Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Zucchini Chickpea Tomato Curry

Clearly, I love to cook. You could say that it’s my life. But, a huge part of my love for cooking is the pleasure I take in feeding people. I find joy in preparing a thoughtful and nourishing meal for my family, in surprising my over-worked grad school friends with baked goodies, in motivating my students with homemade treats, in having one more omnivore delight in vegan food.

When given an opportunity to cook for people, especially omnivores, I am drawn to whole foods, fresh vegetables, tender grains, and bold flavors. So, when a friend dropped by for an impromptu dinner on Saturday, I wanted to wow her with something savory and delicious. I’ve had great luck recently with Dreena Burton’s Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan, so after a brief perusal, I settled on this Zucchini Chickpea Tomato Curry. Served atop brown basmati rice with a dollop of mango chutney, feeding people has never been so satisfying.

Zucchini Chickpea Tomato Curry

adapted from Dreena Burton’s Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 sweet potato, diced in 1/2” chunks
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1” ginger, grated
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 zucchini, diced in 1/2” chunks
1 14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
1 cup green beans, chopped in half
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and sweet potato, sauté until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, ginger, curry powder, fenugreek, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cloves. Sauté for one minute. Add the tomatoes, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 10 minutes. Add the zucchini, chickpeas, green beans, and agave nectar. Cover and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. If the mixture looks dry, add vegetable stock or water. Add the cilantro and lime. Serve immediately.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cranberry Orange Scones

A couple of months ago I heard about an awesome opportunity to submit a recipe to Christy Morgan’s upcoming Southeast Asian Vegan Cookbook. Well, one thing led to another, and Christy invited me to be one of her recipe testers for the book. I’ve been working my way through the recipes every week and they are, in a word,  phenomenal. Unfortunately, because they are yet to be published, I can’t share these recipes with all of you. So, between teaching in the evenings, and recipe testing on the weekends, I have been struggling to find ample time to develop recipes for my blog. The one time that remains available for experimentation is morning, so expect to see a lot more breakfast on the blog in the coming weeks!

These scones are a bit more traditional than the jam-filled scones I’ve talked about before. They also have less butter and sugar, and so are a less indulgent way to start your day.

Cranberry Orange Scones

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons water
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 -6 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Sanding sugar for sprinkling

Heat oven to 400ºF. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and process until the dough forms pea sized crumbs. In a blender, combine the flaxseed and water, and blend until thick and creamy. Add the flaxseed mixture to the dough. Add the orange zest, cranberries, and blend until just combined. Add just enough orange juice so that the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead 10 times. Pat the dough into a 1/2” thick circle. Brush the dough with melted butter, and sprinkle with sugar. Cut the dough into wedges, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden on top. Serve immediately with fresh squeezed juice, and green tea!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Great Evening at the Berkeley Vegan Dishcrawl!

Last night, I had the opportunity to share dinner with an amazing group of vegans, vegetarians, and the veg-friendly. Yes, I’m talking about the first Vegan Dishcrawl in Berkeley! Excepting the weather, it couldn’t have been a better evening. It was such a pleasure to meet the enthusiastic Dishcrawlers I had been corresponding with for weeks. Like Jaime, an omnivore who came with one of his vegan friends, who described the event as “having a Parisian stroll feel.” Or Megan, who surprised her husband with Dishcrawl Date Night.

We started our evening at the Epicurious Garden, living life to the fullest, and eating dessert first. Panos Panagos of Alegio Chocolate gave us a guided tour of the island São Tomé, off the coast of Africa, where Claudio Corallo makes the world’s most perfect chocolate. It was my first opportunity to try 100% pure chocolate, intensely bitter, but unequivocally rich and chocolatey.

After an extensive tasting at Alegio, we visited Lush Gelato and Café. Lush’s owner,
Federico Murtagh, hails from Argentina which harbors one of the largest Italian populations outside of Italy, and as such, knows a thing or two about making gelato. Murtagh has dedicated his company to producing the purest, simplest, most exquisite representation of natural flavors. Lush obtains their fruit from local, organic sources, like Frog Hollow and Bellwether Farms. Made of fruit, sugar, and water, Lush’s sorbetto provides the cleanest representation of nature’s sweetest treat. Dishcrawlers were given tastes of Kiwi, Lemon-Cinnamon, Chocolate-Orange, and Pear sorbetto.

