Johnny Cakes

It’s a snow day today. The last of the season probably. Hopefully. Maybe.

Spring is only a week away on the calendar, but so far March has been a little unkind. Today’s forecast was full of words like blizzard, snow, wintry mix, wind, and power outages, so everything around here got canceled and we got to sleep in and make a weekend breakfast on a Tuesday morning. If we’re lucky, the snow will change to rain and the power will stay on and it will just be a nice, cozy, stay-in-pajamas kind of day. If not? Well, winter will be over soon.

Breakfast today was Johnny Cakes. They’re so easy and delicious, and here in Rhode Island, they’re part of our local lore. We have an historic grist mill in South County called Kenyon’s. You can visit and watch them grind corn meal on their original 1886 granite millstones. Their corn meal is fantastic, and Kenyon’s white corn meal is used to make traditional Rhode Island Johnny Cakes. If you don’t have Kenyon’s on hand, not to worry. Use what you have. Bob’s Red Mill medium grind is another one of my favorites, and happens to be what I had on hand today. You can use one of the widely available commercial brands if you have to, but they’re not as good—they tend to be finely ground, which results in a mushier cake, and they aren’t as flavorful or healthy.

 


Ingredients

2 cups of medium grind corn meal
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Approximately 1 to 1-1/2 cups boiling water
Approximately 1/2 cup Earth Balance
Maple syrup and berries for serving

Mix corn meal, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add boiling water a little at a time, stirring with each addition. Keep adding until the cornmeal mixture won’t absorb any more. It should be closer to a cake batter consistency, not thick like a cookie dough. Let it sit for approximately 10 minutes.

Preheat a griddle to medium high.

You can make the Johnny Cakes as big or small as you like. For each Johnny Cake, drop a pat of Earth Balance onto the griddle and pour a spoonful of Johnny Cake batter over the pat. The edges should start to sizzle. Cook first side for 5–10 minutes, adjusting heat up if they’re not browning, down if they’re browning too much. When the first side is finished, lift off griddle with a spatula, put down another pat of Earth Balance and place second side down so that it starts to sizzle again. Cook the second side for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned.

Serve hot with maple syrup and berries.

Not-Quite-Spring Clean Green Smoothie

Sometimes I feel like I need a little spring cleaning for my body—an immunity boost and a day or two of detox—which for me means avoiding sugar, bread and pasta, processed food, salty snacks and beer. And drinking lots of water, eating fresh fruits and veggies, some whole grains and clean vegan proteins (lentils, beans, nuts, tofu), green smoothies, green tea, and adding things like fresh ginger, lemon, cucumber, berries and greens to as many things as possible.

Today, after a couple weeks of rain, snow, ice and cold, we’re having some welcome spring-like weather, which inspired me to concoct a clean, cool green smoothie. Smoothie recipes are more like suggestions—always open to reinterpretation or substitutions, so try this or another version with whatever you have on hand.

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 apple, peeled and cored
  • 1/2 cucumber, rinsed, not peeled
  • 2 cups fresh rinsed spinach leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 cup of ice water
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon agave nectar

Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth.

More Please Garlicky Greens 

Oh man do we love garlicky greens in this house. They’re super-nutritious, savory, spicy, and a little salty—and leftovers are a rarity. Kale or collards are my favorite greens to use. But try this with any greens you like—Swiss chard, beet greens, spinach. But if you use less-hardy greens, you will want to reduce the cooking time and reduce the amount of oil and liquid (broth, wine). Also keep in mind that greens cook down significantly, so expect to end up with a much smaller volume than you started with.

There’s nothing precise about the measurements in this recipe—increase or decrease amounts as you like. Leave out the wine, swap the veggie broth for miso, use tamari or soy sauce instead of liquid aminos…fix them the way you like them.

Serve these as a side with anything, or just cook up a ton and serve them as the main event over quinoa or another grain, or over a baked potato. However you eat them, you’ll love them!

