Sunday, January 11, 2015
Thursday, January 8, 2015
|Red Velvet Pancakes - Champs Diner|
This place is like a glutton's heaven; it's like waking up in a vegan food dream. So be warned, it's not for the "light" eater and you better bring your appetite... and your patience, because you will need both. Champs (or Champs Family Bakery or Champs Diner, whichever you prefer) recently moved to a new location and spruced up their decor, but kept with their retro 50's diner vibe. Even on a rainy, cold Saturday morning there was a crowd outside waiting for a table and unfortunately due to the small size, the hostess wouldn't allow people to wait inside. I came here for a birthday brunch with my best friend and was willing to wait. Instead of standing in the rain, we actually made the smart choice (thinking only with our stomachs here) to swing by Dunwell Doughnuts a couple blocks away for a pre-meal vegan doughnut (yup, talk about healthy).
I had studied the menu a few times before coming and even ordered takeout from Champs months ago. I was second guessing the fact that everything here is vegan, because it sure doesn't sound or look like it, which makes it that much more exciting! I first tried the Buffalo Chik'n Sandwich but wasn't impressed. It was a hero sandwich made with spicy buffalo chik'n, greens, tomatoes, sauteed onions, and ranch dressing. I couldn't enjoy it because it was too spicy for my taste. I was very eager to go back for a real brunch though because they are known for their breakfast foods. Some stand-outs include the Red Velvet Pancakes (photographed above), Drunken Cowgirl Tofu Scramble, French Fries with Cheese & Bacon (yes, you read that right). My friend was in the mood for more of an "egg" savory dish and went for the Get Scrambled tofu scramble with onions, peppers and ham. I made my decision based on reading the description of Country-Fried Seitan Sandwich...or maybe it was just seeing "fried" in the name. My sandwich was incredible, not something I could eat everyday or even every week, but a scrumptious unhealthy treat nonetheless. The crispy seitan cutlet was crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, smothered in creamy ranch dressing, topped with bacon and melted cheese and a few fresh veggies - lettuce and tomato - all served on Texas toast, because why not?! Man, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I had to save room for our breakfast dessert so I brought half home and ate it only a couple hours later. For dessert, with hardly any room left in our stomachs (those doughnuts before our meal might have been a bad idea), we sunk our forks into a stack of Red Velvet Pancakes. I've never had the pleasure of enjoying red velvet in this way before! They were chewy, fluffy and moist, a well-made pancake indeed and served with a generous heap of heavy whipped cream with melting chocolate chips decorating the plate.
|Country-Fried Seitan Sandwich - Champs Diner|
This whole meal left me saying "nom nom nom" and wanting to find a cozy warm corner to go lie down in for a while. There are just so many more things I need to try here. I will be back and I will wait in that line, because dammit it's worth it.
|Get Scrambled - Champs Diner|
|Another shot of those beautiful red velvet pancakes|
197 Meserole Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206
Champs Diner Website
Champs Diner Website
Sunday, January 4, 2015
|Pesto Mac 'N' Cheese - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen|
Eating this dish felt like being a kid again. It's mac 'n' cheese for one thing, but it's also colorful with a bright orange pasta sauce and bright green pesto topping. It'd be a great dish to make in the summer, but we loved it just as much in the winter. :) I made this to enjoy as dinner with my non-vegan boyfriend. I was worried it, served with the Creamed Spinach wouldn't be enough of a meal, but I'm happy to report it was a winner for both of us and we were very full! The sauce was creamy and cheesy from the blended roux made with nutritional yeast. The basil pine nut pesto was spot on, adding more salt to the dish. This makes a huge batch, which for us often results in overeating, but you could save lots for leftovers or serve to a bigger group (like for a summer BBQ... that unfortunately is months away).
Mac 'N' Cheese
1 pound elbow pasta (I used gluten-free brand Tinkyada)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup flour (or gluten-free flour to make it a fully GF dish)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups almond milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup pine nuts (I used raw)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon sea salt (I found the pesto to be too salty, so next time I'll reduce this)
1/4 cup olive oil
To Prepare Mac 'N' Cheese:
|Gluten-Free Elbow Pasta|
Make the cheese sauce by blending flour and olive oil in a medium saucepan. This looks like a pale green paste and I was worried about cooking it too long for fear of burning it, but Chloe suggests cooking for 3-5 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for just a minute. Next add almond milk, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, and salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat to allow to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
|Roux in the Making - Flour, Oil, Garlic|
|Vegan Cheese Sauce|
Toss cooked pasta with the sauce in a large bowl. When I first did this I thought there was way too much sauce, but I let it sit for a while to thicken and even put it in the oven to keep warm. This helped quite a bit and the sauce to pasta ratio was just fine.
