Tag Archives: vegetarian

My Take on “Veganism”

Up until a dozen years ago, we’d been innocently and happily eating a whole-foods, sugar-free, “healthy diet” for about three decades; it included low-fat dairy, white meat chicken and fish. But then, my husband “pushed through” on a New York Marathon feeder race, collapsed and was unceremoniously hauled off to a local hospital. That was when we learned that he had plaque on his arteries! I took this as a personal affront to my hard-won nutritional knowledge and culinary expertise.

After listening to my angst-ridden breast-beating, a friend handed me the “Eating” DVD (3rd Revision) – it was a revelation. The interviewees weren’t McDonald addicts or slab-of-beef on the plate types; these were people who’d been eating just like us. And their health profiles were just like ours. Once they embraced a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle – aka veganism – their health improved: plaque disappeared from arteries, insulin requirements nose-dived, weight slid off…… We were smitten and embraced this new life-style with vigor and enthusiasm.

Today we’re still eating a primarily plant-based diet. We know that we’re healthier with it, that animals suffer less because of it and that the planet is better off (we could trade our Prius for a Humvee and our carbon footprint would still be impressive). But we’ve lost the religiosity. We prefer the term WFPB over Vegan because it is not so loaded. We still use the terms vegan or strict vegetarian in restaurants because plant-based does not compute with servers. But to the rest of the world, we call it a whole-foods, plant-based diet.

Over time, we’ve gotten easier with it. When we travel or dine out – especially at friends’ homes – we expand our options to include wild-caught salmon, mussels, oysters, brook trout and a couple other low-mercury, high omega-three, sustainable species (kudos to the Environmental Working Groups for simplifying this). Blue crab and lobster also make the few-times-a-year list because there are Crab Feast and Lobster Bake traditions on both sides of our families. On occasion, we also eat free-range “humanely raised” eggs. It makes life easier for everyone and, frankly, we welcome these occasional additional options. That said, when we are home, we eat a pretty strict WFPB diet – we like it; it’s easy and it allows us to “regroup” especially after long bouts of travel. When we entertain, it’s almost always a WFPB meal as well; we work hard at delivering luxuriously delicious meals that usually end with a dark chocolate dessert – and, hopefully, make the lack of animal products unnoticeable and irrelevant.

We don’t proselytize and only discuss our food choices when asked; we hope that this low-key approach might make the plant-based concept less off-putting and more appealing. It seems to us that the fewer animal products one eats and the more organic produce one consumes, the better off everyone is (for organic, we shop with the EWG’s Dirty Dozen [actually 20] and Clean Fifteen lists). As Columbia Professor Emeritus Joan Dye Gussow would say to the “Earth Friends” fourth graders: “it’s better for both worlds you inhabit – your body and your planet.”

We are fans of Meatless Mondays, Mark Bittman’s “VB6” (Vegan Before 6 pm), and any other variation that encourages people to dip a toe into this lifestyle. This is not a religion; it is a choice that is a win-win-win for you, for the animals, for the planet. Our philosophy is: just do what works for you; no one is taking notes.

Whole Protein Vegetarian – Delicious Plant-Based Recipes with Essential Amino Acids for Heath & Well-Being

Whole Protein

By Rebecca Miller Ffrench. The Countryman Press 2016 $27.95 (Amazon $18.50/ Kindle $14)

Ms. Ffrench approaches recipes and daily menus from the very particular perspective of amino acids – in other words protein. There is a mantra in the plant-based world that it’s impossible not to get enough protein. That we actually consume too much protein and the invariable question from the canivores “how do you get your protein?” is mock-worthy.

But the author demonstrates that that might not be as true as we had assumed I was surprised when taking a hard look at the protein counts of some of the pulses and vegetables that we normally consume. If adequate protein is a concern, then this might be a useful reference.

