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Forget Black Friday Fall Pumpkin Muffins

25 Nov

There isn’t a big enough discount that can convince me to go shopping on Black Friday. That’s what online is for. So while other crazies are out fighting the madness, I’m hiding at home craving pumpkin muffins.

I’m particular about muffins. Not too big, more top/less bottom, no nuts, no enriched flours – I like them how I like them. So, when I get the hankering for pumpkin muffins, I prefer to bake them at home so I can control the ingredients and customize. It’s easy to make almost any recipe healthier simply by using the highest quality, pure, organic, unprocessed ingredients.

Fresh pumpkin is ideal but if you use canned, look for organic solid packed pumpkin with nothing added instead “pumpkin pie filling” which has added sugar.  I tweaked this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, by adding a cup of thompson raisins and spraying the muffin tin with canola oil instead of using muffin cup liners. Of course, you could add any fruit like dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries, whatever you want!

This recipe produces pretty sweet muffins. Next time I’d reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup- 1 cup and use maple syrup instead. I’d also add a teaspoon of cinnamon for extra spice. However, if you follow the recipe exactly, you’ll get fluffy, light, cakey pumpkin muffins with a delicious crystalized cinnamon-sugar topping. They make a perfect breakfast for your overnight holiday guests, or great grab-and-go snacks. Add a little extra protein by smearing with almond or peanut butter, or enjoying with yogurt and fresh fruit. Change things up and try greek yogurt as a creamy, probiotic filled, tangy spread instead of cream cheese. If you have any leftovers, freeze them in a ziplock freezer bag. Defrost for 10 minutes before eating.

Forget Black Friday – go bake!

Close-up of pumpkin muffin with cinnamon sugar topping

Fall Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from the American club, in Kohler, Wisconsin via Gourmet Magazine. Recipe via Smitten Kitchen.

Made a dozen muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups premium quality, organic all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15 ounce can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large organic eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup organic thompson raisins

For cinnamon-sugar topping:
1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Procedure:

1. Put oven in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Either put liners in muffin cups, or lightly spray the baking tin with high-heat canola oil spray.

2. Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined. (tip: whisking keeps things light and prevents over-mixing which can create a dense, brick muffin). 

3. Make cinnamon-sugar topping by stirring together cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

4. Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

5. Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

Pumpkin muffins in tin

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Acai Raspberry Smoothie Recipe

6 Jul

First things first. It’s pronounced, ah-sigh-ee. Now that that’s out of the way… acai is said to be full of antioxidants and considered a “superfood”. It’s tart, so I usually like it best combined with other sweeter fruits like banana, to soften the blow.

It has been painfully hot here in NYC. The good news is that heat completely suppresses my appetite. All I want is salad, watermelon, and anything else light and cold. So of course, that means one thing… smoothies!!

After my Bar Method workout this morning, I came home and made this refreshing, fruit filled smoothie. The tartness of the acai and raspberries are balanced with the creamy bananas, almond milk, and sweetness of the agave. Plus, there’s added protein and good fat from the flaxseed oil.

Well, I’m off to LA, and looking forward to my fill of west coast smoothies!

Click here to learn more about acai.

Acai Raspberry Smoothie

3/4 – 1 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy bev)

1 frozen banana (equivalent to about 1 cup)

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

1 packet frozen acai

1 tablespoon flaxseed oil

1/2 tablespoon agave

1. Blend all together and enjoy!

Please keep in mind I’m not a registered dietician or medical professional, I’m a cook. So if you have any health concerns or dietary questions, please consult your doctor or nutritionist.

Fresh RaspberriesAcai Raspberry Smoothie

Acai Raspberry Smoothie

Orange Glazed Tempeh Recipe

1 Jul

I had a package of tempeh staring at me all week. I just wasn’t inspired so I kept staring back at it until I stumbled upon this recipe for Orange Glazed Tempeh on 101Cookbooks. It was love at first sight. It doesn’t require long marinating times, or steaming the tempeh before cooking. It tastes like it took hours to make, and it was start to finish, 30 minutes.

The recipe is actually from Australian cookbook author, Jude Blereau‘s book, Coming Home to Eat – Whole Food for the Family. The cookbook doesn’t have US distribution yet (big bummer because I want it), but there’s an abundance of info on healthy eating at site and blog. You can also contact (sales@boffinsbookshop.com.au) and to coordinate an order. Beware, the shipping costs to the US are hefty (about $25).

