Tuesday, December 13, 2011

For the Love of Vegetables...

...and boy do I have it. Even if asparagus season has come and gone, and all our tomato plots have been dug up, there's a few late fall favorites I have come to look forward to.

Mulled cider, Silk Egg Nog, the wafting smell of gingerbread across the house... but most of all, I can think of nothing better than coming home with a large stalk of fresh brussel sprouts. A cheap, seasonal meal that can last you for days (and it has!).

It was clear to me after T and I were finally adventurous enough to try cooking them at home that these spherical sprouts are sadly misunderstood. I've had been brussel sprouts, perhaps we all have--the reason for its common spot upon the "most hated vegetable" list.

But I've come to learn that such an absolute list cannot exist. All vegetables can and usually are superb, if only prepared correctly. For brussels, that mean retracting the urge to overcook them. As a cabbage member, this results in the release of a strong, often unpleasant, odor.

To keep the healthful benefits though (e.g, not boiling them away), I found the best way to cook brussel sprouts was to cook them simply, carefully, and make them the star of the dish. Mustard sauces atop are great (especially paired with some collard greens), but for the love of vegetables and all their naked glory, give this recipe a try:

Browned Brussel Sprouts


* 1/4th C, Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
* 1 stalk, Brussel Sprouts (3-4 Cs), sliced in half along the stem
* 1/2 T, salt
* 1/2 T, freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat a heavy-bottomed (preferably cast iron) pan over medium-low. Drop in 3 T of the coconut oil and allow it to melt, coating the pan.
2. Place the sprouts face (flat-side) down in the pan, using as many as will fit. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper. Let sit for approximately 5-7 minutes, adding a small t of oil as needed to dry areas. Lower the flame slightly if the sprouts are browning to fast before this
3. Check the underside of the sprouts. Once they are soft and the underside is clearly browned, remove from the pan. Add another 2 T coconut oil and sprouts and continue the process until all sprouts are cooked. Enjoy!

What's your favorite late fall/early winter vegetable?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Changing Colors: Fall Harvest and Preparation for Winter

The time to harvest is here. The leaves are changing and winter, I fear, is beginning to rear is unpleasant head. It's not all that bad--fresh pressed cider, local pumpkin beers, and time to celebrate with family is all a plus. But for many students, or maybe for just myself, the lack of sun after a full day of studying can get wearing... and as much as I love squash, the idea of eating it everyday in an effort to eat locally is not as desirable either.

That's where a little planning ahead can make a world of difference. While I'm a fan of canning, jamming, and the like, I find they're a bit more time consuming that I'd like during the school year. But here's a few student-friendly options for savoring the best of summer all winter long:

1. Frozen 'Pesto' (fresh basil blended in a food processor or blender with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper): just thaw and add garlic and chopped nuts.

2. Frozen Tomatoes (we just put them in a bag here and they're great for making deliciously flavored soups and sauces; avoids the dull flavor of the GMO January tomato)

3. Frozen Bell Peppers (fresh from our garden, just slice these guys into strips and ready for a quick fajita night on a snowy day)

4. Frozen Thai Hot Peppers (or any kind you like. I love bringing simple heat to a dish in the middle of winter, a great source of warmth)

5. Frozen Fruit Muffins (yes, basically the freezer is your best friend here. I chose a classic, blueberry muffins. Just wrap a freezer sealed bag, defrost overnight, gently reheat, and enjoy on the way to work).

6. Dehydrated Summer Fruits (a real favorite of mine, this is so easy to do and with such an amazing pay off. Dried fruit can be expensive and so doing it on your own; only catch is you'll need a dehydrate first, though some can be quite affordable and makes for great kale chips. I'm a fan of dehydrated cherries and even strawberries)

And, of course, I'll be sad to see all my fellow garden critters go when the snow hits (okay, maybe not these pests), but at least I'll have the owls outside my window to purr me to sleep.

Start Your Day Right: Tropical Green Power Smoothie

An apple a day may help with our overly friendly doctor situation, but a handful of spinach for breakfast is the perfect pick-me-up.

I admit, I used to be one of those wake-up-late-in-a-rush-run-to-school-skip-breakfast kind of person; but I also used to be asleep in my 8am Biology class. So Instead, for the student on the go, skip the poptart that will leave your on the edge of a sugar crash mid-day, and get fresh, sustain, energy to-go: The Green Power Smoothie.

