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NFNS Auditions. Hit 'n Run Bikes. And lessons Learned.

I take a 24 hour blog break, and all heck breaks loose! Nothing life-changing, but memorable and disturbing, yes. And in the end, I have a few lessons learned to share with all of you. There are four parts to my tale:

Part One: Hit 'n Run Bike Attack in SoHo.
Part Two: Shang and Slaw.
Part Three: NFNS Auditions at CBS Studios.
Part Four: Bryant Park and Iced Chamomile Tea.

This is a must-read blog entry-if you like a good "in the life of Kathy" story. And bonus! It just might make your Friday seem beyond-awesome compared to mine!...

Part One. Hit 'n Run in SoHo.

I recall hearing about the View host,Elisabeth hasselbeck's encounter with a NYC biker a few months back. A speeding biker hit her and he kept peddling onward. She was pregnant at the time. Talk about an awful situation. Public service announcement cliche coming up: I never thought it would happen to me! But really, bike hits on city streets are no joke. There I was at the end of a long day of busy errands in SoHo, I stepped from the curb to cross Houston street when all the sudden a speeding bike came zooming at me (he blew the light and the 'car' traffic symbols) he swerved, but his bike handlebar went plowing into my left wrist. His bike swayed a bit, but he was going so fast he just kept zooming on! No stopping. Not even a simple "Are you OK?" Jerk. Sorry, but really. If you don't stop when you hit someone, you are in my opinion-a jerk.

This was almost as bad as the time a woman plowed her Trader Joe's shopping cart right into the back of my ankle, breaking the skin. I had blood dripping down my leg and a wound that took two weeks to heal. And it hurt. She also said a quick 'sorry' and ran away. Maybe I am just accident prone, but I don't think so. The bike hit was just as painful, but luckily didn't break the skin-or bones! I immediately got a big swollen red lump on my arm. Still hurts today. Boo.
Lesson Learned: If you drive a bike in NYC please watch for pedestrians. And if you do hit someone, at least stop and ask if they are OK. It's the nice thing to do. Pedestrians-beware of bikers, sometimes they blow the light.

Part Two. Shang Restaurant.

Part two of my story is fabulous. Despite the freak accident earlier in the day, I had plans to go out to the new restaurant in the Thompson LES Hotel: Shang. All over the media, I had seen this photo of their Singapore Slaw salad that looked divine. (image shown from Shang website) I had to order it. It comes out about 1 1/2 feet tall-piled high with slawed carrots, daikon, cabbage, exotic nuts, ginger, and many more greens and veggies-all doused in a delicious salted plum dressing. All vegan. I triple checked from the waitress and kitchen staff. The waiter tosses the dressing into the salad at your table. Probably so you don't go making a mes of the tall slaw tower. It was heavenly. The menu says it is made for 2-3 people, but I could've eaten just that for my entire meal! So good. I also got a side of jasmine rice and the huge veggie dumplings. Everything there was fab. Go go go if you are in the city and want good Chinese food. It's better than Tao or Buddha Bar, in my opinion.
Lesson Learned: Even when smacked in the wrist by a bike, good vegan food, wonderful company and a glass of champagne heals all!

Part Three. NFNS Auditions.

So this was supposed to be the happy highlight of my Friday. Nope. I had been planning on attending the New York open casting call for The Next Food Network Star reality TV show for about a month now. I'd love to be the first vegan on-air FN star. And I love the Food Network in general, so I was excited to make an impression. I'm blogging this season of the reality show, which ends with the finale this Sunday. Unfortunately, this was the worst audition experience I have ever had. The auditions were scheduled from 10am-4pm. I finally arrived at CBS studios at around 11am. Long line by that time. I was a little late because I got caught in two total downpours on the way to the line. Forgot my umbrella. My True Religion jeans and light silk flowered shirt were soaked. Not good. Note that I hadn't eaten of drank anything in about 13 hours now. I didn't have time for breakfast and I didn't bring anything to eat or drink. Really dumb of me since I am usually very prepared with snacks wherever I go. Also dumb because I am one of those people who has to eat every few hours or I start going nuts. Low blood sugar does not go well with my body-or mind. I felt like Bobby Flay in episode 6, I wanted to scream "People would be tackeling people for a shrimp!" Well, no shrimp for me, but a vegan muffin-God yes! 1 PM. I had been standing in the long line for about two hours now. The sun picked up by now, so it was hot!

