Monday, October 31, 2011

Bakery on Main - Granola Bars

When I was on vacation in NYC, I came across some new granola bars from Bakery on Main. These bars were peanut butter and jelly flavored -- a flavor I've never seen before in a bar so I grabbed a box to try them.

Bakery on Main is a bakery located in East Hartford, Connecticut. They specialize in producing gluten-free whole grain granola products. In fact, their products are free of GMOs, dairy, casein, gluten, and wheat. So while all of their products are not vegan, three of their flavors of granola bars are -- apple cinnamon, peanut butter and jelly, and chocolate almond.

All of the flavors are made with certified gluten-free oats, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, crisp brown rice, flax seeds, quinoa, chia seeds, amaranth, and sea salt. Amaranth and quinoa are very nutritious whole grains while flax and chia seeds are a great source of omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. I especially love when bars not only taste good, but are also good for you.

So, on to the taste. I enjoyed all of the flavors and espcially like how each of the flavors is topped with something. The apple cinnamon bars are topped with dried apples so you get the goodness of oats with the sweetness of apples.

The peanut butter and jelly bars are made with peanut butter and strawberry jelly -- one of my favorite combinations.  These are topped with bits of strawberries.

And then there is the chocolate almond flavor, which are topped with chocolate chips.

As I mentioned, I love that the bars are actually topped with fruit, chocolate, or nuts.

The only thing I didn't like about these bars are that they are a bit sticky and way too sweet. These bars recently showed up in my local Yes! Organic Grocers so their distribution is growing quickly.  If you'd like to try them, you can order them online here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Jamaican Jerk Seitan with Coconut Rice

I've been eyeing the jerk seitan recipe in Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan with a Vengeance for a while now and tonight I was feeling adventurous enough to try it!  I paired it with Coconut Rice and Sauteed Swiss Chard and it turned out to be scrumptious! Here's how to make it:

Ingredients for Jerk Seitan
  • 1/2 large white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1.5T fresh ginger, chopped
  • 3T fresh lime juice
  • 3T tamari
  • 2T olive oil
  • 2T pure maple syrup
  • 1T dried thyme
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups seitan, cut into thick strips (store-bought is easier, but you can make your own here)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, thickly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and thickly sliced
Ingredients for Coconut Rice
  • 2 cups jasmine rice (I used brown jasmine)
  • 1 (13.5 oz.) can coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
How to make it:
Prepare the marinade by pureeing all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth, but slightly chunky.

Place the seitan in a shallow bowl and pour the marinade over it. Toss to coat. Cover and let it marinate for an hour.

After about 30 minutes, you can get started on the rice! Combine the rice, coconut milk, water, cinnamon stick and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the lime zest and stir with a fork. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 more minutes.

You can also prepare the shredded coconut by heating a skillet over low-medium heat. Add the coconut and toast, turning frequently, for about 3 minutes until the coconut is browned. Be sure it doesn't burn!

Remove the cinnamon stick from the rice and set aside.

By now, your seitan should be ready to cook. In a large skillet, saute the onions and peppers in olive oil over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes.  Remove the seitan from the marinade and reserve the liquid. Saute it for 10 minutes, until the seitan has browned. Add the remaining marinade and cook for about 2 minutes to heat the sauce through.

To serve, plate it with the rice on the side and sprinkle the shredded coconut on the rice. I also sauteed some swiss chard in olive oil with some chili peppers to accompany the meal. The seitan is incredibly spicy and flavorful and pairs well with the greens and rice. This is a time-consuming dish, but well worth it in the end. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chocolate Inspirations Hot Chocolate in a Tervis Tumbler

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I get the opportunity to try some cool stuff. This time I was sent a Tervis tumbler.  They say these tumblers are virtually indestructible in that they don't crack, melt, shatter, or chip, and they come with a lifetime guarantee. My assignment was to create a beverage in my Tervis tumbler. It has been cool outside so I decided to make hot chocolate.

I used a Chocolate Inspirations Hot Chocolate Cup, which is basically chocolate in the shape of a disc on a popsicle stick.

You stick the chocolate on the stick into a cup, then add [vegan] milk and it transforms into this luxurious hot chocolate.

The flavor I had was the Caramel Latte and it was absolutely delicious! I mixed it with Almond Breeze original flavor almond milk and I loved the combination. I've been making hot chocolate from powder mixes for years and it doesn't even come close to comparing to this rich hot chocolate made from real Swiss dark chocolate.

