Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Miso–Butternut Squash Soup by Nava Atlas of Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

When Nava Atlas, the author of a plethora of vegetarian cookbooks approached me to be a stop on her "Blog Tour" for the re-release of one of her books, I was more than happy to oblige. Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons is now in its 4th edition, previously having been titled Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons, & it now contains color photos, plus a beautiful new cover! As someone who eats seasonally, I was thrilled by the convenience of having the recipes divided by availability at my local Farmers Market!

Today just happens to be the release date, so I'm posting a recipe from Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons I made just the other day. The book couldn't have arrived on my doorstep at a better time. Struck with a case of the sniffles, I opened the package & found myself making Miso Butternut Squash soup shortly after. This mild, delicious soup hit the spot & did a fabulous job chasing away my winter blues! The recipe is straight from the book, the only change I made was to steam my butternut squash, so from here I'll let Nava's words take it away..

Miso–Butternut Squash Soup
with soba noodles and spinach
6 servings
Once you've got the squash baked, this Japanese-style soup comes together quickly, and is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate. Use chopsticks for "slurping" the noodles.

1 small butternut squash, about 1 pound
3 cups water
4 ounces soba (buckwheat noodles), broken in half
1/2 to 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, to taste
One 15-ounce can low-sodium vegetable broth
5 to 6 ounces fresh baby spinach, stemmed and rinsed
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 to 3 tablespoons miso
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the squash in a microwave-safe container. Microwave for 8 minutes, or until it can be easily pierced with a knife but is still firm. Or, if you are using the oven for baking other foods, you can bake the squash in the oven. Cut it in half, wrap in foil, and bake at 375 or 400 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, or until tender. Either way, this step can be done ahead of time. Let the squash cool until it can be easily handled. Split it in half, remove the seeds and fibers, and scoop the flesh away from the skin. Cut into large dice and set aside until needed.

Bring the water to a simmer in a soup pot. Add the soba and ginger and cook until the noodles are al dente.

Add the broth, spinach, and peas, and diced squash. Cook just until the spinach is wilted but still bright green and everything is well heated through.

Dissolve the miso in 1/3 cup warm water and stir into the soup, then taste. If you'd like to add more miso, dissolve a small amount in a little warm water before adding. Season with pepper and serve at once.

If you're a soup or stew fan like myself, hop over to Amazon & pick up Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sweetness in New York City + Lula's Sweet Apothecary (with video)!

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

As my plane touched down in New York City, I found myself anxious to get out of the airport & on to my planned destination. A group of friends from the PPK were gathering at Lula's Sweet Apothecary & I was running late, due to delays beyond my control. As the rain trickled down, I ran in to the door to find a tiny little shop with warm colored wood, a wall of candy, & ice cream options galore!

Friends gathered along the strip of seating along the wall & at the end of the ice cream bar. I was happy to see Terry's familiar face, as well as a few faces of those I've been wanting to meet, such as Evan from Bjorked Off & Sarchan of Emo Potato! Evan & I connected on all things dessert, while Sarchan was sweet enough to bring me her awesome Chewy Peanut Butter-Banana-Oatmeal-Peanut Chew-Chunk Cookies!

I started with a sundae, topped with all sorts of goodness from Ricemallow & Whipped Cream to Peanut Butter Cookies, Crumblz, & a Cherry! The ice cream flavors rotate, I was able to sample them all that night, the Peanut Butter Fudge flavor being my favorite at the moment. Not holding back, I also had a swirl of soft serve, provided by Tempation, makers of all things Soy Dairy. Once the ice cream was flowing, other treats started to make their way around, like Malt Shots. It's safe to say I left Lula's on a sugar high!
Lula's Sweet Apothecary: 516 E 6th Street between Ave A & B

On another afternoon, per Evan's suggestion, we decided to seek out some Red Mango treats. The rumor was that they have fabulous cheesecake & we were able to track it down at The Bean, a coffee & tea spot with two locations in Manhattan. We sat down to a slice of Peanut Butter Cheesecake & WOW, people are not joking! This confection contained a chocolate cookie crust, a layer of sweet peanut butter, a layer of plain cheesecake, & then thick ganache topped with peanut butter frosting. It was rich, decadent, & we both agreed it may be the best cheesecake we've had.. ever. Do yourself a favor & find this cheesecake!
Red Mango Bakery: Available throughout NYC

Atlas Cafe is known for their expansive menu with many vegan options & their case full of Vegan Treats, but they also have tofu soft serve. It's certainly no Lula's, but if you're in the neighborhood, get it mixed with peanut butter & enjoy a refreshing treat. Of course, there's also donuts & cinnamon rolls delivered in addition to the cakes on Tuesdays, so it shouldn't be too tough to find an excuse to go there.
Atlas Café: 73 2nd Ave at E 4th St.

