Tuesday, June 24, 2014
I thought it was time for another cook book review since the last one went over so well, and what better book to review then Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s “The Vegan Table.” This is actually one of the very first vegan cookbooks I ever got my hands on. I found it in my local library months before I’d even gone Vegetarian. I was however already leaning in that direction - which is why I was in that particular section of the library in the first place. Now, it’s been so long that I can’t remember exactly what came first me listening to Colleen’s wonderful “Vegetarian Food for Thought” Podcast, or me picking up her cookbooks in the library, but somehow I feel like they happened simultaneously and independently of the other. I don’t think it dawned on me at first that the wonderful recipes I was making out of that book from the library were penned by the wonderfully inspiring voice I was listening to each afternoon via the internet. Eventually something clicked though, and I put two and two together. In fact it was Colleen’s Podcast that was the final push I needed to make the transition to veganism. I think I borrowed this book from the library half a dozen times that year before finally receiving my own copy of it as a Christmas gift.
Right away I fell in love with this book because Colleen makes veganism so easy and accessible. Her recipes use simple, whole food ingredients - nothing strange or out of the ordinary, she doesn’t even use seitan. Still she comprises a variety of dishes in this book for every meal of the day, and she includes a ton of wonderful information about food, cooking tips, food lore, and veganism. I also really love that she has a section on vegan celebrations and party planning. These things are all extremely helpful to the newbie vegan, but they can also be utilized by long-time vegans too. Most of the cooking methods are quick and simple to master, and many of the recipes can be made without oil, soy, gluten, sugar, or salt, and there are specific indicators letting you know that incase you have these kinds of dietary restrictions.
Even after four years of veganism I still get use out of this book, in fact it’s remained one of my ‘go-to’ cook books especially for when I’m cooking for a ‘mixed crowed.’ For me, these recipes feel tried and true, they’re practically ‘no fail’ or at least I’ve never failed making hem and they’ve always been winners among even the most ardent ‘carnivores’ that I know. For me as a newbie vegan this book was an indispensable resource, and I learned so much by reading and cooking through it. Colleen writes in an easy, down to earth style that makes you feel comfortable and confident. She inspires you, and gets you feeling excited about cooking. Her passion for veganism, for cooking, and for education are clear on every page of this book, and I love that atmosphere her personality lends to the pages.
Some people have criticized the book for it’s layout - which I fully admit is a bit strange, but once you get the hang of it, it really isn’t hard to find the recipes you want. Some people have also criticized Colleen’s use of white flour, sugar, and non-dairy butter - particularly in her baking recipes, and I guess it can’t be said often enough that veganism and health-food are not necessarily synonymous. That’s not to say that Colleen’s recipes are unhealthy, but her baking recipes are also not ‘health food’ they’re baked goods, and most people I know like a little sugar in their cake. The fact that her baked goods do use white flour, sugar, and non-dairy butter is what makes the recipes so accessible to newbie vegans. If she was using a ton of crazy ingredients her recipes wouldn’t have the same air of simplicity, and they would be more intimidating to the average newbie. One of the greatest things about Colleen’s recipes is her ability to provide you with veganized versions of the familiar and comforting foods that you grew up without compromising on flavor or taste, while still keeping it relatively simple.
Though I haven’t made as many recipes from this book as I would have liked the ones I have made have been delicious, here’s what I thought.
Pan-Fried Asparagus with Lime Juice - LOVED IT
Tofu Benedict - Loved it
Tempeh Bacon - Very good
Swiss Chard and Caramelized Onions - LOVED IT
Spring Vegetable Risotto - LOVED IT
Pad Thai - Very good
Tofu Scramble - Very good
Marvelous Mushroom Risotto - I thought this was okay, but then I'm not the biggest mushroom fan. My husband loved it though.
Polenta Hearts - Fantastic
Roasted Red Pepper Coulis - LOVED IT especially over the polenta hearts
Red Velvet Cake - Personally I'm not a fan of this kind of cake but my husband is. I made it for his graduation and he and all the omnivores loved it.
Better Then Tuna Salad - Pretty good
Herbed Scalloped Potatoes - Pretty good
Golden Corn Pancakes - Loved it!
Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms - LOVED IT
Apricot Whole Wheat Muffins - Pretty good
Magical Miso Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms - Pretty good but I prefer my own homemade miso
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Onions - LOVED IT this is a `go-to' holiday recipe for me now
Roasted Beets and Fennel Bulbs in Fennel Oil - I thought this was just okay, but then I'm not the biggest fan of fennel.
