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How to Roast a Pepper 101

roasted red pepperstove top roasted pepperThere are two ways to roast a pepper at home. The gas stove top method and the broiler oven method. You can roast anything from a bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, tomatillo, Serrano pepper and more.

Roasting brings out mellow warm flavors and softens the acid in the ingredient. Recipes that call for roasted peppers include Italian pasta dishes, antipasto salads, and Savory Roasted Red Pepper Soup. And a thick slice of a red roasted pepper can easily bring a lunchtime sandwich to life!roasted mexican peppers

Click forward to read my easy instructions on how to roast a pepper at home....

Gas Stove-top Method

1. Wash and dry your pepper.
2. Turn on gas to medium heat. Flames should not be touching pepper.
3. For large peppers: Lay the pepper directly on the iron grill. Turn every few seconds with tongs until an even roasting has occurred. Skin will be bubbly and wrinkled with black char marks.
For smaller peppers: Apply to skewer or fork. Hold over flame and rotate peppers every few seconds. Smaller peppers will roast faster than large ones.
Safety first! Always stand far away from the flame and try to turn your face from the heat. Sometimes the popping of the skin and seeds can cause bits of the pepper to fly off the stove. Be aware and be careful!
Allow peppers to cool slightly before doing any peeling or chopping.

roasted tomatillios
roasted peppers

Broiler Oven Method

1. Wash and dry peppers. Slice in half.
2. Place on foil or cookie sheet, skin side up.
3. Heat oven to broil. Place peppers in oven.
4. Allow to broil until skin bubbles and wrinkles. This process could take anywhere from five to twenty minutes, depending on the pepper size and oven heat.
When removing peppers from oven, be careful. They will be hot!

That's it! It is incredibly easy to roast, and it really brings out mellow, warm tones in an ingredient.




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Balsamic Vinegar Thief: Bad Salad Craving?

 salad vinegarThe Balsamic Vinegar thief who has been striking fear in the souls of good-hearted salad lovers everywhere, continues his or her unlawful acts of habitually stealing bottles of $30 to $40 balsamic vinegar at the Newport Avenue Market in Bend, Oregon.

Salad Craving?
He or she must really like a good balsamic vinaigrette on their salad. Or is there indeed an underground gourmet foods trade emerging out of Bend, OR? I doubt it.

The owners of the market have been forced to place a sign in the balsamic vinegar section of the market reading:

"Thanks to the Balsamic Vinegar Thief this area is now under surveillance. We will get you." The last sentence, it should be noted, is underlined.

Justice will indeed be poured, I mean served.

Can't wrap your brain around why someone would do this? Well, click forward to read about the health benefits of vinegar...

Vinegar Health Benefits

From HowStuffWorks.com:
"Although vinegar can't cure cancer, it can help improve your general health in many ways. Vinegar benefits the digestive system, improving the absorption and utilization of several essential nutrients. Learn about the different organ systems that are affected by simply adding vinegar to your diet, and find out how you can improve your health and the taste of your vegetables at the same time."

Possible healthy effects:

Increase absorption of calcium. Especially when added to steamed leafy greens that contain calcium, like kale and spinach.

Control Blood Sugar Levels. "It seems that vinegar may be able to inactivate some of the digestive enzymes that break the carbohydrates from food into sugar, thus slowing the absorption of sugar from a meal into the bloodstream."

Replace fat in recipes.
Vinegar adds a lot of flavor without the calories. Compare a 140 calorie serving of olive oil to vinegar and the calories in vinegar are only around five to fifteen (depending on vinegar type.)

Remove harmful substances like pesticides from produce. Some people believe that if you wash or soak your produce in a bath of water and a few tablespoons of vinegar, the pesticides will be reduced. The vinegar will help lift the unhealthy substances from your produce, and when rinsed, be more chemical free.

The unknown benefits.
There are a plethora of claims about vinegar that have not been fully studied to call theories. Apple cider vinegar has been touted to cure everything from obesity to diabetes to even preventing cancer. But these claims still need solid research studies to back them up. In the mean times, you can definitely feel good about using vinegar in your foods. Vinegar has been used for thousands of years and always highly looked upon for various reasons.

However, I don't recommend converting into a balsamic vinegar thief, whatever the health benefits may be.


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New from Vitamin Water: Sync and Ten Calorie Flavors

vitamin water syncvitamin water ten calorieNew products from Glaceau brand's Vitamin Water.

New Vitamin Water flavor
is called SYNC. It boasts berry-cherry flavors and is packed with vitamins and antioxidants.

Also new are Vitamin Water Ten Calorie beverages. Flavor options include popular flavors XXX and Energy.

Click ahead to see the nutrition facts on these new Vitamin Water offerings...


TEN CALORIE VITAMIN WATER:
vitamin water sync nutrition facts
*only ten calories. Same flavor and vitamins. The main difference is the addition of stevia. An all-natural calorie free sweetener. There is still crystalline fructose in the ingredients list. So it's not 'sugar-free'.

NEW SYNC FLAVOR VITAMIN WATER:
vitamin water nutrition label

The sync flavor has 25% vitamin E, which is a nice vitamin addition. It also has an addition of berry and fruit polyphenols. Polyphenols found in fruits may slow the aging process and provide support to neutralize free radicals.

I always like to see new flavors from the beverage folks. But I am not a big fan of the flavor of stevia, and the trend of using it in beverages does not thrill me. I will stick to the 50 calorie per serving Vitamin Water. My favorite flavor is Revive. I stick in it the freezer for a half hour and it comes out like a yummy slushy. So refreshing on a hot day or after a workout.

...but no, it doesn't beat coconut water, my number one favorite beverage.


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Recipe: Savory Roasted Red Pepper Soup, Vegan

My recipe for Vegan Savory Roasted Red Pepper Soup combines the mellow, warm flavor of roasted red peppers with the bright, clean essences of parsley and tangerine. Add in a few bold shallots, heated peppers and roasted garlic and you have a pleasing savory soup that even the non-vegans can appreciate.

Savory roasted pepper warmth ahead. This soup brings warm, complex tones to a meal. Serve this soup after a light citrus-mango salad. Or before a mushroom risotto or spinach-tofu lasagna.

Click ahead for the recipe, photos and nutrition quips....


An elegant savory menu awaits. A small serving is meant to be savored.

