12.28.2015

Christmas/New Years Vegan Treats!: Savory Palmiers, Mushroom Pate, and Truffles!!!

If you are hosting a holiday party, or going to one, here are some quick and tasty snack and treat ideas.

Side rant:
I know I throw the V word (VEGAN) out whenever I make food (I'm Vegan so yeah, that'll happen), but I also know that it's a huge turn off to (some) people who eat meat and I probably annoy them because I make that shit taste gooood. I'm vocal because there aren't a lot of us, and some people need help on their journey. That is my goal. I'll piss off 10 people if it helps just 1 person.

Many folks that eat meat think that because it's Vegan it's not for them and they won't enjoy it.  They automatically get it in their head that the Vegan dish will be bland, leafy, and straw-like. I know this to be true because I can see the stank eye being thrown at me as I offer up the Vegan goodies. Even if the Vegan treat is the bomb (with me it always is) they shrug in an UNamuse-bouche manner. Not all meat-eaters do this but some do! Sometimes it seriously pisses me off to no end because anyone who cooks (Vegan or not) works hard and the last thing they want is to feel like crap for trying. Even when I eat something a loved one makes and it tastes like shit I smile, wave my little hat and say 'good job' because, you know, feelings. I also want to remind people that even if they aren't Vegan they probably already eat Vegan food all the time (peanut butter, hummus, chips, fries, bread, pasta, many chocolates, rice, fruit, veggies etc etc) That shit's Vegan so who are you foolin' with that stank eye?! You are half way there already! (GASP) It's just food so...



Ok, back to the recipes.

SAVORY Palmiers. I made these a while back only not Vegan. The full recipe is here.
In order to Veganize it I just used dairy-free pesto and sun dried tomato paste, Vegan cheese (Daiya Moozarella), and newsflash - Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry is Vegan. It's made with oil, not butter - terrible for you but I never said this was healthy! Here is the original video on how to fold them up.



Mushroom Walnut Pate - This was so good and super easy! Soak about 1- 1 and 1/2 cups walnuts for 4-6 hours. If you forget this step no biggie but you may not get a smooth consistency or will have to blend a lot longer to get it. When you are ready to make it, drain and rinse the nuts. In a saucepan, heat up 1 tablespoon oil or Vegan butter. Add in 1 whole pint of sliced portabello mushrooms, 2 sliced shallots, 3 cloves sliced garlic, 1/2 tsp dried sage, 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tablespoon Vegan Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, 1 tbs tomato powder, tbs shiitake mushroom powder (those last two are optional but they really build the flavor- I got them here and here). 

Once the veggies are all cooked and soft, add them to a high speed blender (juices and all) and then add the walnuts. Blend until you have a thick pate like consistency. Taste test to adjust spices and salt. Enjoy with crackers. It's so delicious. Just tell people it's liver if they are weird. I don't care!



Chocolate Truffles - Ok, forgive me, I didn't really measure on this one so don't hate me if your's comes out wrong. Bottom line.... when the batter is melted you want it to be thick, like - really thick, brownie batter. Once chilled it should be solid enough like a truffle candy!

In a pot melt the following together (whisk constantly)- I did not bring any of it to a boil and the fat kept it from sticking to pan:
2/3 cup coconut cream (buy reg high fat coconut milk and just take the super creamy part at top, not the water!)
1/4 cup cacao butter (the kind that is edible, not for beauty!)
1 tbs coconut oil
2x 9oz bags dark chocolate chips (no dairy)

Pinch of salt
3 tbs maple syrup
1 tbs vanilla extract (add this at end when off the heat, you could also use hazelnut)
Once the whole mixture is melted, pour into a dish with parchment or a Tupperware. Top with nuts if you want - then freeze. Cut little squares as you go. So good!


12.13.2015

Homemade Apple Butter

Super simple recipe. If you love apple pie you will LOVE this spread. It tastes just like apple pie filling. You know, that gooey buttery part. :op


I used a slow cooker for this recipe.

Fill up your slow cooker almost to the top with peeled, cubed apples. I used an assortment of Gala, McIntosh, and Granny Smith. I probably used about 8 apples. Under 5 pounds.

Once the apples are in the cooker add the following for flavor:
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 sprinkle nutmeg (very light)
1 cup sugar (this may seem like a lot but this recipe yields about 3 or 4 cups and you only eat a tablespoon or 2 at a time. I would guess the serving is less that 100 calories- but I'm guessing. And I don't care!

Let the apples and spices cook on HIGH in the slow cooker (covered) for 4 hours. Stir occasionally.
Then put all of the apples and juices in a high speed blender and blend until super smooth.
Add the whole mixture back into the clean slow cooker dish.
Cook for another 4 hours, this time uncovered. Stir occasionally.
Turn off cooker after the last 4 hours and let cool.
Transfer to jars or tupperwares.

This is great to enjoy on toast, oatmeal, nice cream, just on a spoon. Perfect for gifts too.

Enjoy!

12.10.2015

Vegan in San Francisco/ Big Sur/ Santa Barbara

While driving down the coast, sticking to a Vegan lifestyle was easy. As I said in my last post - you just have to be vocal about your preferences. Also, stock up on a personal stash of avocados, tomatoes, lemons, and crackers for snacks!