I paired the tempeh with broccoli and quinoa, but you could easily use any lightly seasoned veggies, brown rice, couscous or even orzo. I made a couple minor tweaks to 101cookbook’s version. Although I don’t eat poultry, this sauce would go well with chicken, as well as salmon or scallops, if that’s your thing. It’s a very versatile recipe and could even work with tofu if you don’t have tempeh on hand.

If you’ve hesitated to try tempeh, or introduce it to your family, this is the recipe to try! It’s sweet, with a crusty, meaty texture that’s still light, healthy, and absolutely delicious! Liberate yourself this July 4th by trying something new!

Orange Glazed Tempeh Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3-4 large juicy oranges)
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 3 teaspoons tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (or ground coriander)
  • red chili pepper flakes (couple shakes, or equivalent to a couple pinches)
  • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
  • roughly 10 ounces of tempeh (or extra-firm tofu)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 lime
  • a handful of cilantro (coriander) leaves
  • 2 cups broccoli cut into small florets
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa

Directions:

1. Put the orange juice in a small bowl. Grate in ginger. Add the tamari, mirin, maple syrup, garam masala, red chili pepper flakes, and garlic. Mix together and set aside.

2. Cut the tempeh (or tofu) into bite-sized pieces. If working with tofu, pat dry with a paper towel.

3. Put the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the tempeh and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden underneath. Turn and cook the other side for another 5 minutes, or until golden.

Searing Tempeh

Pour the orange juice mixture into the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced to a lovely thick glaze. Turn the tempeh once more during this time and frequently spoon the sauce over it.

Seared Tempeh in Orange Glaze Sauce

4. Cut the broccoli into small, bite size florets and add them to the pan for 2-3 minutes until cooked through. (If the florets are large, you may need to steam them first before finishing in the pan). Make sure they’re well coated with the pan sauce.

Seared Tempeh and Broccoli in Orange Glaze Sauce

5. Add two cups of cooked quinoa and stir until warmed through.

Orange Glazed Tempeh with Broccoli and Quinoa

6. Serve the tempeh drizzled with any remaining sauce, a squeeze of lime, and fresh coriander scattered on top.

Orange Glazed Tempeh served with Broccoli and Quinoa

Note: If you’re cooking vegetables that are large and require a longer cooking time, cook them separately, seasoning thoroughly with salt and pepper. Same with the quinoa. Then plate the tempeh on top of the vegetables and quinoa with a drizzle of pan sauce.

*As you know, I’m not a doctor or nutritionist. If you have gluten allergies, please check with your doctor if you are uncertain about wheat content in any of these products. Some tempeh does have gluten so be sure to double-check before consuming.

Serves 4


Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons

23 Jun

I rarely venture above 23rd street, so when I had to go to the Upper East Side the other day, I made a few stops along the way. First on my hit list? Candle Cafe!! I didn’t have time to indulge in a full-fledged meal, but I got the Green Goddess juice which boosted my spirits. (I’m sure this guy would appreciate looking like he’s scratching his butt in the picture below. He’s actually just putting his wallet in his pocket, but my version is funnier).

Candle Cafe NYC

Look how vibrant and beautifully green the juice is!!

Green Goddess Juice at Candle Cafe. Mixed Greens, Apple, Lemon, and Ginger.

I swung by Beanocchio for a soy latte and couldn’t resist these delicious coconut macaroons.

Raw Almond Vegan Macaroons at Beanocchio

And they’re even heart-shaped (-ish)! So cute.

Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons at Beanocchio

They were sweet, but not cloying, and held together perfectly. I love raw cookies and bars because I don’t feel gross after I eat them. They aren’t packed with processed sugars and artificial ingredients that can send your body into a frenzy. Plus, raw desserts are filling and satisfying. They’re typically high in protein, good fats, and fiber, which means I don’t get the urge to binge on 50 of them. It’s not about the calories, it’s about the quality of the ingredients.

I took a stab at making my own raw vegan macaroons. Next time, I think I’ll try chocolate covered ones. Mmmmmmmm.

Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup almonds (soaked for 1 hour)

1/2 cup toasted unsweetened, low-fat organic coconut

1/2 cup unsweetened, low-fat, organic coconut

1/4 cup agave

Directions:

1. Soak the almonds. Drain, disposing of liquid. Reserve almonds.

2. Toast coconut in a small saute pan over low heat.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

4. Put all ingredients into a food processor. Pulse until finely ground and begins to hold together.

5. Using a tablespoon, scoop mounds of the mixture and place onto prepared baking sheet. Note: when scooping, be sure to press mixture into the tablespoon to ensure it forms a mound and holds together. If the mixture is sticking in the spoon, have a cup of hot water to dip the spoon into between scoops.

6. Refrigerate for one hour. These little mounds of joy were soft but held together, even when bitten into. They tasted even better on the second day.

7. Eat!!

Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons

TECHmunchNYC 2011: Informing and Inspiring Food Bloggers

16 Jun

I love blogging, but as with most things in life, there are times when we all need a little encouragement and inspiration.

A few weeks ago, I was exchanging emails with BakeSpace.com founder, Babette Pepaj. She asked if I’d considered attending TECHmunch NYC. It hadn’t been on my radar, but the second she mentioned it, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

TECHmunch is a series of food blogger conferences held across the US. Founded by Babette in 2010, the NYC conference was held Saturday, June 11, part of Internet Week. TECHmunch was started to give bloggers like me the tools to create great content and build loyal audiences (like you). I really enjoyed listening to all the panel discussions, particularly Chris Pearson of DIYThemes (and creator of Thesis), who shared useful tips on great website design.

Although the SEO panel discussion was overwhelming and gave me a little agita, it was eye-opening and educational. The only disappointment was not having more time to focus on the subject. I kind of wanted to kidnap the panel and host a private Q&A in my apartment.

Click here to check out the agenda from this year’s TECHmunch NYC, and here to find out if TECHmunch is coming to your city this year! And to read some of the handouts from the event…click here.

But I know all you food hounds are only interested in one thing…. a conference for food bloggers hosted by BakeSpace.com?? That’s gotta mean good eats!!! And you’re right, it did. Here’s a peek:

New Chobani Yogurt Flavors

Chobani Champions for kids - I had no idea they even had a kids line!

Banana basket at breakfast. Nice to have a vegan option.

Thank you 'Wichcraft for providing a ridiculous spread of sandwiches and salads for lunch!

And for providing a vegetarian option! The chickpea sandwich was delish.

'Wichcraft chickpea arugula salad

HUGE shout out to @KitchenAidUSA for all the product donations. There were giveaways throughout the day and consequently, a lot of smiling bloggers.

KitchenAid Appliances for Giveaways

Oh and I neglected to mention that I won this KitchenAid convection bake countertop oven during one of the giveaways! WAHOO. Now, I just have to figure out how to make room for it in my kitchen.

KitchenAid Countertop Oven

Snack time was ridiculous. There was everything from fresh made smoothies by Chobani, tons of sandwiches and salads from ‘Wichcraft, plus crudite, chips, and desserts further than the eye could see.

Ridiculous buffet for snack time

This was one of the most ridic crudite platters I’ve ever seen. It had everything from traditional carrots, cucumbers to brussel sprouts! All the vegetables were fresh, vibrant, and beautifully arranged. I absolutely loved it.

Crudite

I know there are many theories here but I grew up in Maine and thus believe, New England is where Whoopie pies were born. Growing up, I had my share of these heavenly sandwiches and Rubicelli’s were divine. I liked that they didn’t have an obscene amount of filling which many often do.

Robicellis Dessert Menu

Cupcakes & Whoopie Pies by Robicelli's

Cookies by Tasty Morsels Bakery

We were all disappointed that Mr. Chocolate, Jacques Torres, had a last minute engagement, preventing him from appearing at TECHmunch, but he was kind enough to do a video interview. And oh man, that guy is pure spunk. He really is absolutely hilarious.

Cookies by Jacques Torres

Amazingly fresh mixed berries with mint (I think in simple syrup sauce)

Four Roses Bourbon Cocktail

Four Roses Bourbon was kind enough to post the recipe to this cocktail.

Four Roses Bourbon Cocktail from TECHmunch NYC 2011

 3 Cups of Four Roses Bourbon

6 cups Water

2 cups strong tea

1 cup sugar

1 6-ounce container frozen orange juice, thawed

1 12-ounce lemon juice container, thawed

Mix and serve. They garnished with a lovely mint sprig.

Thank you to all of the following companies for making this day happen. It was truly a great learning experience and I’m so pleased to have met so many creative and inspiring people. Can’t wait until next year…or I may need to travel to another city.