Savory Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Ingredients:
2 medium to large sized red bell peppers (the darker in color, the better)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 small red onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
1 medium carrot, sliced thin
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, de-seeded and sliced
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup soy milk, unsweetened or plain
1/4 cup tangerine juice (juice from one tangerine)
2 Tbsp agave syrup
2 tsp. cayenne
5 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 can tomato paste
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
5 fresh chive strands, for garnish
salt to taste (at least 1 tsp.)

tools:
soup pot, blender, gas stove or oven on broil

To roast peppers:
Turn gas stove on medium heat.
Place red pepper directly on iron burner. Make sure the flames are not hitting pepper though.
Allow to roast for about a minute on each side. Turn the pepper every few seconds for even roasting.
Pepper should look black speckled, but not burnt too deep.
Do this to both peppers.
OR,
roast in oven on broil setting until black speckles form.

To roast garlic:
Wrap whole head of garlic, or cloves in foil and heat in oven at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Remove cloves by squeezing garlic, if using whole garlic head.

Prep:
Roughly chop bell roasted bell peppers.
Chop onion. De-seed and chop jalapeno or Serrano pepper (For more heat use Serrano, or add an extra jalapeno.

In Soup Pot:
Add oil, onions, garlic, bay leaf, tomato and hot pepper.
Saute for two minutes.
Add red pepper, and remaining ingredients.
Cover pot and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until peppers are tender.
Remove bay leaf before blending.

Blending:
*Warning: blending soup at a warm to high temperature can cause the blender cap to explode. Make sure your soup has cooled and that there is a small air vent at top when blending. Never blend towards your face and always start on the lowest setting.

In small batches, about 1 cup each, blend the soup to a thin puree. Blend longer for a silkier puree. I recommend a well blended soup rather than a chunky blend for this recipe.

Once all the soup is blended, re-pour into soup pan and allow to simmer, covered, for at least 5 minutes. Keep on low heat until it is ready to be served. Re-heating the soup removes any air bubbles you may notice right after blending.

Garnish:
Fresh chopped chive.
Fresh chopped green herb (cilantro, parsley or sage).
Roasted red pepper cube.
Fresh thin sliced garlic.
Dollop of veganaise.
Drizzle of olive or light truffle oil.
Slice of tangerine.

Serve with crusty garlic bread:
heat bread, 1 tsp. olive oil and chopped garlic in oven for 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Menu ideas:
Serve with a light green salad topped with mango and citrus flavors.
Goes well with a spinach-tofu lasagna or even a mushroom risotto.

Nutrition Quips:
Red Bell Peppers are very high in vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin B6. One medium sized red bell pepper contains about 250% RDA of vitamin C.




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Top Chef Winner Hosea Beats Nice Girl Carla

"Maybe nice girls don't always come in first, but they are still winners in my opinion." -Kathy

Hosea was the winner on last night's Bravo Top Chef Finale. In the Top Chef world it appears that nice girls finish last. Or do they?

Carla did not do well last night. I was cheering for Carla to win, once my favorite Jeff got sliced out of the 'second chance' competition in New Orleans.

Since the Top Chef winner was Hosea, what does this mean for the culinary world? For society even? Why did Padma and Tom keep requesting a chef with "heart" and end up with guys like Stefan in the finale, who appeared to care less if he won?

Well I have a few thoughts on this...

Read more for my "nice girls" theory on how Carla bombed and Hosea pulled through...


Nice Girls Finish Last?

I am a nice girl. And all 'nice girls' know that they are going to lose out a few times in life by the 'mean girls or boys'. But in this case, it wasn't anyone 'mean' who sabotaged Carla. Carla sabotaged herself. She had all the makings of a Top Chef winner:
Heart
Skill
Unique Culinary Identity
Personality
Passion
and "that something special"


Unfortunately, her 'nice girl' attitude killed her. How?

1. She listened to someone else. She listened to Casey. I love Casey, but Casey is good at cooking Casey-style, not Carla style. Carla should have taken more initiative to shut Casey up when they were brainstorming and refining the Carla's menu. The nice girl in Carla said: "Trust Casey. She has great ideas and she almost won Top Chef!"

2. She didn't listen to her "Blink," aka Malcolm Gladwell's theory. She didn't listen to her heart or her gut. And the worst part about that is that Carla knew it. She knew what she was cooking was not 100% her, but she pressed on anyways. She took Casey's advice. Carla stopped using her heart as her guide and tried using her head. Not smart for a girl who cooks with some real heart and soul.

I was shocked to see Carla cave in the finale. She caved mentally, emotionally and skill-wise. Look how she stood up to the "I don't drink, so I'm not serving an alcoholic beverage" issue at the New Orleans Mardi Gras. That took some real personal passion and guts to do that.

Top Chef winner: Hosea. So in the end, Hosea, the under-the-radar, looks like the Frat kid next door chef won. He did an amazing finale meal and he deserves to win for that.

Last Word: Stefan
Stefan was not a 'nice guy'. He was the typical, "I don't care about the other contestants," contestant. Which in some ways is good. It shows backbone and determination. And clearly since he was runner-up, he had skills. And interestingly, his cocky attitude didn't get him kicked off. The judges didn't even blame his loss on his 'bad attitude'. They blamed it on his circa 1982 dessert and frozen fish technique. Yet Carla got blamed for both her failed food and 'pushover' attitude.

Go figure.

In the end, the top Chef winner, Hosea will I'm sure do well. And I'm sure you will find the losers in a town near you doing celebrity cooking demos and signing autographs. And as for Carla? In my deepest heart of hearts I don't like to think that the "nice girls finish last."

...I like to think that she gained a lot of fans from being 'nice and silly and cheerful' on the show. And will indeed do very well. If you had to hire someone, who would you pick from the loser pile: Carla or Stefan? I'd pick Carla.

Maybe nice girls don't always come in first, but they are still winners in my opinion.

TOP CHEF ON BRAVO

Carla's Catering Company in Washington DC: Alchemy Catering


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Recipe: Vegan Carrot Ginger Soup, Two Ways!

Classic:vegan ginger carrot soupFiesta:vegan carrot ginger jalapeno soupI recently became a big fan of Carrot Ginger soup. So I spent a few days playing around with flavors and came up with two fantastic vegan recipes.