Ingredients

  • One large bunch of greens—tough stems removed and discarded—torn or chopped into large pieces, rinsed and drained (if the leaves are a little damp, it’s good—the moisture will help them steam when they hit the pan)
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 to 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon liquid aminos
  • Salt, pepper, lemon juice or vinegar, hot sauce, nutritional yeast —whatever you’d like to add after cooking. Taste the greens before adding salt since the broth and the liquid aminos are both salty.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in large sauté pan or skillet with a lid. Add the rinsed and drained greens, and heat just until the greens begin to wilt slightly. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté, stirring constantly to prevent garlic from burning, until garlic begins to soften and become aromatic. Add white wine and sauté until wine is mostly evaporated. Add broth and sauté for a minute or so, then cover pan and reduce heat to medium low. Let simmer for 5 minutes, or until greens are tender and broth has reduced by about half. Add liquid aminos and remove from heat.

Taste before adding salt and pepper, lemon or vinegar, hot sauce, nutritional yeast, etc.

Yield varies, but one large bunch of greens usually yields 2 extra-large servings or 4 average side dish-sized servings.

Enjoying the Trip in NYC

Manhattan Skyline. Photo credit: Josh Araujo

Manhattan Skyline. Photo: Josh Araujo

Last weekend we made a little trip to the big city. Our weekend trips usually happen three or four times a year, and usually revolve around Josh’s cyclocross races, or a band we want to see, or sometimes just an irresistible hotel deal. This New York trip was sparked when Magpie Salute (former members of the Black Crowes, and friends) announced a show at the Gramercy Theatre. It was a must-see for Josh, who has been a Black Crowes fan since forever, and I’m a more-than-willing partner-in-crime for these shows. A Travelzoo deal on a hotel in the Financial District sealed the deal.

womens-march

Women’s March, Fifth Avenue, NYC. January 21, 2017

It was a fun weekend of train and subway excursions, tons of walking, a trip to the Museum of Modern Art, a rendezvous with the NYC Women’s March on Fifth Avenue (our trip started on Trump’s Inauguration Day), and sightseeing at the 9/11 Memorial, the Oculus, Trinity Church, SoHo, Mid-town, Columbus Circle, the Financial District, and Battery Park. Oh, and Magpie Salute was amazing—they sounded great.

Before I go away anywhere, I scout out vegan restaurants. But on this getaway, in spite of my pre-trip efforts, the food highlights were few and far between. We arrived in the city Friday afternoon, figuring we’d have time for dinner near the Gramercy Theatre before the show. I had carefully planned ahead and found a restaurant near the theatre—V Spot, which was billed as vegan Latin comfort food. After a long walk from the subway in the rain, we arrived at the address and found a brand new comedy club where the restaurant was supposed to be. Some fruitless Googling and more walking in the rain landed us at Chipotle and, with more than a little disappointment, we filed that meal in the best-laid-plans drawer. (BTW, I do like Chipotle—always a decent vegan option—but I admit I was hoping for something with a little more character in NYC.)

Lunch at Blossom: Rosemary chick'n sandwich with vegan pesto and avocado.

Lunch at Blossom: Rosemary chick’n sandwich with pesto and avocado.

Saturday we managed to find a vegan lunch spot—Blossom—near the Museum of Modern Art, where we spent a good part of the day. But our suburban roots were definitely showing when we Google-mapped it and circled the same block again and again. I kept looking at my phone, saying, “I don’t understand. It’s supposed to be right here.” Finally, I called and found out it was, in fact, right there. It was just underground. Right. So we walked our not-so-savvy selves down the subway station stairs to a busy underground mall. It was good fast food, worth the trouble to find. I had a yummy rosemary chick’n sandwich with avocado and vegan pesto. Josh had a barbecue jackfruit sandwich (because if there’s barbecue anything on the menu, that’s what he’s having). We ate in the middle of the mall at the edge of an adopt-a-dog event. There’s no better lunch entertainment than puppies.

On Saturday night we had dinner at Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Modern Love—Brooklyn—“swanky vegan comfort food.” It was an easy walk from the subway and when we arrived for our 9 p.m. reservation, it was bustling and friendly, casual but polished—in a vegan, hipster sort of way. Everything on the menu sounded great. I chose house-made gnocchi with pesto and vegan sausage. Josh chose barbecue tempeh (see!) with corn pudding, black-eyed peas, and collards. The beer list was short and sweet—we enjoyed the St. Feullien saison. Dessert was a classic brownie sundae. The meals were creative and delicious.

