Friday, February 27, 2015

Sunflower Vegetarian, Falls Church, VA

Sunflower Vegetarian is one of the few vegetarian restaurants in the DC-metro area that has withstood the test of time. There are locations in Falls Church and Vienna, Virginia. I've visited the restaurant a handful of times and found it to be hit or miss so it's never really been a destination-restaurant for me. This time, I found myself in the area and decided to stop by for lunch.

The Falls Church location is located in this weird area in Virginia that they call Seven Corners because seven roads intersect in one place. It makes it confusing to figure out how to enter certain parking lots and this restaurant is no exception. You can see it from Route 50, but you need to get on Route 7 to get to it.

Once inside, you realize you have entered a hippie paradise. Their website states, "The sunflower which is named for the sun that provides us with life and energy. It is a flower that symbolizes warmth, health and good nature...Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant wishes to follow the example of the spirit of sunflower. With these ideas in mind, we take great pride in introducing more and more people to vegetarianism, and thus, help to avert such disasters of the Earth as war, flood, drought and disease." Yeah, it's like that. Inside, you'll find simple decor and lots of sunflowers. At least they stay true to their theme. And the whole menu is vegetarian. In fact, they simply indicate which dishes are NOT vegan with a symbol. If only every restaurant was like this...but, I digress.

I was pleased to find that they offer some fresh juices and tried the Red Springhead juice made with carrots, beets, spinach, apples, and ginger for $6.75. It was delicious.

I also ordered a Bamboo Fungus Soup for $4.50. I asked for it to be super spicy and boy, did they make it super spicy. In fact, the spicy oil they added overtook the entire soup making it not so pleasant to eat. It was loaded with fresh enoki mushrooms, green peas, tofu, and shredded ginger. I loved the big, plump, fresh peas, but the oil kind of ruined it for me.

For my entree, I ordered the Wheat Gluten with Fermented Black Bean Sauce for $9.50.  This meal was quite delicious. There was wheat gluten with organic tofu, squash, zucchini, and carrots in a delicious black bean sauce served with brown rice. It wasn't spicy enough so I added some hot peppers, then it became even better. And there was enough for three meals so I took half of it home.

The menu is extensive and if you are used to just having three items to choose from on a menu, it may take you a long time to decide what to order. They have something for everyone from faux meat heavy dishes and gluten-free options to raw entrees and vegetable and macrobiotic dishes. I think it is a really nice mix. So on this visit, I had a pretty good meal, the service was pretty good, and the prices are extremely low compared to other comparable restaurants. I guess I'll be coming back more often now. Plus, I love supporting veg places that try to do good in the world. Sunflowers unite!

Sunflower Vegetarian
6304 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22044
(703) 237-3888

Sunflower Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Creamy Broccoli and Red Pepper Macaroni

For the first recipe I made out of YumUniverse by Heather Crosby, I tried her Creamy Broccoli and Red Pepper Macaroni. I'm not a huge fan of gluten-free noodles, but her deliciously creamy cashew-based sauce was a hit with those noodles and with red peppers and broccoli -- they added the right amount of crunch in this delicious pasta dish. I added some hot sauce for some oomph! This is a great gluten-free potluck dish!

Creamy Broccoli and Red Pepper Macaroni
Serves 4

  • 2 cups gluten-free macaroni noodles
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1-2 Tbsp water
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
Ingredients for sauce
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2-3 drops liquid smoke
Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add noddles and cook according to manufacturer's instructions.
Blend together all sauce ingredients until smooth and set aside. While noodles cook, place coconut oil in a skillet heated to medium and add diced red bell pepper. Stir often for 5-7 minutes. Add broccoli and water to skillet, stir, cover, and steam for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Return to the noodles. If they've finished cooking, drain and rinse and return them to the pot. Mix together cooked and rinsed noodles, veggies, and sauce over medium heat. Season with more salt and black pepper to taste if necessary.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Diner, DC

The Diner, not to be confused with other diners in DC, has been around for a long time. As a staple in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, I can attest to hanging out there a long time ago. So when a friend mentioned that they had some vegan items on the menu, I was more than pleased to give them a try.