Of course, this is just one of many variations here, but the way that the subtle tropical flavors and strong peanut-butter after taste come together is one of my favorites. the Peanut-Butter gives the the protein and brain-power to power through your morning, the ginger and orange to keep your system healthy (even on a rough schedule), and spinach and spirulina to pack it with vital nutrients.

Perfect for anyone on the go, just throw the items together, blend, and pour it a cup together. Trade it out for coffee and you won't regret it.

Tropical Green Power Smoothie


* Handful of spinach leaves
* Full, peeled orange
* 1 peeled banana, cut in half
* 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks
* 1 tablespoon minced ginger
* 2 tablespoon peanut butter
* 1 tablespoon spirulina
* 1 cup almond milk (or vegan milk of choice)


1. Wash off spinach and place it into blender or immersion blender cup.
2. Place the rest of the items in the blender or cup (with fresh fruit in the bottom and frozen fruit on top)
3. Blend until everything is chopped and mix thoroughly to desired consistency.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Rainbow for Dinner

I'm not sure there's any more beautiful culinary site that delicious and fresh vegetables, raw and chopped, just begging to be dressed, sauteed, steamed, roasted, or just eaten the way nature provided them. Unfortunately, such a scene is as rare as it is beautiful for many students.

Nearly everyone at Harvard is on a meal plan and even with the ever-present salad bar, most of the prepared dishes use frozen, pre-cut vegetables; many students leave without ever having (or knowing how) to prepare meals to enjoy themselves... at least we have a series of cooking class before graduation for those about to embark into the real world of self-sustained eating.

So any chance I get, I love to host dinner parties with my on-campus classmates. Cooking together, eating together creates such an incredible bond and fun experience. This weekend, craving Thai food, instead of going out to one of the city's many restaurants we decided to try it on our own at home.

Green curry, panage curry, and pineapple fried rice--I could not have asked for a more delicious meal! I'm particularly addicted to Thai Pinapple Fried Rice and so this gave me the opportunity to try my hand at the recipe at home--brown rice, no fish sauce, everything fresh.

It was wonderful. If you're an addict like me, or just looking for a new way to use that rice cooker, try this recipe. The best part? Extra pineapple chunks for dessert!

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice


1 ½ cups salted/roasted cashews

1 cup frozen green peas, defrosted

½ red onion diced, sautéed

1 green chili minced

4 garlic cloves minced

¼ vegetable oil

3 shallots diced

2 cups chopped pineapple (about 1/4th a pineapple)

1 carrot shredded (optional)

1. Cook: 1 cups brown rice w/ a bit of curry powder

2. Mix Sauce: ¼ cup soy sauce + Tbsp curry powder + 1 tsp sriachi

3. Cook Vegetables, then add cooked rice and then sauce once vegetables are softened to desire. Stir-fry for five minutes until desired consistency is achieved.

Easy as One, Two, Three :)

Peace & Love<3

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Vegan MoFo: cupcakes and cats

Okay, so its been too long. You know it, I know it... but certainly I know it. There's not excuse really, but time seems to fly by and yet often I wonder what how much has happened. A lot I suppose.

It's senior year for one. Toni and I have moved to a new home, a beautiful place with a garden and balcony, all thanks to our friend and his wonderful mum. Our baby, Marley has grown up...

... but she's at home in California with my mum, hopefully just for awhile...

and it's Vegan MoFo and my first year participating :)
[now that research over the summer has subsided and I'm back to Boston]

The theme this year: vegan eating for students.

I know that's kind of the theme for the blog... but now I'll be posting 5 times a week with a bigger focus on healthy but comforting foods, shopping on a budget, an
d taking advantage of city life.

But for today, I'll leave you with just a little something sweet:

Cinna-Punk Vegan Cupcake @Kickass Cupcakes

They have a Food Truck often at Harvard Campus its dangerous: I think they might be trying to get students addicted... ;)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Taking NY by Storm: A Vegan's Tale

Check out that view! I also have in hand the BEST smoothie I've ever had: Squaw Valley!!

Last summer I was lucky enough to have volunteered for and attended an amazing four-day Yoga & Music festival in the middle of beautiful Tahoe. Wanderlust was such an enlightening experience and I hope to return again soon; being among such spiritual power and creativity was inspiring, advocating everything environmental protection to compassionate eating.