Finally my group of ten people got moved into the air-conditioned inside of CBS. However when we got to the holding room the floor and chairs were packed with people. This was not going to be a quick audition. This was going to be a while. Totally famished and dehydrated, I plopped myself on the floor. My number was 215. They just called 140. And they were bringing in about ten people every half hour-at the least. Yup. That meant I had at least 3 more hours on the floor. No food. Luckily I had two dollar bills and got a pineapple-peach-mango Dole juice from a vending machine. Not a coconut water, but it tasted like liquid gold at the time. It helped-a little. The sheet we all received upon entering the building said: "you many be here five minutes, you may be here five hours" Five more hours?! This next food network star has to eat!!! There were a few smart auditioners who brought full picnic spreads of food, gallons of water, books, computers and other goodies. Why oh why didn't I bring snacks?!

So there I was sitting cross-legged on the floor amongst chefs and foodies all making culinary small talk. Most were friendly, very nice. But there was this one guy sitting right across from me who talked non-stop. Normally I don't mind energetic super talkers, but some of his brash comments really peeved me. He started bashing The Neely's (FN star husband wife couple who host Down Home with the Neely's) for having a 'fake relationship'. I started to get queasy. It was going on 2:30 pm now. I hadn't eaten and barely drank anything in about 17 hours. My blood sugar was in the gutter. I estimated 3 more hours until my number was called. Four hours until I get out of there and eat something. I couldn't do it. I had to leave. So I did. This next Food Network star will be sending in her application-online.
Lesson Learned: When auditioning at an Open Call session, always bring lots of liquids, snacks and books. And come with friends, or a favorite-music-loaded ipod to put you in a zen happy place.

Part Four. Bryant Park.

Finally getting out of the room made me feel immediately better. Even though I was definitely famished. One lesson I already knew was to respect my body and listen to it. It told me to go get food before you lose it. I hopped in a cab. He got lost. I got out. I then chose to walk in the boiling sun a few blocks to my destination. I eventually made it to my sanctuary in the city: Bryant Park. Calm green cafe tables surrounded by luscious green ivy and trees. I ordered a chamomile tea and vegan blueberry muffin from Le Pain Quotidian across the street and lounged in the park, trying to revive myself. And honestly, as bad as I felt leaving the audition, I knew I did the right thing. I knew I messed up by not bringing snacks. As I sat in Bryant park dabbing the sweat from my forehead and chugging my icy cold tea, I felt-OK. I got home, took a shower and zenned out for a while by flopping on my bed and perusing the foodie blogosphere. I read this blog entry by Tony Bourdain that made me feel a little better. Yeah, he is beyond mean to Sandra Lee, but I agree her kwanza Cake recipe segment is devastating to watch. I just love Tony because his his over dramatization of the Julie and Julia premiere event made me feel a lot less over dramatic about my past days drama. A little blog reading always chills me out. I hope it does for you too. :)
Lesson Learned: Always listen to your body. Always.


So that's my crazy past 24 hours. I hope that my online application can still get the Food Network producers attention-however I know there is always next season when I can bring lots and lots of vegan snacks to the audition hall.

Onto the weekend,
hope yours (and mine) turns out to be fabulously. We deserve it!...

Here's more Bryant Park pics to zen you out...



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Kidrobot: Yummy Breakfast. Foodie Art that's Super Cute.

Filed under "Happy".
Take a fun break! Kidrobot style. I insist. What is Kidrobot you ask? NYC shoppers know Kidrobot as that store in SoHo packed with crazed kids, teens, parents, tourists and locals-all clamoring for creative, whimsical and edgy art, toys and apparel. As a self-confessed foodie with an obsession with anthropomorphizing foods, exhibit A: my Lunchbox Bunch brand, I fell in love with the "Yummy Breakfast" line of characters, designed by Heidi Kenney. How cute are these little guys?! I call mine (shown above): happy soy milk, sad banana and vegan cinna-bun. Yup. But why did it take me two years of walking right past the Kidrobot store to finally step inside and peruse? Well...

What is Kidrobot? If you've never heard of Kidrobot, you've obviously never gone holiday shopping in SoHo, NYC before, the line runs out the door and around the corner. Clueless tourists and passers-by whisper, "what is THAT store?" There are a few line-out-the-door stores in SoHo. The Ugg store, the Apple store and Kidrobot. The word madhouse would be too mild.

My Visit to Kidrobot.
Last December I finally went inside Kidrobot for about two seconds. I felt like I was at a "free pizza" party after a Little League game. The store was packed with kids and parents clamoring for the latest and greatest Kidrobot products. It's kinda tricky to peruse in that kind of environment. So I darted out of the store, glad I was still in one piece! Luckily, a few weeks ago I decided to re-enter the store on a calm weekday afternoon. What fun! I fell in love with the "Yummy Breakfast" line of character key chains and needed to share them with you. Kidrobot has a lot planned, so get in the know before it goes mainstream...

