A Lotus Grows in Brooklyn


Tacos à la Inwood
January 21, 2011, 1:50 pm
Filed under: Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , ,

I have not been very good lately at making big, creative, ambitious meals. What? It’s winter! I can hardly bring myself to schlep through vast reservoirs of slush puddles to get to the local crappy bodega, much less muster the energy to be a master chef. That said, on Friday, starving, cold, and idea-less, a friend and I stopped into Whole Foods to find inspiration for a quick meal.

Ultimately, I had him as soon as the word “tacos” was out of my mouth. Now, my template for a taco meal at home comes from my childhood, where it would be hard shells, ground beef with packaged seasoning, tomato chunks, and iceberg lettuce. Not bad, of course! But I wanted to see if we could make something a little more “baja,” like the tacos I loved getting from California taco trucks before I went vegan. Here’s what happened … deliciousness!

Ingredients:

Whole Foods small flour tortillas, in white or wheat (I’m telling you, this is important: They are cheap and hold together real nicely.)
Package of vegan ground beef (like Lightlife Smart Ground)
Can of black beans
Spices! This is very important. I don’t think you need the packaged taco seasoning when you can throw in generous dashes of cumin, ground red pepper, pepper, salt, chili powder, and hot sauce.
Vegan cheddar cheese (like Daiya, or shredded almond or rice varieties) Tomatoes
Red onion
Avocado
Lettuce (iceberg, if you must)
Bunch of cilantro
Vegan sour cream (like Tofutti)
Lime

So, the process here is pretty intuitive. I sautéed the ground “beef” and black beans together and spiced to taste with the seasonings suggested above. Meanwhile, I warmed the tortillas in some oil on the stovetop, but you could warm them in the microwave (I don’t have one) or the oven (I didn’t have the patience for that). Also, you should dice the tomatoes and red onion, slice the avocado, and chop the lettuce and cilantro in advance so it’s ready when the meat and tortillas are warm.

When it’s all ready, layer the meat and veggies in whatever order suits your fancy. (My boyfriend and I had slightly different theories of this. Mine are above, his are below—both tasted amazing!) Plop on some sour cream, sprinkle on cilantro and squeeze on some lime. Yay, easy vegan fiesta!

* As you can see, we enjoyed our tacos with the ever-tasty Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and a nice steel-barrel-fermented Chardonnay we got from Paumanok vineyards while wine tasting on Long Island. Just in case you’re looking for pairing ideas. :)



Easy Weeknight ‘Chicken’ Club
December 13, 2010, 9:17 am
Filed under: Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , ,

The other night my boyfriend and I needed a quick vegan meal made from a few items we could pick up at a just a normal, slightly terrible NYC grocery store (read: nothin’ fancy and not a lot of specifically vegan items). Turns out we threw together these incredibly delicious chicken club sandwiches.

The recipe, generally:

Boca Chick’n Patties
French rolls
Vegan mayonnaise
Ketchup
Pickle relish
Lettuce
Tomatoes
Smart Beat Non-Dairy Slices

Bake, fry, or nuke the Chick’n patties, melting the non-dairy cheese on top toward the end; mix the vegan mayonnaise (Vegenaise or Nayonaise brand) with a bit of ketchup and relish to make a tasty sauce, then spread it on good French rolls; top with lettuce and tomatoes and voilà! I can’t believe how good these were, seriously. Mmm mm mmm. Who says being vegan is difficult?



Delicious Veggie Enchiladas
November 22, 2010, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , ,

Last night I made really stellar vegan enchiladas. Yup, they were that good that I feel secure in crowing about them. The best part was dreaming up the recipe myself. I think using your past experience in the kitchen to whip up creations all your own is the most satisfying—and often successful—way to cook. So here’s what I did, but I could see substituting all kinds of other elements for the filling. These turned out pretty spicy, too—my fave!

1 zucchini
1 package button mushrooms
1 red bell pepper
1 small onion
1 can black beans
1 small can diced green chilies
Dashes of spices:
     Cumin
     Paprika
     Ground red pepper
     Chili powder
     Salt
     Pepper
Small corn tortillas
Dairy-free cheddar cheese slices (e.g., Smart Beat)
1 can enchilada or taco sauce
1 jar of chunky salsa
1 small can sliced olives

Chop the zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion into smallish pieces. Place in a hot, oiled wok or skillet and add the seasonings. Be liberal here, because this is where a lot of the flavor comes from. Sauté until cooked and soft, stirring in the black beans and chilies for the last couple minutes.

Combine the enchilada sauce with half a jar of salsa.

For each enchilada, place a slice of cheese in the middle of a tortilla, top with a spoonful of the salsa sauce. Spread a large spoonful of the vegetable-bean mixture over that. Roll up the sides of the tortilla and place seam-side down in a 13X9 baking dish that has been sprayed with oil. Repeat until all the veggie mixture has been used up. Place more slices of cheese on top of enchiladas and drench with the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle sliced olives over the top.

