Guest Blogger and Cookbook Review

Today’s post is written by my daughter Melanie.  I asked her to give me her opinion on a smoothies cookbook I was sent.  

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Hi! I’m Melanie, the 14  year old daughter of a crazy vegan mother. Since I love smoothies, my mom asked me to taste test some smoothie recipes out of The Best Green Smoothies on the Planet by Tracy Russell. We took the opportunity to have my 18-month-old niece, Juliana, try out some smoothies in order to get the opinions of all different ages.

We first started off with the Strawberry-Avocado Smoothie. It called for a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg which caused the smoothie to have a strong spice flavor, but it wasn’t too unbearable. However, you couldn’t taste much of the strawberry and you could only get hints of the avocado. My mom and I didn’t enjoy it very much but Juliana didn’t have a sour face, so I’m guessing that’s a good thing.

Rate: ★★☆☆☆

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                Miss Juliana taste testing

Next, we tried the Creamy Chocolate and Vanilla Smoothie. This smoothie had some avocado, banana, cacao, vanilla, and some almond milk. It was pretty good, but all taste-testers agreed it needed a little something to enhance the chocolate flavor. Keep in mind this only called for 1 tablespoon of cacao powder, so if you want that rich chocolatey flavor, try adding more to your liking. Juliana gave it 3 stars.

Rate: ★★★☆☆

The last smoothie we tried was an Apple-Avocado Smoothie. Since the recipe called for apple, avocado, cucumber and kale, I expected it to taste more like vegetables than apples but I kept my mind open anyway. The kale taste overpowered the smoothie with a bitter flavor, and was definitely not the best smoothie I’ve ever had.

Rate:  ★☆☆☆☆

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    Melanie making smoothies

 

We only had time to try three of the recipes so there could be some that are better than the ones we tried.  All in all, it was a fun cookbook to review and we’ll definitely be coming back to it for more smoothie ideas in the future.

You can find Melanie’s Tumblr blog here.

 

Easy Spicy Lasagna

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I’ve made lasagna for years but this was my first shot at a vegan version. I bought the no-cook noodles this time because I really didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen after our holiday cooking sprees and simply followed the directions on the back of the box (easy, right?).

Of course, making it vegan required some modifications.  Instead of using ground meat, I used my favorite Field Roast’s Italian Sausage slicing two of them into rounds and then quartered the rounds before sauteing them with olive oil in a pan along with about a cup of chopped mushrooms.  When it was done cooking, I added tomato sauce creating the meat sauce called for in the recipe.

I’m not a big fan of store bought vegan ricotta cheese so I consulted my Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen book and found the recipe for ricotta that I’d used in the past.  I had tried this tofu-based cheese with Chloe’s Pasta Norma and really liked it but the true test would be in a lasagna where the taste of the cheese really needs to be able to stand alone.  It definitely passed the test.

ROCKIN’ RICOTTA from Chloe’s Italian Kitchen 
Makes about 3 cups

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups fresh basil

After assembling the lasagna again using the instructions on the box, I topped it with some Daiya mozzarella and popped it in the oven.

What I learned:  I made a single batch of the ricotta this time but next time I will double it and will halve the amount of salt called for in the recipe as the sausage made it quite salty.  I may add some chopped spinach as well to up the nutritional content.

All in all, the outcome was an easy, quick and delicious meal I will definitely make again and again!  Don’t be afraid to veganize your favorite recipes.  The results may surprise you!

Vegan is easy!

 

Business Spotlight: Moghul Fine Indian Cuisine

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Moghul 4700 Vestal Parkway East. Vestal, NY

It’s not because we were given a bottle of sparkling wine by our favorite waiter as a Christmas gift and it’s not because all I have to do is wink at him and he knows to bring me another Cucumber Martini.  No, we love Moghul because we love the food and they love vegans.

I first discovered this restaurant in Vestal before I was vegan.  There were lots of vegetarian entrees on their menu and I’d often go by myself and eat at the bar while enjoying a glass of wine and the impressive and exotic East Indian atmosphere.  They have complimentary appetizers in their lounge area on Friday nights which is frequently full of professionals enjoying a happy hour 2 for the price of 1 special. Not a bar person?  Don’t worry; the 2 for 1 special is not limited to their lounge area.  If you time it right you can get the same deal in their dining room between 5:00 and 7:00 every night.

The first time we went to Moghul as vegans, we were cheerfully helped by the owner to determine what was and what was not entirely plant-based.  Indian food is always a good pick for vegans when eating out as many of the foods are naturally vegan or can be made vegan simply by asking them to make it without ghee (clarified butter).

My favorite entree is the Tarka Dal which is yellow lentils in a creamy ginger sauce and Dr. D. loves the Vegetable Vindaloo, a variety of vegetables in a hot sauce.  All the food is served to you in beautiful metal bowls from which you dish out your own portions. We both enjoy the basmati rice and I especially get excited when I find a whole cardamom pod in my portion!  Cardamom pods will take you by surprise if you don’t know they’re in the rice but Dr. D. knows to pass them along to me if he happens to find one in his spoonful.

moghul rice

Complimentary crispy papadum with caraway seeds is served with a variety of sauces for dipping before your meal.  We always order a side of chappati bread which is vegan after we found out our favorite naan bread is made with yogurt.