To Prepare Pesto Sauce:
|Vegan Pesto in Under 5 Minutes!|
Top each serving of mac 'n' cheese with pesto sauce and savor every bite!
Saturday, January 3, 2015
|Creamed Spinach - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen|
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
10 oz. fresh spinach
Ground black pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg (I left this out and didn't think the dish was missing anything)
Start by blending the raw cashews and water together on high speed in a blender for about 1 minute. It will resemble a white milky liquid when done. Tip: boil cashews with the water for 10 minutes first or use hot water to get a creamier consistency. I still ended up with some larger pieces of cashews because my blender is not the best, but I actually really liked that texture in the dish.
Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium heat and add in onions. Cook until onions are softened and then add in spinach. Watch as the spinach shrinks down and turns a dark green color, stir occasionally. It will take about 5 minutes to cook the spinach. Once done add the garlic and cook for another minute, while stirring. Next add in the cashew cream and continue cooking for a minute or 2 more so it's heated throughout.
Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper (and nutmeg if you so choose) and do a taste test, but don't get carried away like I did :) Add more seasoning, as needed.
|Lemon Crusted Chicken Nuggets - Seasoned Vegan|
First off, sorry for the lame iPhone photos on this post. Sadly I didn't come prepared with my camera for this meal and the dim restaurant lighting didn't help. I'd been wanting to try this vegan restaurant for a while, although it's still fairy new. It required a subway trip to upper Manhattan and a dining buddy that would be up for the adventure. It's conveniently located next to Central Park North (110 St.) stop off the 2 or 3 subway line in Harlem. Though it was a frigid evening, upon walking in I felt a warm, welcoming vibe in this family-oriented restaurant. Bring your appetite and forget the diet when you come to dine here! The cuisine ranges from New Orleans inspired and Southern comfort food to raw dishes. If you were a fan of fish before going vegan this menu has a number of vegan seafood options for you.
|Stuffed Avocado - Seasoned Vegan|
I read on Yelp reviews that they sometimes run out of menu items throughout the day, which is a bummer. Hopefully they'll get more organized with time. On this occasion they were all out of the Po' Boy Wrap which was a dish I was hoping to try. Instead we ordered a nice variety of things to split: Chicken Parmesan Wrap, Baked Mac & Cheese, Stuffed Avocado, and Lemon Crusted Chicken Nuggets. The Chicken Parmesan Wrap had a bread-crust coated soy chicken patty with lots of gooey, melted vegan mozzarella and a nice tangy marinara sauce rolled up into a grilled tortilla. This was delish! I haven't had too many vegan chicken parms, but I could indulge in this one again and again. The Baked Mac & Cheese was so smooth and creamy. It was well seasoned, but didn't have a very cheesy taste. I enjoyed it a lot, but be warned it's a tad on the greasy, buttery side. The Stuffed Avocado was so incredibly filling that it could have been my whole meal. It's a whole avocado split open and filled with a seasoned almond "meat" topped with pico de gallo and a cashew cheese, all served over a bed of mixed greens. This gluten-free dish was the most natural and "green" of the bunch, but still loaded with fat (the good kinds) so I was appreciative that I was splitting it. Lastly we tried the Lemon Crusted Chicken Nuggets, one of their most popular dishes, and it did not disappoint. The nuggets were coated in loads of bread crumbs for a super crispy outside and served with two sauces, one was more like a BBQ sauce called Uptown Tangy and the other, a creamy one I could drink it was so divine, called Jiggy's Harlem Renaissauce. The soy nugget itself was chewy and resembled chicken.
|Baked Mac & Cheese - Seasoned Vegan|
|Chicken Parmesan Wrap - Seasoned Vegan|
|My full plate of delicious, filling vegan food!|
Overall this meal rocked! We walked out stuffed and happy with every taste bud dancing and without much of dent in our wallets. My non-vegan friend thoroughly enjoyed her meal, which is important in my book and a great sign of how well prepared the food was! Worth the trip for sure.
55 Saint Nicholas Avenue
New York, NY 10026
Thursday, January 1, 2015
|Florentine Bar Cookies - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen|
I made these as a Christmas gift for my grandmothers. When flipping through dessert recipes I thought they looked so elegant and would work well for packaging in a decorative tin. The process was multi-step, but fairly easy. Almost all ingredients are kitchen basics and may only require a quick trip to the store.
