Friday, November 28, 2014

Summertime Sunshine Salad

I know it is winter, but as I was thumbing through my Stellar Vegan Salads cookbook by Sharon Discorfano, I came across the perfect salad. She calls it Summertime Sunshine Salad. I call it Grilled Nectarine Delight! It is so simple, yet so delicious. You just take plain butter lettuce and alfalfa sprouts and top it with grilled juicy nectarines, toasted sunflower seeds, and fresh mint. The mint and nectarines really make this salad punch. Try it for yourself.

Summertime Sunshine Salad
Serves 1

  • Living Butter Lettuce
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • 1 Nectarine, sliced into wedges 
  • Toasted Sunflower Seeds
  • Fresh Mint
Ingredients for Dressing
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
Preheat the oven to 200-degrees. Place the wedges in an oven-safe glass dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. You want the nectarine slices to be warm and slightly soft, but not mushy.

Toast sunflower seeds over medium heat in a skillet for 3 minutes. Set aside.

Arrange butter lettuce leaves in the bowl. Arrange sprouts in a circle along outer edge. Cut up fresh mint and sprinkle generously over lettuce; set aside a sprig for center as garnish. Add olive oil and white balsamic dressing. Place 6-8 nectarine wedges in bowl. Add some more sprouts. Sprinkle sunflower seeds and add center garnish. Eat while nectarines are still warm.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cocobeet, Boston

I know, I know -- juice bars are trendy so that's why all the city folk are going to them. If you don't live in a big city, you may not be fully aware of this trend, but it's likely you've heard of it. The truth is that outside of New York City, there aren't a lot of juice bars that are making their juice by cold-pressing it and not pasteurizing it at all. That's where Cocobeet comes in. Located in the heart of Boston, this new takeout joint is not only a great place to get fresh, raw, cold-pressed juices, but a great place to get grab-and-go healthy food too. All of the products they sell are unprocessed, GMO-free, organic, locally sourced, raw and vegan. There are gluten-free options as well.

I ended up there the day before a national holiday so there weren't too many products prepared for the day. But, what they had looked great. The juice selection, on the other hand, was well-stocked. I had so much trouble choosing with flavors like the Spice-C made with orange, ginger, and jalapeno and the Watermelon Quench made with watermelon, pineapple, and lemon. I finally settled on the McGregor's Garden made with spinach, parsley, carrot, celery, and lemon. One of the owners, Onur, happened to be there and I was telling him how much I liked this juice as I love green juices and he told me that that juice was his favorite too, but the customers' least favorite. Most people want a sweet juice, not a green juice so they may not be ready for the green goodness inside!

I also tried the Forbidden Juice made with grapefruit, pineapple, ginger, lemon, cayenne, and turmeric. I loved this one too...and it was sweet. It is a very balanced juice with more pineapple taste than anything else, but with a little kick of cayenne.

The cold-pressed juice process creates juice without using heat that could kill off the vitamins, nutrients, and enzymes. So they produce the freshest, most nutritious raw juice this way and it has a shelf life of only four days. Most people don't realize that most made-to-order juices that you get on the spot while you wait are created by machines using centrifugal force. The end result is a juice that is 80% water and 20% nutrients.  The enzymes and nutrients are neutralized or destroyed, and the spoilage process begins immediately.

For lunch, I had their Avocado and Spinach sandwich on sprouted grain. It was about as good as a pre-packaged sandwich could be. Usually sandwiches that are prepacked don't taste fresh and get soggy, but everything at Cocobeet is so fresh, I doubt any of it ever gets that way. The real star in this sandwich is the homemade cashew cheese that gives the sandwich a great flavor.

I also picked up a box of their Cheesy Kale Chips and these are by far some of the best kale chips I've ever had. As they are made fresh there and not shipped anywhere else, the kale leaves are full and intact. The seasoning has a sort of mustard flavor to it. Made with cashews, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, turmeric, lemon juice, and cayenne -- the flavor will blow you away.

