Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chard and Chickpea Soup

I was super busy on a Sunday and was seeking an easy and filling soup to make that evening when I came across the Quick and Easy Chard and Chickpea Soup in Living Candida Free by Ricki heller and Andrea Nakayama. It's a simple brothy soup flavored with tomatoes and onions. The heartiness comes from the chickpeas and chard. You will find it simple and satisfying.

Chard and Chickpea Soup
6 servings

  • 1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 bunch chard, stems removed and chopped, leaves shredded
  • 4 cups vegetable broth or stock
  • 3 cups canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh
  • 1/2 tsp onion salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent, for about 8 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, except the lemon juice, and bring to a light boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer until all the vegetables are soft and the flavors are well combined, for about 30 minutes. Add the lemon juice; stir and adjust the seasonings. Serve. May be frozen.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Rasika, DC #3

When asked which restaurant in DC generally pleases everyone, the first ones that cross my mind are Zaytinya, Estadio, and Rasika. So when my friend, Chris, said he wanted to have Indian for his birthday, I knew I had to take him to Rasika. Somehow he had never been before! Shocking, I know.

Rasika has been hailed as one of the best restaurants in DC time and time again since its inception in December 2005. In fact, Chef Vikram Sunderam was recently awarded the coveted 2014 James Beard award for best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region and for good reason.

When I logged on to Open Table to make a reservation just two weeks in advance, I knew I was in trouble as there was almost nothing available on Open Table. I reluctantly booked the 5:00 p.m. reservation hoping to find something else in the meantime. But, alas, I did not. So, we headed over at 5 p.m. on a Saturday.

When we arrived, there were already people dining in the lounge, which accepts walk-in guests. We headed to the restroom to start. When I came out, I lingered about for a moment wondering if Chris had already come out or not. In the minutes that I stood there, several staff assured me he had not come out yet so I headed back to the front of the restaurant. I then inquired as to how to get a 7 p.m. reservation there. They said that they were completely booked for the next month and the next 7 p.m. was more than two months out. Wow. Tip: you really need to book early to get into Rasika!

They sat us at a large round table right next to the door that was outside of either dining room. It was like its own special table and we loved it. When Chris got back he remarked that when he left the restroom, the servers informed him that I had already left and he wondered how they kept track of both of us!  I found it humorous, but it was also a sign of great service.

Our server, Ahmed, who had been with the restaurant group for nearly 20 years, was excellent. He immediately asked who was vegan as he had read the notes in the reservation and was ready to present the options. We decided to go with the four-course tasting menu, which, as you will see, turned out to be many more than four courses. And we did the wine pairing as well.

The restaurant itself is beautiful with its light brown tables, dark lighting, jeweled accents, and gorgeous wine cellar. The staff are all dressed quite elegantly as well.

Our first course was their famous Palak Chaat, which just happens to be the first course for the meat-based four-course as well. It is typically served with a yogurt, which they omitted for me. This meal is like a party in your mouth as its flavors just light up the palate. The flash-fried baby spinach is crispy and is complemented with chickpea flour, tamarind, and date chutney. It's like crispy, sweet, and savory all in one. It was served with a Vermouth de Chambery.

Next, we received a gift from the chef -- fried cauliflower with curry leaf. So delicious.

For the second course, one of my favorites, I was served Ragda Patties, which were amazingly simple yet complex. This soft potato patty was covered with several sauces including a chickpea sauce and mint chutney, and tamarind date chutney, and garnished with red onion. It was spectacular.

Chris was served Tawa Baingan, which was also vegan. It is a grilled eggplant with spiced potato patties piled high and served with peanut sauce. This one was okay, but definitely one of our least favorite items. With this course, we had a Felton Road Riesling from New Zealand (2013).

For the third course, we were served many items family-style. Since the Dal Makhani is made with cream and the Dum Ki Subzi is made with butter, I was served three other dishes. My favorite was a dish that had eggplant and potato in a red tomato sauce. It was bursting with flavor.

There was also the Wild Mushroom Korma, which had loads of shiitake and oyster mushrooms in a coconut milk curry sauce with curry leaves.

And a classic dish of Gobhi Mattar -- cauliflower and peas sauteed in cumin and ginger. So good and so classic.  With this course, we had a very nice, round Pinot Noir from New Zealand -- Carrick "Bannockburn" (2011). They served fresh whole wheat Roti with it was well.

