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Before much more time passes, I want to share more pix from my recent food-and-fun-filled birthday weekend extravaganza.

After enjoying dinner at Vedge in Philadelphia on my birthday evening, the next day we all went to lunch at V Street — the casual sister restaurant of Vedge.

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While most of us at the table couldn’t resist the BBQ SEITAN TACOS served with hearts of palm slaw on flour tortillas (shown at top), one person couldn’t resist the siren song of the KOREAN FRIED TEMPEH REUBEN with sriracha thousand island and radish kimchee — and you can see why:

 

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Too full for dessert, we got a couple of these beauties to share.  It’s called AIS KACANG and is a refreshing ice cream sundae made with corn custard ice cream, blackberry granita, adzuki, basil, and pineapple.  So good!

 

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Not long after lunch, we drove back to DC in the pouring rain, stopping for a great Burmese dinner at Mandalay in Silver Spring, MD.  (the pics turned out too dark to share….)

The next morning was a long-anticipated sojourn to Equinox, where Chef Todd Gray serves a vegan brunch on Sundays.

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Here’s the brunch menu:

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This is a shot of the buffet line, which begins with the best gazpacho I’ve ever had:

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Here’s the chef at the tofu scramble station where he makes each scramble to order:

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That afternoon, it was back home to Virginia with great memories of the best birthday weekend ever!

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How to Be Great at Doing Good

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In a brief detour from my usual vegan food posts, I want to tell you about a very informative book I’ve read recently called How To be Great at Doing Good.  Written by Nick Cooney, Director of Education at Mercy For Animals and founder of The Humane League, this book can be a helpful tool in making decisions about charitable donations.

Nick agreed to answer some questions about his book, so without further ado, here’s my Q&A with Nick Cooney:

Q: What is it you want us to know about “How To Be Great At Doing Good” and how does that apply to vegan eating?

A: While there are a lot of reasons to eat vegan meals – including because they’re simply delicious – a lot of people do so in order to protect animals, boost their health, or preserve the environment. In other words, we have some noble reasons for cutting out animal products. And for that reason, many of us like to spread the word about vegan eating to our friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers.

But anytime we have a charitable cause or better way of doing things that we’re trying to promote – be it vegan eating or anything else – there are good and bad ways of going about it. This book is about how to find the good ways of supporting the vegan cause, or any cause.

 

Q: This seems like a book that would be useful for people who donate to charity – is that one of your audiences?

A: Absolutely. One of the main goals of the book is to help people accomplish more good with each dollar they should donate to charity (or each hour of their time they spend volunteering). We all want a healthier, more compassionate world. When we’re trying to decide which organizations to donate to, or which programs to get involved with, making careful decisions can mean all the difference in the world in terms of whether or not we succeed in creating that better world we want to see.

 

Q: What’s one thing that people would be shocked to learn about the charity world and how their donations are being spent?

A: There are a very small number of “scam charities” – charities that spend nearly every penny on fundraising and management expenses, and do very little to make the world a better place. Obviously that’s not a good thing. But the bigger problem in the charity world is that there are tons of non-profits that spend most of their money on programs – and so on the surface it seems like they are good organizations worth supporting – when in fact they are almost just as wasteful as the scam charities. These are charities running inefficient programs, programs that spend a lot of money to do only a small amount of good. 

 

Q: For readers who like to support vegan advocacy groups or animal protection causes, how can they find out which charities will do the most good with their money?

A: It can be hard to find out! There’s a great website called Animal Charity Evaluators that reviews hundreds of animal protection charities and makes recommendations to donors about which groups are most worth supporting. They really do their homework – pouring through financial returns and program reports, interviewing executives and staffers and different non-profits, and so on. I definitely encourage people who want to support vegan advocacy efforts or animal protection efforts to check out that site. And I’m proud to note that both Mercy For Animals and The Humane League (two groups I’m personally affiliated with) are on ACE’s list of top recommended charities.

 

Q: For readers who want to hear more, where can they go to check out the book?

A: You can learn more, read a free chapter, and order a signed copy of the book at http://www.NickCooney.com. It’s also available as an e-book and audio book for those who prefer digital formats. I’d love for your readers to check out the site and the book, so that they can learn how to become more effective advocates for the causes they care deeply about!

 

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A Very Vedge Birthday

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I’ve been wanting to make a pilgrimage to Vedge, the stellar vegan restaurant in Philadelphia, so my birthday last week was a perfect excuse to make the trip.  Joined by good friends, it was the best birthday dinner ever. The five of us decided to order something from each of the three menu sections and share them, thus allowing for us all to taste many more dishes than we normally would have.  Everything was fantastic and thanks to my friend Elissa, who took photos of every course, I can share pics of some of the highlights.

My favorite appetizer was this the Stuffed Avocado with pickled cauliflower, romesco, “fried rice” and black salt:

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As a seitan fanatic, it should come as no surprise that my favorite items from the Hot Kitchen section was the Grilled Seitan served with smoked potato salad, pickled celery, and grilled corn peperonata:

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Coming in as a close second, though, was the Spicy Grilled Tofu with gochujang, edamame, roasted miso, and yuba crackling:

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We also sampled several vegetable sides from “The Dirt List.” They were all great, but the Fingerling Fries with creamy Worcestershire garnered the most “oo-oohs” and “aa-aahs”:

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Dessert was beyond amazing, especially the Saffron Cheesecake served with basil gel, rhubarb ice cream, and black olive pistachio crumble.  OMG. Kudos to pastry chef/co-owner Kate Jacoby, for her dazzling desserts.