The first recipe is for Classic Vegan Carrot Ginger Soup. Simple flavors that blend together for a spectacular burst of zing! in your mouth. Clean carrot flavor and color. Blended smooth, it has a silky texture. And it's a lot easier to make than you'd guess.

fiesta jalapenoThe second recipe is called Fiesta Jalapeno Carrot Ginger Soup. I've put a Mexican spin on the classic recipe. This recipe is BOLD! Lots of jalapeno, garlic, ginger and Serrano pepper flavor. Talk about an immunity boosting soup! This one will keep your body healthy and happy.

Plus, I've added a secret ingredient that you can add to either of these soups. It adds a sweet flavor (it's not a sweet potato, but that's close!). It also adds 6 grams of fiber and thickens the soup up a bit.

So click ahead for my two carrot ginger soup recipes and that secret ingredient answer....

carrot ginger soup vegan
Classic Carrot Ginger Soup
vegan, serves 3

2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp ginger, peeled and sliced thin (add more to taste)
1 1/2 bunches of stemmed carrots (about 9 medium carrots)
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cups soy milk
1 small onion, diced
1 Tbsp agave or maple syrup
1 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
tools: blender and soup pot.

Stove-top Procedure:
Heat oil, 2 Tbsp broth, onions, ginger and garlic in soup pan. Saute for a minute or two.

Add remaining broth, soy milk, pepper, honey, and carrots.
Bring to a simmer. Heat until carrots are soft and will break with a fork.
If soup seems too thick, add more broth to adjust consistency.

Remove pan from heat. Wait a minute or two for soup to cool.

Blending:
*Warning: blending soup at a warm to high temperature can cause the blender cap to explode. Make sure your soup has cooled and that there is a small air vent at top when blending. Never blend towards your face and always start on the lowest setting.

In small batches, about 1 cup each, blend the soup to a thin puree. Blend longer for a creamier soup. I recommend a well blended soup rather than a chunky one for this recipe.

Once all the soup is blended, re-pour into soup pan and allow to simmer until it is ready to be served. Re-heating the soup will lead to a thinner, less airy consistency. You may notice some 'air bubbles' in the soup right after the puree.

Garnish options:
A dollop of veganaise, fresh pepper, fresh shavings of ginger (very thin slices) or a chopped green herb. Dill looks lovely.

Fiesta Jalapeno Carrot Ginger Soup
vegan, serves 3

warning:
this soup will make your mouth sweat! The ginger, garlic and peppers are the kicker. For less or more 'heat', adjust the amounts of those ingredients.

1 Jalapeno, de-seeded and chopped
1 Serrano Peppers, de-seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp Ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 bunch of stemmed carrots (about 6-7 medium carrots)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups soy milk
1 small onion, diced
2 scallion stalks
1 Tbsp agave or maple syrup
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp Veganaise (optional)
1 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
tools: blender and soup pot.

Stove-top Procedure:
Heat oil, onions, scallions, and garlic in soup pan. Saute for a minute or two.

Add broth, soy milk and the remaining ingredients except the cold bowl ingredients, see below.

Cold Bowl: Leave out 1 clove of garlic, 1/2 cup of soy milk, lime juice and the cilantro.

Bring to a simmer. Heat until carrots are soft and will break with a fork.

Remove pan from heat. Add cold bowl to pan and stir. Wait a minute or two for soup to cool.

BLENDING:
*Warning: blending soup at a warm to high temperature can cause the blender cap to explode. Make sure your soup has cooled enough and that there is a small air vent at top when blending. Never blend towards your face and always start on the lowest setting.

In small batches, about 1 cup each, blend the soup to a thin puree. Blend longer for a creamier soup.

Once all the soup is blended, serve immediately or re-pour into soup pan and allow to simmer until it is ready to be served. Re-heating the soup will lead to a thinner, less airy consistency. You may notice some 'air bubbles' in the soup right after the puree.

Serve with a garnish of fresh chopped cilantro and Serrano or jalapeno pepper rounds thinly sliced. A fresh thinly sliced sheet of ginger is also nice because it brings out the ginger smell.

SECRET INGREDIENT TIP!
One of my favorite secret ingredients to add to this soup is a fresh ripe persimmon. It makes the soup a lot thicker and adds fiber and a hint of sweetness. Simply blend the persimmon, skin and all-remove the leaves, into the soup after it has been fully pureed. No need to heat or cook the already soft persimmon.

vegan carrot ginger soup




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Vegan Cookbooks and Guides: My Top Shelf.

A lot of people ask me what vegan cookbooks I read. Perusing the cookbook section of Amazon or Barnes and Noble is one of my favorite past times. So, I have a few favorite vegan cookbooks that I'd like to share with you. This is only a fraction of the books I love, but here they are. I have personally read and adore all of these. I am even quoted in one:


Click ahead to read a quick review about each book and to find out which of these vegan books I am quoted in!

Kathy's Vegan Cookbook and Guidebook Picks

Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
I got this cookbook for my birthday last year and read it cover to cover. So many great recipes and stories. This is a fun and incredibly useful book with a few recipes you will make again and again. One recipe I loved: the simple and delicious stuffed mushrooms.

The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Woods
When I was in college I found this book and read it every night. It satisfied every curiosity I had about whole foods like apples, rice, sweet potatoes and spinach. It really is an encyclopedia of whole foods and wellness information. It details food properties and benefits. Woods follows the principles of AYURVEDIC WELLNESS. Vatam, Pitta, Kapha. I love love love this book.

Total Health Makeover: Marilu Henner
Marilu brought the zest and life back into being vegan! (The gusto according to one of her steps...) I found this book in high school and was very influenced by Marilu's passionate writing and research for her "Total Health Makeover" diet. She advocates for a totally vegan lifestyle. Dairy-free is her quest. In the nineties, I first heard about the book when I read an interview where she said milk was bad, I was shocked! But intrigued. Marilu also talks about chemical free living and is a big fan of exercising everyday-and dancing around in your living room counts! Yes! That works for me!

Healthy Life Kitchen: Marilu Henner
A follow-up book to THM. Goes more in depth about chemical free living and how to organize your kitchen for wellness success. It also goes into life stages and how to eat well at every age. Thus I was quoted in this book as a 19 year-old college student who craved healthy food on-campus at Boston University. It's on page 163 at the bottom of the page, if you are really curious!

Totally Dairy-Free Cooking by Chef Louis Lanza
Chef Louis Lanza is the genius behind my sentimental favorite vegan restaurant here in NYC, Josie's. Josie's was my first foray into vegan dining in the city, as a college kid. I was in love. So I had to buy his cookbook. Fabulous.