It’s a handsome, hard covered book with bleed and full-page photos of about half the recipes. The recipes themselves are not particularly adventuresome or noteworthy – assuming you are steeped in current plant-based culinary arts. If you are not, then this is an excellent primer. I prepared a couple and they were fine family-dinner fare – but not guest material.

Simple Green Suppers – A Fresh Strategy for One-Dish Vegetarian Meals

Simple Green Suppers

by Susie Middleton- Roost Books April 11, 2017 $24.95 (Amazon $14)

This is, as the title promises, a book of vegetable forward family dinners that strives for the unctuousness of meat-meals, the delciousness of deeply layered flavors, and the freshness of right from the garden produce. It is a beautiful tome, with lots of enticing full-page bleed photos from Randi Baird, that makes you want to dive in and start cooking

Ms. Middleton approaches the organization of her one-dish family suppers from an unusual perspective; each chapter focuses on a specific, but varied, base to which veggies are added: noodles, grains, beans, leaves, toasts, tortillas, eggs and broths. And each of those bases covers the whole landscape of, for instance, noodles – soba, udon, rice noodles, pasta, couscous, somen, egg. If you “go with” this horizon-broadening perspective, it can really step up the nightly dinner grind – and add some fun to the shopping and prep. Each chapter is preceded by a couple pages of useful “Tips and Strategies” – including prepping your larder. These aren’t ten minute projects and the ingredient lists can be a little bit daunting, but most can be executed well within an hour – and the results are far from fast food. There are some new concepts and fresh, upgraded re-works of old favorites.

But be aware this not a totally plant-based book. There is a chapter, as noted, on eggs and some dishes in other chapters include cheese and dairy. But most of  these ingredients are, IMO, easily substituted with vegan replacements since they are not center stage – or simply skipped. The egg chapter may be doable with the new Follow Your Heart VeganEggs (if you don’t have an issue with a primary ingredient – algal).

Note that the number of servings varies from two to three to four. So that means doubling or halving depending on your situation. As an empty-nester, I welcome recipes for two since I often find myself cooking the whole recipe for four –  and then there are often no leftovers!  The scale speaks.

I am looking forward to cooking my way through this lovely book and will post some of the results – especially when I’ve used dairy or egg replacements.

VEGANIZE IT! Easy DIY Recipes for a Plant-Based Kitchen

BY Robin Robertson – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt March 7, 2017. $25. Amazon $14.92/ Kindle $12.99

veganize-it

Another really good book from one of the top vegan cookbook authors. Robin Robertson’s books are classics and I have most of them. So I had high expectations for this one. It’s a beautifully designed book with a stiff fold-in cover for marking your place and lots of full-page photos and chapter intros that sometimes bleed across a double-page spread.

The chapters are similar to those of an omnivore cook book – with a twist. Plant-Based Meats, Vegan Charcuterie, Instead of Seafood, Dairy-Free and Egg-Free, Too…. all very enticing.
Since 2010, I’ve been turning to Steen & Newman’s “The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into A Delicious New Vegan Favorite.” And collecting recipes from chef-written cookbooks, blogs and the www. There have been so many advances in plant-based cooking in the past six years that I thought Roberstson might, essentially, be providing an updated, cutting edge version of “The Complete Guide…”. And in some ways she has. But I was hoping for some break-through ideas instead of riffs on existing chef or blogger-developed veggie cuisine. Or at least a compilation of those best of the best ideas. But I misunderstood the intention – which might have had something to do with the similarity of the titles…..

Instead, the book provides “clean” vegan recipes for lots of basics like sour cream cream cheese, cheesy sauces, ricotta, hollandaise, feta, butter!, gravy plus many, many more. Beyond basics are burgers, pulled pork, fish ‘n chips, sausages, meatballs, sea scallops, five bacon recipes, and more. Many of these products are available in the supermarket freezer or refrigerator case but made with a laundry list of additives and other unpronounceable ingredients. So this is why I add the word “clean.” Ms. Robertson first chapter includes home-made versions of pantry items (many of which are not vegan in their store-bought versions). Each chapter also includes more involved recipes that use a few of the basics made from the included recipes or, if time is short, from store-bought versions.

