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!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

NBC 30 Health & Wellness Festival

I had a great time yesterday at the NBC 30 Health & Wellness Festival. This was my second year making vegan food on their cooking stage, which meant I was a little more relaxed and could goof around with the audience. It helped that my parents were there lending their support, too. :)

I made one of my favorite recipes, a Winter Vegetable Bisque, with butternut squash, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip and leeks, all cooked to perfection and pureed until smooth in my can't-live-without Vita-Mix. The secret ingredient was Mellow White Miso by Westbrae Natural, which gave the base a slightly sweet and savory balance.

It was good to see so many people interested in learning about vegan food. I think there were about 15 people gathered around during the demo, and then a huge swarm of about 30 more people came from out of nowhere to line up for a free sample. Everyone seemed pleasantly surprised by the taste.

I topped off the soup with Spiced Pepitas made by sauteing raw pumpkin seeds in a pan with a little Earth Balance margarine, chili powder and sea salt until they were lightly browned and popping. The slightly spicy toasted seeds contrast really nicely with the smooth and creamy sweetness of the bisque. Plus, I think that's one of my favorite snacks.

Perfect for a rainy autumn afternoon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes with Pecan Praline

Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes with Pecan Praline (gluten-free!)

I was invited to do a cooking segment on NBC-30's Morning Show this Saturday and, while the thought fills me with serious dread and apprehension, I agreed to do it (because I can't turn down an opportunity for shameless self-promotion!). But really, it should be fun. :)

At first I was thinking of doing my Winter Vegetable Bisque, which is a favorite. But then it occurred to me, duh, this will be airing live at 6:50 A.M. (WAAAY too early to function on a Saturday morning), and therefore I should consider doing a breakfast recipe. But what could I do that's colorful, seasonal, and cooks in 2-3 minutes (which is all the camera time I'll be getting)?

With Halloween just around the corner, I decided: Pumpkin Pancakes. How perfect is that? Then I just needed to do a little research, test & tweak the recipe, and make them foolproof for flipping in front of a live audience. Last night's cold, rainy, snowy evening was the ideal setting to get out the frying pan and metal spatula to practice. I am so excited about this recipe.

You begin by melting 1 Tbl coconut oil in a pan, which immediately makes your kitchen smell like a bakery. But this breakfast isn't just a bunch of empty calories because you get the health benefits of fiber and betacarotene from the pumpkin (though you'd never suspect these decadent little cakes were "healthy"). The texture is amazingly light and fluffy.

I topped them with a Pecan Praline sauce made from toasting pecans in a pan, then I added about a tsp of Earth Balance margarine and 1/4 cup maple syrup and heated until bubbly. This was immediately poured over a stack of three pancakes. Heavenly!

You can make the batter the day before, then just thin it out with a little more rice milk and stir it up before pouring into a hot skillet. I think they came out better the second day after the ingredients had a chance to blend. I can already see this becoming a part of my routine this fall after a cold and dreary morning of raking leaves. Something to look forward to.

Perfect Pumpkin Pancake Recipe
3/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup gluten-free flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

pinch ofcloves
1/2 tsp xantham gum

1 cup rice or soy milk (room temperature)

2 Tbl agave syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbl coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup pumpkin puree

Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together pumpkin puree with the soy or rice milk, agave syrup, vanilla and oil, then add to flour mix. Stir well to combine, and let sit about 5 minutes while you heat your non-stick skillet on medium high heat. Melt about 1 Tbl coconut oil in hot skillet and drop about 1/4 cup of batter in the pan for each pancake. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side until golden grown. Top with pecan praline (1/4 cup pecans, 1 tsp Earth Balance, 1/2 cup maple syrup heated in sauce pot until bubbly).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Week four

This was the fourth and final week of my "Healthy Cooking in a Hurry" class, and I'm sad to say farewell. It's really starting to feel like fall (well... with the snow today, kinda like winter, actually), so this latest batch of recipes really worked well.

We started with one of my favorites: Winter Vegetable Bisque made with sweet butternut squash, garnet yam, parsnip and carrot. I could eat this all day long.

The entree was a cultural mix of comfort foods: White Bean and Fennel Cassoulet with Baked Polenta, Sauteed Broccoli Rabe and Pan-roasted Garlic. I wasn't the only one who couldn't wait to dive into those sweet and creamy garlic cloves!

For dessert we had a gluten-free Toasted Almond Coconut Macaroon Dipped in Dark Chocolate. So simple, yet elegant. Then, as an extra treat, I sliced into some ripe and juicy figs (which I must report taste even more heavenly dipped in that dark chocolate!). What a way to end!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Gluten-free Goodies

Just got back from the second installment of the Gluten-free Vegan Baking Extravaganza at the Natural Gourmet. I can't believe we crammed seven recipes into 3 hours. If I could've stayed later, I'm sure I would've made off with more than two whopping containers of goodies.

Can't wait to make these
Chocolate Dipped Almond Coconut Macaroons for the holidays!

We made 3 batches (and they all went FAST!)!

These gorgeous Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes are topped with a caramel cream that's made with coconut milk and agar agar. Amazing!

Here's Korrie frosting them.


Cranberry Orange Scones which must be eaten right away. No problem!

Pineapple Carrot Muffins

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Vegan Diets Go Mainstream

I was so excited to be interviewed by Korky Vann for this article, "Turn Over a New Leaf: Vegan Diets Are Moving More Solidly Into the Mainstream," which appeared in today's Hartford Courant. She did an excellent job informing readers how easy it is to be vegan.

