A lot of my friends live in what they refer to as “the city”, meaning New York, one of nearly 300 major cities in the US, but according to them might as well be the only one. When visiting, I still stumble over where Queens and the Bronx are in relation to dreary old Manhattan. In fact, a while back I drew a map for my buddy of how I thought the boroughs were arranged. He found it so hysterical that he showed it to other city dwellers so they could have a laugh. I’m okay with this. Actually, in a strange way I’m delighted to not know much about the city because everyone else claims the exact opposite. What I do know is that it has insanely good vegan restaurants ,and for that reason alone, I remain a frequent visitor.
On that note, Tom and I recently visited Clementine Bakery in Clinton Hill (yes, I just googled “Brooklyn neighborhoods”). We go to Clementine a lot because of its proximity to my brother-in-law’s place and for its insanely delicious tempeh reuben. Loaded with homemade apple sauerkraut, marinated tempeh, Daiya mozzarella cheese, and vegan thousand island dressing inside of freshly baked sourdough bread, you cannot go wrong with this sandwich. Yes, it’s full of Daiya cheese which I’m normally not the biggest fan of, but there is a time and place for processed vegan cheese, and this is most definitely one of them. The vibe inside is cute retro hipster, with tattooed, cat-loving-girls-only bakers and Beyonce blasting in the morning. The service is slow, but it’s okay because I like being there and everything is made fresh. Enjoy your reuben outside with a local coffee and the alley cat regulars who attack unsuspecting dogs passing by. Leave your unicorn friend at home so he doesn’t scare the cats away, but make sure you buy him a reuben to go.
I will withhold my urge to shout out my feelings regarding this hallmark holiday of consumer ignorance, and will instead make desserts shaped into hearts. But can I just make one suggestion? Instead of spending your dollars on pesticide-laden roses and sugar-filled chocolates, make this day about telling others how much they mean to you. In my opinion, the best way to show your love for another person is to cook for them (and massage their feet…AFTER dinner, obviously). If however, you still feel the pressure of splurging on material gifts, please support local, greener companies. And hey, who says chocolates need milk in them to taste out of this world amazing? Check out Dee’s One Smart Cookie in Glastonbury or order online from Lagusta’s Luscious in New Paltz, NY.
But before I share my scrumptious gingerbread cheesecake recipe, I want to tell you about two lovely restaurants that my husband and I recently visited…and adored. The first is Cafe Evolution in Northampton, MA, a gem of a vegan cafe and bakery with crazy good homemade bread and even crazier tempeh B.L.T.’s. The cafe is located in an old, warehouse a little outside downtown Northampton so it’s easy to park and there’s less of a chance of running over a hipster. The inside smells of wheatgrass, fresh bread and coffee…in a word, heaven! I ordered a housemade chai tea, which was delicately spiced and generously topped with frothy soymilk and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Then I had a bowl of their soup of the day, a partially pureed garbanzo bean and kale delight with subtle hints of curry. It was creamy and had loads of kale = perfection. For my main, I ordered a giant mixed lettuce salad with baked tofu and lemon tahini dressing. It was crisp and delicious, but Tom’s tempeh B.L.T. was the clear winner. Loaded with baked tempeh, creamy aioli, avocado, tomato, and lettuce – not to mention stuffed between two slices of their to die for homemade bread – made for one hell of a vegan sandwich. The best part of our visit, however, was when we were readying ourselves to leave, and came across a book in the children’s play area near the entrance to the restaurant. The book was called That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. I had heard of the book before, mostly because it caused quite a stir amongst conservative parenting groups concerned with the honest, no frills message to children on where our food comes from and how loving and intelligent these sentient beings really are. Tom and I read the entire book, which, in addition to being thoughtfully written and conveying the most inspiring message, was beautifully illustrated. I highly recommend picking up a copy!
The second restaurant we dined at was in Cambridge, MA, called Veggie Galaxy. Decorated with old vinyl, Elvis inspired artwork, and a Jetson’s feel, this funky diner was a refreshing find after countless bamboo-new-age-I-love-seaweed-karma type cafes. Don’t get me wrong, I love these places too, but sometimes a good retro hipster joint is just what the vegan nutritionist ordered. And speaking of vegan nutrition, the great thing about this place is the quality of the food. I expected a fast food vegan type of experience, but instead we were surprised by housemade ketchup, a baby arugula side dish, and a mouth watering housemade seitan reuben. I love reubens, but they are typically made with tempeh, so I was excited to try their seitan version. Spiced with fennel seed and homemade vegan cheese, this sandwich literally blew me away.
