November 29, 2010

Vegan Chocolaterie

I recently visited Cocoa V in New York for the first time.  After tasting their chocolate cake, I cannot fathom a trip to NYC without stopping here.  Everything is fair trade, organic and vegan.  

They have all kinds of chocolate truffles, candies and baked goods. 

Truly, this chocolate cake was incredible.  My step son shared it with me and neither of us could get enough of it.  He seriously enjoys chocolate and is not vegan, so the fact that he loved it says a lot!

November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Potluck at DG

On Thanksgiving night, my husband and I attended a potluck at Daily Grub, my favorite restaurant in Omaha.  The restaurant itself was closed, but friends of DG were invited (omnivores, vegetarians and vegans) to get together for food, drink and conversation.  

Considering most people spend all day with their families, an evening with friends is a nice way to unwind and relax.

Here are a few things we enjoyed...everything is vegan unless otherwise marked.

Shepard's Pie with roasted vegetables and turnip mash
Roasted Root Vegetables with fresh dill
Spinach and Soba Noodle Salad (vegetarian)
Pumpkin Pie, made by the lovely Elle
And this is the magical pumpkin.  He looks whole in this picture, but his other half is in the pie!  
It was such a lovely evening.  I brought Chestnut Stuffing, not pictured, but the recipe is in my previous post.  And a potluck is such a great idea for Thanksgiving...only one dish to prepare!

November 25, 2010

Vegan Chestnut Stuffing Recipe

My mom's Chestnut Stuffing is my favorite thing to make for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I especially love making it for omnivores who think stuffing has to be made with turkey juice.  The chestnuts give it a great texture and the poultry seasoning and chickenless stock make it extremely flavorful and moist.  The recipe is below (the puff pastry is optional - I've made it both ways), along with an amazing Vegan Gravy. 

Chestnut Stuffing with Puff Pastry

½ cup oil
1 cup soy butter
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
8-10 cups day old bread, cubed
2 T. poultry seasoning
1-2 cups peeled, roasted chestnuts
2-3 cups Better Than Bouillon No Chicken stock
1-2 sheets of vegan puff pastry
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil and half of the butter in a large pan. Saute the onion and celery until translucent. Add the bread cubes and stir to evenly distribute the oil and butter mixture. Add the remaining butter and season with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the bread mixture into an oven safe serving dish. Add the chestnuts and vegetable stock. Top with puff pastry and bake at 400˚ for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

2 T. canola oil
2 T. soy butter
¼ cup grated carrots
¼ cup diced onion
2 T. flour
2 cups Better Than Bouillon No Chicken stock
1 cup soymilk
½ cup vegan sour cream
3-4 T. soy sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil and butter in a medium saucepan. Saute the carrots and onion until translucent. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the stock, followed by the soymilk, sour cream and soy sauce. Let it come to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

November 24, 2010

Pitch Perfect

Pitch is a cozy little pizza joint in Omaha.  It's one of our favorite places when the weather gets cold.
They do have a vegan pizza on their menu (The Marinara), but I actually prefer their Veggie pizza ordered without the herb cream sauce and cheese.  I originally ordered it with tomato sauce instead of the herb cream, but they accidentally left off the sauce.  To my surprise, I loved it.  Just the olive oil, roasted vegetables and basil made for the perfect combination.  And the coal fired crust is heavenly. 

November 23, 2010

Hominy Casserole at Daily Grub

Last week I had the nicest afternoon at Daily Grub...

Hominy with Cashew Cream, Red Onions + Seasoned Sweet Potato Mash
With the New York Times = perfection.

November 22, 2010

Simple + Flavorful Lunch at DG

A favorite Daily Grub lunch...Black Bean Soup with Avocado Crema and Hot Sauce with an Ancho Cashew Cream, Red Onion + Apple Toast.  It's so simple, yet remains one of my favorites.  If you're ever near Omaha, make time for Daily Grub.  With all of my travels, it remains in my Top 5 Vegan places to eat. 

