Thursday, April 29, 2010

Vegan Road Trip, Part II: Las Vegas

After a brief stop in Beaver, Utah, and a hike through Zion National Park, we're on to Las Vegas. I love the overt nature of Vegas, where every desire is straightforward and honest, and people know what they want. I want some good vegan food, and this city doesn't disappoint.

I'm eating loads of fresh stuff from the cooler still, and piling plates high with fruit and salad from the city's many buffets, but I'm happy to enjoy indulgences like vegan doughnuts and melty sandwiches. Here's some of what Las Vegas has to offer.

Ronald's Donuts
This unassuming donught shop is housed in a strip mall a few minutes from the Las Vegas strip. About 80% of the doughnuts are vegan, and the owners are happy to point out the shelves which hold them. With simple favorites like tiger tails, maple bars, apple fritters, and doughnuts filled with cool soy cream, most people don't guess they're vegan. And you'll be surprised the prices are just like any "regular" doughnut shop; put Ronald's in downtown and fill it with hipsters, and the doughnuts could easily command $5 each. I can't say enough good about Ronald's; some people visit Vegas simply for this place, and there's no question why.

Here's a quick video of my daughter eating her first doughnut. It's funny, how reverent we are, as if passing down an ancient ritual. But food can definitely be a spiritual experience, right?

Ronald's Donuts
vegan-friendly doughnuts and pastries, $
4600 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89102

Miko's Sushi
This family-owned sushi bar is such a treat, I visited three times during my stay in Vegas. The owners are knowledgeable about vegan diets, and happy to recommend their favorites from the extensive vegetarian menu. Even the tempura is vegan. With choices like the Kimpira Gobo Roll (seasoned burdock root, ohba, and spicy goma sauce), the Spicy Satoimo Roll (spicy taro root with cucumber), or the Kanpyo Maki Roll (seasoned gourd), this isn't your typical carrot-avocado-cucumber vegetarian menu. Try the Yakisoba or Ramen for a bowl of comfort, or the Miko's Special (spicy satoimo roll, futomaki, tempura roll, spinach hand roll, green beans hand roll, potato teriyaki, kimpira and hijiki). At less than $15, this sampler is the perfect introduction to excellent vegan Japanese.
Miko's Sushi
vegan-friendly Japanese, $$
500 E. Windmill Ln. Ste. 165, Las Vegas, NV 89123
(702) 823.2779

Go Raw Cafe
I have an instant aversion to any restaurant that serves Sour Dream or surrounds words like cheese and beans with quotations, but I really wanted to like this place. With two locations, these cafes inside raw retail stores provide Las Vegas with plenty of living food options. Their menu is full of classic, comfortable dishes like burritos, salads, pastas, and burgers, and I order the Mexicali Toast (Mexi pate, guacamole, salsa, sour dream, and hemp seeds) and the Traditional Pizza (buckwheat crust, “almond cheese,” basil pesto, marinara, veggies, and “walnut sausage”). The dishes are fine, but when you eat lots of raw food, you begin to want inventive stuff like Pepita Lime Apple Tiers (tart apple layers filled with pepita lime cashew cheese, jalapeno, and cilantro) and Persian Chia Pudding (chia-based rice pudding with rosewater, cardamom, and pistachios).

Umm, sorry. That was a shameless plug for my book; it features both recipes.

Ahem. I can't resist a cool glass of coconut water, so I order a large. It's delicious. When it's time for dessert, there are layered pies and cheesecake. Nothing really tempts me, so I skip it. I just can't stop thinking about Ronald's Donuts.
Go Raw Cafe
raw vegan cuisine and retail, $$
Westside Location
2910 Lake East Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89117
Eastside Location
2381 East Windmill Lane #18
Las Vegas, NV 89123

Red Velvet Cafe
With it's decadent interiors and clean lines, this sweet cafe has food to match. The menu features panninis, pizettas, daily specials, and plenty of desserts. Nearly everything can be made vegan, and it's wonderful to browse a bakery case and see vegan on tags for Red Velvet Cake and Orange Cream Torte. The Veggie Tuna Melt and Veggie Ham and Cheese are great for a quick snack. If you're staying longer, try the Vegan Taco Salad (basic but good) with Molten Chocolate Cake for dessert. Skip the baked fries and have a salad instead; it's a nice way to balance all that soy cheese and sugar, which Red Velvet still manages to make you feel light and healthy after.
Red Velvet Cafe
vegan-friendly bistro food and desserts, $$
7875 W. Sahara Ave. Suite 103 / 104, Las Vegas, NV 89117

In Vegas, I'm staying at the Palace Station (a ridiculously--and fantastically--reasonably-priced place at the edge of the strip), and the Aria, a luxe, super-techy new hotel located in City Center. Can I tell you how much I adore this place? Rooms feature computerized temperature, media, and lighting controls, and it's all green-built with recycled and renewable materials. And I could wax poetic about the bathrooms for the next five paragraphs. But I'll spare you.