Among the many big names to play the music scene among the looming majestic mountains was old school DJ Moby. His DJ set was epic, totally killed it (in a good way!) and his afternoon acoustic set was harmonizing. But it is his speaking event that was of utmost interest for purposes of this blog: on vegan living.

Moby was promoting a new book he has out and spoke briefly on it, taking questions and engaging people on the real issues of vegan living. Imagine my delight when, after a few internet clicks, I find out he owns a vegetarian restaurant in NYC.

Delicious cakes, almost 100 different types of free leaf teas to choose from, and owned by a techno god? Yes, please!

Teany Cafe can only be described as cozy. At 10pm the lighting was dim, all but blinding bar the gently flicking tea candles. Sleek, modern, and white, it reminds me of vegan cafes of Brighton (UK). And what could go better with this English feel than plenty of properly prepared teas and homely sweets (think whoopie pies and coconut cake).

T & I actually discovered Teany after looking for a gift for my Brother for Christmas; we just got back from London and thought the tea-for-two deal at Teany was appropriate for him & his girlfriend. Him having raved about the club--and me being the sandwich fiend I am--my choice was probably already made before arrival (as tempting as the lasagna sounded).

I opted for the blt, even though I *always* get the blt as T reminds me. On the side a cup of honey roobios with steamed almond milk (again, England had entranced me with their London Fog). T & Adam both got the half chili/half "turkey" club.

The drink was fantastic, as it ought to be, creamy and with just a hint of sweetness. The salad greens crisp and dressed with a lovely thick balsamic. But it was the sandwich that stole my heart. Not the biggest around for its price, nothing too fancy, but simple and classic, and perfectly toasted (a must!).

The chili, sadly, was just a bit lacking. I think T & I may be biased from our constant chili making contests but I had made a better lentil chili days earlier (thicker, more robust). But still, tasty.

Our biggest mistake, which I beg none of you to make!, is to have left without dessert. I guess I felt the impulse to explore, being in NY and all (I have a list of about 30 possible vegan havens to check out). But for the rest of that weekend, I could get those luscious looking cakes and pastries out of mind and I'm still sure that I had made the wrong choice and that those desserts (as Adam also told us they would be) was what I was searching for.

In conclusion, if you're in NYC, please visit Teany, sip some tea, and don't let the city rush you out... get that slice of cake you're eyeing!

Oh yeah, and go to Wanderlust if you get the chance... besides amazing music, great people, fun vendors, beautiful artwork, breathtaking views, and tons of yoga... we get free pool & spa access at the site of the Olympic Village :) Do it (and let's meet up there!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cookies for Charity: Carrot Cake Cookies & Boloco Vegan Fare

It seems like time just escapes us sometimes. Particularly around midterms, I really think my subjectively based movement in space-time are shorter than usual (or maybe my Quantum Mechanics class is just taking over my imagination).

Yet, even in what feels like a few seconds we accomplish a lot; lots to update on!

For one, I start selling my homemade, vegan cookies at a local Boston chain, Boloco in Harvard Square! It's a fun project, being able to experiment with new recipes and hearing feedback. Plus, ALL proceeds go to charity! Its been a great way so fa to raise awareness about vegan issues.

Originally the money went to Farm Sanctuary, but light of the recent events, the next batches are going to Red Cross Japan.

We could talk endlessly about the atrocities, but now, more than ever, it seems our earth on all fronts is in the midst of a crisis, from environmental degradation to financial corruption (PS. everyone check out Inside Job, the 2011 Oscar-wining documentary narrated by Matt Damon): positive vibes and good intentions are short and well needed, and I applaud the innumerable people I meet each day online who try to become educated on the issues and do immense good in this world.

And to give you just a little taste (literally!) of what I tried to put together, here's one of the sample cookies being sold at Boloco:

Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies



1/3 C, Sugar
1/3 C, Brown sugar
1/2 C, Canola oil
1/2 C, Soy milk
2 T, Arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
2 t, Vanilla extract
1 t, Ground cinnamon
1/2 t, Ground cloves
1/2 t, Ground nutmeg
1/2 t, Ground allspice
1/2 t, Salt
1/2 t, Baking soda
1/2 C, Grated peeled carrots
2 C, Whole wheat flour
1/2 C, Raisins


* I used the cream cheese frosting recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World but this one is similar. In Vegan Cupcakes they suggest adding chopped, toasted walnuts to the cream cheese which sounds amazing; I think I'll try this next time, let me know if you try it how it turns out!