Wandering in the East Village late one night, we decided to pop in to Vox Pop, knowing they had more of Red Mango's sweet treats. We acquired two Cupcakes, a Chocolate covered Peanut Butter Krispie treat, & a Chocolate covered Twinkie, oh my! Unfortunately, the were refrigerated & so cold, they were almost frostbitten! The Krispie was interesting at the cold temperature, not bad, & the Chocolate Covered Twinkie had serious potential (although it was no No Whey!), I would be curious to try it at room temperature. The cupcakes suffered from the cold, but I can't see myself anxious to have another.
Vox Pop: 308 Bowery at E 1st St.

On a rainy day in Brooklyn, we headed to the Penny Licks for their selection of Vegan Treats & Tempation ice cream. A large case of sweets, as well as old timey decor greeted us, & I was thrilled by the wire backed parlor chairs. I was looking forward to trying more of the Tempation ice cream flavors, as I loved them when I visited Chicago. While the Peanut Butter Brownie & Vanilla Cupcake baked goods didn't quite do it for me, I was thrilled to try a trio of "Penny Licks" in Strawberry, Cookie Dough, & Pumpkin. Creamy ice cream on a crunchy mini cone? Yes, please! Now if only we could get Tempation around here!
Penny Licks: 158 Bedford Ave between 8th St & 9th St, Brooklyn

Of course, I had to end my trip with another visit to Lula's Sweet Apothecary. Blythe & Derek are so kind & generous, we found ourselves chatting with them, finding many things in common as our final afternoon in NYC slipped away. Another round of soft serve & sundaes yielded the discovery of a new favorite ice cream, S'mores! I have a major marshmallow obsession, so the smooth chocolate ice cream flanked with graham crackers, fudge ribbons, & Sweet and Sara marshmallows may have hit the spot so well, I had two servings!

To commemorate some kick ass ice cream, I made a little video of my trips to Lula's. Check it out!

Don't forget, Lula's Sweet Apothecary: 516 E 6th Street between Ave A & B, yum!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Savory Sustenance in New York City!

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

It's been quite some time since I've returned from New York City, but the whirlwind of the year's end kept me from properly documenting my culinary adventure in one of my favorite cities in the world. While I ran from the plane directly to Lula's Sweet Apothecary, aka heaven, I'm going to tackle the savory side of New York City in this post & leave the desserts for next time!

On our first full day in NYC, we headed one of my favorite neighborhoods, the East Village, to a well known organic vegetarian bistro, Counter. After hearing rave reviews about their brunch, we decided to try it for ourselves. The sun shone beautifully in to the windows as we ordered the Frittata Alla Fiorentina & the Signature Pain Perdu. The presentation of the tofu frittata with a creamy mushroom hollandaise on a bed of spinach was lovely & was served with home fries & a salad. While the frittata was highly recommended, I found it a bit salty & overwhelming, I've never been a hollandaise gal, so this is likely the culprit. The Pain Perdu, on the other hand, was right up my alley! Slices of thickly coated French toast smothered by banana flambé with a side of maple syrup & fresh fruit, it was a like dessert for breakfast, which I take no issue with!
Counter: 105 1st Ave between 6th & 7th Street

After exploring vegan candy mecca Economy Candy, we headed to midtown to catch a comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade, which just happened to feature 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer that night, as well as former SNL cast member Horatio Sanz. All the laughter must have kicked up our appetites & we hopped in a cab headed for Candle 79. I've raved about Candle 79 in the past, but this meal turned out to be less than stellar compared to the previous experiences I've had there. We started with two orders of our favorite dish, the Seitan Chimichurri, which came to us charred & almost inedible. Hoping to have better luck with other dishes, we ordered the infamous Seitan Piccata, as well as the Grilled Pomegranate Tempeh. The Piccata didn't do it for me, there was a note of something fishy, that I just couldn't enjoy, so Ryan ate a large portion of the dish. The Grilled Pomegranate Tempeh was better with it's delicious sweet potato-squash puree, chocolate molé sauce & perfect crisp tender haricots verts, but the tempeh itself was underwhelming. I'm certainly not giving up on Candle 79, it's one of my favorite places to dine, so I still recommend everyone try this typically stellar restaurant.
Candle 79: 154 East 79th Street at Lexington

