Vegan MoFo Orange Week – Sweet Potato Power

MF2

Good morning!  I am kicking off my day with a lovely orange breakfast of diced fresh mango:

sweet potato cakes 005Since I published a post fairly recently that was dedicated exclusively to my love for mangoes, I will not be working with them for Vegan MoFo.  Nonetheless, I am eating this one as I’m posting, so I thought it was okay to at least give a shout out!

Today I want to instead talk about sweet potatoes!  This is one of my favorite foods.  They are so versatile, and their gentle sweetness and soft, creamy texture  bring balance to savory meals.

Last night I used sweet potato to create Gingered Sweet Potato and Black Bean Cakes.

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Yield: 7 medium cakes, or 10-12 smaller cakes
Time: 25 minutes or less
(This recipe has been given the omnivore seal of approval by H.  In fact, he took all of the leftovers to work for lunch today.)

You need:
1 cup of black beans, rinsed
1 medium sweet potato
1/2 of a medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. whole wheat bread crumbs (or panko) (omit for gluten-free option)
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. ground coriander
1/16 tsp. cayenne (optional)
Pink salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cooking spray

To Make:
First, use a fork to lightly mash the beans, then place them in a medium-sized mixing bowl.  You want to mash them just until no whole beans remain, but not so much that they come to resemble a paste.

Next, bake your sweet potato.  [For weeknight cooking, I recommend using the microwave (blasphemy, I know, but it’s SO much faster).  To do this, scrub the potato and poke it a few times with a fork, then place it on a plate and microwave for 3 minutes.  Test it by poking again with the fork.  If the fork enters easily, it’s done.  If not, continue to microwave it at 30 second intervals, testing each time, until it is cooked.]

While the sweet potato is “baking,” warm the olive oil in a medium or large skillet, then saute the onion in it until translucent (about 3-4 minutes).  Add the sauteed onion to the bowl with the mashed beans.

When the sweet potato is done, allow it to cool slightly, then use a spoon to scrape out the lovely orange flesh.  Mash it with a fork and then add it into the mixing bowl.  (My sweet potato yielded a little over a cup of mashed goodness.)

Add the breadcrumbs and all of the spices, including the grated ginger, to the bowl and mix well.  Taste the mixture for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Lightly spray a medium or large skillet (I used the same one I had cooked the onions in) with cooking spray.  Using a 1/4 cup measure, press the mixture into the palm of your hand and shape it into patties.  Place patties one-by-one on the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned.

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Serve with your favorite grain, or as a sandwich with condiments of choice.  Enjoy! I ate mine with quinoa and steamed broccoli, and H enjoyed his together with a scoop of quinoa on a hamburger bun .

And actually, after the photo, I made a sriracha-tahini sauce that was absolutely delicious spread on top of the cakes (it’s just 1 tbsp. tahini with 1/2-1 tsp. sriracha stirred in).  I also tried one with ketchup and it was even better; for some reason the ketchup really brought out the gingery flavor!

Don’t be afraid to get creative with these. 🙂

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Takes on Thai Take-out

Say that five times fast!

Actually, never mind.  I just tried it and it’s not that hard.  Nonetheless, I remain a fan of alliteration.

In this post I would like to discuss my recent experiences with Thai or Thai-style takeout from various Boston establishments.  

I feel like all vegans love Thai food.  Is that an over-generalization? Perhaps, but think about it.  There are so many options that are vegan or can easily be made vegan with a few small tweaks.  For example, you can get vegan pad thai at pretty much every Thai restaurant in the U.S. by just asking for it with no meat (usually chicken and shrimp are included), no eggs, and no fish sauce.  Anyway, two of the reviews below are for veganized dishes at non-vegan establishments, and the third is for an all-vegan, all-amazing eatery where all (okay, some) of my dreams have been realized.  But first…

Boloco‘s Bangkok Thai burrito bowl

Now, clearly Boloco is not a Thai restaurant.  But it has a Thai option, which I ate recently and want to review, so it’s getting lumped into this post.  Deal.  Also, I’ll be honest.  I love me some Boloco.  1) Their tofu is goddamn delicious.  It’s really meaty, perfectly spiced, and they always give you plenty of it.   2) You can veganize the large majority of the options on their menu.  And on a related note, all (not just some…I’m looking at you, Qdoba)of their nutritional information and ingredients are listed on their website.  3) You can sub in brown rice or a whole wheat wrap on any menu item.  4) It’s cheap.  5) It’s very portable, particularly if you go with the bowl as opposed to the wrap. 6) I reuse their containers like every day. 
Verdict on Boloco: If you’re in Boston, I highly recommend it.  They have a number of locations (since I doubt anyone visiting Boston would find themselves in Cleveland Circle by chance.  At least, I sincerely hope not) and a variety of options that will please everyone.

Regarding the Bangkok Thai bowl:  It was pretty good.  The peanut sauce is tasty, but…I can’t tell if it was too thick or they just gave me too much.  I did like the addition of the cucumbers, though…that was an unusual (for me) combo with the peanut sauce, and the tangy Asian slaw was also nicely balanced by the sweetness of the sauce.  I still put Boloco’s summer burrito and their cajun one at the top of my list.