November 19, 2010

Adopt a Turkey for Thanksgiving

For the past 5 or so years, my Thanksgiving tradition has been to adopt a turkey from Farm Sanctuary.  It's such a lovely thing to do and it actually promotes thankfulness, gratitude and a love for all beings, as opposed to killing 45-50 million turkeys (isn't that statistic incomprehensible?).  If you're not familiar with Farm Sanctuary, it's exactly that.  A sanctuary for animals.  And it just so happens that they have quite a few turkeys at their New York and California locations.

If you visit the Adopt a Turkey site, you can choose which turkey you'd like to sponsor.  I always try to pick the strangest looking turkey because I assume that most people pick the cutest turkey and I don't want any turkey to get left out.  This year, Reese was my pick.  She is very strange looking indeed :)

It's $30 to sponsor a turkey, and that's probably less than you'd spend on purchasing a turkey to eat for Thanksgiving.  Plus, healthier for your family and the planet.  The side dishes are the best part anyhow, right?  Next week, I'll post recipes and pics of what I'll be making for our vegan Thanksgiving.  I promise you won't miss the turkey.

And a very special shout out to the Rose family of Powell, Ohio who will be celebrating their first vegetarian Thanksgiving this year.  They are omnivores, but they've chosen to reduce their meat consumption and what better day to start than Thanksgiving?  I love you, Mark Tramy Owen + Isaac.

November 18, 2010

Vegan Hot Dogs from a Street Cart

If you're ever strolling through Central Park...
And you spot the Good to Go Organics cart, you'll be happy to know that they sell several vegetarian hot dogs.
The Smart Dog is vegan, however, the Smart Sausages contain eggs.  I believe they used to be vegan, but unfortunately they started adding eggs to some of their products.
I was thrilled to be able to enjoy a hot dog from a street vendor for the first time.  I like mine with ketchup, mustard and raw onions.

November 17, 2010

Vegan Pho

I forgot to post the most comforting thing that Ely's To Go prepares...Vegan Pho with Soy Chicken, Cilantro, Sprouts, Hoisin and Lime.  Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup typically eaten for breakfast.  It's got incredible flavors...cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg along with the rice noodles, fresh herbs and Hoisin.  If you ever have the chance to eat at a vegetarian Vietnamese establishment, you will not be disappointed.  Vietnamese food is always bursting with flavor and fresh greens and herbs.  I believe I've mentioned this before, but my husband calls Pho 'Massage in a Bowl'.

November 16, 2010

Le Pain Quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien is a great place for vegans.  They have various vegan pastries and everyday they have a vegan soup of the day, along with lots of other great options.

During my last trip to New York, I stopped by LPQ and asked which pastries were vegan, for some reason they weren't marked.  I was told the Pumpkin Muffin (pictured below) was vegan.  It was amazing.  So flavorful, light and fluffy.  The next day, I went into another LPQ, where the pastries were labeled, and the Pumpkin Muffin was not labeled vegan.  I have now confirmed that it is NOT vegan.  Now, I understand, everyone makes mistakes.  I don't think in any way that the LPQ employee was trying to trick me into eating something non-vegan.  However, the only image I have to show you is of a non-vegan muffin.  I apologize for this, and normally I wouldn't include it in a post.  But this is the only negative experience I have ever had at an LPQ and I feel it deserves a post.  Their soups, hummus, tofu scrambles, curry tofu sandwiches and other vegan pastries are all incredible.  I love restaurants where you can get good vegan food quickly.  

So even though this particular muffin is not vegan (again, I'm sorry but this is the only image I have), their vegan pastries are just as delicious and look just as good.  

And lucky for us, Healthy Happy Life has a recipe for a vegan version of this muffin. 