We walked in on a slow Saturday night and were immediately seated in the back. They do not take reservations are typically very busy so this was a nice surprise. The Diner is a 24/7 diner that serves a full menu at all times, with some exceptions. It is not decorated like a 50's diner like most, but instead has white walls, a high ceiling, and plain wood tables.

To start, I ordered a lemonade and some kale chips. As we perused the menu, it appeared there were two vegan entrees -- pan-fried seitan with gluten-free mac & cheese or just mac & cheese on its own. So we both went with the seitan.

The kale chips arrived and to my surprise, they were hot. I guess I've only had raw kale chips so warm ones were a nice change. They were really good and simply seasoned with some hot peppers, olive oil, and salt.

The entrees arrived and they weren't exactly what we were expecting. The menu online had called the entree "chicken-fried seitan" and we hadn't noticed that the menu at the restaurant had changed it to "pan-fried seitan," but with the same description. It looked very plain -- just seitan on a plate with steamed green beans and mac & cheese.  As we dug in, we quickly discovered that it tasted exactly as it looked -- plain. The seitan, while it had a nice flavor, was just pan fried and chewy with no gravy or anything. It would have been great if they had served it with some sort of sauce -- a mushroom gravy or red wine roux or something. The green beans were just steamed -- no seasoning. And the mac & cheese was more like mac & peas as it had zero taste. This tasteless concoction sort of looked like mac & cheese with peas, but had zero flavor whatsoever. My friend that I was eating with was from Texas and proclaimed that this was not at all what he expected and remarked that the seitan tasted like a shoe. Yeah.

I'm glad that The Diner has made an effort to serve vegan customers, but hope the options improve in the future. Thanks to our waitress, we had lots of options for hot sauce, which helped us gulp down the meal. The $11 entree was not overpriced, but given the lack of flavor, it wasn't worth it. The service was good though and maybe next time I'll just go back for the kale chips.

The Diner
2453 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 232-8800

The Diner on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado-Cilantro Cream Sauce

Even after completing the review of Angela Liddon's cookbook, The Oh She Glows Cookbook, I couldn't stop trying her recipes. The pictures make every recipe oh-so-tempting. Enchiladas are one of my favorite things in this world so I decided to make her Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado-Cilantro Cream Sauce. It did not disappoint. This is the perfect dinner party recipe because it aims to please. A delicious mixture of sweet potatoes, black beans, red pepper, and spinach are mixed with enchilada sauce and stuffed into a sprouted grain tortilla then topped with cilantro, scallions, and avocado-cilantro cream sauce. Yes, it is just as good as it sounds.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado-Cilantro Cream Sauce
Serves 6

Ingredients for the Enchiladas
  • 2 cups sweet potato, peeled and chopped small
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups 5-Minute Enchilada Sauce or store-bought
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp chili powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 6 sprouted grain tortilla wraps (I use Food for Life Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Tortillas)
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Scallions, sliced, for garnish
Ingredients for the Sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 medium avocado, pitted
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice (I thought this was to much so add to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Lightly grease a large rectangular baking dish.

Make the Enchiladas: Place the sweet potato in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium high and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until fork-tender. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Add the bell pepper, cooked sweet potato, black beans, and spinach. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook for a few minutes more, or until the spinach is wilted.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, and salt.

Spread 1 cup of enchilada sauce evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Scoop 3/4 cup of the sweet potato filling onto each tortilla. Roll up the tortillas and place them seam side down in the baking dish. Spread the remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas. If you have leftover filling, spoon it on top of the tortillas as well.

Bake the enchiladas, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is a deep red color and the enchiladas are heated through.

Meanwhile, make the Avocado-Cilantro Cream Sauce: In a food processor, process the cilantro until minced. Add the avocado, lime juice, sea salt, garlic powder, and 3 Tbsp water and process until creamy, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.

When the enchiladas are ready to serve, plate them individually and drizzle or spread some of the Avocado-Cilantro Cream Sauce on top of each. Garnish with cilantro and scallions, if desired.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

5-Minute Enchilada Sauce

This recipe is from The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. It is the perfect enchilada sauce.

