Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Philly Steak Sub - Untraditional

Inspired by HipCityVeg, Philly's awesome vegan cafe, I decided to attempt to recreate their version of the Philly Steak Sub. The way they make their Philly Steak subs is very untraditional, but they are very good. First, they don't use [vegan] cheese. Second, they coat the seitan (the meat replacement), onions, and mushrooms in [vegan] mayo. And they use ketchup. All of these things make it pretty untraditional.

Sweet Earth had sent me a sample of their Traditional Seitan wheat meat in slices, which is impossible to find in the DC area--not just Sweet Earth's brand, but just sliced seitan in general. Around here, I've only been able to find chunks of seitan, which are great for stir fry dishes and ground, which is great for casseroles or Mexican dishes. So when I got my hands on the sliced seitan, I knew I wanted to make some subs.

Well, the subs turned out great, but, I can't lie, they were not as good as HipCityVeg's. The Sweet Earth seitan was incredibly good and seasoned just right and when paired with sauteed onions and mushrooms and coated in [vegan] mayo, it was the perfect sandwich filling. I also added some shredded lettuce, tomato, and ketchup, HipCityVeg-style. I put it all on a delicious Boulart skinny ciabatta found at Yes! Organic Market and made an incredibly filling sandwich! Try it for yourself.

Philly Steak Sub
Serves 4

  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 yellow onion, sliced
  • Sliced seitan (I used Sweet Earth Traditional Seitan)
  • 1/3 cup vegan mayo (I used Earth Balance Mindful Mayo)
  • 4 Ciabattas, sub rolls, or long rolls 
  • Tomato, halved and sliced
  • Lettuce, shredded
  • Ketchup
In a saute pan over medium heat, saute the mushrooms and onions in olive oil with salt and pepper until soft, about 10 minutes.

Chop the sliced seitan into large pieces (as pictured below) and saute them in a separate skillet over medium heat in some olive oil until browned on both sides.

Then, add the seitan to the saute pan with the mushrooms and onions and mix together. Remove from heat and put the mushrooms, onions, and seitan in a large bowl and mix with mayonnaise.  Add more mayo if desired.

Put the mushroom, seitan, onion mix on the sliced roll and top with lettuce, tomato, and ketchup. (See pic above.) Enjoy!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wild Poppy - Craft Drinks

As you may know, I can be attracted to a product simply by its packaging and such was the case with Wild Poppy. A single poppy flower on the front of a cleanly designed bottle drew my attention and before I knew it, I was begging for more. Wild Poppy is a brand new craft drink made in small batches with organic fruit bottled in Sonoma County.

The flavors are incredibly unique and will leave you stumped as you try to figure out which one to try first. I'll start with one of my favorites--the Grapefruit Ginger. As pure as it can be, its mix of organic grapefruit and ginger juice will leave you puckering up while enjoying the sweetness of the agave.

The Peach Vanilla was a nice peach puree-based drink with a hint of Madagascar bourbon vanilla and agave.

The Peppermint Lemonade was very fresh, but I just felt a bit like I was consuming peppermint mouthwash while I was drinking it. I think that is only because the peppermint was so fresh and is often used as the flavor for mouthwash, but I found it hard to drink it in between bites. Perhaps this one is better as an after-meal drink!

My absolute favorite was the Blood Orange Chili. It's ripe blood oranges mixed with a hint of habanero peppers is the perfect combination as the spice lingers even after the drink is consumed.  I could seriously drink these all day long.

The Wild Poppy drinks are all-natural, organic, and vegan. They sell for $3-$4 each and are sold in natural and gourmet grocery stores including Whole Foods in California, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon, the Midwest, and east coast.  I only hope they make it to my neck of the woods soon because I'm wild about Wild Poppy.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that, in no way, influences my veracious opinion. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Basil Thai, Paso Robles

After a long day of wine tasting, we really needed a hearty meal. I did a quick search of the area and there was a vegan-friendly Thai restaurant located in downtown Paso Robles -- Basil Thai. Yes, yet another Thai restaurant with "Basil" in its name.

The restaurant was busy, but they were able to seat us right away. Zach was done with drinking so he ordered a non-alcoholic drink. I went for more wine and chose a nice Viognier. I mean, hey, I was on vacation so why not?! We started with the Golden Bags as an appetizer. These petit, crispy, rice paper bags were filled with sauteed sweet potatoes, onions, and curry powder served with a cucumber salad. I liked the pairing of a fresh cucumber salad with the fried golden bags as they complemented each other well.

