Champs Diner in Brooklyn

My parents and I were recently in NYC again so we retraced our steps from last year on a quest to eat at Food Swings again. Sadly, the storefront was boarded up and Food Swings was nowhere to be found. I did what anyone else in my position would have done. I went to Vaute Couture, the vegan clothing shop down the street, for ideas. The sales associate gave us a hot lead: “Go to champs,” she said. “And order the mozzarella sticks.”

So we did (but not before cuddling with Pepper, aka Concerned Dog, and buying a tank top (hey, I’m easily distracted).

Champs Diner is an all-vegan restaurant not too far from Vaute Couture in the Williamsburg neighborhood. My parents and I didn’t have to wait long before a booth opened up. As instructed, we got the mozzarella sticks.

champs mozzerella sticks

They were  fantastic! breaded, fried, and ooey, gooey. I also had a no-tuna melt. Again, fantastic fare. Filling, delicious, and vegan. My criteria!

champs tuna melt

My parents shared French toast. We didn’t even care how Champs worked their magic–just bring it on!

champs french toast

Not shown: The mint chocolate ice cream. We ate it too fast to capture on film.

I love travelling, meeting other vegans, and discovering new places to eat. Brooklyn is a fantastic, vegan-friendly place and Champs exceeded our expectations. If you’re ever in the area, you’ve gotta go!

The Seed NYC

Today my parents and I visited The Seed NYC, a plant-based event featuring vegan food and wares, speakers, cooking demos, and more! Even before I arrived, I knew I was almost there. Mercer Street turned into Vegan Street.

vegan cars

The Cinnamon Snail was out front–what a great place to grab a bite. I’d heard excellent things about this award-winning food truck and never had the chance to try their dishes (until today).

Cinnamon Snail

I made a grand entrance:

the seed

Then, I looked at fantastic companies–from artichoke water (very refreshing) to chocolate truffles (deliciously decadent). I saw Upton’s Naturals–makers of my favorite vegan bacon–and Taft Foodmasters, a new-to-me company that makes great seitan for gyros.

Seed food collage

The Regal Vegan, a company that makes great dips and spreads, had a booth too. Their Faux Gras is fantastic!

regaln vegan

I jumped on the chance to buy a Gunas handbag for a fraction of the original price. I liked all their bags, especially this little cross-body bag. My mom liked a neat white purse with a combo-lock closure. I ended up with the yellow and cream number on the rack.

gunas

I said hi to Lois Eastlund, a fantastic NYC-based designer (and of course I bought one of her dresses–that makes four!). I saw Miakoda clothing too (I’ve been following them on Instagram for a while now). Michelle Leon Vegan had fantastic vegan belts made of recycled plastifc bottles. They were soft as suede and included a cool buckle. She carries a line of vegan jewelry too. Gorgeous!

seed clothing collage

There was message gear too, from a number of organizations. Animal advocacy groups I know well were there too: Sea Sheppard, Mercy for Animals, Evolve for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Woodstock Animal Sanctuary. Others, like Darwin Animal Doctors, I didn’t know before today, and I was glad to learn about the great work they do.

Darwin Animal Doctors

I got to hear Jenny Brown, cofounder of Woodstock Animal Sanctuary, speak about farmed animals and why veganism is the compassionate answer to the cruelty in our food system. Earlier this year, I reviewed her book, The Lucky Ones, on this blog, and it was an honor to meet her.

jenny brown

I even got to meet Tha Vegan Dread, who happened to be visiting NYC for his birthday. He said I was cute <blush>. Of course, I asked for a photo with him and his vegan bodybuilder friend.

Tha Vegan Dread

I always love meeting other vegans and learning about new products, sanctuaries, and organizations. If you’re in NYC this time next year, check out The Seed. For more about the experience, check out my mom’s account on her blog.

Kite Hill Cheese

Another nail in the coffin of dairy.

