Friday, June 29, 2007

Ginger love

No, not that Ginger Spice. This one: Gracie's Gotcha Ginger. This family-run company based in Baltimore has a stand at my farmer's market, which is at my workplace every Tuesday. Yes, it's wonderful to have the farmers/ family food stands come to me. Great discoveries at the farmer's market include:
--the Strawberry Lady
--the Mushroom stand (mushroom pita sandwiches, fritters, or vegan chili)
--the Spanakopita stand (with about 12 variations, including vegan fillings)
--the Herb guy, who sells every dried herb you can think of and goodies like concord grapes and japanese plums
--the Italian Panini stand, with many non-vegan offerings but also with the sweetest fresh-squeezed oj you've ever had
--Grace's Pastries, makers of the Awesome Bread (whole wheat crunch bread, light as a feather. I bought 4 loaves at the last market of the season and froze them for the winter), not related to
--Gracie's Gotcha Ginger

I've bought two things from Gracie's and they've both been amazing. The Ginger Lemon drink mix is smooth but has a kick. It's in concentrated form and I mix it with lemon/lime seltzer. The Jerk Sauce is an important ingredient in my stir-frys. I only use a few drops but it adds incredible flavor. Ginger, where would I be without you?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

*Hic*... *Hic*...

My grandmother taught me a very simple cure for hiccups. I thought it was common knowledge, but the existence of a product called Hiccups Away at $3 a pop makes me think that it's not. I'm also not a fan of the "scare" technique, which doesn't seem too effective.

So, here's what you do. Pour half a small glass of cold water. Add about 2 teaspoons of sugar--enough so it's distinctly sweet but not sickeningly so. Drink the sugar water slowly. See? Hiccups gone. Works every time for me.

Monday, June 25, 2007


By popular request, here is the recipe for a delicious yet moderately healthy peach shake which is just right for the humid DC summer.

Guess where it's from?

Yes, the Teany cookbook, perhaps the most underrated vegan cookbook of the past 5 years.

Mix equal parts of the following:
Iced chai tea (I used a rooibos blend which is caffeine-free)
Peach nectar or peach juice
Vanilla soy milk (if you must use cow's milk, add some sweetener)

Put all that in a blender with some ice and mix it up. For one serving, I used 1/2 cup of each ingredient.

Breakfast of Champions

Sunday brunch is usually not vegan for me. I generally have eggs, but if we're out for brunch, I'm always tempted by the pancake/waffle/french toast offerings. I've always found that if I have a starchy or sweet breakfast, it sets me up for cravings the rest of the day. It's not surprising that happens, but I do like a change from eggs once in a while.

My sister, who also has to watch her blood sugar, recommended Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Pancake Mix. I made it for the first time Sunday. We made the waffle version, and I had one waffle with homemade blueberry sauce (blueberries cooked down with a bit of water, maple syrup, and lemon peel). I was very surprised to find that 5 hours later, I wasn't even hungry. Apart from making very tasty waffles, this mix has staying power! The only thing is, it's not vegan. The 7-grain organic mix is vegan, but not the 10-grain one.

I was in San Diego on "business travel" last week, and although I didn't eat that badly by most standards, I probably ate many more calories, fat, and dairy than I usually do. It's nice to be home and able to make what I want to eat. I had fruit and nuts for breakfast, lentil salad for lunch, and am looking forward to stir-fried veggies and brown rice for dinner.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Vegan paradise, thy name is NYC

I have been bone tired for the past several days. I worry that I'm coming down with something, which would be very inconvenient since I'm on a business trip to California all next week. I most likely won't be able to blog, so here's a brief account of our food adventures in NYC to last until I get back.

Our train food for this leg wasn't nearly as good as for the DC-Montreal one. We'd packed a motley assortment of trail mix, Lara bars, and oatmeal cookies. The train trip ended up lasting about 4 hours longer than it should have, necessitating a trip to the dining car. The good news: Amtrak has a vegan selection! The bad news: Here it is...

Yes, it's a "vegan gardenburger." It would have been OK if there had been any toppings available, and if the whole thing didn't have to be microwaved. But hey, it tasted good and kept me going.

Some vegan-friendly restaurants we visited in NYC:
--Quantum Leap (We ate lunch and brunch there. Highlights were the vegan bento box and fake meat club sandwich shown below, and the green tea waffles.)

--Peanut Butter & Co. (We didn't eat here, but HS bought me a jar of dark chocolate peanut butter that I have only been able to eat one way: with a spoon.)
--Zen Palate (amazing orange seitan)

The most gourmet meal we at was at Blossom, which is an all-vegan restaurant. It's upscale and gourmet. We started with the black eyed pea and potato cake with chipotle aioli

and then moved on to (foreground) savory seitan, herb potatoes, and green beans, and (background) marinated grilled tempeh, yucca fritters, and rainbow chard.

