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I always giggle at myself for enjoying my weekend bagel the way I do. I really feel a sense of loss at its last bite. It’s simple perfection. An everything bagel, of course. Then toasted to activate all those seeds’ flavors. A layer of Earth Balance. And a layer of Bonne Maman preserves (today, Cherry). Every side of my tongue is happy. Especially when it finds the lone caraway seed, aaaah. The bagel, best done on Long Island, is to be savored. More so because I am heading west tomorrow. Where bagels suck.
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Spring is finally in the backyard–in the form of noisy, enthusiastic birds and a clan of happy-faced daffodils.IMG_7267

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For lunch on this glorious spring day, we headed to Seasons 52 in Garden City, a higher end restaurant chain dedicated to seasonal cuisine. It has a weekly changing specials menu, hence the 52, and it has a separate vegan menu. IMG_7273

I had the Vegetarian Tasting: a quinoa-citrus salad with greens and cranberry bits, a soft taco piled with a variety of seasonal vegetables, two chunks of cedar-roasted tofu [cedar serving tray included], and another pile of blanched veggies. It was fresh and flavorful but lacked a bit of cohesion. I guess it was a tasting plate after all. DSC_0069

We also got sides of potato wedges and a Fiji apple slaw (below).
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Then we headed to the local TCBY chain to try their Silk chocolate almond soft serve! I was very psyched about this vegan option which, the friendly employee informed me, rotates. Vanilla had just been replaced with this chocolate almond… and coconut was up next. Kinda excited about that! IMG_7277

I soft served it up and added some of their fruit and nut toppings. They have a whole lot of toppings that are mostly un-vegan.
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It was real yummy. Creamy, not ice-y-ish, so you know there are some good and weird stabilizers. I was proud of my creation. Then I ate it all. And loosened my SwatchDSC_0073

Every now and again you need to use what you already have–make some movement in the refrigerator. My crisper drawer runneth over. It is not permanent storage. So for my week’s lunch, I’d use it all. DSC_0001It would be brunch for lunch. What better an idea to use leftover veggies and fruits. I started with a hash: diced potato (finished the bag!), diced turnip which I had been avoiding having never “worked with” before, diced leftover roasted carrot from my lunch last week, and the rest of the celery that I had with my Superbowl tempeh “wings.”

DSC_0007The hash was so good, as anything potato-related is. On the right, some marinated tempeh cubes. One day I will measure ingredients when I make my marinade; this one was so good. I hope it wasn’t because of the oozy squeeze of light corn syrup, which I needed for my Valentine sugar cookies, that I added, knowing that this item would be taking up pantry space for a while. I’d rather believe it was the final remnants of organic brown rice syrup I added. More turnover points for that jar!

DSC_0009I love tempeh. It wasn’t always that way. Now I prefer it to tofu. Further back, roasted turnip wedges. After some time in high temps, bathed in salt and olive oil, the turnip was roasted to a creamy state. They were dreamy.

DSC_0011Next up, the fruit. I had leftover pineapple The Electrician picked up for me when I was sick. Then there was the new container of organic berries that was on sale and I couldn’t pass up. I made a compote for the sweet part of my brunch lunch: pancakes!

DSC_0005Then I made the pancakes–flax pancakes with 1) the dried apple ring compote I baked up the Valentine tart with (see interesting history here), 2) the speckled banana ripening away, and 3) almond. 3 different versions of flapjacks that I’d mix and match.

DSC_0015It is going to be an easy week! Turnover points: 10!

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In one of those wonderful random gifts to the vegan world, Rutherford, New Jersey’s Rutherford Pancake House serves vegan breakfast options.
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They had me at “Vegan Challah” French Toast. I devoured the plate of moist halves of scrumptious French toast thinking, “Is this really vegan?” I get vegan paranoia sometimes… When I’m served an accompaniment of butter with a vegan dish and I’m charged the price of regular French Toast and not the $1 more vegan item, my mind goes reeling. But I’d know; my body would know. It’s vegan. DSC_0098

They also vegan pancakes, including weekend specials like vegan red velvet pancakes. They’ve got a tofu scramble and a couple of other Daiya-ed items. When a “regular” place like this has more than one vegan options, the vegan angels of mainstreaming get their wings. I need to make up a word for vegan-friendly omni eateries like this. They give me quite the thrill.IMG_6533

When one is in Rutherford, a stop at the all-vegan Sweet Avenue Bake Shop is in order. But of course!
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And with plans with friends later in the day, I knew I had an excuse to buy most of Friday’s specialty cupcakes, and a gluten-free cupcake for my gluten-intolerant buddy. Clockwise: their Sexy Sadie (red velvet with cream cheese frosting), S’mores, their Boston Cream (vanilla cake with bavarian cream filling), and the Caramel Brûlée. Packaged separately was the gluten-free Red Velvet.DSC_0113

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IMG_6539I also grabbed 3 cake poppers. The cake inside was real soft and dough like. That middle one was divine–it was the cookie dough cake popper.