Now that you’re dreaming of seitan reubens and tempeh B.L.T.’s, why not make some rawesome gingerbread cheesecake hearts! I know that doesn’t make any sense, but hey, it’s Valentines Day! Cashews, dates, lemon juice, and a whole lot of gingerbread spices make this raw wonder a gluten free and vegan dream come true. All you need is a high speed blender (buy a VitaMix already!), a food processor, and heart shaped cookie cutters! Hooray for not having to bake!
Rawesome Gingerbread Cheesecake Hearts
For the crust:
1 cup cashews
¼ cup pecans
¼ cup almond meal
1 cup dates, pitted
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
Combine ingredients in a food processor and pulse until crumbly and moist.
For the filling:
1 ½ cups raw cashews, preferably soaked for an hour or up to overnight
2 T coconut nectar
2 T virgin coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice blend
up to ¼ cup water to facilitate blending
Combine and blend in a vita-mix or high speed blender until creamy. Allow to set in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. With a heart shaped cookie cutter, press crust into mold until it fills it up halfway. Press down firmly. Fill the rest of the mold with the cheesecake filling. While holding the mold, gently press on the bottom side of the cheesecake heart and push it out of the mold. Sprinkle a few crumbs of the crust mixture on top if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in freezer until ready to serve. Makes 10-12 hearts or enough for a small blessing of love sick unicorns. (A blessing is what you call a group of unicorns, in the same way that you call a group of buffalo a herd. Thank you Michael from The Fairy Shop in Boston, MA for that invaluable piece of unicorn knowledge!)
I’m a big fan of storms, especially ones involving blankets of snow and the necessity for roaring fires, daytime pajamas & copious amounts of tea. And thanks to the sensationalism of The Weather Channel, Americans like me can become easily convinced that this storm is going to be the most “crippling blizzard since 1978”. Because let’s be honest, once a storm has a name- and this one has two– it means we’re doomed for a snowpocalypse! I am however, still confused as to why this storm has two names, but I’ve already decided that blizzard Nemo is a lot freaking cooler sounding than blizzard Charlotte. I know at first you might think of that do-gooder fish looking for his dad, which is all good and fine, but what about Captain Nemo! The bad ass anti-hero scientist! That’s the kind of blizzard name that will inspire millions of Americans to go spend thousands of dollars on a generator.
But since I already have one, the only thing I need to do is wash my softest pair of yoga pants, buy lots of food, and make a creamy bowl of vegan clam chowdah! (Yes I have to say it like that. I can’t help myself). Don’t worry, there aren’t any fake clams going into this yummy soup; in fact, just thinking of them conjures flashbacks of my first (and only) time eating a fake soy shrimp. Translation: rubbery, dyed pink processed soy dumped into a bowl of broth and noodles that tasted like a fish made out of plastic. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of faux meats. However, if you’re making the transition to a plant based diet, and you’re craving a little familiarity, faux meats can be helpful in bridging the gap. Just keep your consumption to a minimum and remember that very processed soy products are usually GMO and contain soy protein isolate (a highly processed carcinogenic form of soy). In this recipe, I use king trumpet mushrooms, which have a nice chewy texture and even look a little bit like clams when chopped up. Sauteed with veggies and a generous dollop of cashew cream and you will become Bill Murray from What about Bob?.
Vegan No Clams Chowdah!
1 T refined coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
4 king trumpet mushrooms, chopped into small, clam-sized pieces
Splash of white wine, any variety is fine
Pinch of paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp white truffle oil
2 1/2 cups stock ( I recommend Imagine Foods No-Chicken Stock)
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours or overnight
3 T nutritional yeast (I buy it in bulk from Whole Foods and other natural foods stores)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp tamari or shoyu
1 crumbled nori sheet or a few shakes of Eden seaweed gomasio (this is great if you want a little taste of the sea without the sea creatures)
Dash of hot sauce (I tend to put hot sauce on everything!)