You can't visit NYC without having a bagel with shmear, so I asked one of my favorite New Yorkers, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, where we should head for this classic combination. She recommended Bagels on the Square for their vast selection of Tofutti spreads, so we took her advice & headed to the West Village. An everything bagel with scallion spread & a plain bagel with strawberry tofu cream cheese were procured. We sat across from the shop, in the square, as the sun shone down on us & the crisp air nipped our red noses. Our favorite was definitely the chewy, yet tender plain bagel & I enjoyed the strawberry cream cheese, despite some contamination issues with some wandering lox (ick!).
Bagels on the Square: 7 Carmine Street between Avenue Of The Americas & Bleecker Street

After another day of wandering around, shopping, freezing, & taking in the sights, we met up with my longtime friend Janine for a dinner at Red Bamboo. I was under the impression I had not been there before, but upon entering I was pretty sure Janine & I went here together in 2001 before we saw Menace at CBGB (RIP). We ordered quite a few dishes, from Vegetable Tempura & Collard Green Rolls to Buffalo Barbecue Wings & Butterfly Soy Chops. Holy Fried Food, Batman! It was a crispy, oily fest, as dishes I thought would be vegetable based showed up covered in batter, batter, & more batter! I'm not a big fan of mock meats like "soy chicken" or deep fried everything, so Red Bamboo just isn't up my alley. I know many people love this place, so if you like mock meat & heavy comfort food, check it out.
Red Bamboo: 140 West 4th Street between 6th Ave & Macdougal Street

The next day, we met up with our gracious host & former roommate Eliana to have lunch. Wanting something on the lighter side & trying to stay around her work, we checked out The Organic Grill. Ryan quickly selected a dish he'll order any time he sees it on the menu, The Reuben. Eliana & I shared a few items, a Spelt Crust Pot Pie & the daily special; the Soba Spectacular. The Reuben hit the spot with thick slabs of tempeh, sauerkraut & tangy dressing on Rye, served up with a large salad. While the pot pie left a lot to be desired, the Soba Spectacular lived up to it's name with chunks of sweet potatoes, mushrooms, & soba noodles covered with a tahini dressing atop a bed of kale. Despite the mixed reviews of this place online, our meals happened to hit the spot!
The Organic Grill: 123 1st Ave between 7th St & St Marks Pl

Another suggestion of Isa (Ms. Moskowitz, if ya nasty), we headed to the famous Yonah Schimmel Knishes on the Lower East Side. A knish is an Eastern European and Yiddish snack food made popular in North America by Jewish immigrants consisting of a filling covered with dough, baked or fried (thanks Wikipedia!). Yonah Schimmel has been around since 1910, so they have a bit of experience, which may be why the staff is impatient & rough around the edges. We ordered Potato, Broccoli, & a roasted Garlic with Red Onion, two of which were fresh out of the oven. My advice? Get whatever is hot or just came out (as long as it's vegan, aka no cheese) & skip the others or they'll nuke it in the microwave. I love potatoes, so I was in to these, but Ryan? Not so much.
Yonah Schimmel Knishes: 137 E Houston St between 2nd Ave & Chrystie St

I've saved the best for last with another classic NYC food, pizza! With the awesome company of Terry Hope Romero & Jason Das of SuperVegan, we headed to Park Slope, Brooklyn to dine at Pizza Plus. With an extensive list of toppings available, crust choices, Follow Your Heart vegan cheese, & far too much to talk about, we had a tough time deciding what to order. We ended up with two large pies; garlic, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, & broccoli rabe flanked one, while red bell peppers, jalapeños, & pineapple topped the other. Wow! Melty FYH, delicious toppings, & perfect chewy crust made for some spectacular pizza we all enjoyed. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, there were no leftovers, which is quite a feat for four people with two large pizzas. I assure you, Ryan played a large role in the pizza disappearing act! Get yourself to Pizza Plus for a vegan pizza pie, pronto!
Pizza Plus: 359 7th Avenue between 10th & 11th Streets in Brooklyn

As you can see, NYC is one hell of a vegan friendly city, arguably the best in the world. It's rare to find yourself in an area of the city without food options & I find myself trying new places every time I visit. In my next post, I'll touch on the plethora of desserts to be found!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pee Wee's Veg Adventure, Holiday Treats, & a birthday!