Jamba Juice Power by Stan Dembecki
I am a big Jamba fan. Heck, it was first high school job. And I love the story behind how JJ got its start in California. Just a man craving a good smoothie after his long bike trips. What an amazing entrepreneurial story of a brand born in California. Yay. It also has some great recipes and nutrition quips.

Skinny Bitch:Raw Food Real World by Rory Freedman
This book is pretty hilarious. It is a bit on the edgy side, as the author write about vegan living and why you shouldn't be eating dead food that will make you fat. Very blunt, very entertaining, a great beach read for the vegans.

Raw Food/Real World: 100 Recipes to Get the Glow by Matthew Kenney
This book comes from the restaurant Pure Food and Wine here in NYC. It really is a great RAW FOOD 101 type cookbook. For those of you who are looking to start raw food cooking. I love OneLuckyDuck.com, the brand associated with PFW. They have done a great job of making raw food more mainstream. Heck, they even got Howard Stern to rave about the restaurant.

Great Chefs Cook Vegan by Linda Long
OK, honestly this book I have yet to buy and read. But I LOVE the concept. Amazon book description: "Great Chefs Cook Vegan includes recipes from 25 of today's greatest chefs, including Thomas Keller, Jean-George Vongerichten, Eric Ripert, Charlie Trotter, and many other James Beard award-winning chefs. Each chef section includes a three or four-course vegan meal, complete with mouth-watering photographs of each recipe and much more."
...where's the nearest bookstore? This is on the top of my brain-my plight to get the big chefs to add vegan options to their menus. Jean Georges likes vegetarians and vegans! It's a start.
Do you have a vegan cookbook I need to try? Let me know!

Comment me or send me an email at kathy@lunchboxbunch.com.

Image: Smarty Tomato of The Lunchbox Bunch, reading on a rainy day. By K Patalsky.





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Recipe: Goji Lime Pancakes. Sunday Brunch Awaits.

I get super excited when I find a new way to eat the super food goji berries. I stick them in smoothies, hot oatmeal, choco-goji cookies, and even my hot tea latte. But I needed a recipe that screamed: Weekend Brunch. A recipe special enough to pull out when Sunday brunch rolls around at the end of a long week. This recipe is something to anticipate

...and that's where Goji-Lime Pear Pancakes with Goji-Lime Maple Syrup come in. Juicy tart goji berries, fresh succulent pears, a hint of tangy lime and even a few mashed almonds folded in the batter. This recipe gives you all the comfort-food-ness of pancakes with a huge helping of nutrients. And yes, it's vegan.

Sunday Pancake Brunch Awaits.


Click ahead for the recipe and more goji-goodness photos...

Before I get to the recipe, please be sure to check out this goji berry super foods post all about how healthy goji berries are.

Sunday Pancake Brunch Awaits.
Print this recipe and stick it in your bag-right by your cell phone where you won't forget about it. And somewhere along your busy week buy the ingredients and get stoked to anticipate an ooey gooey healthy pancake brunch Sunday. And I recommend some Kumquat Sunrise Juice to go with this delicious dish.

OK, now...

The Recipe.....

Goji-Lime Pear Pancakes
with Goji-Lime Maple Syrup


Pancakes:
3/4 cup frozen whole Goji Berries (dried berries can be used, but frozen are best.)
1 Bosc pear
1 lime
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup Dark Maple Syrup
1/4 cup apple sauce or egg replacer
1 cup buckwheat pancake mix
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup soy milk
1 dash salt
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1/4 cup almonds or cashews
zip lock bag
Oil Spray for Skillet

Syrup:
Leftover lime juice
Leftover Goji Berries
1 Tbsp Spectrum Spread or vegan "butter"
1 tsp. cinnamon
Leftover Maple Syrup

PREP:
Juice the lime. Keep 2 slices for garnish. Set aside.
Slice pear into very thin, small cubes. Add to small bowl. Add 2 Tbsp of lime to pear mixture. Add dash of salt to pears. Toss well.
Add 1/2 cup thawed and warmed to room temp Goji Berries.
Toss gently.
Set aside.

NUTS:
Add nuts to zip lock bag. Using a mallet or raw end of a kitchen tool. pound the whole nuts until they become a fine mixture of bits and powder.
Set aside.

Batter:
In a large mixing bowl, add flour, nuts, cinnamon, and egg replacer (if using a powder form). Mix.
Add liquid ingredients, (soy milk, canola oil, 1 Tbsp maple syrup) and stir well until any lumps are gone.
Slowly fold in the Goji/Pear/Lime mixture.

Skillet:
Grease skillet with spray canola oil. Make sure pan in very hot.
Pour batter onto skillet. Wait until the batter starts to bubble through and then, using a spatula, flip the pancakes.

Side note: I like to do a crepe style pancake that is relatively thin. But with a thicker batter and pouring technique both thick and thin pancakes can be done.

Cooking time should be about 1-3 minutes per large pancake-depending on how dark and thick you like your pancakes and how hot your skillet is.

For Heart-shaped pancakes: Grease the inside of a shallow heart-shaped cookie cutter. Place on hot skillet. Pour batter into cutter. Wait for bubbles to form. Flip entire cookie cutter. Allow pancake to cook for another minute. Remove entire cookie cutter and pancake with spatula. With a toothpick or small knife, loosen the edges of the cookie cutter to remove the pancake. The technique is a bit tricky, so it may take you a few tries to get that perfect heart shape.

Goji-Lime Maple Syrup
Add syrup, vegan "butter", leftover lime juice and leftover goji berries to a glass cup or mug. Stir gently. Cover with plastic wrap. Poke a few air vents in top. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds.
To serve: With a fork, strain out the goji berries and place over top pancakes. Serve maple syrup in a small pouring container for your diners. (Pouring too soon could make our pancakes soggy.) About 1 Tbsp of syrup should be plenty for a serving of pancakes. A light dusting of vegan powdered sugar is optional.


These pancakes go perfectly with some fresh squeezed OJ or fresh juiced Kumquat Sunrise Juice.




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Jean Georges Likes Vegetarians. Even Vegans.

One of my favorite blogs to read is that of world-renowned chef Jean Georges.

So when I saw that his signature restaurant Jean Georges was offering a four-course $58 dinner featuring his favorite dishes (none being vegan), I had to inquire about diners like me.

I posted this comment to JG on his blog:
"Any vegetarian options available? I am veg, my husband is not and adores your restaurant."

