Wednesday, May 27, 2009


If you have a craving for authentic Mexican food, you must head to Mezcal, a gem of a hole-in-the-wall restaurant off State St. in New Haven. The flavors are pure and fresh, and even a vegan can navigate a decent meal off their extensive menu.

Yes, there are a lot of meat dishes. And I witnessed plenty of the meals arriving at tables swimming in cheese. But eliminating these two ingredients did not make the end result any less spectacular.

Because I can't eat gluten, I have to avoid the complimentary bowl of crispy wheat tortillas served with a delicious avocado, cilantro and jalepeno dip (although I do generously spoon out some of that dip onto my plate). I also must forgo the burritos, which look hefty and satisfying.

My standby meal is the Vegetarian Fajitas, served with beans and rice, soft corn tortillas and I always get a side of guacamole and pico de gallo. Normally I'm not a huge fan of onions and peppers, but fortunately, their sizzling platter of veggies also includes thick slices of zucchini and yellow squash as well as fresh avocado, and everything is caremelized to perfection. Their mole sauce is also outstanding, with a depth of flavor and richness that feels like a Mexican sunset.

I also must highly recommend enjoying a Pina Colada with your meal. While I'm not much of a drinker, I decided to give theirs a try because it's made with real coconut milk and fresh pineapple juice, rather than those syrupy sweet artifically flavored mixes. The difference is immediately apparent, and oh so satisfying.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Mock Chicken Salad

I spent the day at my parents' house for a pre-Memorial Day picnic. Some years we get together and my mom overdoes it by turning the holiday into a summery version of Thanksgiving, which is nice, but I leave feeling as if I can't eat for another week. This year it was more casual with straightforward picnic fare, some of which was vegan.

There were the usual hamburgers, grilled chicken and kielbasa with sauerkraut for the omnivores, and for me there was salad with a delicious tahini dressing my mom successfully concocted (tahini, lemon juice, agave syrup, olive oil, sea salt), potato salad made with Vegenaise, and mock chicken salad.

These last two are creations of mine that I can safely bring to nearly any picnic if I want to achieve the illusion of normalcy. Regular people eat them. You'd never know the difference with the potato salad. And most people are pleasantly surprised by the tempeh "mystery meat."

The key ingredients are: Litelife garden veggie tempeh, Westbrae Organics Dijon mustard, Vegenaise and Bubbie's pure kosher dill pickles. If you don't use these, I can't vouch for the quality, because the pure awesomeness of this holy-trinity-plus-one really justifies any effort you might need to make to find them.

This is one of the easiest vegan recipes for a simple light lunch or picnic potluck. It can be made in a hurry, and leftovers only get better as they sit in the fridge.

The most critical step that must not be overlooked is to boil the tempeh before crumbling it into your salad. This plumps up the block of soy curd, softens the texture, releases the flavor and, once squeezed dry, also allows for the absorption of flavors. I hope you will make it one of your family favorites for years to come.

Tempeh Mock Chicken Salad

8 ounces tempeh, cut into cubes

1/2 cup Veganaise
1 stalk celery, chopped fine

1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 minced dill pickle

1-2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp sea salt

splash of apple cider vinegar

In a medium sauce pot, bring water to a boil then boil tempeh cubes for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse with water until cool to the touch.

Squeeze tempeh cubes to remove water, then crumble into a large mixing bowl and combine with chopped celery, carrot and pickle.

Stir in remaining ingredients, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Season with sea salt and vinegar at the end to really perk up the taste. Serve in a sandwich or mounded on a bed of lettuce.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekly Meals

I'm feeling the chill of March, even though the calendar says it's May. Whenever I feel the chill I crave anything potato: mashed, oven fried, deep fried, crisp, creamy... and this week's meals reflected that.

Meal #1: Ground “Beef” and Tomatoes with Mashed Potatoes and Savory Balsamic Kale Saute

Meal #2: Chick Pea Salvatore with Garlic Greens on Quinoa

Meal #3: Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Spears with Maple Glaze, Edamame, Corn and Curried Quinoa Stuffing with Asparagus

(my favorite: the oven roasted sweet potatoes
tasted like crisp clouds with a creamy candy center)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Food for Art

Last night I catered an artist reception for the "Art in a Healing Place" Art Place exhibit at the Yale Medical Building. The exhibit was gorgeous and I think everyone was pleased with the spread.