We were in SoHo Sunday morning and probably could have found a good vegan brunch or lunch. But we really wanted to spend our time there walking around, not sitting in a restaurant. So we ended up getting a quick bite at Fresh & Co., back near our hotel in the Financial District, before we caught the train home. The menu sounded promising—salads, bowls and wraps with grains, tofu, jackfruit, beans and lots of veggie toppings—but the food was disappointing—a not-so-fresh salad and a flavorless grain bowl. Fresh & Co. seemed like it was trying to be a trendy fast-casual restaurant, but the feel was more food-court-meets-7-Eleven.

Part of me felt like in New York City there was no excuse for not finding good food—good vegan food even. But New York is really big. Yes, really. And although we used all the restaurant-finding tools we could think of—Yelp, Happy Cow, Google, Google Maps—none of them worked perfectly. They all helped for sure, but none were perfect and we came up empty-handed more often than not on this trip. And breakfasts? We didn’t even try. We ate next to the hotel at Au Bon Pain and Starbucks, which both met the minimum criteria of soy or almond milk for our coffee.

My take-away from this trip is that sometimes—vegan or not—your trip can revolve around eating well, and sometimes your trip revolves around other things and you eat for sustenance. Finding something good to eat on the road is more of a challenge for us vegans than for our omnivorous friends. But there’s (almost) always something that fits the minimum vegan criteria, even if it doesn’t fit all (or any) other food goals—delicious, nutritious, organic, creative, local, served in style, etc. Sometimes the thing to do is just give up the struggle—and enjoy the trip.

Chickpea-of-the-Sea Salad

There used to be a brand of canned tuna called Chicken of the Sea. Maybe there still is. I don’t know because I don’t eat tuna any more. But sometimes I miss tuna salad. I always loved it. I don’t really think it was the tuna I loved. I didn’t like it plain. I liked all the flavors that were in the salad. So here’s a totally satisfying, hearty, fresh-tasting, protein-packed vegan take on tuna salad.  Easy. Healthy. Totally versatile—add more of what you like, less of what you don’t like. Change the seasonings or the add-ins. It’s delicious and a great filling for sandwiches or wraps, a topping for crackers or chips, or an addition to a tossed salad. Or just eat it as is.

Ingredients

1 15-oz. can of chickpeas, drained

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise 

1/4 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

2 ribs finely sliced celery

1 Tablespoon capers

1 Tablespoon chopped pickles, or relish

1/4 cup chopped canned hearts of palm

2 scallions, finely sliced

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, or 1 teaspoon dried dill

Place drained chickpeas in a bowl. Add lemon juice, vegan mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Using a potato masher or a fork, mash until most of the chickpeas are smashed. Aim to have plenty of whole chickpeas or larger pieces left in the mixture for a variety of textures. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Eat or serve.

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’re like me, you always have a “To Do” list. Sometimes my list is written down, sometimes it’s just in my head. Sometimes the list can be divided into categories of humanly probable, humanly possible, and only-if-something-miraculous-happens. So keeping my blog going kept moving down that hierarchy until, before I knew it, two years had gone by. Then something kind of miraculous happened! A local high school student asked me to mentor her senior project—a vegan blog. Maybe it doesn’t sound all that miraculous, but it is, because here I am, posting on my blog for the first time in two years, and only because her project is inspiring me and pushing me to get back on track. I’m honored that Ally asked me to help her, and I’m very excited to see her launch her blog. I look forward to working with her and to recommitting to my own project.

I think chocolate chip cookies are a really good vehicle for re-entry to the blogosphere. So here is my recipe, the spruced-up-for-the-holidays version—with cranberries and walnuts. But the basic version is pretty sweet too—just chocolate chips, no messing around. Just skip the cranberries and walnuts.


