Mediterranean Couscous Salad

26 Oct

Couscous is a relative of pasta, and is commonly made with semolina (durum wheat), though it is sometimes made with farina, pearl barley, millet or cornmeal. It is typically steamed, resulting in a light, fluffy texture, and is popular in various cuisines including North African, French and Mediterranean (source).

Aside from providing 6g protein per 1-cup serving, couscous also provides dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6 (source).

This light Mediterranean Couscous Salad features two kinds of couscous, chickpeas, vegetables, shallot and fresh dill, and is further enhanced with the addition of marinade from the artichokes.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

1/2 cup Israeli couscous
1/2 cup instant couscous
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (7.5-ounce) jar quartered marinated artichoke hearts, chopped with 1/2 cup liquid reserved
1/2 medium cucumber, chopped
1/2 large shallot, minced
2-3 tablespoons minced fresh dill

Prepare couscous according to manufacturer’s directions. Set aside and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, mix together remaining ingredients (including reserved 1/2 cup artichoke liquid). Add cooled couscous and stir to combine.

Crispy Coconut Bacon

5 Oct

If you enjoy bacon but not the part about it coming from a pig, you are in luck because there are various tasty alternatives available (one such version is my Tofaken). The latest craze, however, is coconut bacon. People go cuckoo for this stuff and I can understand why. While coconut flakes pack a lot of calories and fat, they are also low in carbohydrates and high in fiber (source).

To further boost the nutritional value of this coconut bacon, these crispy little guys are seasoned with liquid aminos (which boasts 16 different amino acids) and practically melt in your mouth. They make an excellent addition to nearly any salad, sandwich or wrap, and can even be enjoyed by themselves. Enjoy!

Coconut Bacon

Crispy Coconut Bacon
Yields 1 cup

1/4 cup liquid aminos
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut flakes
oil for the pan

Place first three ingredients in a small bowl and mix until combined. Add coconut flakes and stir to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 300° F. Grease a large baking sheet with oil.

Evenly spread marinated coconut flakes on prepared baking sheet and spray with oil. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until desired crispness is achieved. Remove and allow to cool before consuming.

All About Chia

21 Sep

Chia Seeds

Salvia hispanica, most commonly referred to as chia, is an annual flowering plant that belongs to the mint family. Chia is likely best known for its use in chia pets, where, upon watering, their sprouts grow to resemble animal hair. Having gained popularity in the 1980’s, chia pet products have since expanded to include a plethora of other “pets” such as people and, yes, even zombies.

The word “chia” is said to have been derived from chian, which translates to oily; fitting because the seeds contain at least 25% extractable oil. The chia plant is native to Guatemala and Mexico and can grow to upwards of 3 feet. The most commonly used part of the plant is its seed, which has recently gained popularity due to the seed’s richness in nutrients such as manganese, Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, and phosphorus. These black and white ovular seeds, typically no larger than .039 inches in size, may be tiny but they are nutritional powerhouses (source).

Having five times the amount of calcium and protein than milk (source), at least two times the fiber than nuts (source), more potassium than a banana (source), more than two times the iron than spinach (source), more protein than an egg (source), more than 25 times the iron, seven times the omega 3 and more than eight times the omega 6 than salmon (source), it’s no wonder chia seeds have become so popular as a food source.

1 oz of chia seeds provides the following recommended daily values (source):

  • 13% total fat
  • 3% potassium
  • 4% total carbohydrates
  • 40% dietary fiber
  • 9% protein
  • 17% calcium
  • 12% iron
  • 23% magnesium

Chia seeds are easily incorporated into your diet, whether it be via smoothies, oatmeal, salad dressings or baked into bread. When placed in liquid, chia seeds develop a gelatinous coating which makes them an excellent egg replacer and thickener, perfect for pudding. Chia seeds can also be sprouted for use in salads, sandwiches and wraps.

What is your favorite way of incorporating chia into your diet?

Vegan-Friendly Kansas City

11 Sep

Kansas City is known for its BBQ and steak, but thanks to the growing desire for plant-based food, it is being put on the map as a vegan-friendly destination. With three (as of this posting) 100% vegan establishments and a variety of vegan-friendly bars, restaurants and stores, Kansas City is embracing its compassionate side.

Following is a list of vegan-friendly establishments located in one of the Show Me State’s most popular cities.

Café Gratitude

Café Gratitude is a 100% organic and plant-based restaurant chain primarily located in California, with a single location outside of the west coast. Needless to say, this location is in Kansas City! I was shocked when I first heard that Café Gratitude was opening a location here, and by the looks of it, this bold move was a smart one. Café Gratitude is almost always busy, which is a sign that the times are changing and people are moving towards healthy eating. This uplifting restaurant has creatively given their dishes positive and inspiring names.

My family and I began with an order of Present (“Bruschetta — toasted ciabatta with cashew mozzarella topped with tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette & fresh basil”). For our main dishes we enjoyed Grateful (“Shredded kale, brown rice, black beans & garlic tahini sauce”), Sensational (“Spaghetti squash noodles, spinach & portabella mushrooms tossed in our alfredo sauce. Topped with Brazil nut parmesan, basil & crushed red pepper. Served with our house side salad”), Transformed (“Two organic corn tacos with brown rice, black beans, guacamole, salsa fresca & cashew nacho cheese. Served with a side salad”), and Warm-Hearted (“Grilled pesto polenta over sautéed spaghetti squash, spinach & puttanesca sauce topped with Brazil nut parmesan, ricotta & basil”). We washed it all down with Incredible (“Banana, raw cacao, maca, almond butter, dates, coconut milk, & vanilla bean smoothie”).

