Monday, August 31, 2009

Restaurant Review: Souen (NY)

I’ve been thinking about venturing off into restaurant reviews for a while, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I don’t go out to eat too often, and the last time I went out for dinner, I didn’t bring my camera. So, once in a while, you’ll catch a restaurant review from me (if I remember my camera).

Last week, my coworker and I decided to go out for lunch to chat and catch up. We’ve been so busy lately that we had to schedule it in our calendars. She mentioned a noodle shop that she passed by every time she headed to the gym after work. She had a craving for noodles, and it sounded pretty good to me as well. We walked south from our office, whereas I always head north whenever I go out.

We arrived at the quaint little restaurant where she thought was a noodle shop. Much to our surprise, it wasn’t just a noodle shop. It was a macrobiotic organic restaurant that is great for vegans, gluten free diets, and dairy free diets.

From their website:

“We prepare our food simply and naturally, offering you the best quality grains, beans, and produce. No refined, chemicals, preservatives, meat or dairy products are used in our kitchen. We also employ traditional methods of preparation whenever possible to enhance the healthful quality and natural flavor of our food.”

It wasn’t busy at all when we went in. We got a table immediately. Once we sat down, a waitress placed a chalkboard of specials of the day in front of us. It struck me as odd that it was there, but it was really helpful, since their specials weren’t listed anywhere else. I glanced through the menu and I loved their offerings. I kept thinking to myself that Gary would love this place, and I would have to bring him there one day.

I ordered the Spaghetti with Pesto and Shrimp ($14.50) . This may not be available everyday since it was one of their specials of the day. It tasted fabulous, and I ate the whole thing! I had a new found love for pesto!

shrimp pesto spaghetti

My coworker got the Inspired Vegetable Curry ($11.50 + $2 for tofu). She added tofu to it as well, and it tasted pretty good. Curry is probably one the only spices I would eat.

vegetable curry bowl

I really wanted to have the New York Tofu Cheesecake for dessert, but I was full from my meal already. Maybe next time.

All in all, it was pretty tasty. I don’t add too much salt to my meals, so it was perfect for me, but my coworker added it to her dish.

Info and verdict:

Souen Soho (Organic Macrobiotic Restaurant)
210 Sixth Ave at Prince St, 10014
Tel: 212-807-7421
Fax: 212-627-4309
Monday-Friday 11:30am-10:30pm

Price: $$$
Atmosphere: ☺☺☺
Overall Experience: ☺☺☺☺

Friday, August 21, 2009

Black Sesame Ice Cream

Gary and I usually don’t agree on the same flavors of ice cream. When I ask him for his suggestion on the next ice cream flavor to make, he usually asks me to make a sorbet instead. Whoa, it’s like the Twilight Zone! Years ago, he was all into the ice cream, eating a whole quart in one sitting. Me, on the other hand, would have a fruit bar or popsicle in my hand. I was always lazy to scoop ice cream. I loved how convenient popsicles were because I could just grab it out of the freezer and have instant gratification. Ice cream on the other hand had to be scooped, and sometimes it would be hard to scoop, and I had little patience for that. How times have changed since then.

When I asked Gary if he would like black sesame ice cream, his eyes lit up! Black sesame desserts were something we both grew up with. They sell little pouches of instant dessert mixes in the Chinese supermarkets in flavors like black sesame or peanut (both of which we have in the pantry). It brings back memories of my childhood because my mom used to make it for us…however I vaguely remember her grinding up sesame seeds and making it from scratch.

If Gary had said no, he wasn’t interested in that flavor, I would have made it as written. I knew he would have been interested so I had already looked up dairy free alternatives for the ingredients. The recipe came together very nicely. The dairy free sweetened condensed milk actually tasted like the real thing! Gary loves coconut flavor, me not so much. The “half and half” had a hint of coconut flavor without being too overpowering. Gary also said it looked like cement when it was done…LOL!

This recipe is vegan if using the dairy free alternatives.


Black Sesame Ice Cream
inspired by: The Cooking of Joy
printable recipe

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (dairy free version below)
3 1/2 cups half and half (dairy free version below)
2 pouches black sesame instant powder mix

for dairy free sweetened condensed milk, adapted from Go Dairy Free:
combine 3/4 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1 cup plus 2 TBSP soy milk powder in a nonstick saucepan (otherwise you’ll have a tough time cleaning your pan afterwards) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until thick, about 15-20 minutes. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool. Milk will thicken more as it cools. Store in refrigerator if not being used immediately.

for dairy free half and half, adapted from Go Dairy Free:
Combine 1 3/4 cup coconut cream to 1 3/4 cup soy milk (1:1 ratio). I used a coconut cream powder mixed with water for the coconut cream.

Whisk together all ingredients.

Store in fridge to chill.

Freeze in ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Vegan Cheese Pizza with Fresh Tomato Sauce

After work one day, I decided to stroll over to the nearby Whole Foods to pick up some things I wasn’t able to find in my local supermarket (instant yeast being one of them). After I picked that up along with a few pantry staples, I strolled to the dairy section to see if they had changed their selection of vegan cheeses. The last time I looked, they only had lactose free cheeses, but not totally vegan cheeses. The lactose free ones still contained casein and whey proteins from the milk that Gary was sensitive to. This time around, I actually found something that was was totally vegan!

