Thursday, September 19, 2013

Product Review: Cherry Pie

Safeway has vegan pies now! So far I've seen cherry and apple. They also come in sugar-free varieties (I'm not sure what they're sweetened with). I like to warm them up and serve them with ice cream. They freeze really well, so they're great to keep on hand for when you need a treat or are having guests over. The pasty is surprisingly flakey and good. A top recommendation. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sweet Potato Fries

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of convenience. I'm taking a full load of classes at grad school this semester and I work in the psych department at UCSF three days a week. That leaves little time for cooking on weeknights, and I like to have staples ready ahead of time so I can make quick and healthy dinners. 

With that in mind, sweet potato fries are great! I buy organic, spicy cajun-style oven-bake fries from the grocery store. They cook from frozen in about 20 minutes and they can be paired with pretty much anything that you happen to have in the fridge or freezer. They are significantly more nutritious than regular fries while being lower in calories and fat. Sweet potato is a particularly good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese and fiber, and also contains significant amounts of B6 and potassium.
This evening I ate sweet potato fries with red beans that I had leftover in the freezer from a big batch that I made a couple of weeks ago. The salad consisted of two handfuls of mixed salad greens, two stalks of celery, a scallion, green seedless grapes, and Annie's Goddess Dressing. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tofu in Enchilada Sauce

I woke up with a cold! This was my first full week back at school, so I guess it was kind of inevitable. I spent all day lounging in my room trying to rest and recuperate, but decided it was important to make myself something nummy for lunch. 

I mixed one package of firm tofu with one jar of thick enchilada sauce and baked it at 350 degrees for an hour, flipping the tofu pieces halfway through. I served it with salad greens and pre-cooked seasoned brown rice with shiitakes which comes in vacuum-packed pouches from Trader Joe's. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Comfort Food

I grew up in a time and place where meat and potatoes (plug a veg if you were lucky) constituted a "proper" meal. Sometimes I still need that kind of food for its comfort and familiarity, so today I made BBQ seitan, one of my favorites. I used store-bought seitan (definitely not as good as homemade), and cooked it in the oven for 40 minutes at 350 degrees after basting it with BBQ sauce. I really like the sweet BBQ sauce, but you should use whatever you prefer. I served it with curly kale, which I sautéed in olive oil with some minced red onion, garlic, salt and a splash of red wine. The potatoes were roasted in a baking pan with plenty of olive oil and salt for 60 minutes, also at 350 degrees. I'm really looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. 

Planning Ahead

The new semester is just beginning, and I'm expecting to be very busy throughout the fall. That means that I need to optimize my nutrition to stay energized and healthy, but it also means that I'll have less time to prepare meals. I'm going to manage this by planning ahead. I've found that setting myself up for the week ahead by preparing a few batches of staple foods during the weekend really helps. Not only does it make it easy to prepare quick and healthy meals throughout the week, but it's also a relaxing way to spend a Sunday evening. 

I particularly recommend preparing a large quantity of brow rice and a batch of beans. In many places, this combination is a daily staple. Together, rice and beans provide iron and vitamin B as well as being a complete protein (meaning that they provide all 9 essential amino acids that the human body requires for growth and functioning). Together, one cup of rice mixed with one cup of beans contains 20 grams of protein, about 40% of your daily requirement (based on a diet of 2,000 calories per day). Having these staples ready streamlines dinnertime. Try some of these ideas:

  - Heat up some rice and beans and top it with your favorite hot sauce or creaming dressing. 
  - Serve beans with corn tortillas and some store-bought salsa or guacamole for a 3-minute meal. 
  - Toss rice together with some tofu, steamed veggies or seaweed.  
  - Make a cup of miso soup (or take a can of soup) and add some rice for extra body. 
  - You can even eat brown rice for breakfast. Heat it up and toss it with some fruit and agave. 

In addition to rice and beans, it's a great idea to keep prepped vegetables on hand. These can be tossed together for an easy salad, or quickly steamed or stir-fried. I find that doing this encourages me to eat more salads. Having plenty of delicious salad dressings in my fridge helps, too! I particularly like tahini-based dressings, but I also use plenty of sesame ginger sauce, French dressing and fruity vinaigrettes. 

This is the salad that I made for lunch today from vegetables that I prepped ahead of time. The only thing that I chopped at the last minute was the apple to avoid it going brown. I used a couple of handfuls of arugula, two stalks of celery, a carrot, two small beets, half a can of chickpeas, half an apple, some sunflower seeds, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, cracked black pepper.  

I eat dark chocolate almost every day. It's what I do when I don't have time to make a real dessert. This Ghirardelli dark chocolate was 2 for 1 at the grocery store, so I stocked up. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Baked Plantains

I ate a lot of plantains while I was traveling in Central America; they are an integral part of the desayuno Chapin, or traditional Guatemalan breakfast. It was one of my favorite things about eating with my host family. Typically they are friend, which is tasty but requires a rather obscene amount of oil. For this recipe, I opted for baking them which is much healthier. 