In a wide soup pot or dutch oven, heat coconut oil over medium heat and add onion. Saute until soft, then add potato, celery and chopped mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Deglaze with a splash of white wine, scraping up any bits of veggies that have become stuck to the bottom of the pan. Season with paprika, onion powder and truffle oil, then pour in stock and bring to a lively simmer. Allow to simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes, or until potato can be easily pierced with a knife. Meanwhile, rinse soaked cashews and pour into a high speed blender. Add 4 cups of fresh water and blend until smooth and creamy. Add cashew cream, nutritional yeast, tamari and lemon juice to the chowder. Simmer on low heat for another five minutes. Season with fresh black pepper and sea salt. To serve, ladle into soup bowls with a big hunk of whole wheat sourdough bread. Makes enough for 4-6 snuggling unicorns in pajamas, ready to embrace the snowy wonderland.
why plants don’t have feelings / sprouted wheat bagel with cashew cream cheese & maitake mushroom bacon
Whether you’re vegan (VEE-gan not VAY-gan, which sounds like we’re from another planet) or not, chances are you’ve probably heard some wild accusations about it. Translation: we only eat hummus, we are from white, wealthy families, we all have tattoos, we are skinny and pale, we don’t eat carbs, we are angry at everyone who isn’t vegan, we only ride bicycles, we love animals more than people, we are hipsters, and we are self righteous liberals. While some vegans may fall into these categories, this is a gross generalization of a growing demographic that in my experience, are a diverse and wonderful group of individuals.
So why all the judgement?
Like religion and politics, food is very personal. Your plate is as powerful as slapping a blue elephant sticker on your car or wearing a cross around your neck. People notice and sometimes, take offense. This is the reality of our world, and there’s no reason to flip out because someone disagrees with your diet choices. If the goal of veganism is compassion and respect for all living things, then we must embrace and accept our own species first! But sometimes, this can happen…
After noticing the tempeh reuben on my plate, a seemingly innocent diner observes: “You’re a vegan?”
“Yeah,” I reply.
“But what about plants?” cries the diner with a shocking amount of passion. “Plants can feel pain too!”
“*$%&#!@&$^%#@!” <– exclamation inside my head.
What I actually say –> “Plants don’t have a central nervous system, which means they cannot feel pain in the same way that sentient beings can.”
This is a generally accepted principle, however, there are still some people who argue that plants do feel something when harvested. But even if that is true, it still leaves us with the same options: eat plants & animals (who definitely feel pain and suffer needlessly), or just eat plants. For me, the choice was easy.
Now that you’re feeling moody and want to throw hummus at everyone, why not blow their minds with a creamy, fluffy, and indulgently thick cream cheese that will make you feel like you’re in a Philadelphia cream cheese commercial from the nineties! Cashews play the leading role in making this oh-so-dreamy spread, along with my good friend, the bagel. I adore Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted whole grain onion & poppyseed bagels. Seriously, buy these bagels and let them change your life for the better. Toasted and topped with a huge dollop of herbed cream cheese and crispy maitake mushroom bacon and you are in for a serious taste bud explosion!
Sprouted Wheat Bagels with Cashew Cream Cheese & Maitake Mushroom Bacon
1 bagel, sliced & toasted (I recommend Alvarado Street Bakery Onion & Poppyseed Bagels)
2 cups raw cashews, covered with at least 4 cups of water and soaked overnight
1 1/2 tsp probiotic powder (you can buy a jar of probiotics in capsule form at many natural foods stores; just open capsules and pour out powder)
1/2 cup fresh water
1 T dried herb blend (I recommend Penzey’s Fox Point Blend) or 1 T fresh chives, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 container or 2 loosely filled cups of maitake mushrooms, split apart by hand
1 tsp olive oil or refined coconut oil for sauteing mushrooms
pinch of sea salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste
After the cashews have been soaked in water overnight, drain and rinse, then place them in a high speed blender. Add the water and probiotics and blend on high until creamy and smooth. Pour into a small mixing bowl and cover with a piece of cheesecloth. Leave in a cool, dark place overnight.