Present Bruschetta from Café Gratitude

Present Bruschetta from Café Gratitude

Grateful dish from Café Gratitude

Grateful dish from Café Gratitude

Sensational dish from Café Gratitude

Sensational dish from Café Gratitude

Transformed dish from Café Gratitude

Transformed dish from Café Gratitude

Warm-Hearted dish from Café Gratitude

Warm-Hearted dish from Café Gratitude

Incredible smoothie from Café Gratitude

Incredible smoothie from Café Gratitude

Eden Alley Café

A 100% vegetarian restaurant, Eden Alley Café is located in the basement of the Unity Temple on The Plaza. Most of their dishes can be made vegan and many are gluten and soy-free. With an emphasis on local organic ingredients, Eden Alley Café does what they can to be kind to the environment including conservation, waste reduction, and recycling. Serving lunch and dinner Wednesday through Friday and brunch on Saturday, their large open space provides seating for more than 100 people and even includes a little shop with cookbooks, t-shirts and more.

FooDoo

Kansas City’s newest 100% vegan restaurant, FooDoo is a small establishment that prepares delectable dishes using fresh local produce, focusing on what is currently in season. Perhaps my new favorite plant-based restaurant in Kansas City, FooDoo definitely delivers in the flavor department.

My family and I enjoyed the Broadway Burrito (“Roasted Peppers – Caramelized Onions – Pepper-Jack – Hey Joe Chorizo – Jerked Potatoes – Jalapeno Jam” served with “Quinoa Black-eyed Pea Succotash & Organic Greens”), Taco Trio (“Cheddar – Shredded Lettuce – Tomato – Cilantro – Cactus Relish with Vietnamese Ham Gluten”), and The Bella (“Portabella Steak – Roasted Peppers – Pickled Onions – Italian Hot Peppers – Garlic Spinach – Mozzarella” on a Pretzel Bun and served with “Quinoa Black-eyed Pea Succotash & Organic Greens & Spicy Pickle”). I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious all of our meals were and will gladly return the next time I am in town!

Broadway Burrito from FooDoo

Broadway Burrito from FooDoo

Taco Trio from FooDoo

Taco Trio from FooDoo

The Bella sandwich from FooDoo

The Bella sandwich from FooDoo

The Foundry

The Foundry is a beer garden and bar + grill serving a handful of plant-based options. Such options include their Cheat Lover’s vegan pizza, guacamole, nachos (with “cheat meat” and vegan cheese, sans sour cream), Zucchini Fries (without honey or sauce), Sunflower Salad (with oil and vinegar dressing), and their Mean Joe Green salad (sans cheese). Thanks to a variety of options the plant-based crowd is sure to leave with full, happy bellies.

FüD

One of Kansas City’s first all vegan restaurants and a favorite among the plant-based crowd, FüD is a cash-only establishment specializing in both raw and hot dishes, and strives to serve organic meals. FüD’s sustainable practices include using “fluoride-free filtered water, composting, recycling, biocompostable to-go packaging and cutlery, buying local organic produce and providing the lowest impact food on the environment.” Now that is impressive! One such local item served here is Central Soyfoods tofu made in Lawrence, Kansas.

The dishes enjoyed at my table were the Smoked Tofu Nuggets (“A Basket of Fried Local Tofu Nuggets with side of Sweet Pickle Thrillanaise & spicy Chilinaise”), the Tune-Rahh Melt (“Tune-Rahh sandwich Panini Grilled with Garlic Sweed Cheese on Rye”), Phishwich (“Tune Rahh infused with cinnamon curry spice deep-fried and topped with Thrillanaise, Dillanaise, El Cream, Lettuce, Tomato & Purple Onion on Rye”) and the Olivewich (a mixture of olive tapenade, cashew cheese, lettuce and tomatoes), a brand new sandwich which is the cook’s favorite.

Smoked Tofu Nuggets from FüD

Smoked Tofu Nuggets from FüD

Tune-Rahh Melt from FüD

Tune-Rahh Melt from FüD

Phishwich from FüD

Phishwich from FüD

Olivada sandwich from FüD

Olivada sandwich from FüD

GreenAcres Market

GreenAcres Market is a natural foods store with seven locations (as of this posting), one of which is in Kansas City. With an emphasis on organic foods, nutritional supplements and body care items, this health foods store provides prepared foods in addition to pantry essentials and other grocery items. GreenAcres Market also takes it a step further by providing regular in-store classes and seminars to further educate the public on healthy lifestyles.

Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee is Kansas City’s first and only (as of this posting) 100% vegan bakery and coffeehouse. The super friendly folks here at Mud Pie make some delectable desserts and are happy to provide for various events including birthdays and weddings. One such event I used them for was my mother’s 60th birthday! In addition to desserts, Mud Pie also offers savory treats including house made scones and burritos from FüD.

The items I enjoyed from Mud Pie were their Lemon Kiss cupcake (filled with a delicious lemon curd), Coconutz bar, Mostess cupcake (fashioned after the popular commercially sold cupcake), Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treat, and their Apple Crumb Cake. Every single item I have had here has been delicious — highly recommended!

