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Sunday, February 24, 2013

NYC Vegan Tour: Cafe Blossom

Okay, this post probably looks a little weird coming after one on how I need to save money, but...but.. Groupon! There was a $15 for $30 worth Groupon and how could I turn that down? I'd been wanting to visit one of Blossom's three locations for quite a while, and how better to do that than cheaply and with best friend and dining partner, Greggg?
We went to Cafe Blossom in the West Village, the most ideal location for me because despite the more than adequate subway system (yea I said it!) ummmm I rarely go above 14th Street. Yes, even Chelsea is too far.
We went on a Tuesday night and, while we had reservations, we could have gotten a table right away. We jumped right into the entrees, as a room in stomach-saving as well as money-saving measure. None of the appetizers besides the beet carpaccio looked particularly appealing to me anyway, though I've heard good things about the black eyed pea cakes.
Greg ordered the Seitan marsala, which came with roasted potatoes, sauteed spinach, shallots, beets, jalpeno, figs, and marsala juice.


I toyed with the idea of getting a salad (I KNOW) but ordered the mushroom phyllo pastry with mashed butternut squash, grilled baby bok choy, saueed bell pepper, asparagus, basil, and jalapeno cashew cream.


This is G's review:
i liked this place but it was very much a fancy restaurant in the way they served their food. emphasis on plating and presentation with small/odd portions. for example, the "spinach" included with my dish as listed in the menu was basically a little tiny bit of spinach atop the rather proportionally large portion of seitan, which was delicious and had a great chew too it. also, the potatoes as listed in the menu were great but it was like 2 little roasted potato halves. which were great. everything was awesome, just not really served to my style, it being a "fancy" restaurant. i guess whatever you order just imagine it coming out as if it were on the cover of gourmet magazine, if that is a magazine? refer to the photos. i suppose it was just odd as it is a vegan restaurant so i was expecting more of an emphasis on the vegetables than on the seitan. i'd go back with another groupon or if someone else was paying or i become rich.
I guess my reaction was sort of similar. The dish itself was delicious - I liked the mashed butternut squash the most; the mushroom pastries were too much phyllo and not enough filling. I was glad for the bok choy as a green vegetable but it wasn't all that well seasoned on its own. The jalapeno cashew cream was the saving grace there. As for the other vegetables, bell pepper and asparagus, they were simply small portions just chopped up to top the other components of the meal.
I guess you could say the portion sizes were small - at least for the prices - but I think we both felt satisfied at the end of the meal. That said, there is no way in hell we were going to pass up dessert. Especially when the menu offers passionfruit margarita cheesecake topped with housemade blueberry chocolates.


This is where Lenten promises flew out the window. I am a really big fan of vegan cheesecake and this was pretty incredible and very rich. Greg had to stop and cradle his head in his hands for a couple seconds after each bite.
Blossom also offers a cocktail list that is verrrry enticing, but I held off.
Hannah Kaminsky wrote an insightful piece about Groupons often being detrimental to businesses. I think it's a difficult situation. Of course I want vegan restaurants (or any company I enjoy) to flourish and do well and be able to pay their workers a living wage but I don't always have the money to support that. Without the Groupon, it's highly unlikely that I would ever have visited the restaurant at all and now I know that at least I can recommend it for more special occasions.
Hey, the view is free.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Breakfasts

Sooo guys, a confession. I am NOT doing great with this Lenten temptation thing. I mean, I could be doing way worse (it all depends on what yr definition of "baked good" is) but let's just say I need to do a lot of penance. However, the one thing I have not given into is buying and eating snack bars, and those were really my worst indulgence. So. Yeah.
Here's what I've been eating (mostly as breakfasts) in lieu of said bars.

Vanilla soy yogurt with 1/2 a banana. And coffee.

Raspberry yogurt. Also a mixed berry flavor on a different day (the jahgurts were on sale this week.) Also lots more bananas. I stopped eating them for a while for no reason but I'm glad dey back in my life.
more fruit:
This plum was not good. I was surprised when they went on sale and was like, "Is there something I don't know?" No. (Of course not - I know everything.) Plum season it still is not yet. This is yr public service announcement. With guitar.

