Monday, October 29, 2012

Special Hurricane Sandy Menu

We're in the throes of a major tropical storm this week at Well on Wheels headquarters, so I developed a special menu for my clients in case the power goes out.  Meals can be stored in a chilled cooler and eaten at room temp, so no worries about freezing, thawing, or reheating in a microwave or oven.

If clients have gas and want to do a little stovetop prep, go ahead and get crazy!  But these are all pretty awesome eaten cold, right out of their containers.   

Mock Chicken Salad with Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Mediterranean Pasta with Kalamata Olives, Baby Spinach, Sundried Tomatoes, Capers, Cannelini Beans and Fresh Basil

Tofu and Veggies with Spicy Peanut Sesame Sauce on Rice Noodles

Saturday, October 27, 2012

This week's menu

It's hurricane preparedness time in the Well on Wheels kitchen, so this was actually the menu from the previous week; next week's menu will feature a couple raw dishes in case of power outages.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Adzuki Bean Saute 
with Chili Lemon Quinoa

Baked Eggplant Stacks with Tofu Cheese, Sauteed Greens, and Fire-roasted Tomato Marinara

Miso Glazed Portobello Mushroom Steaks with Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Steamed Asparagus

Friday, October 19, 2012

This week's menu

I got a little saucy with the menu this week, using a couple of my favorite "go to" sauces to accompany some tofu and tempeh.  Every vegan needs to have a good repertoire of sauces, gravies, and dressings to really boost the elegance, flavor profile, and interest of a dish.  Kick the standard fare up a notch!

Take bechamel, for instance.  Sure, the vegan version made with creamy cashews is pretty delicious on its own, but why not try something a little different by adding some zingy horseradish, Dijon mustard or Sriracha?  These are some of the combinations I played with this week.

Crispy Tofu with Harissa Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, and Green Beans

Southwestern Tofu Scramble with Daiya Pepper Jack and Homefried Potatoes 

Pan-fried Tempeh with Smoked Paprika Cashew Creme, 
Quinoa, and Zucchini Spears 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A trip to heaven: Divine Treasures

I had a free afternoon yesterday and decided to go on a spur of the moment roadtrip to Divine Treasures, a vegan chocolatier based in Manchester, CT.  I stopped for lunch along the way at Fire and Spice, and my journey continued to the northeast foothills amidst a sunny blue sky and a blaze or red, orange and yellow leaves.

I arrived eager with anticipation.  My last visit was back in February for Valentine's Day, and I returned  yesterday looking forward to sampling some new collaborative creations made with baked goods supplied by Shayna B's( & The Pickle), a gluten-free vegan baker based in Ashford, CT.

Everything I had heard was true:  the best vegan gluten-free desserts I've ever eaten.  No graininess.  No heaviness.  No "healthy" taste that makes me think, "why bother?"  If it's a dessert, it should taste like a dessert.  And by that I mean SPECIAL.

chocolate chip blondies from shayna b's

The cookies and cakes I sampled were sweet, but not cloyingly so, and the flavors tasted natural.  That's EXACTLY what I want in a dessert.  Make my tastebuds smile, and leave me wanting more!!  These desserts delivered exactly that.  And dare I say, I think they even blow away the famous Babycakes that has foodies all abuzz in NYC.  They've got nothing on Shana B's.

These Biscotti Bites are brilliant!

And now, onto the chocolates.  Everything I just said about the baked goods can also be said about Divine Treasures' chocolates.  They're rich, dark, creamy, and oh so satisfying.  The flavor combinations are creative, and the presentations are beautiful.  There are good things coming from this chocolatier, and the fact that the chocolates are vegan makes them even better.  The average customer would never know though.

Owner Diane Wagemann says that the majority of her customers are not vegan and don't realize her chocolates are made without any animal products.  They just buy them because they're outstanding.  She also uses agave and rice syrup for her sweeteners, and her products are gluten-free as well.

While I was there, several regulars came in for their weekly fix, while others came in to try something different.  You can't find beautiful creations like this at Munson's or Russell Stover (where frankly, as far as I remember, everything tastes like wax).  No, these are unique, hand-crafted, and absolutely delicious.

