Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Traveling Vegan Part 3: Alchemy Juice Bar

During last weekend's Easter trip to CT, I managed to meet up with my old friend, Alicia. And by "old," I mean someone who knew me back in my electric guitar-Jack Daniels'-lawn-ornament-stealing days. I'd met her through Ducky, the drummer of the "band" I played in when I was sixteen. She was the little sister of a drummer friend of Duck's, and so we all kind of thought of her as the little sister, even though she was only a year or two younger than us. Need I say that she proved many times to be the most badass of us all? Those are stories for another blog, though. (Or perhaps they should be burned.)

Anyway, fast forward more years than I'm willing to admit, and Alicia and I are both married with kids and carnivore husbands, and trying to pursue a healthy, plant-based diet. Through the magic of Facebook, I've been able to watch Alicia build her repertoire of mouth-watering raw foods recipes for her business Naturawl Being, and was more than happy to sample the raw menu at Hartford's Alchemy Juice Bar on her recommendation. (Also, look at her photo -- this is what people are talking about when they mention the raw food "glow.")

I have to admit, although I've read enough about the raw vegan diet to realize it takes the benefits of a simply vegan diet to the next level, it's always seemed too complicated to me. Like I'd have to give up way too much. I can be compelled to give up hamburgers, thinking about the poor Being ground up to make them, but it's harder to pass by a nice, plump vegan bagel when I'm the only who suffers by eating it. Also, don't you need a lot of equipment? Dehydrators and super-blenders and spiralizers and such? No, Alicia assured me. Those things are nice to have, but definitely not necessary.

And so I've started to think about adding more raw foods to my diet. And since thinking about it, I've noticed that my kids gravitate naturally towards them. They're always eating raw fruit -- several helpings a day, in fact. They love when RC makes smoothies too. And raisins. And nuts. Makes me wonder if it's time to start trying to go raw one meal a day, now that I'm mostly vegan two meals a day anyway. Hmmm...

In the meantime, I leave you with more food porn from our fabulous raw lunch. (Sadly, I can't include the raw chocolate/coconut "maca-roon" because that was mow-mowed faster than the camera could catch it.)

Tantric Love Smoothie (berry tea, strawberry, banana, coconut, cacao & goji)

Stuffed Pepper with Flax Crackers
Raw "Pizza"

Kale Chips

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vegan Food Porn

By now you've probably heard about all the hub-bub over the VegNews scandal. If not, here's a short summary: turns out this vegan magazine has been using stock photography to illustrate its recipes, and on occasion this means that they've had to photoshop out the -- gasp! -- meat. This caused quite an uproar in the vegan community when the magazine was outed by Quarrygirl. While I don't agree with those who think using stock photographs of meat contributes to animal suffering (when it's used to promote a vegan lifestyle, doesn't that mean the opposite?) but I do agree that if you're going to show a picture of a recipe it should actually be that recipe, not some generic one containing completely different ingredients.

I've bought VegNews at Whole Foods a few times -- a guilty pleasure for me -- and had been considering getting a subscription when my current Vegetarian Times ran out. But now I'll probably stick with VT, since it seems like a much more professional organization all around. (And includes recipes like this one, which was a big hit last Thanksgiving.) Although they include a lot of recipes with dairy/eggs, the more I learn about vegan cooking, the more I think it's not really so hard to convert a vegetarian recipe into a vegan one. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, the whole controversy got me thinking about photography, and vegan photography in particular. You don't have to look very hard to find food porn -- it's everywhere these days. Not just in gourmet mags like Food & Wine, but even in places like Shape magazine and the good old Sunday Times. (All of the links go to vegan recipes on these sites.) But my own experience has been that it's not as easy as it looks to capture beautiful food on film (digital or otherwise). I'm still working on it.

I'll leave you with a few photos of some recipes that I've tested for the Happy Herbivore's newest cookbook. I can't share the ingredients (yet), so it's kind of a tease. As you can see, I'm still working on my form. But I can guarantee you, these pictures were made without harming any animals or innocent sticks of butter.

Chocolate pancakes, rising on the skillet.

Vegan frittata with Kale (plate by the fabulous Mudpie)

Chickpea tikka masala with a side of lemon-garlic asparagus

Channa Saag, with vegan yogurt

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Sardine Mama's vegan alfredo! Made with cashews, garlic, water and vegan parm, it doesn't get any easier than this. (See the full recipe in the comments section, here.) I picked it over the other recipes because of its simplicity and adaptability. I added roasted garlic, steamed broccoli, sea salt and lemon pepper to the version in the photo, and will probably continue to play around with it.
Thanks to everyone who sent in a recipe! Sardine Mama, hope you enjoy your new copy of the Happy Herbivore!

Monday, April 11, 2011

True Bistro

How psyched was I when a new vegan restaurant opened up in Teele Square, walking distance from my house? So psyched that it took me nearly three months to get there! Actually, I've been dying to go to True Bistro, and have only life's busy-ness and a tendency for penny pinching to blame for not getting there sooner.

But last week an old friend came to visit from L.A., giving me the perfect excuse to plan a girls' lunch out. It was Sarah, Cathy and I -- all writers who met through Grub Street more years ago than I'd like to admit. We each have a different relationship to veganism: Sarah was raised vegetarian, although she's an omnivore now; Cathy tries to eat veg once a day; and well, you know about me already.

While the company made the lunch memorable, I'm happy to report that the food did not disappoint. First, it was really nice to feel like I could order anything on the menu, and not have to worry about hidden animal ingredients (or guilt). I ordered the "Gardein Panini" a sandwich made with Gardein "chicken," arugula pesto, cherry tomatoes and vegan mozz. I would have happily eaten this back in my carnivore days, without giving it a second thought. The "chicken" bites were satisfying and went perfectly with the creamy cheese and the zip of the arugula pesto. (I loved the latter so much that I made a version of it at home later in the week.)

I also couldn't resist ordering the vegan mac & cheese, with smoked tofu and garlic breadcrumbs. I've been eyeing the vegan m/c recipe in the Happy Herbivore cookbook, but am a little skeptical about alternative cheese. (See my post about the gluten-free/vegan pizza project.) I'm happy to say that True Bistro's version exceeded expectations. Definitely a restaurant I'll go back to.

How about you? Favorite vegan restaurants in the Boston area or beyond?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Gluten-Free Vegan Pizza Project

I wrote about this over at Wine Among Friends today, and thought I would share the link here as well. The hardest thing about becoming vegan, for me, has always been giving up cheese. (There were entire days in my 20's when I existed on red wine, french bread, chocolate and cheese.) But I'm feeling hopeful about leaving it behind in the near future. Cheri Smith just wrote an excellent post about her experience giving up mac & cheese over at crazysexylife that made me feel like if she could do it, I could too.

In the meantime, I'm looking for good substitutes. For last week's vegan pie we went with Daiya mozzarella, which has a great texture and really melts (so much so that we're still tweaking the amount -- you need way less than cow's milk mozz), but is still a processed food. This week I'm going to try a secret recipe for homemade ricotta that our friend the Happy Herbivore is letting me test.

What about you guys? Any good cheese substitutes to share?

Friday, April 1, 2011

When the Weather Outside is Frightful...

We make chocolate-chip pumpkin muffins! (Recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance -- The Best Pumpkin Muffins + vegan chocolate chips.)

This was the view from our porch this morning:

And from inside the kitchen:

(Yes, I know what day it is -- but vegan baked goods are no joke!)