Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Long Time No See!

OMG!  It's been a while to say the very least!  I hit my third trimester in my pregnancy and I've been swamped with midwife appointments, sonograms, hypnobirthing classes, nursery decorating and fatigue!  Needless to say, dinners here have been pretty low maintenance, mostly involving throwing together some quick sesame noodles or heating up a Tofurky vegan pizza. 

On a positive note, my new best friend arrived in the mail about a week ago!  For years I had been using a Jack LaLanne juicer.  Great for most people, but considering that I juice daily, and I'd prefer to juice my greens than throwing them into a thick smoothie, I finally gave in and ordered an Omega masticating juicer.  I cannot believe I waited so long.  My unborn baby and I have been devouring green juice from the moment I opened the door to find the beautiful hunk of mini-machine sitting on my doorstep.  I already had a bag of organic wheatgrass, lots of apples and carrots and tons of romaine, parsley and kale awaiting its arrival.  Oh Happy Day!

In my blogging time-off I also spent 6 days on vacation in New Jersey and New York.  As I was entering my third and final leg of my pregnancy, we decided we should go on vacation before we were tied up with a newborn.  Destination aside, one of the main purposes for this vacation other than enjoying our last vacay as a 3-person family unit, was to eat my way through one of the following cities: Chicago, Portland or NYC.  My husband and I used to visit the City that Never Sleeps at lease once a year and since we know that it is NOT stroller friendly when traveling on subways, (even though we have never been to the other 2 destinations) we chose NYC.  It didn't hurt that his brother lives in NJ, just over the bridge so NYC was right around the corner. 

First stop: Right off the plane, we got in the car, starving from our flights, and headed to Hoboken NJ on the way to their house.  There, sat The Cinnamon Snail, a food truck serving up vegan street food and pastries.  I'm not sure if stopping here first was a good idea because it kind of spoiled the rest of my dining experiences.  I ordered the Al Pastor sandwich.  It was a large hoagie stuffed with seitan smothered in a mildly spicy sauce.  When I say smothered, it was smothered!

If there's one thing I would call a requirement for good street food, it is that it is supposed to be messy.  Weird, since you're often eating it on-the-go...but good street food is always messy and this was no exception.  A mess on my belly and handfuls of napkins later, I returned to order food to-go, to prevent my over emotional pregnant self from flooding the kitchen with tears when there was nothing for me to eat, as the only 'almost-vegan'.  I ordered the Korean BBQ Seitan, which, again, was a hot spicy seitan-ic mess piled on a huge floppy tortilla.  I may have drooled at that point.  My daughter and I also stocked up on pastries, donuts and muffins for the next morning.  They barely lasted that long!  In addition to the food being phenomenal, the guys on the truck were super nice.  One of them even gave my daughter and I a few free pastries after learning of my mission to eat my way through the city!  Nothin says Lovin like free vegan pastries!  And I am not lying when I tell you, I would shoot myself in the kneecap for each time a person could blindly taste test and tell the difference.  Not possible.  Vegan what? 

My other destinations included the Blossom Cafe, Kalustyan's, Stogo, Cowgirl's Bakery, Tu-Lu's Gluten Free Bakery & Liquiteria. 

The Blossom Cafe was good, but the service was a little slow, they got my husband's order wrong and the raw nachos were slightly disappointing.  The vegan bacon cheeseburger, however, was pretty damn good!

Kalustyan's was not on my original 'hit-list' but was recommended to me by the guy working The Cinnamon Snail truck in NJ.  Considering how good their food was, I gratefully took his advice!  It was a tiny little cafe on the second story of a little Indian health food shop.  I was told to order the Mujadara Sandwich with extra pickled veggies.  When I got there, I forgot about the sandwich part and ended up having the Mujadara meal, which is a dish consisting on mostly lentils.  It was delicious!  I devoured it in no time.  I am now committed to finding a recipe that my tastebuds will recognize as that same dish.  Service was great.  Earned a few free falalfal balls for having a cute kid.