Kidrobot has some very cool artists working for them. And since I can certainly relate to wacky and creative characters, aka my brand The Lunchbox Bunch, I really fell in love with the oddball creativity at Kidrobot. True, at first-look Kidrobot products are just a lot of toys and pop art images. But really, Kidrobot "stuff" is designed by genius modern artists at their best!

Yummy Breakfast.
This line of characters is designed by Heidi Kenney. She is awesome. Her website My Paper Crane shows how creative her brain is. So many awesome and adorable products. I love the crying burnt toast.

Kidrobot facts:

*The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) acquired 13 Kidrobot toys in late 2007, which are now part of the museum’s collection. Three toys are currently on display as part of the museum’s “Just In: Recent Acquisitions from the Collection” installation.

*In 2009 Kidrobot and Paramount Pictures announced that they were working on a major feature film involving Kidrobot characters, executive produced by Paul Budnitz. The film is slated for release in 2011.

*Kidrobot operates store-galleries in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. And new store: Dallas!

*Kidrobot was founded by designer Paul Budnitz in 2002. Talk about fast business success!

*The new and cooler version of "Beanie Babies" and collectible comic books? Sort've. Many Kidrobot toys are extremely rare and collectible and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Toy artists often choose to create a series of only a few hundred or a few thousand pieces, so once a toy is sold out, it's sold out forever. Kidrobot toys retail from $6 to $20,000, and may appreciate in value over time.

*Many of the toys are bought without you knowing which character you will be getting! It's luck of the draw. For Yummy breakfast I didn't know if I'd get a banana, egg, milk or strawberry! I like the bruised crying sad banana I got. He's very rare! 1 in 50 boxes as opposed to 1 in 25. The boxes tell you the odds of getting each character.

So check it out if you are in the mood for some art, fun and silliness.

Kidrobot Online.

Other products I love:
the Supersized Ronald McDonald figurine. Quite intriguing. I had to buy a key chain of it. It makes quite the societal statement. Also the crazy Tofu-head characters...you can see them both in the background of the image below...





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Mean Green Edamame Soy Burger. With Spicy Slaw!

Confession, I'm bored with black bean veggie burgers. And tofu burgers don't really excite my palate. How do I get a veggie burger that combines the healthy protein and nutrients of soy with the moist tender texture of a bean burger? With a furrowed brow I head into the kitchen to solve my bean burger dilemma. In a quicker then expected time my recipe came together. The result: my Mean Green Edamame Soy Burgers with a Spicy Slaw. Delicious! Thick green soy bean and fried rice burgers are moist and full of Asian flavor. Add some spicy-sweet crunchy slaw and I am in veggie burger heaven. Who says a vegan burger can't be over-the-top fantastic? Click ahead for the full burger recipe and make all your friends green with envy...


Mean and Green. This healthy soy burger combines a healthy edamame rice burger with a zesty spicy slaw salad. Add in a few tangy marinated heirloom tomatoes and a dab of Dijon and your burger is served! Don't forget the thick slice of red onion. You can use any type of bun you'd like. This burger is hearty enough for a grill or perfect for a stove-top saute pan. It only takes a few minutes to brown on both sides. This is a must try for all the greenies, veggies, vegans and edamame lovers out there. Take these patties to your next BBQ party and all your carnivore friends will be green with envy!!!

Edamame patty before cooking:


Spicy Slaw in Burger:


Heirloom Tomatoes:


Mean Green Edamame Soy Burger
Makes 3 burgers

Burger:
1 cups cooked edamame beans
1 cup Asian fried rice/veggies, cooked
*Brand option: Trader Joe's 'Fried' Vegetable Rice-frozen section.
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
1 Tbsp agave syrup
2 Tbsp orange juice
1 cup sesame rice crackers
*brand option: Trader Joe's Savory Mini Thins

Tomatoes:
1 cup mini or full size green and purple heirloom tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp dry white wine
pinch of pepper

Spicy Slaw:
2 cups shredded white cabbage
2 Tbsp Vegenaise
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
2 Tbsp agave syrup
1/2 medium orange, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp cashews, roasted/salted

Additional:
olive oil for brushing
handful of Italian flat parsley
3 white or wheat burger buns
3 thick circle slices red onion
3 tsp spicy Dijon mustard
3 tsp Vegenaise
3 slices vegan Monterey Jack cheese
*I like Follow Your Heart brand