1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with either parchment paper, silicone mat, or lightly grease (the first two are more recommended).
2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugars and oil until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add in soy milk and arrowroot; mix together well. Add in vanilla and mix.
3. Add in all the spices, baking soda, and carrots and mix. Slowly add in the flour, about 1/3 at a time and mix well. Fold in the raisins.
4. Drop tablespoon sized balls onto the baking sheets just under 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball with the end of a spatula. Bake for 10 minutes; allow to cool on the sheets for about 2 minutes and then remove and allow to cool on a metal rack.


1. Take two cookies of approximately the same size. Place a tablespoon size dollop of the cream cheeze frosting on the flat back of one cookie and spread; place the other cookie on top. Enjoy!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Muffins for my Muffin: Healthy Banana Nut Muffins & Herbal Coffee!

Valentine's Day is a fickle thing, you never seem to know exactly what we can expect from it, always a reminder of time and change in our life. But, like many other holidays, its an excuse to whip up something unnecessary, but delicious... to build love into our art & experiment with emotional play.

Thus, the succulent muffin was born! Well, I didn't quite birth it myself, it was inspired by the fabulous The Joy of Vegan Baking (a must read for veganization of the classics, Irish Soda Bread to breakfast scones). It was also inspired by T, who was taking me to a movie for Valentine's Day: Forks Over Knives! Yes, T obviously knows me well, giddy at the chance to sneak a peek at the newest and highly rated documentary on the benefits of a "plant-strong" diet. (A MUST see, more on this in a later post).

Being the Chocolate-in-my-Muffin-Addict I am, I did a side batch for my self (shhh)

With health and nutrition on the mind, the task began to strike a balance between comforting morning sweets (sometimes I think T's an incurable sweet addict) & a healthful diet... if there were going to be 16 muffins tempting me, they'd better not be pure sugar.

So, with a bit of reconfiguring and additional add ons, here's a quick recipe for one of the best, if not thee best, vegan muffin I've had to date (no dates involved, but a good idea!); evenly cooked, super soft, and with a gentle moistness about it:

Be Mine Muffins
* 2 C, whole wheat pastry flour
* 1 1/2 t, baking soda
* 1/2 t, salt
* 1/4 C, granulated sugar
* 1/4 C, brown sugar
* 1/3 C, grapeseed oil
* 2/3 C, applesauce
* 4 very ripe bananas, well mashed
* 1/8 C, water
* 1 vanilla bean, caviar
* 1/3 C, chopped walnuts
* 1/3 C, chopped pecans
* 1/4 C, chopped good-quality dark chocolate (*optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place muffin tins in your muffin pan and grease lightly (make approximately 16 muffins)
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the sugars and oil. Add in applesauce and mix. Add in the mashed bananas and stir well. Stir in the water and vanilla bean, mix thoroughly.
4. Add the flour into the wet mixture, along with the nuts and chocolate (is using). Stir to mix.
5. Fill each muffin tin about 2/3 of the way with batter. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes (mine were done at 24 minutes each), or until they are golden brown and a knife, when inserted into it, comes out clean. Enjoy!

Of course, it wouldn't be Valentine's Day without some gifts and surprises....

HERBAL COFFEE! I was lucky enough to have won this great selection of healthy, mostly organic, non-caffeinated, herbal coffees and, lo-and-behold, they arrive on my door step with love, the day of love!

Too perfect.

The selections were chocolate, chai, hazelnut, vanilla almond, and java. With all natural ingredients such as organic carbo and organic dates, its a unique blend of some of my favorite flavors. Of course, if you're a coffee aficionado (as I sometimes think of myself as; only because of an irrational obsession perhaps), I would give a word of warning: don't expect "coffee".

T said he could've been fooled, but if you know your coffee, I beg to differ; it doesn't have the fullness and subtleties of real (good) coffee, a bit more like an strong herbal tea. Which is NOT to say that they are delicious.

I think it does its job well and if you want something richer than tea, but perhaps don't want the caffeine or the potentially cancerous decaf version of coffee, this is not only a great alternative, but its a really unique drink with some great ingredients and flavors.