I made a nice Vegetable Crudites with Artichoke Butter Bean Dip, Morroccan Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Caviar with Pita Wedges, Pistacio Crusted Herbed Tofutti Cream Cheese Ball with Crackers, Kalamata Olive Tapenade on Crostini, Eggless Egg Salad on Endive Leaves (this one drew the most attention from newly converted non-vegans!), Cherry Tomato Halves with Avocado Cream and Fresh Fruit Platter.

Thanks to all who came and enjoyed!

Kalamata Olive Tapenade on Crostini, Eggless Egg Salad on Endive Leaves, Cherry Tomato Halves with Avocado Cream

Vegetable Crudites with Artichoke Butter Bean Dip

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Amazingly Awesome GF Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Maple Cream Frosting

Vegan's easy, but gluten-free, too? With perfect crumb, spongey texture and rich chocolatey goodness, you'd never know this cupcake was both (and delicious, too!).

I've been tweaking this recipe for years and have finally come up with a foolproof combination of cakey, moist crumble that works well as cute little cupcakes. I usually make this for birthday cakes and other special occasions (i.e., Mother's Day), but I think this recipe worked even better this way and I may just make it the standard from now on. It's really quick and simple, too.

Amazingly Awesome Gluten-free Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Maple Cream Frosting

2 cups Red Mill all purpose gluten-free flour
1 cup white rice flour
6 Tbl cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups water
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup apple sauce
2 Tbl apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups Sucanat

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with 24 cupcake papers. In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, stir together wet ingredients and Sucanat. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until there are no lumps. Evenly distribute batter among 24 cupcakes. Bake for 15-25 minutes, or until center is springy when touched.

Coconut Maple Cream Frosting

(These are rough estimates)

1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine
1/4 cup Tofutti cream cheese
2 cups organic powdered sugar
1 Tbl maple syrup
1/4 cup shredded coconut

Using a mixer, cream margarine and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and cream together with margarine and cream cheese. Add maple syrup and cream with remaining powdered sugar until thick and spreadable. Refrigerate a half an hour before icing cupcakes. Sprinkle tops with shredded coconut.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cooking with Nora

Today I spent the morning cooking in a peaceful home overlooking marshland near Hammonasset State Park in Madison. There's nothing more pleasant than enjoying ocean breezes and the sound of birds chirping while making guacamole.

I am happy to be working with a client who is transitioning to a healthier lifestyle and looking for quick and easy meals to prepare for one person. We created a simple menu of recipes that are a snap to prepare, versatile, and delicious as leftovers. That included a stir-fry with sesame tofu, broccoli, savoy cabbage and carrots; black bean and garnet yam enchiladas; fresh salsa and guacamole. And it made a pretty good feast for lunch, too!

For anyone who loves avocados, this recipe for guacamole is sure to please. There's nothing fancy about it - just straightforward creamy goodness. If you want to get a little crazy, try adding some chopped tomato or a few cilantro leaves.

The key is to get avocados at their peak ripeness: soft but not squishy, with dark skin that holds its shape when pressed. Then, get a fork and mash away. This is really the perfect remedy after a long day at work.

Guacamole (serves 2-4)
2 avocados, pitted and peeled
1 Tbl lime juice
¼ tsp sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp cumin

Mash the avocados in a bowl with a fork, then combine with the remaining ingredients. Sprinkle lime juice over the top to prevent browning. Serve with corn chips and fresh salsa.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New May Menu

For the month of May, the Shoreline Diner and Vegetarian Enclave in Guilford, CT will be featuring three new items on their specials menu which I'm happy to have helped develop. For breakfast-all-day there will be Tofu Rancheros with Black Beans, Tofutti Sour Cream and Salsa (also perfect for celebrating Cinco de Mayo); lunch is a Tempeh "Mock Chicken" Salad Sandwich; and the gluten-free dinner item is a personal favorite: Curried Chick Pea and Quinoa Pilaf with Shaved Fennel, Jicama and Creamy Avocado Dressing. This was a staff favorite as well, and I highly recommend it to anyone, even non-vegans who don't need to mind their wheat.
Please tell them I sent you!!