BakeSpace.com

Cupcakes Take the Cake (Also co-produced TECHmunch NYC)

Chobani

KitchenAid

The Harvard Common Press

Driscoll’s

Brooklyn Brewery

Robicelli’s

Four Roses Bourbon

‘Wichcraft

Excel PR Group

Exploring Casual, Healthy Eats in LA

13 Jun

The rest of the trip to LA was fun, but not exactly the sunny week I’d envisioned. What did I expect from June Gloom? It was mostly 60s and low 70s, but I’ll take that over the 100 degrees it was in NYC any day. YUCK.

I got a lot of walking and hiking in, plus I had two Pilates sessions at Winsor. More on that in a separate post.

I love exploring restaurants/food culture in LA. It’s no surprise that I’m such a fan of California cuisine with its’ focus on local, seasonal, fresh ingredients. I had a blast trying out new places and revisiting a few favorite vegan staples. I always find it easy to eat and live healthfully when I’m in LA.  Healthy food options are wherever you turn, and although I’ve learned June weather isn’t ideal, there’s plenty of sunshine to get you off that tush and moving around outside. I didn’t hit many fancy/trendier restaurants this trip, but focused on cafes, and casual, tasty fare.

I made numerous trips to Earth Bar at Equinox for smoothies. The “Flax Master” with acai, banana, blueberries, flax oil, B-12, L-glutamine, vegan protein, and almond milk, was tasty, and thick, just the way I like it. But on a second visit, they may have been too liberal with the supplements because I was having stomach…let’s just say “issues”.

Flax Master Smoothie at EarthBar Westwood

For lunch Wednesday, I walked to Whole Foods to check out their spread. I was amazed they had pre-cut coconut meat!! I haven’t seen that in NYC. It would be so convenient for smoothies, which reminds me, I have a young coconut in the fridge probably rotting. Ugh, need to use that up pronto.

Pre-Cut Coconut Meat at Whole Foods Westwood

The organic local nectarines looked gorgeous so I grabbed two for a snack.

California Local Nectarines at Whole Foods

I spent a couple of days hanging with RealityShowChick. (Who is now my token celebrity friend after her recent segment on 20/20).  She has two flourishing tomato plants on her porch. Most are still green, but there was one, small, perfectly round, red one begging to be picked.

Tomato Plant #1

Tomato Plant #2

As you can see below, RealityShowChick wasn’t “camera-ready” and pulled a puppetry of the finger maneuver. Either that or she’s blackmailing a clown?

The lone tomato

I stopped at M Cafe to pick up dinner. The menu had almost too many options, and took me a solid 10 minutes to make a decision. I was happy to not have the pressure of a line forming behind me. Guess I’m the only person under the age of 70 who likes to eat at 6pm. The cashier was friendly and helpful.

“First time?” she asked.  “Yup. How could you tell?” I replied, going cross-eyed from studying the menu. “Can I ask you the three questions I always ask people who are struggling to make a decision?” she asked. “Sure.”  I figured what the hell, it could only help, right?

Somewhat eccentric cashier (SEC): “How hungry are you on a scale from 1 to 10? 10 being I’m gonna rip someone’s arms off if I don’t eat right now.”

Me: “7”

SEC: “Are you looking for something hot or cold?” she asked.

Me: “I’m not sure. Maybe leaning cold, although I had a salad for lunch and don’t want another one.”

I’m not sure what the third question was. Either there wasn’t one, or I’m having a brain fart. All I remember is she recommended their signature salads, an a la carte menu consisting of various sides like sauteed vegetables, and proteins like grilled fish, tofu, etc. The questions did help reinforce my initial instincts. I’ll have to remember them next time I can’t make up my mind. I went with a Garden Roll and Inari Sushi (organic brown rice in a seasoned tofu pouch garnished with veggies).

The shiitake were splendid and reminded me of my mom’s. Usually she sprinkles sugar and shoyu over the vegetables as she sautes them. It’s always seasoned “to taste” with no real recipe. The result is a sweet/salty combo that I consider one of my favorite comfort foods.

Garden Roll; Shiitake, Hijiki and Lotus Root Inari

I turned down dessert although I was tempted by the Babycakes, and opted for this bright green Kale Lemonade. It was so refreshing!!! Tart lemonade with a little agave, balanced out with earthy Kale. Really tasty stuff. I know you’re sitting there with your nose wrinkled going eewwwwwww Kale Lemonade? Don’t judge until you’ve tried it.