I started my review by preparing a couple of the recipes. First was Creamy Ranch Dressing that starts with 1 cup of mayo – it had good flavor but the mayonnaise was too prominent so I cut it with a little almond milk that also made it more pourable. The second one was Cheddary Sauce which is pictured below (these are my photos, not from the book). This was a tasty cream sauce and it worked well over a steamed veggie and quinoa bowl, but it didn’t taste anything like cheese, especially cheddar, which the name implied. I made it in a Vita Mix so just letting it blend a little longer heated it up –  once the cashews had been soaked, it was quick and easy despite a lengthy list of ingredients. I will make it again – perhaps amping up the seasonings and playing with the liquor choices. Next up are the five bacon recipes and the pulled pork.

IMG_1474 IMG_1478 IMG_1481

A couple nitpiks: Recipes labeled with cheesy names have to taste cheesy – nooch just doesn’t taste cheesy to me. And there isn’t any nutritional info – I’d like to know the calorie count and the percentage from fat – is it a 30-cal tablespoon or a 125 cal one? Also while the cashew craze has been well addressed, alternatives would be appreciated (since cashews are high-FODMAP)  and a little more on aquafaba would also be helpful and suggestions for those among us who choose oil-free.

Bottom line – this book is a keeper. There are enough interesting concepts in here to encourage experimentation. It is not haute cuisine, but it is reliable, tasty, clean vegan. And that’s worth a lot.

Veg-Friendly Mezza in Mystic, CT

We visit Mystic fairly regularly since part of our family lives there. Our favorite restaurant is Mezza (formerly known as The Pita Spot). Not only is the food totally delicious, but it is healthy and much of it is vegan – because much of Middle-Eastern cuisine is plant-based. We have eaten in many, many mid-Eastern eateries around the world – including in Egypt and Israel. So we can safely say that Mezza produces some of the very best iterations of our go-to dishes – always with a little twist. The restaurant is  casual, family-owned and family-friendly with inside and outside (streetside) dining

We always have an assortment of Mezze for the table to start – Hummus, Baba Ghannouj, Tabouli, falafel and more – with lovely grilled pita, The menu is marked with symbols for vegetariand an gluten-free – and where there’s dairy, it’s very obvious. Their falafels in pita come in four interesting versions and there is an amazing sandwich – Malfoof – marinated cabbage and all sorts of goodies between two pita halves and grilled – that is simply totally delicious. Mezza offers plenty of meat-options, too, including a secret family recipe “Lala” chicken if you are not a totally veg group.  Their website is being shifted to their new name, but the menu (and management) is the same so try http://thepitaspot.com/uploads/Pita_Spot_menu_5-11.pdf.

Tony   Maloof

Mezza Exterior    Mezza Interior

 

The Humane Economy: how innovators and enlightened consumers are transforming the lives of animals

by Wayne Pacelle, Presdient & CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.  William Morrow. April 2016. Hard Cover $18.38, Paperback $12.99 (March 2017), Kindle $12.99

Review of the Humane Economy

Mr. Pacelle covers the whole enchilada of animal abuse in the US – from puppy mills and dog fighting to battery cages and gestation crates to animals in film, wildlife management, animal testing to stepping outside the US to Africa’s wildlife. It’s an upbeat, well-done, informative overview that hails the HSUS’ successes but with only one chapter devoted to each issue, depth, naturally, suffers. That said, the case studies on PetCo and PetSmart that describe how lobbying moved them from selling puppies and kittens to partnering with local shelters to host pet adoptions were impressive. My interest in reading it was to hear his perspective on factory farming and if that is your sole interest, then the two chapters devoted to this topic might not justify the purchase, but if your library has it, then by all means borrow it. It’s a good read and will draw you into areas of animal abuse that may not have been on your radar screen. Note: I read this in hard cover; there’s also Kindle version and in 2017 a paperback – if  the Kindle version is anything like the posted sample (devoid of paragraph spacing) then reading in that format will be challenging.