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Topping off a perfect evening with great friends and great food was an opportunity to chat with the Rich Landau, the talented chef/co-owner of Vedge.

Before leaving Philadelphia for DC the next day, we had lunch at Rich’s other restaurant, V Street.  But I’ll save that for another post!  If you find yourself in Philadelphia, be sure to visit Vedge and V Street for some of the best vegan food being served anywhere.

 

 

 

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Cucumber and White Bean Ceviche

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The hot humid weather is back in full force and so is my desire for quick and easy meal solutions.  One of my favorite salads from Vegan Without Borders is this Cucumber and White Bean Ceviche (photo by Sara Remington).

Traditionally made with raw fish or scallops, I like to make this lime-marinated salad from Peru with cucumbers and white beans for a nice contrast of refreshingly crisp and creamy.  The salad is great on its own, but I’ve been thinking that it can be even better as a main dish, so here’s what I’m going to do…

For dinner tonight, I plan to toss this zesty salad with some cooked leftover rotini pasta and top it with diced avocado.  (I have a feeling it’s going to taste delicious!)
Cucumber and White Bean Ceviche

This recipe is from Vegan Without Borders (c) Robin Robertson, 2014, published by Andrews McMeel Publishing.

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 scallions, minced
2 teaspoons chopped capers
1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans or 1 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoons minced cilantro or parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
5 cherry or grape tomatoes, thinly sliced or quartered
In a bowl, combine the lime juice, oil, salt, and scallions. Stir to combine. Add the capers and beans and toss gently to coat. Refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour.
Fan the cucumber slices in a circle in the center of a large platter or individual salad plates. Spoon the bean mixture on top of the cucumber slices. Garnish with tomato, sprinkle with cilantro, and top with a few grinds of black pepper.

Serves 4

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I was honored when asked to write a piece for The Vegan, the magazine of The Vegan Society in the UK.  Now that I have my hands on an actual copy of the spring issue of the magazine, I’m excited all over again!

In the feature, I write about the international nature of vegan cooking and share three of my favorite recipes from Vegan Without Borders.

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The recipes I shared were for Farinata; Bibimbap, and Papri Chaat (photos by Sara Remington).In case you don’t get The Vegan magazine (or in case you don’t have Vegan Without Borders), at the end of this post, I’ll share my farinata recipe.

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Papri Chaat from Vegan Without Borders. Photo by Sara Remington.

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Farinata with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
When I travelled to Italy, I felt truly at home, not just because of my heritage but also because of how easy it is to eat vegan, especially with dishes such as this farinata. Made with chickpea flour, farinata is actually more of a savory pancake than a bread. It’s easy to make this Ligurian specialty that can be served as an appetizer or as part of the main meal. Farinata is often prepared without embellishment, but I sometimes add a fresh herb such as rosemary, sage, or basil, and chopped olives and sun-dried tomatoes, as in this recipe. (This recipe is from Vegan Without Borders by Robin Robertson © 2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing.)

1 cup water
1 cup chickpea flour
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced kalamata olives
3 tablespoons minced sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons torn basil leaves

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the water and chickpea flour until smooth. Add the oil, salt, a few grinds of pepper, olives, and tomatoes, and basil and mix until well blended. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Oil a 12-inch pizza pan and heat in the oven until hot. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and add the batter, spreading evenly. Bake until the top is firm and the edges are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cut into thin wedges and serve immediately.
Serves 6

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fire and ice noodles mc

With the arrival of hot weather, my meal planning has been undergoing its own seasonal change, as I trade in some of my cold-weather favorites for warm weather options like the Fire and Ice Sesame Noodles from More Quick-Fix Vegan (my favorite of the “quick-fix” trilogy).  The evocative name refers to the heat from the sriracha and the cold since I usually serve this dish chilled. You can serve it at room temperature, if you prefer, but “fire and room temperature” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The recipe is below, but first, I’d like to announce the winner of the Bonus Recipe Bundle from Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen.  The winner is Ali @ Chickpeas & Change whose favorite Indian ingredient is tamarind sauce.  Congratulations, Ali! And thanks to all who entered the giveaway.

Now here’s that recipe….

Fire and Ice Sesame Noodles

This recipe is from More Quick-Fix Vegan (c) 2014 by Robin Robertson, published by Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Serves 4

8 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 medium carrot, coarsely  shredded
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup tahini sesame paste
1 tablespoon white miso paste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons sriracha sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon natural sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Cook the soba in a pot of boiling water according to package directions.  Drain well and rinse in cold water, then drain again (extremely well). Return the drained noodles to the pot.  Add the sesame oil, carrot, cucumber, and scallions and toss gently to combine. Set aside.
While the noodles are cooking, in a bowl, combine the tahini, miso, soy sauce, sriracha, ginger, vinegar, and sugar.   Blend until smooth.  Stir in the water and continue stirring until smooth and creamy.
Add the sauce to the noodles and vegetables and toss gently to combine.  To serve, transfer the noodles and vegetables to a large serving bowl or individual bowls and top with the sesame seeds.

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