Have you tried herbal coffee? How much coffee do you drink & what flavors do you look for in a good coffee? Also, anyone have a good vegan pistachio muffin recipe? :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Simple & Fresh for Success: A Review of Harvard Square Clover

Lesson learned: chocolate seduction is not an excuse to replace sweets & fried foods for a real meal

One of the best ways to cook and eat I've found is to be guided by how you will after the meal. If you're running low on fuel, high-sugary refined-grains may seem appealing, but the quick energy spike and massive crash you'll receiving after will leave you worse off than before. In this case some whole grains and nutrient-dense veggies (particularly protein packed options like spinach or quinoa) would serve you better presently and in the future.

Sometimes I forget this simple rule and go by misguided instinct rather than rational understanding. This is what happened last night and, boy, can I tell you, it is not pretty!
Years ago, when I used to be addicted to junk food (as many people now are; it really is addicting), it might not have phased me.... but after a night of (literally) unlimited, free greasy Chinese food, a plethora of vegan desserts, and tons of free appetizers samples (everything fried), I paid for it in more than a mere stomach ache. [This was less the result of choice, but more of happenstance and too many events in a night].

Food nourishes not only our body but our mind and our soul. There have been numerous articles suggests that poor nutrition leads to poor learning. Unhealthy food clogs our mind and skews our emotions. The bright and light feeling after a morning of muesli and fresh carrot/apple/kale juice could not be more contrasted to the faint twinge of depression accompanying the crash after a nutrient-low meal.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one; how have you experience food as a predictor of mood and bodily satisfaction? I'd love to hear to learn from others experiences and recommendations!


It is with this in mind that I am thankful for a new, fresh addition to Harvard Square: Clover Food Lab. Among the numerous greasy pizza and burger joints offer to Harvard students, Clover stands out as one of the few that serves up healthy, fresh, and simple food that is still outstandingly delicious (kudos also to Crema Cafe, Cafe Pamplona, Falafel Corner, & Boloco, among potentially others).

Clover started out as a food truck, parked just down the street near MIT. I remember numerous times of biking past it and thinking how I'd have to try it, it's consistently massive line indicating customer satisfaction. Imagine my luck, then, when I found out they were opening a permanent location in Harvard Square! All white, minimalist, it could double as an Apple store; perhaps not surprising, then, that your order is taken down by a greeter on an i-touch.

The best part? Clover is ALL vegetarian and most menu items can be easily made vegan! With its extremely reasonable price, welcoming environment, and friendly on-the-go style, Clover became an instant hit among the student population. Never have I heard so many of my omnivore classmates suggesting a vegetarian location for lunch.

It was no surprise, of course, upon tasting their unique menu items:

Chickpea Fritter Sandwich
It's clear why this sandwich is their most popular item; filled with a light hummus, pickled vegetables, fresh Israeli salad, and tender chickpea fritters (made with organic chickpeas, its similar to a falafel), this whole-wheat pita pocket steals the show.

Egg & Eggplant Sandwich
Made with the unique combination of hard-boiled egg and eggplant, drizzling with their light vegan tahini sauce over fresh veggies, my eating companion (Matt) informed me that it too was fantastic. All eggs are sourced locally from a family-owned farm. This sandwich can easily be made vegan by omitting the egg.

The Soup of the Day when I went, I thought it was very flavorful and hearty, but with a Polish boyfriend and close Russian friend, its hard to compare to generation old family recipes. Then again, who can say not to perfectly stewed beets?

CoffeeI wouldn't use the word connoisseur because it seems pompous but I do think I've tasted my fair share of coffee and have a palate now that can taste the subtle differences in flavor (and the not so subtle lack of flavor extracted from burn, over roasted chain "coffee"). This coffee met the test for a wonderfully made cup.

All the coffee is single origin, often organic, and made using a manual individual-drip process (as most of the best coffee places do, such as Monmouth in London). Furthermore the servers are very knowledge in helping you find the pick the right coffee. They also offer cold brew.

Clover also has daily sides, some of which switch, all of which seem intriguing: fried pickles, rosemary fries, hot honey ginger tea, and apple popovers in the morning.

One thing we can expect from Clover besides consistent deliciousness is an openness that fosters true trust (something we can only rarely expect from the food industry these days). The Harvard Square location has an open kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows allowing customers to view the cooking process; team meetings are held in the store and anyone is allow to come listen.

With a focus on fresh food that changes daily and the promotion of vegetarian values, Clover offers what many restaurants fail to: a commitment to serving real, honest food.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

When its chilly outside: White-Bean Chili inside

The snow storm to end all snow storms has been rolling through Boston here; so after a day of almost slipping on tons of black ice, climbing over mini-snow-mountains, and wadding through calf-high puddles (I kid you not) just to get to class, nothing beckons my taste buds more than a hot one-pot meal.

