Friday, October 31, 2014

Dining Out in Chicago - Native Foods Café

Vegan Native Foods Cafe Chicago
Wrap and Fries at Native Foods Cafe Chicago - Veega Vegan
Twister Wrap with Sweet Potato Fries - Native Foods Café
I was so excited to try Native Foods Café because the menu immediately reminded me of Veggie Grill, a vegan chain I fell in love with in Portland, OR. They describe themselves as "the premier chef-crafted vegan restaurant." The large menu spanning from salads, to wraps, to burgers, and desserts should satisfy any craving. The interior and setup also reminded me of Veggie Grill in that it's casual quick service dining for eating in or taking out. I tried it both ways. 


Glossary of Mock (Native) Meats - Native Foods Café

Side of Vegan Ranch Dressing!

I arrived in Chicago for my first of two business trips this month and grabbed a co-worker to join me for lunch at the Native Foods Café on S Clark Street. I went with the popular choices for my first try - Twister Wrap with Crispy Native Chicken and Sweet Potato Fries with Ranch Dressing on the side - I ignored the diet for this meal! The wrap has fresh greens, avocado, cucumber salsa, creamy chipotle sauce and crispy Native Chicken wrapped in a whole wheat wrap. The beloved Sweet Potato Fries were unique in that they had more seasoning and were less fried and crispy than you might find at other chain restaurants, but nonetheless yummy. The wrap was delicious, not too spicy, lots of flavor and a bonus that I opted for crispy Native Chicken (I didn't hold back this time!). The mock meat was very close to the real thing, especially in texture. 


During my second trip to Chicago, I checked into my hotel and went straight out to pick up lunch at Native. I opted for a healthier, gluten-free meal this time and ordered the Rockin' Moroccan Earth Bowl with marinated tofu, grilled vegetables, steamed quinoa, raisins, and almonds served with a red Moroccan sauce. I couldn't stop there, so I decided to reward myself for my healthy entreé choice with a Peanut Butter Parfait. Sadly I was underwhelmed by the Rockin' Moroccan dish. It could have been because I ate it luke warm, a takeout order that got too cold, but it just tasted like steamed veggies, plain quinoa, plain tofu, and a sauce that somewhat saved it. I hardly noticed the raisins and almonds until the end, they were too sparse. It was a huge portion and certainly filling.



Rockin' Moroccan Earth Bowl - Native Foods Café

Peanut Butter Parfait - Native Foods Café Gluten Free Vegan Veega
Peanut Butter Parfait - Native Foods Café

The Peanut Butter Parfait was a winner. It's a cup of whipped peanut butter filling layered between banana bread crumbs and mini chocolate chips. I'm a huge fan of these flavor combos. Anything with peanut butter and chocolate and/or banana - Yes yes yes! The filling was smooth and creamy and not too sweet. I wish there was more of the banana bread. As a cake lover over ice cream I needed more of a dessert that I could "chew" on. I would still recommend it though, especially if you're going gluten-free!


Native Foods Cafe - Vegan Gluten Free Takeout VeegaNative Foods Cafe Peanut Butter Parfait


You can only find a Native Foods Café in California, Oregon, Colorado, DC, and Illinois, but I'm sure they will expand just as Veggie Grill is!

Native Foods Cafe Twister Wrap Sweet Potato Fries Vegan
A Delicious, Vegan Meal in Chicago!

Native Foods Café
218 S Clark Street

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dining Out in New York City - H&H Midtown Bagels East

H&H Midtown Bagels New York City
Whole Wheat Everything Bagel with Tofutti Scallion Cream Cheese H&H Midtown Bagels East Vegan Veega
Whole Wheat Everything Bagel with Tofutti Scallion Cream Cheese
H&H Midtown Bagels East

The Array of Bagels - All Vegan (Except for Egg)
H&H Midtown Bagels East

Everything Bagel - Vegan - New York City - VeegaI have a love-hate relationship with bagels. They have become the all too common and too readily available breakfast food in the office. People usually get excited for bagel mornings, but I'm always conflicted. To me they are a useless food - high in calories, carbohydrates, sodium, sometimes sugar, and relatively low in fiber and other nutrients. They rarely fill me up to the point that it's a satisfying meal, but they are tasty, especially smothered in a creamy spread or peanut butter.