DSC_0114My favorite though–the one topped with marshmallow cream: the S’mores–deep, dark chocolate cake with a top hat of marshmallow cream, a drizzle of ganache and a wedge of graham cracker.

I’m a little ashamed of heading to another cupcakery in New York City immediately after Sweet Avenue. I headed to Soho’s Georgetown Cupcake for their daily vegan option. Georgetown Cupcake was opened by ex-fashionistas in DC several years back (during what I call the Cupcake Boom) and they’ve had a lot of success… hence the storefront in SoHo.
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PicMonkey Collage2It was standing room only. The 4 tables were filled with folks long since finished eating now watching their phones together. They probably wouldn’t even have noticed if I sat with them. I ate my vegan Apple Cinnamon with cream cheese frosting watching the ridiculousness.

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Finally, a savory sandwich at Bombay Sandwich Co. Friends and I met at the newish counter spot for ex-Smorgasburg vendor. I had been meaning to check them out since then… but the prospect of the throngs of Williamsburg-ers was always a deterrent. This bright, quiet location in the Garment District is much better. I had the Pesto Perfect–smashed spaghetti squash with arugula, sliced tomato and their homemade Kale & Walnut Pesto on ciabatta. Very flavorful and with a great kick of heat.
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Ok, that’s all I ate today. I’m a total glutton. Dear blog, look what I do for you!

DSC_0001Gorgeous apples of all shapes and sizes. Speckled uniquely, with underbellies, striated skin–a plane of antioxidants and fiber. Fruit–how glorious.

DSC_0003My first bunch would be a batch of scratchmade apple sauce. Simple and easy–but perfect.

IMG_5466Applesauce, to the left, and sweetened yam to the right. Autumn favorites.

IMG_5469In the theme of autumn brown, I made tamarind-glazed tofu in the broiler. My chuck of tamarind dearly needs a turnover. I will deal with this come VV’s Pantry Turnover month (January).

IMG_5470Broiling is my new favorite cooking method for tofu.

IMG_5471Apple use number 2! Quick apple parfaits with coconut whip. Unfortunately the “whip” was more like a milkshake. It was still absolutely delicious. Lunch for the week is squared away. Now, gratuitous apple recipes commence!

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One of the many reasons I love living on the east coast is the trees. Come autumn, there’s an art show in the trees. Keep your cones and desert, west coast. I’ll take the Deciduous trees. Their visual, cyclical renewal feels better, hopeful, than your towering sameness and arid granules.IMG_5434Of course, getting beyond New York City is always battle. But the wounds heal immediately upon arrival at the Sloatsburg rest area. There’s a recharge there, like a video game; heart containers are full once again. From there, the New York Thruway is effortless. A joy, actually.

IMG_5454We were heading north to pick apples, as people of the Fall tend to do inexplicably (see here)–following a rainbow that broke a grey sky into pieces, the persistent blue sky calling the weather folks fools. Meanwhile I wondered, for the thousandth time, what the heck Tappan Zee was named after. (My assumption of it being Native American was correct–the Tappan were a sub-tribe of the Lenape & Zee is a Dutch word meaning a wide expanse of water.)

PicMonkey Collage.jpgAfter finding that there was really no such thing as a truly organic orchard here on the east coast (Ok, west coast, you win there!), we were heading to a low-spray orchard–Stone Ridge Orchard, right outside of New Paltz. We passed a dozen you-pick-em places en route to Stone Ridge, likely with robust harvests of plump apples… but with a tough, chemical filmed skin no doubt. Stone Ridge was what I wanted, natural-sized apples with imperfections, not franken-apples.

