Archive | April, 2012

Sunny Sunday in the City of Brotherly Love

30 Apr

After a freezing cold Saturday (and resulting hibernation following working at the market), I woke up to a beautiful and warm Sunday morning — and a phone call from a friend with a tempting proposition — a day trip to Philly. I hadn’t quite put away all of my laundry, but I had at least finished it. And I had finished grocery shopping on Saturday, courtesy of the H St. farmers’ market (i.e., LOTS  of asparagus), so I decided to be swayed away from domesticity into adventure.

My friend and his boyfriend rented a Volvo Zipcar and we took off up I-95 around noon. After a discussion on eastern religions, reincarnation, and listening to Devil in a White City on tape, we arrived in the City of Brotherly Love a mere two and a half hours later. With no real plans in mind, we drove up the Philly waterfront and decided that we wanted to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. We parked the car and got moving. After wandering the streets that felt like a hybrid of Chicago and Boston, we walked around Independence Mall and spotted the Liberty Bell. As we did not feel like waiting in a long line of tourists, we did not see the crack.

After our journey through the historic quarter, we walked around the eclectic and slightly seedy (in the best way possible) South Street and peeked in through little shops. After stopping in at Jim’s Steaks, and deciding against the gastronomical distress that would be a cheesesteak, we took the recommendation of a hipster boutique worker and had an early-bird dinner at Stephen Starr’s wood-fired pizza joint, Pizzeria Stella. We stopped for a water ice on the way back to the car and after a couple of hours of listening to tunes and learning about my friend’s British noble family (and their gorgeous family estate in the English countryside), we were back in good ol’ D.C. by 9 p.m. A perfect day.

I particularly love the architecture of the city. Small streets with tiny rowhouses and brownstones dating back to the 18th century.

We stumbled upon this creepy little graveyard with tombstones dating back to the 1790’s.

Independence Hall.

Independence Mall is a great spot to lay out — I also love the contrasting architecture of the surrounding buildings bringing the modernism of the late 19th century Chicago school style juxtaposed with the 18th century Federalist style.

The Liberty Bell — as spotted through a window with my reflection.

Along South Street, there are these AWESOME mosaics that weave the length of the street for blocks.

Here is the famous Jim’s Steaks…for a weekday vegan, that was FAR too much meat and cheese for me to even think about handling.

And of course I couldn’t leave you without pictures of the great food I had at Stella’s. We shared the rosemary flatbread with sheep’s’ milk ricotta and I had the pancetta pizza  — topped with wood-roasted red onion, pancetta, Tuscan kale, and mozzarella,  which was incredible.

the happenstance gourmande


Lacktard Speaks Out on Dairy & Recipe: Vegan Chocolate Avocado Banana Pudding

27 Apr

As a person who cannot handle her dairy, a “lacktard” if you will, I should be the poster child for veganism. Unfortunately, I love dairy. I love drinking milk, eating gelato, snacking on cheese, etc. Since the cleanse, I’ve really cut back on my dairy intake, which has helped me a lot. I can even feel the difference in my sinuses without dairy. The uncomfortable bloating and overall gastric distress that I experience whenever I consume dairy is almost enough to keep me away for good. Almost.

When you think about it, humans drinking animal milk is really weird…

Yesterday, I started reading an article in this week’s issue of The New Yorker discussing the trend of raw milk and the legal implications on farmers and distributors. I knew that raw milk was frowned upon, but I didn’t realize that it was ILLEGAL! The article discusses California primarily as this hotbed of illegal raw milking. With California’s bans on foie gras and raw milk, I can imagine some foodie speak-easy-type places popping up all over! Last year, I briefly worked for Virginia artisan raw sheeps’ milk cheese producer, Everona Dairy, at the Dupont Circle farmers market, and I have to tell you that the taste of raw dairy would definitely have me seeking out the bathtub gin equivalent of raw manchego.

If pasteurization and homogenization were created to protect us from the dangers of factory-farmed and commercially produced dairy, why exactly is it mandatory for ALL milk (with good bacteria) to be pasteurized — especially if I trust my local dairy farmer?

