Monday, July 28, 2014

Chocolate Cinnamon Power Shake...














I’ve always been a big fan of protein shakes/smoothies. Since I’m not normally a big eater in the morning these have always been my salvation. Since my last cleanse however I’ve been mostly sticking to fruit for breakfast in the morning, and so I haven’t bought protein powder or anything like that in ages, but lately I’ve been really craving a good ‘ole chocolate protein smoothie. Today since I was particularly ravenous upon waking, - and since I still don’t have any protein powders - I decided to just throw together my own little power shake.

I was amazed by the result. It tastes so good, and so decadent, and it’s very reminiscent of some of my favorite protein shakes. After I scarfed down a peach and a mango, I drank this, and it really hit the spot. I might just make it again tomorrow and the next day and the next! 
















Chocolate Cinnamon Power Shake 

1 C Vanilla Almond Milk
1 Ripe Banana 
2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder 
1 tsp Lucuma Powder
1 tsp Maca Powder 
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon 
1 tsp Vanilla Extract 
** 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter & Co’s Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter 
6 Ice Cubes

- Place all ingredients into a highspeed blender and blend on high for 60-90 seconds until completely smooth.

- Pour into a glass and enjoy! 

*** Note - If you don’t have or can’t find Peanut Butter & Co’s amazing Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut butter, Sub your favorite peanut butter, with an added dash of cinnamon and a small handful of raisins. *** 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Moong and Toor Dal Tadka with Coconut and Red Chilies...
















I know what you’re thinking, hot soup or dal in the middle of summer? You’re crazy! And normally I would agree with you only I just recently came off five days of being ridiculously ill with what was probably Norovirus and so I didn’t want to push the limits of my digestion. Since Thursday afternoon I’d been living off of crackers, bread, tea, and on Saturday evening when I finally began to feel stable enough to take in something heartier I made a very brothy vegetable soup. It was pretty basic - potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, broth, water, and spike seasoning. It was tasty, but come Monday when I was feeling roughly 85%-90% better I wanted to eat something fun!

I’ve really been craving Indian food lately, specifically lentils, and when I think of lentils I automatically think of dal, there are few things more nourishing and comforting then a big ‘ole bowl of dal. Specifically I wanted dal tadka, which I’ve only recently discovered There’s a great little Vegetarian Indian Restaurant not far from where I live that serves a wicked good Dal Tadka, I had it the week my mother was in town visiting me, and I’ve been kind of dreaming about tadka ever since.
















Tadka incase you don’t know is really just a cooking technique in which you fry whole spices in oil so that they release their natural oils, and after a minute or so you pour the whole thing - oil and all - into the dish you’ve prepared. It sound a bit strange maybe since we’re used to putting spices in our food at the beginning of cooking rather then at the end but let me assure you that this technique imparts some truly phenomenal flavor! And that’s exactly what I wanted.
















Now, I’m not going to lay any claims saying that this is in any way a traditional dal tadka, or even a traditional dal, but it is delicious. It’s full of ingredients that are delicious and healing, however if you’re unaccustomed to cooking Indian food at home you may not have them all on hand. Still, they should be easy enough to find at your local Indian grocery - that’s where I get mine - and they are well worth hunting down. Trust me once you taste the slightly bitter, onion flavor of Nigella seeds you’ll be hooked! Similarly the buttery, garlic/onion flavor of asafetida can not be matched, and black mustard has a unique flavor itself, different from that of yellow mustard. As for pickled red chilies I make them myself, and so I’m not sure if you can actually buy such a thing anywhere. Though if you have a basic pickling recipe you can easily pickle some of your own chilies. It’s not necessary but I love the added flavor note.
















Moong and Toor Dal Tadka with Coconut and Red Chilies 

Dal

1 tsp Olive Oil
1 Large Yellow Onion Diced
1 C Moong Dal - soaked for 1 hour and rinsed
½ C Toor Dal - soaked for 1 hour and rinsed
4 C Water
½ tsp Ground Turmeric
1 - 1 ½ tsp Salt - to taste
1 13.5oz can Full Fat Coconut Milk
½ Bunch Cilantro Minced

Tadka 

2-3 tsp Olive Oil
1 ½ tsp Black Mustard Seeds
½ tsp Nigella Seeds
½ tsp Coriander Seeds
½ tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp Asafetida Powder
6 Garlic Cloves Minced
1-2 Red Chilies Minced - depending on heat preference.

