Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fall Approaches

Hey all. How did we go from 91 and humid, talking Jungle climate, to 73 and rainy. It can't be fall yet, we only had a month of summer! Oh well, I can handle the fall. I'm kinda itching to break out the canned pumpkin to add to smoothies, cookies, pancakes, and oatmeal. Except I forgot to buy some during my green market, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's shopping extravaganza this morning. Not that I could have possibly carried another thing, with four bags my body still aches from my 6 block waddle (most of them long avenues) from the bus to my apartment.

I had my first taste of pumpkin at the beginning of the week when Amanda and I went to Josie's East. The restaurant boast natural and organic goods, and caters to vegetarians as well as meat eaters. Sitting down to the meal, they offer a selection of fresh baked breads along with a spread (on this day it was pumpkin based). Amanda and I both selected the multi-grain.

For dinner we both also selected the Roasted Asian Marinated Organic Tofu Salad with
baby spinach, roasted vegetables, chickpeas, avocado & balsamic vinaigrette. When the dish was first brought to the table, I found the tofu far from eye pleasing. It appeared that they took a block of tofu, drained it and gave half to me and the other to Amanda. Not to completely dismiss the tofu I took a bite and was pleasantly surprised. It was very juicy and full of flavor and did accompany the abundance of roasted vegetables. In the end I was more than satisfied, but the presentation could use some work. Between the east and west locations, Josie's West is the better option with greater vegetarian options as well.

To end the week we went downtown for a bit of raw dining at Andelina's Vegetarian Restaurant. Amanda noticed the restaurant while walking around Irving Pl and her interest peaked when she noticed the availability of affordable raw food.

To whet our appetite they brought raw crackers.
Amanda had the sunburger, a raw veggie burger with avocado, lettuce and tomato on a round flat bread.
I ordered a slice of the Pomodoro pizza (marinated tomatoes).
Amanda trying to take a complete bite of the huge burger.

In the end neither of use were able to finish our meals. For me the crust was too intense. Perhaps after a few more raw food adventures I could process all the veggie pulp and flax seed that went into it; however, with a movie in the works after dinner I wasn't trying to test my digestive system.

Last thing for today, check out this giveaway from Miss PBJ and this one for Nature's Path cereals


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

A couple of weekends ago, I went back to Philadelphia for a family BBQ. My aunt introduced me to Morningstar's Spicy Black Bean burgers and I fell in love! While not the best veggie burger I have ever had, it was by far the best boxed version I have come across. Over the last few weeks I have looked in Whole Foods and a few Food Emporiums but have yet to come across the product. Reading over the ingredients in the burgers, I saw TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) was the first ingredient, followed by black beans. Well I've had a bag of TVP in my cabinet for a couple of months now and figured I would have a go at making my own version of the burgers.

On my way to Whole Foods to pick up some ingredients for the burgers I came across one of the most beautiful summer skies. I felt like such a tourist pulling out my camera, but I really wanted to share (raindrops and all)!
Note these are vegetarian as are Morningstar variety, but the egg white could easily be substituted.

For the recipe I used:
-1/4 c TVP
-1/4 hot water
-15.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
-1/2 onions ( I used yellow here, but in the future I think I would do a nice mix of yellow, red, and green)
-1/2 c frozen corn (fresh works as well)
-1/2 green pepper
-an egg white
-1/2 c bread crumbs (I ended up using wheat crackers)
-1/2 tsp cayanne pepper
-dash red pepper flakes
-1 tsp chili powder

Because it is a dehydrated product, TVP needs to be reconstituted in hot water for about ten minutes:
Meanwhile, I mashed the beans with my potato masher, and finely chopped the onion and pepper and added them to the beans along with the corn, cilantro, and garlic.

After chopping the peppers and onions, I didn't feel like being bothered by the garlic so I actually pulled out my garlic press, which I rarely use. After quickly getting some minced garlic, I remember why I don't like the press, it gets a little messy to clean.

How do you prefer to to cut your garlic? or other vegetables? Do you have any cool gadgets to make the job easier?