"There's a new food trend simmering, but if you want to give it a try, you'll have to revise your grocery list. Meat, poultry and fish? Out. Milk, cheese, eggs and dairy of any kind? Gone. Oh yes, and that bear-shaped container of honey in your cabinet? History.

Instead, you'll be stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts and soy products, all mainstays of a vegan diet. But forget the things you've heard about this type of cooking being boring and tasteless. Vegan gourmet is in, and that's no tofu baloney."

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Healthy Cooking Class

This week I was craving chocolate, so for my "Healthy Cooking in a Hurry" class I decided to do one of my favorite desserts, a Chocolate Ambrosia Tart with Coconut Macadamia Crust . . . which is relatively healthy, since there's no cholesterol. :) It was a huge hit.

The meal started with a warm Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Greens Soup, which was perfect for the recent chilly fall weather we've been having.

The entree was Oven-baked Tofu Cutlets with Harissa, a lovely Moroccan red pepper sauce, Roasted Potato Wedges and Stringbeans Amandine.

I think the entire meal was a success.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins with Toasted Almond and Coconut Streusel

After an inspiring gluten-free vegan baking class at the Natural Gourmet last week, I couldn't wait to try making the Blueberry Muffin recipe at home. I made a few modifications since I didn't have coconut oil in my pantry, but I still wanted that decadent coconut flavor. So I decided to make a streusel topping with shredded coconut and slivered almonds, which I happened to have in the fridge, and which resulted in an equally decadent treat (perhaps even more so, since the first taste you get when biting into the muffin is toasty coconut sweetness).

I shared a dozen of these babies with the fearless walkers at yesterday's Walk for Farm Animals. It was tough keeping our hands off them during the 45 minute car ride from New Haven!

Blueberry Muffin with Toasted Almond Coconut Streusel
(modified from Korrie Chichester's Blueberry Muffin Recipe)

yield: 12-14 muffins

1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 1/4 cup Sucanat
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 Tbl ground flax seed mixed with 5 Tbl water
3/4 cup soy milk
1 Tbl vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup frozen blueberries

1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 Tbl Sucanat
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup shredded coconut
pinch of sea salt
1 Tbl canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine Streusel ingredients in a small bowl then set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, garbanzo flour, tapioca starch, Sucanat, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, sea salt and cinnamon. Add oil, applesauce, flax seed mixture, soy milk, vanilla and almond extracts and whisk together until combined. The batter should be thick but spoonable. Carefully fold in frozen blueberries. Line muffin tins with papers. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop batter into the papers. Sprinkle about 1 tsp of streusel topping over each muffin and lightly press down to ensure topping adheres to batter. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until tops are springy and sides of muffins are lightly browned. Cool for 5-10 minutes in the pans, then transfer to cooling rack to continue cooling completely. Sprinkle with a pinch of Florida Crystals before serving.

Walk for Farm Animals

It was so nice seeing my friends from Hartford at the Walk for Farm Animals in beautiful Elizabeth Park. The rain held off for the entire walk, then just as we headed back to the registration table, it started to pour. I'm glad we all survived!

picking up some vegan goodies at the registration table

Poppo - looking sporty in his hoodie

State Rep. Annie Hornish from the 62nd District

Jessica and pooped pooch Vito

Friday, October 2, 2009

World Vegetarian Day in NYC

where the journey began

I spent yesterday, October 1, in New York celebrating the anniversary of Ghandi's birthday and World Vegetarian Day. I took the subway down to Bleeker Street for an early dinner at Sacred Chow. This was my first visit, and I'm sure it won't be my last. In fact, I think I'll have to come up with excuses to get down to the city more often just so I can sample the vast array of tapas offered there.

I decided on the Indonesian Tempeh with Peanut Sauce, Grilled Korean Tofu with Pickled Vegetables and Sauted Shiitake Mushrooms with Sunflower Seeds and South Indian Dipping Sauce. My favorite was a tossup between the tempeh and tofu, but I also loved that dipping sauce (gotta get the recipe!). It arrived at the table on this beautiful cake tower which made the meal feel that much more special.

so pretty... so delicious

In the background, as I was taking pictures of my dinner, I spotted a gentleman who looked rather familiar. I held a glass to the wall and discovered the conversation was about farm animals, interns, and the Walk for Farm Animals this weekend. "Ahh," I immediately thought to myself, "that's Gene Baur, founder of Farm Sanctuary!" How cool is that? He chose the lentil pate.

In the evening, I attended a gluten-free vegan baking class by the wonderful Korrie Chichester, vegan chef and former baker at Babycakes.

This was held at the Natural Gourmet Institute on 21st Street. I've attended many classes there, all of which have been amazing. They have an incredible staff of instructors, awesome kitchens in which to work, and are an easy commute from New Haven. I love going there.

if only I had one of these setups in my house...

We made a delicious array of slightly sinful desserts such as Deep Dark Chocolate Cake with Cashew Cream Frosting, Pumpkin Pie Waffles with Cinnamon Maple Drizzle, Blueberry Muffins with Pecan Streusel, Chocolate Chip Blondies (the best ever!), Cranberry Filled Crepes (yes - without eggs or wheat flour, and no gritty texture from the brown rice flour. Truly amazing!) , Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Strawberry Shortcake Biscuits with Coconut Whip.

gorgeous little gluten-free biscuits that were the bottom layer
of the strawberry shortcake

itty bitty coconut chocolate chip cookies
that packed a load of flavor

perfectly cakey blueberry muffins

I am so excited about this amazing class that I'm planning to attend Part II in 2 weeks. Can't wait!