Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mi Lah Vegetarian - Philadelphia

Today I could not recruit any coworkers to join me for lunch. It is so beautiful out and I really wanted to get out and walk a bit in the city so I decided to take myself out to lunch! I love Philly, there are so many great places to eat, including one of my favorites- a little place called Mi Lah Vegetarian that I go to pretty regularly  Though the name says Vegetarian, the menu is entirely vegan.

Mi Lah Vegetarian

Don't let the tiny "hole in the wall" appearance fool you.  The food that comes out of the kitchen at Mi.Lah is fantastic!  I decided to go all out today and do a three course lunch.  Yes, I am in a bit of a food coma now but it was well worth it!!


To start out I had the Apple Wood Smoked Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup.I am a sucker for butternut squash and this warm soup is delicious and comforting. It is thick and creamy and the coconut flavor really shines through.

Smoky, creamy, great squash and coconut flavor!

For the entree I decided to go with the Mi Lah Philly Cheese steak.  At a vegan restaurant in Philly it almost feels wrong to NOT order a cheese steak!  It comes with peppers and mushrooms. I can tell you that while close to "the real deal" it is actually much better!!  This sandwich comes on great crusty bread and the "cheese" sauce is creamy and velvety without bearing too much resemblance to Cheez Whiz.  I would highly recommend it!!

When in Philly...

What can I say? It was good!

Feeling very decadent I decided to go all out for dessert. Chocolate cake with caramelized coconut and vanilla "ice cream". I did not ask what sort of base was used for the ice cream but I will tell you it was so creamy, strongly flavored with vanilla and so good.  The cake was very rich and chocolaty and a perfect companion for the ice cream.  The caramelized coconut? To die for! I am going to figure out how to replicate that at home!!!


After I had finished all that wonderful food my (very nice) waiter Stevii came to ask me how I liked the meal. I told him I loved it and that he could bring the check.  Now, as if all this good food was not enough.... here is the bill he presented me with!  All I can say is WOW, what a bargain!


If you find yourself in Philadelphia, Mi Lah Vegetarian is a must try. You can find them at:

Mi Lah Vegetarian
218 S. 16th Street 
Philadelphia,  PA 19102

They are located in the Rittenhouse Square section of the city.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Veggie Torte a la Irene

As we await hurricane Irene here in the Northeastern part of the USA I have been busy in the kitchen.  I love days when you are literally given an excuse to not leave the house.  Thank you, Mother Nature and thank you, Irene!


Since I am leaving for a week of Business Travel on Monday I figured it would make good sense to use up any veggies and odds and ends I had in the refrigerator.  And that is how this torte recipe was born.

This was easy to throw together, is beautiful when unmolded and has a great depth of flavor.  The recipe reflects the veggies I had in the house but you could certainly use just about any roasted or caramelized vegetable in this recipe.  Use your imagination!!

Veggie Torte a la Irene

1 1/2 medium size zucchini sliced thin
1 8 oz package baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 large Vidalia or Spanish onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
2  roasted red peppers, skinned and seeded
2 roasted  green peppers, skinned and seeded
2 tbsp capers
~1/4 25 oz jar marinara sauce
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  On an outdoor grill or roast the zucchini and mushrooms with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper until soft. If you do not wish to use an outdoor grill you can roast these in the oven  at about 400 degrees until soft.  I think grilling them provides a nice flavor. Set aside to cool.

Over medium heat add a tablespoon of olive oil and the onions and garlic to a saute pan.  Season with salt and pepper. Saute until onions are very soft and start to turn brown.  Set aside.

Oil the bottom of a closed spring form pan.  Cover the bottom with the grilled zucchini.Add a bit of the marinara sauce and then place a layer roasted red pepper.  Add more marinara and then the mushrooms.  Top with the onions and ten add the capers on top of the mushrooms. Add the roasted green peppers and then the rest if the marinara. (Note: it really does not matter what order you layer the vegetables).  Use a spatula or large spoon to press the layers tightly together.

Mix the dried parsley and bread crumbs together.  Melt the Earth Balance and add to the breadcrumbs.  Stir until Earth Balance is absorbed and forms a crumbly mixture.  Top the torte with the breadcrumb mixture.

Bake in the oven at 400 for about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before unmolding the spring form pan.  Once unmolded allow to cool another 10-15 minutes before serving.

Onion Pizza

It seems when it comes to onions that I sometimes overbuy.  I buy all sorts of varieties and I use a ton of them in cooking.  Occasionally I find myself with onions that are just starting to get soft.  Today I had two such onions.  Since my daughter and I both love them we brainstormed some ideas to use these onions for lunch.

