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Maybe it’s Europe or maybe it’s seeing Before Sunrise in my formative years, but train rides are pretty romantic. The moments of building inertia then the surrender to a lulling undulation of the train car back and forth is evocative. Still inside the motion of a setting, all paintbrush stroke-like. Being in private surrounded by people. And other such sensory experiences that cannot translate easily… And speaking of not translating easily, I am on my way to the Netherlands (via train) for my main Spring Break destination, the tick of my bucket list: Keukenhof to visit its Spring garden. A tulip festival on plant steroids. First though, Amsterdam.

After arriving at the station, I made a b-line to Koffie Ende Koeck for their vegan High Tea. And what a wonderful way to begin my stay in Holland!

There was plenty to eat. From bottom to top: 3 savory tea sandwiches–smoked tofu, cucumber cream cheese, and a zucchini pancake topped with pickled beet. Middle layer: an oatmeal scone with elderflower jam and clotted cream and a yogurt parfait. On top: A slice of chocolate layer cake, a Dutch apple tart and a blueberry crumb bar. A fantastic spread from this charming all-vegan coffee shop and bakery.

Of course I had to pack some to go. 

Strolling around the gorgeous streets of Amsterdam, I found several all-vegan shops: Vegabond, a vegan convenience store with lots of snacks I regret not buying as I type this, and Vega-Life, a fashion and footwear store that is all-vegan. 

Scenic Amsterdam.

Amsterdam exudes Old World beauty–centuries old  churches and various other solemn spired gothic buildings. My room’s view (left) is directly across from them… though behind them, carnival goers shriek as they’re flipped and toppled about. Much like “the pot” and the Red Light district (Rossebuurt),  I guess that’s kind of Amsterdam: dichotomous. 

Dinner is a holiday, every night. I celebrated this holiday at the all-vegan Meatless District. (Though you may simply see “MD” on the outside.) 

This entree that you see here, this was one of the best dishes I’ve had in a very long time. Besides it being plated beautifully, it was absolutely delicious. In case it isn’t discernible, it is potato gnocchi–decorated with dollops of nut mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, 2 spoonfuls of pesto, and two toasts. A sprinkling smoked salt and a delicate pond of balsamic vinegar and oil packed a tremendous punch. Amazing.

Let’s look at it from another angle. It’s like a bouquet of flowers for me. 

Happy Thanksgiving! I am grateful for a successful Thanksgiving meal created in our new kitchen. The renovated space improved work flow in a tremendous way. And the dishwasher–a game changer. Here are the food highlights:

A flavor-packed stuffed seitan roast, mashed potatoes, apple pomegranate pumpkin rice, and creamed corn.IMG_4384Check out these amazing recipes from other vegan people. They made it easy for me.

Stuffed Seitan Roast


1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
generous grinding of pepper
2 slices whole wheat bread cut into small cubes
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon whole chia seeds
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup water (more as needed)

Sauté the onion and celery in a non-stick skillet until onion is translucent.
Add the mushrooms, thyme, sage, and a generous grating of black pepper and cover and cook 3 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients along with enough water to moisten the stuffing but not make it soaking wet.
Set aside.

Seitan Roast:
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/3 cup quick oatmeal
1 teaspoon ground flaxseeds
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 cup great northern beans, cooked or canned
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon tahini

In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (vital wheat gluten through flaxseeds).
Place the 1 1/2 cups of broth, white beans, soy sauce, and garlic in blender and process until liquefied.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the bean mixture, and stir until gluten is completely moistened.
Drizzle the tahini over the top and knead it into the dough.
Keep kneading until dough holds together in a ball. Set aside while you make the broth.

Baking Broth:
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil (optional)

Heat all ingredients until hot but not boiling. A microwave works well for this.

Assembly / Cooking:
Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil a rectangular baking dish, 11-13 inches long and 6-8 inches wide.
Line your work surface with parchment paper.
Place the dough in the center, cover it with plastic wrap, and roll out the seitan, making sure that it is the same thickness in all places, until it’s about 9×13.
Spread the stuffing evenly, leaving a 1-inch margin on all sides.
Lift up the plastic wrap on one of the long edges and roll the seitan up like a jelly roll.
Pinch the ends sealed first and then pinch well to seal the long seam.
Lift the seitan roll carefully and place seam-side down in the prepared casserole dish.
Pour the baking broth over it, add rosemary, and cover tightly with two layers of foil.

Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven, baste with broth, recover tightly, and bake for another 25 minutes.
Baste again and return to oven uncovered for about 30 minutes.
Baste 2 or 3 times as it’s cooking.
Seitan is done when top seems firm and brown and the broth has evaporated.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Transfer carefully to a cutting board or serving platter and cut into 1/2-inch slices.

PicMonkey Collage

PicMonkey Collage2This was the most flavor I’ve ever experienced in a seitan. Glorious!

Pumkin Apple Harvest Rice


1 3/4 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 small Honeycrisp apple, diced
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 Tbsp parsley flakes
2 tbsp Pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup walnuts, unsalted
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fine pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Prepare brown rice – set aside in large mixing bowl.
In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin, maple syrup, cider vinegar, spices. Mix well.
Add this mixture to the warm brown rice. Fold until well distributed.
Prep your apples and onions by dicing.
Fold into the rice mixture: Pomegranate, apples, onions, walnuts, olive oil, parsley flakes and salt to taste.

IMG_4199The pomegranates were from a bulk club store. 6 for 9.99. Now, what to do with the others???

Mashed Potatoes


3 pounds yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk at room temp
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt (plus more for the water)
Several dashes fresh black pepper

Cut potatoes into about 1 1/2 inch chunks.
Place in a pot and cover with cold water.
Spinkle about a teaspoon of salt into the water. Cover and bring to a boil.
Once boiling lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 12 minutes, until fork tender.
Drain potatoes, then place back in the pot.
Do a preliminary mash with a potato masher, just to get them broken up.
Add milk, oil, salt and pepper and mash until fluffy.
Taste for salt and pepper.

Creamed Corn


1 1/2 pounds organic sweet corn, frozen
1 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp ground flax seed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, adjust to taste
freshly ground black pepper, adjust to taste

In a medium hot skillet, saute sweet onion and garlic in coconut oil until translucent.
Add sweet corn and cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until the corn starts to caramelize with the onions and garlic- add coconut milk here.
Add remaining seasonings and adjust to taste.
Transfer 1/2 of the corn into a food processor and puree.
Pour this pureed mixture into the leftover whole corn kernels.

IMG_4361This creamed corn recipe took the prize for “thee best.” Coconut milk makes a perfect ‘creamed’ for this creamed corn.


And a marble banana bundt for good measure… now I was ready to go. PicMonkey Collage4

A selfie with my new glassesIMG_4332

And some giddy fun with Ebenezer. Can’t believe it’s that time already…IMG_4436

Sometimes you just want to spend the entire day in the kitchen and the entire night in the dining room eating and giggling with friends. It was time for a Winter Dins vegan victuals dinner party.

For starters, “Deviled” Polenta Yukon Golds.

Rye, Kale & Eggplant Dressing with toasted Pepitas

Fennel, Apple & Herb Salad with toasted Pistachios and Horseradish

Harissa & Maple-Roasted Root VegetablesDSC_0043

Spinach-stuffed Rolled Seitan SteaksDSC_0052

Winter’s delights on a plate.DSC_0066

My “White Elephant” gift and my vodka & pineappleIMG_3815

I whipped up adorable meringue mushrooms to garnish the Bûche de Noël.IMG_3786

The Bûche de Noël in the making.DSC_0024

And the finished dessert!DSC_0060

And a gluten free chocolate mousse for the intolerant Max.IMG_3818

Not that I need another reason to eat an all-vegan apple-themed dinner by an aspiring chef, but my birthday is here again. And a Monday night dinner with some dear, old friends is just what I needed to start celebrating. But it was Da’Ves Lee Malone, the sweet and delightfully timid chef of Sprouting Dreams, who was special lady of the evening. We were lucky enough to be part of her very first Pop-up dinner, hosted at Brooklyn’s V-Spot.  The 4-course meal was all about apples.

DSC_0043Course 1: Mini sweet peppers stuffed with soy sausage and diced Apples along with a carrot bacon-wrapped apple bite. Tender, delicious bites. A dance of sweet and savory on a pepper dance floor. I wanted at least 5 more of these bites.