To Garnish -

Extra Minced Cilantro
Sliced Pickled Red Chillies - optional but highly recommended!
















For the Dal 

- Heat the Olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the diced onion and saute for 5-6 minutes until lightly golden.

- To the pot add the soaked and rinsed Moong Dal as well as the Toor Dal. Stir to combine.

- Add the 4 cups of water, the turmeric, and the salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes then reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.

- Check on the doneness of your dal. If the lentils are still hard, or too firm for your liking continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes until they become soft. If the lentils are soft already, and have reached a somewhat mushy consistency add in the coconut milk and stir to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes.

- Remove the pot from the heat and add in the minced cilantro. Stir to combine.

For the Tadka 

- Heat the oil on high in a heavy bottomed frying pan. Once hot add in the mustard seeds, nigella seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafetida powder, minced garlic and minced chili. Fry for one minute or until the seeds pop, the garlic has turned golden and the chilies have softened slightly. It’s okay if the spices brown a little, it adds to the flavor.

- Remove the pan from the heat and scrape the entire contents - spices and residual oil - into your pot containing the dal.

Assembly - 

- Stir the Tadka into the dal until it’s been well combined. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors mingle. Then divide amongst serving bowls and garnish with additional cilantro and pickled red chilies if desired.

- Serve with basmati rice, and/or Indian Flatbread. I made a batch of Roti to scoop the dal up and it was a delicious accompaniment.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summertime Kale and Seaweed Salad...
















All that talk about sea vegetables yesterday really inspired me!  After writing the last post there was nothing more I wanted then a big ‘ole salad full of goodness and sea veggies. I know I’ve been kind of slacking this year, school, work, the new job, and then finally being done with school and just needed to relax and veg out - I’ve neglected this blog. Sure I’ve posted, but most of my posts these days tend to be restaurant, or product reviews. Otherwise they’re posts about what I made for the holidays but no original recipes. I feel bad about that, but the truth is that my eating’s been erratic. I’ve either eaten really healthy - but boring, thus not worthy of being blogged about. Or I’ve gone really over the top, but using the recipes of others. I’m really going to try to change that. I want to post recipes again, I want to be more active here again, and so here’s a start.
















Unfortunately when I was making my lunch yesterday I wasn’t doing so with the intention of posting the recipe. I just whipped some stuff together and didn’t really measure anything. So take the measurements as suggestions and approximations and adjust as you see fit. Even if you add a little more of ‘this’ or a little less of ‘that’ I know you’ll enjoy this salad. It’s rich in high-quality nutrients, and packed full of flavor. It really hits the spot mid-afternoon afer a long bike ride, or a good yoga session. Enjoy while sitting out in the summer sun, with a nice cool glass of water or your favorite kombucha!















Summertime Kale and Seaweed Salad 

3 Big Leaves Kale torn into bite sized pieces
1 Medium Carrot peeled and julienne
½ Cucumber peeled and julienne
Red Onion sliced thin (about 1/4 C or to taste)
½ C Corn (Fresh or Frozen)
½ C Frozen Edamame
2 Tbsp Hemp Seeds
Small handful Arame ( 1/4 C or less) Soaked in warm water for five minutes. Then drained and rinsed, then patted dry.
1-2 Sheets Nori (to taste) torn into bite sized pieces
2 Garlic Cloves minced

1 tsp Sesame Oil
1 tsp Rice Vinegar

Dressing 

2 Tbsp Tahini
1 Tbsp Tamari
1 Tbsp Mirin (or Agave)
½ Tbsp Lemon Juice
Sriracha to taste
Water as needed to thin
Salt and Pepper to taste -  optional

- Place your torn kale into a large bowl, drizzle the sesame oil and rice vinegar over top and massage thoroughly with your hands utnil the kale breaks down a bit. Set the bowl aside and continue making the rest of the salad.
- Heat a small pot of water on the stove, when boiling add the Edamame - and if using frozen corn add that too - boil for 2-3 minutes until Edamame and Corn are cooked through. Drain and let cool.