Since I had a pre-cooked whole wheat pizza crust on hand we decided to keep it simple and just caramelize them with some garlic and do an onion pizza.  The whole lunch took about fifteen minutes to make including cooking time and it was quite an enjoyable lunch.

Onion Pizza

1 small red onion sliced thin
1 small yellow onion sliced thin
2 cloves garlic minced
1 broccoli floret, top only minced very fine
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ready made whole wheat pizza crust
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a saute pan heat 1 tbsp olive oil, onions and garlic over medium heat.  Saute until the onions are soft and start to brown.  .Add the broccoli.

Oil the pizza crust with the remaining olive oil. Top with onion and garlic mixture and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  Slice and enjoy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Ultimate Chickpea Salad Sandwich

My cousin recently told me that she had a great vegan sandwich at a New York City sandwich place called 'Wichcraft'.  I immediately went to Google and was able to find the recipe. It did sound really good and as it turns out it was really good.  The reason I call it the ultimate sandwich is that it literally took me THREE DAYS to make!

This sandwich has a layer of lemon confit- that is the lemon slice you see hanging out of the sandwich.  Lemon confit is something I have never made or had before. It was a bit of an adventure it- it does take three days to make (at a minimum).. It adds an interesting flavor profile to the sandwich. If you are not inclined to make lemon confit, no worries- you certainly do not need it for this sandwich to work.

Chickpea salad sandwiches are absolutely my go to lunch. I eat them multiple times a week and until now I always used Vegenaise mixed with the chickpeas.  This recipe is a vinegar and oil based salad and it is very flavorful and a welcome addition to my chickpea salad repertoire!

The Ultimate Chick Pea Salad Sandwich (adapted from 'Wichcraft in New York)

For the Lemon Confit:
Six lemons seeded and sliced very thin
3 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup sea salt
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
~2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Boil some water and briefly submerge the lemons in order to remove any waxy coating. Dry the lemons and slice them very thin.

Mix the shallots and garlic in a bowl and in a separate bowl the sugar and salt.

In a shallow dish place a layer of lemons in the bottom and cover with some shallot, garlic, salt and sugar mixture. Repeat the layering completing with a layer of sugar and salt. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least three days to allow the lemons to cure.  Halfway through, flip the stacks of lemons in order to allow them to cure evenly.

Lemons ready for the refrigerator.

After three days remove lemons and drain in a colander for 15 minutes.  Transfer to a jar and cover with the olive oil.  This will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.

For the chickpea salad:
4 cups cooked chickpeas
2 tbsp plus 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion cut into large chunks
1 celery stalk, cut in half, plus 1 cup finely diced celery
2 medium carrots, peeled and halved
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup red onion, diced
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic gloves, minced
1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Heat the 2 tbsp olive oil in a dutch oven or other large vessel. Add the yellow onion chunks, carrot and celery stalk and heat until the vegetables start to brown and become fragrant.  Place 2 sprigs of  rosemary and 2 sprigs of  thyme in a cheesecloth and tie.  Add to the vegetables.Season with salt and pepper.  Add the garlic and saute a few minutes longer.  Add the chickpeas and enough water to cover by about two inches.  Bring to a gentle simmer for about half hour.  Drain the liquid (I kept this to use as stock) and remove the vegetables.  Set aside to cool.


In a bowl mix the onions and vinegar and allow to sit for 15 minutes.Drain and transfer onions to the bowl of cooled chickpeas and add the chopped celery. Rough chop the remaining herbs and add them along with the chopped parsley,  remaining oil, lemon juice and lemon zest and add to the chickpea mixture.Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

For the sandwiches:
8 sliced country bread, toasted
1/4 cup nicoise olives, chopped
Chickpea salad
Slices of lemon confit

Place a layer of chickpea salad on a slice of  bread, add a layer of nicoise olives and a layer of lemon confit.  Top with a second slice of bread.

This will make four to six sandwiches.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini

For the second time this summer I was given some beautiful freshly picked zucchini.  How lucky am I?!?  I really love zucchini and it is one of the foods I don't seem to eat often enough.  I need to fix that!

I had a pretty lazy day today so I decided to keep with the lazy theme and make dinner simple and easy.  These stuffed zucchinis were very flavorful, couldn't be easier to put together and are pretty enough to wow friends at a dinner party. I even wowed myself with this one!

Stuffed Zucchini

1 1/2 zucchinis cut into 1 inch thick rounds
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/2 cup diced carrot
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup breadcrumb
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a melon-baller or small spoon scoop out the insides of the zucchini rounds to make zucchini cups. Be sure not to scoop all the way through the bottom.  Steam the zucchini rounds until they are slightly tender but not fully cooked. Chop the scooped out zucchini and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute until soft, about five minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the carrot and continue to saute.  After a few minutes add the chopped zucchini mixture, oregano and thyme. Add lemon juice and zest. Re-season with salt and pepper as needed.