Mala at Wailea Marriott – unexpected plant-based meal in a spectacular setting

Searching out plant-based, vegan options in Maui proved a positive and fun adventure.  The biggest surprise, not listed anywhere, was the restaurant at our hotel. What a surprise! Mala has a separate Gluten-Free & Vegan Menu. Chef Mark Ellman and his business partner Shep Gordon teamed up with Top Chef Finalist Chef Sheldon Simeon (and one of Food & Wine 2014  Best New chefs) to create delicious, organic and locally sourced dishes that are an eclectic blend of Mediterranean and Hawaiian flavor profiles.

The setting is simply gorgeous. The upper level airy dining room features a clean, contemporary, teak-accented look with long, unobstructed water views.  If weather permits, dine on the lanai.

On the Gluten-Free and Vegan Menu , there are four vegan starters, one salad, and a disappointing single entree.  But we found that the server and chef were happy to work with us to create a second plant-based entree since we always share and prefer to taste a variety of offerings. We combined one of the starters with a few of the five vegan sides. Island Vegetables featured well seasoned cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots and baby bok choy on a bed of coconut peanut sauce ($28). We also sampled the fried local pickels ($7) and the Fried Tofu ($12).

 

Eating Plant-Based in the British Virgin Islands

Provisioning for a whole foods, plant-based diet is pretty easy in the BVI if you are on a charter yacht or staying in a villa.  On Tortola, recently renovated Rite-Way about a quarter mile from the Moorings Charter Yacht Base (the largest in the world)  has a good assortment of grains, beans, produce, some frozen veg entrees, soy milks and Bobby’s even has local tofu. You can buy home-made hummus at the Patisserie on the Moorings entrance road – and until recently they had a fab tofu salad (we keep asking when it’s coming back). There are tubs filled with a variety of pickles (delicious cornichons)  and lots of olives. Even the little market in Leverick Bay Resort & Marina on Virgin Gorda  – on the southern edge of North Sound – has frozen vegan entrees.

But if you wish to dine out, and have the full BVI experience, then things get a bit more challenging.  Vegetarian is, of course, easier because chefs sub cheese for meat.  It seems the higher end restaurants are beginning to recognize the sea change (and, of course, the Rasta eateries and stands are always ready with a quick meal).  But we have ferreted out a few places that offer a lovely ambiance, spectacular views and offer at least one whole food, plant-based app and one entree right on the menu.

Saba Rock Resort in North Sound is accessible by their ferry from Leverick Bay or Bitter End Yacht Club or by dinghy from your boat moored right off this one-acre bit of paradise. Rooms are simple and immaculate and the menu offers several vegan entrees:  For lunch at The Pub, try three black bean crispy tacos ($16.95) , Black Bean Veggie Burger ($14.95) or a vegetarian traditional West Indian Curried Roti. Everyday from 4-6pm, it’s Happy Hour with $2.50 Painkillers, Rum Punch & Carib Beer. For dinner, there’s an all-you-can-eat buffet that features a fresh salad bar and a wide range of hot entrees ($29.95) check to see if they’re vegan offerings that night. Among the a la cart entrees is a dinner size West Indian vegetarian Roti ($29.95) or Cuban-style Fire-Roasted Vegetarian Kebobs ($27.95) featuring mini black bean cakes – accompanied by the salad bar.  Tables are literally right on, actually over, the water – so it’s easy to watch the large schools of  Tarpon circling the underwater lights or look across the bay filled with yachts on moorings.  Contact – (284) 495-9966 or VHF Ch. 16.