When Cocobeet first opened, they put honey in some items. Since then, they've gone 100% vegan so any reference to honey is only on the package because they printed thousands of labels and want to use them up before replacing them.

This isn't a bargain lunch spot as fresh organic food is never cheap. The juices sell for $7.50 to $9.95 for a single serving, sandwiches are $5.95 to $8.95 and salads are $8.95. They also offer smoothies, warm quinoa breakfast bowls, key lime pie, chocolate coconut truffles, and veggie quinoa sliders. There isn't any seating so it is take-out only, but it is so worth the trip. Just find a spot outside and enjoy your healthy lunch.  I only wish DC had a place like this. It was like my dream come true, but in a city far, far away. The people in Boston are lucky SOBs.

100 City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 02108
(857) 263-8598

Cocobeet on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tio Gazpacho

I got to say, I love me some good hot soup, but I love me some cold soup just the same. Yes, I know that was grammatically incorrect, but it was fun to write! And the essence of it was true -- I love gazpacho. So, when I discovered Tio Gazpacho, it was love at first sight.

I am one who likes to eat soup properly, that is, out of a bowl, so I wasn't a huge fan of the concept. They are serving soup in a bottle -- a drinkable soup, you might say. Gazpacho is a soup that is made with a base of tomatoes and is traditionally served cold so it isn't like it is that off-the-wall. But, still, I figured, I would pour it into a bowl and eat it properly. But, I actually didn't.

The product is new and to begin with, they've started with three flavors. I was skeptical, but I started by drinking one for lunch one day. I have to say that I was blown away by the flavor. The first one I tried was the Gazpacho De Sol. They describe this one as their sweet summer variety as it is made with yellow tomatoes, fresh carrot juice, and yellow bell peppers. You could really taste the olive oil and garlic. It was a perfect balance of vegetables, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar and was so good.

Next up was their traditional Gazpacho Clasico made with vine ripened tomatoes, green peppers, and cucumbers. Again, the olive oil and garlic were at the tip of my tongue singing a Spanish song about how much they loved being paired with olive oil and Himalayan pink salt. I even began to sing with them.

Lastly, I tried the Gazpacho Verde, which was very different from the previous two. It is made with cucumber, avocado, tomato, green pepper, kale, spinach, red onion, jalapeno pepper, mint, spices, and olive oil and vinegar. It was more of a delicious vegetable soup.

All of their soups are organic, vegan, gluten-free, and rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are free of chemicals, preservatives, colors, flavors, and additives of any kind. Each bottle has about 100 calories and 8 grams of fat and are surprisingly filling. And, yes, I really enjoyed drinking my soup. It was just so easy and satisfying. It appears they are only selling this product in Florida at the moment, but, watch out, I'm sure they'll be expanding soon. I love their motto too: "Unapologetically cold. Deliciously bold." No bowl required.

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

Copperwood Tavern, Virginia

And we continue the saga of crappy Virginia restaurants. On this particular occasion, I was meeting Chris' family at a restaurant to celebrate his brother's birthday so I had little say into where we were going. We ended up at Copperwood Tavern in Arlington, Virginia.

They emphasize that they are "farm to table" as most trendy restaurants do these days. We were immediately seated once we arrived. The restaurant was loud -- really loud. It was packed and the service was pretty slow. Very few wines were available by the glass so I just started with a Pinot Noir from Jezebel in Willamette. It was fine.

I asked the server about vegan options and he wasn't too optimistic that I'd find much. He, of course, just listed the salads. I mentioned that I called and asked about this ahead of time and was told the stuffed peppers were vegan. He was sure they weren't so he left and went back to the kitchen. He returned stating that the Red Quinoa Stuffed Peppers were, in fact, vegan without the parmesan so I ordered that.

It was probably 25 minutes later before we received our food. The peppers were as bad as they look. They were hard and tasted like they hadn't been boiled. The red quinoa veggie mix inside was flavorless and the two spoonfuls of generic tomato sauce were not only not good, but not plentiful enough. I was incredibly disappointed as was everyone else at my table.

