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!


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
Lettuce (iceberg, if you must)
Bunch of cilantro
Vegan sour cream (like Tofutti)

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. 🙂


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:
     Ground red pepper
     Chili powder
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.


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 … )
Pickle relish
Daiya mozzarella-style vegan cheese
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.

Vegan Picnic-tastic

Memorial Day weekend in New York meant huge gatherings of friends and families in every park and the scent of sizzling animal flesh on every grill. I, however, got to enjoy a nice little picnic for two in Riverside Park on Sunday (right before I bailed on my rollerblades and became a sheepish, scraped mess). 🙂

The menu

Strawberries, seedless green grapes, marinated green and kalamata olives, supercrazydelicious Baked Kettle chips (salt & fresh ground pepper flavor), and a bean salad and sandwiches I made that morning. Mm mmm mm.

Approximate recipes:

Chili-Lime Bean Salad


1 can garbanzo beans
1 can red kidney beans
1 can sweet corn kernels
1 can black beans
1 jalapeño, diced finely
1 orange bell pepper, diced
Bunch of cilantro, snipped into small pieces
Spices!!! I threw in generous amounts of chili powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.
Juice of two limes

Mix all in large bowl. Enjoy!

Tempeh-Hummus-Veggie Sandwiches

Tempeh (any variety, but I like the Lightlife Garden Veggie)
Teriyaki sauce
Lemon pepper
Baguette (I am in love with a multigrain one from Fairway. Crazy awesome!)
Hummus (flavor your choice, I used roasted red pepper)
Cucumber, sliced
Plum tomatoes, sliced
Red onion, sliced
Roasted red pepper, sliced (from a jar or roast your own)
Spinach leaves

Slice the tempeh thinly and marinate briefly in a bit of teriyaki sauce with a few dashes of lemon pepper.  Sauté in a skillet on each side for a few minutes until browned. Slice the baguette in half and spread the hummus on the bottom half. Place the cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, red pepper, and tempeh, topped by spinach leaves. Cut the baguette into smaller sandwiches. Voilà.  

Obviously you could add anything else you liked to this versatile sandwich. Artichoke hearts? Vegan feta? Grilled mushrooms? All great!

And a couple more pics of the view from our picnic spot. Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend!

Easy Breezy Pasta Salad
March 22, 2010, 8:51 am
Filed under: Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , ,

Saturday’s terrifically warm weather (75 in the city! two weeks after big snowstorms!) put me in the mood for a cold salad for dinner. With little funds and not much energy to trek to the store, though, my boyfriend and I had to be resourceful to make this happen.

Luckily, we’re both inventive in the kitchen, and I often think cobbling something together from seemingly meager stock can have surprisingly good results. Such was the case with this, what I’ll call “Fort Tryon Park Pasta Salad” (after Veganomicon‘s “Prospect Park Potato Salad” but to reflect the Manhattan park we’d spent time in that day).

Fort Tryon Park Pasta Salad

  • 8 oz. pasta (penne, bowtie, or rigatoni), cooked. Run under cold water for a few minutes after cooking to cool.
  • 1/2 one red bell pepper , diced
  • 1/2 one orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 one red onion, diced
  • 1 small pear, cubed
  • Grape or cherry tomatoes (handful)
  • Cabbage, shredded (can omit–we had some leftover from St. Patrick’s Day)
  • 1/2 cup Vegenaise (or more, to desired creaminess)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard (or more, to taste)

Herbs and spices of your choosing, to taste. We used:

  • Dill
  • Mrs. Dash
  • Hot pepper, ground
  • Pepper

Mix all and enjoy!

Yes, Irish Cuisine Can Be Vegan—and Delish!
March 18, 2010, 10:05 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

The veggies are a-cookin'.

While celebrating my Irish heritage by not carousing drunkenly around the city, like I saw so many young’uns doing yesterday in Midtown, I went to my boyfriend’s house and made a vegan St. Patrick’s Day meal that was so good it surprised me!

I pretty much followed this recipe for “Vegan Corned Beef & Cabbage, Roasted Potatoes, and Soda Bread” at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. And I must say, nearly everything I’ve made from that site, run by Susan Voisin, has been stellar—and so healthy!

Potato-y goodness.

Slight changes I made:

  • I was skeptical (and rightly so) that the Yves Meatless Beef Strips I got would be tasty, so I also got some Field Roast Italian Sausage—always delicious—on sale at Whole Foods to beef up (hee!) the protein component of the meal. I sliced two sausages and sautéed them briefly to brown the outside before adding with the other “beef” strips as per the recipe.
  • I omitted celery, because ICK! (personal preference alert)
  • For the potatoes I sprinkled on steak seasoning before cooking instead of dill.
  • For the soda bread, I used 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup white flour. 

The finished meal: seasoned red potatoes; boiled veggies, "beef," and sausage; and Irish soda bread. Mmm...

Everything was amazing! The gravy was light and added nice flavor to the veggies and meat. The cooked cabbage (which my mother has always told me is a disgusting foodstuff) was actually quite nice. And the bread was by far the best soda bread I’ve made, going especially well with natural jam.

So sláinte, everyone! Here’s a toast to the Irish spirit in all of us and to updating traditional recipes of yesterday for a vegan, health-conscious today.

Finally Got My Hands on Daiya Cheese
March 3, 2010, 2:05 pm
Filed under: Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , ,

The vegan world has been all a-flutter about Daiya, a new non-dairy cheese since its debut last year. As I’ve reported here before, the waves of enthusiasm seemed to roll out from the West Coast to the East over last summer and fall. Blogger upon blogger fell under the spell of its melty, gooey goodness. No soy aftertaste! No casein (a milk protein found in most otherwise-vegan cheeses)!

Daiya was until recently only available for purchase in bulk from online shops but it’s beginning to appear on shelves at places such as Whole Foods Union Square, which is where I found it the other day. Thanks to a sharp-eyed vegan on Twitter for the tip-off that it’s packaged in a generic-looking WF container, otherwise I might have looked right past it. Daiya announced that it’s readying a retail package to launch later this month, and we can expect to begin seeing it carried in more stores (if they know what’s good for ‘em! If not, let’s make some noise and request it!).

Meantime, I got the opportunity to test out this wonder-cheese in my own kitchen for the first time. The verdict: pretty darn good! I made a black bean quesadilla with salsa using the cheddar style of Daiya. Definitely has superior melting properties to other vegan cheeses. The flavor is still not an exact reproduction of milk cheese, but do we need it to be? I scattered some shreds on steamed broccoli last night and it melted like a charm.

The price point is a smidge high but not as high as other vegan brands such as Soya Kaas, and I think it’s worth it. I look forward to trying the other Daiya style: Italian Blend (pizza making, here I come!) and to sampling dishes at the various restaurants around the city that have begun adding Daiya to their menus.

Tell your holdout omnivore friends: Lack of a good cheese alternative is no longer a good excuse for not going vegan!

Follow Daiya on Twitter for the most updated info where to find it. You can also check their website for details.