Pan-Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with herb infused marinade - loved it!
French Onion Pie - Didn't like it. However I did try this back when I just turned vegan, and didn’t particularly care for tofu. I wouldn’t be opposed to giving this recipe another whirl now that my tastes have changed.
Cauliflower with Spicy Vinaigrette - Loved it!
Masoor Dal - Pretty good
Fruit Sushi - LOVED IT
Frozen Mango Lassi - Loved it
Cuban Black Bean Soup - Loved it
Eggless Egg Salad - Loved it.
No Queso Quesadillas - LOVED IT
Muhammara - LOVED IT
Boston Baked Beans - Pretty good
Caramelized Tempeh Shawaramas - LOVED IT - my new favorite way to eat tempeh
Mushroom Pecan Burgers - LOVED IT
Tofu Spinach Lasagna - LOVED IT - a `go to' when cooking for Omni's
Traditional Vegetable Soup - Pretty good
Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions - LOVED IT
Golden Mushroom Gravy - LOVED IT
Mushroom walnut Pate - LOVED IT
Tempeh and Eggplant Pot Pies - LOVED IT
Irish Soda Bread - LOVED IT
Gado Gado Vegetable Skewers - LOVED IT
Potato Salad in Radicchio Cups - LOVED IT
Tomato Basil and Arugula Bruschetta - LOVED IT
Basic Pizza Dough - LOVE It - this is my `go to' dough for pizza
Beet and Sweet Potato Pizza - Loved it
Pineapple Upside Down Cake - pretty good.
In short I would definitely recommend this book to just about anyone. It’s versatile enough for curious omnivores, newbie vegans, vegetarians and long-time vegans too. However if you’re looking for a vegan health book, or a No SOS book - salt, oil, sugar. - or a raw book, then this is not the right book for you, and you’d be better off finding a book that uses those words in it’s advertising.
This really is one of my favorite and most beloved cookbooks, so I hope that if you haven’t checked it out yet you feel inspired to do so now.
If you want to learn more about Colleen and the work that she does you can check out her Website, which is phenomenal by the way, and be sure to click on her Podcast!
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Last Friday my husband and I had lunch at Karyn’s Cooked. We’ve been there several times before, but always for breakfast, and so I was excited to finally try some of their other dishes. If you don’t know Karyn Calabrese she’s something of a vegan celebrity here in Chicago. She’s a mostly raw advocate for health and compassion. She runs an Inner Beauty/Holistic center, and has three restaurants, one all raw place called Karyn’s Raw, a high-end establisment where you can expect the finest in vegan dining called Karyn’s on Green, and then a down-home place serving up delicious vegan comfort food, called Karyn’s Cooked. She’s also written two books, and she can often be found speaking or demoing at the various vegan/vegetarian events around town. She’s amazing, and inspirational, and much loved by our little vegan community here in Chicagoland.
Needless to say my husband and I are always happy to dine in one of her restaurants, and we’ve always had a good experience both with the food and the staff. Out of all three places I would say that Cooked is where I feel the most comfortable, it’s a cozy, intimate space that’s very welcoming and warm. When you sit down, you feel like you’re at home, or just sitting in that old café you go to every afternoon at 4. It’s a very friendly place, with a great vibe, and great atmosphere.
On this particular trip we decided to start with the Buffalo Wings - because, HELLO, Buffalo Wings! Who can pass that up? These were made out of a really chewy mix of seitan and tofu, I loved the texture but the taste - and the shape - reminded me more of a chicken nugget then a wing. They had a ‘baked’ kind of flavor, where as a lot of other buffalo wings I’ve had In the past - vegan of course - seem to come a bit more greasy. Still delicious though. They came with a trio of sauces, one ranch style sauce, one buffalo sauce, and one BBQ sauce. All of the sauces were great but I think they really tasted best when combined like Ranch and Buffalo together or Ranch and BBQ together - yum!
Since we can never go anywhere and order only one appetizer we ordered the Thai Skewers. Now these can come slathered either in BBQ or Peanut sauce, but since my husband doesn’t particularly care for peanuts or peanut sauce we opted for BBQ. I’ll definitely try the Peanut next time! Anyway, these skewers were made of seitan and tofu and absolutely delicious, they were also huge! The BBQ Sauce was amazing! I’ve always been a great lover of ‘Que Sauce, and this one really hit the spot.