DSC_0166The orchard was all ours! Just a few other souls were wandering about the trees. We picked a half bushel– strolling the lined rows, feeling the porous, packed crunch of the over-ripe apples under our feet. Idyllic.

PicMonkey Collage2.jpgBrown braids, dirty jeans, and my boots in moist earth. October is the most wonderful time of the year.

IMG_5460And Stone Ridge’s farmstand even had a vegan cookie for me! With our bag of apples secured in the backseat, the trip back would be devoted to day dreams on apple recipes. I began plotting an apple take-over in the kitchen.

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DSC_0002After brief appreciation (Griswald Grand Canyon style) of Kölner Dom, I moved on from Köln. With my days counting down quickly, I needed to do some cities flash pan speed. I boarded an early train north, foolishly thinking it’d be a quiet and secluded ride. Right smack in the middle of the holiday season, throngs of excited, vacationing Germans and their hefty suitcases litter the aisles of the train. I’ve yet to make a seat reservation on any of my train excursions but I see now that it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

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Today’s destination is Bremen, whose roots date back to a settlement in 100 AD. How spectacular to be able to linger amongst such a deep-rooted history. Bremen has some appealing sights and some vegan options I can’t pass up. I knew as soon as I ventured out of the main station that this was my kind of city. PicMonkey Collage.jpgI tried, in vain, to find Veganbar, an all-vegan food truck, with no success. Now I realize that today they are stationed elsewhere. This is the price I pay for not knowing what day it is.

DSC_0016I left my suitcase in storage so I can explore the sites, many of which were far closer to the train station than my hostel. Bremen is pretty easy to navigate. I found all the places I wished to go, and discovered some new ones along the way. Take a look at yet another stunning German city.

DSC_0042On the way to the old quarter I saw Windmill am Wall.

DSC_0054Bremen is very proud of their mascots–a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster– or The Bremen Town Musicians, the title of a Brothers Grimm folktale about misfits finding a new home. The image is everywhere I look here in Bremen, along with intricately detailed historical buildings.

The gorgeous old quarter:
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DSC_0039I was really excited to check out Veganissimi, an all vegan shop with grocery items, sweets, and other vegan miscellany. I was in vegan heaven! They had so many items I have never seen… which makes sense since I am very far from home. The store owner, Tatjana, was amused by my excitement–and surprised that New York did not have its very own vegan-only store like Veganissimi. Yes, New York, you need to step it up!

DSC_0027Here is the queen of Veganissimi, Tatjana. She was very gracious. Besides giving me a recommendation for lunch, she invited me to an all-vegan brunch buffet, a monthly event that happens to be tomorrow. Though my plans are tight, I decided that I can not miss this brunch.

PicMonkey Collage2.jpgSome shots from the store: a slew of vegan cheeses, veggie brats of all shapes and sizes, animal liberation imagery all about, and just all around yumminess.

PicMonkey Collage3.jpgI have never seen white chocolate bars before–and they had a variety! I ordered an apple cupcake and a simple cheese sandwich that really hit the spot.

DSC_0038The cheese was really good–out of the fridge and cold–unlike some packaged cheeses that.

PicMonkey Collage4.jpgMy goody bag, literally: A white chocolate bar with crispies, chocolate-covered biscuit and vanilla creme things that look too much like Scooter Pies for me not to by, the Bonbarr–which was like a vegan Charleston Chew (!), Vego–a huge chocolate and hazelnut bar, and a strawberry creme chocolate bar. Yikes!! Oh, and a tofu monster bag.

DSC_0004After checking into my hostel and getting the nitty gritty on how to ride the street cars, I ventured out to a bustling Park Slope-ish strip of cafes and shops. Yes, it says “TOFU” on the building.

DSC_0005I hit Vengo for a late lunch/early dinner. This was the recommendation from Tatjana. I was thankful for the insider tip as this mostly vegan eatery was not on my radar. Inside, a friendly counter gal helped explain the many vegetable-based dishes, many Turkish-inspired, I could choose for my 8-sides plate. This was a fantastic and flavorful meal I devoured quickly… then proceeded to Vengo’s dessert. What an amazing day of vegan discoveries!

DSC_0007My glorious colorful plate of awesome vegan goodness: braised chickory, black bean and herb salad, delicious black-eyed peas, a potato salad, eggplant and sun-dried tomato, carrot hummus, and cous-cous-like pilaf on Romaine lettuce… and a pineapple and mint palate cleanser

DSC_0009After a meal like that, I couldn’t wait to try the dessert–a sweet coconut milk rice with layers of sweet thin apple, cooked to perfection, and sprinkled with coconut. Oh Bremen, you are a fantastic stop on my journey!

