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!