Our next stop was Café Gratitude, a mecca for vegans, vegetarians, and raw-enthusiasts. Manager Alice Liu provided a feast for our group. First up was a raw lasagna, made with the creamiest, lightest cashew ricotta I’ve ever tasted, and layers of basil, spinach, and tender zucchini noodles. The raw lasagna was accompanied by spicy-sweet raw enchiladas. I don’t have a lot of experience with raw food, but this was spectacular. Only my professionalism kept me from licking the plate. Café Gratitude finished our visit with one of their grain bowls, quinoa, kale, carrots, teriyaki almonds dressed in a garlic-tahini sauce. Heaven. Although Café Gratitude can be intimidating to omnivores, vegans and non-vegans alike seemed delighted with the food. Café Gratitude’s playfulness with flavor and textures resulted in a uniquely delicious experience. While at Café Gratitude, artisan bakers from Zest Bakery shared vegan brownie bites with our guests.

Dishcrawl ended the evening at Mint Leaf Indian Bistro for samosas and vegetable pakoras and a variety of dipping sauces. The stylish interior, cozy tables, and sophisticated lighting provided the perfect setting for the end of the evening. Dishcrawlers lingered over finger foods and drinks for the rest of the night.

I was inexpressibly delighted to see people mingling, and groups of friends incorporating new members. It truly was a communal experience for vegans, foodies, and Bay Areans. After the success of last night’s event, we will definitely be doing another one of these soon, so stay tuned for all the details!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Buckwheat Berry Waffles

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I am not a morning person. I like to stay in bed as long as possible, then enjoy an elaborate breakfast with fresh juice and a pot of tea while watching something awesome on TV (Top Chef All-Stars, I’m looking at you). Before I became vegan, I really enjoyed the variety afforded to breakfast; sweet, savory, healthy or decadent. I knew I had found manifold soul mates in my grad school cohort when we established, not only weekly pub night, but also Sunday Brunch. As such, I have devoted a lot of my culinary life to veganizing my favorite breakfast foods.

Bob’s Red Mill is a fantastic company, purveying grains, beans, and seeds to the vegan, gluten-free, and organic communities. I delighted recently at the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the side of the whole wheat pastry flour bag that called for “milk: soy, almond, or cow.” Their pancake mix is quick, delicious, and a staple for anyone’s pantry. Because I am making an effort to be super healthy right now, I have made a few adjustments to my typical waffle breakfast, increasing the whole grains and Omega-3s with oatmeal, chia, hemp, and flax seeds, and lowering refined sugars, so you can enjoy this breakfast, guilt-free, every weekend!

Buckwheat Berry Waffles

Buckwheat Waffles

1/4 cup thick cut oatmeal
1/2 cup water
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat Pancake and Waffle Mix
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chia seed
1 tablespoon hemp seed
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

In a medium bowl, combine the oatmeal and 1/2 cup water. Microwave for 3 to 4 minutes, until oatmeal is chewy and tender, and the liquid is absorbed. Add the oatmeal to the waffle mix, oil, and 3/4 cup water. In a blender, combine the flaxseed and 6 tablespoons water. Blend until thick and creamy. Add to the waffle mix along with the chia, hemp, and walnuts. Mix completely, then spread on a heated waffle iron. Cook according to your waffle iron’s specifications. Serve immediately.

Blueberry Maple Syrup

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons water
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Combine all the ingredients, except the cornstarch mixture, in a small saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes, until the blueberries start to break down. Add the cornstarch and water to the blueberries, stirring for 1 minute. Remove from heat. It will thicken as it rests. Spoon the blueberry syrup over your waffles, and top with sliced strawberries. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Meatout 2011!

Meatout 2011 is here! FARM USA, the organization that has included some of my recipes in their Meatout Monday Newsletter, is celebrating a day devoted to the joys of being vegan. Whatever else it is, veganism is most clearly manifested in our diets, and the foods we buy, eat, and order are some of the most important decisions we make every day.

In honor of Meatout 2011, and the 1 year anniversary of my own vegan transition, I’d like to focus on making that step toward a plant based diet. Choosing to follow a vegan diet can be daunting, even for long-time vegetarians, and devoted animal-lovers. There’s so much negative hype surrounding veganism, and it’s often represented as restrictive and lacking rather than the life-opening experience that it is.

So much of one’s commitment to a vegan diet depends on the food you eat. The quality of the your culinary life is directly related to the quality of the rest of your life. To that end, I shy away from overly processed, fake, and alternative foods. To me, the joie de vegan lies in the life and energy of whole, nourishing plants. Take tacos for instance. Most tacos are made of chicken or beef, some lettuce, tomato, and cheese. The health benefit of this food is low, as is the variety of flavor and texture.