I was definitely full by the "fourth" course, which was really like the seventh course, so I was somewhat happy that all they had for me was some sorbet.  There was a lot of fruitiness to these scoops with strawberry being my favorite. Other flavors included cilantro passion fruit and cardamom. The dessert wine was fantastic as well.

I was pleased to see that they knew it was Chris' birthday and brought his cake with a candle. He was pleasantly surprised.

So, all in all, it was a lot of food. Many of the dishes were very good, but what was surprising is how many of the dishes I recognized from previous visits. Fine restaurants typically change their menus often so I was hoping to be blown away with some new items. The Ragda Patties were definitely my favorite, but the other dishes left me wondering if the four-course would be any different if I returned a year later. The service was really incredible as our server kept a good eye on us, however, after the third course, it did take a while for the table to be cleared. Perhaps, though, they were unsure as to whether we had finished. And the prices were quite reasonable for what we received with the four-course being $50 per person and the wine pairing an additional $37. I also like that the veg option is less than the meat option, as it should be. All in all, it was a good experience with a solid menu. I will always keep this place in my back pocket as a place to go for consistently good food and service that seems to please everyone.

Previous reviews
October 24, 2012
July 20, 2011

633 D Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 637-1222

Rasika on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 17, 2015

Super Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Creamy Greens and Chickpeas

Looking for a hearty dinner that is super easy to make? Look no further! The Super Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Creamy Greens and Chickpeas out of Living Candida Free by Ricki Heller is a flavor explosion. Sweet potatoes topped with slivers of kale and chard coated in a delicious coconut milk-based sauce with garlic and ginger and a bit of tomatoes and chickpeas. It is tantalizingly spectacular.  The only things I would change about the original recipe is to add more greens and less chickpeas -- as I indicated below. Here is my version.

Super Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Creamy Greens and Chickpeas
Serves 2

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 bunch kale (Lacinato is the best, but any type of kale will do), stems removed
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard leaves, stems removed 
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp chickpea flour
  • 2 Tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos or tamari
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas
Preheat oven to 425-degrees. Bake the potatoes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet until soft for about 1 hour.

About 20 minutes before potatoes are ready, prepare the greens. Lay the kale and chard leaves flat on a cutting board and roll up tightly, jelly-roll style. Cut the roll into thin slices (about 1/4-inch wide), creating long shreds of the greens. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and shredded greens and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have begun to wilt and are bright green.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, chickpea flour, and liquid aminos until smooth. Pour this mixture over the greens in the pan and stir to coat well. The sauce will thicken fairly quickly and should cling to the leaves. Cook for about 2 minutes, until heated through. Add the tomato and chickpeas and stir well. Lower the heat to low and keep warm until the potatoes are ready.

To serve, cut each sweet potato in half lengthwise. Top with about half the greens mixture and serve.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Health Warrior Bars

As you know, I love writing about food. But, every so often I realize that I haven't written about some of my favorite food products -- the ones I enjoy regularly. Well, Health Warrior bars are one of them. Health Warrior is based in Richmond, Virginia and is committed to finding delicious ways to get you to eat chia! And they've been very successful. Their small 100-calorie bars are fantastic -- great tasting and loaded with chia. They are the perfect mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack because not only are they healthy, they are satisfying...and only 100 calories.

Three of my favorites are the Chocolate Peanut Butter, Coffee, and Dark Chocolate Cherry. They all taste exactly as they sound because they are made with real, wholesome ingredients. Take the chocolate peanut butter for example -- nice seedy crunch, yet chewy and loaded with peanut butter and chocolate chips.

The ingredients will do your body good. In the Dark Chocolate Cherry, for example, there are white chia seeds, brown rice syrup, cashew butter, rolled oats, dried cherries, dark chocolate, agave syrup, almonds, brown rice crisps, arabic gum, tart cherries, natural flavors, sea salt, mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), and sunflower oil. Many of the ingredients are organic as well. This bar also has 3 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and only 5 grams of sugar.

The Mango bars are fantastic with chunks of dried mango. The Apple Cinnamon makes a great morning or afternoon snack. The Acai Berry is just delish. And the Coconut is probably my all-tiime favorite.

You really can't go wrong with these bars. But, wait, there's more. They just came out with their new Protein Bars, which pack 10 grams of plant protein into every bar. And they are not gritty like other protein bars! The Lemon Goldenberry has whole goldenberries and lots of lemon goodness along with chia seeds, oats, and quinoa. Peanut Butter Cacao is sweet and filling. And the Dark Chocolate Coconut Sea Salt -- I think that speaks for itself.