Soaked overnight oats + chia with chopped apricots and almonds with cinnamon.
Another reason I am glad I am not doing the energy/snack bar thing right now is that they get sooo expensive! I was looking at my bank statements and uhh I need to stop spending money before I even think about moving apartments. Not sure how that got out of control.
Any helpful money saving tips? My number one is usually "Don't leave the house ever." Secondly, "STOP GOING TO WHOLE FOODS." Thirdly, "Get the hell out of New York City." So, money saving tips other than those.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lunches

I know breakfast is the most important meal of the day but I don't have the time in the mornings to really enjoy a meal, and even if I did, I'm never hungry enough to make something substantial.
Lunch, for me, offers the greatest variety, including an option to either bring my own food or to eat out, and is usually the largest meal of the day, sating early hunger and keeping me fueled for the rest of the day (of course, there are usually snacks to help.)
Here's a recent sampling:

Spinach, raw broccoli, carrot sticks, avocado, jalapeno sauerkraut, raw sunflower seeds, sumac, cayenne, and nooch.

A classic, macro sushi.

Same spot in the park, different day. Raw kale and shredded Brussels sprouts, root vegetable hash and lemony chickpeas from Paradis.

Raw broccoli, cubed baked tofu, carrot sticks, tomatoes in baba ganoush.

Spinach, carrot chunks, raw sunflower seeds, mushroom, sweet potato, avocado, sundried tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, nooch, and cayenne.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Grocery Haul, Noodle Dinner Dish

I always say how much I enjoy seeing all of yr grocery hauls; I figured I might as well reciprocate. This is a simple weekend haul (as opposed to a weekday, during which I'll usually stop by Whole Foods and get a couple fun but unnecessary items): these are staples, which ought to last me about a week.


Bananas, portabella mushroom caps, organic carrots, lemons, spinach, avocado, Bonne Maman Wild Blueberry spread, Irish Style oatmeal, Sabra roasted red pepper hummus, and just barely visible on top of the hummus, sundried tomatoes.
Some of that fresh stuff got used with a couple other pantry items to make dinner that night:


Like an iceberg, you can only see the tip. Spinach on the bottom, noodleized carrot ribbons, steamed broccoli, rice noodles, topped with a sliced portabella cap.
I whipped up a quick sauce for it: tahini, lemon juice, tamari, powdered ginger, and wayyy too much red pepper flakes.


It was passable. Probably would have been nice with some sesame oil or rice vinegar in the sauce.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Vegan Carrini Boots & snow

Firstly, thanks for the kind words and advice etc. on yesterday's post. I'm okay. We all get weird sometimes, right? Right. Then we take a couple breaths and move on.
The weather has been weird recently. There was that snowstorm last week, then it rained and everything melted, then New York City had a couple beautiful days on which I even ate lunch outside, and these last few days it's been freezing again.
Before the snowstorm, I ordered a pair of black vegan Carrini boots though Groupon. I have two pairs of boots - a pair of Doc Martens that my friend gave me about 6 years ago that I LOVE but are finally falling apart and the tread is completely worn away, and a pair of brown heeled boots that I got at a thrift store that aren't exactly my size and hurt my feet a lot. So, even though I hate buying things new, I thought I'd support some vegan shoes and give my feet a break.

Lined up with my other two soon-to-be-retired boots.


Ssssstylin'.
I like them. They're really comfortable which is a nice change, and they zip up in the back which means easy on/off access and no fiddling with all the hooks and holes every time I wear them. The boots are kinda fancier than my usual style (as in, busted up and ripped everything) but I'll wear them in pretty quickly. There isn't too much of a tread on these either but luckily the snow isn't really around anymore. Maybe there'll be another chance to test that out - as well as seeing how waterproof they are. (A snippet of Brooklyn, as an aside: a co-worker from upstate NY said he witnessed a hipster completely unprepared for the snow last week wearing wingtips and a monocle trying to jump over a snowbank.)
Anyway, like I said, the snow is melted by now but I took a walk last Monday through a cemetery near my apartment on the Queens/Brooklyn border. It was an amazing, hazy, kinda depressing day - as well as the anniversary of Sylvia Plath's death and I was just feeling super goth, what can I say? Here are some photos that I took in my non-vegan boots.