Coconutz from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Coconutz from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Mostess Cupcake from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Mostess Cupcake from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Peanut Butter Crispy Treat from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Peanut Butter Crispy Treat from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Apple Crumb Cake from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Apple Crumb Cake from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Nature’s Pantry

Located in nearby Independence, MO, Nature’s Pantry is an excellent natural foods store providing a plethora of goodies including those which are difficult to find. Having opened its doors in 1995, Nature’s Pantry has since expanded and opened a Deli Café, providing paninis, pizzas and salads. In addition to groceries, Nature’s Pantry has a sizeable bulk and vitamin section, and sells various household and personal items as well. Some of the local items they sell are Central Soyfoods tofu (in Garlic Herb, Hickory Smoked, Hot Fiesta and Plain flavors) and Manifest Chocolates, which provides caramels and chocolates that are vegan, gluten, soy, dairy and nut free.

While here, I picked up a bunch of treasures including some Gardein Fishless Filets, a container of Garlic Just Mayo (Nature’s Pantry currently carries all four flavors), a package of Rising Moon Organics Artichoke and Olive Ravioli, and a container of non-dairy Scotch Chocolate ice cream from Steve’s Ice Cream — perhaps the best ice cream I have ever had! Definitely check this place out.

Nature's Pantry

Nature’s Pantry

Steve's Ice Cream - Scotch Chocolate Ice Cream

Steve’s Ice Cream – Scotch Chocolate Ice Cream

One More Cup

One More Cup is a coffee shop serving assorted smoothies (most, if not all can be made vegan with soy milk), and items from various local businesses including sandwiches from FüD, Tamales from Mean Vegan, and desserts from Kneaded Specialties and Be Free Bakers. The owners seem very passionate about their business so this is one worth supporting.

Seasons 52 Fresh Grill

A more upscale restaurant with separate vegan menu, Seasons 52 Fresh Grill is a chain located throughout the United States with dishes that are 475 calories or less. Their plant-based menu currently (as of this posting) features various appetizers, sides, entrees, a couple salads, and blueberries for dessert.

Spin! Neapolitan Pizza

A pizza chain with locations in California, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri, Spin! Neapolitan Pizza has a Kansas City location that offers Daiya cheese, which can be used on any of their pizzas (minus the meat). While their soups are not vegan, Spin! does offer a few salads that can be ordered without meat and cheese, and topped with vinaigrette dressing. Their croutons are cooked in olive oil.

Succotash

Succotash is primarily a brunch and lunch restaurant with a few plant-based items and a variety of juices and smoothies. Soy milk is available. The folks at this establishment pride themselves in using locally grown/made ingredients whenever possible. As of this posting, available lunch items include pancakes, scramble and a wrap; the latter two featuring Succotash’s signature lima bean hummus and succotash.

Waldo Pizza

With two locations in the metropolitan area, Waldo Pizza gives Kansas Citians their choice between their Waldo and Lee’s Summit locations. This pizza chain goes above and beyond for their plant-based crowd, offering a variety of pizzas, starters, sandwiches, desserts, and beverages. For the gluten free vegan crowd, Waldo Pizza even offers an egg & gluten-free pizza crust (ask to make sure). Pizza offerings include both Daiya and Follow Your Heart cheeses, a large variety of veggies, various meat alternatives including chicken, hamburger, Italian sausage, pepperoni, and taco meat, and a variety of exciting sauces including, but not limited to, barbeque, buffalo, taco sauce and vegan garlic butter. After you’ve gorged yourself on delicious food, Waldo will send you on your merry way with a vegan after dinner mint.

I have been to Waldo Pizza multiple times and their pizza (and offerings) just seem to get better and better. My choice this time was a hand-tossed crust with artichokes, capers and “chicken” topped with Daiya Mozzarella. The capers added a really nice flavor to the pizza, which was delicious, but my only complaint this time around is that there was hardly any “chicken” on the pizza…I wanted much more! Definitely support these guys and gals.

Artichoke, Capers and "Chicken" Pizza from Waldo Pizza

Artichoke, Capers and “Chicken” Pizza from Waldo Pizza

Yogurtini

Yogurtini is a self-serve frozen yogurt shop that offers 1-2 vegan flavors of sorbet with various toppings including fruit, nuts, Oreos, Nutter Butter cookies and a handful of sauces. When I stopped by, Yogurtini had just one vegan flavor, their Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet, which was very good. Previously they had a pomegranate flavor.

Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet from Yogurtini

Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet from Yogurtini

Have you been to Kansas City before, or do you currently live there? What are your favorite vegan-friendly places to frequent?

Vegan-Friendly Portland

26 Aug

Portland goes by many names: The City of Roses, Bridgetown, PDX and Stumptown to name a few. Currently the largest city by population in the state of Oregon, Portland has a plethora of restaurants, shops and grocers catering to vegans. Because of this, Portland was rated the #2 Most Vegan-Friendly City of 2013 by PETA (source).

Below is a list of establishments I visited while in Portland. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it will give you a good idea of what places to stop by while visiting.

Back to Eden Bakery

Back to Eden is a 100% vegan and gluten-free bakery serving various pastries, ice creams, lunch items and beverages. Catering to any food sensitivities you may have, Back to Eden provides many raw, soy and sugar-free delectables. I stopped by this bakery twice while in Portland. Opting for their Boston Cream Mini Cake, I ate the whole darn thing in one sitting. While the cake seemed a little over-baked and dry, and the flavor didn’t remind me of traditional Boston Cream Pie, it was still good (and beautiful to look at). I wanted to try one of their shakes or sundaes on my second visit but alas, I was too full.