The Chocolate Inspirations hot chocolate "cups" can also be used to make dipping sauces for fruit, pretzels or marshmallows; or toppings for dessert. They come in many vegan flavors such as raspberry, marshmallow, and Shamouti orange. Yum!

And by putting the drink in the Tervis tumbler, it stayed warm for the entire 20 minutes it took me to drink it. Tervis tumblers' double-wall insulation keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold.

Disclosure: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I received a Tervis tumbler.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mimi Clark's Cooking Class with Emily Mainquist

Mimi Clark is a local chef who I've seen around from time to time. She does a lot of demos, develops recipes for restaurants and manufacturers, and conducts her own cooking classes. When I heard that she was going to have Emily Mainquist of Emily's Desserts as the guest chef, I quickly signed up for the class. I met Emily at her bakery back when she had a storefront in Baltimore, MD. I've also tasted her delectable desserts at Roots, a grocery store in Maryland, and they are all delicious.

Mimi's class is out in Fairfax Station, Virginia, which is a long drive outside of DC -- about 40 minutes. When I arrived, she showed me to the kitchen where she had chairs set up for about 12-15 people. She had many cookbooks and products on display for our perusal. By 10 a.m., almost everyone had arrived so she went ahead and got started. She introduced many of the food items she had on display and gave us a list of the "sponsors" of this class who had donated the products. We started off with a sampler plate of many of the items she had on display. My favorite items were the Sheese vegan cheese and Galaxy cream cheese, both of which I hadn't tried before.

After that, Mimi got to cooking. She demonstrated how to make 4 desserts, then allowed us to taste each one. She had already prepared the desserts in advance. She started with the No-Bake Key Lime Pie, which was my favorite of her recipes.  She also made Brown Rice Crispy Squares, Tamari-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, and Vegan Ice Cream. I really appreciated her tips on how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.

The second half of the class was dedicated to Emily, who demonstrated 3 of the recipes from her new cookbook, Sweet Vegan. She started off by making a Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake. This cheesecake had layers of chocolate chip cookie dough with a cheesecake filling. It was soooo good!

Next, she made Peanut Butter Brownies, which were my favorite. These brownies were very moist and flaky. I will be making these on my own in the near future!

Lastly, she made Peach Biscuits. These looked incredibly complicated, but Emily whipped through it in just minutes! She is really good.

Peach Biscuits from Sweet Vegan by Emily Mainquist
10 servings

Ingredients for Biscuits
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tblsp butter substitute
  • 3/4 cup soy milk
Ingredients for Fruit Topping
  • 4 large peaches
  • 3 Tblsp apricot preserves
  • 1 Tblsp water
Ingredients for Coating
  • 1 cup evaporated cane juice
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 cups butter substitute
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. First make the biscuits: Using a mixer, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and blend at medium speed.  Then, add the butter substitute 1T at a time, waiting 5 seconds after each addition. Add the soy milk and beat the dough on medium speed until a soft dough has formed.  Take the dough out and put it on a lightly floured work surface, then roll it to 1/2-inch thick. Cut it with a 4-inch round cookie cutter. Continue until you've used most of the dough. Set aside.
  3. Cut the peaches into 1/4-inch thick slices
  4. Then, make the coating: mix the cane juice and cinnamon in a bowl. Melt the butter substitute in a microwave-safe bowl for 1 minute. Dip the biscuits into the butter, then in the cinnamon sugar, and place on a 10 x 15-inch cookie tray.
  5. Create a well in each biscuit using your fingers. Arrange 3-4 sliced peaches in each well. Sprinkle with any remaining cinnamon sugar.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the apricot preserves with the water in a microwave-safe dish for 20-seconds, then spread onto the warm biscuits before serving.

It was great to see Emily in action. She is an amazingly talented baker and her book is great. There are even pictures of each and every dessert!  You can buy her book at Amazon by clicking this link: Sweet Vegan.

At the end of the class, Mimi gave us all coupons and samples of food products. Emily signed her cookbooks and we all stayed for a while and chatted.

All in all, I think Mimi's classes are good classes for individuals new to vegan cooking/baking. Mimi does a good job of demonstrating how to prepare each dish, though she does go through the recipes very quickly. I think her students would get more out of the classes if she slowed down and took the time to explain each step in detail and allowed for more interaction. I, personally, prefer hands-on cooking classes where I have the opportunity to cook, but, like I said, these are good classes for new vegans, but not necessarily for seasoned vegans.  To see her schedule of classes, click here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lightlife - Smart BBQ

As a big fan of Lightlife Smart Chili, I decided to try their Smart BBQ as well.  Like the Smart Chili, it comes in a pouch and can be found in the refrigerated section of grocery stores. It was a weeknight and I wasn't interested in spending a lot of time cooking so this seemed perfect.