Directions:
Cook edamame soy beans.
Cook rice/veggies.
*steam in microwave or use dutch oven on stove top.
In a large mixing bowl, toss edamame, rice, 1 tsp lemon pepper.
Let marinate while you prep tomatoes.
Slice mini tomatoes in half-or large tomatoes into slices.
Toss tomatoes in a bowl with olive oil, vinegar, wine and pepper.
Let tomatoes sit.
Now prepare the slaw by combining all slaw ingredients in a bowl. Toss well. Cool in fridge until needed.
To make the burgers, first drain rice/bean mixture of excess soy sauce/liquid.
Pour drained bean/rice mixture into food processor.
Add mustard powder, agave syrup and orange juice.
Blend on high until smooth and thick.
Transfer mixture to large bowl.
Add sesame rice crackers to food processor (no need to wash the container of burger residue)
Blend into fine crumbs.
Fold rice cracker crumbs into burger mixture.
Using hands, form into 3 burger sized patties.
optional: chill in fridge for ten minutes.
Cook burger for 1-2 minutes on each side in an olive-oil greased pan or grill.
Add cheese slice and allow to melt over low heat for an additional minute.
Cheese melt tip: Add an ice cube to the pan or grill-cover and allow ice steam to melt cheese.
Warm oil-brushed buns in toaster or over hot grill.
Next, assemble burgers.
Layer:
Bottom layer burger-spread on 1 tsp vegenaise.
Add a pinch of flat Italian parsley, chopped.
Add onion slice.
Add 2-3 Tbsp spicy slaw.
Add burger with cheese.
Place mini tomatoes (or tomato slice) on top of cheese. Spread 1 tsp Dijon mustard on top bun. Place top bun on tomatoes.
Secure with a mini-tomato-stuck bamboo skewer.

Wrap in foil to serve later, or serve now!
Slice in half.

Enjoy!

Serve with spicy sweet potato fries for maximum meal bliss.







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Toasty Chicks 'n Cashews: Spicy Sweet. Snackable!

I was craving a snack. Something to munch. Something with protein. Fiber. A little spice. A little sweet. Something dense. Something savory. Flimsy chips or plain nuts would be easy to grab, but so bor-ing. I want a simple, healthy-hearty snack. Something fast. Easy. Satisfying. Hmmm. Beans. Nuts. Those sound good. Nutrient dense. But still boring. Toasty, spicy, sweet. Yum. Ingredient makeover? Yes! So, I crept into the kitchen, grabbed some cashews, poured some canned garbanzo beans into a hot pan and started adding spices, flavors and other yummy things. The result: Toasty Chicks and Cashews. Good cold, delicious toasty hot. Spicy, sweet and totally snackable! Here's the 5 minute recipe...

Toasty Chicks and Cashews
makes about 3 cups

1 can organic garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup salted cashews
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili pepper
1/2 tsp onion or garlic powder
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp agave syrup
2 Tbsp olive oil
optional: 1 tbsp lemon juice for moister chickpeas with a zesty flavor.
optional: 1/2 tsp liquid smoke for a smokier flavor.
*I basically did a mix-match of spices. I loved the flavor that came out, but if you want to modify it a bit I'm sure it will be just as tasty and healthy!

Directions:
1) Drain beans very well.
2) In a skillet, add 1 Tbsp oil and turn heat on high.
3) Add half the portion of beans and coat well in oil.
4) Allow beans to toast to brown. Toss a bit and let toast again.
5) Add in additional oil and beans. Toss well.
6) Shake pan and toast outside of beans a bit more.
7) When the beans have some nice brown edges, add in the remaining ingredients (except the cashews)-add the agave first. Toss well. Then add in all the spices.
8) Toss well-coating the beans evenly with spices.
9) Reduce heat to med-high and allow to cook through. A little more browning is a good thing. When the beans look just about done-and have absorbed all the liquid, add in the cashews. Toss cashews with beans-they should soak up any remnant spices and moisture.
10) Brown the beans and cashews as much as you'd like. However, if the beans start getting mushy-you know they are done. Try to pull them from the heat before the much occurs though.
11) Let cool slightly before serving. Serve over salads or on their own.







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Food Menus for Special Diets: Five Hot Features.

One of my passions as a blogger and vegan foodie, is to create an increased awareness about special diets in the culinary world. More specifically: on restaurant menus. Special diets can include folks who are vegan, vegetarian, diabetic, gluten free, kosher, or people on low fat, low calorie or low sodium diets. Food allergies, also terribly important. The first step when evaluating a new restaurant is the look at the menu. But for a person with a special diet, this process can either be heavenly or hellish. Living in NYC, I see a lot of menus. A lot. So I've become an expert at scanning and deciding whether or not a restaurant is going to be a special diets success. And I have a few tips for you. The five hot features I look for are: Symbols, Sections, Verifications, Glossary and Hidden Gems. I'll elaborate on these terms ahead, and give you a few examples of what I think are innovative and successful special diet menus. Read on to get menu-educated....


