Veganizer works with restaurants who are interested in embracing the food trend of veganism. They train staff, work on veganized menus, and host all-veganized events at omni restaurants to show them just how excited us crazy vegans are about food. CandyPenny and I bought our tickets to buy vegan food at Pagani in Manhattan’s West Village.  IMG_6359

As a long-time vegan, it’s wonderful to think that the food world is at a place where the kind of services Veganizer offers is well-received. Though my cynical side believes it is mostly about financial bottom lines, it is expanding veganism’s reach. How can a vegan complain? Well… we vegans, just like any group of people, aren’t just one way. IMG_6364

The menu, which was not released prior to the event, states all soy and wheat based items are certified organic (and, in turn, NON-GMO). Housemade cheeses are a great start. The Buffalo Mozzarella, housemade “mozzarella” that tasted more like a coconut cream, similar to these treats from Thailand. Because of the texture but also because of a lingering sweetness that was a bit unwelcome. I wanted a salty “cheese.” This ball of cheese needed salt immensely. At least it wasn’t Daiya. IMG_6372

Another shot of the dessert cheese. Back to the menu for a second, after buying the opportunity to attend the event (I think it was about $12 each?), a publicly available menu is a must. You’re asking people blindly trust that a omni restaurant with little knowledge of vegan food is going to be able to get it right. You’re also committing me to unknown prices. These two things are exactly what left us both frustrated at the end of the meal. IMG_6381

We were frustrated because we were unable to manage our expectations. With an unknown menu, you fantasize. You think of your ideal vegan Italian menu. But as seasoned vegans–two ladies who’ve eaten amazing vegan food near and far and plenty for many years–delivery is bound to be a bit disappointing when you let the us imagine the standard. [Pictured are The Baked Vegan Meatballs. They were good. Seitan. Pretty tender but just a lot of seitan.] IMG_6376

The mains were the downfall. At $26, I ordered the Seared Sea Scallops. The plate was tiny for the price, more like an appetizer. The puree and cabbage were good but needed another element to be an entree. The scallops were confusing. I swore they were real scallops and spent several moments in a sheer panic. Now, there are newish vegans who want the familiar feels of the different flesh they used to eat. Not me. That makes me feel sick. After the panic came the anger. I knew the texture could only have been from some super-processed packaged item. For $26, I was kind of disgusted about that. This feeling was fueled by my friend who had a pretty basic beet salad after the cheese dollop was gone. We felt a bit swindled. I also felt that advising a restaurant to use packaged meat analogs is not doing vegetables any favors. We don’t need more cruddy vegan options in the city. There is already a list of New York City restaurants I’d never go to… not because they don’t have vegan options, but because they have poor quality vegan options. IMG_6383

We left disappointed in meal’s value. And an upfront menu could have helped a great deal. But more so, a commitment to vegetable-based entrees without packaged, processed food. I could understand if Veganizer worked with hardware shops to make a vegan dinner for a night. But these are restaurants who have experience with food and creating quality dishes for their patrons.
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So the temperature is going in the 50’s this coming week… and last week’s blizzard is receding steadily exposing the backyard. But it’s winter. Before Spring, I need more chili. I used Contrary Cook’s recipe.

Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, onions, red and orange sweet peppers:IMG_6318

Add the cumin, chipotle, and garlic.
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Add the tomato cans.IMG_6322

Add the beans: black, kidney, cannellini. Plus sweet corn. Sweet corn welcomes some balance to the heat. Add the chili powder. IMG_6334

Top with scallions and avocado.IMG_6339

Best. Cornbread. Ever. Seriously, it won a Blue Ribbon at the Iowa State Fair. It’s even on Cook’s website, so you know it is for real. IMG_6346

I put the remaining pepper and scallions from the chili in the batter… and increase the cook time a bit. IMG_6348

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2016 is 1/12 complete.