It is certainly simpler to make your vegan tacos with textured vegetable protein instead of ground beef and non-dairy cheese. But this veganized dish will not leave you satisfied and joyful. It will only remind you of what you are missing, i.e. meat and cheese. Truly good vegan tacos are about diversity of flavor and texture, the warm creaminess of refried beans, the crunch of a hard taco shell, biting into roasted sweet potato. There are so many options for truly memorable tacos. So, if you’re just beginning your vegan journey, or you need a reminder of how spectacular this lifestyle is, try my Best. Tacos. Ever. Or, cozy and nourishing Winter Tacos. Yum! Happy Meatout 2011 everyone!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Peanut Butter Cookies

Even though I am abstaining from sweets for the next six weeks, that doesn’t mean the rest of you should suffer! When it comes to cookies, there is no greater expert than Alice Medrich. The thing I respect the most about Medrich is her scientific devotion to baking. She truly understands that baking is not an improvised endeavor, and every recipe is an experiment with variables and controls. Her research into the usage and function of ingredients, precision of measurement, and combination of elements is truly awe-inspiring.

Medrich’s first home baking tome, Cookies and Brownies, came out more than a decade ago. Before releasing a new edition of this seminal cookbook, Medrich revisited her original recipes with an eye to updating and improving them. What resulted is the magnificent and encyclopedic Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies. One major addition to the book is the inclusion of gluten-free recipes. Although vastly different, people tend to think of gluten-free and vegan together. I have my fingers crossed that this gluten-free exploration will lead Medrich to devote her considerable knowledge to vegan recipes. Until then, I will offer my own attempts at veganizing these spectacular cookies.

Peanut Butter Cookies

hardly adapted from Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons non dairy butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups natural salted chunky peanut butter, stirred to incorporate oil

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to incorporate all ingredients.

Place butter in the bowl of a mixer, and whip until smooth, about 10 seconds. Add the sugar and blend until creamy, about 1 minute. Combine the flax seed and water in a blender. Blend until thick and creamy. Add to the butter along with the vanilla and peanut butter, mixing all the ingredients together. Add the flour mixture, and stir until ingredients are just incorporated. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

Heat the oven to 325ºF. Scoop large tablespoons of dough, and form them into ball. Place balls of dough 2” apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Flatten each ball with a fork, pointing the prongs in two directions to make a crosshatch pattern. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until light golden on the top. Remove cookies from the oven and transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables

In my effort to up the whole grains in my diet, I have been making a lot of grain dishes. You would be amazed by how much variety there is in grains and vegetables with a little seasoning. This food is the type of vegan food that scares omnivores, but these dishes are among my absolute favorites. It’s also the food I turn to when I’m feeling a little less comfortable in my body, when my jeans feel a bit too tight, when I am low on energy and enthusiasm. This dish is anti-inflammatory, low in fat, and high in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and whole grains.

Quinoa with Cauliflower, Mushrooms, and Walnuts

adapted from Dynise Balcavage's The Urban Vegan

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 onion, sliced into thin half moons
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Heat the oven to 400ºF. Line an oven proof pan with parchment paper or foil. Spread the cauliflower, onion, and garlic in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender.

Rinse the quinoa. Combine the quinoa and vegetable stock in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes. Quinoa should be tender and fluffy.

Spread the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown and toasted.

Heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender and browned. Combine the quinoa, cauliflower, onions, garlic, mushrooms, walnuts, and parsley. Toss and serve immediately!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Lenten Resolution

Winter is a time when I crave creamy, warm, thick and rich foods. As Spring approaches, I tend toward light, fresh, and healthy dishes. It’s the perfect time of year for Lent, six weeks of challenging myself to live my life just a little bit better. My Lenten goal this year is to tighten up my diet a bit. Veganism, while great for the planet and the animals, doesn’t necessarily translate to being good for your health. The more veganism gains attention and supporters, the more money organizations devote to vegan products. This means more vegan cookies, potato chips, and frozen meals; in other words, the processed foods that contribute to obesity regardless of whether they come from plants or animals.

To that end, I have committed the next six weeks to being the healthiest vegan I can. More practically, this means tons of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains rather than whole grain flours. I’m inclined toward this way of eating because I’ve had such positive results from it in the past. My weight loss, increased energy, perfect fingernails, improved sleeping and more can be attributed to eating this way. So what are we actually talking about?