As many of you know, our daughter Miss M. is leaving for a year in India as an exchange student in 2015.  As a way to introduce her to their foods, we brought her to Moghul.  It’s now her favorite place to eat and she fell in love with the Garlic Mushrooms appetizer after bravely agreeing to try it.

A reviewer online said they felt the service at Moghul was slow but on our most recent visit we let the waiter know we had to be at a concert in an hour and we had our entire meal within 20 minutes.  I do believe it’s a cultural thing to languish over a meal but if you’re in a hurry, they will come through for you.

If you’re looking for consistently delicious food in a beautiful atmosphere with a caring and helpful staff, Moghul is the place for you.

Our Big Fat Vegan Wedding

           The two of us on our special night.

Dr. D. and I got married on June 27th in a very small outdoor ceremony.  We knew we wouldn’t have time to plan a big reception on short notice as June books up very quickly so we decided to postpone the celebration until the fall.  We did, however, have a small luncheon at The Binghamton Club with our closest family members.  It was delicious as is everything The Binghamton Club serves.

When we were ready to have our big party, we checked around to various venues and weighed our options.  Did we want to rent a venue and get a vegan caterer or did we want to get a venue where all the cooking is done on-site?  After much thought, we decided on The Binghamton Club.  Dr. D. is a member there so there would be no room charge and they have done many outstanding vegan meals not only for our wedding luncheon in June but also at various functions we’ve attended.

 The Venue and the Menu

We met with Jackie, the 23 year veteran banquet manager.  She worked with my daughter when she and her husband had their wedding there in 2007 and she is a real pro. Many places were hesitant to say they could accommodate our vegan menu requests but Jackie asked me for ideas and recipes to share with their fantastic chefs.  I sent her this article from VegNews’ website for ideas and she took it from there!  She combined dishes from past vegan weddings with those from the article and came up with three entrees:

  • Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
  • Penne Primavera with Seasonal Vegetables, Shallots and Sage Oil
  • Fried Tofu and Sweet Pea Shoots over Organic Red Quinoa with Truffle Oil

Growing up in an Italian family and having rolled many gnocchi as a child, I knew one of the big ingredients in traditional gnocchi is eggs.  Jackie explained they use golden flax as a binding agent instead of eggs in this vegan version.  She even said they could use gluten-free penne for the primavera and rice flour for breading the tofu for those with gluten intolerance.

The entrees were fantastic but the appetizers were just as amazing!  My favorite was the apple chutney served on one of their homemade potato chips.  The combination of sweet and salty was fantastic!  There was a large fresh fruit display but before you think we were leaning toward a super healthy choice, it was next to a dark chocolate fondue.

Roasted vegetables as an hors d'oeuvre.  Even the flower is edible!
Roasted vegetables as an hors d’oeuvre. Even the flower is edible!
Fresh fruit display
Fresh fruit display

Gifts

 Since we combined households, we were not in need of any wedding gifts.  Knowing our friends and family may want to give us something, we included this card in our invitations:

Catskill Animal Sanctuary is special to us.  Their founder, Kathy Stevens and her staff went out of their way to make my birthday and our stay at their Homestead a weekend to remember!  They’re doing great things for rescued farm animals.  We were thrilled to have been able to donate over $1400 to them via our generous guests!

I didn’t want a traditional card box for any donations we may receive so my wonderful mother made this amazing barn with a hinged roof instead.  All the animals outside look so happy, don’t they?

The Cake

We ordered our cake from a local baker.  Baked! by Camille is owned by Camille Ciotoli and I swear the woman must use a magic wand to stir her batter because the vegan cakes coming out of her bakery are to die for!  

Half chocolate and half white!  100% delicious!
Half chocolate and half white! 100% delicious!

 Fun Touches

 Keeping with our barnyard animal theme, I found this whimsical version of a guestbook we saw at a wedding in France back in August.  Guests used their thumbprints to commemorate their attendance instead of the usual pen and paper.

My daughter Sydney showing guests how to leave their mark.
My daughter Sydney showing guests how to leave their mark.
The finished product!
The finished product!

Instead of traditional numbered place cards, I decided to have a picture of a rescued farm animal on the name cards with a corresponding picture at the table.  Each table card told the animal’s story.

Meet Francis the Sheep.
Meet Francis the Sheep.

 

Match the picture on the card to the picture on your table!
Match the picture on the card to the picture on your table!

 

Anyone who knows me know I love sheep so I had to have this little container filled with flowers for the sweetheart table where Dr. D. and I sat.

sweetheart table

Just by coincidence, even the band we booked had a farm animal theme.  

It's Rooster and the Roadhouse Horns!
It’s Rooster and the Roadhouse Horns!

Everyone had such a good time and we felt good knowing we had a beautiful party filled with delicious food, fun, music, laughter and most of all, compassion.  Feel free to contact me if you’d like tips on having your own vegan wedding!

*Photos by Jen Pecka of Jen Pecka Photography.  A very talented photographer and a super hip chick with a heart for animals.