Monday, June 30, 2014

Vegan Parmesan Cheeze

I found this incredibly easy vegan parmesan cheeze recipe on Veg Family! It's not exactly like parmesan, but, hey, it's still really good. And it's super easy to make. I used it to make a pesto that turned out awesome.

Vegan Parmesan Cheeze

  • 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
Toast sesame seeds until lightly browned. Throw all ingredients into a blender. Process for 30-60 seconds. That's it!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tash, DC

Venturing out of northwest DC into the Capitol Hill area of northeast, I stumbled upon an Iranian restaurant with a lot of flare. Tash fuses American, Iranian, and Middle Eastern cultures into a unique style of cuisine. From the outside, its orange brick and orange chairs bring about feelings of warmth and as you step inside, the same feeling is transferred with warm, dark wood booths and walls accented with sparkly orange ceiling lamps and funky stone tiling.

We walked in on a busy Saturday night without reservations and had a 20-minute wait or so before we were seated in a nice booth near the bar. We started with cocktails. I ordered the Beerbourbon sour, which was delightful.  It had whiskey, lemon juice, marmalade, bitters, Triple Sec, and white ale.


I noticed that there was only one menu item marked vegan so I inquired about the other items that appeared to be vegan. There are actually several appetizers that are vegan like the olive dip, hummus, baba ganoush, and mirza (eggplant) so we started with the hummus. It only came with one large piece of bread. I'd say the hummus was very good and the bread was excellent as well. You could really tell that the flatbread was baked in a charcoal fire brick grill as you could taste that authentic firey crispness.

For my entree, I ordered the one item marked as vegan -- the Gheymeh Eggplant.  This stew was made up of yellow split peas that surrounded oily eggplant in a tomato sauce. It was bursting with flavor (and oil) and was very good. My only complaint is that the saffron rice it normally comes with is cooked with butter so it isn't vegan. Why do they point out that this is a vegan dish with saffron rice if the rice isn't vegan?  They gave me flatbread instead, which I was happy with.

My friend ordered the Fire Grilled Vegetables, which can also be made vegan.  It was just vegetables and rice (again not vegan), but these vegetables were grilled in such a way that they too were bursting with flavor. There was zucchini, eggplant, and potatoes. Besides being incredibly oily, they were excellent.

So all in all, for a place I didn't research ahead of time, I thought we stumbled upon some pretty good food. The service was a bit slow as they were very busy, but the drinks and food made up for that. The stew was only $8 while the vegetable dish was only $12 so the prices were on the low end, in my opinion. I just hope in the future, they label the rice as not vegan and label all vegan items as vegan.

524 8th Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 733-1133

Tash on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

SuperSeedz - Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds

Flavored pumpkin seeds? Sounds boring, right?! If that is what you are thinking, you couldn't be further from the truth! I discovered SuperSeedz, gourmet pumpkin seeds, at one of the many food shows I attend. Honestly, the only reason I walked over to them was because their packaging was so beautiful. They just rebranded and the packages feature a pumpkin along with pictures of all the spices and seasonings used in each flavor. They sent me all eight flavors to try because all eight flavors are vegan, non-GMO Project Verified, and gluten free. Yay!

There is something about how these seeds are roasted and coated with seasonings that make them so incredibly good. In fact, I started carrying these bags with me to outdoor events and as soon as people saw I was eating pumpkin seeds, they no longer wanted what I was having. But, with a bit of coercing, I convinced many people to try them and everyone who tried them, loved them. I knew I wouldn't be the only one.

One of my favorite flavors was the Super Spicy because they really are spicy! Made with garlic, cayenne, black pepper, habanero, and red crushed pepper, these would make a great topping for Mexican enchiladas!

As soon as you open the bag of Tomato Italiano seeds, you get a waft of basil that'll have your mouth watering. I think these would go great with lasagna and pasta.

If Super Spicy is too spicy, they also make Somewhat Spicy.  These are good too if you can't hang with the heat!

For your Indian dishes, you have Curious Curry made with madras curry powder. So fragrant and so flavorful.  The curry taste is not overwhelming at all -- very mild.