All I had to do was grill a whole wheat burger bun and heat the pouch up in the microwave for a minute or so!

Once I was finished with that, I placed the bun on a plate and put some Smart BBQ on it, which looked like it had the consistency of pulled pork. I topped the Smart BBQ with a few baby spinach leaves and a slice of tomato.

I found it to be very smoky and tangy so the tomato definitely helped temper the strong taste.  The shreds are made of water, soy protein isolate, wheat gluten, wheat starch, malt extract, and beet powder for color. I really enjoyed the taste and texture and loved how easy it was to make. And with only 70 calories and 0 grams of fat per serving, I think this is a great low-fat option for a quick lunch or dinner.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sage Bakery and Cafe, Seattle

On this beautiful and unusually sunny day in Seattle, we headed over to Sage Bakery and Cafe in Capitol Hill for some vegan grub.  This tiny cafe had three high-top tables and stools as well as two outside tables as it was more of a carry-out place.

We grabbed a seat at a high-top table and treated ourselves to a little water as we perused the menu.  So a word about the menu - wow! Talk about vegan options galore! This 100% vegan cafe boasts an impressive menu featuring 12 off-the-grill fresh sandwiches, 5 vegan crepes, 11 signature burgers, baked goods, and options for ordering custom sandwiches. It was a bit overwhelming to say the least. After much discussion, we placed our orders.

I had one of their fresh ginger apple juices from Fresh Juice World, which was yummy. It was more of an apple juice with a little ginger, but that is better than there being too much ginger, which is more often the case than not. Our food took a little time as it is all freshly made, but we were okay with that because it stated that you will wait 15 minutes if ordering fresh food. I appreciated the heads up!

And when it came, it was so worth it. I ordered The Sweet Jamaican, which was a Jamaican spice tofu wrap on lavash bread. It was filled with Jamaican spiced tofu, smoked yams, grilled sweet onions, cabbage, lettuce, tomato and vegan mayonnaise.  It was absolutely delicious! The tofu had this great texture and spicy taste - this was tofu done right! I loved the presentation as well as the meal. The accompanying salad was very fresh as well.  It was pricey at $11, but well worth it.

Zach ordered the "Vegan Crepes." We have no idea why one of the vegan crepes is just called, "vegan crepes," when all of them are vegan, but whatever. I haven't had many (if any) crepes and I liked these. They were filled with oyster mushrooms and smoked seitan, then topped with vegan cheese "yease" sauce. Zach said they didn't really taste like crepes, but I still thought they were pretty good. The crepes were priced at $11 as well.

For dessert, we had a blueberry lime cupcake. The cake itself was delicious and the icing was a unique mix of blueberry and lime flavors.

Overall, we had a great experience at Sage and hope to go back the next time we visit Seattle. This is a great low-key lunch spot with incredible food.

Sage Bakery and Cafe
324 15th Avenue E.
Seattle, WA 98112
(206) 325-6429

Sage Organic Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 21, 2011

Vermont Soy - Maple Ginger Tofu

At the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore this fall, I met the Vermont Soy guys. This is a relatively new company having only been in existence for 4 years and I was interested in their products. They started off just selling soy milk, but have since expanded their line to offer artisan tofu, tofu scramble, baked tofu, soy nuts, and sunflower oil cooking spray. Their products are all organic and non-GMO.

They gave me a sample of their artisan tofu and their baked maple ginger tofu to take home.

I really liked the baked maple ginger tofu -- it was delicately firm, but not too firm, with a light maple taste. I decided to try using it in a recipe I found on their website for Tofu Stroganoff by Chef Steve Bogart with some modifications.

Tofu Stroganoff
Serves 6

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 8-oz packages Vermont Soy baked maple ginger tofu, cubed
  • 8 ounces whole wheat fusilli noodles
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 medium minced onion
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 cup vegan sour cream
  • Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
In a bowl, add the soy sauce, garlic powder, and cumin. Mix well, then add the tofu and enough water so that the sauce covers the tofu.  Let it marinate for 1 hour. Drain well, reserve marinade for later.

Boil water for the noodles. Once boiling, cook the fusilli noodles according to their package.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the onion until translucent. Add mushrooms and tofu and a little marinade, if needed. Cook until mushrooms soften.

Add wine and sour cream, then cook until mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top noodles with the sauce and season with paprika, once plated.