As abundant and delicious as they are in New York City, it's a danger zone. I knew I had to try a few to see what all the fuss was about. Based on reviews online I gave H&H a shot and it lives up to the hype. I've since brought my boyfriend, friends and family there, who have all enjoyed them with the traditional dairy cream cheese and lox toppings. It's common to see a long line here, always a good sign, but no less annoying. Thankfully it moves fast. They have multiple cashiers and men working to fix you your bagel one after another. You can even order online for catering and ship them nationwide. In addition to bagels the store sells some prepared side dishes and baked goods, none of which are vegan unfortunately. 

For vegan options, all bagels are vegan-friendly except for egg. I've even tried the mini bagel for fewer calories, but they didn't have any wheat options sadly, so I had the mini Sesame - still great! The cream cheese alternatives are Tofutti Plain, Scallion, and Vegetable, and peanut butter. As bagels can be bland (especially plain with plain cream cheese!), a more flavorful and savory combo that I like to order is a toasted Whole Wheat Everything Bagel with Scallion Tofutti cream cheese. Yum yum yum... until the guilt sets in :) Every once in a while it's worth it, and H&H is the place to get your bagel fix.


H&H Midtown Bagels*
1551 2nd Avenue
(between 80th & 81st St)
New York, NY 10028
H&H Midtown Bagels Website

*Not in Midtown! Location is in Upper East Side

NYC H&H Midtown Bagels East - Inside Store, Cashier


Dining In - Pumpkin Pecan Brownie Pie

Pumpkin Pecan Brownie Pie - Veega
Pumpkin Pecan Brownie Pie

When I was searching for vegan Thanksgiving desserts last year I knew it had to include pumpkin (one of my favorite holiday flavors), but I also knew there would already be pumpkin pie served, so I found a yummy alternative. This combines the best fall flavors with chocolate. I made two of these to share with my family and it was a hit. The brownie portion was more cake-like, while still being moist. The buttery pecan topping was my favorite part and it went very well with the pumpkin. Made in a pie pan, this is best served in slices with dairy-free vanilla ice cream! Sadly I was too distracted and eager to dive in, that I neglected to get a shot of the finished product!

I found this recipe from a Buzzfeed list, an usual place to find vegan recipes. It comes from the blog Oh She Glows. There is also a variation for Pumpkin Pie Brownie Cupcakes. Here is the link to recipe. Enjoy!

Pumpkine Brownie Batter Vegan Recipe

Pumpkin Brownie
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup & 3 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda



Pumpkin Pie
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons almond milk
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pecan Topping
1/4 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a pie pan.

To Prepare Pumpkin Brownie:
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer blend together the coconut oil, pumpkin, vanilla,
and sugar until blended well. Add in the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking, soda, and sea salt and stir until incorporated. Pour batter into the pie pan. Make sure batter is evenly distributed.

To Prepare Pumpkin Layer:
In a large bowl mix together the pumpkin, vanilla, and milk. In a small
bowl, mix together the cornstarch, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Slowly add the dry ingredients
to the wet and mix well until all clumps are gone. Now add on top of brownie mixture.

To Prepare Pecan Topping:
Pecan Brownie Pie Topping - Vegan - VeegaMix all ingredients until well combined and sprinkle on top of the pie.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool. Serve with vegan ice cream, vanilla will go beautifully with it, but if you're a chocolate lover, go for chocolate!


Pumpkin Pecan Brownie Pie - Veega

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dining Out in New York City - Candle Café

Cajun Seitan Sandwich - Candle Café UES - Vegan
Cajun Seitan Sandwich - Candle Café
Author's Note: I'm sadly writing a review that is not glowing. I realize it's pretty rare on this blog so I consider myself lucky for so frequently finding delicious food. I always share my true opinion of the food and restaurants I try, so here it goes...

I had high expectations for Candle Café since its fine dining sister restaurant Candle 79 has such fabulous cuisine and a warm atmosphere, but it didn't quite meet them. For my first visit, I ordered my lunch as takeout and sat at the bar to wait. I usually don't comment on or factor in the clientele to my reviews, but something about the customers here irks me. They are slightly pretentious and give off the "old money" vibe, which makes sense because my biggest issue with Candle Café is their prices. I was expecting more casual dining and more affordable options vs. the upscale Candle 79, but they are too similar. 
  