Makes 2 dozen cookies

2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed meal

6 Tablespoons water

2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (1 cup)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 12-ounce package vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Trader Joe’s)

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup dried cranberries

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine ground flaxseed meal and water in a small bowl and mix well with a fork. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl (or a stand mixer), beat Earth Balance until soft. Add white and brown sugar, scraping down sides as needed. Add vanilla extract and the flaxseed/water mixture. Beat until well combined. Add flour mixture and beat until all dry mixture in incorporated. With a spoon, mix in chocolate chips, walnuts and cranberries. Use a 1/4-cup measuring cup or an ice cream scoop to drop 1/4-cup mounds on prepared cooking sheets. Bake for 15–18 minutes, until tops and edges are lightly browned.

Remove from oven. Let them cool for one minute, then use the back of a large wooden spoon to lightly press the center of each cookie down. This will press out some of the air to make the cookies a bit more moist and dense.

Tip: If the weather is warm, or the Earth Balance has softened significantly, it is helpful to chill the cookie dough slightly before dropping on cookie sheets and baking. If the dough is too soft, the cookies will be thin and crispy—still good, and some people like them that way. I like them a little chunky.

You can also place the unbaked cookie mounds in an airtight container in your fridge and bake them one—or a few—at a time.

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

 

cookies bigCookies:
1-1/2 tsp ground flax seed mixed with 4 Tbs water
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (substitute flour for gluten free, or use part whole wheat or oat flour for a little extra nutritional value)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Earth Balance
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canned puréed pumpkin
I tsp pure vanilla extract

Frosting:
2-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
4 Tbs vanilla almond milk
1 Tbs Earth Balance, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine ground flax seed with water and set aside.

Combine, flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt, then set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together Earth balance and sugar. Add pumpkin, flax seed/water mixture, and vanilla and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients.

Drop on cookie sheets by rounded tablespoonfuls.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Flatten the top of each cookie slightly while still on cookie sheet. Move to cooling rack.

Make frosting by combining all frosting ingredients and mixing thoroughly. Spoon about a half tablespoonful onto each cookie and let rest on cooling racks until frosting sets.

Easy Chana Masala

chanamasala

 

I like to have lots of pantry meals up my sleeve. Life is busy. Sometimes—OK, most of the time—you have to wrangle up something for dinner without shopping or planning. This is one of those good, easy dinners using ingredients I usually have on hand—chickpeas, diced tomatoes, coconut milk and rice. Sliced cucumber is good on the side.

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2 Tbs coconut oil

1/2 large yellow onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbs fresh grated ginger

2 Tbs curry powder*

15 oz can chickpeas

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup canned light coconut milk

chopped green onion and/or cilantro

cooked Basmati rice

Heat coconut oil in large skillet. Saute onion over medium high heat until soft and translucent. Add garlic and ginger and saute for another 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly to prevent browning the garlic. Add the curry powder and saute another 30 seconds to heat the spice. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, and salt and heat another minute or so. Add the coconut milk and heat another minute or so. Remove from heat and serve over Basmati rice. Top with green onion and/or cilantro.

Serves two hungry people.

*I like to use a curry powder from my local farmers market, but if I don’t have it on hand, I also like Sun Brand Madras curry powder.

Cheapskates in Reykjavik

Vegan carrot cake and a soy cappuccino from Cafe Babalu in Reykjavik

Vegan carrot cake and a soy cappuccino from Cafe Babalu in Reykjavik

The last of my Iceland posts—until the next trip!

Eating in Iceland is pretty expensive. And drinks are crazy expensive. We were on a tight travel budget, so we had to economize, and we quickly discovered we couldn’t afford to go out for drinks. But we found a pretty good way to indulge ourselves anyway.

Before the trip, I did a lot of Googling and Instagram surfing looking for vegan food tips. And although I somehow missed any warnings about the high cost of eating and drinking in Iceland, I did manage to get some good restaurant tips, and I read in more than one place about a not-to-be-missed drink called the tree-hugger—a vegan white Russian at a place called Lebowski’s. So we went out after dinner one night to see what it was all about. We sat down at the busy bar and looked at the drink menu. We were still getting used to translating the currency, but after staring at the menu, doing some calculations in our heads, and finally using the currency converter phone app, we discovered that the drink, at 1,900 krona, cost about $17 U.S. dollars. Times two. We couldn’t do it. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend $35 on two drinks. I’m sure it’s amazing—but maybe next trip.