Five Hot Special Diet Menu Features. There are five types of menu features that I really get excited about. Symbols, Sections, Verifications, Glossary and Hidden Gems. Let me elaborate...

Symbols. First, when I see a restaurant taking the time to put a special symbol on their menu representing items that are low-fat, low-calorie, vegan, dairy-free or vegetarian. A perfect example of this is the little carrot that Le Pain Quotidian puts next to all its vegan menu items. Listen up menu designers: A simple (v) on the menu is a great way to indicate whether or not items are vegetarian or vegan-just be sure to specify what the symbols stand for!


Sections. This is when a menu designates a bit of its precious space, aka menu real estate, to a special diets section. This section may show low-cal items, vegetarian options, live/raw items, low sodium options or even gluten free items. Hosting a special section-no matter what cuisine you are serving allows customers to see right away that you are thinking of everyone. It's the same idea as when family restaurants have "kids menu" sections. The customers can know: "Oh, awesome-I can bring my vegetarian friend here because I see a vegetarian section!" Without special sections, diners are forced to modify and double check just about everything they order. More time for the waiters. I hate when I am forced to order the Chicken Salad with "no chicken!" An example of a restaurant with a great special section is Caravan of Dreams. For the raw diet diners, they put all their live/raw menu items in separate sections from the cooked items. Another special section can be found at Craft NYC. Though I am still harping on Craft to get a vegan entree or pasta on their menu, they have effectively arranged all the veggie, mushroom and grain dishes in separate sections-so you can easily create a fabulous tasting menu of veggies, mushrooms and potatoes-like I did on my last visit.


Verifications. The next menu feature that really charges a grin on my face is the restaurant that goes out of its way to inform customers of its dietary standards, nutritional features or cuisine policies. What a fabulous feature when a restaurant prints right on the menu, in full sentences, the features and assurances about certain menu items. Examples: *does not contain dairy or *contains 19 grams of vegan protein. On Jamba Juice's online menu you can group they menu items by special diet and in the menu item description it will tell you facts about that item. The Protein Berry smoothie says: packed with 20 grams of protein. And since it's in the vegan menu items section online-you are assured that it is vegan. Real Food Daily in Los Angeles, states on its menu: "Our orange juice is freshly squeezed every 24 hours." I love that. Full disclosure makes for a happy customer.

Glossary. I love when I open a menu and I see a nice big glossary along the edges or back of the menu. Sure it may not look as clean and sleek, but diners love to learn! And if someone doesn't know what wasabi, tempeh, seitan, agave or spelt flour are-they can quickly find out! Josie's in NYC has an awesome glossary on its menu. Another great glossary is on the Angelika Kitchen menu, also in NYC.

Hidden Gems. I love when a menu that is clearly devoted to carnivores and 'everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" eaters, has at least one or two options that are clearly special diet friendly. It lets me know that this restaurant is thinking outside the mainstream. My favorite example is at Cafeteria in Chelsea nyc, a restaurant with fried chicken, mac n cheese, burgers and fries all over its menu. But it also has the silent gem: the Vegan veggie burger. Not only is it 100% vegan (as stated directly on the menu) but it is fabulous. And you can even sub out your greasy fries for a mixed greens salad. Another hidden gem is at Crif Dogs nyc. Not your typical hot dog joint-since they serve what many say is the best veggie dog in the city. And lastly, even Starbucks-is has a few hidden gems. They now serve a gluten free pastry. And were one of the first big coffee shops to embrace dairy free beverages. However, I'm still waiting on the the blended soy frappachino or chai I crave.

A note about this list below: I tried to not only include typical healthy menus, but also menus that have features for a variety of special diets. This is just a very small sample of some notable menus.

My Special Diet Friendly Menu Awards.

Best All-Around Menu: Babycakes NYC.
Why: Yes, Babycakes builds its branding around catering to special diets, thus is why they get the all around best award. Babycakes is in my opinion the most special diet aware joint in the city. Not only does their menu discuss the issue of food allergies and special diets, but their staff does as well. If you order an item containing spelt, the cashier will actually confirm with you to make sure that you don't have spelt allergies. If you order a frosted cupcake item, the cashier will remind you that the frosting should be kept refrigerated. Written menu and spoken word assurances. Rare, but amazing.

Best All-Around Runner-Up: Josie's West, NYC
Why: I chose Josie's because it is a restaurant that is not vegan-but vegan friendly. They serve meat and fish. Josie's is a place that you can take just about anyone for a delicious healthy meal. They are branded as organic and dairy-free. Family-friendly. They have a vegetarian friendly section on the menu. They also have a glossary. And if you ask the staff, they will easily tell you what is what on the menu.