I also ordered a side of asparagus. It was fine, but nothing special.

For $17, I expected a much better entree. The restaurant was loud, the service was poor, and the food was awful. I would not recommend this place.

Copperwood Tavern
4021 Campbell Avenue
Arlington, VA 22206
(703) 552-8010

Copperwood Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Chia Co. - Oats and Muesli

Imagine you are going on a trip to a city far away. You aren't sure if you'll have access to boiling water or a microwave, but you know you'll have a refrigerator and would like to bring something healthy to eat for breakfast. That's when The Chia Co. comes to the rescue! Based in Australia, The Chia Co. has been growing chia seeds and making chia products since 2003. They believe that the modern diet is lacking in Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein that can be found in high-quality chia seeds so they are finding ways to incorporate them into products that will appeal to most consumers.

For those who may not like the way chia seeds gel up when introduced into many foods, you will love the Oats and Bircher Muesli creations. The former, the Chia Pod Oats, are ready-to-eat breakfast oats with sun-ripened chia seeds, fruit, and coconut oil already mixed in a container complete with a spoon. The directions state to heat them, but I've eaten some cold and they've been great.

My favorite was the Blueberry & Lemon Oats made with chia seed gel, whole grain oats, blueberries, coconut palm sugar, coconut oil, and lemon. So it's just chia, oats, coconut oil and palm sugar, and fruit. These mixes are completely natural with no added fillers and the flavor is phenomenal -- just the right amount of lemon to complement the plump blueberries.

The Apple Spice Oats were filled with chunky shredded apples and delicious spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

Other flavors include the Banana & Mango and Mixed Berry.

The other product I tried was the Bircher Müesli, which was first created in 1900 by Swiss physician Dr. Bircher who went against the accepted practice of the times by advocating a diet rich in raw wholefoods rather than thoroughly cooked meals. These containers are filled with whole grain oats, almond milk, shredded apples, chia seeds, coconut oil, and coconut sugar along with other nuts and fruit. Muesli is meant to be eaten cold and not heated.

My favorite was really a toss up. There was the Apple and Acai, which was filled with chunky apple shreds and walnuts and flavored with an amazing acai puree.

Then there was the Pistachio & Cranberry filled with shredded apples, cranberries, and crunchy pistachios. I felt like I could eat this one all day.

The Orange & Brazil Nut was another great flavor.

The Chia Pod containers are made from BPA-free, food-grade polypropylene plastic, which is completely safe for microwave heating. They say that their chia seeds are non-GMO certified and can be traced back directly to the paddock on which they were grown.

As far as finding where these are sold, it appears that The Chia Co. has distribution all over the U.S. including in DC, however, it may just be their chia seeds that are available here as I've never seen the oats or muesli in DC. You can buy their chia seeds online at Amazon here.You can find their breakfast products direct through their store online. The oats are sold for $42 for a 12-pack and the Muesli is sold for $55 for a 12-pack. They aren't cheap, but they are very good. I think of these as being used best as a breakfast on-the-go especially when you are out of town with just a refrigerator in your hotel room. These might be some of the most conveniently fresh breakfast items ever and I'm excited to have discovered them! I only hope I can find them again on my next trip!

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Le Pain Quotidian - Cupcakes, Virginia

Le Pain Quotidien is a French bakery and cafe with a variety of vegan options. I won't go into a full review as I've already reviewed this restaurant twice (see below). I just wanted to comment on their baked goods as I had never tried them before.

After a delicious meal, I walked by the bakery area and noticed an organic vegan carrot cake muffin and a vegan carrot cake cupcake. I had to try the cupcake.

My expectations were low as this is not a vegan bakery, but boy, was I surprised. This carrot cake cupcake was soft, fresh, and full of fresh carrots!  The icing was delicious as it wasn't too sweet, but was incredibly good. I just couldn't keep myself from raving about this cupcake as I was eating it. I'm so impressed with their ability to bake delicious vegan cupcakes. Now if only I could figure out why they flipped the cupcake upside down and iced the bottom.