DSC_0046Course 2: Apple Forest Salad, radicchio salad with thinly sliced apples, shiitake bacon dressed in a walnut vinaigrette. A chef’s weight can be measured in how they craft a salad. Da’Ves made a mean one, each bite had something wonderful to offer.

DSC_0050Course 3: Seared Seitan Steak with bourbon-poached apples and caramelized onions over a bourbon apple cider reduction along with roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts. This was my favorite course. Seitan basked in this umptious reduction, moistened yet sturdy. Poached apples and caramelized onions balanced texture and sweetness. Then roasted veggies became sponges to clean surface area of plate.

DSC_0052Course 4: Apple Fritters with caramel cream cheese and candied pecans. Apple infused each bite of these fritters. It was like a battered a deep-fried apple cake, I think? Cashew-based caramel cream cheese was extraordinary. Bravo, Chef Da’Ves!

After a particularly gluttonous summer so far, I needed to take it down a few notches with a grain-free cleanse–2 days of raw food and juice. I also wanted to take this opportunity to try out some products that I’ve had on my radar in the grocery store, as a new year of work calls for hearty and healthful sustenance.  Here is everything I ate today.PicMonkey Collage
My Raw Cleanse, Day 1 (left to right):

Raw Revolution Spirulina Dream bar

tsp. organic apple cider vinegar

blk. mineral water

Organic green seedless grapes

Organic Bartlett pear

Organic raw cocoa goji bar

Brad’s Raw Chips: Cheddar with organic kale and raw pepitas hummus

Health-Ade raw kombucha

Organic banana pie (see below)

BluePrint Beet, Apple, Carrot, Lemon, Ginger juice

Organic Mission figs

tsp. organic apple cider vinegar

DSC_0022With my high-speed blender revved up, I made a raw kale hummus and a banana dessert to appease my appetite. The crust of the organic banana pie: raw cashew, an organic raw cocoa goji bar, and organic coconut oil. The banana filling: 2 organic bananas (speckled), raw cashews and agave nectar (The agave nectar was the only non-raw ingredient I ate today.)


I also made the raw kale and pepitas hummus. Day 1, in the bag. I feel great but am craving the pretzel sticks in the pantry a great deal.

I woke up to the sound of Green Frogs calling me out through the forest and to the Bay with their rubber band snaps. And other morning sounds-a cacophony of sorts. Morning is so loud. Luckily, there was deep, dark coffee to sip as I walked down the trail. I kinda wanted that coffee commercial first cup.DSC_0005

I met the Blue Hill Bay at low tide. So everything was covered in thick yellow seaweed, empty and spongey like the veins of a giant sea creature. DSC_0020

There were several siren perches that’d fit the bill for my hope of a coffee commercial first cup. But ecstatic gnats and flies all wished to enter my eyelids. What do they do that for?IMG_8868

I saw plenty of funghi. I don’t know anything about wild mushrooms, except that it excites me to see ’em!PicMonkey Collage.jpg

I took the trail back up the the Institute’s grounds, walking through the tremendous fields of wild flowers. DSC_0034

And they all smiled for pictures. It was a glorious way to start the day.IMG_8876

After a productive morning, we had a delicious vegan lunch. Now, I had half-expected uninspired offerings similar to the options available in town. But IHE practices what it preaches–by way of all-vegan. And because they know that this may be a participant’s first sampling of vegan food, they go all out–much to the enjoyment of long-term vegans like myself. IMG_8887For lunch–a lentil walnut apple loaf with a delicious sweet glaze on top, a heaping spoonful of mashed potatoes…

A stellar salad with a scrumptious orange shallot vinaigrette and delicious vanilla-glazed anise cookies. In a word: WowIMG_8888

Dinners are on our own. Declining the invite to the steel drum band playing in town, I headed, instead, to Acadia National Park. But only after a quick and perfunctory dinner at Gringo’s, a burrito joint off the downtown Bar Harbor waterfront tourist spot that can put tofu in the burritos and knows things like whether or not their beans have lard. Good enough for me!IMG_8904

I headed to the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, the highest point on the Atlantic coast, to watch the sun fade to the east in that pink trail that never photographs well. There were a ton of site-seers waiting for the big show. I love that.IMG_8909




Goodnight, Maine. You’re beautiful.

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.