DSC_0011After my meal, I took a walk along the Weser river back to the old quarter, a recently renovated “Maritime Mile.” that adds to the city’s historical range. Bremen has a proud heritage as a member of the Hanseatic League, a group of trade guilds along the coast of Northern Europe started in the 13th century.

My trip here is Germany is peaking. I can’t believe all that I have seen thus far. A couple more days of this kind of existence and then I’ll be back to reality. Until then…

IMG_2457Chef Merida hosts Vegan Secret Supper-s in her apartment in Brooklyn.

And a 4-course, from-scratch, all-vegan, local, and organic high-end break from cleaning out the last of my life in Brooklyn is just what I needed. Like me, Vegan Secret Supper (VSS) is moving on from Brooklyn. The Chef is heading back to Canada to pop-up in Vancouver and Montreal. And despite CandyPenny‘s and my aversion to communal dining, we were happy to have gotten a reservation to one of the last of her dinner parties in the country.

DSC_0004First course: Cream of celeraic soup with baby bok choy and pain l’ancienne. Flavorful and alive with herbs, this was a great winter soup.

DSC_0005Second course: Russet apple, pear, watermelon radish, diakon and cashew cheese with raw olives, shiso and sesame. The cashew cheese was the star here, tying all the bright and fresh components together in a velvety smooth savory bite. The texture was unreal, unlike any cashew cheese I had ever tasted, as if it was pushed through a fine sieve repeatedly by angels. I would have loved a juicy pop of freshness amongst the roots and greens.

DSC_0009Third course: Sprouted walnut and lentil cake with tahini, avocado, roasted black carrot, crispy onions and yam chips.   This was a hardy yet delicate entree. The lentil cake was earthy and satisfying and topped with gorgeous black carrots.

DSC_0017Missing the chalkboard menu with its description, we were baffled by what this dessert was. First, we thought, a bit disappointingly, that we were being served ice cream. When we broke our spoons into the smooth white lump, it was astonishing. The texture was indistinguishable as I never had anything like it. The smoothness, the creaminess–the vegan world could surely learn a thing or two from Chef Merida’s technique and artistry.

DSC_0018Dessert course: White chocolate cashew mousse in a white chocolate shell with pomegranate reduction, oat tulle and herbal root beer foam. We saw the sign.

IMG_2454Goodnight, Brooklyn.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! When glorious autumn is seasonal. Chilly mornings give way to bright, potent sun. This often short-lived delicate balance is my favorite time of the year. And autumn eats are my favorite, too. Heartier, Earthier… I ❤ autumn!So now, with a stream of sun and cool breeze entering the kitchen, my first installment of autumn cooking: Apple Sausage Wild Rice Stuffing

1 loaf old bread, chopped {spread on a baking sheet and heat for 15 minutes or so at 350 to firm up fresh bread}

1 package (16 oz) of vegan mushroom soup {I used portobello}

1 (8 oz) package vegetable broth

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

salt and black pepper to taste

1/2 cup wild rice, cooked {I used the rest of the brown rice that was laying around and mixed it in with wild}

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped

1/4 cup sunflower seeds {I wanted to finally finish off the bag of sunflower seeds in the pantry. The bread I used was seeded too. Next time I’d go for pecans.}

1/4 cup apple, chopped

1 Field Roast apple & sage sausage link, sliced

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and spread in a pan. 350 for about an hour, covered. Let it go uncovered for the last 20 minutes or so.

This delicious stuffing looks kind of seedy. More textures to tempt you with!

Another spectacular part of autumn are the sunsets. The sun and clouds looked ablaze, looked like the atmosphere of another planet.

And I will end this post with the most photogenic of the root veggies, my favorite, the beet.

There are those who love beets… and others.

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For apple use number 2, I made the Gluttonous Vegan‘s spectacular recipe for Caramel Apple Upside-down Cake. Rich, delicious vegan caramel sauce: 1/2 cup Earth Balance, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 & 1/2 TB Blackstrap molasses cooked stovetop. What a yummy finger-lickin’ caramel. I would use a bit less molasses next time.

Apples take a nice bath in the caramel before being covered in cake batter.

