Tuesday, May 31, 2011

for the Animals sanctuary

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit for the Animals sanctuary for the first time.  

I'd received this flyer about their Summer Shindig and passed it along to a friend; we made a plan to meet for a day of fun and animals for us and her family- including small children. 

The sanctuary is located in just the type of setting you'd expect it to be: slightly off the beaten path and marked only with this old-fashioned sign.

There were folks directing the street/grass parking and then you made your way onto the grounds.  The atmosphere was extremely casual, so much so that in our beeline towards the animals, it was very easy to miss the "donation" tent that appeared from a distance to only consist of informational flyers, etc.   With no signs posted, even when we approached the protocol was a bit confusing.  We ultimately initiated a conversation regarding admission, and the response was hesitant and awkward; I'm still not sure why.  Luckily my friend remembered the admission amounts from the flyer, so we were able to donate and move on.

Onto the animals!  The sanctuary was one of the cleanest I've been to, so it was especially a pleasure to be able to walk around without the fear of every step landing in something unsavory.   All of the goats, chickens, cows and pigs are in the same basic area of the farm, so there is a lot to see all at once.

The goats were particularly well-behaved, sauntering towards people when they were ready for pets and wandering away when they were bored with us.

There were lots of children present, some showing their vegan pride (Herbivore & Vegan Treats t-shirts represented!), and some obviously new to a sanctuary setting.  During the tour, I was disappointed that the dry descriptions of the previous treatment of the now rescued animals included such graphic detail.  Given the proportion of children to adults, it was a bit harsh.

But there's nothing like excited, squealing pigs to lighten the mood.

My well-read 3-year old companion dubbed these two Wilbur & Fern
one of the finest looking pigs I've ever seen
After meeting all of the animals, we decided to have a seat on the grass to enjoy the other festivities advertised as part of the event.  It was a beautiful day and the music was just the right accompaniment, with many kids dancing with unabashed appreciation.  Unfortunately, the face-painting and games were no where to be found and all of the volunteers we asked seemed as perplexed by their absence as we were.

A bit later one of the little ones in my group decided she wanted to revisit a goat that had (unintentionally) frightened her when we'd first arrived.  When, with two volunteers looking on, we let ourselves back into the animal section, one of the owners took it upon himself to interrupt his tour in order to admonish me for opening the gate the wrong way.  I went through as quickly as possible, and then had trouble closing it.  He interrupted himself again to point out that was another reason I had opened it the wrong way.  Really?  I mean, really?  If the gate operation requires such explicit instruction, perhaps there should be a sign?  Or help offered?  Or a gate master?  I was more annoyed than anything else; an animal sanctuary shouldn't support the myth that "animal people" don't care about humans by being unnecessarily rude to them.

In any event, the pre-departure re-visit to Henry was a good one.

I wish the sanctuary much success.  The kinks I've mentioned are absolutely minor when compared to the responsibility of caring for the animals, but in order to gain a following of donors it helps to make them feel welcome.

photo bomb

The animals more than did their part; it's up to the humans.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kicky Cucumber Lemonade

Looking for a refreshing, summer libation? Look no further!

I'm not much of a drinker, but if it's fruity & hardly tastes like alcohol: I'm in.  I was recently at a (non-vegan) event where there was nothing for me to eat.  However, there was a drink that made me not care.  Familiar yet unusual, it was yummy and refreshing.

The bartender skirted around giving me the recipe, so I was forced to figure it out on my own.  Now that I have, I’m sharing with the world! you.

Kicky Cucumber Lemonade
serves 4*

1 large cucumber: peeled, quartered and seeded
32oz lemonade
4 shots Vodka
lots of ice

Puree cucumber, add lemonade & vodka, pour over ice.
If you want to get all fancy you can add a cucumber slice as a garnish to each glass.

* If it's a party for one, simply quarter the recipe and use your Magic Bullet.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Alternative Vegan's Banana Bread

After I bought Appetite for Reduction without realizing it was lacking a dessert section, I was chagrined to find that another recent cookbook purchase- Alternative Vegan, the reprint of which I'd been stalking on Amazon for over a year, also had no discernible sweets chapter either!  What's a girl to do?  Make the closest thing she can find: banana bread (p.86), obviously.

You might not think of banana bread as dessert, but in my house we do it up right with chocolate chips.