For my entree, I decided not to be adventurous -- ordering the same kind of thing I usually enjoy at a Thai restaurant. So, I ordered the Chili Basil in Thai Spicy. A word of caution - when they ask if you want Thai Spicy and you tell them that you do, you better be ready to take the heat. This is burn-your-mouth-off hot, which is right up my alley. The tofu was fried just right and served with mixed vegetables like zucchini, carrots, and bamboo in a chili garlic sauce with Thai basil. It was delicious. And you are able to choose brown rice, which I absolutely love.

The food and service were good. The only downside was the high prices as the entrees were $15 each and the starter was $7. Not really that high, but high for a Thai restaurant in downtown Paso Robles. That said, with the few vegan options in this city, I think it was a great place to go for a nice, hearty dinner. And afterwards, you can stroll through the quaint, little town.

Basil Thai
828 11th Street
Paso Robles, CA 93446
(805) 238-9945

Basil Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sophie's Kitchen - Vegan Crab Cake

I'm a big fan of Sophie's Kitchen's products. They make vegan seafood products from konjac root, a staple in Southeast Asia that is very popular in traditional Japanese cuisine.  Their best selling item right now is the Vegan Crab Cake and for good reason.

Zach and I used it to make crab cake sandwiches using The Organic Gourmet's Tartar Sauce. I baked mine while Zach pan fried his in oil after it was baked. I will say that the fried one tasted better, but being the health nut that I am, I try to avoid frying products whenever possible. The crab cakes have an interesting texture that is sort of like pulled pork so perhaps that is how crab cakes are as well. They tasted very similar to the crab cakes I'd had as a young child and I really enjoyed their flavor.

I did, however, find them to be quite small and once I topped the sandwich with a bun, you could barely see them. As far as ingredients go, they are fairly natural, however, they do use modified potato starch and calcium hydroxide. The other ingredients include pea protein, agave nectar, canola oil, rice vinegar, wakame powder, rice flakes, and spices. I should also mention that they are now Non-GMO Project Verified so you can feel confident knowing you won't be consuming genetically modified organisms in your crab cakes.

So, all in all, I like the taste and texture and I love that they are non-GMO. If only they made them a bit bigger, they'd be perfect.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free, to review, that, in no way, influences my veracious opinion. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Grilled Asparagus with Herb Pine Nut Sauce

We love roasted vegetables and are always looking for new ways to spruce them up. On this occasion, I found a recipe in my new cookbook, Spork Fed, by Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg for grilled asparagus with an herb pine nut sauce that sounded great. So, we took a chance and it turned out as great as it sounded.

Grilled Asparagus
Serves 6-8

Herb Pine Nut Sauce Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 T neutral tasting oil
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice, plus grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano, stemmed and finely chopped
Grilled Asparagus Ingredients
  • 1 large bunch fresh asparagus, bottoms trimmed
  • 2 T neutral tasting high-heat oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Start by making the sauce. To begin, dry roast pine nuts in a saucepan over medium-low heat until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove and place in a high-powered blender or food processor. Add oil, soy milk, sea salt, black pepper, lemon juice and zest, and roasted garlic. Blend until smooth. Fold in chopped herbs while reserving some for garnish. Set aside until ready to use.

Heat a grill pan over medium heat and drizzle asparagus with oil. Place asparagus on grill and cook for about 3 minutes, or until grill marks appear. Flip and grill on other side. Sprinkle with sea salt and lemon juice.

To serve, drizzle sauce over asparagus and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

NonaLim Soups

After having had a successful business consulting career, Nona Lim decided to get back to her roots in the kitchen. She initially started a meal delivery service focusing on allergen free foods to help people eat more healthy foods without having to prepare them. She has since expanded and now offers prepackaged soups for sale as well. This year, they will be changing their name from "Cook! Real Simple Delicious" to simply just "NonaLim" so look for the new packaging soon. Because they couldn't send me the new packaging, they did send me a picture of what the soups will look like below.

I was able to try three of the soups. The first was the Azteca Veggie Soup, which was my favorite. It is like a classic minestrone soup made of vegetable broth, non-GMO corn, celery, carrots, yellow squash, zucchini, diced tomatoes, onions, pasilla pepper, and spices. I love how pure the ingredients are. I don't usually get super excited about clear broth soups, but this one was delicious. The bad news is that this soup will be discontinued soon when their rebranding effort is complete so get yours now!

