Make Mine . . .

. . . (no, not mink), but fake meat. People often wonder why vegetarians and vegans choose to eat “fake meats”, in other words, something that resembles what you’re trying to give up. Isn’t that a contradiction? As a chef and caterer specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisines, I find that “fake meats” can offer an easy way for people to ease into meatless choices and a more plant-based diet. Making a major dietary shift can be challenging enough, without having to rethink the whole menu plan. To me, it makes perfect sense to ease the transition into a different way of eating by keeping some familiarity while venturing into new territory.

 

“Fake meats” have come a long way in the last couple of decades. You’ll find excellent products in the deli and frozen sections of most markets. Some of my favorite products include Field Roast‘s grain burgers, Beyond Meat’s “chicken strips”, and Lightlife’s “fakin’ bacon” (a smoked tempeh). Any of these products can be chopped up, simmered in a tasty sauce and added to tacos, sloppy Joes or your favorite rice or pasta dish.

Cauliflower Rock!

Here’s a warming side dish for a cold day. Cauliflower can be cut into florets, tossed in a mix of olive oil, turmeric, cumin, salt and garam masala.

Roast in a hot oven for 30-45 minutes and toss with chopped mint and cilantro for a stunning side dish to complement any creation.

Gluten-free vegan desserts, oh my!

Sugar-laden holidays right around the corner appear to be inspiring my obsession with desserts at the moment! Here is another fab vegan treat, this one made from rice. You may be familiar with kheer, a popular Indian rice pudding, made with milk and flavored with cardamom, saffron and raisins. My favorite rice dessert is Burma Superstar’s fabulous black rice and coconut pudding, which I’ve been able to approximate in my own kitchen. Here’s how:

Start out with sticky Thai black rice, e.g. Lundberg Black Pearl Rice. I usually soak the rice in salted water for a few hours, before draining and cooking according to package directions – but you’ll need to reduce cooking time and cooking liquid. Rice should be soft but not mushy. Drain and place in a heavy bottom pan with coconut milk and simmer until rice is creamy; sweeten, to taste, with organic sugar (try Billington’s dark Muscovado sugar). Toast some unsweetened coconut flakes in a dry pan, until toasty brown and fold into the rice; save a few sprinkles for the top. Serve warm, with fresh raspberries or slices of mango, and a scoop of Coconut Bliss vegan ice cream . . . heavenly!

Making Your Next Holiday Mixer AMAZING!

With corporate Holiday gatherings right around the corner, a great way to show employee appreciation is to make allowances for people’s dietary preferences and multi-cultural backgrounds.

Healthy and delicious appetizers.

A great menu is one that delights and surprises – with options that offer variety and take special dietary needs into consideration, e.g. gluten-free, vegetarian, etc. While many Holiday offerings can pack on the calories, how about offering a menu that’s healthy AND delicious? Try it – you’ll like it!

O Comfort Food, O Comfort Food

‘Tis the season, but when it comes to comfort food, we gotta have rootsrulewhat we gotta have! It’s a cultural thing. The English have Marmite and the Australians have Vegemite. The English say that Vegemite is disgusting, and the Australians say that Marmite is disgusting, and Americans think they’re both disgusting . . . don’t laugh, it’s a touchy subject. My mother, who was Australian, used to feed us kids slices of toast, slathered with butter and a thin layer of Vegemite. I loved it! The theory is it will curb children’s sweet tooth . . . it worked for me, and I still sneak a taste every so often.
Here’s a comfort food we all agree on: a side of roasted root vegetables to go with your favorite Holiday meal. Be adventurous – try rutabagas, turnip, beets, root celery (celeriac), parsnip . . . slice them into desired size, toss them with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary, and place them in a hot (400 deg) oven.

Ate too Much?

SilkRdPilaf. . . I certainly did! Those holiday meals are a perfect reminder that we can all eat more vegetables . . . for our own health and for the health of the environment. How about bringing back Meatless Mondays? Eating an all vegetarian meal does not have to be boring or challenging. For those of you concerned about getting enough protein, a meal of grains and legumes gives you all the essential amino acids. Create a tasty meal of brown basmati rice, French or beluga lentils (available at Whole Foods), seasoned with fresh herbs, cumin, julienned vegetables and garlic. Serve on a bed of greens for a quick meal, or as a high protein side dish for your vegetarian (or vegan) guests.