Notable Mention Menus
1. Counter. Newly designed menu has a "vegan" section on the brunch menu. Also indicates "raw" items on the dinner menu. Easy to read.
2. GoBo. Glossary and informed staff.
3. Spring Street Natural. Has a (v) indicating vegan menu items-which there are a lot of.
4. Le Pain Quotidian. Has a carrot symbol indicating vegan menu items.
5. Craft NYC. Has menu grouped by type of foods. Sections.
6. Teany. Has a (v) for vegan options.
7. Jamba Juice. Online menu allows you to sort menu items by "special diets"
8. Angelika Kitchen. Awesome glossary. Awesome.
9. The Pump Energy Food. Sections galore. Even has a guilt-free section with low-sodium ingredient options.
10. California Pizza Kitchen. Though the menu isn't very special diet friendy, the website is. They have an allergen info pdf and a vegan friendly pdf. Maybe with some nagging their menu will be more vegan friendly-I mean they are called California Pizza Kitchen.
11. Cheesecake Factory. Not a vegan friendly menu design. But for the 'weight management' special diets, they have a whole section. I really wish CF would make a vegan menu items section-since they only have a vegetarian items list on their FAQ'S web page. Long way to go, but at least they have begun to improve options.
12. Whole Foods Market Fresh Foods. Has a nice vegan symbol on all vegan prepared food items. Ingredients plainly listed.
13. Mexican Mentions. I have to give a few Mex restaurants shout-outs. Mexican restaurants are usually pretty easy to predict when it comes to menu items. Rice, beans, tortillas, guac, salsa, ect. But I have to applaud California Tortilla and Chipotle for making both the allergens info and nutritional info easy to access. Their online sites have a lot of menu info. Yay. And San Loco has a star next to all vegetarian menu items. Baja Fresh has nutritional info online, but them actual menu has no indicators. And Qdoba is awesome in terms of full disclosure. All allergen and nutritional info is made available.
14. Native Foods. One of my fave California Vegan themed restaurants takes the time (and space, on its menu to remind customers that everything is dairy-free-even the mayo!
15. Trader Joe's. Not a menu, but awesome online special diet pdf's for their grocery items. On-product indicators with symbols are also top-notch.

*This was a short list with a few good examples. If you have any favorite menus-let me know!





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Veggie Conquest NYC: I'm a Judge. Tickets on Sale!

I was thrilled when long time vegan and superstar event coordinator Jessica Mahady approached me to be a judge for challenge #1 of her vegan cooking competition: Veggie Conquest. Challenge #1 takes place Aug. 22, 2009 in Chelsea, NYC. Tickets for both chefs and tasters, are available now. Whether you are a vegan chef, foodie or just love the thrill of competition, this event promises to be loads of fun! It's like Iron Chef for vegans-since a 'secret ingredient' will be revealed a week before the event! Too much fun.

Judges Panel.
My fellow judges include the brilliant food stylist, Brian Preston-Campbell and self-declared "hotshot and jack-of-all-trades" Joshua Kutcher. Veggie Conquest is a must-be-there event for all NYC area foodies. I hope to see you guys there. Click ahead for more event details and links...

Veggie Conquest Event Details:

Veggie Conquest
is a monthly vegan cooking competition. Chefs prepare (at their home) a dish based on a secret ingredient for each event.

Judges and tasters at the event choose the top dish, prizes are awarded and everyone chows down and has a great time!

You can come to the events as a chef or a taster. You choose your role when you buy your ticket.

No matter which role you choose, you’ll get an e-mail from Veggie Conquest a week before the event, revealing the secret ingredient and course to be made (appetizer, entree, or dessert). It will also be posted on our blog and Twitter.

Veggie Conquest Website

Buy Tickets
$5-$10 for chefs and tasters

Follow @VeggieConquest on twitter and be the first to know the secret ingredient!!
http://twitter.com/veggieconquest

Veggie Conquest on Facebook.

About Jessica Mahady, event coordinator and founder, and contact info.

Judges info pages:
Kathy Patalsky
Brian Preston-Campbell
Joshua Kutcher



...And don't forget my own vegan cook-off resume including winning the "best disguise of tofu" award at the Tofu Takedown, hosted by Matt Timms, last spring in NYC...Tofu Takedown post here.




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Next Food Network Star Week Eight Review.

On last night's, week eight episode of The Next Food Network Star, the contestants were still at the Eden Roc in Miami! Lucky ducks. Here is my episode review. Find out why I disagree with one of the judges, and why I think $15 is insulting...