Kite Hill vegan brie

I recently tried a vegan brie–yes, brie–by California-based company, Kite Hill. Kite Hill specializes in hand-crafted, artisanal, nut-based cheeses.

When you read that description, you might think “pricy,” but you can’t put a price on compassion. The wheel of brie was about $12 at Whole Foods–and worth every penny. Cruelty-free, rich and smooth. Just like “real” cheese. Because it is real! It’s made with macadamia nuts.

And, with such a rich product, a little goes a long way. I served the brie with crackers and apples. I went through about a third of it so I saved the rest for two other occasions. Wine and cheese nights are always fun to have and with this brie, everyone is happy.

I hope you get to try Kite Hill cheese. So many people tell me that their love of cheese is what prevents them from going vegan. With Kite Hill, you’ll know that no cows were harmed. No calves were denied a mother.

You can have your cheese and be vegan too!

Touring the Field Roast HQ

I love the vegan options in Seattle. In addition to tons of vegan restaurants, we’ve got a vegan grocery store, and a thriving group of activists.

Well, did you know that Field Roast is a Seattle company? It is, and I visited their new location in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood for an open house and BBQ.

Field Roast HQ

Field Roast prides itself on making great products using grain meat. Grain meat got its start in 7th Century China. Seattle chef David Lee honed his recipes using barley, wheat and oats and adding a more European flavor to his foods. Foods like sausages, roasts, deli slices and burgers.

The tour was fantastic (no photos were allowed inside though). I arrived at the same time as a few other friends so we walked through the facilities together. I bet you wouldn’t enjoy seeing the inside of a typical sausage factory. But Field Roast is different; it was more like a bakery. We saw an immaculate series of rooms with industrial equipment like mixers and ovens. It smelled like all the wonderful spices in the Field Roast products.

We saw how the food is cooked, packaged and frozen for shipping. We toured the warehouse, test kitchen, and offices. I especially liked the sports wall–look at all the stadiums that carry Field Roast products!

sports wall of fame

Then, we were treated to an all-vegan BBQ!

Field Roast BBQ

I use Field Roast products a lot. I’ve blogged about how their sausages are great for making traditional recipes vegan. And their soft herbed cheese will win over omnivores every time. When I eat at Blue Star Café and the Georgetown Liquor Company, I order items made with Field Roast. Even the cafeteria at my work offers Field Roast!

Field Roast burger

After eating my delicious burger (like the one pictured above–that was one I had at Blue Star), the Seattle Cookie Counter arrived to give us dessert. Their a brand new vegan ice cream sandwich company that sells delectable treats out of a vintage VW bus!

cookie counter vegan ice cream sandwich

I’m so grateful to have had a chance to see how Field Roast is made. I’m especially pleased to support a local, vegan company (they employ 65 people) that is ethical and progressive. Barbecuing might be an American pastime, but Field Roast will help make All-American Vegetarian the new way to think about BBQs.

Have you tried Field Roast products?

 

Dining at Café Flora

One of the auction items I won at the Hoot! chimpanzee fundraiser was a Café Flora gift card. So last Saturday, I went out with my husband to enjoy dinner at Flora, a great vegetarian restaurant in Seattle’s Madison Vally neighborhood. I’m not the only one who thinks that: They were voted best vegetarian restaurant in 2014 by Seattle Magazine. Travel + Leisure Magazine also lists them as one of the top vegetarian restaurants in the US.

The only way they could be better is if they were an all-vegan restaurant. Still, there were lots of vegan options and we had a great time.

We started with drinks–and they didn’t disappoint. Hubby stuck with his martini and I tried a refreshing springtime mule, a vodka-based cocktail with home-made ginger beer and raspberry bitters.

flora drinks

We gobbled up the paté platter so fast I didn’t get to take a picture. It centered around a lentil-pecan paté and included red onion confit, pickles, olives, red pepper and apples.