Why chia? Because it's so good, it's labeled a superfood! Chia seeds are packed with protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids so eat up with no guilt. If you are interested in trying some of the Health Warrior bars for yourself, you'll find them by the box at Amazon here. You can also find them in Whole Foods nationwide. Oh, and all the bars are vegan, gluten-free, and Non-GMO Project Verified. What more could you ask for? Chia redefined.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Washingtonian Article

I'm super excited to have contributed to the Washingtonian article on vegan foods called, "5 Delicious Substitutes for Vegan Foodies." It's a short article that highlights great substitutes for typical animal-based foods like meat, milk, hard cheese, shredded cheese, and cream. Check it out here.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Not Your Average Joe's, Bethesda, MD

Today Not Your Average Joe's, a New England-based chain restaurant, opens in Bethesda, Maryland as it celebrates its 11th year in business. With restaurants in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia, this chain is quickly expanding. I was invited to preview this new restaurant's menu before its official opening this past weekend.

Located on Old Georgetown Road right off of MD-270 near Montgomery Mall, this restaurant is definitely outside of the trendy Bethesda restaurant area. And, it is huge. As soon as you walk in, you will marvel at the sheer size of this 7,000 square foot restaurant that can accommodate 200 patrons inside and 75 outside. We were seated at a booth in the bar area.

The black tables and wooden chairs with exposed ductwork gave it a rustic, yet modern feel while the red accents gave the decor just the pop of color it needed. I found it to be a lively atmosphere. The restaurant is known for its seasonally inspired menu, freshly prepared meals, and accommodating those with dietary restrictions and/or preferences. That said, they seem to be much more gluten-free friendly than vegan friendly as the only vegan item on the menu is an appetizer. while gluten-free diners have a separate menu entirely. The VP of Culinary, Chef Jeff came out to speak to us and let us know what our options were. Even though it is a big chain restaurant, all meals are made-to-order so customization is possible.

We ordered some drinks and awaited the appetizers. I have to say that the drink selection is pretty impressive. They have a full bar and a great cocktail menu including one of my favorites -- the Negroni. I went with the Elderflower Sipper -- a light cocktail made with Absolut Citron, elderflower liqueur, lavendar, house-made lemonade, and rose water. It was lovely. But, equally as impressive was their non-alcoholic drink menu that offered a variety of drinks like Cucumber Mint Spritzer and Pomegranate Fizz. My friend ordered the Baby Peach Bellini made with housemade lemonade, peaches, and soda water. It was fantastic.

Our first appetizer is the one that is vegan as-is on the menu -- the Edamame Dumplings. Served in a lime-infused chili broth, these dumplings were filled with some sort of edamame mixture and topped with crunchy fresh peas and carrots, peanuts, and cilantro. They were really good.

Next up was the Bruschetta without the mozzarella or pesto. Fire-roasted housemade focaccia was topped with marinated tomatoes and a balsamic reduction. Crunchy, yet savory all in one bite. I couldn't get enough of this appetizer.

We could have stopped there because that was a lot of food, but we still had our entrees coming. At this time, it appears there is only one entree that can be veganized and that is the Gluten-Free Green Machine Chicken Penne without the chicken, of course. The pesto has cheese in it so you'd have to request that they make a fresh batch of pesto without the cheese -- FYI. This gluten-free penne is tossed with kale, green peas, and asparagus in an arugula pesto with a lot of olive oil. It was a fine dinner and I loved the vegetables, which were cooked well, but I'm not a big fan of gluten-free pasta because I find it not as flavorful as whole wheat pasta. This one was no different. It was a flavorless pasta tossed in a pesto that needed something else with some great veggies. So I came out feeling about 50% satisfied with it.

For dessert, they served us a sorbet with fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries with powdered sugar. Mmmm.

Although this dinner was complementary to everyone who dined that night, they provided us with a check so we could see how much the dinner would have been. We were shocked to see it would have been about $70. With $15 entrees, two $8.50 appetizers, an $8 alcoholic and $4 non-alcoholic drink, it seemed pricey for what it was. I felt like that penne would have been better priced at $12 and the appetizers at $6-$7.

So, all in all, the service this evening was great, the drinks were fantastic, and most of the food was pretty good, although expensive. I'd probably go here just for those appetizers and drinks if I happened to be in the area. The menu is seasonal and I'm hoping that if vegans ask for it, they'll add a vegan entree to their next menu. That would be great if they did. They say that the chef can work directly with the guest to craft his/her meal so it seems they can accommodate anyone. I'd agree that Not Your Average Joe's is not your average chain restaurant with its fresh made-to-order meals. Check it out next time you are in Bethesda.