For breakfast, I’m eating steel cut oats or thick cut oatmeal with vanilla almond milk, ground flax seed, walnuts and blueberries. Sometimes, I stir a spoonful of peanut or almond butter into the oatmeal and forego the blueberries. Other times, if I know I’m going to have plenty of whole grains with lunch and dinner, I might have a whole wheat english muffin spread with almond butter and sliced bananas. I’m also enjoying shredded wheat cereal with strawberries and almond milk.

Lunch time can be truly varied. If I’m working in the evening, I might prepare a dinner entrée for lunch instead. Lunch is also perfect for going out. Any kind of Asian restaurant where I can get tons of vegetables and brown rice is perfect. Eating at home typically means leftovers from the day before, or quick favorites like Channa Masala with whole wheat naan or pita bread.

Dinner is actually my most challenging meal because I eat late at night, and typically eat in my car. I’ve been relying on PB&Js, dressed up a bit with hearty whole grain bread, almond butter and cherry jam. But, for Lent, I know I need to up my vegetables with dinner. A bag of sugar snap peas, sliced cucumber, bell pepper, and carrot sticks goes a long way toward hitting that 5 servings a day. Making a big pile of sautéed spinach and arugula when I get home would also help. And if I am smart enough to plan ahead, I can make extra greens at lunch, and quickly reheat them to enjoy with dinner. Hummus and whole wheat pita sandwiches with veggies and arugula also offer an appealing alternative to my quotidian dinner. Six weeks is a long time, and things are sure to evolve, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chocolate Orange Pudding

Today is the first day of Lent, and if that means being vegan for you, you’re probably thinking that the next six weeks are going to be all about brown rice, tofu, and steamed vegetables. But, the goal of this blog has always been to show how varied, exciting, and delicious a vegan diet is.

Sometimes, as a vegan, I feel as though I am trying to cook food that lives up to its animal based counterpart, like macaroni and cheese. But, some recipes highlight how amazing the vegan diet is. This chocolate pudding is one such dish. When I’ve made chocolate pudding in the past, I’ve struggled to get all the chocolate melted, so that it is smooth and creamy, rather than grainy. This is something I’ve never been able to accomplish. Yet, the very first time I made chocolate pudding using almond milk, it turned out so perfectly. It was smooth and rich, loaded with chocolate flavor. Even better, it retained a lightness that just isn’t possible when you use cow’s milk.

In a moment of divine inspiration, I added some orange zest to the milk as it simmered, which gave it just the right brightness and depth of flavor.

Chocolate Orange Pudding

adapted from Kingsford's Corn Starch's Rich Chocolate Pudding

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups vanilla almond milk
2 tablespoons non dairy butter
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a large pot, combine the sugar, corn starch, and salt over medium heat.

Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly.

Add the butter and orange zest. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Add the chocolate chips, and stir until the chocolate is melted and the pudding is smooth.

Transfer to individual bowls, cover, and refrigerate.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Change Your Life This Year!

One year ago, I was gearing up for my approaching vegan transition by eating macaroni and cheese, and ziti casserole; I had my last cheeseburger, and bowl of cereal with milk. At the time, I was excited about my shift to veganism, but it was far outside of anything I knew, so I was anxious as well. I started perusing Post Punk Kitchen and Vegan Yum Yum for appealing recipes, and asking my one vegan friend for tips. I planned and shopped for my first vegan dinner, White Bean and Rosemary Soup. It turned out deliciously, but I missed the usual sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

I got a Zipcar and made the trek out to Fresh Pond, where they have a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods. Armed with Trader Joe’s list of Vegan Products, I walked up and down every aisle, picking up whole wheat pizza dough, roasted red pepper hummus, spinach, arugula, and baby bok choy. I crossed the street to Whole Foods for pears, Chana Masala, and a vegan Cherry Berry Pie.  Outfitted with 5 bags of groceries, I felt ready for the next 6 weeks of my new food life. Some things were awesome, like Annie Chun’s Noodle Bowls and the Thai Vegetable Gyoza. Other’s were totally unpalatable, like the meatless meatballs.

Over the next few weeks, I camped out at book stores reading Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking, and Toni Fiore’s Totally Vegetarian. I tried vegan chocolate cupcakes, mushroom bourguignon, and went to my favorite falafel place in Berkeley. Being vegan became easier and easier, and I started feeling light, joyful, and alive. Those six weeks changed the course of my life.