The Sea Salt are so salty and were just what I needed when I had a hankering for salt. These or the Naked ones would be great on salads.

Then you get to the dessert-type flavors. I don't drink coffee, but I loved the Cocoa Joe. Coated in sugar, coffee, vanilla, and sea salt, these would make awesome ice cream toppers.

Speaking of ice cream toppers, the Cinnamon Sugar would be great for that as well. You could also just top a bowl of strawberries and blueberries with these. They are not too sweet and there is just the right amount of cinnamon on each pepita.

I feel like they must have done a lot of taste testing to get all of these flavors as perfectly balanced as they are. Besides the great taste, these seeds are very nutritious too. They have 8 grams of protein per ounce and are a good source of iron, magnesium, and zinc. You can find Superseedz all across the nation for $4.99 per bag. To buy some on Amazon, click here

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

Monday, June 23, 2014

Chipotle Quinoa with Swiss Chard

With some Swiss chard in the refrigerator, I embarked on a mission to make a super easy meal. Let's see...Swiss chard, black beans, and quinoa -- perfect!  I used a package of Keen One Quinoa in Chipotle flavor, mixed it with some Swiss chard and beans and made a quick, tasty meal. What I love about the Keen One quinoa packages is that they already have spices included so you don't have to add any. If you use plain quinoa, you will need to add more seasoning to this dish. Try it for yourself!

Chipotle Quinoa with Swiss Chard
Serves 6

  • 1 tsp olive or garlic infused olive oil
  • Bunch of Swiss chard, chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp aleppo pepper (optional)
  • 1 14-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 package Keen One Quinoa in Chipotle flavor (or 1 cup quinoa), cooked as per directions

Heat 1 tsp oil on medium heat. Saute Swiss chard in oil for 2 minutes. Add chipotle peppers in sauce and aleppo pepper and cook another 6 minutes. Add black beans and cook another 2 minutes. Add quinoa and stir, cooking for another 4 minutes. Stir regularly. Serve warm.

Full Disclosure: Although the quinoa was provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Au Lac, Fountain Valley, CA

Stranded in the tourist trap that is Anaheim, California, I was desperate for some good, healthy, vegan food. When I asked around, the choice was clear -- Au Lac was the place to go. Au Lac is a casual restaurant located in Fountain Valley, California. From the website, you would think this was a hippy dive with its pictures of angels, mention of essential oils, and odd opening and closing times of 11:33 a.m. and 9:33 p.m., but when you arrive, you realize it isn't as hippy as you might think.

From the outside, it appears to be very lowkey. On the inside, it is a warm inviting atmosphere with red tables and chairs, Asian artwork, and bright lighting. When I arrived there was a slight wait, which was surprising given the size of the restaurant. It was fairly large with two dining rooms and a to-go bar area.

The menu consists of both raw and cooked foods so there is a little something for everyone. And it is 100% vegan. I started with a ginger tea as I tried to decide on an entree. I wanted to try something raw and something cooked so I started with the Chimichurri. This was a thick, spongy, flax-based, raw bread served with olive oil and herbs.  It was meh.

For my entree, I ordered the cooked tofu and eggplant dish.  This was eggplant and tofu simmered in a peppery shiitake sauce served with brown rice. I liked the dish, but didn't think it was anything particularly special. It wasn't all that spicy so they were nice enough to give me some fresh Thai chilis, which made the dish that much better!

I'd say that Au Lac is a solid place to go for good vegan food, but it won't knock your socks off. With $12 entrees and $6 appetizers, I think the prices are fair and the service, given that they were completely packed, was pretty good. It's a fine place to go in an area with very few options.

Au Lac
16563 Brookhurst Street
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 418-0658

Au Lac Gourmet Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gnosis Chocolate

A couple of years ago, I purchased some Gnosis raw chocolate bars through the Daily Gourmet and found them to be very bitter and not at all tasty so I wrote about that. Since then, the owner claimed that I must have received a bad batch, but never sent me new ones so I kept the review posted as is. In the meantime, a bunch of people told me they really liked their bars and suggested I give them a second chance. Sure, why not. So when the owner contacted me recently, I suggested she send me some new samples and, boy, was I surprised.