Anyways, since I have had a little bit of a dairy intense week, and feel a little more congested than I have in recent weeks, I thought I’d share a recipe for vegan chocolate pudding. It is amazing how with just a couple of fruits and some cocoa powder, a creamy pudding emerges!

Vegan Chocolate Banana Avocado Pudding (2 servings)

  • 2 small bananas
  • 1 avocado
  • 3 tbsp. of good cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tbsp. good vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. raw turbinado sugar
  • pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor and chill for 20 minutes.

creamy and smooth just like a snack pack!

Serve in a champagne flute and top with strawberries, enjoy.

the happenstance gourmande

Bring on the Rain! (Recipe: “Saag-y” Weather Stewed Spinach and Tofu in Bell Pepper Sauce with Bhutanese Red Rice)

23 Apr

I don’t know about you all, but I couldn’t be more thrilled that the East Coast is getting drenched in inches of cool (read: cold) rain. While at the farmer’s market this Saturday, I overheard that my beloved honeycrisp apples were in peril. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to eating honeycrisp apples by the sackful at the end of summer. We tend to look at the weather with little regard for how it affects all the treats we look forward to eating (like strawberries that I heard will be making an appearance this week at markets), and only think about how we are able to break out our spring dresses early and never have had to locate our snow pants (not that we actually own snow pants in the District).

Miserable, rainy days are the perfect ones for trying out hearty and filling recipes. I caught wind of the idea to make a sauce with peppers and tomatoes with spinach from a friend, and after a little bit of planning, came up with a great recipe that is not only rich and warming, but is also 100% vegan. I took the idea of the traditional Indian dish, Saag Paneer (spinach with chunks of paneer cheese), to come up with an Indian/North African scented-dish that might just be one of the best things I’ve ever created. It also made my apartment smell like something from a gorgeous Delacroix — like my favorite Orientalist painting, Death of Sardanapalus. In efforts to try a new grain from the bulk bin at Whole Foods, I picked up some Bhutanese red rice which adds a great nutty depth to the dish. Also, the cashew butter in this recipe gives the stew a rich, full body that makes it taste decadent.


“Saag-y” Weather Stewed Spinach and Tofu in Bell Pepper Sauce with Bhutanese Red Rice

  • 3 bell peppers (1 yellow, 1 red, 1 orange)
  • 2 lbs. tomatoes (approx. 4 medium)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 3 heaping tbsp. of cashew butter

    Bhutanese red rice ready to be cooked

  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1.5 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1.5 tbsp. Moroccan spice blend (or equivalent combination of chili powder, turmeric, garlic, cumin, black pepper, chili flakes, oregano, onion, coriander)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried sweet basil
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano (fresh oregano gives the dish a smokiness that cannot be achieved with dry)
  • 1.5 lbs. frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 package organic firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup Bhutanese red rice
  • 2 cups of water

In a blender or food processor, puree the peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic. (I had to do this in 3 batches to fit into my food processor.) Pour the sauce into a stock pot. Heat over medium-high heat and add the EVOO and cashew butter, stirring constantly until cashew butter is mixed into the sauce. Add in spices, tomato paste, and about a tbsp of kosher salt (remember to adjust the salt depending on the size of flakes — table salt is saltier bc the particles are smaller) and continue to stir the sauce as it thickens up. Taste the sauce and add additional salt if needed.

Drain the tofu and slice into cubes. Add the tofu, chickpeas, and spinach to the sauce. Bring to a bubble and turn heat down to a simmer. Make sure to taste the sauce after the spinach cooks since the additional water may require increased salt. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

In a medium sauce pot, heat a tbsp. of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the rice. Stir around for 2 minutes. Add in water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 30-45 minutes, or until water evaporates. Let rice sit for 10 minutes. Serve the sauce over rice.

lots of leftovers for the week

I hope that you’ll put your food processors and blenders to good use and give this SUPER EASY recipe a try.

the happenstance gourmande

To market: Opening Day of H Street NE FRESHFARM Market

21 Apr

I am so lucky to now be an official team member of the FRESHFARM markets in D.C. I have volunteered and done chef demonstrations of my recipes in the past couple of years, but today I started as the EBT Coordinator at the H Street NE FRESHFARM Market. One of the most important things to me in the past few years has been not only promoting my own health by eating fresh foods, but also promoting healthy habits for everyone. To be involved with a program that helps to ensure fresh and local food access to underserved populations is incredible. Read more about the program here.