JG quickly responded with:
"Absolutely. We always have delicious vegetarian options and will for this menu as well. I hope you and your husband have a lovely meal together. -Jean-Georges"

Nice! Now I know what you are thinking. Kathy, you're vegan not vegetarian! True. I wanted to start slowly. Luckily, I no longer have fear to ask top chefs about vegan options: "Executive Chef says: Pay Attention to Vegans".

So, today I directly called Jean George's Columbus Circle NYC restaurant, to ask if they indeed accommodate vegan diners.

Click ahead to find out what the hostess said, and more of my favorite JG restaurants...

Calling Jean Georges:

Me: " Hi, I was wondering if you are able to accommodate vegan diners?"

JG Hostess: "Yes."

Me:
"For lunch or dinner?"

JG Hostess: " Yes. For lunch or dinner."

Me: "OK great, thanks so much."

Success!

Now I really knew that they would most likely say yes. I have quickly learned that the upper-crust restaurants here in NYC and around the world will usually accommodate any special request. I had the most amazing vegan dinner at Le Bernardin in NYC for a special event. They were incredibly accommodating and didn't look at me like, "Are you kidding me?" (The face I experience at a few less-wonderful non-veggie restaurants.)

Jean George: Mercer Kitchen and Spice Market

Two of my favorite restaurants that I frequent often are both JG restaurants. Mercer Kitchen in Soho at the Mercer Hotel (yes, where Russel Crowe threw the phone in the lobby.) and Spice Market in the meatpacking district.

Spice Market has an entire section of the menu devoted to vegetables, noodles, and rice dishes. And the house made ginger ale is to die for!

Mercer Kitchen has seasonal salads and plenty of veg-friendly sides like wild rice and steamed or grilled veggies. I always get one of the pizzas with no cheese. They are always amazing. has the best seasonal pineapple mojitos in NYC.

JG Dishes and Books

I did a bit of research and found this yummy recipe for Napa Salad, it's vegan and sounds divine. You can get the recipe at NYMag.com.

Here are the ingredients for the Napa Salad:

4 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
2 cups shredded carrot
2 cups shredded daikon
1 cup sliced red onion, salted and rinsed
1 cup julienned mango
1 cup chiffonade of mint
3/4 cup Jean-Georges Passion Fruit Vinaigrette*
8 sprigs cilantro

**I am very motivated to seek out Jean George's Passion Fruit Vinaigrette, which is available at from ABC Home, Citarella, Zabar's, and Balducci's. Yum.

Asian Flavors Cookbook

I own Jean Georges new cookbook called Asian Flavors. It is amazing. And it does indeed have many vegetarian recipes and ones that I can easily modify to make vegan. His craft and skill with flavor combinations is genius. And the photos almost make me want to try sushi! Not really... My husband who loves sushi and Asian flavors is in love with this book.


TOP CHEFS KNOW TO ACCOMMODATE VEGANS

In a previous post, I noted that the former Executive Chef at 21, mentioned how important it is to pay attention to Vegan diners.

JEAN GEORGES NYC

So if you are in NYC you should definitely consider visiting JG for s special dining experience.

Jean Georges
1 Central Park West
Reservations Open Table
Phone: 212.299.3900

Jean Georges Blog


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Health.com: Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants

Health.com released its list of America's top ten healthiest fast food restaurants.

There are a few rankings I agree with and a few that make me cringe.

For instance, Chipotle broke the top ten list. As I posted, there are definitely ways to make Chipotle dining incredibly healthy.

Click ahead to get the top ten and my suggestions for who they should yank.
And read who I would add to the list...

Health.com's Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food list
10. Taco Del Mar
9. Einstein Bros. Bagels
8. McDonald's
7. Atlanta Bread
6. Chipotle
5. Corner Bakery Cafe
4. Noodles and Company
3. Au Bon Pan
2. Jason's Deli
1. Panera


MY REACTIONS:

10. Taco Del Mar: Never heard of them. That being said, I researched, and they look a lot like Moe's Southwest, Wahoo's Fish Taco's or Baja Fresh. As I always say, Mexican food if done without the dangerous three C'S (cheese, chips and sour Cream) can be quite healthy.

9. Einstein Bros. Bagels: YUM! I used to be quite addicted to their low card/high protein bagel back at the Georgetown location in Wash DC. They have excellent coffee and hummus as well. I am a big fan of Einsteins.

8. McDonald's: WHAT?! Is this a joke to see if I am paying attention? Did you see Super Size Me???? The review from Health.com says: "We love: The chain’s 260- to 270-calorie Snack Wraps (choose grilled chicken) for protein without a lot of unwanted carbs.
Danger zone: Although McDonald’s made our list, this is still the land of supersizing and giant sodas. It’s up to you to request a small." The also say the apple dippers are great for kids. Have you tasted those dippers? The apples are not crisp and seem to have oxidized and antioxidants or flavor that were in the fruit to begin with!

...I really doubt anyone goes to Micky D's and simply orders a Snack Wrap and bottled water to go.

7. Atlanta Bread:
Never heard of it. But seems to be similar to Panera.
6. Chipotle: Yay Chipotle. If you make healthy choices, Chipotle can be quite healthy. The Health.com review says: "We love: Burrito Bowls, which let you skip the tortilla—and the extra carbs.
Danger zone: The dark side of a buffet is that you can go wild. So you have to go light on cheese and sour cream."
...I totally agree. Check out my eating healthy at Chipotle tips post.

5. Corner Bakery Cafe: Never been. But the website looks pretty good. I don't know if this is fast food though.

4. Noodles and Company:
An Asian-food option on the list, yay! Asian food like low fat spicy veggie soups, tofu, rice and low-fat noodles can be incredibly healthy. Just watch out for the sodium in the soy sauce! An oh yes have a big helping of wasabi for me.

3. Au Bon Pan:
I used to love Au Bon Pan, and then I found Le Pain Quotidien and Au Bon just didn't compare. But Au Bon is certainly a healthier option than say McDonald's. Avocado veggie and mustard sandwich was one of my favorites whenever I was forced to eat at a "mall" food court.

2. Jason's Deli:
Never heard of them. But portion control and organic ingredients make this place sound A-OK. Health.com says: "We love: Being able to build any sandwich on an organic whole-wheat wrap."

1. Panera: OK, I do love Panera. Healthy whole grain bread options. Vegan soups and sandwiches. Vegan salads. Yummy whole wheat crusty bread. Panera is on my good list. And may not be MY number one, but definitely in my top ten.