Foodie Elite. Wow. What an amazing cast of chefs to cook for. Morimoto, Sunny Anderson, Bobby Flay, The Neely's, Rick Bayless, Emeril, Tyler Florence and more. Talk about nerves! The contestants had $1K to shop with. So why oh why did Jeffrey only spend $317? Why oh why? Grab some $100 olive oil, some aged balsamic, aged cheese (since they all eat it on the show), a trio of the $30/lb mushrooms. Heck, I would've made a huge gourmet mushroom dish-maybe a few white truffles shaved on top. That $317 really bothered me. That's like taking Obama to McDonald's for your one time lunch. OK, so that was a little harsh. Bad example. But I just wish Jeffrey would've pulled off a better meal since he beat out Debbie. Oh, and if you did the math, the contestants had $50 to spend on each VIP guest. But Jeffrey spent only just over $15 on each guest-for three courses. Ahhh! Morimoto (and the other VIP's) deserve more than a $5 course. Insulting. OK, I've vented. Now onto my other issue...

Judges Words. On the show blog, judge Bob (who I love) keeps calling Jeffrey the zen-master. I don't see it. He sweats a lot. He gets that nervous look on his face and freaks me out-as a viewer. I think Bob is correct when he calls him vanilla, unsurprising. I don't really see the excitement in what he might do next. Awesome insight. I just don't think Jeffrey is that Zen. Melissa has greater moments of "ZEN" than Jeffrey. OK, can you tell yet who I indeed think and want to win!

Last word: GO MELISSA! Wow, what an awesome lady. Sweet and can be, but with a backbone that bites-in a good way. When she started talking about her mom who committed suicide I was shocked! How can someone be so bright and sunny and have gone through something like that? It just emphasizes the strength and determination in her character to succeed and to bring light into her world and those around her. Melissa will win. Yes she will.

Oh, and did you know that casting for the next show has begun?! Check it out on the foodnetwork.com. And yes, the July 31st NYC casting will be on my list this week. Trying to bring a vegan face to the Food Network! Or at least to the audition room...

Please sign my petition for more 'special diets' programming on Food Network. Such as raw, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, organic, diabetic, low-fat, sugar-free, local, low sodium and more.... 79 signatures so far. Sign it here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/food-network-special-diets-show

Watch it: Sunday nights on The Food Network.




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MarieBelle NYC Summer Sorbetto Bar: Plum! Banana!

The much-hyped summer-season-only sorbetto and gelato bar at MarieBelle's NYC was on my must-do list for summertime. Luckily, my husband and I just happen to be in SoHo on a really hot Saturday, and we stopped by MarieBelle's. I had planned on quickly running in and out of the store-just to pick up a gift for a friend. But that irresistible MarieBelle sorbet, packed into shiny silver tins, was calling my name. My taste buds shouted: "must taste (and blog) the fruit sorbet!" Click ahead for my review of the plum and banana sorbetto flavors...


Real Fruit Flavors. In my opinion, the best sorbet is the kind that actually tastes like the fruit it is flavored with. When peach sorbet tastes like biting into a juicy peach and when coconut sorbet tastes like freshly shaved tropical coconut. So did my banana and plum flavors live up to my high sorbet standards?



NYC Sorbet. I must admit New York City has a lot of delicious sorbet. There is IL Laboratorio on the lower East Side. Then there is Ciao Bella in Nolita. Both within walking distance of each other if you want to go sorbet-bar hopping. Both delicious. And also in walking distance-just down the street and around the corner from Ciao Bella is Public restaurant with their 6 sorbet dessert. It is indeed my favorite sorbet dessert in the city. Six tiny containers are filled to the brim with different flavors and colors of sorbet. Heavenly.

But what about MarieBelle sorbet?

My Review: Marie Belle Sorbet (and Gelato) Bar
*I review the plum and banana sorbet

Shelf-Appeal: Well MarieBelle's is simply beautiful on the inside. A quaint little cocoa bar in the back serving up hot and cold highest of quality tea, coffee and cocoa. Then the Tiffany blue trimmed store that makes you feel like you are in Paris. And the gelato/sorbet bar is also adorable. Right in front, the frozen treats are kept in shiny silver pots with elegant labels. There are three granite counter bar stools inside and a lovely bench outside. Oh, and the sorbet didn't look so bad either-little flecks of fruit in each spoonful. Bella!

Label Check: I hate this part when there is no nutrition labeling. But to me, it tasted like a fruit smoothie in calories/sugar wise. Not too sweet-at all! Totally light and delicious. And full of real seasonal fruit. I'm not too worried about that small size I had. My guess: 200 calories in a small. Fat free.