Boston Cream Pie Mini Cake from Back to Eden

Boston Cream Pie Mini Cake from Back to Eden

Blossoming Lotus

Many sing the praises of Blossoming Lotus‘ weekend brunch and they are right to do so! With mouth-watering choices like a Caramel Apple Cinnamon Roll and Zucchini Bread French Toast, this upscale restaurant covers its bases with the basics in addition to creative alternatives. The name alone sold me on the cinnamon roll so I ordered that as a starter and split it with my sister. After devouring half of this mammoth 5-inch plus cinnamon roll, I was already beginning to feel full. This thing alone could be a meal! Crazy enough, I also split the Lotus Benedict, which is “a split biscuit topped with tofu scramble, sausage patties, sliced tomato, wilted spinach, and hollandaise, served with steamed greens” and the Breakfast Burrito, filled with “tofu scramble, roasted potatoes, kale, tomato, avocado, red onion, coconut bacon, and cashew sour cream” with my sister. Needless to say we had leftovers!

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Roll from Blossoming Lotus

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Roll from Blossoming Lotus

Lotus Benedict from Blossoming Lotus

Lotus Benedict from Blossoming Lotus

Breakfast Burrito from Blossoming Lotus

Breakfast Burrito from Blossoming Lotus

Bob’s Red Mill World Headquarters Tour / Bob’s Red Mill Restaurant, Whole Grain Store and Bakery

If you have a car at your disposal, a fun thing to do is to drive to Milwaukie, OR (approximately 20 minutes south of Portland) and take a tour of Bob’s Red Mill World Headquarters. Offering two daily tours Monday-Friday, the friendly folks at Bob’s Red Mill will guide you through the factory where you can see each stage of the production process, and if you’re lucky, you may even get to meet Bob himself! After the tour (or before, if you prefer), you can visit Bob’s Red Mill Restaurant, Whole Grain Store and Bakery about a mile down the road, where you can shop for any Bob’s Red Mill product imaginable. Attached to the store is their bakery, which features a couple of vegan items, and on the other end is their restaurant. Though I had already enjoyed breakfast before visiting, I was happy to see that their menu has its very own vegan section!

Bob's Red Mill Grain Store

Bob’s Red Mill Grain Store

Vegan Menu at Bob's Red Mill Grain Store Restaurant

Vegan Menu at Bob’s Red Mill Grain Store Restaurant

Cacao

Cacao is a small specialty chocolate shop downtown, which offers solid chocolates from around the world, in addition to drinking chocolate and hot cocoa. The carefully selected chocolate sold here is chosen based upon criteria such as small manufacturers, organic and fair trade practices, and value pricing, just to name a few. Upon perusing Cacao’s shelves for vegan goodies, my eyes fell upon a jar of Hot Cakes Caramel Sauce. Never having tried this particular brand, I quickly snatched it up. The introductory flavors are very pleasant and finish with a slightly darker burnt flavor. Cacao also offers various vegan chocolates should you so desire.

Hot Cakes Caramel Sauce from Cacao

Hot Cakes Caramel Sauce from Cacao

Chef Fresh

A self-serve yogurt and smoothie place located in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Place Mall, Chef Fresh offers 12 different house-made rotating flavors, with 2-4 being 100% plant-based. The flavors on hand while I visited were Nutella (fashioned after the popular non-vegan spread), vanilla creamsicle and another one, which unfortunately, I cannot remember. In addition, Chef Fresh offers various toppings for you to enjoy with your soft serve. If you aren’t sure which are vegan, the friendly ladies behind the counter are happy to help. Dish out as much or as little soft serve as you want, top it with your desired toppings, then take your treat up to the counter where they will weigh it and charge you by the ounce.

Nutella & Vanilla Creamsicle Soft Serve from Chef Fresh

Nutella & Vanilla Creamsicle Soft Serve from Chef Fresh

D.C. Vegetarian

A 100% vegetarian food cart located in downtown Portland, D.C. Vegetarian makes their own seitan and offers a vegan alternative for every item on their menu. A favorite among many, this food cart offers brunch and lunch every day of the week except for Sunday (as of this posting). Opting to visit D.C. Vegetarian twice during my trip, I enjoyed their Sausage, (Not)Egg and Cheese sandwich for brunch, which was topped off with avocado, tomato and roasted red pepper sauce, and on the second trip had their Chicken Salad Sub (no picture, sorry) for lunch. “A mixture of soy curls, Beyond Meat, celery, red onion, and Vegenaise with lettuce and tomato,” their Chicken Salad Sub was very filling. Though I would have liked a little added flavor, it was still very good. My sister had the Italian Sub (not pictured) and it was delicious.

Sausage (Not)Egg & Cheese from D.C. Vegetarian

Sausage (Not)Egg & Cheese from D.C. Vegetarian

Departure Restaurant + Lounge

Departure Restaurant + Lounge is an upscale roof-top establishment located above The Nines hotel and features various Asian-inspired dishes, a few of which are vegan. With a bar that opens to the outdoor lounge area, Departure is the place to be when you want a fancy evening out. Hearing great things about their Departure Banana Split, I stopped by and got one to go. Consisting of “banana tempura, cherry compote, miso butterscotch, peanut brittle ice cream,” and topped with peanuts, this treat is possibly the most intricate and most well thought out dessert I have had in Portland. Word has it that the peanut brittle ice cream is from the popular Salt & Straw ice cream shop.

Departure Banana Split from Departure Lounge

Departure Banana Split from Departure Lounge

FLAVOURspot

The FLAVOURspot is a creative waffle sandwich food cart with two locations. Though they have a small menu consisting primarily of meat-based options, they DO have three vegan options: Vegan Sausage & Maple, Peanut Butter & Jelly, and PBM (peanut butter and maple). I decided on the Vegan Sausage & Maple waffle sandwich, which featured 2-3 vegan sausage patties (which I believe to be Gimme Lean) and The FLAVOURspot’s organic pure maple spread. The smell alone of this sandwich is enough to make your mouth water, so devouring the entire thing was no problem for me. I would definitely order it again and would love to try their other vegan options.