Gnosis bars are really good. In fact, based on this most recent experience, I'd say that Gnosis makes some of the best raw chocolate bars on the market -- hands down. Gnosis was created by Vanessa Barg just six years ago. She was on track to go to medical school when she realized that food was the best medicine so she switched direction and trained at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition instead. She heard a presentation about the benefits of raw chocolate by world-renowned raw foods expert, David Wolfe, and decided to develop raw chocolate using superfoods that would be great tasting and healthy. And so Gnosis was born.

She sent me three of her chocolate bars and a raw trail mix and I have to admit they were all good. My favorite bar was the LuckChoc. This was the one I put off till last because it didn't sound all that appetizing. It seemed like the healthiest one as it was made with Vitamineral Greens, clover powder, irish moss, and blue-green algae. But, how would that taste in a chocolate bar? The answer is that it tastes amazing. I found the bar to be rich and creamy when I first bit into it, then it finished with the taste of those unusual ingredients and it was truly delightful.

I also loved the Immunity bar. This 70% raw cacao bar is made with chai spice, currants, herbs, and coconut palm sugar. This bar was also quite rich and you could really taste the delightful mix of rose hips, ginger, cardamom, ginseng, and cloves along with the peptias. It was the cardamom that really gave it the oomph.

I also enjoyed the Coco Almond bar, but found it a bit drier than the others. It was still a nice mix of almonds, coconut flakes, maca root, mesquite, cordyceps, and love. :-)

Then there is the Raw Trail Mix in PowerChoc. This is sooo good. It's a superfood trial mix with fruits and nuts that is rich in protein and omegas for long-lasting energy. It's a scrumptious mix of chocolate, almonds, goji berries, currants, hemp seeds, and cacao nibs. I loved how soft the goji berries were -- not dried out at all like many other brands. I feel like I could eat this every day!

Best of all, it is raw chocolate. Raw chocolate is less processed and rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Many people think it is much healthier than roasted chocolate because it has not been heated above 118-degrees, therefore all the goodness remains intact.

What I like most about this company is how they are conscious in every way. Vanessa works directly with the suppliers and farmers to ensure integrity. She visits her suppliers in Belize, Grenada, Mexico, and Indonesia to ensure quality and fair labor practices. All of the chocolate is certified organic, certified vegan, kosher, gluten-free, and Non-GMO Project Verified. 

Most of the bars sell for $6.99 each while the specialty bars are as expensive as $9.25 each. The trail mix is $12.99 per bag. They also make hot chocolate, truffles, and spreads. So while not cheap, I will say that the chocolate with its healthy, organic, superfoods is well worth the price. Do yourself a favor and give yourself the gift of fine, raw chocolate. Your body will thank you for it later. You can order direct here. In the meantime, I'll be removing my previous review as this one better reflects my current views.

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

Monday, June 16, 2014

Thrive Energy Cookbook

Brendan Brazier, the ultramarathon champion, has come out with yet another cookbook!  Thrive Energy Cookbook begins with the Thrive philosophy and finishes with over 150 plant-based whole food recipes. What's unique about this book is that the recipes are not all raw, but rather the book incorporates both raw and cooked foods as well as foods marked as transition foods that help individuals transition to a healthier way of life. It is filled with some of the most beautiful food photography I have ever seen with tons of full-color photographs of the dishes in the recipes.

The information provided in the front of the book is very useful. Brendan describes the Thrive philosophy as plant-based, whole food, high-net-gain, and alkaline-forming without creating biological debt.  High-net-gain foods, such as leafy greens and colorful vegetables, deliver energy by way of conservation rather than consumption. The less digestive energy spent, the more substantial the level of micronutrients gained. He goes on to explain that highly processed, refined, denatured food requires that significantly more digestive energy be spent to break it down in the process of transferring its caloric energy to us.