Sietan Chimichurri Skewers - Vegan Appetizer from Candle Café
Seitan Chimichurri - Candle Café


As for the food, my first meal was mediocre, but I gave it another chance. The first time around I ordered the Seitan Chimichurri Skewers and a side of Mac & Cheese because I was craving comfort food. The seitan was marinated with an herb-citrus sauce. It was a lot more rubbery than I had expected and because it was served with just sauce and nothing else, it was a little boring. The Mac & Cheese was bland and lacked even a fake cheese flavor that you'd expect from its name. It too was a little boring, but I did enjoy how creamy it was. 




Vegan Mac & Cheese - Candle Café
Side of Mac & Cheese - Candle Café

Vegan Cajun Seitan Sandwich with Coleslaw from Candle CafeThe second meal I had here was much better after choosing a menu option that has a lot of fans on Yelp...but it was still a sandwich for $17! I ordered the Cajun Seitan Sandwich, which was focaccia toasted and served with crusted seitan, steamed greens, caramelized onions, and avocado, with a generous supply of chili aioli and served with a side of coleslaw. I could eat this again and again. The seitan had the right texture for a sandwich and was very flavorful. 

Leftovers - Must Savor Every Bite!

I will undoubtedly go back to Candle Café to try more dishes because the quality of food really is great. I will just have to go less often so I don't empty out my wallet!

Candle Café - Upper East Side
1307 3rd Avenue (between 74th & 75th St)
New York, NY

Candle Cafe NYC UES

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dining Out in New York City - Angelica Kitchen

Angelica Kitchen East Village New York City
Vegan Vegetable Wee Dragon Bowl - Angelica Kitchen
Wee Dragon Bowl - Angelica Kitchen

Angelica Kitchen, located in the East Village, has a long history of serving vegan food. It was established in 1976! They pride themselves on being very eco-friendly, using fairly traded goods and supporting small, local businesses and non-profits. The menu is part-American, part-Asian inspired with everything from cornbread, soups, salads, dips, sandwiches, seitan and tempeh entrees, and rice bowls, to desserts. They don't take reservations so try to go during off-peak hours for the best experience.


Vegan Polenta Appetizer
Special Warm Appetizer People's Polenta

To begin the meal we went with my boyfriend's pick - People's Polenta, a dish consisting of three polenta balls with diced vegetables, basil-walnut pesto, chile de arbol – guajillo chili tofu cream, avocado and marinated kale. Proceeds of the dish go to charity. This was a great start to the meal; it was enough to please the palate and not too filling or heavily flavored. 

For my meal, I chose the healthiest, though less adventurous, route of a Dragon Bowl and even went with the Wee Dragon to save room for dessert. The Dragon Bowl was almost exactly the same as the Macro Plate that I enjoyed at Souen, a simple clean dish with brown rice, black beans, sea vegetables, and steamed vegetables like green beans, carrots, cauliflower. For the dressing I chose Brown Rice Gravy, but would have preferred a sweeter one like Creamy Carrot. That would have really made this identical to my meal at Souen. I was a little envious of my boyfriend's meal, the Olé Man Seitan a large burrito filled with homemade seitan and roasted vegetables mixed with a spicy chocolate mole sauce, and topped with lime-jalapeño tofu sour cream and pimento. It had so much flavor and the serving size was huge, a great pick for my non-vegan.


Vegan Burrito Wrap - Olé Man Seitan - Angelica Kitchen
Olé Man Seitan - Angelica Kitchen

Vegan Dessert Pineapple Coconut Layer Cake - Angelica Kitchen
Pineapple Coconut Layer Cake - Angelica Kitchen
With some room leftover, we ordered a dessert to share. The Pineapple Coconut Layer Cake appealed to both of us and it did not disappoint. It's a spelt flour cake with a pineapple filling and coconut frosting. The cake was very moist and the frosting was not nearly as sweet as most vegan baked goods I've had, including recipes I've made. This wasn't a bad thing, as the pineapple filling was plenty sweet.

Overall it was such a bright and colorful meal, it didn't just taste healthy it looked healthy, too. To keep with a more wholesome vegan diet, I would happily dine here again!