Vegan Maple & Sausage Waffle Sandwich from FLAVOURspot

Vegan Maple & Sausage Waffle Sandwich from FLAVOURspot

Food Fight! Grocery

Part of the first, and only (that I know of), vegan mini-mall, Food Fight! Grocery is a small 100% vegan grocery store selling the obvious groceries in addition to household and personal items, as well as apparel and accessories. Trying not to spend TOO much money, I settled on some Earth Balance Vegan White Cheddar Mac & Cheese, Sol Cuisine Veggie Breakfast Patties and a Caramel Cashew Bar from Amy E’s Bakery. You should definitely stop by this store while in Portland and pick up some vegan staples. Support local!

The Fruit Loop

Located in Hood River County, approximately an hour and 15 minute drive east of Portland, The Fruit Loop is basically a loop of various farms and fruit stands running along highways 35 and 281. Offering seasonal produce, many allow you to pick your own, which is what my friends and I opted to do. Needless to say, we ended up with the freshest and most delicious blueberries and strawberries we had ever had. Nothing makes you appreciate fruit like U-pick and it is fun for the whole family!

Fresh Picked Strawberries from The Fruit Loop

Fresh Picked Strawberries from The Fruit Loop

Los Gorditos

Starting out as a food truck in 2006, Los Gorditos‘ popularity quickly grew, which caused them to later open two restaurant locations. Los Gorditos provides a separate vegan menu with multiple items to choose from including various tacos, burritos and other plates, and from what I understand, they are all good. Having visited the Pearl restaurant location, I decided on the Soy Curl Fajita Burrito and was very pleased with it. Seasoned perfectly, this burrito was stuffed with “soy curls, grilled fajita veggies, beans, rice, onion & cilantro.” I thoroughly enjoyed it and wished I was able to visit a second time so that I could order it again! Does anyone want to ship one to me?

Soy Curl Fajita Burrito from Los Gorditos

Soy Curl Fajita Burrito from Los Gorditos

Herbivore Clothing

Located in the vegan mini-mall, Herbivore Clothing is a 100% vegan clothing shop that also sells various accessories, household items and books. Need a hoodie to proclaim your vegan awesomeness? Want a leather-free belt? How about a beverage cozie? They’ve got them all, and luckily for us we can order them online! Keep in mind, however, that their shirts run small.

Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ

Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ is a 100% vegan food truck that serves various comfort food items. Aside from their regular menu, they offer a different special each day, which keeps the crowds coming back. After browsing through the menu, it was difficult to decide on what to get, but finally my sister and I decided on the Grilled Hyam and Cheese (not pictured), which is “Applewood smoked maple-ginger hyam, tomato, Daiya mozzarella, Mellow Yellow, and Nocheese sauces on grilled sourdough,” and the Macnocheeto Burrito (“Smoked soy curls, creamy Macnocheese, BBQ beans, grilled peppers, onions and Maple-Bourbon BBQ sauce all wrapped up in a grilled wheat tortilla”). It was a hot and sunny day so I topped it off with an Arnold Palmer.

Macnocheeto Burrito from Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ

Macnocheeto Burrito from Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ

New Seasons Market

Giving Whole Foods a run for their money, New Seasons Market is a locally owned chain of health food stores offering various food and household items. They support local businesses and provide health-conscious consumers with multiple options, many of which are vegan. I recommend stopping by, just to see what kinds of goodies they may have.

Paradox Cafe

Located on the east side of Portland is Paradox Cafe, a 100% vegetarian restaurant with multiple vegan options. Paradox Cafe serves brunch all day (in addition to lunch and other items) and focuses on freshly made food that is easy on your wallet. Because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, I chose their Country Comfort dish, which has tofu, veggies, breakfast potatoes and a whole wheat biscuit topped with almond gravy. The potatoes and other vegetables were nicely seasoned, however, I wasn’t pleased with the biscuits as they were too light and tender. My sister opted for the Supa-Dupa Sandwich, which consisted of “tomato, avocado, sprouts, cucumber, [vegan] cream cheese and cranberry chutney served on Good Seed bread.”

Country Comfort from Paradox Cafe

Country Comfort from Paradox Cafe

Supa-Dupa Sandwich from Paradox Cafe

Supa-Dupa Sandwich from Paradox Cafe

People’s Food Co-op

A local, community-owned co-operative, People’s Food Co-op has a nice selection of vegan items, including some that are hard to find. One such item is the Snackrilege line of sandwiches, which is 100% plant-based. For my plane ride out of Portland, I opted for the Joey DeMayo sandwich, which features “red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, seitan and balsamic vinaigrette Vegenaise, all on a Portland French Bakery Ciabatta roll.” People’s also sells fabulously soft and chewy cookies in a variety of flavors including chocolate chip, peanut butter chocolate chip and snickerdoodle. I regret not taking photos of my sandwich but I did snap a picture of the cookie…it was DELICIOUS.