WHO IS MISSING?

SUBWAY: Uh, for one, Subway. Now I don't recommend eating at Subway everyday, and they certainly have their dark side. But Subway is so widely known, and so widely known for its healthy options, it seems silly to leave it off the list! Healthy choice at subway: Veggie Delight (vegan) or Veggie Patty (not vegan, contains egg), honey oat bread, no cheese, all the veggies, spicy mustard and light oil/vinegar, salt/pepper, oregano. Yum.

COSI: Cosi has a lot of healthy options. It even adds nice gourmet touches like fresh basil on their flat bread sandwiches. And whole grain flat bread is an option now. Just stay away from those Oreo frozen shake things.

LE PAIN: Le Pain Quotidien is my favorite chain. OK, it is mostly sit-down, but you can easily get a meal to go and be out in a flash. Their menu is organic and they indicate which items are vegan. Vegan salads, sandwiches and muffins are all amazing and healthy.

MOE'S SOUTHWEST: Not widely known, but Moe's is a more vegan-friendly version of Chipotle. Why? Well they have tofu as an option for a filling. And everything is done prepared in a healthy way.

LAST WORD: McDonald's should not be on that list. It is so irresponsible for Health.com to add them. Just because they add some soggy apple slices to their kids menu doesn't mean they have gone healthy. I'd like to see some research into how many Happy Meals get those apples instead of the fries anyways. McDonald's is not one of America's healthiest fast food joints. Ugh. So ridiculous.

OK, What did I miss???? I know you all have your own favorites that they forgot. Let me know in the comments section!

Links of the restaurants mentioned in this post:

Moe's Southwest
Subway
Le Pain Quotidien
Panera
Cosi
McDonald's
Au Bon Pain
Baja Fresh
Noodles and Company


Read more...

Nespresso Espresso Machines: My review

The recession is certainly not hurting Swiss Nestle-owned brand Nespresso. The New York Times reports:

"Presenting its 2008 earnings Thursday, Nestl├ę said sales of Nespresso products grew 30 percent in 2008, taking annual revenue past its goal of 2 billion Swiss francs, or $1.7 billion, two years ahead of schedule."

Wow. 30% in this economy is nothing to shrug at.

Coffee and Health: Coffee may protect women against a stroke. It has a surprisingly high antioxidant profile. One study done in 2005 showed that coffee is Americans number one source of antioxidants! There are a lot of coffee-addicts out there. So if you are going to drink, you should consider Nespresso. (Yes, I am still on my chai kick, but who knows how long that will last.)

Nespresso Trivia: Who is this Nespresso spokesman below? The answer after the jump.
george clooney nespressoClick ahead for my review of the Nespresso Romeo machine and find out what all the caffeine-high buzz is about....

Spokesman...is FYI George Clooney (in photo above).

I have personally been a Nespresso machine owner for about three years now. I first became aware of the brand when I was in Paris. There was this intimidating sleek cafe/storefront packed with people. We strolled inside to see a plethora of high end-looking espresso machines and tiny colored capsules adorning the walls, the counters, the shelves and even behind the display cases. What in the world?? It seemed to be some secret club of cappuccino connoisseurs. We had no idea it was simply a Paris Nespresso store.



Review: Nespresso Romeo Machine

Shelf-Appeal:
Nespresso branding is like the Apple of the coffee world. My goodness all the beautiful colors and creative inspiration that comes from a simple capsule of espresso. The company is ahead of its time on the design front. Cool limited edition cups and saucers to match the limited edition seasonal flavors...outstanding.



Label Check: Well we've all heard that coffee contains a significant amount of antioxidants. And coffee's benefits and negative side effects are still controversial. But if you are already a espresso lover, addict, etc, you probably don't care about the label. Nespresso coffee beans are selected from the 'finest sources in the world' according to the brand. Interestingly, "The Nespresso decaffeinated varieties are decaffeinated naturally using water. This process only eliminates the caffeine without affecting the coffee's taste."

Taste test: Here is the part you want to read. Nespresso espresso is actually quite divine. When I take the time to froth up my own milk and add capsule, a dash of cinnamon and maybe a pinch of sugar, it tastes just a delicious as most coffeehouse beverages. Now if only they would come out with a CHAI capsule, I'd really be in heaven.



Price:
The machine cost is an investment purchase. Machines cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand. Capsules are fifty-five cents a piece. In the long run, you can definitely save a lot of money if you are frequent Starbucks-er.



Last Word:
That old coffeepot in your kitchen, the one with the brown stains and acidic odor? That's the PC. A Nespresso machine? A Mac. (Yes I am a bias Mac user, but the analogy works for me!)



Images property of Nespresso.com.


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Persimmons: Simply Sweet or Super Fiber Food?

I love persimmons.

That silky shiny orange outer layer that softens into a thin tender skin as it ripens. Inside, a gooey sweet pulp turns into a succulent jelly that simply melts in your mouth.

I used to eat persimmons fresh off the tree in California. And every time I bite into one here in cold NYC, I can almost taste the California sunshine.

But as the sweet taste fades, I have to wonder- Are persimmons healthy or simply nature's tree candy?

Keep reading for the surprising reason persimmons are indeed a super food.....

Persimmons, let's look at the facts.

Persimmon Nutrition Facts
per 1 fruit, 2 1/2"
calories: 118
fat: 0 grams
fiber: 6 grams (24% RDA)
protein: 1 gram
Vitamin A: 55% RDA
Vitamin C: 21% RDA
Vitamin B6: 8% RDA
Manganese: 30% RDA

Persimmons are a great source of vitamin A, B6, C and manganese.

And...

Wow! 6 grams of fiber. That is impressive for such a tiny fruit.

Compare that to a large apple with similar calorie content:
Apple
116 calories
5 grams fiber

Are you shocked? A tiny persimmon has more fiber than a large apple.

More Fiber than Fiber One brand Yogurt

FiberOne brand yogurt boasts 20% RDA fiber in each yogurt. So clearly, you can simply eat one yummy persimmon and get more fiber than in the FiberOne Yogurt.

Yay Mother Nature.

For the Parents....
So stick a persimmon in you child's lunchbox where that apple usually goes- your child might be a bit confused, but once they bite down they will be in for a sweet super food surprise.





Read more...