- Mis all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

- Assemble the salad. To the kale add in the julienne carrot, cucumber, sliced red onion, minced garlic cloves. Corn, edamame, Hemp seeds, torn nori sheets, and arame. Drizzle the dressing over top and toss a few times to make sure all of the vegetables get evenly coated.
















*** Note - Gluten Free if using GF Tamari.***

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spotlight Food - Sea Vegetables...

What do you know about sea vegetables? Have you ever had them? Do you like them? This amazing nutrient dense food has been consumed in various parts of the world for centuries, but has only become popular in North America over the past decade or so. I’m still amazed by how many people haven’t tried the various different kind of sea vegetables out there, and even more amazed by those who claim not to like them. Granted they’re an acquired taste, I’ll give you that. They taste like the ocean, some people think they taste ‘fishy,’ and the flavor can be a bit strong for some, but once you get used to it, sea vegetables are such a wonderfully health supporting food that you’ll start craving them, I swear!

I remember the first time I ever ate seaweed. I was a kid, maybe 10, and I hated it. My dad was really into seaweed at the time, he’d buy bags of it from the health food store to eat as it was or to make sushi rolls. He’d give me pieces to try and I always thought they were nasty. Fast-forward to highschool when I started eating sushi, I wouldn’t say that I loved seaweed then, but I grew comfortable with it. Fast-forward to me becoming vegan and it took a while, but eventually I warmed up to it. Now I love some nori sprinkled over a salad, some dulse on a sandwich, some wakame in my miso soup. I love seaweed chips, I love toasted nori sheets, I love all those fun little seaweed snacks you can pick up at the Asian markets. I love that pungent, aromatic, sometimes salty ocean flavor, and the best part is that sea vegetables are so incredibly good for you, so you can feel good about eating them.

History/Cultivation 

A lot of us commonly think of sea vegetables os seaweeds as being an integral ingredient in Asian dishes, but the truth is that many cultures around the world have been enjoying this rich, nutrient dense food for centuries. Asia may have the longest recorded tradition of consuming sea vegetables - more then 10,000 years - but many other countries located near water also have a history with seaweed, such as Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, the South Pacific Islands, and even parts of costal South America.

What a lot of people don’t realize about sea vegetables is the overwhelming variety of them.  More then a thousand types of seaweed exist, and they’re broken down into three distinct categories based on color, brown, green, or red. Each type is unique, having a different shape, texture, and taste. They grow in two places, marine salt waters and freshwater lakes and seas. They may grow on coral reefs or rocky landscapes and can grow at virtually any depth provided sunlight can penetrate through the water to where they reside, as like plants, seaweed needs light for survival. Interestingly sea vegetables are not considered to be either plant nor animal, but are classified as algae.

Health Benefits 

It might surprise you to learn that sea vegetables offer one of the broadest ranges of minerals of any food, containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean. In addition to offering a unique variety of phytonutrients and antioxidants. They’re also an excellent source of iodine, manganese, B Vitamins, potassium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus.

Sea vegetables also provide anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anticoagulant, antithrombotic, and antiviral benefits due to their unique sulfated polysaccharides. Sea vegetables anti-inflammatory benefits seem to take place by blocking selectins - sugar protein molecules - and from inhibiting an enzyme called phospholipase A2.  During an inflammatory response selectins allow inflammatory signals to be transmitted into the cells, so by blocking selectins response, inflammatory signaling can be lessened.  Over activity of the enzyme phospholipase A2 is widely present in unwanted inflammatory problems, and is important for creating the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid (AA.) AA itself provides the basis for a wide variety of pro-inflammatory massaging molecules and in fact many corticosteroid medications lower inflammation by blocking PLA2.

Sulfated polysaccharides are also responsible for sea vegetables cardiovascular benefits, as they can decrease the tendency of blood platelet cells to coagulate and form clots.  Sea vegetables have also been shown to help reduce total and LDL cholesterol.

