check out these links:

Celebrate a Vegan Holiday – Great recipes and entertaining ideas from VegWeb.

The Vegan Holiday Table – A festive holiday menu from VegFamily magazine.

The Savvy Vegetarian’s Traditional Holiday Recipes – The benefits of eating vegetarian, along with some great holiday recipes!

Ask Your Family for a Vegan Christmas – The perfect gift for Christmas!

How to Cook a Vegan Christmas Dinner – Seven simple steps to take all the stress out of the holiday.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Shandals Vegetarian

Woo... what a way to warm up on a blustery winter-like day! Shandals is a tiny restaurant tucked on the corner of a residential street off the main drag in Bridgeport. Some vegan friends had mentioned it to me this summer and ever since I've been dying to check it out. We finally got around to having lunch there, and it was worth the wait (though, now I'm already planning my next visit).

The food is traditional Caribbean vegan, with jerk and curry spices and tons of colorful veggies. But if you're afraid of it being too hot & spicy, don't worry - everything is mild - there are bottles of hot sauce on the counter for those who want things spicier. I thought all of my food was perfectly spiced.

The Small Plate includes your choice of 4 items and the Large Plate includes 6 items. At $6 and $8, this is truly a bargain! It was a tough decision, but since I had to stay away from the wheat gluten which is in many of the mock meats, I chose the Sunshine Tofu which was made with a curious though delectable black & green olive sauce, the Curried Tofu, Mixed Veggies and Rice.

The owner wasn't pleased with my lack of adventure, so he added the pretty Red and Green Pepper "Chicken" to dress up my plate. It was all pretty tasty and satisfying. This was Caribbean home-cooking at its best.

For anyone looking for a quick, healthy, and delicious meal, Shandals is sure to please. My New Year's Resolution: Visit #2.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Woodbridge Public Library

This week I did my third cooking demonstration at the Woodbridge Public Library. The theme: Vegan Apps. Dips and Hors D'ouvres for the Holidays. This is probably my favorite thing to make, since each little appetizer is like a work of art. The key is always remembering to balance color, taste, and texture.

For appetizers, the flavors are always bold.... salty, sweet, spicy, sour, savory, and bitter. For these recipes I used olives and capers for the saltiness, red peppers for the sweetness, plus various herbs and spices for the remaining flavors.

In one hour we made three recipes: Vegan Caviar (Olive Tapenade), Red Pepper and Sundried Tomato Compote, and Artichoke Cream Cheese. Then, they were combined in different ways to make four distinct appetizers. They're so quick, easy, and versatile that you can easily throw together a party spread in less than an hour if you needed. And these look absolutely lovely for the holidays. Below are Endive Boats with Artichoke Cream Cheese and Red Pepper Compote.

They work great for a first course, or could even stand alone for light finger food at an "eat and mingle" party. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

Tradition of course calls for pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, but since my mom is baking an apple pie for the holiday (at my request!), I decided to do something a little different with pumpkin. I made a batch of Gluten-free Vegan Chocolate Chip Blondies (with pumpkin puree).

As if the original recipe wasn't delicious enough, the added hint of pumpkin and spice put it over the top. This is one of those "relatively healthy" desserts that tastes decadent, yet has some health benefits (i.e. from the pumpkin, and from the apple sauce which replaces some of the oil). And really, you'd never know.

They're really easy to make, though you must be sure to have some parchment paper on hand to line the bottom of your 9 x 13 pan. If you're looking for a dessert idea, there's still time to whip up a batch of these for tomorrow's feast!

Enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving!!

Gluten-free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars
1 cup white rice flour
3/4 cup Gluten-free flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup Earth Balance margarine
1 Tbl coconut oil
1 1/4 cup Sucanat
4 oz. apple sauce + 1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 Tbl soy milk
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Prehat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 pan with oil, then line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients. [NOTE: Substitute 2 cups of regular white flour for the rice flour, GF flour, and cornstarch and omit xanthan gum if you don't need this recipe to be gluten-free.] In a food processor, puree Earth Balance, coconut oil, Sucanat, applesauce & corn starch mixture, pumpkin puree and vanilla until creamy. Add to dry ingredients and stir until batter is smooth. You may need to add a few tablespoons of soy milk if it is too dry. Gently fold in chocolate chips, then spread batter evenly in baking pan. Bake 20-30 minutes or until firm to the touch and lightly golden on the sides. Top with confectioner's sugar.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Vegan Wedding

I had a busy Friday preparing dinner for a vegan wedding at the lovely High Meadow Farm bed & breakfast in Wallingford. The 18th century home is set atop a hill with breathtaking meadow views of dairy farms and a vineyard. It was an oasis from another time, another place.

In the rustic kitchen, there was an abundance of natural light from well-placed windows which made cutting veggies a snap. And I've never enjoyed washing dishes more, since the sink was underneath a window overlooking a lake on their property.

