Spiced Tofu Cutlets

These cutlets were born out of a last minute, not-very-well-planned-out idea that I had at about 6 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day to make tofu with the seasonings of corned beef.  Obviously the texture would be nowhere close but I still thought the flavors might work.

Well, turns out it tastes nothing like corned beef either, but it is still delicious so I’m sharing!  #WinningFail

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SPICED TOFU CUTLETS
Yield: 2 servings (2 cutlets each)
Vegan and gluten-free

Ingredients
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 small bay leaves (or 1 large leaf torn in two)
1 small cinnamon stick, roughly broken up into shards
4 whole cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/16 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. black mustard seeds (yellow would be fine too)
1/2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 block extra-firm tofu, pressed and cut into 4 slices
Additional salt for sprinkling

Directions
In a shallow dish, add lemon juice and salt and swirl around until salt is dissolved.

Add bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, peppercorns, mustard seeds, and sugar, and stir to combine and to distribute the ingredients evenly.

Add tofu to marinade and sprinkle the tops with salt.  Marinate for at least 10 minutes, then flip, sprinkle the other side with salt, and continue to marinate.

You can eat them right out of the marinade, or prepare them hot by pan-frying (the method I used) or grilling.  [This probably goes without saying, but please be sure to remove the bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns before eating.  The mustard seeds are okay to eat whole.]

–x–

These are great on their own as a meal component.  I enjoyed mine with colcannon on the side:
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And also on a sandwich with greens and a dab of dijon mustard:
Spiced Tofu Cutlets 006I’ve been loving this cheap, quick, versatile recipe lately, as things have been rather hectic in my neck of the woods.  More on that in an upcoming post…

Quick Ragnar Update
My training has completely stalled out over the past two weeks as I’ve been dealing with a strained hip flexor.  It doesn’t bother me at all except when I run so I’ve been trying to just rest, stretch, and cross-train.  It’s hard though and I’m getting worried that I won’t be ready for the race (which is only 6 weeks away)!  If anyone else has experience with this type of injury, I am open to any and all advice 🙂

 

Family Fun in Florida (and I’m Not Talking Disney)

Well hello!!  Even though I got back from Florida on Monday night, I actually haven’t had a single moment to put together any kind of blog post about my trip until now!

I should tell you up front that this trip was in many ways the exact opposite of my vegan food-filled trip to Richmond, meaning there isn’t a whole lot to recap in terms of eats.  I was only there for about 45 hours, and they were very family-oriented hours, so food was definitely secondary.

My grandmother and I took a 6 a.m. flight on Saturday morning which got us to Florida around 9 a.m.   The weather was incredible, but I didn’t spend much time outside, as the day was packed full of family time, including visiting with my great-aunt in West Palm Beach and getting together for dinner with cousins of my late grandfather in Boca Raton.  Odds and Ends 001We ate at a really nice Chinese restaurant called Uncle Tai’s in Boca.  I got the Hot and Spicy Tofu, which was pretty good, though very heavy on the ginger and scallions.  I didn’t take a picture because it was so super-dark in the restaurant.

The next morning, I got up early and went for a walk around our hotel area, collecting breakfast from around the nearby shopping plaza as follows:
Odds and Ends 004Coffee with soy milk from Panera, a local grapefruit, and a Naked juice

I found it a little odd that the plaza’s smoothie place didn’t open until noon.  People do like  smoothies for breakfast, do they not?

Anyway, after that it was time to go to a family reunion that was the main purpose of our trip.  This was a truly amazing gathering, where everyone present was descended from a line that begins with my great-great-great grandmother in Hungary.  She had eight children and twenty-two grandchildren.  Four of those grandchildren are still alive (in their nineties!) and all four were present at this reunion.Odds and Ends 006This is a picture of the eight children with their father (my great-great grandmother is the one in the center row all the way to the right):
Odds and Ends 005It was really a treat to learn so much about where my family comes from, look at amazing old photographs, and get to know so many new cousins.

The reunion lasted most of the day, so by the time we got back to the hotel, the sun was beginning to go down.  I took advantage of my one chance to sit by the pool!
Odds and Ends 010After that, I was getting hungry but my grandma wasn’t ready for dinner and wanted to relax, so I struck out for the one place I had found on HappyCow that really piqued my interest, a vegan restaurant called Darbster.Odds and Ends 011Odds and Ends 012I ordered take-out, but kind of wished I could have eaten there.  The place had a really cool vibe and I thought its animal print/safari animal themed decor was very chic and understated.