Sea vegetables sulfated polysaccharides have also shown anti-viral activity, most notably in lab research conducted on Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2. It was shown that by blocking the binding sites used by HSV-1 and HSV-2 for cell attachment that sulfated polysaccharides help prevent replication of these viruses. Though we do not yet known whether or not dietary intake of sea vegetables can help prevent HSV replication in individuals with HSV.

Sea vegetables may be of particular benefit in the prevention of estrogen related cancer, particularly breast cancer. As intake of sea vegetables appears to modify various aspects of a woman’s menstrual cycle in such a way that over time - tens of years - the total cumulative estrogen secretion that occurs during the follicular phase of the cycle gets reduced.  Since the overproduction of estrogen can play a role in the risk of breast cancer for women who are estrogen sensitive sea vegetables can offer some unique benefits here. It’s also important to remember that cholesterol is required as a building block for the production of estrogen and intake of sea vegetables has repeatedly shown to lower cholesterol.

Sea Vegetables may also be particularly helpful when it comes to colon cancer, and research has focused heavily in this area with a special emphasis on the loss of calcium-sensing receptors (CaSRs) in colon cancer cells, and the ability of sea vegetable extracts to alter CaSR-related events. Of course since chronic, unwanted inflammation and chronic oxidative stress are both risk factors for development of cancer it’s possible that sea vegetables could be helpful in prevention of numerous cancers.

Sea vegetables may be able to help us increase our cells' sensitivity to insulin, help us prevent overproduction of glucose by our cells, and help us take existing blood sugars and convert them into storable starches. All of these factors would help us increase our blood sugar control, and lower our risk of type 2 diabetes.

Brown algae like kombu/kelp, wakame, and arame can be particularly concentrated sources of iodine, and for some health conditions - like hypothyroidism, in which the cells of the thyroid make too little thyroid hormone - increased iodine intake can provide important health benefits.

The antioxidant content of sea vegetables is also rather impressive, because sea vegetables not only contain measurable amounts of polyphenols like carotenoids and flavonoids, they also contain other phytonutrient antioxidants, including several types of alkaloids that have been shown to possess antioxidant properties. Coupled with measurable amounts of antioxidant vitamins (like vitamins C and E) and antioxidant minerals (like manganese and zinc), sea vegetables can be expected to help us reduce our risk of unwanted oxidative stress and many types of cardiovascular problems that are associated with poor antioxidant intake.

So you see, sea vegetables are really amazing!

Sea Vegetable Types - 

Arame - Brown Algae, limited to the temperate Pacific Ocean waters around Japan, though it is often cultivated in South Korea. It has a mild, semi-sweet flavor and firm texture.

Bladderwrack - A Brown Algae, the most common algae on the shores of the British Isles. It is typically found on the coasts of the North Sea, the Western Baltic Sea and both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It’s been recorded from the Atlantic shores of Europe, to Northern Russia, to Greenland, the Canary Islands, Morocco, Madeira, to the Atlantic Coast of North America, Hudson’s Bay, to North Carolina.  In North America it isn’t used as a food so much as it is an herbal medicine or remedy.

Chlorella - a single cell green algae high in protein and containing a significant amount of minerals. Usually sold as powder, or tablets and is commonly taken as a health supplement, rather then as an ingredient in cooking.

Dulce - A Red Algae, growing on the Northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific, as well as Iceland where it’s a popular snack food and has been consumed for centuries as a traditional food.  Usually sold in large dried strips, and is quite tasty on salads or lightly crisped in a pan to place on a sandwich.

Hijiki - Brown Algae, grows along the rocky coastlines of Japan, Korea and China. Somewhat similar to Arame but with a stronger flavor.

Irish Moss - A Red Algae growing abundantly along the rocky coasts of Atlantic Europe and North America.. A common ingredient in some traditional Irish and Scottish cooking. Also commonly used in Asian gelatin like desserts. In North America it’s commonly used as a thickener in many commercial products and has recently found a new use in the vegan community for making vegan cheese, and raw food desserts.

Kombu - Brown Algae, and an edible kelp commonly cultivated on the shores of Japan and Korea. Used extensively in Japanese cooking especially to make soups. It’s also a great addition to making a pot of beans from scratch!