G shares her mama's fascination with a well-stocked bar.

If you're a vegan with a famly, a great option for accommodations is the Vdara, a non-gaming hotel with suites featuring gourmet kitchens and plenty of space. The best thing? Deluxe sized hair and body care products by Aveda. When you're accustomed to bringing toiletries (most hotels feature animal-based amenities), it's a pleasure to find vegan products waiting for you.

Now off to Los Angeles, where I look for vegan options at Disneyland...!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vegan Road Trip, Part I

This five-part series is from a trip taken earlier this year. I'll be travelling again this month, and wanted to share the first adventure before I blog the second. Enjoy!

clockwise, from bottom left: DHA flax oil, raw cacao and maca, a container of Inebriated Watermelon Salad, fresh herbs and greens, dates, watermelon, soymilk, soaked chia seeds, more fruit and veg, probiotic soymilk, cracked pepper-encrusted Chévre , fresh persimmons, stevia packets, Larabars, fruit snacks.

Road trips tend to feature the sort of junky indulgences justifiable only by travelling impossible distances in just hours. After all, caffeine is an excellent preventative of highway hypnosis. Sugar is a great pick-me-up. And fried food is...well, good. And when it comes to eating junk, I'm certainly not one to judge: I once travelled cross-country sustained only by Fritos, Abba Zabba bars, and Subway Veggie Delight sandwiches.

I do not recommend this.

This time, I decide to nourish my car-weary body with livlier choices: loads of fresh fruit and vegetables, raw food staples, and Nori Snacks. I'll be on the road with my favorite man and my two-year-old for a month, with stops in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Sedona, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Santa Fe, so I want to be sure we all stay healthy and lively.

When I travel, I like to eat as much fresh food as possible. This keeps my energy high and prevents drowsiness when I'm sitting for long periods of time. Here are some of my tips for eating fresh and light during travel:

Bring a cooler on car and rail trips. This allows you to keep anything from green juices to dips for several days without refrigeration. A cooler is especially good if you're stuck in a hotel, or don't know what vegan options will be available.

Skip coffee, sodas, and energy drinks in favor of fresh juices and green smoothies. They store well in jars, and keep for a day without refrigeration, and several in a cooler. If you're accustomed to caffeinated beverages, try iced mate sweetened with stevia and a splash of raw nut milk. I bring soaked chia seeds (1/3 cup chia seeds to 2 cups water), and mix them with stevia and fresh-squeezed oranges (I use a pocket knife to slice and squeeze them) for a refreshing drink packed with EFA's.

Eat mostly fresh fruits and vegetables. Bananas, dates, clementines, celery, and handfulls of undressed greens are nourishing and quick. These are my favorite road foods, since they don't require a stop, and don't make you want to nap after eating. You can find them at any grocery, and your body probably won't miss all the stuff you usually eat.

Pack a container of nut or seed butter, which makes anything palatable and keeps for days unrefrigerated. And travel with a few avocadoes, which can transform the most mundane salad into a proper meal.

Slather vegetables and raw crackers with Chévre, hummus, or raw pate for a filling snack.

Nibble healthy sweets like Raw Lemon Bars, raw cookies, and dates.

I never pack earlier than an hour before leaving--it's a terrible habit--but I know with a first stop in Beaver, Utah, our vegan choices will be limited. The evening before our trip, I make raw Cashew Chévre and assemble Nori Snacks. The Chévre is great for spreading on vegetables or mounding on a salad, and salty, chewy Nori Snacks are like a raw vegan Slim Jim. Cut them into bits for easier munching, or to accommodate small hands. I dehydrate them for 10 or so hours to ensure they last the whole trip, but the snacks can be rolled and eaten as they are.

Nori Snacks
16-20 snacks
These easy bites have a BBQ flavor; add a generous dash of cayenne for extra heat. The spices can be varied to suit your taste: for Italian, omit molasses and liquid smoke, and add basil, oregano, and Italian red pepper flakes. For Japanese, omit sundried tomatoes, molasses, and liquid smoke, and add grated ginger, wasabi powder, or a dash of toasted sesame oil.