The next one I tried was the Thai Green Curry. This one was okay, but I felt like the soup was way too thin and needed more flavor. Perhaps some more Thai peppers or galangal? I liked that they used Hodo Soy tofu, which, as always, tasted great, but the ratio of tofu to veggies was way off. It needs more veggies and a lot less tofu. The few veggies that I did taste were bell peppers, carrots, onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, and eggplant.

Lastly, I tried the Red Lentil Veggie. This is one of those hearty, tastes-like-you-made-it-at-home soups. The vegetable broth is seasoned well and loaded with carrots (a bit too many carrots), onions, lentils, zucchini, diced tomatoes, celery, scallions, and cilantro.

What I really like about all these soups is that they are all vegan, organic, and gluten-free. They even specify that their corn is non-GMO on the package. They are currently working on obtaining their organic certification and Non-GMO Project Verification as well. I also like that all of the ingredients are fresh and without preservatives, colorings, or fillers. Other flavors include Carrot Ginger, French Onion, Zucchini, All-Bean Chili, Tomato, and Asian Lemongrass. Currently, they are sold mostly in the SF Bay Area, but you can also order them online here.  So, if you are looking for a simple, quick, easy, fresh dinner, NonaLim's soups will have you covered.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that, in no way, influences my veracious opinion.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Farmstand 46, Paso Robles

While driving through the beautiful wine country in Paso Robles, midway between Napa and Los Angeles, we came upon Farmstand 46, a little cafe/market. Farmstand 46 is all about preparing gourmet, healthy food from organic estate-grown vegetables and herbs.

I was a little surprised though to find that there was not a vegan sandwich on their menu. Luckily, there was a vegetarian one that was easily modified to become vegan. We placed our orders, then walked around the store where we discovered unique food items such as bars and drinks we hadn't seen before.

Outside you find their gardens, which are where they source the ingredients for their sandwiches and salads. Adjacent to the cafe is a winery because you really can't have a cafe without a winery in Paso Robles.

When our food was ready, we took a seat at a shaded picnic table outside and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. The sandwich I ordered was about as good as it gets in this less-than-vegan-friendly town. The Badger, as it is called, had roasted squash, eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes, onions, and basil pressed in a panini grill on ciabatta. It was quite tasty. It was served with pickled green beans, cauliflower, carrots, and celery.

We could have sat there for hours, but, fortunately, we had more wine tasting to do!  This is a great place to grab a quick, healthy lunch as you take a break from tasting the big, bold wines of Paso Robles.

Farmstand 46
3750 Highway 46 W
Templeton, CA 93465
(805) 239-3661

Farmstand 46 on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 19, 2013

Simple Bruschetta

I found a beautiful baguette at the local organic store and was sitting around trying to think of something more creative than just eating it out of the bag, which is what I really wanted to do. Well, creativity aside, I thought a simple bruschetta with fresh roma tomatoes and basil might do the trick.

Simple Brushetta

  • 7 roma tomatoes, chopped in big chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup and 2 T fresh basil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 French baguette

Preheat the oven on broiler setting.

In a large bowl, combine the roma tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, salt, and pepper. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes.

Cut the baguette in thin slices. On a baking sheet, place them in a single layer and broil until brown, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Top the baguette slices with the tomato mixture, then place back in the broiler for a minute to heat it all up. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sambazon - Smoothies & Juices

Using premium, high quality Amazon fruits and botanicals, Sambazon is making waves with its superfood juices and smoothies. Sourced from the Amazon Rainforest, they ensure their ingredients are obtained using fair trade while supporting 10,000 family farmers and 2 million acres of rainforest. While Sambazon offers many products such as frozen sorbet, energy drinks, and supplements, I just had the opportunity to try their smoothies and juices.

The first one I tried was the Supergreens smoothie made with kale and ginger. It is a potent blend of acai berries and six varieties of greens using Amazing Grass' supergreens mix of wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa, spirulina, chlorella, and kale. I found it to have a smooth texture and a great greens taste. If you like drinks like Naked's Green Machine, you'll love this smoothie. Totally different taste, but same idea. There is nothing but good stuff inside this smoothie.