Yes, it was even better than it looked.

However, we agreed that our favorite meal on the whole trip was not vegan. There is just no substitute for real coal-oven New York pizza:

Wait, HS, didn't you order anything?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The urge to bake

I telecommute most Wednesdays, and I find I'm often stricken with an urge to bake. Bread is a perfect project because it just needs a few minutes of attention over several hours. I'm not a great bread baker, though. Today I was craving something buttery and nutty, yet vegan and somewhat healthy. And I didn't want to go to the store since I was working, after all, and had to head out immediately after my work day was over.

I found my answer in Dreena's blog, with Raspberry-Coconut squares from The Everyday Vegan. They are delicious! Here is a list of their virtues:
--they don't call for any butter or margarine, yet they taste buttery
--omnivores should note that they call for no "weird" ingredients, and you could use cow milk in place of soy milk
--I used coconut that I had serious doubts about, since it had been sitting in my freezer for at least a year, but they tasted fine (OK, that's my issue)

I modified the recipe by substituting 1/4 cup of pecans for 1/4 cup of the coconut in the base layer. I also sprinkled pecans on top and used 2 T ground flaxseed and 2T flour for the topping instead of the 1/4 cup flour the recipe called for. And yes, I had coconut extract in my pantry. I have a library of extracts.

I should get around to posting our vegan adventures in NYC soon.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Vegging in Montreal

After spending a full day en route, we stumbled zombie-like out of our hotel, ignoring the concierge's unimaginative suggestions of going to a Japanese or to an Italian restaurant. We walked down to a major commercial street, Rue St. Catherine, where I gasped and pointed to our Mecca: Commensal vegetarian buffet. I'd seen this place on previous trips to Montreal but had never eaten there before. This time was going to be different.

We ended up going to Commensal twice and gorging ourselves each time. It was the best buffet I've ever eaten at. Everything was fresh, flavorful, and interesting. The vegan choices were clearly marked. Some favorites were the seitan bourgignon, fresh sprouts of many unusual varieties, and the lemony quinoa salad. They also had an entire separate dessert buffet! I won't forget the maple syrup pie anytime soon.

The picture at the top shows our feast at Aux Vivres vegan restaurant. The first time we went it was closed, but we made it a priority to return. I had a salad with tofu and cornbread; HS had a grilled vegetable and "tofu whip" sandwich on homemade naan, and we both had smoothies. The decor is nice and so was the wait staff.

Also of note are ChuChai vegetarian Thai restaurant (though I'm a little pissed off at them because they made us repeat customers order food before being allowed to use the rest room) and St. Viateur bagelry. Some Montrealers claim their bagels surpass New York's, but I was not sold. They are tasty and different though: much smaller and denser than NY bagels. They had lots of whole grain varieties, including flaxseed. Flaxseed (lin) seems to be big in Montreal: many flaxseed bread products were available.

We didn't try poutine (I know it's not vegan; at least, it shouldn't be), but we got the T-shirt:

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Train food

We took the train from DC to Montreal, which meant leaving before dawn and arriving just before sunset. This may come as a surprise to HS, but I sometimes get a wee bit cranky when my blood sugar drops. Therefore, I wanted to make sure we had ample provisions for the long day. Breakfast was my mom's pumpkin-walnut bread, and lunch was Pan Bagna. This is another great recipe from the Teany cookbook, and one of my favorite sandwiches ever (have you not bought the cookbook yet? Come on, it's only $4.99!). It is perfect for travel because it is meant to be smushed. It provided a totally satisfying lunch and kept things rosy through a train derailment and subsequently being rushed to the Canadian border by a Hell's Angel who passed every car on the a tour bus.

Pan Bagna (makes 2 colossal sandwiches)
1 baguette or ciabatta bread
black olive spread/ tapenade
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 jar roasted red peppers, rinsed and cut into manageable strips
a few good handfuls of spinach or arugula, rinsed and dried
1 bunch of basil (don't leave this out), leaves taken off the stems, rinsed and dried
2 or 3 tablespoons balsalmic vinegar
olive oil
salt and pepper

Slice the bread the long way. Spread the olive tapenade on the bottom slice of bread. Layer the following on the bottom slice, in this order: chopped red onion, basil, sliced tomatoes, salt and pepper (be generous with the salt), roasted red pepper, and spinach/arugula. Drizzle the vinegar on the top of the spinach and drizzle olive oil on the underside of the other slice of bread. Put the oiled bread on top of the other piece and press down firmly. Wrap that puppy in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to a day.

Monday, June 4, 2007

I'm back

from a much-needed vacation. When things settle down, I'll write up our vegan adventures in Montreal and NYC. For now, here's a teaser...a potato and black-eyed pea cake with chipotle aioli!