November 15, 2010

Green Market on 77th + Columbus

There's a flea market on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that has incredible produce.  I love the Union Square Market, but sometimes I don't want to venture 90 blocks for my groceries.  The 77th Street Market is only open on Sundays (Saturdays and Sundays during the holidays), but it's full of great finds. 

At least ten different kinds of apples...
Lots of heirloom tomatoes...
Pumpkins of all shapes and colors...
And Purple Cauliflower.  I've never actually tasted this type of cauliflower, but it's so lovely to look at.
And my favorite apple...Mutsu.  They're difficult to find in some parts of the country, but you can find everything in New York.
These are just the things that caught my interest.  They have everything your grocery store carries, but cheaper and local.  Produce is just a small portion of this green market.  They have furniture, clothing, jewelry, books, home goods, jams, pies, etc, etc.  And when it gets cold, one vendor always serves hot apple cider.  It's such a lovely thing to do on a Sunday, and it's right by the park so you can take your apple cider to go and stroll through Central Park.

November 12, 2010

A Light Dinner with Two Desserts

After eating all of those glorious lunches at Ely's To Go, my mom (Ely) would make us some killer eats at home.  

One of my favorites is lemongrass soy meatballs (you could also use soy chicken, tofu or seitan) with vermicelli, lettuce, cilantro, cucumbers, marinated carrots and peanuts with vegetarian Nuoc Cham.
And for dessert...Apple Tart made with that mind-blowing Vegan Puff Pastry with Trader Joe's Soy Vanilla Ice Cream.  I cannot put into words how outstanding this tart was.  Beyond belief, one the best dessert I've ever eaten.  And I don't even like tarts that much.  I'm a vegan chocolate cake kind of girl.  Tarts?  I could take em or leave em.  But this tart blew chocolate cake out of the water.  Underneath the layer of apples was a layer of ground almond paste - it made all of the difference.  It gave so much depth to a plain little tart. 
And I had to try one of my dad's UFO cookies.  They're vegan sugar cookies with Trader Joe's Mint Chocolate UFO candies.  Chocolate + mint is by far my favorite flavor combination and these did not disappoint.  The chocolate is rich, but completely mellowed out by the sugar cookie.

November 11, 2010

Vegan Zucchini Corn Pancakes Recipe

Here is the recipe for the Zucchini Corn Pancakes with Roasted Red Pepper dipping sauce featured earlier this week, courtesy of Ely Pugh of Ely's To Go in Youngstown, Ohio.

1 cup organic unbleached all purpose flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
pinch of sea salt
1 Tbsp unbleached organic sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups fresh cut corn
½ cup sliced green onions

Mix dry ingredients, then add liquids slowly until well mixed.  Pour batter in 1/3 cup increments onto hot pan.  Flip when golden brown and bubbling, browning both sides.

Serve with dipping sauce.

1 cup Vegenaise
1/2 cup roasted red pepper spread (Trader Joe's makes a great one)
3 Tablespoons maple syrup.

Blend all ingredients together.

Keep in mind, this recipe makes 15-20 pancakes (depending on size), so adjust the recipe to your desired quantity.

November 10, 2010

Meatless Mondays at Dovetail in NYC

I have yet to visit Dovetail restaurant in New York, but it's a must on my next trip to the city.  On Mondays, they have a four course plant based menu.  There are three options to choose from...vegan, vegetarian, or vegetable focused. 

The vegan options include Turnip Ceviche with quinoa, lime and pearl onions, Autumn Tempura with tofu and chai curry spice, Barbecue Parsnip Rib with coconut rice, daikon and cilantro plus dessert. 

It's perfect for Meatless Monday and a great place for a group of meat and non-meat eaters.  Not to mention it's on the Upper West Side, my NYC neighborhood.  If you happen to try their vegan or vegetarian menu, please let me know!

Photo courtesy of Dovetail.

November 9, 2010

Vegan Puff Pastry at Ely's To Go

Another amazing vegan lunch at Ely's To Go...