He emphasizes the importance of consuming alkaline forming foods and maintaining a balanced pH in the body.  People with low pH are prone to many ailments and fatigue. Most prescription drugs, artificial sweeteners, and synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements are acid-forming.  He also emphasizes the importance of chlorphyll in the diet.

Another important point he makes is differentiating between energy from stimulation (coffee and eating refined sugar) vs. energy from nourishment (eliminates need for stimulation). I prefer energy from nourishment myself. I also love that he talks about antiinflammatory foods such as flaxseed adn hemp.

As far as the recipes go, I made three of them. The first one I made was the Thai Red Curry Rice Bowl. This one did not turn out well. It is a curry dish filled with healthy vegetables and coconut milk, but the recipe called for far too much coconut milk turning my amazing curry into a sea of coconut milk. In the end, I spent so much time cooking everything and making it perfect only to have the curry sauce ruin it by turning it into soup. Had I used less coconut milk that called for, it probably would have been wonderful. But, four cans was probably two cans too many.

Next, I tried making the Blueberry Buckwheat Energy Bars. Now these turned out great. Loaded with dates, blueberries, wlanuts, flaxseed, hemp seed, and buckwheat, these bars were super satisfying and healthy. Brendan says these are ideal for sustaining physical activity. I will post this recipe soon.

Lastly, I tried the Roasted Red Pepper and Sweet Potato soup. This soup turned out to be one of the best sweet potato soups I've ever made. Thickened with coconut milk, this sweet soup incorporated roasted red peppers and roasted sweet potatoes as well as celery, carrots, and lots of basil. This one's a winner.

So, all in all, other than one recipe calling for far too much coconut milk, I'd say this book is pretty good. There is so much great information in the beginning and lots of great recipes in the back. Other recipes include the hot apple pie waffle, black bean veggie burger patties, lemon-ginger zinger smoothie, and chocolate cacao cupcakes. For just $14 on Amazon, you really can't go wrong with the Thrive Energy Cookbook. And you'll probably learn a thing or two. Recommended.

Full Disclosure: Although the cookbook was provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Paqui - Tortilla Chips

As a hot pepper enthusiast, I am always searching for the hottest of everything. It's one of those things that only hot pepper enthusiasts understand.  My favorite pepper is the ghost pepper, which I believe is the second hottest pepper in the world. What makes it awesome is its slow burn, not to mention its good taste. So how excited was I when I found the world's first Ghost Pepper flavored chip?! Words could not express how I felt.

Paqui, out of Austin, Texas, has made the world's hottest tortilla chips. Paqui is an Aztec word that means "to be happy." Their happiness comes from cooking corn and stone grinding it to create delicious tortilla chips. Out of their six flavors, four are vegan. And thank goodness that includes the Haunted Ghost Pepper. The ingredients state that it is made with horror and lo and behold I believe it is. One bite of these chips and you'll get an intense burn in the back of your throat coupled with a runny nose and immediate coughing. That sounds bad, but it is actually amazing! These chips are delicious -- just eat one at a time and pace yourself with a mildish salsa and you'll be good to go.  They even have their own website just for this flavor!

If the ghost pepper flavor is too hot, why not try the Grilled Habanero instead. They are still quite hot, but not nearly as hot as the ghost pepper chips.  As with all of the chips, they are light and crispy -- perfect for dipping.

And if those are still too hot, they offer a Roasted Jalapeno, which has a little bit of spice, but not too much.

Finally, for those spiceophobes, they make an Original Delights that has no spice at all.

All of the flavors are Non-GMO Project Verified and do not contain any artificial colors. However, along with other natural ingredients, they do contain maltodextrin, dextrose, and citric acid. These are food additives that I'd rather do without, but an occasional indulgence in a ghost pepper chip is now a required part of life. So if it comes with some guilt, then I'll just have to deal with that. These chips can be found in Kroger's and Whole Foods across the country.

Don't worry. Be Paqui.

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

M.A.K.E., Santa Monica, CA

UPDATE: This restaurant has permanently closed.
Matthew Kenney is a legend in the raw foods world as he is one of the innovators of living cuisine. As the founder of the Matthew Kenney Academy, a school that has produced some of the top raw foods chefs in the world, his latest venture, M.A.K.E. promises to be a success as well.