Plantains can be eaten when they are yellow and underripe, in which case they will have a starchy texture similar to a potato. If you like them softer and sweeter, buy them after the skins have started to go black. Don't be afraid to eat them, even when the skins are totally black, it's totally fine as they don't go bad like bananas. 

To make two servings you need two plantains, preferably with skins that are beginning to blacken. Peel them and lay them together on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle 1tbsp olive oil over the top, then add 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1tsp garam masala, a liberal quantity of salt, a pinch of chili and a pinch of cinnamon. Wrap them up tightly in the foil and bake them for an hour at 350 degrees. Serve with brown rice and red beans, garnish with scallions or cilantro. 

I found these cocoa dusted almonds at Walgreens, which surprised me! I went with the intention of buying a new notebook for my neuroanatomy class, but I ended up coming home with study snacks as well. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cha Ya, Chocovivo

Today I didn't have time to get busy in the kitchen, so I'm posting a couple of recent photos from some choice eateries. 

First up is the senroppen salad from Cha Ya, Berkeley's vegan Japanese restaurant. I feel lucky to live so incredibly close to this restaurant. A lot of Japanese food is sadly non-vegan due to bonito or fish-based dashi. However, the menu at Cha Ya is huge and there are lots of great items that you can choose from safe in the knowledge that everything is plant-based. I particularly like the agedashi tofu, which is the ultimate comfort food. I also recommend the stuffed eggplant, the gyoza, and any of the noodle dishes. I do not, personally, enjoy the moon garden, but I know people who are crazy about it. It's a tofu custard topped with lightly seasoned steamed vegetables. It seems to be one of those love/hate dishes. Below is a picture of the senroppen salad. It's advertised as an appetizer, but the serving is really generous so you could have it as a main or share it with a friend. I was impressed by how fresh and light it was. The vegetables were deliciously crisp and consisted mostly of daikon and some other stuff that I couldn't identify. There was some edamame thrown on top and the dressing was a rice wine vinaigrette. 

I meant to post this picture ages ago! It's of a chocolate tasting that I did at Chocovivo in Culver City with my buddy. Thanks for introducing me to this place, Kedar! Unfortunately, I lost the slip of paper that described all of the varieties of chocolate that I tasted. It's kind of irrelevant, though, since they were all extremely good. I addition to the chocolate tasting, I also had a 72% European-style thick hot chocolate brewed with fresh homemade hazelnut milk. This place makes their own vegan nut milks which earns them some serious vegan street cred! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Vegan Mofo Begins

Vegan Mofo is upon us; a month of vegan blogging launched by Isa Chandra Moscowitz at Post Punk Kitchen. The goal is to blog at least 20 times during the month of September. Due to my vacation in New York I was a little tardy getting started, so I have some catching up to do. 

You can check out Vegan Mofo here (, and see Charlie's Kitchen on the BlogRoll. 

I'm going to continue posting menu suggestions for most meals, plus recipes. That's the goal, anyway. I'm starting back at grad school today, and the semester looks set to get pretty busy. If there's a time crunch, I might have to choose homework over blogging, but my goal is to manage both if I can.


- fluffy pancake with strawberries and slivered almonds* (for recipe see post from 19th August)

- salad of arugula, chick peas, beets, celery, figs, red onion, meyer lemon mustard vinaigrette
- rustic bread

- apricot and blueberry thumbprint cookies from Vegetarian Times

- green bell pepper stuffed with brown rice and soyrizo*, coleslaw*, red beans
- nectarine

I can't believe how easy these stuffed bell peppers were! Not very photogenic, perhaps, but easy and hearty. To make them, take leftover brown rice and mix it with soyrizo (about half and half). Slice the tops off the peppers, scoop out the seeds, stuff them with plenty of filling, and replace the top as a "lid" to help maintain moisture. Cook in a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve hot or cold.

I'm really into vegan mayo right now, hence the creamy coleslaw. I'm making up for years of lost mayo consumption because until about a week ago I was laboring under the mistaken belief that vegan mayo is gross. Isa Chandra Moscowitz convinced me to give it another try, so I did, and to my pleasant surprise it was actually delicious. Although, perhaps it's just been so long since I had real mayo that I've forgotten what it's supposed to taste like. Anyhow, I'm loving it. Isa says that you have to be careful which brand you buy, because some of them are not as good as others. I don't know about that. All I know is that I bought the only type that they had at Safeway (Reduced Fat Vegenaise by Follow Your Heart) and it's good. To make the coleslaw I used the shredding attachment on my CuisinArt to grate 3 carrots, 1/3 of a large green cabbage, and 1/3 of a red onion. Then I stirred in liberal quantities of mayo (I didn't count, but it was probably somewhere in the region of 6 tablespoons. Makes about 6 servings. 

Thanks to friends Gloria and Wendy for their gift of today's salad dressing; a delightful lemony vinaigrette from Tea Here Now. Highly recommended.