Just across the Sound, the famous Bitter End Yacht Club resort is not so accommodating – and that was a bit of a shock.  There are four eateries. We ended up with Conch Fritters on the premise that there is so little conch in conch fritters that it was irrelevant – and we needed something to sop up the wine and beer. They might have been able to rustle up a simple salad or a steamed/grilled veggie plate or white pasta with red sauce had we asked, but there is nothing on their menu that works (even modified) and we just weren’t up for another heavily oiled, uninspired veggie plate or pricey but lackluster pasta with tomato sauce from the kids menu –  no matter how gorgeous the view. But if you are looking for fresh bread and other bakery items for the galley – head to Winston’s.

Around the corner, Leverick Bay offers three dining options. Chef George’s upper level fine dining room offers a tomato and mozzarella salad ($15) or Bruschetta ($11) that can be made without the cheese. For an entree, there’s a Creamy risotto, beurre blanc, seasonal vegetables and aged balsamic topped with crispy carrots (leave out the cheese and/or buerre blanc). The Cove and Bar offer more veg friendly options: Garden Salad ($12) or Hummus and pita chips ($12) to start followed by a Veg Pizza (skip the cheese $19). Entertainment is excellent. Michael Bean’s pirate bit  Mon-Wed 5-7 pm is always well-attended and a family fave. We spent a week in their mooring field and never tired of his bits).  Friday night’s the Beach BBQ (we found lots to eat on their vegetable forward buffet) that features the must-see Moko Jumbie Dancers and Thursday nights it’s the Salt and Pepper Shakers.

Around the corner, at Biras Creek Resort, we really loved the Fat Virgin’s Cafe overlooking the dinghy dock. Brightly colored picnic tables were awash in local specialties – so we always found something delicious to eat. Sadly, Biras Creek closed – we don’t know for how long or what happened to the cafe – so call.

Overlooking Manchioneel Bay, private, secluded laid-back Cooper Island Beach Club (accessible via their private ferry from Road Town or dinghy in from the mooring field) has been one of our all-time family favorites – and it just keeps getting better and better. But it’s been sooo discovered that getting a mooring requires a first-light run.  The chef offers a Roasted Garlic Hummus Wrap with artichoke hearts and Cajun fries ($11) on their lunch menu. Unfortunately their Traditional West Indian Roti, which our son rates very highly, is made with chicken (maybe they will offer a veg alternative soon). For dinner they offer hummus as a starter and Penne with sauteed vegetables and a pesto-tomato Sauce ($20) as an entree.  Another possibility, Eggplant Rolls filled with goat cheese and red peppers ($19), might be doable without the cheese.  We understand that they will also accommodate gluten-free, so this seems a very real option.  Happy Hour is 4-6pm with two for one drinks. Rooms are available at the Beach Club or around the island at Cooper Island Villas.

Vegetable Rotis, like the ones served at Saba Rock, are  an authentic taste of the Caribbean that originated in Trinidad. It’s a a large flatbread filled with curried meat, fish or vegetable – kind of like a huge burrito. We are always on the look-out for the vegetable versions, not too hard to find, and  one of the very best is served at the little Roti Palace, tucked behind Samarkand Jewelers on Old Main Street, Road Town Tortola ($10-25 for lobster).  There’s a little dining area and an outdoor patio – or take-out. (They’re hand-made so be prepared to wait a bit.)  If you want to be 100% sure there is no chicken or fish stock in your roti, look for a Rastafarian restaurant that serves I-tal food – which is strict vegetarian.

Pirates Bight Restaurant on Norman Island re-opened in December 2012 with a beautiful, brand new, larger facility. The dinner menu features a “Vegetarian’s Delight”  ($28) that changes daily – hopefully their delicious West Indian Vegetable Roti filled with traditional curried spiced vegetables will be on the rotation. There’s also a trio of veggie salads: Greek Bounty salad – sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, olives, with fresh pita and home made hummus ($16), Garden ($13 ) and Fruit platter ($12). It appears that lunch is no longer served (there used to be a vegan roti, veggie burger topped with grilled pineapple, fresh tomato, lettuce and onions, and grilled veg panini).  Thursday through Sunday, the music starts at 8 pm (and Wednesday is Karaoke). Happy Hour is 4-6 pm; the bar menu offers chips and salsa ($10), sweet potatoes and tania chips ($10), french fries ($10) and onion rings ($10).