With forecasts of strong storms hitting the eastern seaboard looming, I was a bit dubious of good weather for this morning’s opening. Luckily, it could not have been more perfect. We had sunny and blue skies, mild winds, warm temperatures, and as Flo-Rida/Avicii might say, woah, we had a good feeling.

neighborhood guy rallies for support for his petition

I cannot put into mere words how awesome the H St. NE FRESHFARM market is. It is the epitome of a community market. I would describe the vibe of the neighborhood as “community-all-hands-on-deck.” As we stood outside, the local shopkeepers gathered ’round (please note my use of arcane language because it is rare that in an age of Targets and Starbucks, local shopkeepers can actually gather ’round) to discuss the extension of our market into the street. Even the zone’s Councilmember made an appearance and was on board. They were friendly and chatty and welcoming and made me feel like I had been transported to another time. Or perhaps Canada (where I’ve heard everyone is very nice).

In addition to all of the gorgeous treats sprinkled around the market, Washingtonian Magazine’s rising star Chef Wes Morton of Art and Soul did a chef demonstration. He made a beautiful asparagus, sweet onion, and green garlic salad with a creamy egg Gribiche sauce, which I cannot wait to veganize, and taught me how to season my brand new (thus temporarily worthless) cast iron skillet.

eggs, green garlic, radishes, and asparagus from the market

Not only did I love how thoroughly engaged he was with the audience, especially the kids,

who says kids don't love their veggies? they loved raw radishes!

but he also introduced me to what will surely be my latest EVOO crack habit — Frantoia. This Sicilian olive oil has such a fruitiness that I have never tasted before — and blows my organic Californian right out of the water.

market welcomes shoppers of all breeds

I’d like to give a special thanks to Atwater’s Bakery for giving me an incredible vegan spelt loaf in exchange for watching his booth for 5 minutes (which I have devoured the better quarter of already), Blueberry Hill Farm for awesome veggies for my week, Full Cellar Farm for pretty tulips to brighten my days, and Quaker Valley Orchards for feeding my apple drug-like habit for the week (read: day).

my market bounty!

the happenstance gourmande

In Sickness and In Juice

20 Apr

Two evenings ago, I met a friend for dinner at my favorite D.C. restaurant, Palena. Since the two things that I love best about Palena are their burger (topped with a slice of truffled cheese — and the best ever or tied with Michael Mina’s in San Francisco that comes with duck confit fries ) and their perfectly wood-burning oven-roasted chicken over lemon-wilted greens, I realized that weekday veganism, at least for this Wednesday, would be going out the window. We began our meal with lovely house-baked bread and fresh butter, an asparagus and ramps salad with burrata (similar to mozzarella but has soft curds inside), split the burger and the chicken of my dreams, and finished with an incredible goat cheese sorbet with rhubarb compote. To say this meal was far from vegan is quite the understatement.

Later that night, I started to feel a tickle in my throat and woke up in the middle of the night coughing. Uh oh! This didn’t feel particularly like allergy symptoms but I couldn’t rule allergies out since my glands weren’t swollen. I finally fell back to sleep, and when I woke up yesterday morning, I had a scratchy throat and felt not great overall. I haven’t been sick with a cold since long before my cleanse back in March and I didn’t want to be sick for the weekend. Since cleansing, and learning how much what I put in my mouth affects my general well-being, I haven’t wanted to take any medicines. I have been trying to let my body heal itself. Could it be that all of the meat and dairy had made me exhibit cold symptoms??

