Sunday, October 16, 2011

Life as a Vegan

For about six months now I have been a vegan. My dad for about forty years has been a macrobiotic, a diet that is mostly vegan except for occasional fish and no refined sugar. I feel brighter, my skin in clearer, and it has given me an unreal amount of energy. This diet change has pushed me to find more delicious vegan/vegetarian restaurants all throughout Los Angeles. Here is a little guide to the best restaurants I have tried and what to get at them.

The M Cafe is a hot-spot for incredible macrobiotic cuisine. My favorite things are the blueberry flaxseed pancakes for breakfast, the ahi tuna burger, the big macro, Bi Bim Bop rice bowl, and for dessert the mini cupcakes that range in flavor from mocha to strawberry. I like to get two or three mini cupcakes so that I can enjoy all the different flavor sensations. I really can't tell the difference between these vegan alternatives and the real stuff.

Cafe Gratitude is relatively new to Los Angeles but has been in Berkeley for many years. They serve huge rice bowls, yummy salads, and absolutely mind-altering desserts. With names like; I am Fortified, I am Pure, and I am irresistible, I leave the Gratitude feeling full, satisfied, and better about myself. My favorite dishes here are the I am Fortified rice bowl with Thai Almond sauce for a very satisfying dinner, the I am Magical is one of the best veggie burgers I have ever had. Also for dessert the I am Irresistible cake is not only the best vegan dessert I have ever had but it is one of the best desserts I have ever had. A combination of coconut and chocolate mousse with a almond cocoa crust, it was so good that my family and I ordered one devoured it and needed to order another which we then devoured in a matter of seconds (the waiter was a little frightened).

When I found this place I thought that it was too good to be true. I kept researching and asking to make sure that what I had heard was true. A completely vegan, raw, refined-sugar-free ice cream parlor! I went for the first time and then I was back three more times within a week. Delicious ice cream, soft-serve, and ice cream sandwiches. I haven't tried nearly enough flavors to pick favorites but everything that I have tasted has been delicious, especially the salted caramel sauce.

I hope you enjoy and that it inspires you to think more seriously about a meat-free or dairy-free wholesome way of living.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Spain and Pop-Tarts

After neglecting this blog for months, I have found myself reaching for a retreat in the form of food, writing, and relaxation, which has brought me here. In the past months I have traveled to Spain; spending three weeks wandering through the narrow European streets, looking for anything that sparks an interest, exploring the food of a different culture, and discovering who I am.

The urge that has sent me here to write this post on the kitchen floor covered in flour, are home-made pop-tarts. This obvious, comforting, delicious dish fulfills the need for a mid-week treat.

My new favorite website for food is Smitten Kitchen. This collection of recipes is both eclectic and concise. Smitten Kitchen has a focus on fresh comfort food made with wholesome ingredients (exactly what I like). These pop-tarts are an example of just this; a recipe made with whole ingredients to make something sweet and special that is known as a very artificial dish. To make these wholesome tarts I first made a simple sweet dough and then filled it with both nutella and strawberry jam. These tarts look a little daunting but are simply a joy to make. As I made them I was reminded of the Sunday afternoon dinners that my mom always reminisces about, the joy that she felt when welcomed into her grandmother's house with homemade cinnamon rolls and delicious iced tea. These pop-tarts are perfect for an overall enjoyable experience.

Here's the recipe...
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk

1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)

Jam Filling
3/4 cup (8 ounces) jam

Nutella Filling
9 tablespoons Nutella

Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter with your fingers, pastry blender or food processor until pea-sized lumps of butter are still visible, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. If you’ve used a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk the first egg and milk together and stir them into the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive, kneading briefly on a well-floured counter if necessary.

Divide the dough in half (approximately 8 1/4 ounces each), shape each half into a smooth rectangle, about 3×5 inches. You can roll this out immediately (see Warm Kitchen note below) or wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Assemble the tarts: If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″. [You can use a 9" x 13" pan, laid on top, as guidance.] Repeat with the second piece of dough. Set trimmings aside. Cut each piece of dough into thirds – you’ll form nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.

Beat the additional egg and brush it over the entire surface of the first dough. This will be the “inside” of the tart; the egg is to help glue the lid on. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, keeping a bare 1/2-inch perimeter around it. Place a second rectangle of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with remaining tarts.

Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.