Recently it's been a plethora of different soups, but the other day I came home with an appetite for something spicy. T & I, of course, ended up disagreeing on what should compose this chili and somehow turned into chili-making contest (not our first time).

When all was said and done, and presented to a group of friends, mine took the winning ticket! (Though T's was a favorite for our summer chili cook-off).

Not to toot my own horn of course, but I was surprised with how deeeelicious it came out! Especially because I just wing'd it, knowing lentils, corn, & white beans would be the primary ingredients.

The corn provides a nice sweetness against the strong heat from the different peppers, as well as a good texture difference. It's not to heavy and has a very smooth texture--definitely going to be winter fav!

1st Place: White-Bean Chili


* 2-3 T, neutral-tasting oil (I used grapeseed)
* 1 small yellow onion, chopped
* Corn nibs from 2 cobs
* 1/2 jalapeno, diced
* 2 large garlic cloves, minced
* 1/2 t, marjoram
* 1 T, chili powder
* 1 1/2 t, cumin
* 1 t, coriander
* 1 t, oregano
* 2 t, red pepper flakes
* 2 t, marash pepper flakes (or more red pepper might work)
* 1/2 t, paprika
* 1/2 t salt
* 1 t, freshly ground pepper
* 2 T, balsamic vinegar
* 2 C, vegetable broth
* 1/2 C, brown lentils
* 1 8oz can, tomato sauce
* 1 8oz can, cannelloni beans


1. Add oil to a large pot and head over medium. Add in chopped onions and corn, saute until softened, about 2 minutes (add more oil if needed).
2. Add in jalapeno and garlic, saute until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant but now browned, about another minute or 2.
3. Add in all of the spices from marjoram to pepper; stir constantly for 30 seconds, then deglaze with the balsamic vinegar.
4. Quickly add in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add in lentils and slow to a simmer. Cover and simmer for approximately 30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked thoroughly.
5. Add in the tomato sauce and cannelloni beanes. Bring to a boil and then bring to a very low simmer. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes more to get the best flavor meld. Enjoy!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chick'n Pitas & Faux-McRibs: Vegetarian Tasting at Harvard

Another sign, in my opinion, of our culture's ever-changing values, has been the sudden upswing of veganism. Conscious eating has found acceptance in everyone from Bill Clinton to even Orpah (taking the challenge once again, her and her staff of 378).

The first multiple episode vegan cooking show (Vegucating Robin) is now on TV, NYC is having their city's first Vegetarian Food Festival in April, and even the James' Bread Foundation has hosted and recognize vegan cuisine as of late (Chef Angel Ramos from Candle 79, NYC).

So it's little surprise that acceptance of vegetarianism, and less-meatarianism, has gained prominence through the college scene as well. Last semester in London I helped start the first vegetarian society at UCL and now, according to Jonathan Safron Foer, almost 18% of all college students identify as vegetarian.

So when I was invited by the Harvard Vegetarian Society to a vegan/vegetarian food tasting by the Harvard University Dining Service, an event to sample and get feedback on new vegetarian and vegan dishes, I knew this was a step forward. Showing all students, even omnivores, that vegan and/or vegetarian food can be delicious and filling is always a step forward. So sixteen students including myself got to sample a bunch of potential new dining hall meals and provide our feedback.

Check out some of the items tested below & their reception:

Vegetarian Ribwich (above)
This was apparently a hit for the students. Since this was a vegetarian option though, not vegan, I didn't have a try. Being the healthy bunch many of us are, we suggested making the sandwich buns whole wheat--a suggestion which Chef Martin & Chef Breslin agreed to.

Vegan Chick'n Pita Sandwich
My second favorite dish, this combined HUHDS's infamous Chick'n patties deliciously smeared with a fresh tahini sauce and filled with extra veggies. Some students thought the sauce was a bit bitter, but ultimately it was a bit hit!

Seitan Pepper Steak
Mimicked after a Philly cheese steak sandwich, this seitan sandwich had a delicious serving of sauteed onions and peppers but seemed to be missing a bit of something, perhaps a bit dry. Some students suggested extra sauce or offering a side of BBQ sauce. Chef Martin thought having too many ingredients separated from the dish may be a bit difficult to achieve, but one thing we all agreed upon was changing out the bun of a whole wheat version.