Laver - Red Algae, a common ingredients in Welsh cooking and traditional Welsh dishes such as Laver bread. It’s also commonly found in the cuisines of Ireland, Scotland, Whales, China, Japan, and Korea, and may be one of the first kinds of algae to be cultivated.

Sea Lettuce - Green Algae, widely distributed along the coasts of the worlds oceans. It is particularly common in Scandinavia, Great Britain, Ireland, China and Japan.

Wakame - Brown Algae, grown in Japan and Korea, but also commonly cultivated in sea farms in France off the coast of Brittany, and Tasmania in Australia. It has a subtly sweet flavor and slippery texture. Usually used in soups.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of sea vegetables but it contains the most common ones.

Preparation

So, now that you’ve gone to the health food store and bought some bags of seaweed, what the heck do you do with it? Easy, make Sushi Maki rolls! Or if that’s too much time and trouble for you make a sushi salad! All your sushi ingredients diced up in a bowl, no rolling required, just sprinkle the nori over top. You could put it in miso soup, or any other Asian inspired soup, or any soup in which a little ocean flavor is needed. Such as a vegan ‘clam’ chowder. Try it as a salad topping or make a seaweed salad by soaking some arame and then mixing it with some diced vegetables and a nice Asian style dressing. Toss it into a raw kelp noodle dish, or top a stir-fry with it. Heck, just buy some roasted seaweed sheets from the Asian grocery and eat it as is! Super yummy! Get creative with it, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

4th Of July Fun...

My Plate - Black Bean Burger with all the fixin's
Buffalo Mac Salad, BBQ Coleslaw, BBQ Beans 
















Well, I hope everyone had a lovely fourth of July. Ours was pretty low-key. Since I had my mom and step-dad visiting, and we were busy hanging out I didn’t feel much like cooking. Which was okay too. My mother-in-law was kind enough to pick up some fresh-made vegan black bean burgers for us, - which I forgot to photograph, sorry - and I took care of the sides and dessert.

Funny, I knew right away what I wanted to make, because I’ve had my eye on it for years. The Spicy Red  Buffalo Macaroni Salad from Joni Marie Newman & Celine Steen’s awesome little book “The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions.” Personally I’ve always loved a good pasta salad, and this one sounded really interesting, but even though I love pasta salad I rarely find occasion to make it. The 4th seemed like the perfect time, especially since my mom and step-dad like pasta salad too, and since my step-dad likes heat. It’s actually a really easy dish. Just cook your macaroni, roasted red peppers, onions, celery and spinach - although I just realized now that I forgot to add the spinach, whoops! - Then the dressing is made with tofu, hot sauce, earth balance, oil, garlic, salt, pepper and I added a wee bit of agave to balance the tang a bit.  The end result was that this salad was out of this world amazing and my husband and I couldn’t stop eating it! I’m so glad I finally got around to making it.

Spicy Red Buffalo Macaroni Salad

















Next up I wanted to make the BBQ Beans from “Vegan Food Substitutions.” I’ve always loved a good saucy bean dish, and I’ve always loved baked beans. These tasted just like a baked bean but with out the long baking time. Simply add all your sauce ingredients into a pot, add the beans and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the sauce reduces a bit. These too were fantastic, and reminded me of the kind of baked beans you eat out of a can - only better! I was happy to have the leftovers and I gobbled them up in no time!

BBQ Beans 















Lastly I decided to make the Creamy BBQ Coleslaw from Joni Marie Newman’s book “The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet” it’s a really simple slaw recipe, shredded cabbage, agave, apple cider vinegar,  vegan mayo and BBQ sauce. I added some onion and carrot in too because, well I love that in my slaw. This slaw was super creamy, and super flavorful. As much as I love slaw, and as much as I love BBQ I never thought to combine the two into one dish! Amazing!