Vegan Puff Pastry filled with Soy Chicken and Vegetables with a side of Macaroni and Cheese.  This puff pastry is extraordinary.  The only vegan puff pastry I can ever find in the grocery store is filled with preservatives and other not-so-healthy ingredients.  The puff pastry at Ely's To Go is made fresh by the lovely Kirsten (a classically trained pastry chef) with organic ingredients.  It's so flaky and buttery that even meat eaters will be completely satisfied.  

The Mac + Cheese is filled with spinach and kabocha squash, making it super healthy.

Later in the week I'll show how the same puff pastry can be used for desserts!

November 8, 2010

A Perfect Lunch at Ely's To Go

Last month, I spent a couple of days with my parents in Youngstown, Ohio at their vegan restaurant, Ely's To Go.  This visit I got to try some of their latest creations.  

Zucchini + Corn Pancakes with Roasted Red Pepper dipping sauce - these are so light and fluffy, you'll hardly believe there are no eggs required for this recipe!
And a cup of Black Bean Chili on the side...such a perfect lunch.
See my previous posts on Ely's To Go here, here and here.

November 5, 2010

Hal & Al's

While researching veg restaurants in Columbus on Happy Cow, I stumbled upon a bar called Hal + Al's that serves only vegan food.  Vegan bar food?  I had to try it, even if it is in a somewhat sketchy neighborhood.

My good friend Cory met me there and we ordered several items on the menu.  

First, 8 Layer Nachos with soy cheese, green peppers, veggie chili, olives, onions, tomatoes, hot peppers and jalapenos. 
Mac 'un Cheese with Tofurkey hot dogs..really great and so American, I just wish there was more sauce!
And the Luna Burger, served with tomato, onion and lettuce on a pretzel roll.
I have to admit, driving there, I wondered what we were in for.  Even after I walked in the door, I was hesitant.  Normally, I don't have high hopes for bar food.  However, everything we had was really good.  I mean, great vegan bar food, what more could you ask for?  

They also have Vegan Chili, Fried Pickles, Beer Brats, Fried Avocados and Mushrooms and Tacos, just to name a few.  Again, the neighborhood is not exactly somewhere you want to spend a lot of time exploring, but Hal + Al's is definitely worth a visit!

November 4, 2010

Vegan Pizza at Whole Foods

The Whole Foods in Columbus Ohio has the best non-cheese vegan pizza I've ever tasted.  It's full of complexity with onions, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms.  The flavors are so powerful that it's completely satisfying sans soy cheese.  The great thing about this pizza is that you can buy it by the slice, no more buying an entire vegan pizza for lunch!  

November 3, 2010


When I lived in Columbus, Cosi was one of my favorite spots for lunch.  They have an amazing Signature Salad (shown below) with pears, grapes, dried cranberries, pistachios and sherry shallot vinaigrette.  It also has blue cheese, which I obviously omit.  They also have several vegetarian sandwiches including Hummus and Veggies on their incredibly flavorful flatbread.  

So on a recent visit to Ohio, I stopped in and happened to ask what they had that was vegan (last time I was there I wasn't vegan).  The girl behind the counter replied, 'not much'.  I was I mentioned the hummus, the salads, the bread.  She got out their Nutrition booklet and told me that the bread contains evaporated milk, the hummus was to be avoided for people with a milk allergy, along with all of their dressings and spreads except for the sherry shallot and balsamic vinaigrettes.  That left me with only one option, a salad with no bread.  I used to think I had lots of great options at Cosi.

I was so sad.  How could there be dairy in hummus?  The ingredients weren't listed, so it could have just been that it's processed in a factory that also processes dairy.  I've emailed Cosi to confirm, but have not received a response yet.  Unfortunately, the bread is completely off limits.  I have always really enjoyed Cosi and I'm so hoping that they'll add more vegan options to their menu.  Or at the very least, clarify which items actually contain animal products.  