Angelica Kitchen
300 East 12th Street
New York, NY 10003

Angelica Kitchen East Village NYC

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dining In - Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cheesecake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cheesecake - Happy.  Healthy. Life. Blog
Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cheesecake - Happy. Healthy. Life. Blog


Because one cake is just never enough for your birthday, I decided for my boyfriend's birthday this month I would make not only a decadent vegan German Chocolate Cake, but also this delicious peanut buttery pie. The recipe comes from a popular vegan blogger turned cookbook author Kathy Patalsky of Happy. Healthy. Life. (link to original recipe here). I was excited about it because I hadn't yet tried my hand at a vegan cheesecake recipe and because my boyfriend and I are big fans of peanut butter! 
The cheesecake itself was rich, creamy, and melt in your mouth delicious. I loved my addition of chocolate to this, too. I brought the leftovers into my office the next day and it was gone in minutes. I didn't hide the fact that it was vegan, but that didn't stop anyone from diving in and the comments included "amazing...unbelievable...OMG." 


 Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cheesecake - Vegan Desserts

Trader Joe's Coconut Oil Vegan Organic - Veega Blog
It was easy to make - no oven or baking required, but I did face some issues with the crust. Well, it didn't really turn out to be a crust at all, just crushed cereal powder on the bottom of the pie pan that I had to scoop up with each slice. That leaves room for improvement for next time, and I'm thinking a chocolate cookie crust instead - yum! Be prepared to use a lot of coconut oil for this one.


Crust
3/4 cup crushed peanut butter cereal (I used Barbara's Puffins brand) 
1 teaspoon coconut oil (I used the Trader Joe's brand)


Cheesecake
2 - 16 oz. containers of vegan cream cheese (I used the Trader Joe's brand)

7 oz. (or slightly less than 1 cup) coconut oil
Vegan Cream Cheese - Trader Joe's from Veega - Vegan Blog
Vegan Cream Cheese - Trader Joe's
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I used salted)
3/4 cup maple or agave syrup

Peanut Butter Swirl
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon maple or agave syrup

Chocolate Swirl
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Crust - Veega Vegan Blog1 teaspoon coconut oil


To Prepare the Crust:

This is the part that didn't work out for me; the original instructions said to grease the pan with the coconut oil generously and then press the crushed cereal into it to create a crust. 

My issue might have been using coconut oil that was too melted and didn't do the job of solidifying a crust. For a second attempt, I would trade this out for a chocolate flavored version, like the crust in this recipe. 


To Prepare the Cheesecake:

In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, add cream cheese, coconut oil and peanut butter. Heat until the ingredients are melted and at about room temperature. 

Transfer to a blender and add in syrup. Blend together until smooth. 

Pour into pie pan with prepared crust.

Preparing Peanut Butter Cheesecake - Vegan


To Prepare the Swirl:

For both decorative purposes and added flavor, mix up a couple swirls. I had to include chocolate in mine so I added this is in myself. It might have overpowered the design, but the taste mattered more. 

Vegan Peanut Butter Swirl for Cheesecake Veega
Peanut Butter Swirl
Melt the ingredients for both flavors, separately, in the microwave. Stir both, again separately. Pour on the pie in a swirl motion and then use a knife or end of a kitchen utensil to blend in. I over-blended as you can tell, but the abstract marbled look still works!



To finish it up, cool and harden in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. 



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dining Out in Chicago - LYFE Kitchen

LYFE Kitchen Love Your Food Everyday
Art's Unfried Chick'n - LYFE Kitchen Brussels Sprouts
Art's Unfried Chick'n - LYFE Kitchen

I visited Chicago on a last minute trip for work this month and unlike my usual trips, for work or pleasure, I tend to research vegan spots beforehand. I didn't have much time to plan for this one, but I still found a couple places I was interested in mainly for the convenience of where I was for the evening. LYFE Kitchen happened to be next to the bar I was going to and although I could have and did have enough appetizers to count as dinner, I still walked over after for a full vegan meal. The interior of LYFE - Love Your Food Everday - is modern, trendy, and clean. It's quick and casual dining, but you can certainly sit and enjoy your meal here and pick from vegan, gluten-free or non-vegan menu items, which span from smoothies, salads, breakfast entrees, vegetable sides, desserts and a kid's menu. I didn't realize until later that this restaurant is a chain with additional locations in Texas, Colorado, and California. It's not an all-vegan eatery, but reminds me of Veggie Grill from the coloring of it's logo and menu to it's use of Gardein and Daiya to turn things vegan while maintaining the flavor.