Creamy BBQ Coleslaw 
















For dessert I went with pie, and fruit pies at that because Pie is really my favorite dessert and I was all ‘caked out’ after my birthday anyway. Once again I chose to make pies from Hannah Kaminsky’s lovely book “Easy as Vegan Pie.” Of course I can’t just pick a straight forward pie can I? I wanted something unique and since I had a ton of cherries on hand I decided to make the Black Forest Pie because who doesn’t love chocolate and cherries? The Pie is basically as it sounds, think black forest cake but in pie form. Chocolate Crust, chocolate cherry filling, chocolate topping with whip Cream. Yum, yum! This pie went over huge with everyone and I sure liked it a lot too although a small slice was enough for me, as it was a bit too chocolatey for my taste.

Black Forest Pie 
















Second I made the Blueberry Blackberry Licorice Pie. Licorice you say? Yes indeed. I know how insane that sounds but trust me when I tell you this pie was out of this world amazing, and this is coming from a girl who hates black licorice or licorice flavored anything. I’m not even all that found of anise to be honest. Still, it was such an interesting combination that my curiosity got the better of me. The pie crust is a standard crust - any recipe will work really - and the filling is a standard blueberry blackberry filling but then you slice up pieces of black licorice and some of them melt into the delectable berry sauce as the pie cooks, while others remain whole. This pie was so good I had 2 slices right out of the gate, and I was impressed at how mellow the licorice flavor was. Not overbearing, it gave it just the right hint of ‘different’ and really took this pie to a new level. As much as this pie came as a surprise to me, it also came as a surprise to everyone else, I think most people were put off by the addition of licorice, until they tasted it for themselves. Only one slice remained after all was said and done! The lesson? Never be afraid to try new things!

Blueberry Blackberry Licorice Pie 
















I hope you all had a happy fourth.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Restaurant Review: Handlebar in Chicago...
















As I said in my previous post for my birthday dinner we decided to go to Handlebar. My husband and I actually ate dinner at Handlebar on my birthday last year, and we loved it so much that we’ve been dying to go back. Since we had some omnivores tagging along - my mom, and step-dad along with my husband’s family - I thought this would be a good choice, since Handlebar is mostly vegetarian, with a few omni-friendly fish dishes.  If you live in Chicagoland and you’ve never heard of Handlebar you should defiantly give this pescetarian pub a try. It looks like a whole in the wall from the outside but inside it’s got all you could ask for in the way of atmosphere. Simple, down-home pub food, loud music, and great drinks, with that fantastic rustic look and cool local art. My only real complaint about the place is that they don’t exactly cater to large groups, we were a party of seven and that was almost too much for them, so if you go, keep it to six or fewer people, and keep in mind that they don’t take reservations! This is important to remember because the pub fills up fast!

Fried Pickles 


















Anyway, since it was a celebration we went a bit crazy on the appetizers. My husband and I decided to get the Chorizo and Black Bean Nachos which comes with seitan chorizo, pico, and guac. If you get it vegetarian you also get sour cream and cheese. My mother-in-law ordered the fired pickles which we’ve had before, and despite what you might think about a fried pickle, these are actually really good.  They come with a house-made vegan ranch. She also ordered Guacamole and Chips to share around, you just can’t have too much guac in your life! Am I right?

Chorizo Black Bean Nachos 

Chips and Guacamole 






























For my main meal I decided to go with something simple, the Chicago Style Tofu. I was still kind of full from lunch and so I wanted to go easy on my stomach. I thought this would be a small sandwich but boy was I wrong. This was a massive honkin’ thing that I could only eat half of. The sandwich consists of pesto tofu, giardiniera, roasted garlic aioli, Dijon, arugula, and tomato on foccaccia bread. I got it with a side of fries.

Chicago Style Tofu Sandwich 


















For his entree my husband got the Fried Avocado Tacos which are amazing. This is what I got last time and I absolutely loved it. It consists of corn and cabbage slaw, refried beans, house made ranch, flour tortillas, rice, and deep fried wedges of avocado. So delicious. My mom and Mother-in-law also got the Fried Avocado Tacos and I was fortunate enough to score my mom’s taco leftovers a couple of days later. They tasted just as good cold as I remember them being warm.

My husband's Avocado Tacos 

A Pic of my Avo Tacos from last year


































The last time we were at Handlebar my Husband also got the Buffalo Chicken Wrap which consists of Fried Chicken Seitan, wing sauce, romaine, onion, tomato, and house made ranch on a flour tortilla. He ordered a side of fries with it and it was really, really fantastic, just the perfect mix of heat, and the seitan chicken was great!