I had thought I was going to get either their Reuben or their Black and Blue Burger, but I ended up going with the Country Fried Steak special, which one employee highly recommended.
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Barley and oat based “steak”Odds and Ends 014Collard greens and mashed potatoes (possibly…see note below)Odds and Ends 015Veggie Sausage Gravy

The “steak” had a pleasant, chewy texture and a nice, savory flavor.  The collards were tangy and flavorful, not the best I’ve had but not bad at all.  But I did not like the potatoes at all.  I’m actually not sure they were even potatoes because they had a strong taste similar to cooked carrots (something of which I’m not a fan) so I actually think they might have been mashed parsnips?  Either way, I didn’t like them and I didn’t eat them, which was sorta sad.  The real star was the veggie sausage gravy.  I wish there had been more!

Verdict: I’d definitely like to go back to Darbster, eat in the restaurant, and try the Reuben and maybe their palm crab cakes too!

After I finished dinner it was time to pack up and get to bed early in preparation for a 6:30 a.m. flight back to NJ.  Odds and Ends 016And that was basically the trip!  I had about 8 hours to spare between landing in NJ and my flight back to frigid Boston, which was great because I got to spend a little time with my parents.  My dad and I went out to lunch at  a Greek restaurant in Holmdel called It’s Greek to Me, where I ordered the Hummus special, which comes with a Greek salad (hold the feta).Odds and Ends 017It doesn’t get much better than that!

Believe it or not, I have another trip coming up this weekend, but this time it’s to NYC so you know there will be food finds to share 🙂

Potato Pride

This post is auto-publishing while I am still away in the Sunshine State.  Recap of the Florida trip coming soon!

So tell me, who doesn’t like potatoes?

Although potatoes have gotten a bad rep for being “fattening” or having too many carbs (guh, don’t even get me started on how stupid the low-carb movement is), as a whole food (read: not deep fried or drowned in cream and butter) they are actually very healthy and filled with vitamins and minerals!  [Not that there’s anything wrong with french fries once in a while…]

Consider that a medium (2 1/4″ to 3 1/4″ diameter) russet potato has 168 calories, 3 g fiber, and 5 g protein, and is rich in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, and Potassium.  It even contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.  [Source: NutritionData.com]

So, I feel pretty good about eating my potatoes.  And I fittingly spent last week (the Week of St. Patrick’s Day) doing just that!

In one of my favorite-ever recipes, Corned Bean Hash by Fettle Vegan:
Potato Power 001For this one, I used white kidney beans instead of red because I was inexplicably out of red [?!], and it was every bit as scrumptious.  Douse that puppy in ketchup and sriracha and go to work.  H loves this dish too.  I often make it for us as a hearty weekend breakfast.

And Colcannon:
Potato Power 003I have been making this dish every St. Patrick’s day for years now, using this recipe from Made Just Right, the Earth Balance blog.  I use the cabbage and leek variation rather than the kale and green onion called for in the main recipe (though I’m sure that would be great too).  I also add 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and when serving I throw a generous sprinkle of nutritional yeast on top.  Potato Power 005This stuff is SO GOOD.  We both love it, and H particularly looks forward to having it every year.  Not that I couldn’t make it year-round (I mean it is really easy and really cheap), but I like the idea of having a special holiday dish that’s just once a year.

What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?  It’s okay if it’s french fries 🙂

Predictable

Just popping in to let you all know that I took the “What Health Food Are You?” quiz from Dr. Oz, and wouldn’t you know…

kaleresults720x480I’m friggin’ kale.  I just had to laugh about that 🙂

Anyway, I am off to please God let it be sunny Florida for the weekend and hope to have some fun vegan finds to share when I return!  Until then…

The Inner Beauty of Green Smoothies

Let’s face it, not all food is pretty to look at.  I think that food bloggers must be more acutely aware of this than most, because ugly-looking food is almost guaranteed to result in ugly-looking pictures (especially if, like me, you have a hard enough time taking decent blog photos to begin with!).

That doesn’t stop me from taking the pictures though, especially when the subject is something that has so many wonderful nutritional qualities and benefits that it would be a terrible shame not to share it with my readers.

Today I’m sharing with you two not-so-pretty smoothies that nonetheless taste amazing and are amazing for you!

Both of these are technically green smoothies since they contain leafy greens, but neither of them actually came out of the blender with that attractive, vibrant green hue that you’d normally associate with a greenie.

1) Bananaberry Bliss Smoothie
Ingredients: 1-1.25 cup warm water (I find this thaws the fruit just slightly and makes blending easier), 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup frozen strawberry slices, 1/2 cup frozen peach slices, 1 cup fresh spinach.  Place the ingredients in the blender in order shown and give them a whirl.

This antioxidant powerhouse smoothie is only 173 calories, with no fat, 3g protein, and 8g fiber.  It also provides 10% of your RDA for iron, 5% calcium, 9% Vitamin E, 59% Vitamin A, and 40% Vitamin B6.  Note: I got these numbers by plugging the smoothie’s ingredients into a nutrition calculator.  Also, RDA varies from person to person, depending on your daily calorie needs.