1 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 1 hour and drained
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds, soaked for 1 hour and drained
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
sea salt to taste (this depends on whether your tomatoes are salted; begin with 1/4 teaspoon and adjust)
8-10 nori sheets, cut in half crosswise (you will have 2 10" x 5" sheets)
small bowl of water, for securing the edges

In a food processor, combine sunflower and pumpkin seeds, sundried tomatoes, molasses, liquid smoke, and sea salt. Scrape down the sides as necessary, processing until you reach the consistency of a firm pate. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 days.

To assemble, place a nori sheet on a work surface with the long side facing you. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the pate horizontally across the sheet, leaving a 1" area at the top clean. Dab the clean area with a bit of water, and starting from the side toward you, roll up the sheet. Press the wet nori to seal the edge. Repeat with remaining nori and pate.

Eat as they are, or dehydrate overnight at 105 degrees for longer storage.

With everything packed and ready, we're on our way!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cayenne Crumb Baked Macaroni

I recently had friends over for a kid-friendly dinner of Caesar Salad, BBQ Seitan, and good bread served with my Roasted Garlic Bowl. And of course, the richest, creamiest baked macaroni, which goes under the auspices of "Macaroni and Trees" for occasions like this. Just perch some steamed broccoli on top, and you'll have a forest full of edible goodness that--remarkably--gets grabbed immediately by little hands.

Would it be melodramatic to say I'm thrilled to share this recipe with you? It would, but I really am thrilled, because this macaroni and cheese is very, very good. It's slightly tangy, and has the creamy color of sharp white cheddar. Omnivore children gobble it up. And it can easily be made soy-free (substitute olive oil for vegan margarine in the crumbs), or wheat-free (use rice or quinoa pasta), if you like.

And look what a dense, creamy bechamel you can make--with no dairy or flour at all!

Cayenne Crumb Baked Macaroni
8 entrée or 12 side dish servings
Serve with a feisty Sangiovese or Shiraz, the perfect balance to this rich supper.
I prefer to use celentani—also called cavatappi, the whimsical corkscrew-shaped pasta, for the macaroni. It holds just the right amount of sauce, and can be found in most supermarkets.

For the Macaroni:
1 pound uncooked celentani or macaroni
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in hot water for at least an hour, and drained
2 cup water
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons tahini, preferably raw
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground fresh nutmeg

For the Cayenne Crumbs:
4 slices wholegrain bread, old or lightly toasted
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons margarine

Make the Baked Macaroni:
Heat oven to 350ºF. Generously grease a 5 quart or 9” x 13” baking dish, or a very large ovenproof bowl, and set aside.

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. It should have a slight bite, but be completely cooked. Drain, and transfer to prepared baking dish.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a blender or food processor, combine remaining ingredients and blend until completely smooth. Pour over cooked macaroni, stirring thoroughly. The macaroni should be saturated with sauce, and the best way to do this is to agitate it, allow it to rest a moment, and agitate it again. Repeat this a few times, and set aside.

Melt together margarine and cayenne in a medium bowl, and set aside. Pulse bread in a food processor or blender until coarse crumbs form. Add to margarine mixture, and toss to combine. Distribute cayenne crumbs evenly over macaroni. Bake 30-35 minutes, covering the top with foil if it browns too quickly. The top will be golden and crisp, while the interior is a creamy, molten muddle.

Serve hot.

For dessert, I made Hostess-style orange cupcakes. Everyone remembers the chocolate sort, of course, but the orange ones are the real gems. I remember eating them--two packages, sometimes--as a midmorning snack in high school, washed down with a pint of milk. How I survived past age 17, I will never know. This version is much healthier: all organic and vegan, and tinted with carrot juice and tumeric instead of things which, despite several degrees, I still cannot pronounce.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Happy Spring! With New Stuff!

The season began weeks ago, but now that I can actually feel it, I want to officially wish you a very happy Spring. See those daffodils peeking out of the ground behind me? It's happening!

You'll find plenty of fresh plant-based recipes here at veganjoy this Spring, and some other new things too. I've tagged recipes as soy-free, wheat-free, and kid-friendly, so those with allergies or aversions can easily find what they're looking for. I'll post more how-to videos in the months ahead, showing you how to prepare raw vegan milk, cut a pineapple, decorate a cake, that sort of thing. I'm also really pleased to begin posting pieces on topics like vegan adoption and probiotics, which will feature voices of those who really know their stuff. Stay tuned for a cookbook update as well!