Kale Lemonade from M Cafe

Thursday, I met a friend for breaky at Urth Caffe. They make the best latte art.

Japanese Green Tea Latte with Almond Milk from Urth Caffe

Oatmeal with Almond Milk and Brown Sugar, Granola, Raisin Toppings

We were in Santa Monica during lunchtime and passed an unassuming cafe on Wilshire selling vegan ice cream. There was no signage outside that I could find, just a couple tables under umbrellas. Inside was a small cafe that was brightly colored, unpretentious, and just what I had in mind. Menu items were printed on multi-colored paper and taped up along the top of the counter. There was a lot to read and the guy could tell I looked a little overwhelmed so he gestured to a laminated handout of the menu on a tray behind me. Then he pointed above his head to signs for soups of the day, and other specials. Why didn’t I use the three (or two) question test here?

Inside Interim Cafe in Santa Monica

Husband got the Maui Veggie Burger (supposedly what they’re known for), I got the Tempeh stuffed whole wheat pita with hummus, veggies, and a side salad. Husband also requested a “Tiger Woods” which was an Arnold Palmer without the alcohol. Perhaps it would be more fun if they renamed it “The Womanizer” or “Man-Whore” or something equivalent?

Maui Veggie Burger at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

Tempeh Whole Wheat Pita Stuffer at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

While I waited for our sandwiches, I stood in front of this damn glass case full of vegan desserts. They were calling my name, loudly, so I got the “World’s Best” vegan, gluten-free, chocolate chip cookie.

Dessert Cafe at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

I can’t argue, I don’t think I’ve had a better chocolate chip vegan cookie than this bad boy. The sandwiches and drinks were all delicious and made me wish I had something similar in my neighborhood back home.

"World's Best" Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

As the trip came to a close, what better way to end our stay than a margarita poolside at the W? I love you LA. Hope to see you soon.

Margarita on the rocks with salt at W Hotel Westwood

Vegan-Friendly Wedding Weekend

7 Jun

What an amazing weekend Husband and I had! Our good friends Blake and Rob got married on Saturday. Congratulations B & R! What a gorgeous wedding!!!! Judging by the way I felt yesterday, we had a ton of fun. It may be a few days until I’ve fully recuperated, but it was worth it.

Our incredibly thoughtful hosts arranged to have vegan options available throughout the weekend…how cute are they? Everything from the cocktail hour to dessert offered something for vegetarians and vegans.  I’m really not going to do this justice because I didn’t take as many pics as I should have. Blame it on the al-al-al-al-al-alco-hol. I think I have more pics at home, but I didn’t want to wait all week to share this post so these will have to do for now.

We started with the rehearsal dinner on Friday at The Modern. Guests received tickets to visit the MoMA before dinner. We arrived about a half hour early and had just enough time to breeze through Contemporary Art, then Painting and Sculpture. We saw some impressive pieces like this Jackson Pollack. (AMAZZZINNNGGGG).

One: Number 31, 1950

We headed back to The Modern promptly at 7pm. Everyone mingled over cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres. I was so shocked when one of the restaurant managers brought over a special platter of vegan hors d’oeuvres just for me that included mini bruschetta cups and veggie spring rolls. How special!

For dinner, I received a beautiful tofu, quinoa, vegetable plate. The presentation was bright and colorful, and aroused curiosity in the other diners at table six.  In typical Danny Meyer style, the service was hospitable and the food did not disappoint.

A HUGE bowl of mixed berries arrived for dessert. They were so fresh I ate the entire bowl with a little help from Husband who kept sneaking nibbles when he thought I wasn’t looking.

On Saturday, we headed to the fabulous Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Time Warner Center for the main event. Cocktail hour had a vast spread including passed hors d’oeuvres, a sushi, and a mediterranean bar. I was psyched when the server with the veggie spring rolls parked next to us so I had easy access to those little morsels all night. I never made it to the carving station. I was too busy making sammies out of the mediterranean bar ingredients. I stuffed the pita pockets with hummus, falafel, and olives. They were soooooo good. Sorry, no pics of these because I have no flash on my iPhone. Yes I know, I need to upgrade.

At dinner, I asked for the vegan option despite the fact that I was nearly stuffed from cocktail hour. I received a lovely plate of quinoa with haricots vert, asparagus, and sorel mushrooms (my favorite). Sorry, pic sucks. Use your imagination on this one.