Amongst the shops and restaurants in the open-air Santa Monica Place mall, there lies the upscale raw foods cafe.  M.A.K.E. is beautiful with its brown wood walls, exposed ductwork, and white lamps. I took a seat at a table against the wall. There appeared to be only a few servers working on this weekday afternoon and the cafe was fairly busy.

To start, you have your choice of juices, smoothies, and boosts. I was somewhat surprised to see honey and bee pollen in some of the drinks, but that seems to be the trend at these "bee-gan" restaurants. I will note that the cafe would be fully vegan if it weren't for those items. I wasn't in the mood for a smoothie so I started with the Spice-C. This spicy, citrusy juice was made with orange, pineapple, cilantro, and jalapeno. Yum!

I wasn't too hungry, but I wanted to try at least two things. My first course was the California Kale salad. It sounded like a simple kale salad, but turned out to be so much more. This lacinato kale salad had quite the twist as it was complemented by sweet valencia oranges, sun-dried olives, wild dulse seaweed and almonds and was topped with fresh sunflower sprouts. Oh, how I love sunflower sprouts! The dulse and olives really made this dish. And I absolutely adored the salty dressing. Pure perfection.

For my main course, I saw an item on the menu that brought back memories of the famous raw restaurant in New York -- Pure Food and Wine. So I ordered the Market Tomato Lasagna. To my surprise, it looked very much like the one served at Pure Food and Wine. A copy? Maybe so. Thinly sliced zucchini took the place of noodles with layers of nutty pesto, macadamia milk cheese,  and tomatoes. But, unfortunately, the lasagna was a bit dry and not nearly as good as the one in New York. The unfortunate part of this is that had I not had the one in New York, I probably would have loved this dish, but it paled in comparison to Pure Food and Wine's. I think a finishing of basil oil would have made a world of difference in this dish. But, it was still pretty good.

That entree was incredibly filling so I didn't have room for a full dessert. I did, however, have room for one of their goji macaroons from the take-out section of this restaurant, which was delicious.

Afterwards, they showed me the school which turned out to just be a room filled with aspiring chefs next to the cafe. It was a fairly small space filled with state-of-the-art raw foods preparation tools.

In sum, I really enjoyed the food at M.A.K.E., but it was very pricey and the service was extremely slow. The lunch cost $35, which is pretty high for a weekday lunch for one. But, I will say that salad was delectable. I'll definitely be back in the future. And I also aspire to attend their school one day.

395 Santa Monica Place
3rd Floor
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 394-7046

M.A.K.E. Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 9, 2014

Green Festival - DC 2014

The Green Festival has officially turned into a vegan food festival. Once riddled with people touting composting toilets and compost bins filled with worms for your home, it is now filled with people sampling delicious vegan food.  You will still find energy-efficient alternatives here and lots and lots of beauty products, but food is where it is at.

My favorite discovery was a new raw, cold-pressed, juice place called CPJ.  They are a local company that is not using high pressure processing so they say their juice is even more nutritious than those using that method.  I tried the organic carrot pineapple, which was awesome and the organic green made with cucumber, celery, lemon, romaine, and green apple, which was also awesome. Look for these juices in a store near you soon.

Then, I had lunch at Khepra's Raw Food and Juice Bar.  I had a sample with Mushroom Olive Pizza, Spinach Sea Salad, Papaya Kale, Buffalo Cauliflower, and Curry Wild Rice. It was all very good.

There were beautiful handmade soaps from The Fanciful Fox.

Hope Foods was displaying all of their scrumptious hummuses, dips, and spreads.

 Soom had their chocolate sesame butter made with tahini.

The Badass Power Cookie made with spirulina was really good.

One company, Sprout Bottle, was recycling old beer bottle and selling herb gardens with them.

And last but not least, Red Velvet Cupcakery had cupcakes. Yum.

 This was a great festival. I'm already looking forward to next year's!