Layer one. So succulent-looking! But this is why I’d use less molasses (or a lighter molasses) next time. It looks a bit burnt although it is not.

Layer 2. Cinnamon-y delicious. But a lot for me to take on. I may have to deliver this to my parents.

But first, a slice with coconut sorbet. Ok apples, now we are having fun!

With a bag of plump, delicious apples to ingest, it was time to start cooking. First, applesauce. It’s so easy and will make a nice dent in my bag. Using both varieties in the sauce, I’ll get a nice texture–soft, mashed Macintosh with bites of heartier Red Delicious.

First, the skins gotta go. I know, all the fiber is in the skin! But I don’t want a fibrous applesauce and.. all those chalky chemicals were in the skin too. Apples are numero uno in containing pesticide residues. According to my scary phone app (What’s On My Food), conventional apples’ pesticides contain 7 known/probable carcinogenic toxins, 19 suspected hormone-disruptors, 10 neurotoxins, 6 developmental/reproductive toxins, and 17 Honeybee toxins. (This data comes from US Dept. of Agriculture.) It’s all disturbingly scary. Also scary, the toxins in the iPhone that told me about the toxins in the apples. And the toxins in the flame-retardant couch foam I’m sitting on. Ugh.

Anyway, back to them apples. Sorry. Must not let the horrible things that have happened to the world in the name of consumption bother me. Apples. Apples.

These babies cooked down quite a bit. I peeled and chopped 8 apples and added them to a bowl of 1 & 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger. After 20 minutes cooking, the Macintosh almost melted, the fragrant waft of cinnamon hovered above the pot, and all was right with the world once again.

After cooling a few minutes, I used a mashed on the bigger chunks of Red Delicious that still remained.

The applesauce was so very delicious. Perfect hint of spice. Sugar tempting out the natural apple deliciousness from each chunk. I put a whole bunch in the freezer with Thanksgiving in mind. I’ll have to make another batch for fresh consumption. What else should I do with these apples?

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Under scenic ‘seize-the-day’ duress, the Electrician and I headed north on a beautiful Fall day. The destination was not the over-crowded Bronx crossings or the state roads of New Jersey, although we spent much of our time in these areas. It was Masker Orchards in Warwick, New York… to pick apples and to catch a glimpse of the mid-point foliage. Arriving right smack in the middle of their Apple Fest, the low hanging trees were packing with foraging families. Luckily we had free range to roam their 200 acres of apple trees.

Macintosh and Red Delicious were abound. These ripe varieties were everywhere, the ripest and reddest on the ground–an apple buffet for bottom feeders.

Looks like an apple-maker’s scratch pad.

I had never gone apple picking before. As an adult at least. With a bagful of huge apples, recipes began streaming through my head.

The lightweight, airy Macintosh grow higher to the sky than the weighty Red Delicious.

I was so impressed with the enormity of the apples. To pluck them straight from the branch was so pleasing. Getting carried away with myself, I took a taste. Their skin was chalky and most certainly treated with some unknown yucky stuff. Reality check.

But c’mon, apples on trees that you can pull off. What a lovely thing to have packed and brimming with people!

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Remember when I bought those peaches at the upstate orchard? I forgot to take them out of the brown paper bag overnight. So!  they were super ripe right away. I had to use them all in one bang. After whipping up those simple red, white and blue parfaits on Independence Day, I thought “why not?” So here they are: peach apple cobbler parfaits with coconut whip.

First I made a peach cobbler. I cooked up the peaches and some apples with 1/2 cup of sugar and some cornstarch. The cornstarch thickens up the mixture but also makes it quite Hostess Fruit Pie-ish. It’s not the most natural texture but a familiar one if you plan to gift the parfaits who fear vegan goodies. I threw in some raisins and sprinkled in some cinnamon after the compote was cooling in the bowl and mixed it up to thoroughly. The cake-ish part is whole wheat flour, some sugar, and baking powder cut with Earth Balance. It was a dense batter that was not too sweet, given the fruit compote sweetness. I also added slithered almonds because there was an open package laying around.

Before creating the parfaits, a quick bite of the cobbler.

I am still trying to perfect the coconut milk whipped cream. It never gets as thick as pictured on the link. Even with chilling the coconut milk cans overnight, there was not much coconut milk fat. Maybe I need change brands.

Another beautiful parfait!

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