Previous reviews
January 6, 2014
February 17, 2014

Le Pain Quotidien
701 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 683-2273

Le Pain Quotidien on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Oh She Glows Cookbook Review

Angela Liddon is one of the most famous bloggers in the vegan blogger world and we all knew she'd eventually write a vegan cookbook. She started her Oh She Glows blog back in 2008 to write about her recovery from an eating disorder and the amazing transformation food made in her life. Fast forward to today and she has published The Oh She Glows Cookbook that has made the New York Times bestseller list.

The book's introduction is her story and how she came to write this book. Then she talks about the foods that she stocks her pantry with along with her favorite kitchen tools and equipment. The recipes are divided in to 10 chapters from breakfast to desserts.

I tried four of them and I have to say that this book became one of my favorite cookbooks instantly. I absolutely love cashew cream, that is cream made from cashews, but I rarely make it on my own. She uses it in so many of her dishes and it really makes the meals.

The first one I tried was the Luxurious Tomato-Basil Pasta. For what looked like a simple pasta dish, it was exploding with flavor. The creamy cashew cream draped around the fusilli noodles and wrapped them like a gentleman in a trenchcoat. The tomatoes and spinach along with the fresh basil brought the flavor while the nutritional yeast added cheesiness. This simple meal turned into a gourmet feast in no time.

The next one I tried was the Crowd-Pleasing Tex-Mex Casserole. And crowd pleasing it was -- at least to Chris and me. Think of wild rice tossed with corn, tomatoes, spinach and black beans and topped with cheese and tortilla chips. That, my friend, is a Mexican fiesta in a casserole. What made this dish complete though was the Cashew Sour Cream -- this stuff is to die for.

Next, I tried the Perfected Chickpea Salad Sandwich, which is loaded with chickpeas, celery, green onions, dill pickle, and red bell peppers. You take all these deliciously crunchy ingredients and mash them up with some vegan mayo, herbs, and spices, and voila! you get a tuna-salad-like sandwich that tastes so much better. Serve it on grainy, toasted bread with a fresh dill pickle.

Lastly, I tried the Indian Lentil-Cauliflower Soup. This soup meshes traditional garlic and ginger with cauliflower, spinach, red lentils, and sweet potatoes to produce a healthy, flavorful, and satisfying meal. This is one hearty soup that will warm you up on a chilly day.

All of the recipes indicate if they are gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, sugar-free, or grain-free. The best part of the entire cookbook though is the incredible photography. I mean, there are pictures for almost every dish that make you want to make everything in this book. Angela is a rockstar as far as cookbook writers go and I think this will be one of my favorite cookbooks for years to come. And for under $15 on Amazon, it is quite a steal. Get yours now here.

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

Alive Juices

I'm officially on a raw, cold-pressed juice kick. By cold-pressing fruits and vegetables, the nutrients are made more bioavailable as they are not pasteurized using heat. Fresh juices can deliver a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and enzymes directly to your body in a wholesome way. I don't have my own juicer because I just don't trust that I will juice that much on my own so I buy expensive cold-pressed juices regularly. Recently, I was contacted by Alive Juices, a Maryland-based juice company, to see if I'd be interested in trying their juices. Why, yes, of course I would!

Alive Juices was started by Rachan Malhotra, who was inspired when he saw the effect of fresh, Ayurveda-based juice as a healing mechanism for his father after he suffered a stroke. Today, he is virtually back to normal and now Rachan is on a mission to bring his magic juices to everyone.

In fact, all of the juices I tried were delicious. They offer eight different recipes of juices in several different juice plans that can be ordered online and delivered to your home. All of the juices contain what they call "the big 4," that is, garlic, lemon, apples, and ginger.

I got to try Recipe #1, the Positive Karma, that had the big 4, cucumber, celery spinach, and cilantro. This was your typical green juice that was well-balanced and loaded with celery and cucumbers.