And, finally, this is my preferred cold winter weekend morning scene:


Breakfast in bed with Batman. Yes, I finally bought cereal after seeing all you guys enjoy it! This was Nature's Path Organic Blueberry Cinnamon Flax (on sale $3.89). With almond milk and banana.
Do you guys use Groupons often? Observe poets' deathdays and listen to Joy Division? Enjoy traipsing in snow to return and drink lotsa tea? Read any comic books?!?!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Two Dark Dinners

Dark, in both senses of the word. Guys, haha, I don't know how to say this, but I'm not a very stable person. There are, like, weird things in my head.
Here is Valentine's dinner at Zaytoons, a Middle Eastern place in Brooklyn that G has been wanting to go back to - I had never been. It's BYO so I picked up a bottle of wine (my first drink in 2+ weeks now that the medication is over.)


Sorry, we had started eating. We shared a veggie kebab platter (roasted vegetables with rice, green salad, and hummus) and a selection of small sides (mujadarra, foul, tabbouleh, grape leaves, and a olive/hot pepper mix). Tahini on top, with warm pita on the side.


Then something happened (I'm not being vague - I have no idea what snapped) and I had a couple panic attacks and went kind of catatonic and that was horrible. I lost a collage I made, broke a lamp, and made us both really upset. Sorry. Sorry, sorry.
As a sort of make-up dinner G and I went out again after work on Saturday. We attempted to go to Cafe Blossom (Groupon!) but I called ahead and they were full for the night. It didn't really dawn on me that there would be people going out post-Valentine's day on a weekend. Because I'm not a sane person. We walked around the West Village for a while and I just got really tense because weekends are a horrible place on weekend nights in the city. Drunks and yelling people and crowds and college students and ahhh.
But G and I eventually stopped into Meskerem, an Ethiopian place near Washington Square Park. I have never had Ethiopian food before! It's a small place and it was a little crowded but better lit and G showed me how to calm down ("Repeat after me. 'I will enjoy this food no matter how greasy it is... I will not get poisoned...and we will have a nice time'.")


We split the Vegetarian Combo:


(miser alech; miser wat; shro wat; somethin'; somethin' else; sauteed cabbage, carrot, and potato; sauteed string beans; sauteed collards) On awesome, spongy, injera.
Necessary:


"Ooooh! Fingerbowl!" I squealed.
Happy Stupid Valentine's Day, Greg. I like you. I'll make you a new better collage.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday, Not Sponsored by Columbia Gorge

Warm lemon water (a whole lemon this time!), powdered ginger, goji berries.


Gorrilla Coffee. It's bean juice! Two out of two people agree. No almond milk, though, and I think I like it better that way.


Breakfast, kinda:


Lunch, kinda:


Snack, I guess:


Dinner, finally:


This is just miso broth with the usual spices and a lot of spinach.
And also about 9 brazil nuts scattered throughout the day.


I thought I was seriously going to lose it a couple times through the day. Fasting for one day is about all I can take. But it is something good to do every once in a while, I think.
I didn't get a chance to go to church because I went to go see an apartment after work and didn't take a lunch break. The apartment was so cute and in a nice neighborhood but not really big enough for 2 people. I'll keep looking. AND! If any of you by any chance know someone in Brooklyn looking for a place....
As for the rest of Lent, I'm giving up snack bars, chocolate, and baked goods I haven't made myself. I spend way, way too much money on that stuff. I also eat far too much of it.
So expect a very sad blog for the next 40+ days. Except for Sundays when I'm gonna eat SO
MUCH CHOCOLATE!!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gross

Orange juice, lime seltzer, apple cider vinegar, goji berries:


Later, at work, Hazelnut chocolate Raw Revolution bar, Gorilla coffee (with added almond milk), orange.


Lunch was more Caesar salad. There's romaine and seitan under there, trust me. I brought the dressing to work in a spice jar. I used about 1/3 of it.


Snack x 2 by Emmy's. I gave the last one to a friend OR ELSE I WOULD DIE (by eating it.)