The best part of this sandwich? The HUHDS house made seitan! Store-bought seitan is often packed with additives and preservatives, but this seitan was made fresh and the difference was apparent. The texture was completely different, so much more tender, and it absorb its sauce amazingly.

Ethiopian Vegetable Stew
The best dish served up, and Chef Martin's favorite as well, this stew was a warming mix of winter for the soul. All of the flavors were bold but blended perfectly with the seasonal sweet potato and a hint of cinnamon to boot.

Korean Pickled Cucumber Salad
One of my favorite dishes, this salad was simple but balanced the acidity well (perfectly in my opinion). Some students thought it aired on the bitter side a bit too much, though as the Chefs pointed out, for a pickled salad that is often the case. The chefs thought a little less dressing could help this, particularly because the salad had quite a bit of extra liquid to it.

Sweet & Sour Veggies with Seitan and Cashews
Another dish with HUHDS's homemade Seitan and this was definitely the best. he seitan soaked up the exquisitely balanced sauce superbly. The cashews were a great crunchy addition, always a favorite of mine.

Mushroom Ragout with Whole Wheat Penne
Though I'm not usually a mushroom lover (I know, Vitamin D, I really should be), this pasta was great. With protein packed penne and tender, savory mushrooms though, this dish was a hit. Nothing fake here which is always nice. My only complaint, and many students agreed, was that the mushrooms are a bit on the salty side.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Italian Mamas: Pesto, Bruschetta, & Creamed Corn (just cuz)

Much of my cooking inspiration comes from my mother. I remember in high school I would shrink away from having to help in the kitchen at home; I once tried attempted orange juice by throwing whole oranges in a blender (Toni managed to stop me in time). So when I finally began to appreciate the fine art and bliss of home cooking, it was my mother's recipes I thought of first.

"How do you make your lentils?" "So I shouldn't be adding salt to boil water for tea?" Shameful, I know. It was probably her Italian roots and mine too that finally brought about a love for the kitchen. A number of my dishes are a work in progress to veganify Italian classics. One of the her classic recipes as such was her bruschetta.

So following up on my second project, and really beginning what will be a long dedication to reviving the childhood favorites (bonding over community, family, and food), I have a few short and easy recipes based on my mother's cooking and her Italian roots.

These dishes were all served up just after Christmas during a dinner party with my best friends (Sarah, Diane, Bianca) from across the country. Nothing beats a long night of sharing with friends over the dinner table, a nice glass of wine, and.... a fort!! (Toni kindly built us girls an epic blanket fort!)

Happy Campers

Toasted Bruschetta

* 1 Fresh Italian Loaf (whole wheat if available)
* 4-6 Tablespoon of Vegetable Oil
* 5 Roma Tomatoes, diced
* 2 Garlic Cloves, minced and crushed
* 2 Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
* 2 t, Dried Oregano
* 1 t, Dried Parsley Flakes
* 1 T, Good Quality Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
* 2 t, Freshly Ground Pepper
* 1 t, Freshly Ground Pink Himalayan Sea Salt (or salt of choice)


1. In a medium bowl, add together all the ingredients except the loaf and vegetable oil. Mix well and set aside.
1. Slice loaf into 1 in slices. Heat a cast iron (or heavy bottomed) pan over medium heat. Place olive oil in a dish and brush lightly on each side of each slice as your lie them on the pan. Toast for approximately 1 minute on each side, or until crispy and golden.
3. Lay out your toasted bread and top each with a large spoonful for the tomato mixture. Each immediately & Enjoy!

Easy Vegan Pesto Pasta

* 1 T, Tofutti Vegan Cream Cheese
* 1 Bundle Fresh Basil Leaves (approximately 8-15 leaves, depending on moisture content)
* 1/2 C, Pine Nuts
* 1/3 C, Good Quality Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
* 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
* 1 T, Freshly Ground Pepper
* 1/2 T, Freshly Ground Pink Himalayan Sea Salt (or finely grained salt of your choice)


1. Add together all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Pesto should be almost smooth, just a bit chunky. If too moist, add a few extra basil leaves and a handful of pine nuts. If too dry, add an extra tablespoon of olive oil. Easy as that. Eat with crackers and wine, or add to pasta. Enjoy!

And just for good measure, if you're mouth was watering over the pictures, I wanted to present to you...

"Bianca's" Asian-Flare Creamed Corn
Aka. PETA's creamed corn recipe.