After adding the veggies, I removed the excess water from the TVP with a towel and added it to the mix along with the egg white, seasonings and ground crackers/bread crumbs.

I then formed the mix into patties, placed them into the refrigerator for 15 minutes and baked at 350 for 30 minutes, flipping patties halfway through cooking time.

In the end I was quite pleased. While Morningstar might still have me beat, I came pretty close.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cooking Tempeh: A Photo Essay

People always ask vegans where they get their protein. Most don't realize that there's actually a vast number of choices for vegans -- from meat analogs, like Boca burgers and soy dogs, to beans and legumes to traditional soy foods, such as tofu and tempeh. As for tofu -- normally, I hate it; occasionally, I like it. Tempeh, however, blew my mind (and my tastebuds) the first time I tried it and it has remained one of my favorite "high-protein" food ever since.

Tempeh is made by culturing and fermenting soybeans in a process similar to making cheese. This fermentation process causes the soybeans to bind together into a "cake." Since it contains whole soybeans, tempeh is higher in protein, fiber, and vitamins than tofu. I find tempeh to be easier to work with in recipes than tofu because it holds its form very well.

After a few tempeh cooking mishaps at home, I gave up trying to cook it myself and only ordered it at restaurants. Thanks to Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, I finally learned how to cook my own tempeh on par with my favorite restaurant fare. So here's a post chronicling the steps to delicious tempeh!

1. You can't go wrong starting with an amazing marinade recipe -- today I made the Smoky Grilled Tempeh, which I took from Veganomicon. I used LightLife brand garden veggie tempeh, since it's easy to find in my area.

2. I begin by cutting the into 8 equal pieces. First, I cut the block in half width-wise, then cut each half into half again, length-wise, and finally, I cut each piece through the center. I don't think the exact way you cut it is important, as long as you cut it into smaller slices than can be easily marinated.

3. After bringing a pot of water to a boil, I add my tempeh slices and lower the heat to allow the tempeh to simmer for about 10 minutes. This step is important because it removes the strong taste of the tempeh and prepares it to soak up whatever marinade you choose to use.

4. Veganomicon's Smoky marinade includes liquid smoke, veggie broth, garlic, maple syrup (I used agave nectar), and soy sauce (I used Bragg's Liquid Aminos). I drained the tempeh and arrangeed the slices in a single layer in a baking dish and covered them with the marinade. You can marinate for as little as an hour, but I prefer to marinate them for 7-8 hours, covered in the refrigerator.

5. You can cook the tempeh any way you want -- grilling, pan-frying, broiling, baking, etc. I tried to brown mine in a toaster oven, but when that didn't seem to work, I switched to a non-stick pan over high-heat. Your basically just heating the tempeh through for about 5 or so minutes. I ate my tempeh crumbled over a bowl of millet, brussels sprouts, and fresh corn. Delicious!!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wine Party

Last October Amanda suggested that the females of our graduate program and year have a monthly wine party in order to improve our wine pairing abilities and try some of the varieties of wines available. Some themes have worked better than others. I think two of the most successful themes involved chocolate pairings and cheese pairings. In the end, whether the wine is bitter, berrylike, full, meaty, or chewy (I don't think I've had a chewy wine but it describes a high total tannic component of a wine); we enjoy the opportunity to try new things and see each other. As we continue into the program and beocme consumed with experiments, it's nice to know that at least once a month everyone makes an effort ot attend.

This month's theme was sangria, and last night could not have been a better night to sip on the fruity drink. While still hot and humid, the sun was setting, and while enjoying my drink I don't even think I realized that the day had been another scorcher.

We had 5 blends to sample from, including two red wine based, a rose, a white, and a strawberry. Pictured here is the rose to the left which included strawberries, orange slices, and brandy. To the right is Amanda's white which included sliced peaches:

Below, my glass as I sampled the rose sangria:

My sangria which included red wine, 1/4 c of rum, apple, orange, and lemon slices, and seltzer water because it was very strong without:

Last thing, for a chance to enter the Food Should Taste Good Giveaway click here.