As it turned out, there was only one, minute banana in the house & the recipe calls for 3 medium.  So, I quartered the recipe and made the smallest cake possible, baking it for 24 minutes at 375.

normal size stove, bite-size cake
The main difference between this bread cake and other recipes like it is that there is no liquid ingredient, making for a very thick batter (use a fork).  Also, it calls for peanut butter.  Any recipe that calls for peanut butter is okay in my book.

The banana cake was a huge hit and a mere memory within minutes of having cooled.  And now that I've conquered an Alternative Vegan dessert I'm anxious to try some of the other enticing recipes.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Restaurant So Bad It Shall Not Be Named

I recently spent an incredibly rad veg-end with some incredibly rad peeps.  We had an awesome day that started with Sprig and Vine, continued with a trip to Vegan Treats, and included lots of other non-eating (!?) fun in between. 

Unfortunately, the last stop on our tour of the suburbs was an abysmal experience at a vegetarian Indian restaurant- despite it having come highly recommended from an extremely well-respected, vegan source. This was one of those times that seemed to confirm that these experiences seem to disproportionately happen to me than to the rest of the world.  Oh yeah, and to those in the unenviable position of being with me

The decor of the restaurant was unexpected: kind of cafeteria chic...without the chic.  The lighting was totally bizarre; while it inexplicably made for nicely lit photos, in person the reverse blacklight effect made the colors of our clothes appear distorted and gave me an instant headache.  To be fair, that also could have been caused by the unattended children that were playing maniacally with the noisy vertical blinds directly behind my seat.  But the place was packed; we figured all of those people couldn't be wrong.

We were directed toward a table with partially filled plastic pitchers of water and no table settings.  Four menus were thrown at our party of five adults with the barely audible warning, "Descriptions are in the menu", which we took as, "Don't ask any questions."  The menus were odd, to say the least.  Laminated and spiral bound, not all of us had the same version.  To make matters more confusing, some whole pages were covered with a label reading, "coming soon" that was practically worn off with age (we did ask; these things were still unavailable).

When we asked for cups, a stack was tossed onto the edge of our table.  Napkins?  A fistful thrown.  Silverware?  Deposited in a pile.  So it was no surprise that when we asked which items could be made without ghee, the waitress literally ran away.  Granted it was only about a ten foot distance to speak to the man who had seated us, but it was quite off-putting.  We watched them speak to each other with considerable animation, but then he returned to our table stone-faced and ready to take our order as if he knew nothing of our request.  When it was repeated, he indicated that the only ghee-less option was dosa; this was not at all what we had been told by other vegan patrons.  Why would we have traveled to this venerable strip mall for dosa when we can get vegan dosa anywhere?  He was particularly short with the friend seated closest to him and, were we not a full table of (believe it or not) still hungry vegans, I definitely would have left on principle.  But we were hungry for Indian food and there on a glowing recommendation, so we stayed.  We again made our request clear and he too took unceremonious leave of our table. 

When a third waitperson finally appeared we had all given up and just ordered dosas all around.  She sweetly asked why and, defeated, we explained that we were vegans who could not eat ghee.  She rattled off a number of other items that supposedly could be made without it, but we amended our orders only slightly- not willing, at this point, to take her at her word.

The food came out practically immediately.  My friend's appetizer (served seconds before her dosa) was tasty, but I have a hard time believing it didn't contain ghee; they were obviously pre-made- which is fine, but one must always assume the pre-made default is ghee.  Additionally, it was extremely spicy when she specifically confirmed that it wouldn't be.

The masala dosas were generic in size, with the absolute least amount of potato filling I've ever encountered (and I've had some crappy dosas).  We surmised that the kitchen had enough filling for one dosa and instead spread it out so that each order contained a forkful worth.  Besides being minimal in quantity, the "filling" was unsettlingly white, with no discernible Indian spice whatsoever. 

Front to back:

  • The red chutney was pleasant enough, but the cool temperature was unusual.
  • The coconut chutney was super-sweet, almost as though they had accidentally ordered sweetened shreds instead of the customary unsweetened.
  • We didn't trust the other white sauce to be vegan so no one tried it.
  • I will say that the sambar was the most only delicious part of the meal.
My order of the chana batura was a mild, unappealing looking chickpea stew served with deep-fried dough literally dripping with oil.  The stew was decent at best, the bread only tolerable. 