I suspected I might want dessert too, so I made a salad my main course. Vegan Caesar salads are few and far between so this was a real treat! Hubby loved his Italian black bean burger.

flora salad

Several vegan dessert options tempted me, but the chocolate brownie with mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate sauce was irresistible.

flora brownie

On the way out, I saw the Café Flora Cookbook on display, along with a fantastic vegan children’s book: That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. I bet the cookbook is fantastic, and I recommend the kids’ book for all the little animal lovers in your life. I’m glad Flora had a copy on display. It’s a great way to talk to kids about the ways animals are exploited and how to help.

flora books

If you’re in Seattle, check out Café Flora!

Daiya grilled cheese contest

Do you love a good grilled cheese sandwich? Do you think you have what it takes to make a winning sandwich using dairy-free Daiya cheese?

Daiya just launched their First Annual Daiya Grilled Cheese Cook-Off, and they have a pretty sweet grand prize up for grabs: a one year supply of Daiya, a feature on the Daiya website, and mention in their upcoming digital cookbook.

Daiya

If you’d like to participate, just create your own original grilled cheese sandwich using any Daiya dairy-free cheese alternative and submit your masterpiece to the Daiya here. They’re accepting submissions through May 12, 2014.

Bonus: After the contest closes, I’ll pick someone at random to receive a free coupon for Daiya Shreds, Slices, Wedges or Spreads. All you have to do is comment below or tweet me at @jeaniebellini and tell me why your #daiya grilled cheese is a contender.

Contest is open to US and Canadian residents so get grilling’ and start commenting and tweeting!

Update (May 16th): I used an online tool to randomly generated a name from the comments and the winner of the Daiya coupon is…

Carmen

Carmen, you doubled your odds with that second comment–and it worked! I’ll contact you privately and get the coupon to you.

Nacho time!

Why haven’t I made vegan nachos before? This meal wasn’t even planned, but you can bet I’ll make it again.

I had company last weekend and was left with an abundance of tortilla chips. I “lamented” to a coworker today that I had too many chips. He said, “why not make nachos?” Best idea ever!

vegan nachos

And by a stroke of luck, I had all the ingredients I needed for my 8-layer nachos:

  • Tortilla chips
  • Pico de gallo salsa (mine was store-bought but you can make your own)
  • Daiya vegan cheese shreds
  • Vegan ground “beef” (I used Tofurky Chorizo style)
  • 1 avocado, mashed
  • 1 tomato, diced

Place a layer of tortillas on a plate, sprinkle tomatoes over them. Add a layer of ground “beef” and top with Daiya shreds. Add another layer of chips, sprinkle with salsa or pico de gallo, add a layer of ground “beef” and top with Daiya.

Microwave for 1.5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Use avocado as a dip.

I made individual portions, but you could make one platter and serve as a side dish. You could also stick a load of these in the oven and bake them. They’d be perfect for book club or watching the game.

This would be great with other things on it as well, like green peppers or black olives. Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream would be a nice, cool dip.

You can’t go wrong with nachos. Super easy and delicious!

nachos for dinner

Simple tabouli and grilled cheese lunch

Mealtime doesn’t have to be complicated. I don’t always have time to make an elaborate meal–and sometimes I don’t even want one. Simple comfort foods are always welcome.

tabouli and grilled cheese

Grilled cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods. I hadn’t had grilled cheese for several years after going vegan. Then I found vegan slices. Perfect for melting. More recently, I discovered Daiya vegan cheese. It melts really well and is delicious too.

I like my grilled cheese on whole grain–I’m not a carbophobe, but I do value complex, carbs over simple ones. Whole grains have B vitamins, protein, fiber and are really healthy.

In addition to the sandwich, I nibbled on grapes and a hearty tabouli salad. Tabouli is a bulgar and is high in protein and fiber. This one was from a box, complete with parsley and seasonings. I added beans to it for flavor and nutrition.

A meal like this provides a variety of flavors and health benefits and can be made in under 15 minutes.

Do you have any quick and easy vegan meal ideas?