January is new routines inside old comforts, like the best vegan chocolate chip cookies: your own.IMG_5977

It’s taking care… with a Long Island rec. center membership bonus: nobody in the sauna with you.
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It is having fire with the snow… with tempeh.IMG_6159

It’s inspiration from the ground; the potato plays nicely with everybody.
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It’s ever-expanding comfort zones.
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It’s morning walks.
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It’s wrapped in pink sometimes.IMG_6255

It’s watching the show from the window seat…IMG_6243

and staying on the sunny side.IMG_6286

Finding your roots…IMG_6329

in all its different colors. (Blankoma or white beets are super sweet and less Earthy. Why have I never had these before?)IMG_6332

It’s taking what you need from before, and tucking the rest neatly in colorful boxes. So there’s room for more…PicMonkey Collage

My annual week of gluten-free is coming! I’m going to need cookies to munch on. I adjusted this recipe with very delicious results. They’re satisfying and not so gritty.

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Dry:
1 1/4 cups blanched almond flour
1 1/4 cups gluten-free flour blend (I used Namaste.)
1/4 heaping teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chip cookies

Wet:
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup agave nectar

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Combine dry ingredients in bowl and mix well.
3) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix.
4) Drop on parchment-lined baking sheet.
5) Bake for 7-10 minutes until slightly brown.
6) Let sit on baking sheet for a few minutes before moving to cooling rack.
7) Store in airtight container.

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I’m near Penn Station every so often. And now Cinnamon Snail has a home there: The Pennsy! The Pennsy is a high-end food court attached to Penn Station / Madison Square Garden. It was pretty slow at my arrival during peak rush hours… except for Cinnamon Snail. PicMonkey Collage

I asked the counter gal to pick the best 4 donuts for me. She took the task seriously. And in those moments of her contemplation, I decided to get a burger. PicMonkey Collage2

There is seating at the Pennsy. I can see it loading up quickly for lunch. My burger was the hot topic of passers-by. Several people asked how it was and where I had gotten it. IMG_5998

The Beastmode Burger Deluxe is a very messy experience, but very satisfying. You see, it’s got macaroni and cheese on it. The seitan patty was way more pattyish than my last Beastmode Burger Deluxe. The pretzel bun makes the whole mushy mess even more pleasing. Finger-licking good. Make sure to grab a bunch of napkins.IMG_5992

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough donut, Maple Bacon donut, Some kinda raspberry cheesecake one and an Apple Cider DonutIMG_5997

Long Island has had a few plant-based openings, aligning with consumer shifts in food attitudes. People want better food, quite simply. Plant Strong is that: better, healthful, clean food. I visited for a sampling–half salad/half bowl. The salad: Thai Tempeh with Spinach, Tempeh, Broccoli, Red Pepper, Shredded Carrots, Almond Slices, and Thai Dressing. The bowl: Masala Bowl–Chickpea Masala with two baked f

alafels atop quinoa.
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Other Long Island healthful eateries on my list:
Super Bowls in Sayville
NY Acai Food Truck in Long Beach
Energy Bar in Massapequa

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I am delighted to kick-off the first V.V. report that highlights the vegan wonders of my neighboring states: the Tristate area. As you may or may not know, New Jersey has a lot to offer a vegan.  To start, take these two wonderful eateries…

Vital Dining, a vibrant new take on Jamaican in pleasant downtown Montclair, New Jersey, has some pretty spectacular vegan options on their clearly marked menus… the kind that merit a short trip from New York City because, honestly, this isn’t happening anywhere else. PicMonkey Collage

Vital embraces ital principles. The food oozes life, vitality. We started with the black-eyed pea hummus which was the perfect appetizer–mostly because of the pile of fresh, housemade plantain chips. From the crispy crunch of their narrower tips to the soft starchy bites of the thicker torsos, these plantain chips were textural heaven. An appetizer demonstrates a bit of foreshadowing, a sign of things to come. In this capacity, this dish had me anxiously awaiting my Sunrise Breakfast.
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Ackee, as our waitress explained, was a fruit whose flesh was the texture of eggs. It sucked in flavor, but itself, was a salty. Bite after bite, we wondered: Why on Earth hadn’t ackee swept the vegan nation? The texture was soft and curd-y. It was naturally yellow. And it contains no thickeners or science processing to maintain its texture and color. Also on the plate, cassava dumplings. Or should I say soft, creamy pillows of deep-fried cassava heaven. The perfect refuge from the salty ackee and sauteed kale. I proceeded in this fashion until it was all gone. Delicious!DSC_0004