The package on the Vegan Gourmet Cheese from Follow Your Heart boasts that it melts just like real cheese! I was a little skeptical. I didn’t think it would be the same. It was on sale, so I picked up a block of mozzarella flavor and a block of monterey jack.

So, now I had the yeast, I had the cheese, and I had fresh tomatoes that was given to us by Gary’s sister from her garden. What a perfect way to test out the the cheese with a cheese pizza! I also had some basil leaves from the plant I’ve been growing in my Aerogarden. It was due for a pruning, so I clipped off a few leaves. It was the perfect amount to make the tomato sauce.

vegan cheese pizza

I started with the pizza dough. I used the pizza crust recipe from King Arthur Flour. The only difference I made was subbing half the flour for whole wheat flour. I messed up on my part during the 2nd rising time. I didn’t realize I had to roll it out and then let it rise. I let it rise before rolling it out. I let it pre-bake at 475° for 8 minutes as instructed plus another 15 minutes for the sauce and cheese, and the result was a very crispy crust that still tasted great. I still have half the dough in the freezer, so I know better for next time.

After the initial pre-bake, I topped it off with a fresh tomato basil sauce (recipe below) and then 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella vegan cheese. I shredded the whole thing and realized it was a lot. I was only able to use half of the 10 oz block. I froze the rest for later. I might end up using it for a casserole or something next.

Gary though this pizza tasted great. We both thought it could never replace real cheese pizza, but if you can’t have it, this is a great alternative. I won’t be buying it all the time, because it can get expensive for a small block of cheese. What it had in common with real cheese pizza? I burned the roof of my mouth just the same!

Tomato Basil Pizza Sauce
adapted from:
printable recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced peeled fresh tomatoes (or one 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons fresh basil, coarsely chopped or 2 teaspoon dried basil

Heat oil in medium saucepan over a medium heat until hot.

Add garlic; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Stir in diced tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for 8-10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring and mashing tomatoes with potato masher until crushed. I used an immersion blender after about 10 minutes and whizzed on low a few times, leaving the sauce slightly chunky.

Stir in basil.

Place in small bowl; cool to room temperature This sauce may be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated or up to 2 months ahead and frozen.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Barbecue Baked Bean Burgers

When I first saw this post pop up, I knew I had to try it. It’s such a great alternative to meat patties, and it was really filling to boot! We usually have baked beans in the pantry, and this was a good way to use it vs. our usual heat and eat method. I ate this plain the first night. The next day, I reheated it and added a slice of cheese to it during the last 30 seconds of nuking. It tasted great the next day too!

I made several changes to this recipe. It was originally vegan, but I used an egg, which deveganized it. I also used white jasmine rice instead of the brown rice and omitted the jalapeños since we don’t have and we don’t like heat in our food. Instead of adding oil, I sprayed a pan with nonstick spray instead.

barbecue baked bean burgers

Barbecue Baked Bean Burgers
adapted from:
printable recipe

1 15 oz can vegetarian baked beans, drained (mine was 16 oz)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup cooked rice
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 egg
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 TBSP barbecue sauce, store-bought or homemade (I used honey BBQ)
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

1. In a medium sauce pan over high heat, combine all the ingredients except, mixing constantly until beans are slightly mashed and mixture holds together, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the mixture from heat, transfer to a bowl or dish and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Form the mixture into 4-6 patties and set aside. In a nonstick skillet or frying pan over medium heat, spray with non stick spray. Once the pan is hot, cook the patties, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Serve as sandwiches or on buns with desired vegetables and toppings.

I made 4 patties, but I found it still very filling with just the patty. I recommend dividing it into 6 patties rather than 4. BTW, I’m looking at the picture again, and it looks totally unappetizing, but I swear it tastes good!

This recipe is also being submitted to My Legume Love Affair, hosted by The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Crustless Spinach Tofu Quiche

I’ve been meaning to make a quiche for some time now. However, since Gary can’t have dairy, it poses a minor problem. I wasn’t sure how I would substitute all that cheese that is usually thrown into a quiche. I also had some leftover tofu that needed to be used. What better way to make a quiche, since tofu is pretty much one of my staple cheese alternatives nowadays. I searched for vegan quiche recipes, but most of the reviews said it didn’t set very well. I then found these instructions on how to make a crustless quiche. I adapted to our dietary needs and it turned out pretty good. The eggs were light and fluffy and tasted similar to steamed eggs my mom used to make.

Another reason I made this was to boost our iron levels before donating blood. Although my HGB levels were super high at 31, when the minimum requirement was 12, I still didn’t do too well after donating. Gary’s HGB level was at 16. I think there are a few reasons I didn’t recover so well. First of all, the minimum weight is 110, and I barely passed. I also usually don’t eat or drink enough, so I was probably weak. What sucks is that as I type, 4 days later, the puncture area is still black and blue…well more yellow and blue bruised. (I don’t heal well either).

crustless spinach tofu quiche

Crustless Spinach Tofu Quiche
printable recipe

1 small onion, diced
1 10 oz box frozen spinach thawed and drained
salt to taste
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups soy milk
6 oz firm tofu, crumbled
1/8 tsp salt (I would add more)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp white pepper

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a 9" pie pan or quiche pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Spray cooking oil in a pan and add onions. Cook until onions are turn clear. Add spinach and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat together the remaining ingredients.