Dinner salad.


Spinach, carrots, jalapeno kraut, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, avocado, miso-tahini dressing. Seeing as how it's Fat Tuesday, I had to get my healthy fats in.
Far, far too many dried apricots (14 but who's counting?) for dessert, as well as this chai tea (spiked with coffee and now I will never sleep again.)


Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday so I am juice fasting. Good thing I ate so damn much today. A bear could live off of my Fat Tuesday for the entire winter.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Vegan Caesar Salad

Way to turn one post into two, huh?
First, a small grocery haul. I was out early this morning to get some bloodwork done in a neighborhood near one of my old favorite health food stores, so I went a little crazy getting stuff I didn't really need.

Orange, 2 loose carrots, avocado, romaine lettuce, Tazo chai concentrate (contains honey but lists the exact spices so I can DIY), seitan chunks, Ginger-O's (they were on sale!), Raw Revolution Hazelnut Chocolate bar, baba ganouj hummus.
I've already eaten tooooo many of those Ginger-O's so let's just talk about the salad.


Torn romaine, shredded carrot, chicken-flavored seitan chunks, tomatoes, and red onion with yesterday's Caesar dressing. This was pretty delicious. I warmed the seitan in a pan with a little canola oil and dumped it on the crisp vegetables so they wilted just a bit.
The dressing is really perfect: creamy (for lack of a better word,) salty, awesomely tangy, and just a little spicy. I added more black pepper on top of the salad. The chewy seitan (which I don't eat often) was a great contrast to the crunchy romaine. I considered just using spinach, but I think the bite wouldn't have been as satisfying.
I know it's not exactly a Caesar salad, but it was definitely not one I would have made on my own. However, I have a ton of dressing to use up. I'm pretty sure it'll still be great on other salads though. I packed up a similar salad for lunch tomorrow, with added broccoli.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Parmela Parmesan Nut Cheese

About a month and a half ago, I was offered a sample of Parmela, a new vegan parmesan on the market. After a mix-up with the address (moving so often gets very confusing) the little container arrived the other day.

Ingredient list/ Nutrition info:

Sounds simple enough, right?
Out of the container, the cheese definitely smells tang, but looks more nooch-colored than cow's Parm.


While I was thrilled to be offered a chance to try a new vegan product and took Parmela up on it at once, it took some thinking to figure out how to use the "aged nut cheese" as I'm not a fan of pasta and that's the only way I've eaten Parmesan in my pre-gan days.
Fortuitously, I had recently come across a recipe for vegetarian caesar dressing in an Andrew Weil book, True Food, I was flipping through at work. While the recipe does not include the anchovies or egg yolks that non-vegan recipes often include, Weil's recipe does use Parmesan. I was going to sub that for nooch, but then the Parmela came!

Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing, adapted from Andrew Weil
                                 yields 1 cup dressing

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T low sodium soy sauce
1 heaping T Dijon mustard
2 T capers, roughly chopped
2 small cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup Parmela parmesan (or make yr own parm OR sub nooch)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp ground black pepper

-Blend all the ingredients with a fork in a bowl (or measuring cup if ya don't want to dirty another dish.)


So, I'm not sure I've ever had a Caesar salad but this smells like the dressings I've smelled. The capers lend a briney (but not fishy) flavor and the lemon juice, vinegar, and Parmela give it a nice tang. The cheese also keeps its sort of springy, sort of grainy texture that lightens the dressing up, rather than seeming heavy like an egg or dairy-based dressing might.
So far I've just tasted tested the dressing. maybe later I'll run out and get some fake chicken and romaine and do the salad up right. The closest I have right now is spinach and tofu.
While there are recipes for making yr own nut cheese, I haven't tried them...maybe because I'm lazy or because I don't care too much, ha. This was a fun product to try; I'm more apt to recreate products that already exist once I've tried them and now I know how much fun a vegan Parm can be. Plus, if you ARE feeling lazy but do love Parmesan, it's nice to know there's a product out there that you can grab off the shelves (or order online - I haven't seen it in stores yet.)
For other recipes that better highlight the more traditional uses of Parmesan cheese, check out River's post or Bianca's recent use.