Melt the Earth  Balance and mix it with the breadcrumb.  Set aside.

Place the zucchini rounds in a shallow cooking vessel such as a pie dish. Add water to the pan so that it fills about 1/4 of the pan.  Place the zucchini rounds in the water and then fill with the vegetable mixture. Top with the breadcrumb mixture and cook in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the zucchini is tender.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blueberry Lime Tart

About a week ago a Twitter pal posted a blueberry tart recipe that looked and sounded amazing.  I rarely make things like this just to have in the house- I usually need some sort of inspiration to make something like this. You know, a party, family gathering or hosting a meal for friends.

As luck would have it we were invited to attend a BBQ/pool party this weekend and were asked to bring something.  So, I figured why not try the blueberry tart?  I woke up very early this morning to make the tart and it is in the refrigerator cooling now. So, as of the time I write this post I have not yet tasted the finished product.  I did sneak some of the filling while cooking and also a little piece of crust while it was cooling and at least individually both were quite good.

I was pretty true to the recipe that I referenced with a couple of exceptions. I did not have arrowroot powder nor did I have the energy to run out to the store and buy it.  So, after consulting Facebook, the Internet and Twitter I decided to use the tapioca starch I had on hand. All indications are that it worked just fine.  Also, I happen to love the taste of blueberry and lime together so I substituted fresh lime juice instead of orange juice.

I hope the weather holds out today so that I may bring this to share with friends at the BBQ/pool party.

Blueberry Lime Tart

Prepare the crust:
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup raw organic cane sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread
1/4 cup Earth Balance Shortening
3 tbsp very cold water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the pastry flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Pulse quickly to combine.  Add the Earth Balance Buttery Spread and Shortening and continue to pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add water 1 tbsp at a time and continue to pulse until a dough forms.  Press into the bottom of an 11 inch tart pan. Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

Prepare the filling:
2/3 cup raw organic cane sugar
3 tbsp tapioca starch
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
2 1/2 cups blueberries, rinsed and stems removed
1 tsp organic vanilla extract
2 tbsp Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
2 tsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tsp lime zest

In a medium pot place sugar, tapioca starch, salt and cinnamon.  Add the non dairy milk and 1 1/2 cups of the blueberries. Bring to a boil stirring frequently.  Smash the blueberries lightly  with a potato masher or fork in order to release their juices. The liquid will become very thick.  Remove from the heat and add the Earth Balance, vanilla extract, lime juice and lime zest.  Stir and set aside to cool.*

Once the crust and filling are cooled pour the filling into the tart pan and add the rest of the blueberries on top.  Garnish with powdered sugar if desired.

*Note: to cool the filling quickly submerge your pot into an ice bath.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Curried Red Lentil Soup

Last Christmas Mr. Meat and Potatoes gave me a very thoughtful gift- a gift certificate for two people to attend a demonstration class with Christina Pirello at her School of Natural Cooking and Integrative Health Studies.  I decided to take my eight year old daughter Camille with me to the February "The Heart of the Matter" class. We both loved it.  We learned about heart healthy foods and got to sample some terrific dishes.

In fact, this introduction to Christina's macrobiotic, whole food diet for health is what eventually led me to take her Three Day Intensive Study Program with my now good friend JL Fields of JL Goes Vegan.

During the course of the day, Christina cooked many dishes. A couple of things really stood out for us. Of course we loved the chocolate peanut butter cookies but we were also absolutely enamored with the curried red lentil soup.  We vowed we would make it at home, but here we are, already in August, and we had yet to do so. I really hate when life gets away from you like that!

Anyway, yesterday Camille woke up with a sore throat and feeling generally under the weather.  Soup was the obvious choice for dinner. I decided to finally recreate Christina's soup. Mine was slightly different based on what I had in the house (I did not have any saffron or canned tomatoes) but for the most part had the same robust flavor as the soup we had in February.  Camille ate the soup, and liked it. Most importantly, she is starting to feel better.

Curried Red Lentil Soup

5 cups water
1 cup red lentils washed well
1/2 Spanish onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
3 oz tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
A few cilantro sprigs, minced for garnish

In a dutch oven or other pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper.  Saute until soft and translucent about three minutes. Add the carrot, tomato paste, curry powder and bay leaf.  Stir to incorporate.  Add the lentils and water. Re-season with salt and pepper. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are creamy, about 35 minutes.. 