Thank you for being part of this blog, whether by reading, following, or commenting. I'm so glad to have you here.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Whipped Coconut Cream

Easter is my very favorite day of the year, so it's only fitting to celebrate with a grand breakfast. Today, my morning was a bit rushed, so it meant chocolate-chocolate chip pancakes (made by the Mr.) with macerated strawberries and Whipped Coconut Cream before spiriting off to Easter choir.

I'm so happy to share my Whipped Coconut Cream recipe with you, because it's a quick, simple way to adorn everything from desserts to pancakes, and I'm convinced it will increase your culinary prowess a hundredfold. I used to love Soyatoo!, but it's expensive, and so much nicer to make it yourself instead of relying on packaged stuff. And just look at those billows below--you can't get that from a can. Lovely!

Whipped Coconut Cream
about 2 cups
The cream skimmed from coconut milk transforms into rich fluff and holds up fantastically, perfect for dolloping onto your favorite desserts. This recipe yields a lightly-sweetened topping; add a teaspoon more sugar if you prefer a sweeter version.

1 can (14 ounces) full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon sugar or evaporated cane juice
½ teaspoon vanilla, rum, or other flavoring

Place a medium bowl (glass, metal, or ceramic are all fine) and beaters of an electric hand mixer in the freezer to chill.

Refrigerate coconut milk, in the unopened can, for at least an hour, or freeze for about 20 minutes. Be careful not to agitate the can too much as you do this; you want the fattier “cream” to rise to the top, leaving thinner coconut liquid underneath, and shaking it will prevent this.

Remove from refrigerator or freezer, and carefully open the can. Using a small spoon, slowly skim the cream from the top, and transfer to the chilled bowl. You should get about half the can before the thin liquid appears underneath; try not to include any of this. Reserve remaining coconut milk for another use (it's great in smoothies).

Add sugar and vanilla or flavoring, and begin whisking with the chilled beaters of an electric hand mixer. The cream is done when it thickens and soft peaks form when a beater is lifted. Stiff peaks may be achieved if the coconut milk is particularly high-fat, but don’t whip the cream so long that it warms and begins to liquefy.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours before serving, whisking briefly before using.

Happy Easter. I hope yours is sweet and full of life!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Crème Brûlée

This Easter, finish a traditional supper with small servings of rich, creamy Crème Brûlée.

I kind of suspect there are some of you out there, you lovely salt-of-the-earth people, who think it would be great to be vegan (nice for the animals, good for your health, and so on), and quite manageable, actually. Except for one thing.

Crème Brûlée.

Yes, this dastardly custard is the culprit. Sure, you love animals and you care about the environment. And sure, there are Crème Brûlées made with silken tofu or almond milk. But come on.

You want the real thing. Silky, vanilla-flecked cream with just the right amount of heaviness. Coy in its ramekin, waiting for your spoon to take a swat.

So, this is me, standing here and inviting you into all things vegan. Imagine I'm extending my hand, and smiling with a little wink, and saying, "Come on over. We've got Crème Brûlée."

Crème Brûlée
8 servings
This recipe makes a classic custard flavored richly with vanilla beans. If you wish to add the flavors of herbs or liqueur, see the instructions for Flavoring Ganache. For more on kitchen torches and brûléeing, see my Lavender Rice Pudding Brûlée with Blueberries.

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 13-ounce can coconut milk (full fat)
1/3 cup sugar or evaporated cane juice
seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
generous pinch sea salt
1/4 cup cooked sweet potato, or sweet potato puree
about 8 teaspoons sugar or evaporated cane juice, for brûléeing

Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare a bain marie: Place eight small ramekins in one or two large pans (the ramekins should not touch), and put some water on to boil. Set everything aside.

In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and cold water until completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into a blender, along with coconut milk, sugar, vanilla bean seeds, and sea salt. Blend until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add sweet potato, and blend again.

Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins, and add boiling water to the pan (be careful not to get water into the ramekins), bringing the water halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully transfer to oven.

Bake the custard 40-45 minutes, until they appear mostly set. A bit of jiggle in the center is fine; you don't want to cook it to the point of curdling. Cool the ramekins slightly on a wire rack, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours, and up to overnight.

To serve, sprinkle each pudding evenly with a scant teaspoon sugar or evaporated cane juice. Heat a torch to medium heat, and hold the torch about one inch from the surface. Make small circles, and caramelize the sugar. It will bubble, melt, and go golden brown. Don’t allow the sugar to burn past a medium brown color, but do be sure there aren't too many pale bits. Serve immediately.

Miss Two, who looks oddly sophisticated enjoying the satisfying crack of a good Crème Brûlée.