It was also a pleasure to cook on their huge commercial gas stove (oh, how I miss my gas stove...).

The dining room was perfectly set with fine china, Tiffany silver and various antique linens. Guests dined by candlelight in this cozy dining room.

The meal began with two of my favorite appetizers: Vegan Caviar on Crostini and Pistachio Crusted Cream Cheese Ball (also vegan) with assorted organic crackers.

Here's a closeup of the Vegan Caviar:

The next course was a Mock Caesar Salad with Pear, Grape Tomato and Avocado.

And the entree was a creamy Fettuccine Alfredo with Snow Peas, Sundried Tomatoes and Fresh Thyme.

Such a lovely evening. I wish the wedding couple a lifetime of joy and adventure together!

Georgie's Diner

I had a great time Thursday sharing a couple vegan recipes at the newly renovated and reopened Georgie's Diner in West Haven. The kitchen staff is friendly, knowledgeable and always willing to do what it takes to make vegans happy!

For the next month or so, diners will find two new vegan offerings on the Specials Menu. For those who love comfort food, the Tempeh Stroganoff with Eggless Linguini and Broccoli is sure to please. I love eating this in the fall, particularly on cold, rainy days.

Tempeh Stroganoff

The second vegan item - just in time for Thanksgiving - is the Cornmeal Crusted Tofu with Mushroom Gravy, Cider Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Stringbean Amandine. I think I'll be enjoying this for my own Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Tofu

These are just two of the many vegan offerings available at the diner. You can also indulge in Tempeh Reuben, Portobello Polenta and their fabulous Mediterrannean Platter. They even have a dedicated vegan fryer for making unadulterated vegan French fries. Oh yeah, and then there's their famous Chocolate Drift cake for dessert.... mmm...

The warm glow of Georgie's Diner

Mark your calendars: I'll be serving up some treats again January 15. You're all welcome to stop in for a free sample. In the mean time, visit Georgie's for lunch or dinner and tell Nick you heard about them here.

Cooking up some vegan fare

Georgie's fabulous kitchen crew

Two satisfied customers

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Thanksgiving Gameplan

For a few years in a row, I was happy to host a Gentle Thanksgiving party at my house. While everyone else was devouring turkey, my animal-friendly friends and I savored cornmeal crusted tofu cutlets with mushroom gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, acorn squash with pecan praline, winter vegetable bisque... and a delectable array of seasonal treats.

If you're inspired to host one of your own (or just want to come up with one darn good recipe to help you survive the day), I hope this post will help. Below are a few websites that offer creative
ideas for the holidays. Why not let them be your inspiration for starting new compassionate holiday traditions of your own?

A Feast by Robin Robertson - I always return to her book, Vegan Planet, for ideas. It never ceases to inspire me, as this Thanksgiving Menu surely will for you.

Celebrate a Vegan Thanksgiving - is a great source for recipes, nutrition
information, environmental issues and tons of pretty pictures. Great ideas for the

A Bountiful Vegan Thanksgiving - Lovely website by Nava Atlas with a special
Thanksgiving Themed menu that you can browse for ideas or order as an e-book.

Gentle Thanksgiving - An entire website devoted to just that. Pretty cool!

Thanksgiving O'Rama - Here's a great Thanksgiving site from the people who publish VegNews magazine.

How to Host a Vegan Thanksgiving - It may take a little planning, but how cool would this be? You're in control! SO cool!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Quick One

I had about 15 minutes to throw together lunch yesterday and after my initial scan of the fridge, I was left feeling uninspired. The only item that drew my attention was a lonely little potato in the vegetable bin. It was too small to bake and not big enough to stretch into mashed potatoes, and I didn't have any tofu to toss into a scramble. What I came up with was a modified potato hash.

I diced the potato small and tossed it into a pot of boiling water so it would cook quickly. Meanwhile, I sauteed a diced onion and garlic in Earth Balance, then seasoned with chili powder when they were transluscent. For a little color, I added a carrot cut in quarter moons, then stirred in some chopped kale until it wilted. Since I knew this alone would not sustain me, I opened up a can of pinto beans, which turned out to be the perfect color and texture to complement the other ingredients. The boiled potato went in last, along with some sea salt and pepper and another teaspoon of Earth Balance. The end result was smashing!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Heaven in a Bowl

I discovered a delicious use for leftover rice this morning: Autumn rice pudding. Yeah, yeah, I know, rice pudding is rice pudding, so how is this any different? Well, the secret here is in the fixings. Macintosh apple, mixed nuts, raisins, shredded coconut and (here's what made it so heavenly...) a teaspoon of unrefined coconut oil. Heat all that together with the rice, some rice milk, agave syrup, vanilla and a pinch of salt and you have Heaven in a Bowl.

I think I'm gonna have to go out of my way to make this even with fresh rice. I used brown basmati, but I bet jasmine rice would put it over the top.