The bottom layer was similar to a buttery shortbread cookie that was then topped with a gooey sweet almond-filled sauce, which hardened after baking and cooling. Once cut into squares, they were drizzled with melted chocolate to take them to the next yummy level and add an aesthetically-pleasing garnish. This recipe is from Chloe Coscarelli's latest cookbook Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen (buy yourself a copy here to fully enjoy!). I cracked it open for the first time this Christmas and am quickly progressing through recipe by recipe.
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Almond Sauce Topping
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond milk
3 tablespoons agave syrup
1/4 cup flour
2 cups sliced almonds
1 cup non-dairy semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon canola or coconut oil
|Cookie Crust Ingredients |
in Food Processor
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 inch baking pan (deeper than a cookie pan).
Place all ingredients for the cookie crust in a food processor and pulse many times until you see the margarine has been incorporated and it resembles a fine meal.
Pour into the baking pan and spread evenly to cover the bottom. Press down to pack it in. Bake for about 10 minutes until it looks golden brown and is dry and hardened (I don't think I baked long enough as the cookie part was a little softer when it all cooled).
To Prepare Almond Sauce Topping:
Use a medium saucepan and heat on medium-high the margarine, sugar, almond milk, and agave so that it boils. Continue cooking at a boil for 10 minutes, but don't abandon the pot (it may boil over). Remove from heat and add in flour and almonds. Stir well. Sauce will thicken as it cools.
Assemble cookie bars by spreading the almond sauce topping over the cooked bottom shortbread layer. Cook for another 20 minutes, but check on it towards the end to make sure the topping doesn't begin to burn.
Let cool completely before slicing into small squares. I found that using a pizza cutter works well for this step, but it won't reach all the way to the edge, so use a knife and/or metal spatula to finish the job. Remove squares from pan and place on a large flat baking sheet covered with parchment paper for the final step!
To Prepare Chocolate Dip:
|Burnt Chocolate :(|
Adding the oil will create a more fluid chocolate for decorating with, similar to a ganache. Use a fork or a squeeze bottle (like ketchup and mustard bottles - they sell these at kitchen supply stores) to drizzle melted chocolate on the bar cookies.
Allow them to cool at room temperature or chill them in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Sunday, December 7, 2014
|Sweet-and-Sour Party Meatballs - Chloe's Kitchen|
I've now made this recipe twice, but for two occasions that were a couple years apart. The first time I made them for a holiday party I was hosting and the second time was this year for a Thanksgiving appetizer. Both times they were a crowd pleaser for vegans and non-vegans. I caught my uncle going in for thirds at Thanksgiving and my friend kept asking for the recipe after my holiday party. We have Chloe Coscarelli to thank for this one. You can find this recipe and others in Chloe's Kitchen (buy your copy here).
The ingredients are so filling that it can be good and bad as an appetizer - good because you may be too full to overindulge on the main course, but bad because you may be too full to fully enjoy the main course! Either way these are made with lots of healthy, hearty goodness. They have a creamy, nutty taste and the sweet and sour sauce goes perfectly with them to give little punch of tangy flavor. The sauce when cool starts to resemble a jelly from the cornstarch thickener and can be difficult to dip into, so it's best to serve both the "meatballs" and sauce warm.
Party Meatballs 1 8 oz. package of tempeh
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz. can lentils, rinsed and drained
1 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
Sweet and Sour Sauce
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons cornstarch
To Prepare Meatballs:
Start by steaming the tempeh to remove the bitterness. Break up the tempeh block into about 4 pieces to fit into a steamer basket over a small pot of water. Heat water on low to medium and steam tempeh for about 20 minutes.
Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet and cook onions until softened. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes, until fragrant.
Using a food processor, add steamed tempeh, lentils, walnuts, flour, basil, salt and pepper and pulse until everything is blended and forms a thick paste. Though difficult to do, I like to leave some texture to the meatballs by not over-processing, but make sure all ingredients are incorporated together.
Using your hands scoop out mixture and form into 1-inch balls and place on a plate.
Heat canola oil on medium heat and fry the meatballs using a wooden spoon to turn them to cook on all sides. It's hard to keep these perfectly round shaped, but moving them around often with the spoon helps. Transfer cooked meatballs to a paper towel covered plate to soak up excess oil.
|Soak up excess oil with paper towels|
To Prepare Sweet and Sour Sauce:
In a medium saucepan, whisk all sauce ingredients together and heat on medium-high heat until mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat down to medium-low and continue cooking until the sauce thickens and big bubbles form, keep stirring throughout.
Stick a toothpick or fancier hors d'oeuvre pick into each ball for easy serving. Serve warm with sauce on the side or poured over meatballs so they are already covered.