Chocolate Chip Cookie from People's Food Coop

Chocolate Chip Cookie from People’s Food Co-op

Petunia’s Pies & Pastries

A super cute shop located in downtown Portland, Petunia’s Pies & Pastries is another 100% vegan and gluten-free bakery. I stopped into Petunia’s around noon one day for an Ice Cream Sundae (hey, I was on vacation okay?) featuring a scoop each of coconut and salted caramel chocolate ice cream, topped with house-made salted caramel sauce, peanut butter and cookie dough pieces. Also enjoyed during my trip was a Salted Caramel Cookie Bar, a Peanut Butter Crispy bar and a Root Beer Float. Heavenly!

Ice Cream Sundae from Petunias Pies & Pastries

Ice Cream Sundae from Petunia’s Pies & Pastries

Salted Caramel Cookie Bar & Peanut Butter Crispy Bar from Petunias Pies & Pastries

Salted Caramel Cookie Bar & Peanut Butter Crispy Bar from Petunia’s Pies & Pastries

Root Beer Float from Petunia's Pies & Pastries

Root Beer Float from Petunia’s Pies & Pastries

Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Portobello Vegan Trattoria is a must if you are visiting Portland. This upscale Italian restaurant is very popular so reservations are highly recommended. Offering dishes featuring seasonal ingredients, Portobello’s dishes have light, yet very satisfying flavors. Perhaps their most popular appetizer is their Beet Tartare, which features “diced roasted beets with carrot aioli, fines herbes & capers atop cashew puree with olive oil, sea salt and toast.” As a matter of fact, my Beet Tartare with Cashew Cheese recipe was inspired by this very dish. Enjoying an order of this and their Mushroom Arancini, which are “crispy mushroom and risotto fritters with tomato basil sauce,” we were off to a delicious start. For dinner we enjoyed a large plate of the Mushroom Leek Ravioli (“mushroom and cashew cheese filled ravioli with caramelized onion cashew cream sauce”) and a small plate of Zita’s Cavatelli (“house made cavatelli noodles with brocolini, capers, oyster mushrooms finished with bread crumbs”). Regrettably I did not have room for one of their fabulous desserts or cocktails, but dinner was delicious.

Beet Tartare from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Beet Tartare from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Mushroom Arancini from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Mushroom Arancini from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Mushroom Leek Ravioli from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Mushroom Leek Ravioli from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Zita's Cavatelli from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Zita’s Cavatelli from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Powell’s City of Books

Located in downtown Portland, Powell’s City of Books is the largest new and used bookstore in the world. This bookstore is so large, it takes up an entire city block and recently opened up a second building for their overflow, right across the street. Consisting of nine color-coded rooms which feature over one million books in total, Powell’s is THE place to go if you would like to buy a book (or ten). Unlike other bookstores, Powell’s has a good two isles full of vegan books! I, of course, couldn’t leave without purchasing a book and my choice was the 365 Vegan Smoothies cookbook, which is currently assisting with my detox from all the Portland gluttony!

Sizzle Pie

Open until after 2am each day, Sizzle Pie has two locations in Portland. Though not a vegan or even vegetarian establishment, this pizza joint offers a variety of vegan options. With ten vegan pizzas, three salads and breadsticks with four signature sauces to choose from, Sizzle Pie is possibly the most popular pizza place in Portland among vegans. One such reason may be because they offer breakfast pizza! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to eat here for breakfast, but I did enjoy a slice of their Bad Reputation pizza and an order of breadsticks with their marinara and two signature dipping sauces.

Bad Reputation Pizza from Sizzle Pie

Bad Reputation Pizza from Sizzle Pie

Breadsticks with Marinara, Creamy Caramelized Onion Spread and Creamy Basil Cashew Spread from Sizzle Pie

Breadsticks with Marinara, Creamy Caramelized Onion Spread and Creamy Basil Cashew Spread from Sizzle Pie

Sweetpea Baking Company

Perhaps the most well known 100% vegan bakery in all of Portland is Sweetpea Baking Company. Part of the vegan mini-mall, this bakery has been around since 2008 and offers various pastries, breakfast, lunch and beverage items. After stopping into Food Fight! Grocery and Herbivore Clothing, I finished my vegan mini-mall trip at Sweetpea. From what I understand, their busiest time is in the mornings, so when I visited in the afternoon, the pickings were somewhat slim. After quickly browsing their selection, I decided on a peanut butter brownie and enjoyed every bite of it. You know how I am with peanut butter. My only regret is that the already healthy size wasn’t even larger.

Peanut Butter Brownie from the Sweetpea Baking Company

Peanut Butter Brownie from Sweetpea Baking Company

Veggie Grill

Veggie Grill is a 100% vegan fast food chain with various healthy salads, bowls and plates, sandwiches, beverages, and desserts to choose from. Opting for the “Crab” Cake (“Crispy ‘Crab’ cake, spiced tartar sauce, pickles, tomato, lettuce, red onion”) and a side of seasoned Yukon Gold fries, I was very pleased with the flavor, though I certainly could have used more tartar sauce. I was also hoping for more food for the price. Regardless, I enjoyed my food and even went back a second time for their Chill Out Wings (not pictured), which are their Chickn’ wings “with tangy BBQ sauce and chipotle ranch.” If you like Native Foods, you will surely enjoy Veggie Grill, which seems to have even more items to choose from.

"Crab" Cake from The Veggie Grill

“Crab” Cake from The Veggie Grill

Vita Cafe

Just down the street from Back to Eden Bakery is Vita Cafe. While not 100% vegan or even vegetarian, this place is very vegan-friendly. Vita Cafe features multiple plant-based options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. I had the pleasure of visiting Vita Cafe twice while in Portland, once for dinner and once for brunch. For dinner I couldn’t choose just one thing to eat so my sister and I each ordered a dish and then split them. I chose the ‘Fish’ and Chips, which is “battered and deep-fried tofu with fresh-cut fries + vegan tartar.” The tartar sauce was tasty and unique, featuring a familiar ingredient that I just couldn’t put my finger on. The other choice at my table was the Vegan Club Sandwich featuring “organic tempeh ‘fakin’, homemade faux turkey, vegan mayo, guacamole, lettuce, and tomato between 3 layers of toasted sourdough bread.” This sandwich had a variety of flavors that meshed well together and was very good.