Also in The Bight, just off Norman Island,  the infamous floating “Willy T” (aka The William Thornton) serves Lunch (12-3 pm) and Dinner (6:30-9 pm) and offers a Veggie Burger ($9), along with fries/rice and coleslaw. They’ll also rustle up a simple romaine salad since it is the base for their meat and fish salads. Diving off the top deck (clothed or not)  is a long-time tradition.

At Tortola’s West End in Sopher’s Hole, The Jolly Roger has been totally reinvented as the open-air Fish ‘n Lime Inn & Restaurant .  For lunch Heather’s Mandarin & Cashew Salad, hold the feta ($16) and/or Hot Spinach and Avocado Cheesecake ($15) and for dinner Risotto Balls ($15) and Heather’s salad  – no vegetarian entree option.

Other possibilities include: Mellow Moods Cafe, an Ital eatery at the Road Town round-about, Chic Gourmet at Fish Bay, Nature’s Way in Mill Mall also in Road Town (run by Seventh Day Adventists), gorgeous top of the pack Sugar Mill offers rotating vegetarian selections at lunch and dinner (min $35/pp count on $60/pp at dinner) and also offers Gluten free and two-for-one drinks as you watch the sunset.

What did we miss?

 

 

Maui – On the Road to Hana

We decided to drive the supposedly totally off-the-beaten-track but spectacular Road to Hana along Maui’s northeast coast. The warnings were universal – take lots of water and food, gas up the car – there’s nothing along the whole route – perhaps 55+/-miles with 58 bridges (many one-lane wide) and over 250 serious curves – plus untold vistas and one-car-wide pull-offs.  So the estimate is about 4 hours to get to Hana and as long to get back – with stops at the top five attractions.  The warnings also advised against taking the “dotted line” road back to Wailea that would complete the circuit – so we had to come back the same way or void our car rental agreement if we were found out…

Consequently, we wasted a good hour getting prepared for this major odyssey in our little fire-engine red convertible  – about half the rentals in Maui are convertibles and most of them were headed to Hana at the same time we were.  Many of the warnings proved over the top or just plain wrong.  Except one – there are 58 bridges, most one-lane wide – and over 250 curves – so no wine and beer on this trip.  But were were happy that we had provisioned at Down to Earth – an organic, all natural market just south of the Hana Road that makes delicious plant-based sandwiches ($7.99 each) – subs and wraps –  and offers a wide range of “healthy” chips, drinks and well-priced water.  downtoearth.org.

Maui’s Down to Earth store just south of the road to Hana

The drive was made far more interesting because we rented a GyPSy GPS program that provided fascinating commentary on what we were passing or stopped at – along with a lot of history and anecdotes during the long stretches of  gorgeous scenery.

Our experience was that there are services along the way – but maybe not year round – so check.  There’s a small cluster of shops and snack bars, tiny family-run roadside stands – some offering fruit, vegs, burgers or pastries.  And there is a gas station in Hana along with some basic dining options, an “historic General Store” that has seen better days, and a resort.  FYI: several people told us later that the “dotted line road,” which would have made this an even more interesting drive, is just fine at this time of year and we should have taken it.

For images of the Road to Hana, please see this link to Pinterest.

VGML on American Airlines?

Tried to book a strict vegetarian (plant-based) meal on American’s long haul nonstop Dallas Fort Worth to Maui (DFW to OGG) – not available, not even in business class.  The lack of accommodation was sad enough but to add insult to injury they had only loaded SIX fruit desserts when there were 36 very full  “first class” seats. I managed with two small containers of humus, pretzel crisps, a salad, multiple snack packs and the raviolis emptied of their cheese.  But there were lots of linens and drinks – and ice cream.  The flight form LGA to DFW offered nothing edible even in first.