Remove cheesecloth from fermented cashew mixture, and stir in the seasoning blend and salt. Set aside. In a saute pan, heat oil over a medium flame and add mushrooms. Allow them to brown for a few minutes before stirring with a wooden spoon. Once they are crispy, turn off flame and place on a paper towel to drain.
To serve, spread a generous dollop of cream cheese on a toasted bagel and top with maitake mushroom bacon. Makes about 2 cups of cream cheese, or enough to serve 4 merciless plant eating unicorns.
“How do you get your protein?” says everyone I’ve spoken to about veganism, ever. Yes, it’s repetitive and sometimes I have to find my happy place (translation: sparkly cave with unicorns) before I can calmly reply without cursing the popular media, western doctors and nutritionists across the globe that have brainwashed our culture into equating veganism with kwashiorkor syndrome. “Wait, what is that?” asks those same people. Oh, never heard of it? I respond coyly. Hmm, maybe that’s because it’s the name for severe protein deficiency and it’s never been documented in this country. Hooray! If you’re vegan or vegetarian you will survive after all! I don’t mean to sound cynical, and at one time I asked the same question to my sister when she first went vegan. Unfortunately, It’s the result of repeated whisperings that blow into our innocent ears from social media, parents, doctors, pretend doctors, and friends that over time harden into an accepted truth without personal investigation. It’s the same reason you think that milk is good for your bones, that cane sugar is better than high fructose corn syrup, that meat is the richest protein & B12 source on the planet, and that all soy is bad for you and will cause breast cancer. In a nutshell, you can thank the meat & dairy industries for brainwashing you, little by little, through clever advertising that we don’t even realize is affecting our opinions. So instead of marketing propaganda, let’s turn to plain old common sense.
Take a look at our fellow plant-based animal friends: elephants, giraffes, gorillas, bison, and hippos. These are some of the largest and strongest mammals on the planet, but they don’t look like they’re having any problems with protein intake do they?
And it just so happens that vegetables and grains are chock full of protein: spinach, broccoli, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, lentils, oatmeal, whole grain breads, cacao, quinoa, seitan, beans, and artichokes to name a few! In fact, nearly all vegetables, grains, beans, seeds and nuts contain protein in them. Fruits, alcohol and sugars on the other hand, are low in protein so if you plan on being an alcoholic fruitarian, then yeah, you’ll risk becoming deficient in protein (and friends), but if you eat lots of vegetables and whole grains, nuts, beans, and seeds you’ll be a veggie-powered superhuman! So next time someone asks you where you get your protein, gently point out the literal vegan elephant in the room…
Now that you’re armed with confidence and gorilla strength about your protein intake, why not rub it in a little more and make a cozy, protein-filled soba noodle bowl in a coconut peanut broth! Peanut butter, chickpeas, broccoli and whole grain soba noodles are great sources of protein. This dish is perfect on a day like today – a freshly snowed, gray skied wintry heaven.
Veggie Soba Noodle Bowl with Coconut-Peanut Sauce
1 package soba noodles (I recommend Eden)
1 T refined coconut oil
1 small yellow onion or 4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 inch knob of ginger root, peeled
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 T mirin
1 T tamari or shoyu
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
1 T maple syrup
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter or almond butter
1 aseptic package or can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
Pinch of chili powder or cayenne pepper
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Top with sriracha or favorite hot sauce (optional)
Cook soba noodles according to package directions in a large pot of salted, gently boiling water. Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside. In a deep saute pan, heat coconut oil on medium to high heat, and add onions or scallions. Cook for a few minutes, then add garlic and use a microplane grater to add ginger knob. Toss in broccoli, peppers, and carrot and continue to saute until veggies are bright and beginning to soften. Deglaze with mirin and use a wooden spoon to scrap up any pieces of food stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the coconut milk in and bring to a lively simmer, then reduce heat to low and add brown rice vinegar, tamari, maple syrup, peanut butter, chickpeas and chili powder. Simmer and stir occasionally until ingredients are well mixed and peanut butter has melted into the coconut broth. Remove from flame and toss mixture with soba noodles and cilantro. Drizzle with sriracha or hot sauce. Makes enough for 4 unicorns with shiny, flowing manes and rippling muscles from their protein fabulous vegan diets.