Taste Test: Divine! The banana flavor was cool and creamy and tasted like biting into a creamy frozen banana. It was the perfect compliment to my favorites flavor: plum! I have fond childhood memories of eating plums off the tree in my Cali home. So this fresh plum flavor sent me back. It truly tasted like biting into a plum-only frostier. It was all about the fruit in this sorbet-awesome. Yum. Delicious.

Price Check: Two small sizes was about ten bucks. But for this high quality summertime treat-it was worth it. I want to go back at least once before summer ends.

Last Word: I hope they have the lychee flavor next time-I'm dying to try it. Maybe I'll have to keep going back until they do-what a tough job.. :)

Gelato Side Note: My husband had the Cardamon dark chocolate flavor. He loved it. A little messy, but that's all part of the fun!







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Breakfast Melon. Have your Bowl and Eat it too.


..sometimes you don't even need to take the time to chop you melon! Here's how..

It's dawn. A gold sun is creeps up towards a hazy blue sky. It's Saturday. You yawn. You're parched. You're blissfully groggy. You are still in your pajamas and would like to stay that way for a while. Good. Something to eat. Tired eyes don't focus well on stoves. Toasters do that overly-energetic pop-up thing. And a hot cup of caffeine might wake you too soon from your relaxed, half-awake state. What to do?



A bowl. You need a big cozy bowl. And a spoon. And something in the bowl to eat. And maybe a warm robe, fuzzy socks and a cozy couch to plop on. Good. Perfect. No fork, no knife, no coffee mug or saucer. Just a bowl. You can handle that. But it's not cereal you'll be munching this time. You'll be ordering a bowl from Mother Nature's kitchen, she's indeed the best chef I know. Now you can have your healthy bowl and eat it too...



Have Your Melon Bowl and Eat it Too. There is something cozy and comforting about grabbing a big bowl, a spoon and diving in. Especially in the morning. Preferably on a weekend. Most people fill their bowl with Saturday morning cold cereal, cozy hot oatmeal, grits or cream of wheat. And on that rare occasion, some mint chocolate chip ice cream. Hey, I was a kid once too. But I didn't do that. Not me. Nope. But now as a health-driven, wellness-seeking adult, I've discovered a bowl that is strangely satisfying, healthy, hydrating and energizing. A big bowl full of melon! And the best part: no dishes required. The bowl is built in, straight from Mother Nature's kitchen cabinet.

Canary Melon. This morning I ate a big bowl (half a melon) of a Canary Melon. Named after the Canary Islands, and also ironically the color of a canary bird. It was divine. Sweet, juicy, melted in my mouth. Much better than a bowl full of O shaped oats. And the other day I had a cantaloupe bowl. And a few days before that (four in a row) I was hooked on my Papaya bowl. Not a circular bowl, but my only requirements: all you need is a spoon.

Canary Melon Facts. The Canary Melon is sweet and juicy with a hard smooth yellow rind. It has around 48-60 calories per cup of cubes. I'd estimate my melon bowl was around 90-130 calories. Most melons are good sources of Vitamin C, fiber, potassium and Vitamin A. Melons are around 90-95% water, so are incredibly hydrating. I like my melon bowls chilled in the fridge before eating.
More Melon Facts and Recipes-previous post
Papaya Bowl Recipe



Melon Nutrition. Melons (and papayas) are perfect morning eats. It is widely known that melons are one of the most quickly digestible foods. By the time they hit your stomach, they are pretty much digested. Thus, for adequate food combining, it is recommended that you eat melon's on their own-on an empty stomach. Perfect constraints for morning time. And melons are incredibly hydrating. Another factor that makes them perfect for first thing in the morning. You can always grab your cup of tea or coffee a few hours after your melon, but first thing in the morning, why not get hydrated the way Mother Nature intended. With fruit!


Other Melons.
There are so many types of melons on the market today. Just the other day in Whole Foods I counted eight different varieties available for purchase. There was Canary, Crenshaw, Watermelon, Cantaloupe and a bunch that i had never even heard of, but smelled and sounded delicious! I always tap or thunk my melons, thus the 'sounds delicious' reference.

More Melons:
Canary or Juan Melon
Cantaloupe
Casaba
Crenshaw
Charantais
Christmas
Derishi
Galia
Honeydew
Horned Melon
Musk Melon
Net Melon
Ogen Melon
Persian Melon
Russion Melon
Santa Claus
Sharlyn
Seedless Watermelon
Sweet Melon
Tree Melon/Papays
Watermelon
Wax Melon
Winter Melon
Yellow Watermelon
Xigua (shown in character drawing BELOW!, And featured in Lunchbox Alphabet, character X)









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