Have a great day!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Last SummerStage Concert for 2009

This past Sunday was a scorching hot day with highs in the low 90's in Manhattan. I'll admit, I wasn't looking forward to spending 5+ hours in the afternoon sun, but it seemed a fair price to pay to see Dinosaur Jr. free of charge. The crowd this time was definitely different from that at The Pretenders show last week. There were lots of ponytails and tattoos on men and women alike. Everyone seemed excited for the show and packed the field despite the heat.  As with previous shows, there was an art tent with psychedelically bright paintings.  There was something about these iridescent green lips, in particular, that caught my attention.

The show opened with Saviors, a heavy metal band out of California. I wasn't able to get any pictures, but there wasn't anything too original about this band. The second act was The Walkmen, an indie-rock band from NYC. They played mostly new music, saying they'd be recording these new songs this week. It was good, but once again, nothing original and nothing I'd pay to see.

Dinosaur Jr. came on around 5:45pm with the sun still blazing away, which made taking pictures a bit difficult. Dinosaur Jr. formed in 1984 and is a band that many consider to be one of the grandfathers of alternative rock. 

I was somewhat disappointed that J Mascis wasn't wearing those gigantic, 1980's style glasses, but I thoroughly enjoyed their set and even managed to get some dancing in -- which for me, only happens when I truly love the music.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Time for some eats

Our first joint post! We had a great time together the last few days with a free concert, dinner at two of our favorite NYC restaurants, and a trip to Cold Spring, NY (which we now know is different from Cold Spring Harbor, NY).

First up was a trip to S'Nice in Manhattan for dinner before the last free Hudson RiverRocks concert with Amazing Baby and Yeasayer, both Brooklyn-based bands. S'Nice specializes in vegan/vegetarian sandwiches and salads and always a delicious-looking display of vegan cupcakes! We both really like the atmosphere and food at S'Nice's Park Slope location and agreed that while the food was just as good at the Manhattan restaurant, the atmosphere is much less inviting. Nicole ordered the vegan panini:

Amanda ordered the smoked tempeh wrap, it was filled with avocado, fresh greens, and a very spicy dressing:

We had a short walk from S'Nice to the Hudson riverfront to get to Pier 54 for the Yeasayer concert. The pier was very narrow, which is what we're blaming the poor sound quality on, though the entire show seemed to be very low-budget. Regardless, it was great to see some local bands for free, and Yeasayer never disappoints with their unique blend of musical styles and rich vocals. Once we realized we'd never get front row spots, we couldn't decide whether it was better to stand as close as possible, engulfed in the crowd, or move to the back and enjoy the music and the space. After a long day at work, we opted for a spot in the back, making picture-taking much more of a challenge.

We spent our Saturday in Cold Spring, NY, about a 70-80 minute train ride upstate from Manhattan. We weren't quite sure what to expect from Cold Spring, but found a quaint town with small stores, coffee houses and restaurants lining the Main st.

The town was surrounded with incredible views and full of beautiful and fragrant flower gardens.
After a few hours of walking around, window shopping, and discovering a few hiking trails it was time to leave small town, USA and head back to the hustle and bustle of the city.

It also meant a trip to Candle 79 for appetizers and wine. We arrived at the restaurant and were quickly seated by the hostess. Amanda started her meal off with a glass of California chardonnay and Nicole had a glass of Australian sparkling rose.

Next up was the chef's signature dish(the chef always provides a small tasting his signature of the day), a chickpea salad tossed in a horseradish dressing:

Amanda could not wait to dig into the dish and was munching away while Nicole snapped a few photos.

When the waitress returned Amanda ordered the Guacamole Timbale. The timbale had a base of black beans and caramelized onions layered with tomato and cucumber salsa and guacamole and topped with thin strips of tortilla chips. Overall, the dish was a great blend of flavors -- nothing too exciting but well presented and satisfying!

Nicole ordered the polenta fries served with a chipotle ketchup and the nightly soup. The fries were nice and crispy on the outside, but warm and soft in the inside. They never let down and definitely a must try!

The nightly soup consisted of a roasted pepper base with bits of zuchinni, corn, and navy beans. The flavors came together nicely and made a nice accompaniment with the polenta fries.

