vegan food

Vegan brunch

I had brunch at a new Boston area restaurant today, Vej Naturals, and very much enjoyed my Southern Platter…

(Pan-fried seitan cutlet served with Home-style Gravy, scrambled tofu, grits, and greens)


…and the bites of French Toast my friend (the photographer, Laureen) was kind enough to share with me:

(Sliced bread dipped in a sweet cashew milk, grilled then topped with fresh fruit and whipped “cream”)

Just a brief reminder how, ahem, “deprived” vegans are.


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Vegan: It’s what’s for breakfast – "real" cinnamon rolls

This is going to be a pretty lousy food post, since I don’t have any pictures to show for my wife’s culinary adventure. Yup, she picked up my slack.

I’ve been wanting to make cinnamon rolls for weeks, but I have been so busy (and I have a really hard time waking up early on weekends… or any day, for that matter), so Dr. Prescott took it upon herself to make this happen for us. The results weren’t as photogenic as the pictures in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking, but they looked very similar. My iPhone simply isn’t a good substitute for a real camera with the lighting in our apartment, and my other camera, as mentioned previously, is dying a sad death.

But, man… Oh, man. Up until recently, I had not eaten a vegan cinnamon roll that tasted anything like the cinnamon rolls I remember from Cinnabon, et al. Certainly there are plenty of other vegan goodies to distract me. Far too many, really. I’ve managed to cut back at least a little on indulging my sweet tooth these past couple of months.

But all along, I periodically would try a commercially available vegan cinnamon roll and think to myself, “C’mon. How hard can it be? I mean, really, is it just that the people making these cinnamon rolls have simply never had the good stuff, or are vegan cinnamon rolls doomed to be like vegan “cheese,” a pale imitation of the original recipe?” Okay, my thoughts weren’t that coherent, but they more or less covered the same ground.

Fortunately, I remembered I owned The Joy of Vegan Baking, so I looked up cinnamon rolls. Voila! Colleen never lets me down.

Ironically, I didn’t actually try her recipe, though I’m sure it’s great. Everything I’ve tried from that book has been delicious so far. Fortunately, Colleen is focused on making sure vegan baked goods taste amazing, not on making sure they are made with fruit juices and bran fiber (thank you, Colleen). However, her recipe requires significant dough rising time, which is hard for me to come by, as mentioned above.

My friend, Kristin (who writes a blog called Beans and Greens), let me know about a recipe she modified with great success, and recommended it because it uses instant yeast, saving oodles of time.

However, the recipe Kristin posted called for corn syrup to make the icing. We don’t have corn syrup and we don’t want any. Dr. Prescott had the brilliant idea to combine recipes. We used the instant yeast goodness of Kristin’s find (which still took a while to prep, unfortunately), and iced those rolls with the frosting from Colleen’s book… I tell you, people: They tasted amazing (sugar rush!), so they are worth a little effort, especially if (unlike us) you actually have a rolling pin!

If you want the recipe, visit Kristin’s write-up. She posted enticing pictures to go with it, which more or less represent how ours turned out as well.

Riding your coattails, ladies… Many thanks to both my wife and Kristin for my cinnamon roll heaven this past weekend.

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Vegan: It’s what’s for dinner – "reinventing the quiche"

Here’s a rare post that may not actually turn any of my friends into enemies! (frenemies?)

I’ve been cooking a lot more in recent months, which has been a surprising source of amusement for me, especially since the food continues to turn out miraculously well, despite my complete lack of culinary training. I have to give all the credit to delightful cookbooks like the ones you see on page 2 of the Amazon Widget over in the sidebar (you know, until I redesign the site again).

This evening I made “reinventing the quiche,” from page 144 of The Quick-Fix Vegetarian. It was super-delish, and looked pretty tantalizing out of the oven, too. It’s a shame my Canon PowerShot A75 is dying a sad and ugly death (and so prematurely!), which means this picture does not quite do it justice. I hope you get the idea. I know I’m looking forward to leftovers tomorrow.

Vegan Veggie Quiche
For dessert: Snickerdoodle Purely Decadent (It’s so new, along with Key Lime Pie, that I can’t even find it on their website!)

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Meat: It’s NOT what’s for dinner – Quick-Fix Vegetarian

Building a vegan cookbook library is slow-going if you’re not made out of money and don’t want to be hit with too many recipes to try at once. We have a dozen and a half vegan cookbooks in the AAFL kitchen as it is. [Sidebar: Isn’t this a great problem to have? It’s wonderful that there are so many excellent vegan cookbooks. No excuses! A vegan lifestyle is in easy reach!]

So sometimes I come to the review party a little late. For instance, I only recently discovered the joys of Robin Robertson’s Vegan Planet after buying it as a gift for my mom this past Mother’s Day, then caving in and buying one for my wife and myself. That book is huge, but we liked what we’ve tried so far, particularly the fact that so few recipes rely on anything other than whole foods, so it wasn’t long before we took advantage of a gift card balance to save money on Quick-Fix Vegetarian: Healthy Home-Cooked Meals in 30 Minutes or Less (don’t worry about the title — if there’s a non-vegan recipe in this book, I haven’t found it). We have a lot of trouble getting dinner started at a reasonable hour in this household, and prep usually takes longer than recipes specify, so there have been a number of 9 o’clock meals in past weeks. You can imagine how eager we were to get our hands on this book.

We’ve only tried one recipe so far, but it was delicious! Check out the mixed baby greens with pears, pecans and polenta strips on page 64 (but consider cubing the polenta instead). We’ll definitely be having this again, and hopefully this first practice round will make it easier to actually make the dish in 30 minutes or less next time. We’re not pros in the kitchen like my friends over at VeganYumYum and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, which explains yet again why I forgot to take a photo!