Spring is finally in the backyard–in the form of noisy, enthusiastic birds and a clan of happy-faced daffodils.IMG_7267

The gang’s all here. What’d we miss?DSC_0054

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).

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.

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

Sometimes–in the world of restaurants–a lone “vegan option” beats an “all-vegan” menu. But would this be true of bakeries too? On a bright Saturday afternoon, a friend and I accumulated research on this query, visiting 6 omnivorous bakeries in the isle of Manhattan in the name of deliciousness and gluttony. IMG_7194

Our first stop was thee best stop: Sprinkles. Sprinkles’ claim to fame is being the first cupcake bakery ever. Now they are a franchise with 15 shops in 7 states (and 1 District o’ Columbia), including seven in their native California. The founder is also the judge on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, or was at least. So Manhattan has a Sprinkles on Lexington ave with a well-publicized Cupcake ATM that’s open 24 hours. And on a spring Saturday, the shop and ATM was swarmed with tourists. Maybe when they open their ice cream and cookie shop, crowds can divvy up to less annoying levels. PicMonkey Collage1.jpg

What’s fantastic about Sprinkles is that they offer a lone vegan option that is up to their high standard, and adorned with an adorable scarlet letter: V. V for, well, you know. The vegan option is a moist and balanced red velvet that is… ahem… likely the best vegan cupcake I’ve ever eaten. (And I’ve eaten a ton..) A well-deserved and bold statement… a challenge almost. The cake was perfect. The frosting was perfect. Not cheap-tasting, not overly sweet. Just go and try it in a city near you.PicMonkey Collage2.jpg

Stop 2 was a little bit of a stray on the cupcake theme: Baked by Butterfield. Baked is an off-shoot of high-end specialty food institution Butterfield Market, a New York City grocer since 1915. Baked’s specialty is doughnuts and they make a regular vegan option–the apple cider doughnut. But coming from Sprinkles, I couldn’t bring myself to buy the bare bones doughnut. I opted instead for another vegan offering–a banana chocolate chip muffin, by-passing their Brooklyn-born delivered treats from Clementine Bakery. This is, after-all, a Manhattan vegan option crawl. It was dense, like the muffin it was, and needed a bit more banana.PicMonkey Collage3.jpg

Option 3 brought us to the East Village. Tu-Lu’s Gluten-free Bakery has a daily vegan option. Today it was blonde on blonde, a light gluten-free golden cake with great flavor topped with a whipped vanilla cream. Tu-Lu’s cupcakes are always so delicate and beautiful. It is a great vegan option that allows you to daintily demonstrate restraint. Which I wasn’t exhibiting this particular day since it was a part of a procession of cupcakes.PicMonkey Collage4.jpg

Option 4 was Jennifer’s Way, another safe haven in the East Village for food allergy sufferers. Jennifer’s vegan and non-vegan offerings are made from quality ingredients, as evident by the darling vanilla beans on top their devil’s food cake. The cake was yummy and moist, but that frosting is the real star. Jennifer’s treats are the basics done right. I’d love to see more decadent offerings at Jennifer’s Way. (And a lower minimum on credit cards [$25?!] and a less snarly counter person…)PicMonkey Collage5.jpg

Option 5 was another tourist spot: Molly’s Cupcakes. Sure they have swings at the counters for lucky patrons who manage to nab them… and a ton of creative, decadent and deliciously decorated cupcake options… as well as basic vegan options–chocolate or vanilla cake with chocolate or vanilla frosting. I opted for my favorite combo: vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. I was delighted that the frosting was thick and fudgey, like the nostalgic kind, and not a light chocolate buttercream. The cake was really good, too. Just a bit soft. But I surely appreciate the option! PicMonkey Collage6.jpg

Option 6, Georgetown Cupcake, was a bust as no vegan options remained after a busy day of foot traffic in SoHo. But my friend got herself a Key Lime cupcake. And I went to try their vegan option a few weeks ago, which is pictured again below. The cake, an apple cinnamon, was very impressive and worth another mention. I guess the bakeries with multiple locations are doing something right, even in their vegan options.  Maybe they’re increase their daily vegan options if vegan cupcakers like me continue to ask for them. PicMonkey Collage.jpg

Thanks, NYC!

Options I missed:

Think Coffee‘s delivered goods from Sans Bakery

Sustainable NYC‘s delivered goods from Cake Thieves

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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