For my second trip to Vita Cafe, I ordered their Sloppy Biscuit Sandwich with fried tofu, “faux turkey, [Daiya] cheese, & gravy between a vegan biscuit” with a side of potatoes. While I certainly didn’t have biscuits at every establishment I went to, Vita Cafe has THE best biscuits I’ve had in Portland. This dish was absolutely delicious and I devoured every bite of it, down to the last piece of potato, which was seasoned wonderfully. In fact, my mouth is watering just thinking about this dish. Needless to say, everything I had at Vita Cafe was very good so I highly recommend it for every meal of the day.

'Fish' and Chips from Vita Cafe

‘Fish’ and Chips from Vita Cafe

Vegan Club Sandwich from Vita Cafe

Vegan Club Sandwich from Vita Cafe

Sloppy Biscuit Sandwich from Vita Cafe

Sloppy Biscuit Sandwich from Vita Cafe

Voodoo Doughnut

If you are familiar with Portland at all, you probably knew this one was coming. Voodoo Doughnut is a must when visiting Portland, especially if you like doughnuts. With the tagline of “The Magic is in the Hole,” you know this place has got some spunk. With two locations in the city, Voodoo almost constantly has a line out the door, filled with adoring fans. Both Portland locations have two separate cases filled with doughnuts, and each case has an entire level dedicated to vegan doughnuts. They feature your classic doughnuts such as regular, maple and chocolate glazed, apple fritters, and cream and jelly filled, in addition to more exciting options with Fruit Loops cereal, Oreos, and other exciting toppings. What’s more, Voodoo takes it a step further by providing a giant glazed doughnut, a voodoo doll doughnut (he is raspberry-filled and has a pretzel stake through his chest), and even a phallic-looking doughnut, that, yes, is cream-filled! If you want a good chuckle and to enjoy some delicious doughnuts, I highly recommend Voodoo — just be prepared to wait in line.

Various Vegan Doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnut

Various Vegan Doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnut

Whole Foods Market

As you know, I always have to visit Whole Foods Market while in a new city. Here I purchased some Mighty-O Donuts Cini Minis, a package of Love Strips featuring Butler Soy Curls, and a box of Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Mac & Cheese. Mighty-O Donuts is a Seattle-based doughnut company so it was exciting to find that I could purchase their Cini Minis (which are delicious, by the way) in Portland. Whole Foods always has various other items I want to buy but there is only so much room in my suitcase!

Mighty O Donuts's Cini Minis from Whole Foods

Mighty-O Donuts Cini Minis from Whole Foods

Have you been to Portland before, or do you currently live there? What are your favorite vegan-friendly places to frequent?

Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

17 Aug

Poppy seeds, which come from the opium poppy plant, are widely used in European, Indian and Jewish cuisines (source). A very good source of calcium and manganese, and a good source of copper, dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and thiamin, these tiny seeds help provide healthy bones, heart and nervous system (source).

Fun fact: though opium is harvested from seed pods and not the seeds themselves, poppy seeds do contain small amounts of opium alkaloids, therefore can sometimes cause a false positive reading for opiates in drug tests (source).

Lemon and poppy seed are two foods commonly combined. Not only do they compliment each other flavor-wise, the vitamin C in lemons assists poppy seeds with iron absorption (source).

As you may have noticed, I’ve been dabbling in gluten-free baking and seem to have found my ideal ratio of gluten-free flours and starches. The addition of xanthan gum provides a slightly chewy feel, which mimics that of gluten. Check out this recipe for moist, Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins:

Gluten-Free Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Yields 12 muffins

zest and juice from 1/2 organic lemon (approximately 1-1/2 tablespoons juice)
1 cup regular unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup sweet white sorghum flour
1/2 cup gluten-free oat flour
1/2 cup potato starch (NOT flour)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1-1/2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

Preheat oven to 375º F. Lightly grease a muffin pan or line with paper/silicone baking cups. Set aside.

Place lemon juice in a 1-cup measuring glass and add coconut milk until level reaches the 1 cup mark. Stir and set aside.

Combine all dry ingredients (including lemon zest) in the bowl of a stand mixture and mix until combined. Add oil, lemon extract and coconut milk mixture and stir until combined. Beat for approximately 1 minute to incorporate air into the mixture.

Divide mixture evenly among muffin cups and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick when inserted near the center of a muffin comes out clean or with a few crumbs.

GlutenFreeLemonPoppyseedMuffins-CloseUp

Creamy Roasted Garlic Salad Dressing

3 Aug

Garlic is perhaps one of the most popular seasonings used to flavor savory dishes, and just the sheer aroma alone is enough to make your mouth water. A relative to the onion, garlic is low in calories and free of fat, cholesterol and sugar (source). Want to know more? Check out my All About Garlic post.

When garlic is roasted, its pungency is reduced while its flavor is brought to the forefront. This makes it an excellent inclusion for sandwiches and wraps. In addition, you can kick up your salads by incorporating garlic into your dressings. Check out this recipe for Creamy Roasted Garlic Salad Dressing. Almonds lend themselves to this recipe by providing a nice, creamy consistency, all while providing a healthy dose of potassium, dietary fiber, protein, calcium, iron and magnesium (source).