Recipe #4, Detox Mantra, is made with carrots, beets, kale, and cilantro and was really bitey, perhaps from the ginger or garlic, but had a nice smooth texture. Bitey or not, it was still pretty good.

Recipe #5, Guru's Green, was another green juice made with romaine lettuce, bok choy, collards, and fennel. This one was really good as well.

Lastly, Recipe #8, Morning Sunshine, was a fruitier juice made with squash, cilantro, and pineapple. I definitely tasted the pineapple, but who would ever think there was squash in this?!

They recommend you drink one juice daily for breakfast and even include a mix of powdered Ayurvedic herbs that they say have powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and cleansing effects with every delivery.  They also include a snack mix of dried kiwi, banana chips, pineapple, walnuts, and peanuts.

They offer a variety of juice plans that are detailed here. Three daily juices for seven days (21 juices) are $179. That's about $8.50 per juice and is in line with the higher priced juices you see at Whole Foods. The benefit to getting them delivered fresh and from a local company is that they haven't been pasteurized at all so you are able to absorb even more nutrients. So, if you are skeptical, why not give it a try and see if juicing makes you feel more energized as many people say it does.

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Amsterdam Falafelshop, DC #2

Amsterdam Falafelshop just opened its second location in DC on 14th Street near the U Street Corridor. Despite my not-so-flattering review of this cafe a few years ago, I was excited to visit the new location. Open till 4 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and late every other day of the week, Amsterdam Falafelshop with its simple menu of falafel and fries, is known as the best late-night cafe in DC. But not only drunk food, the falafels are pretty good and make a great lunch or dinner.

The new location is about the same size as its first location in Adams Morgan. There is a small area for seating in the front and the ordering takes place in the rear of the cafe. New to the menu are bowls -- yay! You really only have a few choices -- a small falafel sandwich with three falafel balls, a regular size with five falafel balls or a bowl. The staff quickly informed me that the bowls are priced by the pound so if I go crazy like the one guy did who recently came through here, I could rack up a $45 bowl. No, thank you. Instead I went with the regular falafel with just three falafel balls instead of five.

Basically, you can fill your sandwich with as many of the toppings as you like as long as they fit in the pita pocket. By getting less fried falafel, I could fill my pita with more of the fresh salads -- a healthier choice. So I smashed my balls as per the very detailed instructions and began to fill. I really appreciated the sign at the ordering area that clearly stated that as a vegan, the only items I shouldn't eat are the brownies, stroopwaffles, yogurt sauce, garlic cream, dutch mayo, and cole slaw. That leaves so many other goodies. The toppings are plentiful from eggplant, cucumber salad, turkish salad, hummus, babaganoush, chickpea salad, pickled cauliflower and turnips, pepperocinis, jalapeno-cilantro sauce, tahini, and more!  I think I got a little of everything.

Eating the sandwich can be awkward if you don't ask for a tray as you have to hold it the entire time with nowhere to lay it down. I thought my sandwich was pretty good. The falafel balls, though a bit dry, were great and so were the salads. The bad thing is that the balls tend to stay towards the bottom of the pita so you eat all the tasty salads up top, then get down to the dry balls and realize that you should have pressed some of the salads down to the bottom. Oh well.

The drink selection is limited to some canned drinks or fresh lemonade. I grabbed a San Pellegrino.

All in all, for just $9, it was a satisfying dinner. The only other thing I will note is that the artwork is a bit racy. I didn't expect to see exposed breasts at the falafelshop on the wall, but, hey, maybe that'll keep the families out.  Cheap eats for late nights -- that's Amsterdam Falafelshop.

Previous Review
October 18, 2011

Amsterdam Falafelshop
1840 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 232-6200

Amsterdam Falafelshop on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 10, 2014

Joy Bliss Raw - Chocolates

Any time I hear of raw chocolate being made locally, my eyes widen and the edges of my lips begin to curl up as vision of sugar plums dance in my head. At VegFest, I met Anh Thu Hoang, founder of Joy Bliss Raw, a raw chocolate company based in DC. Skeptical, I tried a couple of her assorted chocolates and within mouth-watering seconds, that skeptical look was wiped off my face. These are restaurant-quality artisanal raw chocolates worthy of accolades.