Must eat before it gets cold...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Boston Vegetarian Food Festival

Just got back from one of the best vegan road trips ever. What a rare treat to be in a car full of vegans all up for an adventure.

The day began with some fresh-baked blueberry streusel muffins, and then it just went uphill from there.

First stop: Boston Vegetarian Food Festival at the Reggie Lewis Center. Unbelievable array of grazing opportunities, the highlight being Vegan Treats from Bethlehem, PA (how the heck did they load all those sinful desserts and transport them all the way up here?).

These were the most outrageously decadent sweets I've ever experienced, which tasted as good as they looked (and these camera phone photos just don't do them justice).

I tried a Double Chocolate Brownie Thingie with Peanut Butter Mousse. It nearly killed me, but I survived, and it was worth it.

I can't begin to describe the Festival itself, only to say it seems to get better every year. We left at the crack of dawn and arrived to desolate city streets, only to find the parking lot nearly full before doors opened at 10:00 to let the throng of desperate vegans in.

The list of vendors was impressive. Some favorites would have to be So Delicious Coconut Milk (though I discovered I'm not a fan of coconut milk kefir); Auntie Zuze's veggie pate made with sunflower seeds (yum!); Boston Baked Bones natural dog treats (I love their "I Rescued My Best Friend" t-shirt); Chicago Soydairy (it was nice to sample some Teese and vegan marshmallows); Hippie Chick Bakery (just outside of Boston - cute Halloween inspired sugar cookies, though they were outshined by Vegan Treats this year); Larabar (one of the original raw date nut bars, and now there are many more following in their footsteps); Coconut Bliss (gotta say, the line was shorter here than at the So Delicious table, and I think they had a slight edge on the Naked Coconut ice cream); May Wah ("" - if you can't get enough fake meats, stop by their table); Peanut Butter & Co. (perfect accompaniment to the chocolate overload); Soya Foods (some nice prepared tofu); Vegan Treats (we died and went to heaven).

I'm kicking myself for forgetting my camera, but here are some camera phone images. If you are at all introgued, there's still time to experience the bliss. The festivities continue Sunday, November 1. What a great way to celebrate World Vegan Day!

Just a short distance from the festival is the answer to our vegan prayers: Peace O' Pie - vegan pizza with faux cheese that really melts!

We had the most incredible pie topped with Smoked Tempeh, Sundried Tomatoes, and Spinach on one half, and Artichoke Hearts, Roasted Garlic and Black Olives on the other.

We had ordered it with Daiya cheese, but then it was acidentally made with Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet, which we discovered still tasted pretty darn good (the secret, we were told, is a hot pizza oven and extra salt).

Because we came all this way for the Daiya experience, a cheese pizza was ordered for the ride home, along with a couple containers of freshly grated cheese. It really did have that authentic "mouth feel" and taste of real cheese. Equally incredible and disturbing.

For the ride home to Connecticut, we couldn't help but share deflated spirits at the prospect of returning to our non-vegan world. But then someone mentioned vegan softserve ice cream. As if we hadn't yet had our fill, we made a slight detour to Manchester ( we needed an excuse for a pitstop anyway). If you're heading to/from Connecticut on your way, be sure to stop at Divine Treasures for some vegan chocolate and pumpkin pie soft serve ice cream. Truly a divine ending to a perfect day.

Thanks, Sandy, Angie and Jessica! It wouldn't have been the same without you!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This week's menu

Ahhh... comfort food. It's officially fall, the frost is on the pumpkins, and I feel like hibernating. So this week's menu reflected that need to cozy up with a blanket and a warm bowl of creamy goodness.

I found a delicious recipe for Chana Saag (Chickpea and Spinach Curry) in the latest issue of Better Nutrition, one of those free magazines at the health food store. Even though I have my own recipe which I'm pretty happy with, I decided to give this one a try. With a little tweaking - and the seasonal use of pumpkin puree mixed in with the coconut milk - I think I made it my own. I really wanted to eat the entire pot myself, but I alas, this was work and I was cooking for a client. When I got home I couldn't resist making up a big pot for dinner.

Here's my modified recipe.

Chana Saag (Chickpea and Spinach Curry)
(2 servings)

1 Tbl olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbl fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbl curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked potatoes, diced
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (I like Farmer's Market organic canned pumpkin)
1 cup coconut milk (I like Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk)
1/2 lb. baby spinach
fresh cilantro for garnish

In a large skillet, saute onion with a pinch of sea salt in oil on medium heat for 3-5 minutes, or until softened. Add garlic and ginger and saute another minute.

Stir in spices, then add tomatoes, pumpkin puree and coconut milk and sautee 3-5 minutes.

Stir in chickpeas and potatoes and simmer another 5 minutes. Season with sea salt.

Just before serving, stir in spinach and cook until wilted. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Enjoy!