Buffalo Chicken Wrap 


















During my birthday celebration dinner my mother-in-law also ordered the smoked Gouda Mac which she liked, My father-in-law had the blackened catfish which he liked, my step-dad had the grilled fish tacos which he liked, and my brother-in-law had the grilled cheese which he liked. I didn’t try any of these as none of them are vegan, but it goes to show that Handlebar is a great place for Vegans, Vegetarians and Omnivores alike.

Just a neat pic I saw outside 
















We also had a round of drinks only I forget what my drink was called, it was hibiscus tea, orange juice, and vodka. My husband had a great drink too that was coconut water, lime and rum. I think this is definitely going to be one of our ‘go-to’ places. I already can’t wait to eat there again. So if you live in the Chicagoland area and are looking for a cool little pub with lots of delicious vegan fare, this is the place for you. Check it out!


















Handlebar
2311 W North Ave, Chicago, IL
Phone:(773) 384-9546

The Big Birthday Celebration of 2014...

All my tasty Birthday Treats! 



















It’s been a rather busy week for me, not only was my birthday Tuesday - the 1st - but American Independence Day was the 4th and even more exciting as a birthday surprise my mom and step-dad flew in from Vancouver to visit me! I had no idea they were coming, and apparently they’ve been planning the surprise with my husband for nearly a year now. We’ve had a lot of fun over the past week, and we’ve eaten a lot of food, but let me start with what we ate on my birthday.

Kale Bagels 


















The Sunday before my bday I decided to make the Kale Bagels from Joni Marie Newman and Celine Steen’s book “Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites.” I’ve been wanting to make these bagels for a long, long time, but the idea of making home made bagels - specifically working with yeasted dough - always seemed so daunting, but suddenly I had a craving, and there’s no better time to jump out of your comfort zone then for a special occasion.


















Turns out making bagels is a lot easier then it looks. Time consuming yes, because you need to wait for the dough to rise, but relatively simple. These bagels first call for you to prepare some kale. It’s easy enough to do, just massage some tahini, orange marmalade, and other spices into your greens and let them sit for thirty minutes. Then you make the bagel dough, add in the kale, and let ir rise. Once risen shape into bagels, boil in a mix of water and baking soda, and then you bake until they’re perfectly brown. The end result was well worth my time and trouble, in fact these are perhaps some of the best bagels I’ve ever had. We enjoyed a couple Sunday night for dinner with a mixture of Earth Balance, Nutritional Yeast and Garlic, then Monday we enjoyed them for lunch as a sandwich with sliced tomato, onion, arugula, and melted Daiya Provolone Cheese. Suffice to say they didn’t last long enough for me to enjoy on my actual birthday and so I made a different breakfast Tuesday morning instead.

Creole Steamed Sausages &
Bacon Onion Biscuits
















Since I knew we’d be eating out a lot during the day I decided to go with something simple, but simple doesn’t mean boring! For a long while now I’ve been wanting to make Celine and Joni’s Bacon Onion Biscuits - also from Hearty Vegan Meals, - and so I decided my birthday was the perfect day to give them a try. They’re pretty quick, and easy to throw together, just your basic biscuit dough, with granulated onion thrown in and some home made vegan bacon bits. They’re baked in the oven then topped with vegan cheese. The recipe specifies mozzarella but I used Daiya Pepper Jack because that’s all I had. These were really good, and I served them with melted Earth Balance and a side of Creole Steamed Sausages from Bianca Phillip’s book “Cookin’ Crunk.” I love her creole sausages, especially for breakfast!
















After our eats it was off to the city with my family to do the touristy thing. They wanted to go to Navy Pier and Millennium Park so we did that and then hit up Native Foods Cafe  for lunch when our bellies all began to rumble. Originally I was going to order a salad at Native since I’ve always wanted to try their salads and never do, but they had a few new sandwiches on the menu and so I caved and got the new BBQ Ancho Brisket Sandwich which was delicious! With it I got a side of sweet potato fries - of course - and then I ordered their Peanut Butter Parfait for dessert which is my favorite dessert of theirs and they don’t always have it so I decided to snap it up while I had the chance. My husband ordered their Twister Wrap which is a pretty basic wrap loaded with wholesome stuff and nothing too out of the ordinary. Very tasty. My mom and step-dad each got the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger which is my favorite thing on the menu.