The most impressive of her lineup are her Assorted Chocolates. These handcrafted chocolates look like they came right out of a gourmet chocolate factory. The shell of each is made with raw cacao liquor and cacao butter, maple syrup, vanilla, and pink Himalayan salt. There are typically four flavors in each box: Caramel, Chai, Marzipan, and Almond Butter or Peanut Butter.  The marzipan was spectacular and made me wonder how she made it with all of these healthy ingredients. The marzipan filling was made with sprouted cashews, macadamia nuts, maple syrup, coconut oil and flour, and almond and vanilla extracts. Similar ingredients were used to make the other flavors and they were all really good.

Next, I tried the Half and Half. I could eat these every day. These tiny little snacks are made by pressing a mix of nuts and seeds together (sprouted almonds, buckwheat, pumpkin and sunflower seeds along with sesame, flax, and chia seeds) with hemp hearts and coating half of the bars in cacao butter and nibs.

Lastly, I tried her Almond Butter Cookies, which were crunchy and rich and full of vanilla flavor. They are also made with sprouted almonds and chia along with almond butter.

Anh has an interesting story as she originally obtained a master's in public health and spent many years working on HIV prevention in Africa and Asia. While living in Thailand in 2006 to 2009, she fell in love with raw foods and decided to change careers to feed her new passion. After graduating from the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in Fort Bragg, California, she started her own company and is now growing inch by inch.

She uses high quality raw ingredients in all of her products that are fair trade and organic. The best part is that she does not use any preservatives, additives, or emulsifiers. All of her products are vegan and gluten-free. She said the prices of each product vary upon retailer and to contact her directly for orders. You can find her contact information on her website. Support local. Eat good, healthy food. Joy Bliss Raw.

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

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ravioli Salad

Love ravioli, but tired of serving it in the same boring tomato sauce? Why not throw it in a salad as a different approach?! The Ravioli Salad as presented in Stellar Vegan Salads by Sharon Discorfano pairs bitter dandelion greens with escarole and tops them with ravioli. I wasn't a huge fan of the bitter dandelion greens and think it would be better without them, but I'll present the recipe as written by the author below. It's the ravioli and toppings that really bring life to this dish. Toppings like roasted garlic, pine nuts, carrots, peppers, and capers provide the zest! Feel free to be creative and add other toppings as well!

Ravioli Salad
Serves 2

Ingredients for Salad
  • 1 bulb garlic 
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 package vegan ravioli
  • 1/2 cup broccoli
  • 1 cup escarole
  • 1 cup dandelion greens
  • Pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup petit carrots
  • 1/4 cup sweet mini peppers
  • 1 Tbsp capers
Ingredients for Dressing
  • 1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • Vegan parmesan topping

First, roast your garlic. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Remove the outer skin of the garlic and cut about 1/4 inch of the pointed tip of the bulb off. Using 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, roll the entire bulb in the oil until it's coated. Wrap the bulb in aluminum foil, twisting the foil together at the top. Place on the middle rack of the oven and roast for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and squeeze from the bulb's base so that the softened individual cloves get pushed right out of the skin, ready to serve.

Prepare the ravioli according to directions. Once done, set aside in a bowl of cool water so they don't stick together.

While ravioli is cooking, lightly saute the broccoli in a small saute pan using a tablespoon of olive oil. Let cool slightly before creating the salad.

Place escarole and dandelion greens in the bowl. Add cloves of roasted garlic and pine nuts and toss. Prepare the dressing by whisking together the oil and vinegar first, then sprinkle in the parmesan topping a little at a time as you continue to whisk. Add just enough to give your dressing a little texture and slight cheesy flavor. Drizzle with dressing and toss before arranging the remaining ingredients starting with the ravioli and finishing with the capers.

Use the remaining dressing on the salad before tossing. Add seas salt and black pepper to taste.