But it’s not pretty.  Rather than the lovely purple-blue hue I had envisioned, I got more of a murky brownish-red with some strange frothiness going on up top:
Inner Beauty 002

2) Strawberry-Peach Samba Smoothie
Ingredients: 1-1 1/4 cup warm water, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup whole frozen strawberries, 1/2  cup frozen peach slices, 1/2 cup frozen rainbow chard (or substitute other fresh or frozen greens of choice).  Blend ’em up good.

The nutrition data for this smoothie shows 182 calories, no fat, 4g protein, and 8g fiber.  It also provides 16% RDA iron, 7% calcium, 3% Vitamin E, 115% Vitamin A, and 35% Vitamin B6.  See note above regarding nutrition info.

Yet again, on the outside it is pretty hideous.  It is green-ish, but more like the color of a muddy olive than of a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard.  In fact the photo makes it look better than it actually did in real life.
Inner Beauty 004Yeah, I’m still totally loving my homemade portable smoothie jar.  And yeah, the smoothie names are kinda cheesy but I like them so they stay 🙂

The moral of the story is that, as I hope the nutrition data above makes clear, these smoothies are full of beautiful ingredients, vitamins and minerals.  They also taste really, really good.  So who cares what they look like?   Starting the day off with one is a terrific move for your health and energy.   

Enjoy!!

Adventures in RVA

I’m back, and I have tons to share!  We packed a lot into two days and there are photos galore so enjoy 🙂

As I announced in my last post, H and I got out of town for a couple of days last week and headed down to Richmond, Virginia.

After an EARLY wake-up and flight on Wednesday morning, we arrived in RVA.
RVA 002Since we couldn’t check into our hotel until 3 p.m., we decided to just drive into town, park, and take a look around.

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to learn that I had a manila folder in my purse with all of our travel documents plus a map, list of attractions, and two lists of vegan and veg-friendly places I wanted to try (one in order of proximity to our hotel, and one in order of how much I wanted to go there).

There was one place on my list that I had noted made breakfast, and since it was still quite early in the day, we decided to head that way.  And this is how we discovered 821 Cafe.

It’s hard to describe how wonderful this place is.  Let me attempt to show you:
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Beer.  Excellent beer, and a wide variety at that.  At 9:30 a.m., which is especially amazing to those of us who are accustomed to Massachusetts’ puritanical liquor laws.

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RVA 009Food.  Specifically, some of the best food I have ever eaten.  At top, the vegan breakfast burrito, and at bottom, their homemade salsa (I ordered a large side of it), which was TO DIE you guys.

H was also over the moon about his very non-vegan meal (a sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on biscuits, covered with sausage gravy).  In fact I think I may have heard him talking in his sleep about it last night.

After we finished up at 821, we stumbled back to our car (seriously, walking was difficult given how full we were!) and headed over to Royal New Kent for our noon tee time.
RVA 013It was a beautiful course, and a nice chance to spend several hours outside without getting frostbite.  Mostly I just enjoyed riding along in the cart with my Bloody Mary and watching H hit the ball, because seriously…I am SO BAD AT GOLF.  Also I nearly broke my wrist on the 12th hole when I missed the ball entirely and just took a chunk out of the ground.  So bad.

Not only am I pretty much a total beginner, but on the way over to the course I noticed in one of our brochures that the course had been rated the 16th hardest in the country by Golf Digest a few years back.   And then there was this sign hanging in our golf cart:
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I’ll just…have another Bloody please.  VACATION!

After golf, we went back into the city and checked into our hotel.  We stayed at the Linden Row Inn, which apart from being haunted (a story for another time perhaps) was truly amazing.  I got an insane deal on it using Hotwire and recommend that you try to do the same if you are planning a trip to RVA.

At this point we ditched the car for the night and headed out to explore the town!  First stop was the Jefferson Hotel, the one place that everyone we know unanimously recommended that we go.  It was spectacular:
RVA 014
We only stopped in for a cocktail, because believe it or not, even though it was getting close to 9:00 p.m., we STILL weren’t hungry after our massive morning meal at 821!  By the time we left though, it was time to think about where to eat dinner.

I was excited to check out a vegan-friendly diner called Strange Matter, which supposedly also has an arcade with old-school games like Mario Brothers.  I thought it would be the perfect place for H and me to get dinner and have some fun.

But…I think we arrived there a little too late in the evening.  Let’s just say we got some strange looks as we walked in the front door, where we encountered a heavily-tattooed doorman collecting cover charges for a punk band that was about to start playing.  Pass.

Next we tried our luck a few doors down at Ipanema Cafe, the restaurant that actually had topped my list of places I was most interested in going.  From looking at their website, I thought it looked like a nice place for a sit-down meal, with a pescatarian menu (so H would have some options) and some great vegan options.