I’m not Catholic, so Lent isn’t imbued with a lot of spiritual significance for me. Rather, it is an opportunity for me to take on a challenge, and encourage myself to grow and change. It sounds cheesy (or should I say corny), but there’s a satisfaction to attempting something difficult, and emerging a different person. In just 6 weeks, my whole worldview shifted. Since Lent begins on Wednesday, I’d like to encourage each of you to challenge yourself, even if it is just for a week or two. I hope the next 6 weeks will be a chance for all of you to change your lives!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Conversation With a Teenage Vegan

Just over a year ago, my mom, sister and I decided to go vegan for Lent. Lent is once again approaching, and we have started discussing what challenge to take on this year. I am planning to tighten up my diet, avoiding sweets and refined sugars, opting instead for whole grains and tons of vegetables. My 13 year old sister, Summer, has chosen to adopt a vegan diet once again, and we recently spoke about what veganism means to her. I wanted to know how our experiences differed, and thought her perspective might align with some of my readers. Check out our conversation below, and learn what being a teenage vegan is all about!

Me and Summer on a windy day in San Francisco.
Dinner Peace: How was your experience being vegan last year?

Summer Boucher: I found it very limiting, like, if I went to a birthday party, I couldn’t eat pizza or birthday cake. At school, it was hard to have people eating food that I loved right next to me. It did open me up to cool new foods like vegan lunch meat, and my mom stopped forcing me to drink milk. Now, I have an awesome excuse not to drink milk. What’s the point of drinking milk if I don’t like it and it’s bad for you?

DP: How has your diet changed since you went vegan last year?

SB: I eat vegan at home, and when I’m out I’m more conscious of how much animal stuff I eat. I never buy school lunch anymore, and I don’t miss it at all.

DP: Can you tell me a little about your vegan experience?

SB: Last year, I went to a conference while I was vegan, so I brought my own lunch. At the break, all of my friends went up to get their pizza and tacos and enchiladas, and I sat behind eating my peanut noodles. One of the counselors assumed that I had no friends, and came over to sit with me. That made me feel kind of like a loser.

DP: So, as a middle school student, you found veganism to be a little isolating?

SB: Sometimes. Everyone thinks it’s weird and asks me questions about it. I don’t know as much about being vegan as you, but people ask me what I eat, and I say, “Food.”

DP: Why did you decide to try being vegan again?

SB: It’s kind of cool when you tell people that you’re vegan. It’s fun to try new foods, as long as they’re not gross. I have a hard to time connecting to the issues with animal rights and the environment, but I feel better knowing that when I’m vegan, I’m helping.

DP: What are your favorite vegan dishes we’ve had in the last year?

SB: I love the vegan Mac and Cheese that you make, and Beans and Greens too. I never really liked scones, but I really like the jam scones. And the chocolate chocolate cupcakes are really good. I love that Oreos are vegan!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The First Ever Vegan Dishcrawl in Berkeley!

Having a blog is a strange thing sometimes. It is an uncomfortable balance of putting your thoughts, ideas, and experiences into the world without asking for anything in return. So, when the universe replies, it is a wonderful thing. I’ve had several such encounters over the past months, but none has been so exciting as meeting Tracy Lee of Dishcrawl.

Tracy is one of the most intense, enthusiastic, energetic people I’ve met. She can often be heard exclaiming that she “wants to take over the world!” Since I happen to feel the same way about veganism, it seemed like a fortuitous connection. Tracy is the founder of an awesome new company called Dishcrawl. Its mission is to bring people together with the restaurants in their neighborhood to foster a true food community. Within minutes of meeting Tracy, she was suggesting we collaborate on a Vegan Dishcrawl in my East Bay neighborhood. I was floored by her wholehearted passion for the food community. As I learned more, I was definitely on board.

Dishcrawl is a take off on the “pubcrawl” idea; “dishcrawlers” visit four different restaurants in one night, having one dish at each location, while getting the opportunity to connect with the restauranteurs in their area. This is especially important for the vegan community. The more restaurants see us and hear from us, the more inclined they are to accommodate us.  Every time I eat at a restaurant, I try to thank the waiter for providing such wonderful vegan options. If I decide not to eat at a restaurant because of their limited or non-existent vegan choices, I tell them that I would love to see more plant-based dishes on their menu.