In San Francisco we stopped for lunch with a friend at GREENS. It was very good but I was a bit miffed at the prices for what we got. Again, love that it was Vegan. Love that it was tasty... it just did not WOW me for all the hype it had gotten. We shared the spring rolls and I had the Fall Sampler for an entree. Worth it for the view - for the food - maybe not for the price but it was very tasty.




In Big Sur we stayed at VENTANA and pretty much ate the same thing every day. Fruit and bread in the morning, babaganoosh and salad in the afternoon, personal stash for snacks, and then a CRAZY good entree at night that had pumpkin, rice, red pepper sauce, falafel, fennel, and other deliciousness.








In Santa Barbara we stayed one night, so we needed to find grub for dinner and breakfast. For dinner, we found PATXI'S - a pizza joint. I've never had deep dish pizza and this was by far one of the BEST pizzas I've had in my life. I've been to Italy and I'm a New Yorker so this is a bold statement. The pizza was also Vegan, with Vegan cheese, tomato sauce, a shit ton of garlic, and spinach. Amazing! Very accommodating place. You can really make any pizza you want here. Not just Vegan.


For breakfast the next day, we found it around the corner from our hotel at a place called SAVOY CAFE AND DELI. Fabulous Organic food and Vegan friendly. I tried the Tofu Scramble. Super tasty and a LOT of food. Perfect before getting in the car for a long ride to Los Angeles.



And there you have it. More vegan road trip success.



12.09.2015

Vegan in Yountville/Napa

Our latest vacation was officially my first Vegan vacation. Luckily it was to California where there are many Vegans... but Napa/Yountville is home to some of the best restaurants in the country, even the world, and they are hardcore meat/dairy meals. The area prides itself in grassfed meats (which I think anyone who eats meat should switch to at the very least). I've never seen so many roaming cattle fields in my life while driving down the coast. They were everywhere.

Back to the food. It was not hard at all to eat plant based meals in Yountville. We went to REDD, Ad Hoc, Bouchon, and Farmstead. All I said to the waiter/waitress was, "Hi, I'm Vegan, is there anything on the menu that I can eat or can the chef make me something special?" Every single time, the chef made something off menu and it was great. All of these places are so accommodating (one place I had to press the waitress a bit). I should also mention, this was NOT my first time in Yountville and dining at all of these places. I've been before, and I ate meat and dairy. It was nice to come back with a different perspective.

REDD

For starters they made an amuse bouche - I forget what the non-Vegan option was but they made me a little stir fry on lettuce wraps. On the menu I had the Sashimi only no fish - just lots of avocado in it's place. So delicious. Sweet and salty! For my entree they made me a cauliflower dish. A lovely mixture of roasted cauliflower, panko fried cauliflower, and walnuts and raisins. Dessert was lemon sorbet.







Next night was BOUCHON - very well known for their authentically French cuisine (aka butter, butter, and more butter). But not to worry, they made a pasta primavera dish with amazing local veggies. That's the thing about California - the vegetables are pretty epic. I also asked for the spinach side - but without butter. The whole garlic cloves on top were so soft though... it was "like buttah!"




Up next we went to FARMSTEAD for lunch in between wine tastings. When I first spoke to the waitress about my Vegan preferences, she was a bit perplexed that I wanted her to ask the chef to make me something since the only possibly Vegan options on the menu were the Kale Salad (without the cheese) and the Grilled Artichokes. While I could have absolutely settled on eating just that, I wanted to push her to ask. Us Vegans can't make any progress in restaurants accommodating for us unless we ASK ASK ASK. She even went on to say to me "oh, it must be so hard for you." I kind of wanted to tell her SHE was the one making it hard for me but instead I told her Bouchon and Redd made me Vegan food off menu, no questions asked. A little nudge, is all. Lo and behold she comes back from the kitchen and says that the chef can do a veggie medley, as a Vegan was just in yesterday for lunch. No shit. ;o)

The Kale Salad was so good I wolfed it down before taking a picture. There is something about kale in California - it just tastes better than local kale in New York. It's sweeter and not as bitter. Maybe in New York it struggles more with the cold wet weather, or it struggles in California with the heat and sun? I have no idea... Here is the veggie medley - it was so filling and quite good. Organic and local, right from the restaurant's farm!



Our last night in Yountville we went to AD HOC. Their menu is interesting and at first glance challenging for a Vegan. It changes every single day and the food is served family style. Yikes. What does a Vegan do? Just tell them you are Vegan and they'll feed you well. No questions asked. The salad was already Vegan, a mixture of farro, black rice, arugula, pickled onions, and pumpkin. Then for the main course they made me a fabulous Tofu Steak with veggies. For the cheese plate course they gave me fresh apples on a cheese board with walnuts, and dessert was banana/strawberry ice "cream". Out of all the non-Vegan restaurants here in Yountville - Ad Hoc knows what's up!









My best advice for anyone going on vacation and wanting to stick to their Vegan ethics: Be brave. Ask questions. And DO NOT give in unless you absolutely want to and understand the consequences. Which could either be guilt or an inconvenient trip(s) to the toilet.