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Veganized Foods in downtown New Brunswick, New Jersey is all-vegan. But there is so much more…
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Firstly, Veganized service is above and beyond. Our waiter was authentically caring, affable, and attentive. He was delighted you (and the others) were there, truly. This kind of passion for service is rare. It would have certainly compensated for lackluster food… but it did not need to. Not one bit. So it was a bonus. IMG_5944Veganized has a wonderful menu of housemade eats. It does not rely on packaged cheese or meat analogs. Nope. Zilch. Nada. Just real food crafted in a comforting way. Our two brunch dishes, the Flaky Biscuit (No-buttermilk biscuit, aioli, smoked shitake sausage, avocado, tomato, charred onion, simple salad) and the 5 Stack (five medium-sized pancakes, blueberry lavender sauce and banana slices) highlighted Veganized’s attention to detail, quality, and deliciousness. This, on top of the other dishes we saw arriving at the surrounding tables, sealed the deal. I had to come back.  This was a special place I discovered… and that feeling is why I love to seek, travel and report.

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I am starting a month of salads! So most of my week’s groceries were from the produce section. In order to hold my interest while sustaining my nutritional needs, I was going to do a lot of mixing and matching. You know what they say about variety… So here are my citrus segments: Cara Cara, basic naval, and red grapefruit.  IMG_5756

My greens variety: spinach, Lacinato kale and golden beet greens. IMG_5759

Roasted red and golden beet, Brussels, and chunks of Vtopian‘s Macadamia and Cashew Camembert. Not pictured, the avocado coconut lime dressing I whipped up. IMG_5761

So this is lunch. Packing up salads requires some care. I made three layers: on the bottom the roasted beets and cheese, followed by a layer of the greens, topped with the citrus. Of course the dressing is “on the side” too. It’s about preserving the integrity of the texture. IMG_5767

I finally used my gift certificate for Brooklyn’s Wild Ginger. I received it at the end of last year’s school year from a student. I hardly ever frequent mock meat places anymore, but I managed to find a dish without the weird soy protein things. The Pad Thai.  IMG_5702

My students’ Happy Engagement cards are hilarious. With 10 year old girls like this, the world better be on its best behavior. IMG_5707

More gift certificate spending, I finally got a pair of my own Doc Martens. Hard to believe that I made it through the 90’s without having my own pair. Truth is that I used to steal my father’s combat boots and I used to wear my friend’s green 10-eye Doc’s. Both were way too big. This ‘just right’ pair looked like a little girl’s pair comparatively!IMG_5716

Another stop at Pickle Shack. Patty was undercooked and fixin’s ratio was way off, waah. They’re lucky this visit was not for the Burger Showdown! IMG_5750

But that cake…ah, that cake. IMG_5751

Guittard‘s Cocoa Rouge is a wonderful red Dutch processed cocoa powder, the first in my quest of finding a go-to cocoa powder. IMG_5666

The reddish brown is Earthy and clay-like.IMG_5669

The deep brown chocolate cake boasts the cocoa’s richness. Those light chocolate smears are melted chocolate chunks.IMG_5671

Once the cake is ganache-ed up, it was ready for stacking and a photograph.IMG_5683

Can you judge an Indian restaurant on their samosas? Yes. At Raagini, they’re perfect. It’s all about flaky, not too greasy, a light dusting of Kala Namak.IMG_5663

The first week back to work after a week off requires a hearty lunch. I whipped up a batch of spicy vegan chili on the gorgeous, new range. IMG_5687

Leftover rice from my Indian, leftover tofu sour cream from my New Years quiche and lunch was ready to go.  IMG_5693

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