All in all a very satisfying evening. The food came out in record timing and the staff was nothing but pleasant.

Up next: Amanda's last Summerstage concert of the summer

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Central Park Summerstage: Juliette Lewis, Cat Power, and The Pretenders

My first post! Just a quick intro - I'm the other author of soundZtastee. I've been slacking in my posting, but I'm finally here! Now on to the post!
I've been volunteering at Summerstage in NYC's Central Park this summer in an attempt to see as many free shows as possible this summer. Of the many things that amaze
me about NYC is the incredible amount of free co
ncerts that take place during the summer throughout the city. This summer I got to see Josh Ritter, Matisyahu, and M. Ward, to name a few. I'll have another Summerstage post this weekend...The Walkmen and Dinosaur Jr., but I don't want to get ahead of myself. I was lucky enough to work at the Summerstage show from August 10th, which was Juliette Lewis, Cat Power, and The Pretenders. This show was a benefit concert, and had a door ticket price of $65!

Much to my surprise, The Pretenders asked that no meat product be sold at that night's concert! People were able to try sample of a new vegan burger, though, unfortunately I didn't get a chance to try one. It was somewhat comical watching people as they tasted it -- I'm always amazed at how afraid some people are of plant-based food. A vegan, myself, I was quite happy that all of the food was vegetarian for the night, and I enjoyed a roasted portabello mushroom sandwich.

The night's music started with Juliette Lewis, an actress turned singer. I wasn't impressed and neither were the people around me. One guy described them as "a good bar band." And to fill in the blank, bar bands are really only enjoyed when drunk. Anyways, what Juliette lacked in talent she made up for in her sparkly, superhero-inspired get-up.

Cat Power came on next, and although, I like listening to their music, it just didn't pan out live. I think they're probably best suited to small, intimate venues so I'd give them another chance.

The headliner, The Pretenders, came on after the sun had set, giving the stage an "indoor" feel.  Chrissie Hyde proved to be a true rock-and-roller and got the crowd up off their feet, dancing and singing along.  I was working in the bleachers (which is why these pictures were taken so far from the action), and I couldn't help but wonder if the bleachers might give out under the weight of so many people rocking out to the music.  

Overall, I'm glad I got musical "schooling" that a group of fans told me I needed.  The Pretenders were good -- $65 good? -- not for me, but for their diehard fans, it seemed to be.

Monday, August 10, 2009

APW Day 3

Day 3=late start

We headed out a bit later on this day since the 1st acts did not go on until after 1. Thankfully we did because it was raining pretty heavy when we left and they didn't open the gates until 4 pm!

This also meant that bands didn't begin until 5pm, and they left the schedule as printed so the evening began with Silversun Pickups...The Gasslight Anthem fans were pretty annoyed (they were suppose to go on at 3:45). I wasn't too upset since the first band I was interested in was Silversun. However, the rain delay somehow caused Akron/Family to go on late, I guess, because when I moved to the Bullet stage at 5:50 to see We Are Scientist, Akron/Family were still playing. To keep on schedule We Are Scientist only ended up playing for 30ish minutes. I love this band and given their lack of performances this last year, I was super excited and was left somewhat dissatisfied(due to their shortened time not them...still love them).

Muddy mess on Day 3

Silversun PickupsAkon/Family
Ok, I love this giraffe. I first saw it at the Cool Kids performances on Day 2, this guy kept sticking up the giaint cutout so it would appear on the side screens. The gimmick worked because the Cool Kids mentioned it during their performance and it turns out the guy is from Ohio and sells t-shirts featuring the Ferious giraffe. Only thing is now I want a t-shirt but don't know where to get one!
We Are Scientist


Black Keys drummer playing into the night
MGMT performance, not the perfect picture but I think it was appropriate for the atmosphere

After MGMT I ran over to the main stage to meet up with Anna and Sarah and to see Coldplay's finale and encore

All in all what a great weekend! Heard some amazing music, had a great time dancing (even when in the rain), and met some fun people. Fingers crossed that there will be an APW3!