BBQ Ancho Brisket Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries 
















After we ate we walked around Michigan Avenue for a while then walked along the River until we got back to Navy Pier. By then it was evening and so we used the bathroom there to change into our more fancy attire and then we piled into the car and headed out for a nice dinner at Handlebar in Wicker Park.  I plan on writing a separate review post of Handlebar so stay tuned for that.

Peanut Butter Parfait 

Twister Wrap 
































After dinner we headed home for cake. Each year since I’ve been vegan I’ve baked my own birthday cake. Everyone thinks this is strange but you can’t just go and buy a vegan birthday cake in Chicago, and my husband doesn’t bake, so as I always say “If I don’t do it, who will?” to be fair my husband offers to give it a try, but I’d rather do it myself and I don’t find it sad that I have to. I love baking! This year however when I was trying to decide what kind of cake to make I just couldn’t choose and so in the end I decided to make 4 birthday cakes, yes 4.

Grasshopper Cake 
















The main even was the Grasshopper Cake from Hannah Kaminsky’s book “Vegan Desserts” this is basically a Chocolate Devils Food Cake with a Mint Icing. I’ve never had a Grasshopper Cake - or Pie - before but I’ve always found them intriguing and since the combination of chocolate and mint is one of my all-time favorites I decided that I needed this cake in my life. I’m really glad I made it, and can’t believe It took me so long to try this combination in cake form. The cake was super moist and even though the icing turned out to be more of a glaze then a traditional frosting the flavor was so subtle and mellow that everyone loved it - even mint chocolate haters.


















The second cake I decided to make was the Birthday Pie from Hannah Kaminsky’s book “Easy as Vegan Pie” This is a classic vanilla birthday cake with sprinkles, and vegan buttercream baked into a pie crust. I chose to make this because vanilla sprinkle cake is one of my mom’s specialities, each year she made it for my brother and step-brother’s birthdays, and it always went over big. I haven’t had this kind of cake since before I was vegan and so I really felt a twinge of nostalgia for it. Plus, since I’ve always been a lover of pie, and pie crust is really the best part of any pie, the thought of having this classic cake in a pie shell really blew my mind. Lucky for me it blew my tastebuds away too, everyone loved this. I mean, how can you go wrong? Again the cake was super moist, and flavorful, and the pie crust was buttery and flakey. A perfect combination.

Birthday Cake Pie 















My third Cake was actually a pie, a Buckeye Pie actually, also from Kaminsky’s book “Easy as Vegan Pie” I chose this for the very simple fact that it looked delicious and chocolate peanut butter is a combo that I love just as much as chocolate and mint. This tasted just like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but better. It was super creamy, and super rich, so rich that you can only really have a small slice but man is it worth it! So decadent.

Buckeye Pie 

With Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream 















Lastly - because I love ice cream cake, and haven’t had one in a while - I decided to make the Mocha Mud Pie from Chloe Coscarelli’s book “Chloe’s Vegan Desserts.” this is a pretty basic pie, containing a chocolate cookie crumb crust, and a coffee ice cream filling. Since I didn’t want to buy vegan ice cream I decided to make my own which I poured into the pie crust. Then the pie is topped off with a simple chocolate sauce. Ice cream cake was always my favorite growing up, and since my birthday is in the summer I always had one on my birthday. Since going vegan of course this hasn’t been the case, in fact this is only my second time making an ice cream cake or pie. This was also really good, if you love coffee ice cream, and you love pie and frozen desserts then you really can’t go wrong!

Mocha Mud Pie 

















In the end it turned out that four desserts was probably three too many. We were all totally stuffed especially since I made home-made vegan vanilla ice cream to go with them, and had vegan whip cream too. Still, I don’t regret making all the treats, it was a fun way to celebrate.

PS: I hope everyone had a lovely Canada Day!