Here's what I remember sampling (it's all become a chocolate blur to me now, but I'll do my best...):

Chocolate Biscotti Bites
Bonne Shanse Minou ("Lucky Cat" chocolate dipped brownie)
Heath Bar Crunch
Peanut Butter Patty Melt
Prince of India Truffle (spiced with garam masala)
Buddha Bite (a little Buddha man with spicy coconut cream tummy)
Chocolate Covered Chocolate Coconut Bomb (made with Shayna B's cake enrobed in dark chocolate)

If you're ever passing through the area - or like me, will go out of the way for good vegan chocolates - do make a point of stopping by the shop.  Have some vegan soft serve while you're there (I can't stress enough how much better this is than standard Tofutti fare), then fill a box of truffles and chocolates to savor for days to come.  Or at least for the ride home!

smiling buddha with a tummy filled with coconut creme and love

named for the very awesome animal activist, Annie Hornish

a perfect seasonal treat

a very lucky kitty made with brownies and love

A feast for the senses at Fire & Spice

I found myself with a free afternoon yesterday, and since it was a beautiful sunny day with autumn leaves in full glory, I decided it was the perfect opportunity for a road trip.  My mission had two goals:  spice & chocolate.  The two are not necessarily incompatible, I soon found.

I headed north to a little hole in the wall treasure, Fire & Spice, a vegan Jamaican restaurant in the west end of Hartford.  It's a casual eating spot with three tables and a large counter where you order items from their warming trays to go.  A medium container with 5 items costs $7.95 - truly a bargain!

It was tough to decide with all of the offerings displayed in front of me, but I decided on a heaping portion of sauteed greens (kale & collard), pumpkin rice, jerk tofu, barbecue tofu, and Ital stew.  Each was rich, flavorful, and comforting as if prepared with love.

I also ordered the samosas (2 for $3) - one lentil and one potato.  These were crisp and tasty and worked perfectly scooping up the remaining sauce at the bottom of my container.

It was a quick lunch and perfectly satisfying for the next leg of my adventure:  a trip to Divine Treasures, the vegan chocolate shop in Manchester.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cider Donut Muffins

Every fall I look forward to the first batch of apple cider produced by a local farm near me.  And every fall I think to myself, "mmm... apple cider donuts."  Back in my pre-vegan days I was addicted to these sweet treats, and when this time of year rolled around, I would always scoop up at least a dozen from the bake shop at Lyman Orchard, "Connecticut's sweet spot."  I've been missing this tradition for years and decided to do something about it when I found myself with a free afternoon on my hands and a quart of cider in my fridge.

I looked for recipes on-line and found one on the Bon Appetit website pulled from Erin McKenna's Babycakes Covers the Classics cookbook (Babycakes Covers the Classics By McKenna, Erin/ Donne, Tara (PHT).  I scoured my cupboard for ingredients and with a few modifications, I was able to pull together the gluten-free recipe.  The only thing missing was the cute donut pan. 


Instead, I decided to make the recipe in a muffin pan using cupcake liners and a slice of apple in the center to represent the donut hole.  For a first attempt, I think it worked pretty well.  I ended up with a dozen moist and dense donut muffins suitable for dunking.  And they successfully satisfied my apple cider donut craving.  For now.

Next week, I think I'll have to revisit my Grandma's Lithuanian Apple Cake recipe for some more seasonal goodness.  

Apple Cider Donuts
(modified from Erin McKenna's Babycakes Covers the Classics recipe for Plain Cake Donuts)
1/3 cup melted refined coconut oil
1 cup vegan sugar
3/4 cup white rice flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup Ener-G tapioca starch
1/4 cup arrowroot
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. baking soda
6 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot apple cider

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with muffin papers and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, both flours, tapioca starch, arrowroot, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda. Melt the coconut oil with the hot apple cider, and combine with applesauce and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just to combine. Using a tablespoon, fill each muffin cup about halfway, spreading the batter evenly.  Place an apple slice in the middle of each muffin. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until firm and golden. Let cool in the muffin tin for 5 minutes and sprinkle with toppings such as cinnamon sugar or icing, then remove to a cooling rack.

Start by mixing the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together hot cider, coconut oil, applesauce, and vanilla.

Combine with dry ingredients, then pour batter into muffin cups.  Add a slice of apple to the center.

Bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until firm and golden.

Top with cinnamon sugar.



Ed note:  These are also super-awesome after being frozen and then microwaved for a few seconds to return them to their fresh-from-the oven warm and spicy glory.