Not Your Average Joe's
10400 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda, MD 20814
(240) 316-4555

Click to add a blog post for Not Your Average Joe's on Zomato

Friday, July 10, 2015

Thai Tofu Wraps

I just got a package of IndianLife flax wraps and was seeking a recipe for a good wrap when I stumbled upon the Thai Tofu Wraps in The PlantPure Nation Cookbook by Kim Campbell. This is an incredibly easy dish to make -- no cooking required!  Once you mix everything together, you get a great tofu filling with savory peanut butter and spicy sriracha sauce. The crunch comes from the bell pepper, onion, and sprouts. And to top it off -- a little fresh cilantro. The wraps turned out to be fantastic too!  I would just recommend putting a dollop of sriracha on your plate to dip your wrap in if you like that sort of thing. :)

Thai Tofu Wrap
Yields: 6 wraps

  • 1 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp Sriracha
  • 1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup green onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 6 whole wheat or flax tortillas
  • 2 cups sprouts
Drain the tofu and gently press between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture or press in tofu press for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, garlic powder, and Sriracha.

Add the tofu, bell pepper, green onion, and cilantro. Stir with a fork until well mixed and the tofu is crumbly.

Place a portion of the tofu mixture in the center of a tortilla wrap, top with sprouts, and roll up the tortilla. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Mandu, DC

For the longest time, I heard that Mandu was a great Korean restaurant with a lot of vegan dishes. It is old school -- having been open in DC since 2006, but there's nothing wrong with trying an old-school restaurant. They have two locations -- on in Adams Morgan and one on K Street. We went to the one in Adams Morgan.

Mandu is a fairly large restaurant with seating on the first and second floors. The first floor, on which we were seated, was quite plain with plain tables and Asian artwork on the walls. The door did not have a lobby with a second door so every time it opened, we got cold. It wasn't long before we had wished we were seated on the second floor. That, coupled with a family that had two small children and a mother who thought it was so cute that her children were disturbing everyone made it a bit intolerable in the beginning.

Nevertheless, we perused the menu. I started with a cocktail and my friend ordered a soda. The server returned and abruptly slammed the soda on the table making us jump and asked if we wanted to start with anything. I informed her that I was vegan and she proceeded to tell me that something that had egg in it would be good for me. I had to remind her of what vegan was. We started with the Mandu -- 6 steamed dumplings with tofu. They were about as plain as could be -- no flavor whatsoever.

My Bittersweet Bulleit made with Bulleit rye, St. Germain, bitters and a lemon twist was very good though.

After we finished our appetizer, we waited and we waited. Our server did not take our entree order until like five minutes after we finished our appetizer. Yeah, really.

After we finally placed our orders, as is typical in Korean restaurants, we were served some side dishes to tide us down until the entree arrived. We were served a root vegetable, broccoli and cucumber. It was not very good.

For my entree, I ordered the Veggie Soymun Bowl (hold the egg). I did not realize this was a soup as it was not under the soup section. After stating that I did not want a soup, I ordered this. It would have been nice for the server to have informed me I was ordering a soup, but that probably would have required an extra second of her time, which she didn't have. The soup was actually pretty good. The broth was very flavorful and was loaded with scallions, bok choy, mushrooms, carrots, and tofu.

My friend ordered the Yache Gui, which was seasoned and glazed veggies and tofu. She and I were not fans. It did not taste at all like a Korean dish.

As expected, it took a long time to get our check.  By then, we were pretty much done with this place. One dish out of many was good and the rest were not good at all. The entrees were priced at $14-$16, which was overpriced for what it was and the service was perhaps the worst service I've had in years. Not recommended.

1805 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 588-1540

Mandu on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 6, 2015

Sunshine Burgers

Back in the day, if you had asked me what my favorite burger was, I'd have proclaimed, "Sunshine Burgers!" They've been around for more than 20 years now and can be found almost everywhere. But, with the market saturated with veggie burgers, you now have lots of choices. I went back and revisited my old staple after many years.