Cookbook-Artbook Hybrid by Fashion's Top Designers

Craving Carolina Herrera's recipe for Pommes Toupinel or Cynthia Rowley's Mac 'n Cheese? How about Zac Posen's Butterscotch Brownies?

Look no further than the CFDA's, Council of Fashion Designers of America's cookbook. WWD reports that the book will feature over 100 recipes and food-meets-fashion sketches from top fashion designers. The designers will actually sketch their food creations. CFDA executive director, Steven Kolb says to "think of it as a hybrid-art book-cookbook."

As a passionate foodie who has a great appreciation for the creative genius that goes into a fashion designer's collection, I think this book sounds brilliant! The book will be released this September.

Where did they think up this idea? Kolb says the idea came from a "one-of-a-kind clipbook of recipes donated by designers that CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg had bought at the original Seventh On Sale."

Click ahead to find out which ex-model, all-things-lifestyle guru is writing the forward to the book.....


The forward will be written by......drum roll please.

Martha Stewart
is writing the forward, and Lisa Marsh is the book’s author, giving context to the designers’ choices “to bring these recipes to life for the reader,” Marsh said.

Do I see a Martha TV show special on this book in the near future? I think yes.

Read the full report here at WWD.


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Recipe: "Red Carpet Ready" Strawberry Upside Down Cake

I love movies. So, Oscar Sunday is my version of the Superbowl.

I always like to make something sweet and silly to snack on during the show. And popcorn is so pedestrian. This is the Oscars!

So I dreamed up this recipe for "Red Carpet Ready" Strawberry Upside Down Cake.

It's really more of a muffin-cake than a traditional 'cake'. It goes deliciously with some Poor Man's Fire Chai as an after-dinner treat.

Click forward for the recipe, photos, nutrition benefits and a red-carpet-ready dish worth checking out...


Oscar-Night Recipe: "Red Carpet Ready" Strawberry Upside Down Cake

Ingredients:
3 cups strawberries
1 banana
1 lemon (juice and zest)
1 small pear (Bosc is best)
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. canola oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup soy milk
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. sea salt
1/3 cup vegan 'dry' sweetener
4 Tbsp. maple or agave syrup
1 box vanilla or plain cake/bread mix (Simply Organics or Dr Oetker brand are great)
-or-
2 cups wheat/white flour, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar

PREP:
Wash and dry strawberries.
De-stem
Slice into thin long strips. 2-3 thin slices per berry. Try to cut slices that are very red on one side.
Wash, de-core and thinly slice pears.
Peel and very thinly slice banana - into long strips.

Add to large mixing bowl: Strawberry slices, pear slices, banana slices, 2 Tbsp. agave or maple syrup, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, pinch of salt, 1 Tbsp. canola oil. Toss gently.



Assembly of Pan:
Use a large cake pan or casserole sized pan.
Grease with canola oil or use wax paper.
Lay out a tightly packed layer of strawberries on bottom of pan. Red skin sides facing down. Cover entire bottom of pan. (Leave about 1/2 cup of berries for the batter.)
Add a loose layer of the pears atop the berries.

In a large mixing bowl:
Add all remaining ingredients: dry mix, applesauce, lemon juice, soy milk, water, canola oil and sweetener.
Mix well.
Fold in bananas, lemon zest and leftover strawberries (slice thinly).
Add a few more pinches of flour if the batter seems thinner than you'd like. Add more soy milk if you want a lighter, thinner batter.

Pour batter over berries, slowly. Smooth evenly to cover berries.

BAKE:
Bake in a 360 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until top becomes slightly browned. Stick a toothpick in the center to test done-ness. Toothpick should come out dry.

COOL:
Allow to cool on counter for one hour. Then allow to cool in fridge for another hour - at least.

When pan and cake is cooled and firm, loosen edges in pan with a butter knife.
Gently pound the top and side of pan to loosen cake. Then quickly flip over entire pan onto large serving dish. Slowly remove pan. The top will be juicy. And hopefully the cake will not stick to any of the sides.

Cut and serve.

OPTIONAL DRIZZLE FROSTING:

Ingredients:
1 cup vegan cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp soy milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 pinch salt.

MAKE:
Add all ingredients to mixing bowl. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds. Mix with hand blender or briskly with a spoon. Mix until creamy.

COOL:
Cool in fridge for a few hours. Drizzle over cake to serve.

Nutrition Benefits:
Strawberries are high in Vitamin C, manganese and folate. They are low in calories. Only 50 calories per cup. Bananas are high in potassium. Using whole wheat flour adds fiber.



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Snapple: Finally, Made From the Best Stuff on Earth?

Snapple: made from the best stuff on earth? To keep this slogan true, the Snapple brand is in need of some serious ingredient-detox, recipe renewal and brand plastic surgery.

Snapple. It's one of those brands that I used to adore. An cold bottle of Snapple Peach Iced Tea in my hand after tennis practice, and I was a happy girl. But then I began to question the ingredients, including the high amount of the controversial sweetener high fructose corn syrup. I slowly dropped the brand as a fave.

My days of Lemon Iced Tea and Snapple Apple were over.

Until now. There are a few very exciting updates that Snapple will be making to their brand and recipes.
Read more for the juicy details of the Snapple updates...


The New York Times reports:

"Snapple, once the “official beverage of New York City,” is being redesigned — inside and out — this year. The popular iced teas are losing the high-fructose corn syrup and the dated font. The bottles are becoming more svelte (to better fit into cup holders, which became a force after Snapple iced teas were originally introduced). The labels will also emphasize the green and black tea leaves used to make the drink. The changes are rolling out over the first few months of the year, and they are expected to hit New York in early March, according to Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which is now the owner of the brand."

Interestingly, the five-year, $166 million "Official beverage of NY" contract with NYC expires soon. And not set to be renewed. But who knows what will happen after the "Snapple" HFCS-detox and face-lift...

I'm excited to see and taste the new SNAPPLE.


Read more...

Mushrooms 101: Select, Serve and Savor.

Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods to cook and eat. Mushrooms are incredibly diverse in shape, size, texture, taste, smell, and even price. From the simple white button to the exotic chanterelle, mushrooms provide a chef a wide variety of options to get creative.

In the foodie world of Michelin stars and celebrity chefs who sometimes laugh at "sauce on the siders and vegans" (ahem, my favorite-Tony Bourdain) - mushrooms get respect.

