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. 🙂


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
Pickle relish
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:
     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.

The Only Pasta Salad Recipe You’ll Ever Need
August 2, 2010, 6:59 pm
Filed under: Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , ,

I think I’ve finally perfected the pasta salad. My life is now complete.

I made a pasta salad for a barbecue last month that was creamy (thanks to Vegenaise) but ultimately a bit bland. This weekend, I made one that eschewed the ‘naise and used a great vinaigrette to tie it together instead, and I tell you, it’s wonderful. Here’s the approximate recipe, which I made up on the fly (always the best way to cook).

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Pasta, half a package. I like spirals but penne would work too, and I prefer veggie kinds (tomato, spinach, etc.) to plain ol’ pasta. The color and flavors are much more interesting.
Asparagus, half a bunch
1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper

Artichokes, marinated, one jar
Handful of grape tomatoes, halved
Olives, sliced, one can
Soy feta, quarter to half a round
Salt and pepper to taste
Herbs to taste (basil, oregano, thyme)
Vinaigrette of your choice (I suggest something with some punch. I used the sun-dried tomato and garlic flavor from Organicville. Highly recommend!)

Boil the pasta per package directions, drain, cool slightly.
Quarter the bell peppes and arrange with asparagus on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and broil in the oven until the asparagus is tender and the peppers are just about to brown/blacken. (I had to remove the asparagus before the peppers—you don’t want to overcook it.)
Chop the artichoke into quarters.
Combine all ingredients, crumbling the feta as you add it. Let sit for at least half an hour to let the flavors get to know each other.  Serve chilled or room temp.

I’m seriously, people. This pasta salad got a rave review and I think it would be a great addition to your next picnic or cookout. Cheers!

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!

Quickie “Tuna” Salad
April 6, 2010, 11:39 am
Filed under: Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , ,

This week I decided to mix up my lunch routine and devise a cheap, easy sandwich filling that could last a couple days. The result? A tasty, healthy sandwich that resembles tuna salad (if you’re into that kind of comparison—otherwise just think of it as a fun mashed bean salad).

Quickie “Tuna” Salad

Garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), 1 can
Pickle relish, ¼ cup or to taste (I used a “spicy India” kind)
Mustard and/or Vegenaise, 1 tablespoon
Pepper or lemon pepper, dash

Mash the beans in a bowl with a potato masher or fork. They can remain pretty lumpy. Add the relish (the amount depending on how much pickley flavor you like), the mustard and/or vegan mayonnaise (it’s healthier with just mustard), and pepper. I like lemon pepper for everything—adds a nice twist. You could add chopped onions if you like (red would be particularly good). Spread on whole wheat bread.

You could also slap on some vegan cheese and toast it under the broiler to make a melt. Mmmm …