5-Minute Enchilada Sauce
Makes 2 cups

  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 scant cup tomato paste
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
In a medium saucepan, melt the vegan butter over medium heat.

Stir in the flour until a thick paste forms. Stir in the chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, onion powder, and cayenne until combined. Cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant.

Stir in the tomato paste, followed by the broth. Whisk until smooth and combined. Bring to a low boil over high heat (covered, if necessary) and then reduce the heat to medium to maintain a simmer. Stir in salt to taste and simmer for about 5 minutes, until thickened.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ovo Simply Veggie, College Park, MD

UPDATE: This restaurant has permanently closed.
A new vegan restaurant had opened in College Park, Maryland back in January of 2013, but I never made it out to check it out. I recently realized this and decided it was time so I reached out to a friend and we headed over.

The restaurant is vegan and is oddly named Ovo Simply Veggie. "Ovo" means egg in several languages so why one would name a vegan restaurant after an egg, I may never understand. What's interesting is when we asked this question, the guy that was working the front of the house, stated that he didn't know either, but suggested it stood for "Organic, Vegan, and Oogave" (a brand of drink they sell there). It sounded like he made that up so I called the next day and asked if any of their food was organic. They said only some of the teas. So if the food is not organic, then why name it Ovo? I still don't understand.

It is a very small cafe in a college town with a pretty cool decor.  There is a waterfall on the wall when you first walk in, modern art on the rest of the walls, and white chairs with dark tables. It was pretty cool looking, actually.

The menu is unusual in that there aren't set entrees to choose from. Instead, you first choose your protein or veggies: either seaweed yuba, tofu, mushroom protein, soy protein, or field vegetables. Seaweed yuba is made of seaweed and tofu skins -- the filmy skin that develops when making tofu. Mushroom protein is made of mushrooms and soy fibers. Recommended sauces are listed under each protein and vegetable. You can choose any sauce from any category though.  With that many choices, I found it very difficult to choose! You can also choose the combo, which comes with a soup, salad, or beverage. We finally placed our orders and took a seat.

I went with a tea and the combo complete with a soup and entree. The tea was served first, as appropriate. It was a delightful organic fruit and flower tea served in a double-walled glass.

Then my soup and entree were served together while my friend waited five minutes for her meal. That was awkward. So I ate my soup while she waited. I got the wonton soup. Each wonton was filled with soy fiber and scallions.  It was rich and satisfying. I really liked it.

For my entree, I went with the mushroom protein in the black pepper sauce. Oh my goodness, was this good! The mushroom/soy nuggets were hearty and tasty and the sauce was rich with black pepper goodness. Served with the mushroom protein was green peppers, mushrooms, and onions. They gave me some sriracha on the side as well. Served with brown rice, this was a very filing meal. Not to mention that the presentation was quite nice for a $9 meal.

My friend's meal was equally as good. She got the seaweed yuba served with baby corn, bamboo shoots, and green peppers in a coconut green curry sauce. The sauce had just the right amount of flavor and the seaweed yuba was amazing. I was very impressed.

For a small cafe in a college town, this place has exceptional food. The prices are incredibly low as well. I only wish they would source non-GMO proteins. They said their tofu was non-GMO, but they were unsure about the other products, which probably means they are GMOs. I hope they source non-GMO in the future. Either way, I really hope they someday expand to DC, but for now, I'll be making the trek to College Park. This is definitely one of the best vegan restaurants in the DC metro area.

Ovo Simply Veggie
7313 Baltimore Avenue
College Park, MD 20740
(301) 277-0927

Ovo Simply Veggie on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 13, 2015

Indian Lentil-Cauliflower Soup

I guess it is official. Angela Liddon's The Oh She Glows Cookbook has nothing but great recipes in it. The Indian Lentil-Cauliflower 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.

Indian Lentil-Cauliflower Soup
Serves 4

  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1-2 Tbsp curry powder, to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup uncooked red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium cauliflower, chopped into bite-size florets
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 3/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5-6 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the ginger, 1 tablespoon of the curry powder, coriander, and cumin and saute for 2 minutes more, until fragrant.