I have three most memorable mushroom moments at restaurants....which I'll describe later in this post.
So click forward to get the 101 on a few mushroom varieties, mushroom photos and my top three 'mushroom moments'.
Finally figure our your shiitake's from your crimini's folks......

I'll admit it. I used to hate, despise and loathe mushrooms. Those floppy flavorless flakes on pizza? Those chewy bits of sauced gray 'ears' sitting on my dinner plate? No thanks.

But I had a mushroom epiphany, and now love the shrooms...My epiphany is my number one mushroom moment below....


My Top Three Mushroom Moments

3. La Tasca in Virginia. This was when I was first starting to embrace my mushroom cravings. At this Spanish Tapas restaurant in Clarendon Virginia, I'd order the side of Champi├▒ones al Ajillo, Mushrooms sauteed lightly in garlic and olive oil. They are whole, halved and quartered-thick cut shrooms served in a sizzling hot clay pot. Side of sangria, vegetarian paella, spicy potatoes and Pan a la Catalana and I am in tapas heaven.

2. Craft in NYC. I always giggle when I am watching Top Chef and Tom Colicchio starts berating one of the contestants about how bad their mushrooms tasted. He does this a lot if you stop and notice. Tom, in my opinion, is the king of mushrooms. Why? Well have you been to Craft restaurant in NYC? He has an entire section of the menu devoted to shrooms. Craft serves its plates 'family style' to allow diners to share the gourmet delights. And thus you can literally order five plates of mushrooms and have your own mushroom tasting. Here's what the menu currently looks like in the mushrooms section:
mushrooms
Roasted
Hen of the Woods 13.
Baby Shiitake 12.
Oyster 11.
Trompette Royale 12.
Bluefoot 13.


1.And my number one mushroom moment was when I had my "wow I really love mushrooms" epiphany. I was in Paris France for the first time and dining at Cafe De L'Homme, which has a stunning view of La Tour Eiffel. And with a limited menu for a vegan, I ordered all the veggie side dishes. I tasted the mushrooms-small marinated morsels of deliciousness, and I was hooked. Only in Paris would I try mushrooms and love them-back then anyways.

Mushroom Facts and Features

Mushrooms, aka funghi, are incredibly diverse. There are over 38,000 varieties of mushrooms. But only around 700 varieties are edible.

Mushrooms range in size, color, shape, texture and even smell. But there are a few popular varieties that any 'foodie' or chef should come to know. Here are a few of my favorites:

Mushroom Varieties:

White Button
Look: White stem and cap. Not squishy. Firm to touch. Creamy white on the inside. Thick stubby stem.
Taste: Very mellow in flavor. Soaks up flavors very well.
Prep: Wash well, remove any dirt bits.
Serving Suggestion: Best for soaking up flavors rather than providing any of its own. I love white button shrooms sliced very thin and added to garden salads. You can also marinate the slices in some citrus juice and salt (lemon, orange, lime or even grapefruit.) Delicious on pizza-the traditional pizza mushroom. Great for absorbing liquid in salads or raw dishes that you don't want to get soggy. Least expensive mushroom.

Crimini, aka baby bella
Look: Immature portabella shrooms. Dark cap, white stem. Creamy white on the inside. Smooth to touch.
Taste: Bolder, earthier in flavor than a white button, but similar consistency and vein of flavor.
Prep: Wash, clean off any dirt, dry.
Serving Suggestion: Serve thin and raw in salads, slice thickly to be sauteed or marinated. Goes well with light marinades like light vinegars or lemon to counteract its earthiness.

Chanterelle
Look: Vase-shaped. Ranges in color from bright yellow to deep burnt orange to pale cream. Deep veins and pores on body. Stem merges softly into cap. No distinction sometimes. Cauliflowerish texture.
Taste: Delicate and nutty flavor. Less earthy or woody than other mushrooms. Taste is complex and can be enjoyed in its pure state.
Prep: Clean well, remove grit, dry.
Serving Suggestion: Can be enjoyed in its own marinade of light salt, mushroom juices and a tad of sauteing oil. When adding them to a recipe-add late to avoid overcooking the mushroom-can easily become tough and rubbery. Divine complex texture is highly respected by the most discerning of chefs. Expensive shroom.
Portabella
Look: Matured version of baby bellas, criminis. Largest and heaviest of commercial mushrooms. Wide dark cap. Soft squishy and textured. Prominent ripples under the cap.
Taste: Long growth cycle gives it a deep, meaty, savory flavor. Very earthy and woody.
Prep: Wash well, remove stem for grilling and in most prep situations.
Serving Suggestion: Often the vegetarian substitute for 'burgers' on a BBQ grill day. Easy to slice thickly and marinate. Too meaty and bold to eat raw-in my opinion. Adds savory flavor to soups and stir-frys.

Shiitake
Look: Light golden brown. Outer layer looks like suede. Broad umbrella shaped cap, long spongy stem. Can be 1/2 inch to ten inches in diameter.
Taste: Meaty texture when cooked, yet milder in 'earthiness' than a portabella. Adds a woody quality to a recipe.
Prep: Clean well-scrub and grit off cap. Dr. Slice or whole cook.
Serving Suggestion: Delicious in soups and stir-frys. You can cook them whole or slice them thinly. Very easy to marinate when thinly sliced. My favorite method is to saute them in light olive oil, lemon juice salt and garlic. Then I toss the cooked shrooms in a lot of fresh black pepper.

Wood Ear, Juda's ear
Look: Floppy, no stem, like leather. Silky, shiny brownish purple on one side. Fuzzy gray on the other. Flat or ear-shaped. No cap. Grows directly on a tree log in a flat, or curled ear shape.
Taste: Generally flavorless. Used more for their unique color and texture.
Prep: Wash lightly, dry. Slice or add whole.
Serving Suggestion: Usually found in sweet and sour soup. Adds interesting color and texture to soup dishes. Be careful to not slice too thinly, as this mushroom has no real shape or body to hold and could become slimy and too thin for some palates.

French Horn
Look: Long wide stem with a small thin cap. Pale in color. Cap in grayish-brown. Smooth like a white button. Squishy and light like a shiitake.
Taste: Mellow, similar to the white button mushroom, except has an elegant fresh straw or mowed hay aroma. Chewy and rubbery if undercooked.
Prep: Easy to wash gently. Little grit. Dry.
Serving Suggestion. Cut long into thin strips and saute or add to soups and stir-frys. Goes well with bold entree dishes since it absorbs flavor and adds very mellow undertones to a dish.



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