RECIPE: Tempeh Pasta

I came up with a new recipe of my own this week that I’m absolutely in love with. Nothing like the excitement of discovering a new favorite, especially after throwing it together yourself off the top of your head!

Ingredients

  • 1 package bowtie pasta (I used Whole Foods’ 365 Organic)
  • 1 jar of pasta sauce (I used the organic Seeds of Change Roasted Garlic and Onion 25 oz jar)
  • 1 8 oz cake of tempeh (I used the organic LightLife Organic Flax Tempeh)
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts, toasted (I bought in bulk)

Preparation

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions

    As the water is boiling (and pasta is cooking):

  • Start warming the pasta sauce over low heat in a sauce pan
  • Slice the tempeh into 1/8″ thick strips
  • Sautee the tempeh until golden brown
  • Cut strips in half for pieces about 1 inch long and set aside
  • Toast pine nuts
  • Once the pasta is fully prepared, top with tempeh, sauce, and pine nuts before serving (I like nutritional yeast on some pasta dishes, but not this one; it was better without)

(Serves 4)

I recommend trying this recipe as close to the original as you can. It was so good. If you can’t find those ingredients, work from there, and certainly always adapt recipes to your taste, but I can’t guarantee that it will be as tasty if you use different products!

Serve hot with a mixed greens salad or side of whatever veggies float your boat (we went the easy road with steamed frozen organic broccoli).

RECIPE: Tempeh Bacon Salad

A personal favorite, I have been known to eat one of these per week.

Ingredients

  • 1 pre-washed package of mixed baby greens
  • 1 package of tempeh bacon
  • Candied pecans/walnuts, or pine nuts (ideally from bulk foods, since they get kind pricey)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (experiment until you find your favorite – mine is the Whole Foods brand, 365)

Prep

  • Place the salad into two large bowls and top with the nuts and cranberries (use however much looks right to you, but don’t go crazy)
  • Slice the tempeh bacon into domino-sized strips
  • Saute the tempeh bacon until thoroughly heated (you can further flavor to taste, if so inclined)
  • Top the salads with tempeh bacon
  • Serve with dressing

Madeleine Bistro – My Favorite New Vegan Restaurant

Madeleine Bistro – Organic Vegan Cuisine

I just finished eating one of the finest vegan meals of my life at Madeleine Bistro in Tarzana (of all places). While there are many delicious animal-friendly restaurants, there haven’t been any on par with Manhattan’s many fine veg restaurants, or even San Francisco’s Millennium. I haven’t been to many of those, since I’m not that well-traveled or well-heeled, but I certainly have rued that L.A. was lacking in an establishment that could at least be the peer of those restaurants.

Proprietors David and Molly Anderson opened the Bistro with an eye toward letting the ingredients dictate the menu, rather than getting locked into some sort of box. David’s experience as an executive chef at Real Food Daily has clearly served him well (you have taste what he can do with seitan), but being out on his own has allowed him to draw on influences like Wolfgang Puck, whose various restaurants serve disparate cuisine unified by adventure, quality, and attention to detail, and have been host to many a fine chef. This is the start of what I hope will become a trend in L.A., particularly as veganism finds its way out of its niche.

It’s nice to finally have an animal-friendly restaurant of this ilk in L.A. For those that can afford its relatively high (but by no means Juliano-style outrageous) prices, it is well worth the trek to find this nearly invisible restaurant on Ventura Blvd. The tacky neon strips seem a holdover from a previous tenant, and many of them don’t work. They certainly do not hint at the warm, tasteful, but not ostentatious interior makeover you’ll find after parking on the street nearby and heading in. No valet parking – at least, not yet – saves you about $5 over dining out for a similarly upscale experience, which is good news for my humble means. I found a spot on the street right out front, and used the valet money at dessert time to splurge on cannoli, which I haven’t had since well before going vegan over five years ago. The cannoli was served with a sprinkling of berries, which were organic, as is I believe everything they serve, making their prices seem all the more reasonable.

While I had a $2 green tea, a variety of wines were also available by the glass from around $8. Two entrees – including their most expensive, a $16 portobella mushroom filet mignon – along with two teas and the cannoli ran only $42. While this firmly establishes Madeleine Bistro as a special occasion restaurant on my budget, it easily supplants all my previous choices for anniversaries and the like, and makes me excited about dining out at a vegan restaurant again.

And don’t get the idea that this place is posh or pretentious. David and Molly are as nice and personal as can be, and the overall dining experience tonight was made very comfortable by their presence in the dining room. Our server, Hop, was attentive and helpful, certainly a far cry from the burn ’em and turn ’em atmosphere of RFD. Hop, if I remember correctly, was vegetarian 20 years, and has been vegan for 6, so it’s nice to have him there to attend the needs of guests, especially people who might be less familiar with vegan cuisine and what veganism is all about. For us vegans, it’s nice to go to a restaurant where the menu and the service is all oriented to your philosophy, and that is yet another great reason to pay a visit.

Madeleine Bistro
Organic Vegan Cuisine
818-758-6971
18621 Ventura Blvd.
Tarzana, CA 91356
(Exit 101 at Reseda and turn West on Ventura, N. side of street)

Hours of Operation:

Dinner:

Tuesday through Thursday: 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Friday and Saturday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Lunch:

Tuesday through Friday: 11:30m – 2:30pm
Sunday Brunch: (beginning Sunday, June 12th)
Sunday: 10:00am – 3:00pm
Closed Monday