This dish is heavy and creamy and is best served with light salad and some crusty bread.  Click here to find where to buy Vermont Soy's products.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cork & Fork, DC

When I first moved to the U Street Corridor/Logan Circle area, there weren't any really nice wine stores. I had to buy my wine from U Street Wine and Liquor, Whole Foods, or Yes! Natural Grocers. A few years later, a local wine bar opened a nice wine store called "Cork Market" and everything changed. I soon began buying from them. But then, in May of 2010, a new player emerged and even though their name was similar to the other wine store on 14th Street, I soon discovered just how different they were -- this was "Cork & Fork."

The artwork in the window was created by Dominique's daughter, Antoinette

Cork & Fork, located at 14th and Q Streets NW, has been a welcome addition to this bustling area, bringing fine wines at various price points. Now I know just where to go when I need a great bottle of wine. The family behind this great business is the Landragin's -- Dominique; his wife, Anna; and their daughter, Antoinette. Dominique is a 12th generation winemaker from Champagne, France. In fact, Dominique's family’s winemaking dates back to 1772 when his great-great-grandfather first made champagne. His grandfather was the manager of Veuve Clicquot vineyards in France while his father, Pierre Landragin, was the vineyard manager at Heidsieck Monopole. Dominique graduated from the Beaune Agricultural College, located in Burgundy, in the fields of viticulture and oenology.

I think the first thing I noticed was how pleasant and down to earth he was. Even though he had been a winemaker, he is happy to take the time to help his customers understand his products and the regions from which they originate. From little things such as having a restroom in the store available to customers to bigger things like complimentary wine tastings, the hospitality he offers is unmatched in the area. 

Every Friday and Saturday, they host complimentary wine tastings usually showcasing a number of whites, roses, reds, and even a dessert wine here and there. They usually taste 5 - 10 wines per tasting!  I discovered many of the wines I drink regularly during these wine tastings.

Damien, Dominique, and Matt

Everyone who works there is just as helpful and pleasant as Dominique. He has done a great job at finding knowledgeable, down-to-earth staff members. They often keep the front door open as well. All of this makes for a very inviting atmosphere.

Oh, and did I mention that the selection is fantastic?! All of the wines have been hand picked by Dominique and I'm always pleased with his recommendations. By buying cases of the popular selections, he keeps the prices extremely competitive as well. Have I given you enough reasons to check Cork & Fork out yet?  I could go on, but this post is already too long so I'm signing off and heading over to Cork & Fork to buy some wine.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Amsterdam Falafelshop, DC

I got this awesome deal through Scoutmob for a free small falafel sandwich from Amsterdam Falafelshop so, of course, I was all over that!  I hadn't been to Amsterdam since they opened many, many years ago, but from what I remembered, they were pretty good.

When I got there, there was a line of about 10 people out the door. Ordering is about as easy as it gets as their menu is falafel, fries, and brownies. That's it.  I got a small falafel in a wheat pita with a cup of water.  The small size is 3 falafel balls in a small pita. Once you get your food, you are then able to top it with the myriad of toppings showcased on the toppings bar.  However, there is a sign that states the rules -- one of them being that you can not take the falafel balls out of the pita and use the pita as a bowl to put the toppings in. Darn. The sign (below) is quite humorous though.

Most of the toppings are vegan, which makes it pretty easy. I topped mine with a whole bunch of stuff like cucumber and tomato salad, chickpea salad, tahini, hummus, spicy pepper sauce, green sauce, and pickled beets. I couldn't fit much into the tiny little pocket and it began falling apart pretty quickly.

I sat down inside and realized there was no A/C. This is DC in the summer -- no A/C is really sucky.

The falafel balls themselves were pretty tasty, but I couldn't help but think back to my experience with SABABA Market's falafel sandwiches. Had I not had theirs, I might have loved Amsterdam's as Amsterdam has a lot of toppings!  But, in the end, the pita at Amsterdam is flimsy and fell apart instantly and the toppings were tasty, but nothing special.  SABABA Market's, only sold in farmer's markets on Sundays, have these amazing toppings and unique sauces as well as a soft bread that is to die for. And, most importantly SABABA's don't fall apart.

So while I like Amsterdam Falafel's falafels and I love that they have a topping bar with lots of toppings, they just aren't as good as SABABA.  However, SABABA's are only available on Sundays at a farmer's market, whereas, Amsterdam's are available every day in Adams Morgan, for many hours per day into the night. That's right, you can get these at 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday night and that is something special.

Amsterdam Falafelshop
2425 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 234-1969

Amsterdam Falafelshop on Urbanspoon