Cover and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes more or until heated through and cheese is melted.

 Enjoy!



Autumn Wisdom
October 27, 2010, 8:50 am
Filed under: Photography, Quotes | Tags: , , , ,

 

When I walked out my door this morning it struck me that the leaves on the trees in Fort Tryon Park are suddenly changing. Against the dim gray sky and slick black rocks there are brilliant yellows and reds. Perhaps it’s been happening subtly for a time now, but today the transformation is arresting. It got me thinking that one, I wished I could just walk among the trees and not be going to work, and two, that we can look to a natural phenomenon such as this for inspiration to undertake necessary changes in our own lives. On that note, here are some of the better quotes I culled this morning on personal growth. Happy autumn!

“We are either progressing or retrograding all the while. There is no such thing as remaining stationary in this life.”

— James Freeman Clarke

“The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”

— W.E.B. Du Bois

“To change one’s life, start immediately, do it flamboyantly, no exceptions.”

— William James

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

— Anais Nin

Photo by harold.lloyd on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.



Weekend o’ Vegan Delights

Ah, Monday. Time for me to gaze dolefully out across the prospect of a long workweek but also to fondly recall all the great vegan meals I had over this past lovely, happy weekend. Highlights!

► A vegan meetup in Williamsburg where we sampled treats from three eateries: the “Tom Hanks” pizza from Vinnie’s with vegan barbecue chicken, bacon, mozzarella, cheddar and barbecue sauce (above); a cubano and the “Merckx Werkx” sandwiches from Boneshakers (the latter featuring: “tofurky, sham, olive tapenade, chipotle mayo, lettuce, tomato, on a ciabatta hero”); and an outrageous selection of cookies, cupcakes, pastries, and pie from the new Champs vegan bakery. Besides the food, the best thing about the meetup was I got a slew of recommendations from fellow vegans on restaurants I am now dying to try. (Just more for me to share with all you Lotus readers!)

► Stood in line at Babycakes on a busy Saturday afternoon for their apple cider doughnuts, one dripping in delicious caramel sauce. Small and expensive, but totally worth the wait. (Sorry no pic, we were too eager to indulge and I forgot to snap a photo.)

► And best of all, brunch at Life Café in Bushwick, where I had the Eggless Rancheros pictured above, which was every bit as delicious as it looks!

And now, back to my regular workday diet of fruit and hummus. Sigh. :)



World’s Best Vegan Reuben
October 13, 2010, 12:18 pm
Filed under: Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , ,

Okay, maybe it’s not the best, but it’s certainly the best that I’ve ever made. Delish! Warning, this melty hunk of buttery vegan goodness is pretty decadent, so you might want to share with a friend. Or plan a nice long jog for the next day. But it’s worth it!

Vegan Reuben

Rye bread (We used the sourdough rye from Bread Alone, a Hudson Valley organic bakery, and it was perfect.)
Tempeh strips (you can get pre-flavored or plain)
Seitan (packaged strips)
Teriyaki sauce
Spices of your choosing (salt, pepper, red pepper, chili powder, garlic powder … )
Vegenaise
Ketchup
Pickle relish
Daiya mozzarella-style vegan cheese
Sauerkraut
Vegan buttery spread (I like Earth Balance)

Step 1: Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet and sauté the tempeh strips and seitan, turning occasionally and seasoning with your favorite spices. Add a dash of teriyaki, which I think lends a rich, meaty flavor.  Cook until slightly browned.

Step 2: In a small bowl, make thousand island dressing by mixing about ½ cup of Vegenaise with dashes of ketchup and pickle relish to taste.

Step 3: Assemble the sandwich by spreading the dressing on a slice of bread and layering on tempeh, seitan, sauerkraut, and a sprinkling of Daiya cheese (a little goes a long way). Smoosh sandwich down a bit to help prevent precious ingredients escaping. Spread ‘butter’ on top of sandwich.

Step 4: Heat a skillet and carefully place sandwich butter side down. Cook until golden brown on bottom. Butter top side, then gently flip it over and brown the other side.

Voilà! This would go great with some potato chips or, if you’re feeling fancy like we were, some home fries*. But that’s a whole other post.  :)

Okay, and one more photo, in case your mouth wasn’t watering enough already.

 

* Thanks to Scott for cooking up the delicious potatoes, for being an integral help in the preparation of the World’s Best Vegan Reubens, and for being an open-minded and adventurous omnivore.



Morning Wisdom
October 6, 2010, 8:57 am
Filed under: Buddhism, Photography, Quotes | Tags: , , , ,

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”

—Thich Nhat Hanh

Love this quote. I feel it’s something I could repeat to myself in the mornings and find inspiration to try to be my best self every day.

Photo by apdk on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.




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