For my main meal I’ll be honest, I really had a hard time choosing. It came down to the ribs, the taco salad or the Ruben Sandwich. In the end I nixed the ribs because we’d just eaten BBQ skewers, and I opted for the Ruben, ‘cause, well who doesn’t love a Ruben? Besides it came with potatoes and coleslaw and I’ve always been a sucker for some slaw. This particular slaw was alright, it was of the vinegar dressing variety vs the mayo kind which I prefer. The potatoes were fantastic, I really loved them - though I would have liked more then two! The Ruben was also very good, however I think The Chicago Diner has Karyn’s Beat concerning best Ruben. What I loved most about Karyn’s version though was the meat, it was really smoky, and flavorful, and could really have passed for real meat. Amazing. I also liked the sauce which wasn’t a typical ‘thousand island’ type sauce but a dill dressing.
My husband also had a hard time choosing a meal - too many delicious sounding options - but in the end he went with Flautas which is a mix of tofu and carrot stuffed inside a corn tortilla and then fried. It came with guac, pico, refried black beans, mixed greens and sour cream and a jalapeno cilantro sauce. He really loved this, and was kind enough to give me a bite. Very good!
|Mac and Cheese|
We also ordered a side of mac and cheese to share, ‘cause, why not? When eating at a comfort food restaurant who can pass up the opportunity to try mac and cheese. This version of the classic dish was super creamy, perhaps more creamy then any other restaurant version I’ve had. However it was a bit mild in flavor for me, I prefer my mac to have that really tart, tangy cheese taste. My husband loved it though.
We also ordered dessert - but neglected to photograph it cause we took it to go. I got a slice of the coconut cream pie which was out of this world amazing, and my husband got a slice of the lemon meringue which was also very good. All in all it was another delicious afternoon!
PS: In the past for breakfast we’ve had the Skillet Scramble, the Mediterranean Scramble, the Rainbow Mexicana, the Banana French Toast and the Vegan Sausage Patties. All of which were excellent! Brunch at Karyn’s is a must, at least once! Especially when there are so few vegan breakfast options in the city.
738 North Wells Street, Chicago
Phone - 312.587.1050
Sunday-Monday 11:00 a.m.- 9:00 p.m.
(Sunday Brunch 11:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m)
Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m.
(Saturday Brunch 11:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.)
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
A few days after we broke our fast my husband and I decided a nice way to welcome ourselves back to the world of food would be to indulge in a little raw food. There are not a ton of Raw Vegan restaurants in Illinois, and since we’ve already been to several I wanted to try something new, explore new ground, go somewhere we hadn’t been before. I chose Healthy Sins Vegan Café, which is in Lockport, Il, kind of a hike from our place but I’d heard such good things about it that I thought the 40 minute drive would be worth it. Plus, we’d never been to Lockport, and since it was a lovely, sunny Saturday afternoon we could spend some time exploring. A win, win.
|All the tables are shaped like leaves, isn't that cute?|
We arrived, and parking was easy enough. The restaurant was not overly busy and so we had our choice of tables and were seated immediately. Right away I liked the cozy atmosphere of the café, it felt very warm, very welcoming, and very European. I personally am a big fan of the whole ‘take as long as you want’ mentality, vs the ‘eat and get out’ mode that most American restaurants seem to operate by.
So we asked for water, got some menus and began to peruse. I’ll admit, I had a really hard time deciding what to get because everything sounded fantastic, and since I’d just been fasting for 5 days and had only been eating very lightly since breaking said fast, I was overwhelmed at my choices.
Eventually we settled upon two appetizers. The Bagel Bites (bite sized bagel pieces topped with pesto, pumpkin seed cheese, taco meat, tuna salad, and egg salad) which just sounded way to cool to pass up, and The Nachos (Taco meat, guacamole, salsa and onions with nacho cheese and sour cream served with corn-flax tortilla chips) because how can you say no to a huge plate of nachos?
Seriously, both of these appetizers were amazing. I loved how soft the bagel pieces were, and I loved the toppings though my favorite were the taco meat, nut cheese, and tuna salad. The Nacho’s were to die for, the tortilla chips were amazing, a bit of crunch, and they paired perfectly with the delicious taco meat, nacho cheese, and guacamole. I could have eaten like 4 orders of this!
For our main meal my husband got the Sloppy Joe’s which is a favorite of his. The opportunity to try it raw was too good to pass up. I took a few bites of this and it was very good indeed.
For my main meal I agonized over whether or not I should get lasagna or the pizza. In the end I chose pizza because raw pizza? How cool is that? I think I chose right. The pizza crust was great, but the real winner was the delicious Italian Cashew Cheese, and the Marinara. I could have eaten the marinara with a spoon it was that amazing!