Its awesome, and easy, try it.

So if any of you have a family recipe, even if its not that good, just something unique to your childhood, maybe made by an aunt, a cultural recipe made on holidays.... I'd love to hear about it! Just a general recipe outline (even if it includes meat, dairy, eggs, etc; all the better to work with) would be awesome... and OF COURSE, the story behind it, the most important part.

I want to hear from you, let's share :)


Thursday, January 20, 2011

From My Table to Yours: Let's Share Together :D

A long hiatus needs no explanation; or at least, mine doesn't because there is no one particularly good reason for my being MIA... well, there was that fiasco of almost not getting home from Europe (read: canceled flights to London, fighting to get on a train to London, almost not being let into Heathrow, delayed flights, Heathrow closed = a mess), moving to LA, moving to Boston, no internet... but now I'm back. Lots of cooking, recipes, ideas, inspiration to make-up for the lost internet time.

I've taken on two new projects (see more below) and had a great time engaging with... cookbooks! I was never a huge recipe person, preferring to wing it, but that's not always so easy with vegan baking. For Christmas my parents got me my first ever vegan cookbooks and look at the yumm results (get these books! I'll go into more specifics later):

Wedding Cookies
by Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

Same night, New Years Eve-Eve Potluck Party: hence my frazzled look and burnt nose from making homemade taquitos all day (homemade refried beans, homemade tortillas, homemade potato fillings, etc.) inspired by Vegan Latina

Spelt Biscuits & McEgg Patties
by Babycakes, NYC & Vegan Comfort Food

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
by Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Peppermint Walnut Blondies (revisiting some old favs; for Erin's birthday)
by OhSheGlows

Dinner Biscuits with Black Bean Burgers and Cajun Sweet Potato Fries
by The Joy of Vegan Baking & Chef Chloe
(I found the secret to perfectly crisp fries: after baking, quickly broil without burning!)

All of these books and amazingly talented chefs have greatly inspired me and it's been a ton of fun. In essence, what I've solidified in the past few weeks is where my passion of policy, community activism, and food intersect. A few of my distant relatives contacted me through my grandma with an interest in going vegan but without the tools to-do so. They both live out in Denver, have no at-home computer, and little more than a vague understanding of cooking and eating vegan.

Vegan-eating, and healthy-eating, is something that can and is accessible for all; it doesn't have to mean deprivation but is about feeling good. So a series of recipes, including the one below, will focus on quick vegan eats. Things that are familiar, easy to prepare, and usually good to store. Of course, these are also great for the busy student or parent... considering these are some go-to recipes when time is of the essence or comfort food is a must.

Finally, and I'll have to go more in depth into this in my following posts, I have one more project I'm working on that I'm really excited about. It utilizes the involvement of friends, families, and strangers and brings back an vital missing piece in the American food system: community.

Food has become about convenience. Eating on the go, eating in your car, quick, packaged, no-prep needed. And in all of it we've lost something. The family dinner has slowly faded from the social norm. So with this next project I hope to bring the focus of food away from just the individual, but back into sharing with our society, our communities, our friends, bonding over bread with strangers (all of which speak to larger issues of food justice, access, affordability, education).

My question I pose to you now, to help me with this project: What's a dish that reminds you of your childhood? Something unique to your youth, maybe made by an Aunt or something your Mum prepared specially for the holidays? Something that you think is different from other recipes of its kind? I'd really love to hear at length about this if you're willing to share, the memories, anything. You can comment or email me too (missnatalie27@gmail.com; I don't bite... promise!) :) I really appreciate it !

Fool 'Em Margarita Pizza

* 1 can Pillsbury thin crust pizza dough (I know, I know)
* 1 package Grated Rice Mozarella Vegan Cheese (rec: Galaxy Nutritional Foods)
* 3 roma tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt (or salt of choice)
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 4-5 basil leaves, finely sliced

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Open Pillsbury crust and spread it out on a lightly oiled cookie sheet.
2. Lightly spray olive oil over the uncooked crust or drizzle lightly.
3. Place in oven and prebake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.
4. Sprinkle desired amount of cheese over the crust, leaving about 1 inch on each side.
5. Place back in oven and cook for 5-10 more minutes, making sure cheese has melted but the crust does not burn.
6. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix together chopped tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
6. Once you have removed the pizza from the oven, sprinkle tomato mixture on top. Top with basil. Serve immediately or store for a few days in the fridge. Enjoy!