Not too much to say about the other places.  I did sample a hemp based ice cream from Stogo made with ginger and it was really yummy, except that not all of the ginger was 'creamed' into it and chewing on raw stringy ginger is never fun.  I was very impressed with the taste of the cupcakes at Cowgirl's Baking...I ordered Mint Chocolate and Cotton Candy flavored cupcakes.  One was even Gluten Free and I couldn't tell the difference.  I was, however, really disappointed in the selection.  I had chosen this place because their website listed croissants and cannolis.  Two things I have not had the pleasure of annihilating in years.  Their site never listed anything as far as limited selections, so I assumed I would be walking out with bagfuls of croissants and cannolis.  I even left them a Facebook message about 10 days before to tell them how excited I was to try those 2 particular items.  No response and no croissants or cannolis.  Bummer.

My sister-in-law, who went with me on my vegan food hopping journey, mentioned a place near Cowgirls that she had been to, called Tu-Lus....so on we walked.    They had a small selection of vegan cupcakes and cookies, but everything was gluten free.  My daughter and I shared some cookies, which were definitely yummy before my tummy started to ache for something healthy....juice!  On to Liquiteria.  It just happened to be around the corner and god damn was it packed!  We waited a while, but I ordered a green juice made with tons of greens and a slice of lemon poppy bread to go.  Yum & Yum.

Anyhow, that was my trip.  It was delicious.  It was fun.  It was disappointing to return home where no veg places reside in Lakeland and although Orlando and Tampa has some good ones, they pale in comparison.

So, on another note: One of the recipes I've been wanting to make and post I was finally able to make and post!  Years ago in my meat-eating days, I was a big fan of TGI Fridays for one reason and one reason only: The Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad.  It was a pile of deliciousness in a bowl.  Although, the original comes with blue cheese crumbles which I ALWAYS had removed because moldy cheese, vegan or not, does not sit well with me.  I used to make the salad myself and after going meat-free, I would make it at home without chicken...and it was awesome!  Then I thought...why not use a substitute so it can still be a dinner salad...not just a side-of-dinner salad?  The following is my result.  Make it.  You will love it. 

Pecan Crusted Tempeh SaladMakes 4 small salads or 2 Large Dinner Portion Salads
For the Tempeh1 8oz block Tempeh
1/2 C Pecans
1/2 C Cereal (Use a bland health food cereal.  Fridays call for Corn Flakes, I used Uncle Sams Wheat Berry Crisp cereal)
1 tsp Organic Sugar
1/4 C Prepared Yellow Mustard
1 Tbsp Non-Dairy Milk
2 Tbsp High-Heat Oil

Cut tempeh to make 2 slabs.  This depends on which tempeh you buy, since some come in squares, which you could cut in half down the center, creating 2 square THINNER slabs.  Some come in rectangles, which you can just cut in half, making 2 thicker squares.  Either way is fine.  Place in a steamer basket over boiling water.  Reduce heat, cover and allow to steam for about 15-20 minutes.  While this is steaming you can make the dressing. 

When it's done, remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Put pecans, cereal and sugar in food processor and process until ground.  Set aside.  Mix mustard and milk.  Set aside.  Heat oil in skillet.  Coat each piece of tempeh with the mustard mixture and then cover in the ground pecan mixture.  Lightly fry until browned.  Repeat with each piece and remove to paper towel to drain excess oil.

For the Dressing1/4 C Flax Oil
1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Yellow Mustard
2 Tbsp Honey (if strict vegan, use Agave)
1 Clove Garlic, minced
Dash S&P

Mix all in bowl with whisk until well combined...or mix quickly in blender before it gets foamy.  Set aside.

For the Pecans1/2 C Pecans, coarsely chopped
1 tsp Brown Sugar (organic)

Place pecans and sugar into dry skillet and heat until fragrant, mixing.  Remove.  Sugar should not melt.  Remove pecans and sugar to bowl.

For the Salad....Finally!!! - Adjust measurements to your liking!!5-8 C Mixed Spring Greens, or Romaine Mix
4 Celery Ribs, chopped
Balsamic Dressing
Sugared Pecans
1/2 C dried Cranberries
1/3 C Mandarin Orange Slices (canned, drained and rinsed of goo)
Pecan Crusted Tempeh

Toss greens and celery with about 1/2 of the dressing.  Use the remainder for another time.  Place a pile on each plate.  Sprinkle each with pecans, cranberries and mandarin orange wedges.  Slice each slab of tempeh into strips like chicken strips and top each salad with a sliced slab of tempeh.



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