Dessert was a fruit platter with a mixture of melons and berries that a few of us shared.

The next morning we were on a 9am flight to LA for the MTV Movie Awards. First stop, Native Foods Cafe. I made Husband go there before we even checked into the hotel. I had my Scorpion Burger down before the luggage arrived in the room.

After a brief snooze, we were off to the Movie Awards at the Gibson Ampitheatre. Click here for a clip from the Foo Fighters performing last night. It started pouring when it was time for the After-Party (which was completely outside) so we bailed and came back to the hotel. Rain? In LA? WTF?

We arrived back at the W starving (at least I was) and immediately ordered room service. There were limited vegan options and I was feeling a little nauseous. We got edamame, greek salad, grilled salmon salad, and a fruit plate for dessert. The food was pretty standard hotel quality, but at this point I was grateful to be eating anything at all. I’d probably avoid the fruit plate in the future. Mine had a couple moldy blueberries, and the melon was sprinkled with salt to preserve the color. Simon liked the watermelon though.

It was a whirlwind weekend and I’m totally exhausted. Looking forward to more good eats while I’m in LA and hoping to check out a couple new studios. Tomorrow, I’m testing out Winsor Pilates. I’m so looking forward to a solid workout!

Vegan in Vacationland

18 May

Greetings from Vacationland!

I’m in Maine visiting my parents for a couple days. I don’t make the trip often, so when I do, we usually cook at home, or dine at one of the coastal towns with more food options. In the summer, the tourist towns are the go-to destinations for fresh “lobsta”, clams, and homemade ice cream. Unfortunately, it’s a little early in the season for that and it has been raining nonstop here.

I researched local vegetarian/vegan spots to check out in Portland. Green Elephant, a vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurant I’d found on HappyCow looked promising. As we pulled up on Sunday, they were closed. Slight oversight. Damn you Blue Laws. P.S. Maine was the last New England state to discontinue the law that prevented department stores from opening on Sundays.

With the help of VegOut, a vegetarian restaurant iPhone app I downloaded a few months ago, I found Pom’s Thai Taste which conveniently was next door. I was skeptical of the neon signage (usually a reliable indicator of bad eats), but I was pleasantly surprised. (Perhaps it’s not so reliable after all. Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas has a neon sign and that place ROCKS). The restaurant was casual and quiet, with a handful of other diners. We had a very sweet young server who was attentive and waited patiently as my parents ordered. Aside: My parents are great at a lot of things. Ordering at restaurants isn’t one of them. They appear to be memorizing the menu, as the server hovers waiting to take their order. It doesn’t matter how long they review the menu in advance, it’s always the same. I try to act like it’s not happening right next to me. Gotta love ’em. 

Anywho…The vegetarian gyoza was my favorite. The tofu filling was heartier than the typical all veggie and the exterior was nicely seared without any greasy residue. My dad enjoyed the teriyaki chicken which had two large, but thinly pounded breasts. Somehow I managed to take photos of everything except that dish. Although my Spicy Bamboo and my mom’s Tofu Noodle were too heavily sauced, overall, the food was tasty and worth trying if you’re in the area.

It was refreshing to see some color emerging in Maine’s food world. Growing up, whenever we went out to eat, we were limited to pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches, and Americanized Chinese food. Basically, crap, crap, or a side of crap. Although quality Japanese/Sushi restaurants are still scarce, Thai is more prominent, almost like the new Chinese food. Even Pom’s Thai has three locations. Maine is on the radar with its’ own award-winning chefs/restaurants. I had a delicious meal at fivefifty-five a while ago. Sadly, it was before the blog started, so I’ll have to go back to take pics and do a full report.

I give Maine props. It has managed to maintain its’ charm by staving off the mass development of chains like Starbucks and the Gap. Or maybe the chains have no desire to come to Maine. Either way, it’s nice to not see one on every corner. I think the only Starbucks I saw was at the airport? Although I miss the convenience of home, it’s good to be back, to be grounded, and to be reminded of life outside of the City.

Next time I’ll have to check out some of the award winners, and hit a few lobsta shacks on the coast.

A-yuh!

Vegetable Gyoza with Dipping Sauces

Tofu Noodle-Steamed rice noodles with assorted vegetables and fried tofu, topped with peanut sauce.

Spicy Bamboo dish - Stir-fried bamboo shoots, mushrooms, red and green peppers, onions, and basil leaves in chili-garlic sauce.