Sunshine Burgers are made with organic, all natural, and non-GMO ingredients in eight flavors. The first one I tried was the Loco Chipotle. There are only two burgers in each box because these burgers are huge! The ingredient list is impressive though in how natural it is -- black beans, sunflower seeds, sprouted brown rice, carrots, chipotle pepper, chia seeds, hemp seeds, onions, green peppers, garlic, jalapeno peppers, and spices. That's it! But, while the burger is all-natural, I felt like it lacked a lot of flavor. I also found these to be way too big and gooey -- like a homemade burger back in the 70's. And because there are a lot of seeds, the fat per burger is 16 grams -- that's pretty high even if it is good fat.

In fact, I really felt the same way about all four flavors that I tried. The Mushroom one probably had the least flavor of all. It had a nice texture, but fell apart easily. Avocados and grilled mushrooms really made this burger delish.

The Garden Herb burger was really just made with sunflower seeds, brown rice, and carrots, so not much to it. The only thing out of the garden was the carrots! I found this one to be drab and it also broke apart easily.

The South West flavor is made with sunflower seeds, brown rice, carrots, black beans, and spices and also needed more flavor.

It isn't like these burgers are bad -- they are hearty and filled with good-for-you ingredients, so there are a lot of reasons to like them. They just need more flavor or need to be topped with lots of sauces, mushrooms, and avocados! Also, most of the boxes have three burgers in them, which is just weird. Two or four would be better. I also love that they are certified organic and non-GMO Project Verified and all of them are gluten-free, soy-free, and vegan. Not too shabby. If you'd like to try them for yourself, you'll find them pretty much everywhere and on Amazon here. Just be sure to get your toppings ready.

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Equinox, DC #4

When the Corcoran Gallery of Art announced it would be taken over by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University, Todd Gray's Muse was forced to close. Offering the only all-vegan brunch in DC, we all feared this would be the end. Well, fear not, my friends. I am pleased to report that the vegan brunch is in full-swing at their other restaurant, Equinox, so it has merely moved and it is better than ever.

I gave them a few months before checking out the new brunch. The style is the same as it was at Muse -- buffet style, but in a fine dining atmosphere. I was pleased to see that they had a live musician as well.  The drink menu is extensive -- with eight "hand-crafted muse libations." They had everything from Classic Mimosas and Bloody Marys to a unique Pushkin Milk Punch. I started with a Bellini made with Prosecco and pear juice and my friend ordered the Rum Warmer made with Myer's rum, cider reduction, and fresh lemon. Both were very good.

As we approached the brunch area to dig in, we saw Chef Todd Gray himself serving up a mean tofu scramble. You could choose from all kinds of things like cauliflower, roasted potatoes, oyster mushrooms, bell peppers, scallions, and celeriac chip crunch. I chose it all and it was delicious! Some of the items were pre-cooked and others were raw, but it all made for a fantastic, fresh tofu scramble. I bet Todd would have never pictured himself serving tofu scramble twenty years ago.

One of my favorite dishes was the soup -- a Forest Mushroom Dashi with Bok Choy, Tofu, and Nori Chips. It was super flavorful and just the right amount of bok choy and tofu. I felt like I could have stopped with this dish, but there were still so many more!

As is customary with their brunches, there is usually a passed hors d'oeuvre and this time it was a cheesy fried risotto ball. One taste and we wanted more!

On the buffet, you could choose from a variety of dishes. For some reason, we were compelled to try them all. I will admit, I ate too much, but, I am human.

The Salad with Roasted Citrus, Watercress, and Shaved Red Onions in a Blood Orange Vinaigrette was a nice accompaniment to the other hearty dishes.

On my second plate, I tried the Stuffed Granola Crusted French Toast with Cara Cara Orange Marmalade and Red Maple Syrup. I have to say, it was a bit too much bread for me, but that marmalade made it all worth it. I also had Farro Salad with Caramelized Winter Squash, Smoked Trumpet Mushrooms, and Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette. And there was a Root Vegetable Jambalaya with Celery Root Rutabaga Turnips and Riso Nero (black rice).  And a little fruit for good measure.

With no room in my stomach, of course, I had to try the pastries and little bites. I just about exploded.

The brunch is $30 and while that is pricey, you get more than $30 worth of food for this price so it is well worth it. Everything is fresh and incredibly inventive. And where else can you get tofu scramble made fresh right in front of you?!  I'm happy to see they've continued the brunch at their restaurant and am excited that they'll be having guest speakers once a month as well. This is the kind of brunch you'll want to take your mom to when she's in town. Fresh food served on white tablecloths with live music and delicious drinks -- yeah, she'll enjoy that too.

Previous reviews
August 16, 2013
December 9, 2011
October 17, 2012

818 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 331-8118

Equinox on Urbanspoon