Beyond Meat: Chicken-free strips

I spiced things up in the kitchen recently with Southwest style chicken-free strips by Beyond Meat.

I first learned about this company when I read a blog post about the future of food by Bill Gates. Gates is financially backing Beyond Meat, in part because he recognizes that increasing meat consumption is bad for the environment. The global population is growing, and as people become more affluent, they often transition to western-style diets. That’s neither healthy nor sustainable.

I searched for Beyond Meat at my local Whole Foods and ended up getting a couple of ready-made wraps for a picnic. So yummy! Until now, I hadn’t cooked with it, so I gave it a whirl.

ingredients

I made a simple stir-fry using red pepper, broccoli and zucchini, added spices and the Beyond Chicken strips, which I’d cut into cubes.

stir-fry in progress

Beyond Chicken is made primarily with non-GMO soy and peas. It’s a complete protein, has plenty of fiber, and isn’t loaded with fat or cholesterol (in fact, it has no cholesterol, saturated or trans-fat and is just 5% fat).

I served my stir-fry over a rice pilaf for a quick, simple, and delicious meal. I’m going to try their beef-free crumble next for a taco meal!

simple dinner

I like that technology is helping reinvent meat and that through technology we can harness plants to create healthy delicious meat alternatives. It has a lot of potential in developing nations too, not just on the plates of people in the developed world.

Biz Stone, vegan and founder of Twitter, is also financially invested in Beyond Meat. Perhaps the future of meat is vegan.

Instead of eggs

I’ve written about the inherent cruelty of the egg industry and why vegans don’t eat eggs. When I nix one item, I like to offer a vegan substitute, so let’s look at other ingredients that you can use instead of eggs.

Baking: To get baked goods to stick together, use applesauce, flax seeds, or a banana. Applesauce is sweet and keeps foods moist. Use 1/4 cup instead of one egg. Bananas hold baked goods together and add sweetness too. Use one small banana instead of an egg. Flax seeds will bind without the added flavor of apple or banana. Mix one tablespoon of ground flax seeds with three tablespoons of warm water and stir until it gets thick and sticky.

Ener-G Egg Replacer is a powdered product (of potato starch, tapioca and other ingredients) that has leavening properties and is a great egg alternative. 1-1/2 teaspoons of egg replacer and 2 tablespoons of water mixed together is the perfect amount to replace one egg.

Using vegan recipes will help you get the right substitutions and ratios, but after you get the hang of it, you can veganize almost any recipe. Use the ideas on this page from PETA for more substitutes.tofu scramble

Cooking: If you crave scrambled eggs, you can crumble firm tofu into a pan with onion, mushrooms, peppers, or whatever else you’d like. Add the tofu after all the other ingredients are cooked. It doesn’t need to be heated up for long. It’s ready to eat and just needs warming up really.

Tofu is bland, which means you can add your own flavor and color with turmeric, soy sauce and a touch of kala namak (Indian salt that adds an eggy flavor). Add a little Daiya vegan cheese, and you’ll never miss a traditional scramble.

I recently made a grits casserole using tofu instead of eggs and it was great! You can use tofu to make egg salad too.

I made a mock tuna salad using garbanzo beans. It was more like an egg salad. I wasn’t going to fool anyone (it didn’t completely mimic eggs), but it was a very satisfying meal. Veganaise or Nayonaise are great mayo substitutes–for salads or on sandwiches.deviled potatoes

I have yet to make vegan French toast, but I’ve ordered it in restaurants and I know if can be made with a batter of non-dairy milk, flour, cinnamon and sugar.

The heavenly potatoes I make are a delicious devilled egg substitute. If you’re really ambitious, try this version of deviled eggs.

A new product called the Vegg is on the market now. When I try it, I’ll review it here. It’s used to make vegan cakes, custard, French toast and Hollandaise sauce (and more).

More info:

Is there anything egg-related you’re craving? Do you have other egg replacement ideas?