Sunday, January 11, 2015

Dining In - Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups - The Kind Life, The Kind Diet

Thank you, Alicia Silverstone for giving me Reese's Peanut Butter Cups back! These were easy and fun to make, especially because I was so eager to try the end result. Alicia's recipe and photos show a full-size muffin pan for a larger serving, but I opted to use a mini cupcake pan (despite what's in the photo to the left!) for a bite size cup, knowing I could very easily overindulge. When I say these were like Reese's they were, but definitely more natural tasting and the peanut butter layer had more texture to it from both crunchy peanut butter and crushed graham crackers. Mine came out a little softer, than I would have liked. I think the peanut butter had too much oil, making it a little more liquid than your typical Jif brand. The chocolate layer still hardened nicely. Check out the original recipe on The Kind Life website, at this link.

Makes about 28 mini-peanut butter cups
Earth Balance Soy-Free Margarine (Vegan) VeegaNatural Crunchy Peanut Butter - Veega Blog

1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
3/4 cup peanut butter, crunchy, natural, unsalted
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips, non-dairy
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

Crushed Graham Cracker Crumbs Veega Vegan BlogPeanuts Chopped on Cutting Board, Knife 

Line two mini-cupcake pans with mini cupcake liners.

Over medium heat, melt the margarine in a small saucepan. Add peanut butter, sugar, and graham cracker crumbs and stir well. Remove from heat.

Peanut Butter Filling - Vegan Homemade Peanut Butter Cup Veega BlogDivide evenly among cupcake liners, about 1 tablespoon per cup (or just about halfway). Put in refrigerator or freezer to cool and harden.

Over medium heat, melt chocolate chips with almond milk. Stir and watch carefully until chocolate has melted. Remove from heat. Spoon enough chocolate to cover peanut butter filling in each cupcake cup. While still melted top with chopped peanuts. 

Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dining Out in Brooklyn - Champs Diner

Champs Diner in Brooklyn NY

Red Velvet Pancakes - Champs Diner All Vegan, Brooklyn NY
Red Velvet Pancakes - Champs Diner

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). 
Vegan Sandwich Menu
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. 

Vegan Country-Fried Seitan Sandwich - Champs Diner in Brooklyn
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 Tofu Scramble - Champs Diner Vegan Brooklyn Veega Blog
Get Scrambled - Champs Diner

Vegan Red Velvet Pancakes with Whipped Cream, Chocolate Chips - Champs
Another shot of those beautiful red velvet pancakes

Champs Diner
197 Meserole Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206
Champs Diner Website

Bar Stools at Champs Diner

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dining In - Pesto Mac 'N' Cheese

Pesto Mac 'N' Cheese - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen - Veega Blog Vegan
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).

Tinkyada Pasta Joy Ready Brown Rice Pasta Elbow - VeegaMac '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

Pesto Sauce
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:

Tinkyada Gluten-Free Elbow Pasta
Gluten-Free Elbow Pasta
Begin by preparing the pasta according to the package, and adding a pinch of salt to the water. Drain and rinse the pasta. I do this more often when using gluten-free pasta to wash away the milky-looking cooking water. Set aside.

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.

Olive Oil, Flour, Garlic Roux - Veega Blog Vegan
Roux in the Making - Flour, Oil, Garlic

Veega Blog - Vegan Cheese Sauce for Mac 'N' Cheese
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:

Making Pesto in Food Processor - Vegan Blog Veega
Vegan Pesto in Under 5 Minutes!
Use a food processor to chop up basil leaves, garlic cloves, pine nuts and blend with lemon juice and salt. Once blended add in olive oil and pulse until incorporated and it resembles traditional pesto sauce.
Top each serving of mac 'n' cheese with pesto sauce and savor every bite!

Fresh Organic Basil Leaves

Vegan Basil Pesto on Spatula - Veega Blog

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dining In - Creamed Spinach

Vegan Creamed Spinach - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen Veega
Creamed Spinach - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen

I'm actually swooning over spinach after tasting this. It's unbelievably delicious! I'm definitely making this again and will add to the holiday menu next year. This simple, gluten-free dish was certainly creamy, like its name suggests, and with a pinch of salt it had the perfect flavor. It only took about 15 minutes to prepare and as soon as I was done I caught myself eating almost half of it before I could serve it for dinner! Oops. Luckily my non-vegan boyfriend shared my sentiments, but sadly we devoured it all within minutes. I blame myself for serving up significantly less than the original batch, but this just means it will be bookmarked for future meals. With a bit of olive oil and raw cashews it serves up some healthy fats that go so well with sweetened cooked onion, fragrant garlic, and wilted spinach. This recipe is from Chloe Coscarelli's latest cookbook Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen (buy yourself a copy here to fully enjoy!).

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
Sea salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg (I left this out and didn't think the dish was missing anything)

Making Vegan Cashew Cream
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.

Vegan Cashew Creamed Spinach with Onions - Veega Blog

Dining Out in New York City - Seasoned Vegan

Seasoned Vegan Logo

Vegan Dining in Harlem - Seasoned Vegan Lemon Crusted Chicken Nuggets - Veega
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 Veega Blog
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 - Creamy, Delish!
Baked Mac & Cheese - Seasoned Vegan
Vegan Chicken Parmesan Wrap - Seasoned Vegan by Veega Harlem
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.

Seasoned Vegan
55 Saint Nicholas Avenue
New York, NY 10026

Outside of Seasoned Vegan

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Dining In - Almond Florentine Bar Cookies

Florentine Bar Cookies - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen - Vegan Recipes
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

Chocolate Drizzle
1 cup non-dairy semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon canola or coconut oil

Cookie Crust Ingredients
in Food Processor
To Prepare Crust: 

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. Vegan Almond Cookie Topping

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:

Vegan Burnt Chocolate in a Pan
Burnt Chocolate :(
I had a baking fail on this step. I've melted chocolate a hundred times for the now FAMOUS vegan chocolate chip cookie dough balls. This time I burned the chocolate and had to repeat. Be careful to microwave on medium to low power for only a minute or less at a time and stir before continuing to melt. Once the chocolate hardens you can't successfully reheat it without it burning and drying up. You can also heat a small pot of water on the stove covered by a bowl with the chocolate chips in it (a homemade double boiler). You'll still need to stir frequently to distribute heat. 

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! - Vegan Almond Chocolate Florentine Bar Cookies Blog

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dining In - Sweet-and-Sour Party Meatballs

Sweet-and-Sour Party Meatballs - Chloe's Kitchen Blog Veega
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.

Organic Tempeh Lightlife Vegan Veega Blog
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
Chopped Onions on a Cutting Board with Knife Veega Blog
Toasted Walnuts Veega

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. 
Sweet-and-Sour Party Meatballs - Chloe's Kitchen Vegan Blog

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. 

Sweet-and-Sour Party Meatballs - Chloe's Kitchen

Soak up excess oil with paper towels
Soak up excess oil with paper towels

Sweet-and-Sour Sauce

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.

Share It