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

Happy New Year! It seems 2009 is here & the resolutions are flying. While I didn't make any myself, I hope those of you who did are able to stick with them. Hopefully some of you decided to give veganism a try & will see how easy, fun, & rewarding it is!

I brought in the New Year at my home with a group of friends from the PPK. We decided to have a themed potluck, "Pee Wee's Veg Adventure" & I can safely say it was the most beautiful potluck in puppetland! All of the dishes were crafted up beforehand to keep the Pee Wee Herman theme & we all chowed down on dishes like "Jambi-Laya", "Connect the Dots Quinoa", "Copper Penny Salad", "King of Stuffed Mushrooms", & "Dinosaur Family Kale". Erin from Vegan Homemade brought two delicious dishes, "Simone's French Toast Bites" & "Footlongs for Mickey", which you can check out on her post. For dessert, we had even more themed options like "Cowboy Curtis' Cookie Sandwiches", "Chairry Pie", & "Whacky Tapi-oca Pudding Shooters".

My contributions were one savory & one sweet. I made "Pterri's BBQ Not Wings" which were seitan kabobs on skewers, smothered in sweet & spicy barbecue sauce & "Globey's International Speculaas Brownies", which were a gluten free brownie recipe from the upcoming 500 Vegan Recipes book by Celine & Joni. I'm considering posting the wings recipe, which is inspired by Vegan Dad's Wingz, let me know if it's something you might want to try & I'll post it!

A package arrived on my doorstep on New Years Eve bearing gifts from a cross country vegan bakery. In the recent VegNews contests, I was the lucky winner of one dozen Cowvin Cookies from Sticky Fingers Bakery. I can't think of a more serendipitous surprise! I was thrilled to be able to cut these giant cream filled oatmeal cookie sandwiches in to bite sized pieces to share with a room full of vegans! They're downright delicious & I found myself going back for far too many!

Back to the party; when the clock struck midnight, "Tequila" started playing over the speakers & we did a little dance in Pee Wee's honor! Overall, it was a fun & fabulous night. Good food & good friends are a wonderful way to ring in the new year & create optimism for the year to come. I truly hope 2009 is a prosperous year for each & every one of us!

My holidays were a bit uneventful this year. I had two meals with my family & made a large portion of the food from polenta cakes & roasted veggies to black eyed pea quinoa croquettes & golden gravy, but it all went by so quickly, I didn't do much in the way of photo taking. I did manage to snap a photo of the sweets I made. Mini Mint filled Chocolate Whoopie Pies were a hit, as were Peanut Butter Blondies from the upcoming cookie book by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero. For Christmas Day, I made the Gingerbread Apple Pie from Vegan with a Vengeance, putting little sakura cut outs on top & serving it with homemade caramel sauce & vanilla bean ice cream. I was certainly stuffed from the sweets by the end of the night!

I love a good surprise, so I was thrilled when a little green box showed up on my doorstep right before Christmas. The always adorable Hannah of My Sweet Vegan & Bittersweet blog fame sent a sweet & chocolatey treat, chock full of cookie chunks, & perfect for adding to my Christmas platter of vegan goodies!

Hannah's surprise & the Cowvin cookies, plus the amazing birthday package I received from Marijke & opened for my birthday today have made for some seriously fabulous mail in the past few weeks. Rumor has it, there's belated birthday gifts on the way as well. I am very thankful & I truly appreciate all the birthday love I've been feeling today! Tonight I'll be having dinner with some friends at ubuntu in Napa. Ryan made me this little widget, so you can hear what I like to listen to on my birthday. Make sure you save it to torture people on your special day, hehe!

Next time I'll start my New York City series (finally), so look out for delicious dining & sweet treats in the near future!