gorgeous tie-dye looking juice

Yesterday morning, I looked in my fridge, saw that I had some random veggies from my lasagna making and from salads, and decided to juice. With hopes that a high dose of vitamins from all the veggies would cure my impending doom, I made a large carrot and orange juice for breakfast, and an enormous purple cabbage, zucchini, spinach, cucumber, lemon, and apple juice for lunch. After drinking my juices (and spilling some of my purple elixir on the carpet of the Macy’s dressing room–sorrrrry), I won’t lie to you and say that I felt magically cured. My throat was still scratchy. I ate an orange in the afternoon for more vitamin C and when I arrived at home I felt a bit better. I made dinner (seitan, pinto beans, and avocado) and ate a whole mango, followed by banana “ice cream”. When I woke up today, I felt 100% better.

This morning on the Today show, I heard criticism about a children’s book promoting veganism, and wondered how something that is obviously so beneficial for children ESPECIALLY could be looked down on. (I mean really, just take a look at Bill Clinton.) I’m not going to say that I will never eat meat — I am a girl who loves a rare filet with some sautéed spinach and a glass of Brunello or a creamy baked mac and cheese with some BBQ — but I will say that I am 100% sure that meat and dairy products don’t promote health and that plant-based foods do. I am not a nutritionist, and I’m sure that a nutritionist would disagree (because nutrition classes are based on USDA guidelines — and USDA promotes agriculture, i.e. the “A” in USDA), but I am a person who can feel the effects of plants vs. animal-based foods and I say bring on the veg!

the happenstance gourmande

Recipe: This $%@! is Bananas (Raw Vegan Banana Ice Cream)

18 Apr

Last weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of hanging out with old friends that I hadn’t seen in years AND tasting one of nature’s magical best-kept hidden secrets: Banana Ice Cream. I love bananas so much. When I juice-cleansed, the main things I looked forward to eating were bananas, and I eat at least one a day. Usually two. Sometimes three. For any of you Weight Watchers out there, luckily bananas are now zero points.  But alas, I am not a Weight Watcher. I like to eat bananas, and peanut butter, and pistachios with wild abandon, and I’m pretty sure bananas would start to accumulate a point eventually.

When I first tasted the banana ice cream, extruded from a Champion juicer, I was FLABBERGASTED. I could not believe that there was no added milk, or sugar, or heavy cream added to this frozen treat. The taste was mildly banana and very sweet. The texture was IDENTICAL to frozen custard — super cool and creamy. Now, since I do not have a fancy pants Champion juicer, and my Breville does not have a homogenizing attachment nor the capability, I prayed to the fruit gods that my Cuisinart would whip up something similar. Prayers were answered.

First you’ll need to start with very ripe bananas. Make sure that they have lots of brown spots. (They can be so ripe that you wouldn’t want to eat them anymore.) Peel them and break them up and put them in the freezer. My bananas that I used were not super ripe, but I just couldn’t wait a day longer to try this recipe. I popped them in the freezer before work, and by dessert time, I was in monkey-business.

Raw Banana Ice Cream with Toasted Walnuts and Coconut

  • 4 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 cup of raw walnuts (from the bulk section of your grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup of raw, unsweetened coconut
  • raw honey (optional)
  • cinnamon

Spread walnuts on baking sheet and bake in preheated 450 degree oven for 5-8 minutes or until fragrant and toasted. Set aside and let cool. Spread coconut on the same baking sheet. Toast in 450 degree oven for 3-5 minutes, making sure to stir every minute. Remove when golden brown. Set aside and let cool. Place broken, frozen bananas in a food processor and pulse until broken down.