Underneath the bread was a thick slice of white onion; anyone have any idea why??

Unfortunately (or fortunately: depending on how you look at it), one person at our table never received his dinner.  I suppose that in the same way they only had enough filling for one of the masala dosas, they had none for the vegetable dosa he ordered.  So, it would seem that their tactic was to just simply ignore him.  Eventually, one of our group physically got up from the table in order to seek out a restaurant staff member and let them know that we were one dinner short.  The response was a mumble about there being some sort of issue in the kitchen, but no one ever attempted to correct the situation; instead, our table was avoided like the plague.  When a friend went up to the register to say that we were done eating and that the final meal had never arrived, the answer was, "Okay, so you want the check?" 

Actually, what we all wanted was just to go home and forget this "meal" had ever happened.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sweet & Sara Marshmallow-Stuffed Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

I was on auto-pilot when I was making the chocolate almond cookies for Mother's day, and I accidentally made icing intead of ganache.  I didn't want it to go to waste, so since I still had some marshmallows left over from Passover (see, I do have willpower), I decided to make some sort of marshmallow stuffed "Mounds" type of cupcake. 

This recipe from the Humane Society was my general inspiration, but I didn't follow it; instead, I used your basic chocolate cupcake recipe from VCTOTW.  I used the large-sized, mini cupcake cups that just sit independently on the baking sheet; to give you an idea of the size, they are slightly too big to act as liners in a mini cupcake pan.  Also, these cups kind of expand as you fill them.  I poured the batter to the halfway point, then plopped in a piece of marshmallow (about 1/3*) and pressed it down.

Then I spooned just enough batter over each one to cover the marshie.

Once cooled, I warmed up my refrigerated icing: adding a bit more soy milk and vanilla.  And, what do you know?  The icing ultimately wound up quite ganachey, which was fine; I don't really like frosting anyway.  But, I'm not at all sure how this happened.  Nonetheless, I'm happy to chalk it up to "magic" (as I do with most math and science). 

Once iced, I was afraid that the chocolate on chocolate cupcakes looked too blah.  A neighbor who apparently doesn't know me very well was recently kind enough to have gifted me a Harry & David basket; since I don't do pears and apples, I thought it was fitting to utilize the almonds that were also included to garnish my extraordinarily sweet cupcake.  So, I chopped 'em up for sprinkling and the contrast (and crunch) wound up making all the difference; my "Mounds" had become "Almond Joy".

These were most impressive to look at, but- more importantly, they were totally scrumptious to eat.  However, in an effort to achieve maximum marshmallow madness, I'd recommend making regulation sized cupcakes with a whole marshmallow inside.  The marshmallows deserve it and so do you.

* When cut, the vanilla marshmallows get very sticky and hard to control so you'll have to eat most every one that sticks to your fingers, but the toasted coconut are very obliging.

Monday, May 16, 2011

NYC Veggie Pride Parade 4: Best Yet

As a witty friend was quick to point out, it did rain on our parade; but that did not damper the success of the the 4th (!) NYC Veggie Pride!

And, remember the official "Where's VM?" tally of last year's Veggie Pride Parade?  None needed this year, because she decided to show her (over two year) veggie pride by walking with us!

All seemed quiet at the parade start-point, but it was only because most were keeping dry under the scaffolding.

Once we lined up and got started, the group really showed itself to be quite the crowd.

The turnout was great and I think this was the most festive and well-rounded parade I've participated in.  Not only was there marching, but also drumming, dancing, and chanting. 

There was no shortage of on-lookers and parade participants were seamlessly breaking their stride in order to hand out literature to all who showed an interest in our cause.  The signs were great, but I, personally, was advertising showing my love for The Cinnamon Snail.

We had the pleasure of walking in support of Veggie Conquest.

Per usual, New York's finest kept us safe and in line.

And all too soon we were at the parade's end: the event's beginning at Union Square Park.

Jessica of Veggie Conquest and Veggie Prom fame (a supreme, vegan master in her own right), took time out to pose with Honey LaBronx.

Showing some mainstream support to the event, Sabra was giving away samples of hummus and pita chips, along with lots of interaction and friendliness.  It was right about here that I finally had the pleasure of meeting the venerable Doris Lin and her family: live and in person.  If you haven't already, check out her fabulous blog.