Next, I tried the Acai - The Original superfood juice.  Acai berries have a distinct taste that I really enjoy and the berries are loaded with antioxidents and healthy omegas. Inside the bottle, you'll find acai juice, agave, lime juice, and less than .5% of natural flavors, soy lecithin, citric acid and fruit and vegetable juice (for color). I am pleased to find they are Non-GMO Project Verified, otherwise I'd be worried about the soy lecithin.

Lastly, I had the dessert in a bottle--the Protein - Chocolate + Almond + Coconut Milk smoothie. Oh my goodness, is this one good?! I'm talking acai juice, soymilk, coconut cream, cocoa, and almond flavor. It is absolutely delicious. I could drink it for breakfast every morning or dessert every night!  It does have more than 7 grams of fat though so you'll want to watch how much you drink.

I really like that they are all certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, vegan, and gluten-free. I also really like that they care about the environment from which they source their ingredients. A conscious company is a sustainable company, in every way. One thing I found odd though is that each 8-ounce bottle contains 1.3 servings. Why not just have the nutrition facts listed for one serving? Seems strange. In any case, I'm a new fan of these drinks as they are absolutely delicious and nutritious as well. They can be found in many Whole Foods stores for $2.99 each or you can buy their products here.  And know you'll be supporting Sambazon's principles of purple love.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that, in no way, influences my veracious opinion. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Khepra's Raw Food Juice Bar, DC

"You have been warned, right?" This was the question I was asked as we approached Khepra's Raw Food Juice Bar. Located in the slightly sketchy H Street NE area, I was expecting a bit of a dive, but the answer to the question was that I had not been warned about this place before.

As we stepped inside the Dynamic Wellness Center, I was intrigued by what I saw -- on the left was a beauty salon, in the center there were tables and seating, and on the right was African garb. Along the wall, there were supplements and unusual items for sale like Irish moss. Where the heck was I really? As we continued to walk through the randomness, we eventually found the cafe in the back of the building. Here we found a deli-style offering of salads that you could choose from as well as a couple people prepping food.

Luckily, my friends had been here many times before so they knew what to order. There were three entrees offered that day: Nut Hemp Burgers, Coconut Crab Cake, and something else that I can't recall. In addition, there were many, many sides. I went with the small plate that consists of one entree and two sides for $12 while my friends went with a large plate that consisted of one entree and a little bit of all of the sides for $15. I also ordered one of the fresh juices.

After we got our food, we sat down at one of the tables in the middle of the store. Surrounded by African masks and sculptures, we dug in. I ordered the Nut Hemp Burger, which was on a flat flaxseed bun piled high with some sort of nut sauce and fresh sprouts. It was very tasty and filling. Additionally, I had the seaweed spinach salad that was marinated in oil with red onions and olives. Despite being very oily, it was very good. I also got the cauliflower nuggets, which were spicy raw cauliflower nuggets. I enjoyed these as well.

While we dined, we talked a little about Khepra Anu and his origins (since he wasn't there). He is a self-trained raw foods chef who used to work as the chef at Senbeb Cafe, an old-school, vegan soul food cafe in DC. He recently opened this cafe in the up-and-coming H Street area. From what I've heard and read, he is very passionate about raw foods and fresh juices. Interestingly enough, he does not use a juicer there. Rather he mixes all of the fruits and vegetables in a Vitamix, then strains out the fiber creating juice. I ordered his gooseberry blend, which was an unusual, rich blend of juice with an interesting aftertaste.

I'm happy to see yet another place to find prepared raw foods in the city. While the juices at $9 per bottle, are pretty expensive, I think the small plate at $12 is appropriately priced. I think they could definitely improve on the decor inside the cafe/wellness center, but the food is pretty good.  So, after you get your raw food and juice, buy some irish moss and popcorn, and don't forget to pick up some incense and a condom on your way out. You can find it all here at Khepra's.

Khepra's Raw Food Juice Bar
402 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 803-2063

Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jovan's Pure Nutrition - Crackers

My focus this year is on the purest of ingredients and products that contain the same. Jovan's Pure Nutrition was founded by Jovan herself after a long battle with colon cancer. Through her journey, she realized the healing power of foods and became passionate about giving her body the fuel it needs to heal and thrive.  Her crackers are made of pure seeds, vegetables, and seasonings. And most of the ingredients sourced are organic.