Remove bay leaf and serve.  Garnish with cilantro.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sloppy Mushroom Sandwiches

It was a long day at work yesterday and I was just too tired to put any real effort into dinner.  To add insult to injury the cupboard was pretty much bare.  In the fridge I found an assortment of mushrooms and about a half a bottle of store bought barbecue sauce. Sounds like the making of a Sloppy Joe to me..

Joe's got nothing on this sandwich. What a simple yet satisfying meal.  Perfect for a long day where you just don't have the energy to really cook.  If you are feeling ambitious you could make your own barbecue sauce but I was just fine with the Memphis barbecue sauce in the fridge!

Sloppy Mushroom Sandwiches

6 oz portabella mushrooms, chopped
8 oz shitake mushrooms, chopped
6 oz brown pearl mushrooms, chopped
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
1 tbsp olive oil

In a saute pan heat olive oil and add mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms are tender and release their liquid. Continue to saute until liquid is somewhat evaporated and then add barbecue sauce and stir until barbecue sauce is warm.

Serve on a whole grain bun.

That;'s it! Pretty easy, huh!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Vegan Dinner Party

This past weekend I had our neighbors, who happen also to be friends, for dinner.  Not surprising, I was the only vegan in the crowd.  But, since I was also the only one cooking we were destined to have a vegan meal!

I am often asked if it is hard to entertain omnivores (and in this case a Vegetarian, too) while sticking to vegan food.  My answer is always no! It's easy as long as you prepare good food (OK, that is obvious). Vegan food like any other can be delicious. And, since this is not the first time I have had this family over for dinner I suspect that they are willing to return says that vegan food is palatable for everyone as long as it tastes good!

I wanted to share the menu with you (and links to a  few recipes) as I sometimes receive menu requests from folks that want to feed omnivores. The bottom line is this- make good food and no one will even notice it is vegan!  I hope you enjoy- I know we all did!

Starters:  I tend to try and keep it simple a you don't want people to be stuffed before dinner is served.  We started with some cucumbers, peppers, carrots, olives, nuts and strawberries.


Dinner: This was a Sunday night dinner so I wanted to stick with a home cooked sort of comfort food theme.  What could be more comforting than macaroni and cheese with all the fixin's? I am talking about a salad made from tomatoes picked straight from the garden, country herb biscuits,  and Brussels sprouts steamed in  white wine with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Now, who would not enjoy a meal like that?

Garden fresh tomato, basil and onion with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Brussels sprouts ready to be steamed in white wine.
Country herb biscuits.
Mac and "cheese" right out of the oven.
Dessert: Deep fried Oreo cookies! Yes, I will admit this is ridiculously decadent. But, we I had four kids in the house to wow and after this dessert I believe I am now these kids hero (well maybe not but they loved this dessert almost as much as the adults)!

Deep fried Oreos - It just doesn't get any better than this!
So there you have it. My Sunday night vegan dinner with friends.  I thoroughly enjoyed their company and the meal. I can't wait until my next vegan dinner party!  What will you serve at yours?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Deep Fried Oreo Cookies

The weekend before last the family ventured out to the Delaware State Fair where the kids rode the rides, gorged themselves on junk food and my daughter and I went to see Big Time Rush.(Yes, my concert going habits sure have changed over the years).

Anyway, as my kids gorged themselves on deep fried Twinkies I noticed the woman sitting next to me eating some sort of deep fried something that looked delicious. I asked her what it was and she responded that they were deep fried Oreo cookies.  I had heard of these in the past and had always dismissed them as unhealthy and over the top indulgent.  But man, they looked GOOD!

Since I figured the batter used at the fair probably had egg in it I did not try any but decided that I would try to make a vegan version at home.

I had friends for dinner last night and we tested out my version of deep fried Oreo cookies. They were a huge hit with the kids and adults alike. In fact, the guys are already plotting and planning what they will deep fry next.  Candy  bars seem to be in the lead at the moment..

I promise these will knock your socks off!  And yes, they are unhealthy and over the top indulgent but man are they delicious! Wow! Wow! Wow!

Deep Fried Oreo Cookies

1 package of Oreo Cookies
1 1/2- 1 3/4 cup Bisquick Baking Mix
1 cup So Delicious Original Coffee Creamer
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil (for frying)
Confectioners sugar (for sprinkling)

Mix the Bisquick Baking Mix and Coffee creamer together to form a thick batter.  I started with a single cup of Bisquick and slowly added more until the batter was a nice thick consistency.  I estimate this to be between 1 and 1/2 cups and 1 and 3/4 cups.  Add the vanilla and stir well.

In a saute pan heat oil until it is very hot but not smoking.  Roll the Oreo cookies in the batter until well coated.  Drop into the hot oil and fry quickly on each side until golden brown (you could use a deep fryer as well).

Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain.  Plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Eat while still warm.