Gone Pie was sampling her goodies at the Friends of Animals table.

V-Spot was once again the most popular place to be with their generous and seemingly never-ending supply of delicious empanadas with salsa.

3 flavors to choose from!
To give you an idea of how good these empanadas are, this is the empanada line.  Correction: this is part of the empanada line.

Yes; they are that good.

After checking out some of the other tables at the event: Mercy For Animals, Catskill Farm Animal Sanctuary, and Loving Hut (tip: they have really nice pens), we headed over to Zen Palate for some lunch.

Pinot Grigio & cranberry iced tea:

Scallion pancakes that we were assured were vegan:

 Zen burger with yam fries:

 Sweet & Sour Sensation:

The food was good and the staff was very nice, but we did not stay for dessert; a trip to Lula's was in order.  Bonus: a new but familiar face behind the counter!

We all anxiously dug into our ice cream, so forgive the half-eaten cones: 1 rocky road wafer cone and 2 drumstick sugar cones.

All in all, it was a most successful parade and event; looking forward to #5.

Friday, May 13, 2011

2 Lunches at Sprig & Vine

Sprig & Vine is a little off the beaten path for me, but it's the kind of place that I go out of my way for.  It's also the type of place that when you go once, you wind up wanting to return soon and often.  Whether it be to revisit something you loved and didn't get enough of, try something enticing that you didn't get a chance to order, or share the great place with friends- there's no shortage of excuses reasons to make your way to Sprig & Vine.

Sprig & Vine is everything a restaurant should be: attractive, peaceful, clean.  Their food is outstanding and VM & I love when Jackie is there because besides being friendly and efficient, she always remembers that I we have an unnatural affinity for ketchup (and Sprig & Vine uses fancy ketchup; I suspect they might make it themselves) and that we like straws.

We started out with an order of their kennebec potato fries with grain mustard aioli (and ketchup thanks to Jackie!); these are outstanding and not available during brunch, so be forewarned.  This might have been the best order of these shoestring fries we've ever had here, and that's saying alot.  The fries were pleasantly seasoned and it was hard to choose a favorite accompaniment...so we used both.

As lovers of spicy food, we ordered the horseradish hummus with olive oil, dill, and rainbow carrots.  We were initially disappointed that it didn't come with pita by default, but the carrots were great- not to mention awfully attractive.  For all you wimps out there, note that it wasn't very spicy; order with abandon.

For lunch VM chose a previous favorite, the edamame falafel wrap with black sesame tahini and pickled vegetables on a whole wheat tortilla; it was as delicious as she remembered.

However, once she got a look at my spicy Vietnamese cauliflower banh mi with carrot, cilantro, mint, jalapeno and lemongrass aioli on a baguette, she couldn't help but to suggest a half/half sandwich swap.

I've never had banh mi before and I cannot believe what I've been missing; the tastes, textures, and flavors were extraordinary.  We knew immediately that this was our new favorite sandwich at Sprig & Vine.

Okay; there may have been dessert too.

Only a few days later I had the opportunity to revisit with friends and we started off the meal by sharing some appetizers.  The edamame falafel with black sesame tahini and pickled radish was delicious and beautifully presented; everyone at the table loved it.

The sauteed fresh green garbanzos in the pod with sea salt appetizer was utter craziness.  Similar to edamame, but crispy and with garbanzos!  They were a little messy to eat; I, in particular, couldn't quite get the hang of shelling these gracefully, but they were very tasty.  If you want to try something different and don't mind looking a little messy amongst friends, definitely give these a try.

We also had an opportunity to try an item that isn't on the menu (yet?): pulled mushrooms on housemade tortillas with a spicy aioli.  Hearty and texturally different from anything I've eaten as a vegan, these were gobbled up by everyone at the table, even those that normally eschew mushrooms.  Non-vegans would never believe this rich dish is meat-free.

For lunch, it did occur to me to order the banh mi again, but I couldn't resist the deep pumpernickel bread of the caraway-crusted tempeh reuben with thousand island, pickles, and sauerkraut.  It was the star of the table, with three of five ordering this epic offering.

When I relayed my meal to VM days later, she blurted out, "We are going back there for more of that cauliflower sandwich.  And fries."  So see you very soon, Sprig & Vine.