Dishcrawl has given me a chance to really communicate with the restaurants in my neighborhood, and the response has been so positive. Any smart restaurant owner can see that vegans are taking over the world, and they want to be a part of it. So, if you are interested in food, veganism, restaurants, the Bay Area, the East Bay, or Berkeley, join us for the first ever, all Vegan Dishcrawl in Berkeley. The event is happening March 24, 2011 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are only $26 for an amazing, 4-course vegan meal, and the chance to meet and socialize with other like-minded foodies in your area. All of the locations are a secret for now, but we will be revealing them in the weeks leading up to the event. For more information, and to purchase tickets, check out I hope to see you there!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Vegan Products I Love: Cinnaholic

From time to time I like to talk about vegan products that make this lifestyle just a little bit better. One of my guilty pleasures in my omnivore days was Cinnabon. It was the kind of thing I only allowed myself to eat ever so rarely, and no, I don’t want to know how many calories are in one. I had lost all hope of ever enjoying a gooey, buttery, cinnamon-spicy treat again, until I found out about Cinnaholic.

Cinnaholic takes the cinnamon bun to a whole new level. It starts with a warm, soft, and chewy roll that tastes of sugar, spice, and everything nice. Then, it’s topped with a rich, creamy, finger-licking frosting. And here’s where it gets good. First, you get to choose what kind of frosting you want; my personal favorite is orange, but you can pick your poison with flavors like caramel, cream soda, and pumpkin spice. Then, you get to personalize your bun further with all kinds of toppings: almonds, strawberries, shredded coconut, and graham crackers are just a few of the delights you can choose from. This is no ordinary vegan treat.

But, the best part of Cinnaholic is husband and wife team, Florian Radke and Shannon Michelle Radke. Shannon personally prepares your cinnamon bun, while Florian handles everything else. It all comes together to make you feel like you’re hanging out in their kitchen, chatting with the best friends you’ve never met. Cinnaholic, and all its charms, is surely a Berkeley institution in the making. Check it out the next time you’re in Berkeley, or order a dozen for your friends and family!

Visit Cinnaholic at 2132 Oxford Street

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Exercise is Not Enough: Losing Weight With a Vegan Diet

I’m not your typical vegan. I don’t consider myself an animal person. I don’t have pictures of myself cuddling with farm animals to demonstrate my compassion. I never had a tearful epiphany that the chicken on my plate was the same as the one on Old MacDonald’s farm. When people ask me how I became a vegan, I tell them, “On a whim.” While I became vegan arbitrarily, I’ve stayed vegan primarily for one reason, my health. I am bolstered by the impact my diet has on the environment and the treatment of animals, but I am more sustained by the 23 pounds I’ve lost.

When I tell people how much weight I’ve lost, and how easy it’s been, they are reluctant to accept my experience. If I’m telling the truth, and it’s been as easy as I claim, then it means you have to go vegan too. For some reason, people are reluctant to make this shift, so they are always trying to find loopholes in my health success. They try to attribute it to my body type, my ethnicity, the fact that I live in California, or my recent running habit.

Yes, it’s easier to find great produce year round in California, but I’ve been vegan in Massachusetts too, and I still managed to find plenty of spinach, arugula, bok choy, carrots, bell peppers, apples, oranges, bananas, and more. Incidentally, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds are always in season! And people of all different backgrounds have found health success with a vegan diet, like Bill Clinton, Barry White, Prince, Ellen Degeneres, Lea Michele, Alec Baldwin, Ginnifer Goodwin, Thom Yorke, Toby Maguire, and so many more.

But, it’s exercise that I’d really like to focus on. I first started running about a year ago, during my brief hiatus from veganism. No matter how much or how often I ran, I never lost a pound. But the second I changed my diet to a whole foods, plant based diet, I started losing weight, effortlessly. I eat full portions, enjoy dessert, and never go to bed hungry, and every week, the scale goes down. Sometimes, I only manage to get 2 runs in during the week, and the scale still drops. What I hope you’ll take away from this is that a vegan diet is the single easiest way to lose weight, no matter who you are, or what you look like. If you are like I was, feeling out of control of your weight, please consider adopting a vegan diet.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Herbed Garlic Bread

I’ve talked about this Herbed Garlic Bread before, but the last time I prepared it, I made a few slight adjustments that improved it immensely! 

1 loaf Ciabatta bread
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup assorted herbs (basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary), chopped
3 tablespoons non dairy butter

Slice the bread in half, lengthwise. Spread 1/2 of the bread with the non dairy butter. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, and sauté until tender and fragrant, taking care not to let it burn. Add the fresh herbs and sauté briefly. Spread the herb mixture on the other half of the bread. Turn the oven broiler on high. Sandwich both slices together and wrap in foil. Place in the oven for ten minutes. Unwrap the bread and place both slices facing up. Broil until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Slice and serve immediately.