These crackers are bursting with flavor and I mean that both in a good and bad way. All four of the flavors of crackers are sharp with strong flavor, which makes them great for pairing with spreads, but not so great for eating out of the bag as you can only take so much of the strong flavor. But, don't get me wrong--the flavor though strong, is delicious.

The Garden Pesto, for example, gives you a whopping taste of pesto at first bite. Loaded with sunflower seeds, flax seeds, garbanzo bean flour, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and spices, you get a great blend of spinach and basil with just the right amount of garlic.

While all of the flavors have similar ingredients, they each have a uniqueness to them as well. The Taste of Tuscany adds tomatoes and bell peppers to the mix as well as balsamic vinegar and I found them to go well with my bruschetta topping.

The Spicy El Paso is made with tomatoes, red peppers, onion, garlic, and Mexican spices. I enjoyed it with a spicy red pepper hummus.

Then there is the Zesty Tomato that had a (you guessed it) super strong tomato taste, which went well with my baba ganoush, an eggplant spread. I loved this one!

Although they are dehydrated, they are not raw because they are dehydrated above the universally accepted raw temp of 118-degrees. But, because they are dehydrated, you will notice they aren't too hard or crunchy, but still have just enough crunch to satisfy the palate.  They retail for $5.99 per bag, but you can buy them cheaper on Amazon here.  So, if you are looking for a healthy snack and lots of goodness in a cracker, I think you'll be pleased with Jovan's. Just be sure to pair them with a hearty topping.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that, in no way, influences my veracious opinion. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Kale Salad with Flax Lemon Dressing

I love kale! Not only is it great for you, it tastes great too. It is high in vitamins A and K and is a great source of plant-based calcium. But, some people don't find it all that palatable because of its course roughage. The best way to change its texture is to massage dressing into kale for a few minutes to soften it up, then let it sit and marinate for a bit -- you'll be amazed at how much better it will be.

This is a simple recipe that takes kale, mushrooms, onions, and avocado and mixes them with a flax oil and lemon dressing. Don't skimp on the avocado as it is crucial to this dish.

Kale Salad with Flax Lemon Dressing

  • 1 bunch fresh kale
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup flax seed oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp tamari

Tear kale into bite-size pieces leaving the stems behind. Add the mushrooms, red onion, and avocado into the bowl and toss.

Combine the oil, lemon juice, and tamari in a separate bowl, mix, and pour over the vegetables. Massage dressing into the kale with your hands for a few minutes. Don't worry about smashing the avocado -- you actually want to smash some of it so it becomes part of the dressing. Trust me -- it will be good. Let it marinate for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Founding Farmers, DC #3

Following my last good experience at Founding Farmers with their awesome vegan menu, I headed over there again for a business lunch. We had reservations for 12:15 p.m. on a Friday and what a busy Friday it was!

I started with their housemade lemonade, which is always good. As me and my friend had both been here before, they did not give us the spiel about how almost everything in the restaurant is made in-house. They are all about fresh food made in-house. If only every restaurant followed this model, the world would be a better place. But, I digress.

I wanted to order one of the items I hadn't yet tried so I ordered the Gardener's Pie. I should mention that I wanted to start with a salad, but I was a bit annoyed that all of the small salads, even the house salad, had meat or cheese in it and the waitress wasn't sure how they could veganize them. I just wish they had a regular house salad without cheese.

When the pie arrived, I was impressed with its presentation. They brought it out on a wooden cutting board, which I thought looked pretty cool. It came with an arugula salad was topped with a lemon dressing and had yellow beets, red onions, and grapes interspersed. The salad was light and refreshing.

The Gardener's Pie was like a vegan shepherd's pie. Inside there was a veggie succotash of crunchy vegetables such as carrots, root vegetables, and cauliflower in a nice, light broth. It was topped with mashed potatoes that looked like they had been broiled. It was delicious.

The server left the check on the table so we could pay when we were ready, which was nice as I always worry about being out for lunch for too long.  The service was quick and attentive, the food was great, and the prices were fine.  At $14 for the pie, it is on the high end, but everything about this restaurant is also on the high end. I am so thrilled that they have so many vegan options for lunch and dinner. Now if only they'd offer a few more appetizers and a salad or two, they'd be perfect.

Previous reviews
July 4, 2011
January 18, 2013

Founding Farmers
1924 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 822-8783

Founding Farmers on Urbanspoon