*Pardon the photos on this post - Had to use my iPhone to get these shots!
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie - LYFE Kitchen Chicago Veega
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie - LYFE Kitchen

Going off of Yelp reviews, as I usually do, I ordered Art's Unfried Chicken (or Chick'n for vegans) served with roasted brussels sprouts, butternut squash and dried cranberries served with a cashew cream dijon vinaigrette. I really enjoyed this dish. The breaded Gardein patty was crispy and yummy and the sauce served with it was amazing.

When presented with the option, I have to get dessert, so I brought home a chocolate chip cookie. It was hands down the best vegan chocolate chip I've ever had. Even after two years of knowing vegan food can be as good, if not better than non-vegan versions, I questioned if it was really vegan because of how buttery it tasted. Thankfully all of the desserts listed on the menu were vegan. 

A pro and con of their menu is that they list out calorie count and sodium - I appreciate it for the most part, but sometimes ignorance makes the food taste better! They have an eco-friendly focus and the interior space even looks and feels that way. For takeout, the food was packaged in compostable containers. They also offer catering and the option to order online.

If there was a LYFE Kitchen near me in New York City I would frequent it. The prices were very reasonable and the food seemed healthier than some vegan fast food spots in city. 

Compostable Takeout Container

LYFE Kitchen
413 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60654

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dining Out in Chicago - Karyn's Cooked




Jerk Tofu Wrap - Karyn's Cooked in Chicago Veega Vegan
Jerk Tofu Wrap - Karyn's Cooked

I was in Chicago for a short time, but made every effort to find a couple vegan spots to try out. This one was a recommendation from a co-worker. I knew I would already be having dinner at another restaurant, but I was eager to try Karyn's Cooked and still made a visit after my "first" dinner. I somehow managed to make room for almost an entire second meal once I saw my options here (I do not endorse this type of gluttonous behavior! I admit it was too much food for one evening, vegan or not). The restaurant is casual with small tables for dining in with lots of pre-made packaged goods for sale like veggie chips, raw bars, juices, and even beauty and skincare items all part of Karyn's line of products. 


For my takeout meal, I went with the popular Jerk Tofu Wrap served with large potato wedges and coleslaw. The wrap contained spicy grilled tofu with a creamy garlic sauce, lettuce, and tomato, served on a tomato tortilla with jerk sauce on the side. It was definitely on the spicy side, but the sweet jerk sauce and creamy dressing helped cool it down a tad. You can see it was overflowing with fresh lettuce. I might order it again, but the large menu tempts me to try other entrees. 

Coleslaw served with Jerk Tofu Wrap
No room left for coleslaw!


Peanut Butter Cake
Karyn's Cooked 
Dessert was a very tough choice because I wanted to try everything and there was a huge selection! I even asked for a sample of the pastries because I knew they were about to close up and would likely throw them out anyways. I taste-tested the Cinnamon Roll and the Strawberry Cream Cheese Danish. I preferred the Cinnamon Roll, but it wasn't ooey and gooey like Chloe's Kitchen recipe, instead the dough was drier and more airy. The icing probably had a soy base to it, but it was sweet and delicious. I ordered the mouthwatering Peanut Butter Cake . It was heavy with dense, vanilla cake and a rich peanut butter frosting with chocolate drizzle along the sides. The slice was huge so I didn't finish it all. I would have this again, knowing it's better for sharing. What I enjoyed about the menu at Karyn's Cooked is that there are plenty of healthier options if you're in the mood for a clean, green, light meal, but when you want to indulge there is plenty to satisfy the junk food craving in a vegan way. 


Strawberry Cream Cheese Danish
Karyn's Cooked

Vegan Cinnamon Roll - Karyn's Cooked Chicago Vegan
Cinnamon Roll
Karyn's Cooked
Vegan Cakes - Chicago - Veega Blog

After learning more about the owner of this delicious eatery I am even more impressed. Karyn is 66 years old and beautiful - she looks like she is in her early 40's! She credits this to changing her diet and lifestyle; after being vegetarian for 12 years, she switched to a raw diet. Her other restaurants include a raw café, a fine dining restaurant similar to Pure Food & Wine here in New York City. I can't wait to go back and hopefully meet the master behind these tasty treats!

Way too much food for any one person to eat!





Karyn's Cooked
738 North Wells Street
Chicago, IL 60654

Storefront - Karyn's Cooked - Vegan-Friendly

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