Remove spinach from heat, spread spinach on the bottom the prepared pan. Pour egg mixture over the spinach.

Bake in oven for about 40 minutes or until center is set. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. The quiche will be puffy, but will settle after 10 minutes.

spinache tofu quiche slice

The only change I would make would be adding more salt (since I didn’t add it to the spinach). I also found it a little runny, so I would bake it slightly longer or let refrigerate before serving.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ground Turkey Potato Skillet

Most days, I get home around 7pm and I really don’t have time to make dinner. These days, Gary has been working OT as well, so by the time we get home, we just want to order takeout and call it a day. Of course, if we did that, we’d be broke (not to mention a lot heavier). Not only does our regular dinners allow us to save, it’s a lot healthier than some options out there. Of course, Gary wouldn’t mind eating at his favorite Hawaiian takeout place every day if I let him.

I looked in the pantry and fridge and came up with this dish. It was great over rice. Of course, we eat everything with rice, even if there are potatoes in the dish already. It can be eaten as is because it’s a hearty enough dish to do so.

ground turkey potato skillet

Ground Turkey Potato Skillet
printable recipe

1/2 lb ground turkey
1-2 TBSP oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 potatoes, cubed
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1/4 cup dry white wine 
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
8 oz can of tomato sauce

In a large skillet on medium heat, add oil, garlic, and onions. Sauté until onions are clear.

Add celery and potatoes, continue to cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine to deglaze the pan and cook out the wine.

Meanwhile, in another skillet, brown the ground turkey. Once done, combine the turkey with the veggies in the large skillet.

Add seasonings, mushrooms and tomato sauce. Cover, lower heat to medium low, and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.


This recipe is being submitted to: original recipe logo

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Spinach and Tofu Stuffed Chicken

Spinach stuffed chicken is one of the recipes Gary requests frequently. I’ve made it before, and it was very simple and tasty. I’ve since then modified the recipe slightly to reflect his new diet.

I’ve used tofu before with success, and this was another successful recipe using it. It mimicked the consistency and taste of cheese quite well. Like before, I made this on my George Foreman grill.

spinach tofu stuffed chicken

Spinach and Tofu Stuffed Chicken Breast

1 lb skinless chicken breast
cooking spray
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
1 10 oz frozen leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
red pepper flakes
6 oz firm tofu (half a pack of Mori Nu tofu)
salt and pepper to taste

Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray. Set to medium heat and add garlic. Sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add spinach and water. Loosen the spinach, cover and cook for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, uncover, stir to loosen the spinach. Add big pinches of salt and red pepper flakes. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, butterfly the chicken. Cover with saran wrap and pound thin with a meat mallet. Sprinkle salt on both sides.

In a small food processor, mix tofu until smooth, about 10 seconds. Add dashes of salt and pepper. Mix in with the spinach at the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Fill the inside of half the chicken with the spinach mixture. Fold over other side of chicken over the spinach. Transfer to the George Foreman grill and cook for 7-9 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken.

Remove from grill, let sit for 5 minutes, slice and serve.



This recipe is being submitted to: original recipe logo

Monday, August 3, 2009

Healthy Blueberry Orange Muffins

I really need to learn to check my ingredients before I even think about baking anything! I originally found a recipe for zucchini blueberry bread that I was going to turn into muffins. However, I failed to realize my zucchini was no longer any good.

That recipe called for 3 eggs…which of course, I already cracked into my bowl. I had to find a recipe that used up the eggs, stat! to the rescue! I ended up finding this recipe for orange blueberry bread that used ingredients I had on hand. However, it called for 2 eggs. I used their handy serving calculator to change it to 18 servings rather than 12.

That however, wasn’t the only change I made. I used half whole wheat flour, subbed applesauce for the margarine, used soy milk, and added flax seed to the mix. I also didn’t use nearly as much orange zest (I gave up after one orange) as the recipe called for, so the orange taste wasn’t as prominent. The result? A low cal healthy(ish) muffin that’s not too sweet, and perfect for breakfast!

blueberry orange muffins

Healthy Blueberry Orange Muffins
loosely adapted from:
makes 18-24 muffins

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup ground flaxseed
1 cup packed brown sugar
1½ tablespoon baking powder
1½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup plus 2 TBSP apple sauce
3 eggs
2 tablespoons orange zest
¾ cup milk (I used soy)
¾ cup orange juice
1 pint fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly spray the muffin tin (or line with muffin liners).

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients. Beat at low speed just until moistened. Then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in the blueberries. Pour batter into muffin tins about ¾ full. I used a cookie scoop for this. It’s about a ¼ cup full.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

I think this tastes best warm. Heat in a microwave for a few seconds before eating. (Or eat it all after it comes out of the oven!) :)