How to Make Almond Butter

2 May

My dad loves peanut butter. Growing up, we always bought freshly ground at the grocery store. I loved switching the toggle on and rotating the plastic container underneath the spout so it was evenly distributed. I’d give it a couple thuds on the counter to eliminate the air and make room for a little more peanut butter.

I guess it’s because of this, that I am a peanut butter snob. Sure, jar nut butters are great in an emergency, but when push comes to shove, freshly ground tastes far superior, doesn’t have unnecessary additives like salt or corn syrup, is more economical, and you can make as much or as little as you want, when you need it.

I bought a Vitamix a year ago and have been addicted to making nut butters ever since. All you need are organic, unsalted, roasted nuts which you probably already have on hand. Plus, I’m always looking for any excuse to use my Vitamix. It’s a miracle worker and can do everything from making smoothies, to soups, dressings, and much more.

This recipe is for almond butter, but you can use peanuts, cashews or try another nut. If you haven’t had almond butter, the texture is a little grainier than peanut, but I actually prefer it. You can also jazz it up by mixing in 1/4 cup raisins and 1 tsp cinnamon.

For peanut butter, simply blend 3 cups unsalted roasted peanuts. No oil is required.

Almond Butter Recipe (courtesy of Vitamix Whole Foods recipes book)

3 cups roasted almonds

1/4 cup canola oil

1. Add 1/4 cup canola oil to nuts to start circulating. If necessary, use more oil adding 1/4 cup at a time. Refrigerate and pour off excess oil next day.

I only needed 1/4 cup of oil, but this will vary depending on the almonds and your mixer.

Homemade Almond Butter

Here are five other healthy, delicious bites you can make with any nut butter. Get nutty!

1. Elvis Sandwich (without the bacon) – Almond Butter, sliced banana and drizzle of honey. Best in a Panini, but can also toast in a fry pan like a grilled cheese or eat cold on a rice cake.

2. Asian Slaw (use almond or peanut)

Asian Slaw

Asian Slaw with Baked Tofu

3. Rice Crispy Treats

4. Ants on a log (celery stalks filled with almond butter, topped with raisins)

5. Cold Soba Noodles with Ginger Peanut Sauce

Cinco de Mango Salad

26 Apr

The weather is finally warming up and that means one thing, more salads. The hotter it gets, the less I use the oven. I grew up in Maine, people! High heat, humidity and I are not friends. Today was sunny and a glorious 79 degrees. Hot, but not I need to hide in the air-conditioning hot.

In honor of the upcoming Cinco de Mayo, I was feeling festive. Warm weather does that to me. I always want margaritas, guacamole, and chips. I picked up a few beautiful mangos that were just screaming to be salad-ified. (Yes, salad-ified is a word. I say therefore it is.) This is a somewhat healthier option that’s like mango salsa, but a little less tart so the different flavors have room to stand out, but also meld together. I was flipping through the May issue of Bon Appetit and saw a recipe using pickled onions that inspired me (Shrimp and Potato Salad, pg 152). The sour onions really balance out the sweetness of the mango. I tried this Mango Salad a few different ways: on its own (which was amazing), over a bed of baby spinach, and even in a tortilla with the avocado mashed up. Insane!

I also couldn’t resist the gorgeous radishes either. They are such a misunderstood vegetable. I’ve grown to love them in salads and even as a dipper with hummus. They’re crunchy and have a bitterness/heat that kind of bites you back.

What’s on your Cinco de Mayo menu?

Mango Salad with Pickled Onions

1 red onion, thinly sliced

5 T red or white wine vinegar

1 mango, sliced into spears

2 mini seedless cucumber (or 1/2 a whole one), diced

1 lime, juiced

1 avocado, sliced

1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced

handful cilantro, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 a serrano pepper, membrane removed, minced

salt & pepper

1. Put the sliced onion in a bowl. Rinse with cold water for a minute. Drain well. Season with salt and pepper. Pour vinegar over and mix until coated. Marinate for at least one hour before using. Stir occasionally while marinating to ensure all onions pickle. This is kind of the cheater’s version of pickling because there’s no cooking involved.

Sliced Red Onion Marinating

2. In a large separate bowl, add the lime juice, cumin, cilantro and serrano. Mix until combined.  Add mango, cucumber, sliced radishes and avocado to vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until all elements are covered in vinaigrette.

3. Garnish with pickled onions.

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