Add the broth and red lentils and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a low boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes more.

Stir in the cauliflower and sweet potato. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the cauliflower and sweet potato are tender. Season with the salt and pepper, and add more curry powder, if desired. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with cilantro, if desired.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Busboys and Poets, DC #5

Busboys and Poets is officially my staple -- the place I go when I want consistently high quality, good food. As I've reviewed this restaurant four times in the past, I won't spend a lot of time introducing it and its concept. I had the pleasure of meeting the owner recently who announced his wife was almost vegan and he was eating vegan quite a bit these days. So you will see an increase of vegan items on their new menu and it is very exciting!

This is a summary of two visits to Busboys. On the first visit, we noticed new items in the appetizer menu including Vegan Chiken Satay, which I've had and is very good and Vegan Beef Sliders, which are also good. But, we decided to go with our mainstay of the Vegan Quesadillas. We soon discovered that these had changed too! Now on a green spinach tortilla, these quesadillas are even better as they are loaded with roasted red peppers, grilled onions, and jack cheese served with pico de gallo, guacamole, and vegan sour cream. Delicious!

I went out on a limb and ordered a new entree the Vegan "Coq Au Vin," which is named after a French chicken dish. They told me that they made the "chicken" is made out of soy protein and fermented tofu. It was very meaty and tasted more like soy protein and seitan than it did tempeh (fermented soy). It was served in a brown gravy of which there wasn't enough of so they gave me some more. It was served with white rice, carrots, asparagus, potatoes, and tomatoes. I really liked it.

Chris ordered the Vegan Pepperoni Calzone, which, as it always has, had too much dough and not enough cheese, veggies, and pepperoni.

On our next visit, we were with a large group of eight at the 5th and K location. We started with the vegan quesadillas and the Vegan Nachos.  This was the most disappointed I've been in a vegan nacho dish in a while. The corn tortilla chips were cheap like the mass-produced generic chips you find in Safeway. There were lots of black eyed peas and pico de gallo, but not enough cheese, sour cream or guacamole. Cheap chips with a lot of tomatoes and beans aren't really that good.

For my entree, I went out on another limb and ordered the Tofu and Quinoa. This was so much better than the name of the dish. There was quinoa with spinach, zucchini, butternut squash, and tomatoes with fried tofu. However they seasoned it made it perfect and I absolutely loved it. They need a better name for this dish like Quinoa with Spinach and Butternut Squash -- yes, much better.

Chris ordered the Vegan Pizza, which is always good. It is loaded with vegan Daiya cheese, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and vegan pepperoni on a whole-wheat crust.

For dessert, I got the vegan brownie with ice cream. It was so fresh and absolutely delicious, courtesy of Vegan Treats.

The service on both visits was pretty good and the prices are fair.  Despite not liking just a couple things, the dishes here are mostly great and I love to support Busboys and Poets on a regular basis. I only wish there were more mid-priced vegan options like this in this city.

Previous reviews
May 12, 2014
July 12, 2013
November 21, 2012
February 28, 2012

Busboys & Poets 
2021 14th Street NW 
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 387-7638

Busboys and Poets on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 9, 2015

YumUniverse by Heather Crosby

YumUniverse by Heather Crosby is a great guide for anyone exploring a gluten-free, plant-based diet. Heather is the creator of the YumUniverse blog that she created after suffering from an inflammatory condition called, "acidosis." She realized that her diet was largely to blame and began reducing her intake of acid-forming foods like animal products, gluten, sugar, and processed foods and increasing her intake of alkaline-forming foods such as green vegetables to balance the pH in her cells. But, what is remarkable, is that all of this is coming from someone who, before suffering from digestive issues, did not like vegetables. And I think a lot of people who eat the Standard American Diet will be able to relate to her as she describes how she made her journey to wellness.

Heather does an excellent job of highlighting the benefits of a plant-powerful diet and the considerations one should make when contemplating whether to include or exclude gluten from his/her diet. She cites scientific research that demonstrates a plant-powerful diet's effectiveness in reversing and preventing a number of chronic diseases and how modern wheat can cause inflammation in the gut.