If you'd like to contact Cosi and let them know your thoughts, you can do so here.  Click on Talk To Us/FAQ.  Maybe if they get enough friendly requests (meanness doesn't get you anywhere), they'll make a change. 

November 2, 2010

Vegan Mofo - Why I'm Vegan

So this month is the Vegan Month of Food, or Vegan MoFo.  I just decided yesterday to participate, so that means I'll be blogging everyday this month (every weekday that is).  I usually keep my posts to my travel experiences, but this month, to raise awareness of veganism, I'll be posting all kinds of vegan info.  In December, I'll return to my travel-only posts.

To start, I don't think I've ever blogged about why I'm a vegan. all started when I was three years old.  My dad had allergies and my parents were constantly reading labels and asking questions.  One day, I asked what a cheeseburger was made of...this was the beginning of the end.  When my mom told me it was a cow, I was done.  No more meat, poultry or fish for me.  And I haven't eaten meat (other than by complete accident) since that day.  My parents, neither of them vegetarian at the time, took me to my pediatrician because they were concerned about my health.  Luckily, my doctor was Indian and very familiar with a vegetarian lifestyle.  He told them not to worry, that my instincts were very fine tuned as a child and my body knows what's best for it.  So that was it.  I was a vegetarian.  As far as I know, I was the only vegetarian child in my school (I grew up in a very small town in Ohio).  It was difficult and I was almost ashamed that I was so different.  But that all changed when I got a bit older.  I was extremely proud to be different.  In fact, all four of my best friends also became vegetarian, and three of them still are to this day.  

My journey to veganism was not as absolute!  It took me an extremely long time to give up dairy.  I stopped eating eggs about ten years ago, which was difficult, but not nearly as difficult as giving up cheese.  I didn't do that until this year.  I knew all of the facts, all of the gross things about the dairy industry, but I just couldn't stop myself.  In all honesty, it didn't fully click until I got an email from Chloe Jo Davis of GirlieGirl Army.  I had just started my monthly column with her and she sent me a very friendly email just letting me know all of the awful things about dairy (since my blog was only vegetarian at the time).  After reading everything, I just couldn't deny it anymore.  I had previously just pushed that information out of my head for my convenience, but after that something changed.  

I can't say what exactly it was that changed things for me, I just began to feel so hypocritical for supporting the dairy industry when I was so against how they treat the animals.  And I've always been pretty grossed out that we drink another species' milk.  I mean, come on, that's not natural.  Also, milk is meant for that they can grow to be as big as a cow.  I don't want to be as big as a cow.  And on top of all of that, as if I needed another reason, livestock accounts for 51% of global warming.  That includes the dairy industry. 

Now when I think about it, it's a no-brainer.  It's definitely difficult at times.  I still crave all the things I ate for so many years.  But now, there are vegan substitutes for EVERYTHING.  And luckily for me, my mom is a vegan chef and my dad is a vegan baker.  Oh, didn't I mention that?  My parents are both vegan now - they own a vegan restaurant in Youngstown Ohio :)

November 1, 2010

Columbus North Market

The North Market in downtown Columbus is a great place for lunch or your go-to spot for local flowers and groceries.  

There are plenty of food vendors with everything from Indian to Vietnamese to German traditional cuisines.  There are also bulk spices, artisan bread, fresh flowers and a local chocolaterie.  

Jeni's has the most amazing ice creams and sorbets.  Really unique flavors...Riesling Poached Pear is my favorite sorbet.  They have several locations in Columbus...see my previous post here.

Nida's has some lovely curries made with tofu and lots of fresh vegetables and spices.  I chose the red curry, which was full of ginger, pineapples, carrots and onions.
My other favorites in the Market are Pure Imagination Chocolatier (most of the dark chocolates are vegan), Bubbles (wonderful Bubble tea with soymilk), and Lan Viet (which serves vegetarian ham).