So we wandered down the street to a place that was recommended for live music and figured we would just grab a beer and find some good music. There was no live music that weeknight and hardly anyone in the place, and it was almost $8 for a beer. I know, we’re cheap, but it just didn’t seem worth it. So, we scratched that one off the list too.

Finally, we ended up back at Glo, the Reykjavik raw restaurant chain where we’d enjoyed a great vegan lunch the previous day. But this night we went for tea and dessert. A couple of delicious vegan desserts and two cups of tea later, we’d spent about what those couple of beers would have cost us. So even though we are a couple of very enthusiastic beer drinkers, we ended up skipping the drinks in favor of desserts for the duration of the trip—and it was a sweet trade!

Polaroid with Icelandic sheep and graffiti—best souvenir of the trip!

Polaroid with Icelandic sheep and graffiti—best souvenir of the trip!

The next day, we had vegan carrot cake and espressos at Cafe Babalu—really yummy. The cafe is a funky little thrift-shop-decorated place. Very cozy and friendly. There are lots of other options on the menu, including plenty of non-vegan desserts and veggie chili. Bonus: it is located on a busy street full of shops and cafes, including a storefront/studio for some local photographers offering $5 Polaroid portraits. On our last day in Reykjavik, we stopped in and couldn’t resist getting one. It was taken in front of a great blown-up shot of some Icelandic sheep and is definitely our favorite souvenir of the trip.

Raw vegan blueberry cheesecake from Gardurinn

Raw vegan blueberry cheesecake from Gardurinn

And the best dessert of all, also on our last day in Reykjavik, was from the tiny cafe called Gardurinn, where we also enjoyed coconut soup. We had a tiny, raw chocolate brownie bite and a delicious raw,vegan blueberry cheesecake. I love cheesecake, and it’s one of the few foods I truly miss from my dairy-eating days. This treat satisfied the cheesecake craving I’ve been denying for years.

After all those sweet treats, did we miss our beer? Admittedly, yes, we kind of did. So after arriving (starving!) in Boston, we stopped on the way home at one of our favorite dinner destinations, Garden Grille, for dinner and a beer. And that complete dinner and (good) beer cost less than two tree-huggers would have been in Reykjavik. Traveling is good, and so is coming home!

Photos by Josh Araujo

Get Glo-ing

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My second post about vegan traveling in Iceland. Short and sweet, but really, don’t miss Glo. I wish we had one here! 
Our first lunch in Reykjavik was at Glo, a mostly raw, mostly vegan chain of restaurants in Reykjavik. Glo was recommended by our hotel desk attendant when we asked where to find a vegan lunch. We were more than a little surprised to find a chain of mostly raw, mostly vegan restaurants in Iceland. If you’re traveling vegan in Iceland, you definitely don’t want to miss it. You won’t find more options anywhere. And the vegan desserts are worth going for, even if you skip lunch or dinner.
A little off the topic of Glo, but worth noting: we were surprised to learn that in Iceland they’re able to grow most of their veggies themselves. They just do it in greenhouses and they’ve got fresh produce year round. Fruits don’t grow well there, so those do have to be shipped from offshore. Helps explain how we were able to find such a surprisingly fresh and wide variety of veggies on this northern island. We learned this interesting factoid from one of our tour guides, Benedict. He was our driver and tour guide for the must-see Golden Circle tour, and he was like a human Google—just full of expansive knowledge about almost everything anyone in our group asked him. The Golden Circle Tour heads east from Reykjavik out to Pingvellir National Park, the Strokkur geyser, and the Gollfoss waterfalls, and back. And if you’re lucky you might get to stop and mingle with some Icelandic horses along the way.
Strokkur Geyser

Strokkur Geyser

Pingvellir National Park

Pingvellir National Park

Gollfoss Waterfall

Gollfoss Waterfall

Meeting an Icelandic horse during the Golden Circle tour.

Meeting an Icelandic horse during the Golden Circle tour.