But, my favorite part is how she talks about Big Food or the top processed food and beverage companies and how they trick consumers into eating sugar and fat and believing it is healthy. She also talks about the dangers of consuming genetically modified foods and how to read an ingredient label.

In the second chapter, she guides you through the journey of becoming plant-powerful yourself and how to organize your meal plans. Then, she really walks you through what tools you need in the kitchen. She even demystifies how to buy the ripest fruits and vegetables and how to store oils, herbs, etc. It's like a complete reference guide.

Not only is it just a great book to read, but the layout and graphics are superb. It is no secret that her background is graphic design.  Once you've finished reading the first 155 pages, you get into the recipes. I found two out of the three recipes I tried to be a bit bland, but the third was really good.

The first one I made was the Creamy Broccoli and Red Pepper Macaroni. I'm not a huge fan of gluten-free noodles, but her deliciously creamy cashew-based sauce was a hit with these noodles, and with red peppers and broccoli -- they added the right amount of crunch in this delicious pasta dish. It was a little bit blander than I'd prefer, but with a little hot sauce, it was right on the money.

The Multi-Bean Chili wasn't quite as tasty as I had hoped for either.  With black beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas, and green lentils along with bell peppers, it sounded pretty hearty. I would say that it is a good base, but it needs more spice and more veggies. After adding fresh avocado and more spices to it to give it the oomph that it needed, it was much better.

Lastly, I tried her Black Bean Soup and it was simple, yet luscious. This delicious black bean soup is topped with cashew sauce that serves to not only thicken it, but also adds creamy texture and flavor. It's the prefect combination of spices and fresh simple, yet luscious. And it's even better the next day!

So, all in all, I think Heather wrote an incredible book. It is a great book for a seasoned vegan looking to go gluten-free or an omnivore exploring other ways of eating and getting healthy. There is a nice variety of recipes from breakfast to dessert and everything in between and beautiful pictures for each recipe, although you may need to spice some of them up. But, for only about $14 on Amazon, it is a great deal and if nothing else, the reference guide, which is the first 155 pages is well worth the money. You can buy your own copy here.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Mellow Moods Cafe and Juice Bar, Shepherdstown, WV

In the quaint little town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, I wasn't sure if I'd find any vegan options. Boy, was I surprised. There were a few places in this town that advertised being vegan friendly, but the one most recommended by the locals was Mellow Moods Cafe and Juice Bar.

This low-key place has the look and feel of a college-type cafe with good, fresh food. The walls are brightly colored with random colors like lavender, blue, and lime green with colorful artwork on the walls. There is a main dining room, seating outside, and lounge-style seating in the back. It's like a small health food, internet cafe in a small, college town.

They said almost any of the items could be veganized as their menu was mostly vegan. It took a while for us to choose, but once we did, we took a seat in the loungey area.  I started with a delicious Green Lemonade juice made with apple, lemon, and kale.

For an appetizer, we couldn't resist ordering the Vegan Nachos, as they were called on the menu. These were sooo good! They took blue corn chips and covered them with housemade cashew cheese, chili, pico de gallo, guacamole, and green peppers. We gobbled them up like there was no tomorrow.

I was pretty full by the time my sandwich arrived, but I ate it anyway. I had the Tempeh and Avocado Reuben, which usually comes with Swiss cheese. Unfortunately, they don't have any vegan cheese substitutes (not sure why) so they just left that off. It was served on a deliciously fresh marble rye with sauerkraut, tempeh slices, avocado, and vegan Thousand Island Dressing. It tasted like it needed something else though and that something else was the vegan Swiss cheese! It also came with a quinoa salad topped with shredded carrots.

I was so thrilled to have found this place. The food was healthy and fresh and the juices were spectacular. You can not go here and not try the vegan nachos...seriously!  If you only have one place to try in this city, I recommend it be Mellow Moods. And maybe if you mention you'd like vegan cheese on your sandwich, they'll start stocking it.

Mellow Moods Cafe and Juice Bar
119 West German Street
Shepherdstown, WV 25443
(304) 876-0608

Mellow Moods on Urbanspoon