Process for a couple of minutes until smooth making sure to stop the process to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary. At this point you will have a delightful, very soft banana ice cream (like a soft serve). I would recommend sticking the bowl into the freezer for 30 minutes to let it refreeze, set up, and become a HäagenDazs ice cream consistency. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon, toasted nuts, and coconut, and drizzle with a little honey. Enjoy!

the happenstance gourmande

Recipe: Vegan No-Pasta Zucchini “Noodle” and Vegetable Lasagna

16 Apr

I’m not sure about you, but one of my favorite things is a cheesy casserole. I have major “chunking” issues — you know, you eat a chunk here, and a chunk there, and then the next thing you know, a quarter of the casserole is gone. There is something about cold pasta and congealed cheese that I cannot resist. Super appetizing, right?  Well, after a beautiful weekend of drinks (finally tried a Jack Rose cocktail at Jack Rose in Adams Morgan), exercise (killer bootcamp on Saturday morning), and delicious treats at Sticky Fingers, a vegan bakery and cafe (that just happens to be a Cupcake Wars winner), I decided that I wanted to make a lasagna that would be guilt-free when the inevitable chunking began.

I love squash and eggplant, and knew that baking these veggies with tomato sauce is already a sure-fire delight, but thought I would try to jazz it up with some vegan staples. After my mayonnaise making, I learned that silken tofu is a great substitute for something creamy. One of the best parts of lasagna is the creamy spinach and ricotta layer, but by using silken tofu, I was able to achieve a similar texture and taste. Also, wheat farina (otherwise known as Cream of Wheat) not only makes a tasty breakfast when mixed with ground flax seed, but also serves as a tasty cheesy layer when mixed with some nutritional yeast.

portabella cap post and pre-gills scraping

Just as a couple of other notes before we get to the goods, I’d like to share a great trick for making eggplant. When you sprinkle eggplant with salt and let it rest for 15 minutes, it begins to release a lot of its water which helps with cooking to reduce the spongy texture that many people hate about my aubergine friend — you can use this trick for any eggplant whether it’s graffiti or deep purple, fried or baked. Also, the gills of portabella mushrooms not only look alien/deep sea-esque, but also have a very weird taste for me that I hate AND discolor anything that they touch. By scraping these gills away, you can be sure to have a beautiful lasagna and only taste the meaty umami of those big UFO mushrooms.

No-Cheese No-Noodle Cheesy Vegan Zucchini Noodle Lasagna

  • 1 package organic silken tofu
  • 1 16 oz bag of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2.5 tbsp wheat farina
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 heaping tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 lb. zucchini
  • 1 lb. eggplant
  • 3 portabella mushroom caps
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce
  • garlic powder
  • 5 basil leaves
  • 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup EVOO

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Thaw spinach and squeeze out excess juice in a clean dish towel. In a medium bowl, mix together the silken tofu, drained spinach, carrots, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch slices and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 3-4 large pinches of salt (enough to salt all slices) and let the eggplant sit for 15 minutes. Cut zucchini in half, and slice each half into four long planks. Wipe mushroom caps clean and remove the gills from underneath with a spoon. Slice into 1/4-1/2 inch slices and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the wheat farina and water and a pinch of salt. Heat in microwave for 1 minute. Stir and then heat for 30 more seconds, or until thickened. Stir in nutritional yeast.

In a 13×9″ glass pan, spread 1/3 cup of marinara sauce on bottom. Layer zucchini across the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/4 cup of marinara sauce over the zucchini. Spread spinach, tofu, carrot mixture on top of the zucchini and tomato sauce.

Next, add the eggplant in a single layer, making sure to let the excess water drip from each eggplant slice.

side view before heading to the oven

Top eggplant layer with the nutritional yeast and wheat farina. Layer the remaining zucchini on top and sprinkle sliced mushrooms on top of the zucchini. Pour the rest of the marinara sauce over the vegetables. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Drizzle the top of the lasagna with 1/4 cup of good EVOO and sprinkle torn basil leaves and oregano leaves on top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake covered at 375 for 45 minutes. Uncover the lasagna, turn heat to 400, and let bake uncovered for another 35-45 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Let sit for 15 minutes and enjoy.

I have to admit, as this bad boy sat on my counter and settled into itself, letting all the flavors and veggies get comfortable with one another, I chunked away. Here’s a picture of the finished product:

 And here’s what it looked like post-chunking:

yummy layers of "cheesy" goodness

the happenstance gourmande