Creamy Roasted Garlic Salad Dressing

Creamy Roasted Garlic Salad Dressing
Yields approximately 1-1/2 cups

1/2 cup whole blanched unsalted almonds
1 cup + 3/4 cup filtered water, divided
1 bulb fresh garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place almonds in a bowl and cover with 1 cup filtered water. Set aside and allow to soak for 8 hours, or overnight.

After almonds have soaked, preheat oven to 400° F. Cut off top quarter of garlic bulb and place on a piece of aluminum foil approximately 12″ by 12″ in size. Drizzle garlic with olive oil and wrap in foil. Bake garlic, cut side up, in preheated oven for 40-60 minutes, depending on flavor preference. Remove and allow to cool. Garlic should be very fragrant and golden brown in color. Once cooled, squeeze garlic cloves out of their skins and place in the bowl of a blender.

Drain and discard water from almonds. Add soaked almonds, 3/4 cup fresh filtered water and remaining ingredients to blender and puree until smooth, approximately 30-90 seconds, depending on your type of blender.

Easy Egg-Free Mayonnaise

20 Jul

Mayonnaise (or mayo for short) is a staple in households all over the world. Said to have originated in Spain, this creamy white condiment is used in various dishes both savory and sweet (source).

In traditional mayo, the lecithin contained in egg yolks serves as not only a thickener but an emulsifier, which stabilizes the mixture, allowing it to hold its shape. In other words, when something is emulsified, it allows two naturally repelling liquids (i.e. oil and water) to stick together. So how does one go about making an egg-free mayo? The answer: use alternative sources of fat and lecithin. Oil may be used in place of the fat. With regard to lecithin, various foods such as raw cauliflower and mustard naturally contain lecithin, but perhaps the most concentrated sources are soy and sunflower lecithin. These alternatives serve as excellent stand-ins and flawlessly replace the eggs.

This super easy Egg-Free Mayonnaise is made in under a minute. The result is a light, creamy, cholesterol-free mayonnaise that looks and tastes like it came straight from the grocery store. If you’re feeling fancy, you can easily flavor your mayo with whatever you choose such as garlic or fresh herbs.

Egg-Free Mayonnaise

Easy Egg-Free Mayonnaise
Yields just over 1 cup

1/2 cup organic unsweetened soy milk
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon liquid soy lecithin*
1/2 scant teaspoon salt
1 cup organic canola oil

Using a blender with a 2-piece lid, combine first four ingredients and purée until smooth, approximately 10 seconds.

With the blender still running, carefully remove center part of lid and slowly add oil in a steady stream. Watch mixture closely and stop blender once mayonnaise becomes thick. You will know it is ready when the mixture no longer blends. This should take approximately 5-10 seconds. Be careful not to over-blend as doing so will result in a runny mayonnaise.

Scoop mixture into an air-tight container and store in refrigerator. Mayonnaise should keep for 2-3 weeks.

*If preferred, you may substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard in place of the soy lecithin. Resulting mayonnaise will have a slightly yellow color and may not be as thick.

Getting More Juice Out of Citrus: Did You Know?

13 Jul

When juicing grapefruit, lemons, limes or oranges by hand, it can be a little tricky squeezing out all the juice, as a little elbow grease can only get you so far. So what can you do to get extra juice out of your citrus fruits? Microwave them for 15-20 seconds, or just until warm. Microwaving heats the cellulose and pectin contained in a fruit’s cavities, which weakens their hold on the actual juice. Furthermore, the natural sugars contained in fruit juice have a lowered viscosity when heated, allowing it to flow more freely.

Based on personal experience, I have been able to get up to an additional tablespoon juice out of a whole lemon after microwaving. Results, however, vary depending on the size and type of fruit you are juicing.

Pesto Pasta Salad

30 Jun

Pasta salad is an excellent way to incorporate various vitamins and minerals into your diet. You can include whatever vegetables you want and then smother it all in your dressing of choice. Having been raised with Italian dressing on my pasta salad, I grew tired of it and wanted to try something new. Enter pesto. The result is a burst of flavor that accents the various vegetables included within and makes for an excellent, refreshing salad you can enjoy on any spring or summer day.

Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto Pasta Salad
Yields approximately 8-10 cups

1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained
1 (12-ounce) box farfalle pasta (or pasta of choice)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper or seasoning of choice
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts marinated in water, drained and chopped
1 (10.5-ounce) container cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
1 (8-ounce) bag fresh broccoli, separated into small florets
3/4 cup extra-large black olives, halved

Pesto:
3 ounces fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 rounded teaspoon salt (adding more to taste)

Begin with tofu by pressing out excess liquid. You may either use a tofu press or wrap the tofu in cloth or paper towels and place a heavy item, such as a plate or two, on top and allow to sit for 15-30 minutes.

While tofu is being pressed, prepare pasta according to manufacturer’s directions. Drain, set aside and allow to cool completely.

Prepare pesto by first processing basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add olive oil and salt, and continue processing another 10-15 seconds, or until oil is incorporated. Set aside.

Slice pressed tofu into small cubes. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add tofu in a single layer and fry until golden brown on all sides. Season with salt and pepper, or the seasoning of your choice (I use a chicken-style seasoning). Set aside on a paper towel-covered plate in order to remove excess oil. Allow to cool.

Once pasta and tofu have cooled, combine with prepared pesto and remaining ingredients.

Pesto Pasta Salad

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