Next up: Bamboo‘s Tofu Red Curry

Again with the honesty…I mostly love Bamboo because it is right across the street from my apartment.  That’s also usually why I eat it; I spy it from my living room window, and suddenly think “Ooh, I’m in the mood for Bamboo!”  Despite this, I don’t eat it all that often because frankly I can’t afford to.  Not that it’s overly expensive, but eating any restaurant food too often is expensive.  So there’s that.

At the end of the day, though, they do a delicious curry:
 

I always have a dilemma when ordering because I love my food really spicy, and green curry is spicier than red, but the flavor of red curry just sings to me.  In the end therefore, red usually wins out.  I love the spongy texture of the fried tofu with the creaminess of the coconut base.  I also love the snow peas and the cabbage.  My biggest complaint about their curries is that I think the size of the pieces (both tofu and veggie) is too big; they’re not bite-sized so I always have to cut them.  Having to use a knife consequently makes it impossible to use chopsticks, which is a bit of a killjoy for me.  Regardless, I have continued and will continue to eat at Bamboo for as long as I live in the neighborhood.

And now, having saved the best for last, I present an array of dishes from one of my favorite places ever, My Thai Cafe.  This place rocks so, so hard.

Review of the restaurant itself: I’ll be frank–getting to this place is a bit of an experience.  It’s located near the Boylston T stop on the green line and very near the Chinatown stop on the orange line.  More importantly, it’s located on the second floor of its building, so in order to get there, you have to climb a set of stairs through one of the seediest stairwells, like, ever.   However, once you enter the restaurant, it’s really, really nice–bright, clean, sparkly, and filled with happy-looking people and super-friendly staff.  I’ve been here twice now and both times, it was crowded.  And though I’ve only done takeout thus far, I am definitely going to try to eat in very soon and am looking forward to it very much. 

On to the food!

On my first trip, I got an appetizer of steamed dumplings:

And Pad Woonsen with veggie chik’n as my entree: 

Closeup on a chik’n morsel

The dumplings were just okay.  The filling was pretty nondescript (kinda dry, not too flavorful) but overall, the dumplings tasted good with the sauce that came with them and I enjoyed them.

Then came the Pad Woonsen.  Holy crap this was good.  I couldn’t get over how delicious it was, bite after bite.  All of the perfectly cooked veggies, the moist, tender veggie chik’n exploding with flavor, the perfect crumble of peanuts on top…SO GOOD.  H tried a bite and was equally blown away.  He even (somewhat guiltily haha) asked me for another taste a few minutes later (and I love sharing!).   He thought this was so good that he has agreed to go with me to eat dinner at the restaurant one night.  Score!!!

My second trip was on a work day, so I got the lunch special, which consists of an appetizer (either a fried spring roll or dumplings), an entree, and the soup of the day.  Apparently if you eat in, you also get jasmine tea.  For my meal, I got:

Fried spring roll and Mango Curry with Rice


And soup of the day…not 100% sure what it was! But I think it’s Tom Yum Yow-Hoo based on the menu description.

I got this mountain of food for $8.  Yup.  Eight dollars.  Including tax.  And I got two delightful meals out of it.  The soup was pretty good, but the truth is that it was blown away by the Mango Curry.  Let me tell you, this Mango Curry was everything I wanted it to be and more.  It was so sweet and creamy.  It wasn’t that warm outside on the day I got it, but spring was in the air, and this meal hit. the. spot.  The mango taste isn’t that obvious (except in the bites that have actual mango pieces in them! MMM I’m salivating), but it lends such a lovely sweetness to the finished product.   And once again I have to say that the texture of My Thai’s veggie chik’n is out of this world.  It’s soft and tasty and fits right in with the texture and taste of the vegetables and sauce.  Getting lunch from My Thai requires a 30-minute round trip T journey from my work (plus a sketchy stair climb!) but it is so worth it.

Alright I think I’ve rambled on for long enough in this installment.  Coming soon: vegan pizzas, heirloom produce, and more!

Rainbows

One of the best pieces of healthy-eating advice I was ever given was to incorporate a rainbow of colors into my daily diet. Doing so provides the body with a wide and diverse variety of essential nutrients. Plus, it looks beautiful! I especially love going to salad bars and piling my plate with all the different colors. I also love putting meals together that incorporate a rainbow, and presenting them in a way that showcases their beauty. Below, some photos of rainbow meals or dishes that I’ve prepared and enjoyed. Thinking about them makes me happy on these cold winter days…


A mango and tomato salsa that Dad and I made last summer, tossed with lime juice, finely chopped onion, and cilantro–SO fresh and delicious!


I bought these absolutely gorgeous groceries and just had to arrange them nicely in a bowl…here we have avocados, lime, lemon, tomato, mango, fresh basil on the left, and fresh cilantro on the right. Pretty sure I was making guacamole that afternoon!


A typical snack for A.Cook…delicious sugar snap peas, baby carrots, and grape tomatoes. YUM.

And finally…

My rainbow of roasted potatoes! Despite the dark picture, I’m sure you can see that this dish contained red, yellow, and purple potatoes! I had never had purple potatoes before this, and though I found them a little starchier and less enjoyable than the others, it won’t stop me from eating them in the future, because really, how can you not love a naturally purple food??