Again though, I think we just got there too late in the night (it was already about 10 p.m. by this point).  The scene was decidedly more hipster than romantic date spot, and it smelled strongly of incense.  But the menu looked good (though the fishy options for H were conspicuously absent), and so we decided to just grab a booth in the back and enjoy.

I had a chickpea tikka masala that was dynamite.  Unfortunately it was ultra-dark in there so I have no usable photo to show you.  But we did get a beautiful piece of chocolate peanut butter cake to-go, which happily I can post:
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After dinner, we walked over to a British pub we had noticed earlier, called Penny Lane, for a night cap.  It was a super-fun and chill place that I’d definitely recommend.
RVA 015The next morning, we woke up to a frigid, windy day.  Good thing our main objective for the day was sightseeing!  We started the day with a late breakfast back at our fave, 821 Cafe.  This time, I went with the Tofu Po’ Boy with a side of vegan chili:

RVA 016
Normally I wouldn’t want to go back to a place I’d already been on such a short trip, but this place was worth it.  Every single bite, penny, and calorie.

After eating, we drove to Capital Square (yes, they spell it with an ‘a’ for some reason) to check out the State House and the Museum of the Confederacy.
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God, the sky looks so blue and gorgeous in this picture but all I can think about is how freaking cold it was!

We spent the better part of the day in our touristy pursuits and by the time we were done it was nearly 5 p.m.  We were sort of hungry so we stopped into the nearby Capital Ale House for some refreshments.

Their menu has some vegetarian options but not much in the way of vegan. The black bean burger sounded pretty good, but I had a couple questions about it, and found it pretty funny when I asked our waitress whether the ancho chili sauce was creamy and her response was “Are you vegan?”  Apparently she was too!  Turns out that neither the sauce nor the bun are vegan.  So I asked her what she normally orders and she recommended this:
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It’s the black bean patty on top of corn salsa and tomatoes, with avocado.  I chose salad as my side, which came topped with an orange preserve and chive dressing.

The salad (well really the dressing) was amazing but the rest of it was extremely disappointing.  The corn salsa was fairly tasty, but the patty had almost no flavor (I have a feeling that ancho sauce helps a lot here), and the avocado looked really green but it was so underripe that it, too, had no flavor.  Fortunately this was not going to be my last meal of the day…

After Capital Ale House, we drove back toward our hotel and ditched the car once again, before changing clothes and walking over to…you guessed it!…821 Cafe.  They had a Green Flash feature going on and since we really like that brewery we figured we had to give that a whirl.  So yes, we went to 821 Cafe three times in two days 🙂

Our final stop on our Richmond tour was Postbellum, a very cool-looking spot that had been high on my list of places to go.  The interior is kind of rustic chic, with a great big gorgeous bar and nice, dim lighting.  Mercifully light on hipsters.  And get this: they have full separate menus for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free!

I got the Barbeque Braised Tofu and it was everything I hoped for: flavorful, perfectly textured, and beautifully presented.  My photo is dark and doesn’t do it justice, but here it is:
RVA 024
H got some frites on the side to nibble on, and I tried a few of those and they were awesome too.  Postbellum is definitely a spot I’d recommend for a nice dinner, either for couples or a group.  It’s very comfortable, the staff is friendly, and there’s something for everyone.

So that was that!  The next morning we flew out bright and early and were back in Boston before 10:30.
RVA 028
Home sweet home 🙂  

More vegan travel adventures coming later this week…

Light Days

I am currently smack in the middle of a brief lull between what was a very indulgent weekend and what promises to be a very indulgent few days, as H and I head off for a mini-vacation in Richmond, Virginia.  So eating lightly for the time being seems like the way to go.

Meaning grapefruit:
Light 008

And salad:
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I cheapskated this one with salad bar greens again!  

Besides, I hate going away (even if it’s only for a day or two) with lots of food in the fridge, so the fact that these meals allow me to “use up” is a double win.

But about that vacation…

Perhaps you already know that Richmond has, like, TONS of vegan food (but if you don’t, seriously, HappyCow that shiz).  Much of it is in the form of omnivore restaurants (like this one, for example) with plentiful and well-marked veg options.  Love that!!  It is a particular treat for an inter-dietary couple like us.

I cannot even tell you how much I’m looking forward to stuffing my face with abandon.  But during those brief moments when I take a break from doing that, I also plan to enjoy walking around the city and historical sites, playing golf, and just spending some one-on-one time with my husband.  And taking lots of pictures, of course!

I plan to blog a full recap of the trip next week, but in the meantime I will be updating Twitter and Instagram with plenty of food porn.  So follow me if you don’t already!

Au revoir!