Both Entree’s came with two side salads. One a mixed green salad with a spicy vinaigrette, the other a fruit salad with a sweet dressing. Both were great.
Of course we could not pass up the chance to try dessert. My husband went with the apple pie which tasted like a real baked apple pie! It was super tasty, and the perfect amount of spice. I went with the Almond Butter Pie which was really rich, and heavenly. I could have eaten an entire pie it was that good! Definitely one of my favorite restaurant desserts of all time.
I have to say, having been to several raw restaurants - with varying results - this is some of the hands-down best raw vegan food I’ve ever eaten anywhere. The only place that even comes close to comparing is In The Raw in Highland Park, but from what I understand they’ve closed now, and so Healthy Sins Vegan Café is the King - or Queen - of Raw. Trust me, even if this is a little out of the way for you, you’ll want to make the trip. The food is really that good, and the staff is super friendly, and very helpful. Great place, all around.
|Almond Butter Pie|
After we finished eating we decided to explore Lockport, so we walked around for a few hours taking in the scenery. There was some kind of festival happening with live music and so we hung out by the canal and listened to a few tunes. Before we headed back home we decided to stop over at the Naked Sprout Organic Market which is right next to Healthy Sins. They’re a cute little store selling all kinds of raw, vegan, and gluten-free goods. They also have a juice and smoothie bar, in fact all the juices and smoothies served at Healthy Sins are made at The Naked Sprout, so we wanted to give some smoothies a whirl, you know, just a little something for the drive home.
I decided to go with the strawberry lemon cheesecake smoothie which was so good, and so creamy. It did indeed taste just like a cheesecake. My husband got the oatmeal raisin smoothie which he really liked although I thought it was a bit heavy on the nutmeg. Overall a very cool experience and very friendly staff. If you go to Lockport don’t forget to check out the Naked Sprout after your delicious meal at Healthy Sins!
|Left: Oatmeal Raisin Smoothie|
Right: Strawberry Lemon Cheesecake Smoothie
Healthy Sins Vegan Cafe
928 S State Street
Hours: Monday—Thursday: 11-7
Friday & Satruday: 11-8
Sunday: Closed; available for Private Parties
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
|Strawberries & Cherries|
Man how I love Cherry Season!
Wow, I had no idea that I’ve been away for so long. I guess I’ve been busier then I thought, and when I haven’t been busy I’ve been really enjoying the freedom of being able to do whatever I want vs. writing essays, and studying. I forgot what free-time felt like.
I guess the truth is that you haven’t missed very much anyway. Since my Juice cleanse ended I haven’t been eating anything all that exciting. To break my fast I started off simple and small. Fruit and raw veggies, that was it. Then I moved onto more involved raw foods like big salads, raw hummus, raw pasta, raw sushi, that kind of thing. I did that for a couple of weeks and then I started introducing more and more cooked foods, lately we’ve been eating a lot of Italian theme food - a lot of pasta because it’s cheap and easy, and since we’re going on Holiday again in September cheap is good.
|Zucchini Hummus Decorated with Salt Cured Olives|
I didn’t photograph everything I ate just after my fast ended but I did take a few photos. Mostly my breakfast was a bowl of Strawberries, blueberries or cherries - in fact this is till my go-to breakfast. Sometimes I would make a raw fruit smoothie using homemade raw almond milk, fresh or frozen fruit and dates. Lunch was usually raw hummus and raw vegetables - my favorite hummus was a delicious zucchini hummus but I also made a Macadamia nut hummus that was pretty good. Dinners were simple, a bowl of raw veggies over raw ‘rice’ such as in the ‘sushi bowl’ below, or I would make zucchini pasta and toss it in a delicious raw tomato or raw creamy pecan sauce. I didn't do dessert for the most part, although I did make the occasional fruit smoothie as a ‘dessert’ like snack.
I was feeling really good eating this way, now that I’ve been eating a ton of pasta, and less raw vegetables I really feel that weighed down sensation I was feeling before. I’m considering doing another short juice fast 3-4 days at the end of the month and then getting back to a mostly raw diet for a while, but we’ll see.
|Raw Sushi Bowl|
Cauliflower Rice, Mushrooms, Avocado, Onion, Carrot, Seaweed
To make up for my prolonged absence and the shortness of this post I’ll post a restaurant review later this evening. It’s a place I tried recently and have been dying to tell you all about.